Music Legend Nelson To Roll Out Own Brand Of Marijuana

TEXAS: Music legend Willie Nelson is jumping into the movement to commercialize marijuana and plans to roll out his own brand of cannabis that he intends to make “the best on the market.”

The singer-songwriter announced in a statement Monday that Willie’s Reserve will be grown and sold in Colorado and Washington, two states where recreational use of the drug is legal.

A release explaining Willie’s Reserve says it reflects Nelson’s appreciation for “the many varieties and range of the plant’s qualities.”

The release says the 81-year-old Nelson will collaborate with master growers to define standards for the strain.

Colorado Seeks Permission To Grow & Study Pot At State Universities

COLORADO:  After years of trying to stamp out marijuana use on college campuses, Colorado officials are now asking the federal government to allow its state universities to grow their own pot.

The reason, they say, is that the legalization of the drug here has raised questions about its health effects, questions that can only be answered by studying large amounts and different strains of marijuana.

But researchers face bureaucratic hurdles in scoring pot from the one federally approved marijuana farm, a 12-acre facility at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research.

Utilities Struggle To Control Appetites In Energy-Hungry Marijuana Industry

WASHINGTON:  Kurt Nielsen is on a strange assignment, especially for a public employee. As the manager of the Lighting Design Lab, which is a spinoff of Seattle’s power company, he has been tasked with finding energy-efficient lights for the growing of marijuana.

Most of the country’s legal cannabis farming, in Washington and Colorado, is happening indoors and under scorching-hot lights. Washington state has issued licenses for the cultivation of 1.2 million square feet of cannabis “canopy,” as it’s called, since voters approved its production and sale for recreational purposes two years ago.

But neither state has given much thought to where the energy will come from.

Nielsen has been looking for a while now and declared that the efficiency quest is “a wild goose hunt.”

“This has become a major issue with most of the regional utilities, now that we have legalized the recreational use of cannabis in this state. There is a huge new industry that’s popping up, grow operations. They’re getting as much as 200 watts per square foot of lighting power density, which is astronomical,” he said. “How are they going to handle and manage this industry?”

Utilities and energy officials in Washington and Colorado indicate they are deeply worried about serving their new set of energy-intense customers while not running afoul of federal drug laws. The intertwined relationships between state and federal governments mean that acting to lower marijuana’s energy usage could endanger millions of dollars in federal grants or electricity deliveries from federal hydroelectric dams.


Puff, Puff, Pink Slip: Legal Weed Use Still Carries Job Risk

WASHINGTON: You’re not being paranoid: Even in Washington and Colorado, smoking a legal joint after work could still get an employee fired.

The whirlwind firing-turned-rehiring of a tie-dye-bedecked marijuana buyer in Spokane last week – followed by an admission Friday by Seattle’s City Attorney that he took pot to work – only clouded chronic confusion among many workers in the two pot-friendly states who ask if their legal-weed rights trump an employer’s cannabis policies.

The answer, for now, remains utterly non-hazy: No.

Workers still can be booted –- or never hired in the first place –- for puffing cannabis if anti-pot rules exist in their employers’ HR handbooks. So, if adults in Colorado and Washington legally consume weed after work, away from the job site or the office, they must remain mindful of the drug rules at the shops and offices where they ply their trades, according to labor-law experts in both states.

“Employers do hold all the cards. You’re not guaranteed a job. If not using marijuana is in the contract, or in the terms of the job, you can get fired,” said David Rheins, CEO of the Seattle-based Marijuana Business Association, considered the cannabis industry’s chamber of commerce.

“Where’s The Pot Store?” Legal Weed On Sale In Southwest Washington

By Bailey Hirschburg

The most surprising thing about the opening of Vancouver, Washington’s first pot store opening was how mainstream it was. Like a totally sedate, black-Friday opening folks lined up as early as 3 a.m. the night before, eagerly awaiting the chance to catch a whiff of history.

