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MA Senate President: Marijuana On Front Burner In Anticipation Of 2016 Legalization

senate mass marijuana 230x156 photoSenate President Stanley Rosenberg says lawmakers have to be prepared to do a “deep dive” into the debate over legalizing marijuana, saying both legislation and an expected 2016 ballot question push are coming whether they like it or not.

“The point of this exercise it to do a very deep interdisciplinary dive into the subject matter,” the Amherst Democrat said on the Boston Herald Radio show “Morning Meeting” today. “If we’re going to participate appropriately in the debate as the legislation moves through and the ballot question (is prepared), we have to do a deep dive.”

Rosenberg, in structuring the Senate and his leadership team this week, created a special committee, headed by Sen. Jason Lewis, to study the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, moving a topic many pols on Beacon Hill have dodged for years quickly up the list of priorities for the Senate.

Rosenberg, speaking to a Herald reporter after his appearance, declined to say whether he’s personally for or against legalization, twice saying he wants “to learn a lot more.”

When asked on Herald Radio whether he has ever smoked marijuana he responded, with a laugh: “Did I go to college in the ’60s?”

Advocates for legalization have argued that Massachusetts voters have steadily moved toward accepting legalization, pointing to past successful ballot questions decriminalizing small amounts of the drug and in 2012, legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

But nearly a 2 1/2 years later, not a single medical marijuana dispensary has opened and the process has been marred by delays and questions under the Department of Public Health. Rosenberg put the blame, in part, on a ballot question that was “so badly written” by a small group of advocates who, like those behind other ballot questions, “don’t have to take into consideration a lot of other people’s ideas and opinions.”

“Then if it passes, the say you can’t amend it in the legislature because it’s the peoples law,” Rosenberg said. “So when you’re dealing with something as controversial as marijuana, if we don’t have robust research and conversation on the subject, then we’re leaving a lot of stuff on the table.”

As an example, Rosenberg pointed to a debate of how old someone should be to legally smoke marijuana, adding that research shows people’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25 to 27 years old. When hosts Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman gave different opinions — one saying 18 years old and the other 21 — Rosenberg used it to prove his point that the legislature should be involved.

“Here we go, we have a disagreement already,” he said. “Who’s going to arbitrate that conversation?”

Rosenberg discussed a range of other topics during his BHR appearance:

• The veteran legislator, considered one of the most liberal in the Senate, said he hasn’t decided who to back in a 2016 Democratic presidential primary. He said he didn’t support potential 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton in her 2008 run against Barack Obama. In a hypothetical conversation with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, he said would tell her, “Wherever you sit I’m excited about your leadership,” though he made it clear he wouldn’t push her to run given she’s continually said publicly she’s not interested.

But Rosenberg said he does plan to be active in the New Hampshire primary, where he’s held signs and knocked doors for candidates for roughly the past 30 years. “You are likely to see me up there (again),” he said.

• Rosenberg said he’s in favor of tackling legislation toughening penalties for those who protest on highways, a debate sparked last week when dozens of demonstrators tied up traffic on I-93, forcing at least one ambulance with a car crash victim to divert its route to a Boston trauma hospital.

Some lawmakers have already filed legislation, including one that would make it a felony, though Rosenberg declined to back any particular bill.

“There should be consequences,” Rosenberg said. “Absolutely, that’s why it’s going to be reviewed and we’re going to figure out an appropriate sanction for that situation.”

• Rosenberg said he agrees with Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo that the Boston bid for the 2024 Olympic Games should include sites across the state, including in western Mass.

“Massachusetts is a pretty small state,” he said. “This isn’t Texas or California where you’re going to drive for days to get from one end to the other. Why can’t we have events in other parts of the commonwealth? Let’s spread it out.”

He said his main concern is protecting taxpayers from picking up a last-minute bill to cover the Games’ costs. “First we need to bring in some very smart people who can help us understand and evaluate this proposal,” he said. “It’s kind of in the show-me state at this point. Trust but verify, or show me. Because we need to make sure we’re not going to be handed a bill at the end of the day.”

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01/24/2015 |

MA City Moving To Make Smoking Pot In Public Illegal


image2 230x230 photoET – City Council is expected soon to vote on a proposal to toughen the penalty for anyone caught smoking marijuana in public, including making it a criminal offense and increasing the fine from $100 to $300.

The proposed local law has the backing of police Chief Alan DeNaro and several city councilors, but not Mayor James Fiorentini.

The mayor said he would likely veto any ordinance that criminalizes the offense or increases the fine.

Existing state law allows police to issue a $100 civil citation for illegal possession of marijuana in public, but Haverhill lacks an ordinance allowing police to enforce the penalty, City Councilor Michael McGonagle said.

Without the ordinance, police can write the ticket for the civil fine. But if a person fails to pay, police cannot bring the matter to criminal court to force payment, McGonagle said.

“The police chief supports criminalizing public smoking of marijuana and I think it’s time to move forward on this regardless of whether the mayor supports it or not,” McGonagle said.

