Tag: Law & Politics

Los Angeles: The Largest City with Legal Weed

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve licensed cannabis cultivation and sales within city limits beginning in 2018, becoming the largest city in America to do so.

Now just awaiting Mayor Eric Garcetti’s approval, the new marijuana regulations will take effect immediately once signed.

“The other cities in this nation, they are looking to L.A.,” said City Council President Herb Wesson.

Though California voters approved recreational marijuana legalization by a significant margin in November, cities have had the opportunity to either opt out of an adult-use market or establish regulations that fit their community best. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed a bill Wednesday that would authorize recreational cannabis sales within the city in January.

Besides raising consumer safety standards and increasing ease of access for people in need, legalization will also bring hoards of new tax revenue to debt-riddled California as a projected $7 billion industry finally takes flight.

The city regulations passed yesterday dictate additional procedures Los Angeles-area cannabis businesses would have to abide by in addition to state guidelines announced last month. For example, growers must obtain their LA local permits before applying for the respective state license they will need to operate legally.

While many regions attempting to legalize are grappling with how to recognize the immense damage caused by the war on drugs on certain communities in their area, Los Angeles made sure those affected most would not be forgotten in this new era for cannabis in the city. The regulations that were passed Wednesday include language that protects individuals who were previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes or live in areas that experienced disproportionate arrest rates. The city will establish a program to eliminate traditional barriers to business ownership by offering training courses, learning programs for employees, and technical assistance.

One major concern of business owners and local lawmakers alike that has gone unaddressed is the lack of banking options for the cash-rich industry to utilize. Because of the ongoing federal prohibition of cannabis, federally insured banking institutions are terrified of doing business with cannabis companies. The city of Los Angeles, cognisant of the massive influx of cash they’re about to receive when the market opens up, has explored the possibility of establishing a city-owned bank that serves the industry’s needs.

Because of how late in the year the regulations are being solidified and the number of holidays between now and the official opening day of recreational sales in California, analysts question whether many officially licensed legal recreational shops will even be open for business on New Year’s Day when they become eligible. Regardless, adult visitors and residents of Los Angeles should have zero issue finding great weed next year and beyond.

Applications for temporary California cannabis business licenses for retail, distribution, microbusiness, testing laboratories, and events can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo

 

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High Anxiety: Federal Safeguard of MMJ Programs Needs Budget Extension

America’s medical marijuana industry is currently estimated to be worth $5.3 billion, benefits nearly 2 million patients in 30 states, and is in serious jeopardy of losing its protected status if the previous federal budget is not extended by Friday.

Within the existing budget, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – originally referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment – has shielded medical marijuana states and their patients from federal prosecution since 2014.

An annual obstacle, this is a potential problem faced every year that has usually been resolved at the final hour, but concerns are especially high under Sessions. As the existing federal budget is set to expire this Friday, more than a few medical marijuana states, medical marijuana businesses, and congressional leaders are busy wringing their hands with an elevated sense of anxiety.

While most elected officials are concerned with maintaining America’s credit rating and keeping the federal government up and running, others worry that Congress will fail to reach a deal to keep the old budget in place. A problem for everyone, this is particularly worrisome for states benefiting from the protection provided by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment.

Provided Congress does their job and passes a continuing resolution this Friday, and avoids a federal shutdown of the U.S. government, they’ll also be providing temporary protection for our medical marijuana states — keeping the Department of Justice from spending any federal funds to interfere in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis.

Less than helpful in states that have legalized recreational consumption, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment doesn’t protect states that have passed adult-use legislation.

 

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US, German Cannabis Producers Can’t Do Business Together, Here’s Why

Bureaucratic hurdles and an unexpectedly high demand for medical cannabis in Germany have created a bottleneck that’s plagued cannabis patients and producers alike. It would seem as though working with the United States could alleviate some of the pressure, but the federal government in Germany has avoided working with the country’s producers for fear of violating the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Until Germany can develop a robust cannabis cultivation industry, its patients will continue to receive their medicine sporadically from Canada or the Netherlands. While 18 varieties of cannabis are supposed to be available, patients are lucky to find four strains at their local pharmacy — a significant issue when German doctors are required to prescribe a specific strain for patients. If that strain’s not available, the prescription is worthless.

Once the Israeli government has defined their guidelines for cannabis export, their medical cannabis will find its way into German pharmacies to help alleviate the recent bottlenecks. Israel is expected to develop a cannabis export system in the next couple of years.

Cannabis farmers in the U.S. West Coast, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska might welcome the opportunity to expand into international markets, and patients in Germany could benefit from the new, highly effective selection of U.S. cannabis strains. But the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs labels cannabis on par with cocaine and opium — therein lies the problem for Germany doing business with U.S. cannabis producers.