I arrived about 8:30am, and already about 25 people were camped out patiently awaiting Main St. Marijuana’s 11 a.m. opening. News crews packed the area. By 10:20 the line stretched a over a block. By opening time, about 200 people patiently and talked and agreed this was amazing. The group’s average age was older, welcoming a new experience. The green ribbon cutting by Vancouver mayor Tim Leavitt had the feel of a traditional grand opening.


I was manning a NORML table a block away at the “Weed and Weenies” street fair, a partnership between industry start-up Viridian Sciences and a local hotdog vendor. The fair was late notice, small, with less than a dozen stalls, but it was a welcome celebration of the new green era. Throughout the morning and afternoon people wandered to my table and asked “Where’s the pot store?”

 “Next block over, stay on the left side of the street, you can’t miss it.” I would tell them, knowing a satisfaction I never suspected when gathering signatures for the Initiative 502 back in 2011.  A policewoman wandered the neighborhood, smiles, helpful advice. Few people possessed the stones to ask her where the pot store was. But, overhearing her explain what kind of use and behavior the police would and wouldn’t tolerate, I realized if anyone did ask, she’d gladly tell them.  Victory wasn’t easy, or cheap, but we won. The helpful police lady clinches it. Except for a bit of sunburn, it was a dream.

 As the day went on I tried to activate local NORML volunteers to keep the pressure on politicians, and the most common problem was not that people were fearful or indifferent, its that they lived in Oregon.

Legal pot in southwest Washington may be the best thing that’s happened to northwest Oregon in a while. Visitors frequently asked about New Approach Oregon, and where could they legally smoke in Vancouver. The stores’ first customer, the one I mentioned arriving at 3 a.m.? He came from Oregon’s capitol, Salem. With no sales tax in Oregon, a savvy Washingtonian knows to make a trip over the river and save some cash on goods. Marijuana is the first industry I’ve seen to tip the scales the other direction, Oregonians jockeying to pay a 25% sin tax, PLUS sales tax. In six hours there, I never heard one complain.

About 3:30 I packed up my table and moseyed over to Main Street Marijuana. The line was gone, I was carded and admitted with a smile. The stores windows are frosted, blocking the inside form private eyes, but letting in tons of light. There’s a sitting area near the door stocked with chips, an attractive nuisance for an establishment not allowed to indulge indoor use of their wares.


I over paid for a package of Farmer J’s pre-rolled “Kush” joints, but the annoying part…my one let down from the whole experience? No receipt. The first time in my life when I badly wanted the paperwork from a sale, perhaps to keep forever, and he told me their system didn’t provide them “right now.” He did have a helpful hand Q & A handout with only one question and answer: “OK – Why so does it cost so much?”

Grammar notwithstanding, it’s a fair question. Main Street Marijuana’s answer was more coherent:

It’s really a matter of supply and demand – there just aren’t enough licensed suppliers yet. And of course the state takes a chunk out for taxes. But no worries – the supply issue will be resolved soon enough and we’re confident that we will soon be offering the finest quality weed at a reasonable price, as well as edibles and more! Meanwhile, by coming here today you are participating in an important part of Washington State History! To help you understand where your cash is going we made a nifty pie chart. (mmm, pie)”

Following this is a graphic saying that for every $25.00 a consumer spent, $12.50 went to the supplier, $9.75 in taxes, and $3.75 to the retailer. Helpful, but no receipt.

I headed back home with the wind at my back. It will take time for these stores to ripen, but they will. Minor hiccups and sunburns aside, the first day of legal sales in southwest Washington was a lot of fun, and evidence that reform is catching on in a big way.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Brown Discusses Measures On Marijuana

MARYLAND:  Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said Friday that Colorado and Washington state should be applauded for moving ahead with legalizing marijuana but he wants to learn more about what happens in those states before he would support legalizing it in Maryland.

Brown, who is running in the Democratic primary for governor, talked about measures relating to marijuana during a meeting with Baltimore lawmakers.

“There is a growing level of support in Maryland and this country for the legalization of marijuana, and so I applaud Colorado in the sense that we now have the benefit of observing the results of their decision … what the pitfalls and problems may be, so that whatever we might ultimately do, if that’s the direction we go in, there may very well be best practices,” Brown said in an interview after the meeting.