McGonagle, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said the committee will hold a public meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall to review the ordinance and consider sending it to the full council for a vote.

“I’m going to ask my fellow councilors to pass it,” McGonagle said. “And if the mayor wants to, he can veto it and we’ll see if we have the votes to override his veto.”

It takes five of the nine council votes to pass a non-zoning ordinance and six votes to override a mayoral veto.

About 80 Massachusetts communities have created local criminal laws banning public consumption of marijuana. They created those laws after Massachusetts voters passed a law in 2008 decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of the drug.

“Right now, if there are two people and one is smoking pot and the other is drinking a beer, police can arrest the person drinking the beer but all the can do is give a ticket to the person smoking marijuana,” McGonagle said. “And they don’t even have to pay the ticket because there’s nothing police can do if it’s not paid. It’s basically a voluntarily fine.”

McGonagle said the proposed ordinance provides that police treat public drinking of alcohol and public smoking of marijuana equally. He said tougher penalties for smoking marijuana in public are especially needed now, in light of the growing heroin epidemic in Haverhill and the region.

“There’s a debate about whether marijuana is a gateway to pain killers and harder, more dangerous drugs like heroin,” McGonagle said. “But I’ve heard many stories recently from from addicts who say they got started in drugs by smoking pot in high school.”

Fiorentini said he has mixed feeling on toughening the penalties for public consumption of marijuana.

“I don’t want to give a kid a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but I do understand the concerns of police,” the mayor said. “I’d like to find some middle ground I can support that makes it easier for police to collect fines. But I will veto anything that re-criminalizes smoking pot or increases the fine.”

The mayor also said he’s not convinced that people fined for smoking marijuana in public aren’t paying. He said 39 residents have paid the civil fine for possession of marijuana in a public place in the past six months. He did not know how many tickets police have issued over that span, however.

The proposal to increase penalties for public consumption of marijuana comes as a company called Healthy Pharms moves forward with plans to open a regional medical marijuana dispensary in the Broadway Business Park off Route 97.

Haverhill is one of 15 Massachusetts communities selected by the state Department of Public Health for a dispensary, following passage three years ago of a state law allowing marijuana to be used by patients with a doctor’s prescription.

City Council approved the dispensary zone in November, ending the city’s ban on the facilities and allowing Healthy Pharms to submit a formal proposal to the council for a special permit.

Valerio Romano, a lawyer for Healthy Pharms and three other proposed dispensaries in Massachusetts, said the company is happy the council has selected a location for a dispensary. Romano said Healthy Pharms is committed to opening a dispensary in Haverhill, but that it has a lot of work to do before it is ready to make a formal proposal for the Broadway Business Park.

“We’re anxious to be in Haverhill and start helping patients in Essex County who need and want medical marijuana,” said Romano, who added the company is focused on developing smokeless forms of the drug, including food- and oil-based cannabis.

Romano acknowledged Healthy Pharms took some early missteps in its pursuit of a dispensary in Haverhill. He said the company is looking to “start fresh” with city officials and residents.


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01/21/2015 |

The Healthiest Cities In The Country All Have Medical Or Legal Marijuana


arnold 230x190 photo – Research continues to prove the myriad of ways that marijuana benefits society: by reducing crime, creating tax revenue, and by simply chilling everyone out.

The latest facts compiled by Nerdwallet, show that cities with marijuana have increased levels of happiness.

In fact, America’s top five “healthiest cities”, as Smell the Truth points out, all happen to be located in legal or medical marijuana states. Check them out:

5. Denver-Aurora-Bloomfield, Colorado: The capital of legal weed in America needs no introduction at this point.

4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington: When it rains legal weed, the streets cry with joy

3. Portland-Vancouver-Hilllsboro, Oregon and Washington: Fittingly, America’s next rising legal city, Portland, makes the list

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, California: Cali may only be medical, but no state has near the amount of patients or dispensaries

1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts and New Hampshire: Massachusetts appears poised to open numerous dispensaries this year and become a force on the East Coast

Typically, it’s easy to ignore declarations of health like this one. But, the folks at Nerdwallet did a serious deep dive , judging cities based on fitness levels and health care accessibility.

The unintended but awesome conclusion: city’s with marijuana rule the roast.

01/16/2015 |

Marijuana Is An Effective Treatment For Opiate Addiction


Marijuana rx Bottle 230x230 photoMMJO – Have you ever heard about Harry J. Anslinger? He was the first chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was a strong advocate of anti-marijuana group. He considered pot as a dangerous narcotic that is affiliated to ethnic minorities and African Americans.

The things didn’t turn for better even in 1970. At that time, the legislation placed cannabis under the group of most dangerous drugs. It got a place in the group of Schedule 1 drug. The Controlled Substance Act was the one who classified marijuana as one of the fatal drug in the nation.

The classification of Schedule 1 drug implies that marijuana contains a high potential for abuse. Therefore, it cannot be approved for medicinal use. It is 40 years the decision was made, and still the classification remains same.