The Single Convention on Narcotics and Drugs of 1961 is still the foundation of worldwide drug legislation. It includes the coca, opium poppy, cannabis, the opium plant’s raw materials, opiates, heroin, and some synthetic opioids such as methadone. The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of Feb. 21, 1971 extended the list of controlled substances to include psychotropic substances such as amphetamines, barbiturates, and LSD and came into force on Aug. 16, 1976.

Only the medical use of narcotics for pain relief is excluded from the Convention but has to be enacted in compliance with the measures deemed necessary by the United Nations (UN). Member nations must report their produced, exported, stored, and used narcotics to the Narcotic Control Council.

A State Must Purchase All Medical Cannabis Crops

Article 23 of the Single Convention states:

A Party that permits the cultivation of the opium poppy for the production of opium shall establish, if it has not already done so, and maintain, one or more government agencies (hereafter in this article referred to as the Agency) to carry out the functions required under this article.

Article 23 (2) (d) says: “All cultivators of the opium poppy shall be required to deliver their total crops of opium to the Agency. As soon as possible, but not later than four months after the end of the harvest.”

According to Articles 26 and 28 of the Single Convention, the same control system applies to coca and cannabis. Health Canada is in violation of Article 23, paragraph 2d for allowing producers to sell directly to patients. Unlike the Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) in the Netherlands, the Canadian agency does not purchase and sell the licensed producers’ crops.

The establishment of such an agency is independent of whether government institutions or licensed private providers take over the cultivation. Such agencies only exist in the few states where opium, coca, and cannabis are grown legally: The Turkish Grain Board (for Opium in Turkey), Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances, the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the U.S., the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) in Germany, the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, the Office of Medicinal Cannabis in the Netherlands, the Czech State Agency for Medical Cannabis, and the Medical Cannabis Unit in Israel.

The U.S. government would have to recognize the medical benefits of cannabis and remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the narcotics act before the NIDA could offer medical cannabis for export to the German BfArM.

Ways Around the Single Convention

It is almost impossible for a member of the United Nations to legalize cannabis without coming into conflict with the international community. Uruguay, Bolivia, and Canada have already had to deal with the issue and have each taken different approaches to reconciling new national policy with existing international agreements.

Out and Back In

In 2009, the Bolivian government proposed deleting some provisions regarding the coca leaf, but the proposal was rejected by the other member nations. On June 29, 2011, Bolivia withdrew from the Single Convention through Jan. 1, 2012 and rejoined with an objection to Article 50 on Jan. 10, 2012.

Bolivia stated that it would allow the cultivation, trade, and consumption of coca leaves in its country. Within one year, 15 contracting nations filed an objection, well short of the one-third quorum required to reject Bolivia’s objection. Bolivia was reclassified as a contracting party on Jan. 11, 2013.

Ignore the Issue

Uruguay was reprimanded shortly before the legalization of cannabis by the UN Drug Administration’s International Narcotic Control Board (INCB). The former INCB-president Raymond Yans accused Uruguay’s then-president Jose Mujica of having an “attitude of a pirate” because his government legalized cannabis. Mujica fiercely resisted the allegations repeatedly made against his country and publicly responded to the criticism of the former INCB chairman:

“Tell the old man to stop lying. We can meet whenever he wants in Uruguay. […]. He sits in a comfortable position on the International stage and believes he can tell nonsense.”

Despite the dramatic exchanges, the international community has not sanctioned Uruguay for being the first country in the world to legalize cannabis. Incidentally, a similar complaint was addressed to the United States after the legalization ballots in Colorado and Washington State. In November 2012, Yans stated the legalization of the cultivation and possession of cannabis in Colorado and Washington violated the treaty and asked the U.S. government to restore conformity with the single convention.

Recreational cannabis is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and the international community is far from sanctioning the U.S. However, ignoring the treaty also means missing out on access to the international market and the opportunity to take part in international research efforts.

Don’t Comply, Justify

At the 59th meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2016, Undersecretary for Health of Canada Hilary Geller expressed Canada’s interest in international cooperation and made it clear, “the Government remains committed to strong international cooperation to combat the world drug problem and wherever possible, will seek to align its objectives for a new marijuana regime with the objectives of the international drug control framework and the spirit of the Conventions.”

Canada is the first to take the position of “non-compliance.” With Geller’s announcement, Canada has laid the foundation for an ongoing debate on how to regulate cannabis at the national level without violating international legal obligations.

Change

Even if the 1961 Single Convention could be amended, that would involve a complex, years-long process.

Canada could set a precedent in July 2018, by forcing the U.N. to rethink the position of cannabis for the first time since 1961. The aim of the process would be to give all member nations the opportunity to regulate recreational and medical cannabis in the future. Legislation in international agreements is never set in stone, it can be changed any time the democratic will of the member nations demands it.

 

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