It is high time the supporters of anti-marijuana should evaluate the results of research conducted to know the pros and cons of substance. The drug is criminalized by federal laws. The research shows that marijuana can be an effective substitute for curing opioid addicts. It can prevent them from taking overdoses of opioid.

The research results will be tested in Massachusetts where voters approved of legalization of medical marijuana. The state is criticized for a high number of people who are addicts of heroin. The proposed controversial treatment will have to undergo the testing process in the state.

There was a time when pot was sued in the nation for treatment of depression and other mental health problems. Some studies highlight the therapeutic benefits of marijuana while there are some that contradicts the claims.

As of now, the FDA has permitted some synthetic cannabinoids for the treatment, but federal agencies consider it as an illegitimate medicine. The debate seems to be turning in favor of marijuana advocates. There are 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana treatment.

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01/15/2015 |

Marijuana Prices Drop Drastically In Washington As Supply Grows


w3 230x230 photoSlog – Remember those early days of legal weed in Washington, when the stuff was $20 or $25 a gram and stores were closing because they were literally out of weed?

Those days are officially over. Prices in recreational stores have been falling with every passing month as more shops open. But something else is going on, too: a huge surplus of pot.

It’s crazy what we’re selling weed for, it’s so cheap,” says Ian Eisenberg, the owner of Uncle Ike’s, a recreational store at 23rd and Union. (Prices at his storerange from $10 to $23 a gram, which is competitive with most medical stores, though still higher than black-market estimates.) “Wholesale prices are literally half of what they were in September.”

Exciting for us, less so for the guys growing all that weed and trying to sell it to stores. Since the launch of the market last spring, more and more growers have been licensed (336 statewide, to be exact), and many of them have finally harvested their outdoor grows. That’s resulted in way more pot that’s ready to sell than is actually selling.

Steve Walser—an Eastern Washington farmer who’s spent the last 40 years growing organic fruits and vegetables and now has a grow op licensed under I-502—noticed a “flush of product” around Halloween and started wondering just how much was out there. So he filed a records request with the Washington State LIquor Control Board (WSLCB), and the numbers he got back were staggering.

According to the state’s monthly breakdowns showing grams harvested and grams sold in the state through the end of November, growers have produced almost 10 times the amount of pot that’s been sold in stores. From June through the end of November, producers grew about 11,500,000 grams of marijuana, and stores, which opened in early July, sold about 1,172,000 grams through November.* (The WSLCB didn’t include any harvest numbers for December, but included part of the month’s sales, totaling about 118,300 grams. Even if growers didn’t produce a single additional gram during that time, their totals would still be nearly nine times the sales.)

Some of this has to do with timing: This fall was the first harvest of outdoor crops grown over the summer, which means the harvest rates mushroomed from almost 900,000 grams in September to more than 3 million in October and 6.5 million in November. Because of that, growth in production is outpacing growth in sales, which have climbed steadily from about 233,000 grams in September to 321,000 in October and 384,000 in November. Production will slow down now that we’ve reached the winter, but indoor growers are still ticking along, and the WSLCB continues to license growers all over the state.

The surplus is no surprise to the WSLCB, according to board spokesperson Brian Smith.

“The market is still maturing,” he says. “Not everyone is going to make it… We knew the supply system would be pretty robust.”

The WSLCB regularly updates an online list of sales data, but doesn’t publish details like this—details about how much pot is being grown and sold in grams. Used to having a “plethora of data” about other crops, Walser says he wanted the marijuana numbers for his own business planning and to share. While he says hefeels financially comfortable, other hopeful pot entrepreneurs are “pouring their whole life savings into this… expecting a good market coming out the other end when the reality is, for the grower, the market is bad.”

Not our problem, says the WSLCB.

“I don’t know that we’re responsible for telling people how to run their business, and that’s what this is,” Smith says. He cautioned against a “gold rush mentality” among some in the market.

“They don’t owe anyone anything other than the straight scoop,” Walser says. “Publish it. How hard is it to get that information out?” (To be clear, the WSLCB makes this data available to people who file records requests, like Walser did, but he wants it posted regularly.)

Back when it was making the rules for this new market, the liquor board putsome limits on how much marijuana licensed producers were allowed to grow “to meet initial consumer demand without over-supplying.” That was in part to prevent intervention from the Feds, who’ve warned that legal pot better not spill over into other states where it’s still illegal. But now, even with all this extra weed out there—which has got to make it tempting for growers to look outside the legal market for buyers—Smith says the liquor board is confident the tracking system it requires growers to use would give the state a heads up if any of it “went missing.”

On his 640-acre Eastern Washington farm, Walser has piled his bumper crop into two-and-a-half-pound bags, flushed those with nitrogen (to keep the bud from oxidizing), and vacuum sealed them before putting them in a dark, cool concrete “bunker.”

“Under those conditions,” he says, “it keeps for years.”

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01/09/2015 |
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