Still, Brown underscored that he is not ready to endorse full legalization in Maryland yet. He said he is advocating a “slow-as-we-go” approach.


In 2 States, Corner Cannabis Store Nears Reality

COLORADO: Starting early next year, any adult with a craving or curiosity will be able to stroll into a strip mall or downtown shop in Colorado or Washington State and do what has long been forbidden: buy a zip-lock bag of legal marijuana.

After landmark votes made marijuana legal for recreational consumption, users in these two states will no longer need doctors’ notes or medical reasons to buy the drug. Instead, they will simply show identification to prove they are at least 21, and with the cautious blessing of state and federal officials, they will be able to buy as much as an ounce of marijuana and smoke it in their living rooms.

It is a new frontier of drug legalization, one that marks a stark turn away from the eras of “Reefer Madness,” zero tolerance and Just Say No warnings about the dangers of marijuana. But it also raises questions about whether these pioneering states will be able to regulate and contain a drug that is still outlawed across most of the country — although medical marijuana can be sold legally in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The end of the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s, by contrast, to which some historians and legal scholars are comparing this moment, came all at once across the nation.



Editorial: Congress Lags Public On Marijuana Legalization

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  A Gallup poll released this week showing that 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana should send a clear message to Congress.

It is time to talk seriously about decriminalizing marijuana on a federal level and leaving the regulation of pot to the states. The federal government already is leaning this way on a smaller scale, agreeing to stand down in the face of pot legalization in Washington and Colorado. [Read more…]

High Marijuana Taxes Could Derail Legalization Plans

COLORADO: When Congress banned marijuana in 1937, it did so in the guise of taxation, imposing a prohibitive levy on cannabis and created criminal penalties for those who failed to pay it. Marijuana taxes also played a prominent role in what may be the beginning of the end for pot prohibition: the legalization measures that voters in Colorado and Washington approved last fall.
Supporters of Washington’s I-502 and Colorado’s Amendment 64 emphasized the revenue that the government could reap by recognizing cannabis production and distribution as a legitimate business. The tricky part, as officials in both states will soon discover, is balancing the desire for tax revenue against the desire to eliminate the black market created by prohibition. Or as UCLA drug policy expert Mark Kleiman, an adviser to Washington’s marijuana regulators, puts it: “What if we gave a pot legalization party and nobody came?”

The dilemma is especially clear in Washington, where I-502 specified a 25 percent excise tax at three levels: sales between producers and processors, between processors and retailers, and between retailers and consumers. That’s in addition to the standard state sales tax of 8.75 percent.

According to calculations by BOTEC, Kleiman’s consulting firm, these taxes will make the retail cost of cannabis 58 percent higher than it would otherwise be, accounting for 37 percent of the price paid by consumers. One BOTEC projection, based on a production cost of $2 per gram, indicates the after-tax retail price will be $17 per gram, or $482 per ounce. Another projection, based on a production cost of $3 per gram, puts the retail price at $25.50 per gram, or $723 per ounce.

That’s a lot more than pot smokers in Washington currently pay. According to the website Price of Weed, which collects reports from marijuana consumers across the country, the average price for high-quality cannabis in Washington is $239 per ounce.

Some of those purchases may be from medical marijuana dispensaries, which are not explicitly authorized by state law but operate as patient and provider cooperatives. Washington’s medical marijuana rules are relatively permissive, allowing cultivation and possession by patients with a wide variety of conditions, as long as they have a doctor’s recommendation. Dispensaries in Seattle currently charge $250 or so per ounce, and medical marijuana sales remain untaxed under I-502.

In short, BOTEC’s projections indicate that the after-tax price for marijuana sold by state-licensed outlets will be something like two to three times as high as prices charged by black-market dealers or dispensaries. “That’s a big problem,” Kleiman says. “The legal market is going to have a hard time competing with the illegal market, but a particularly hard time competing with the untaxed, unregulated sort-of-legal market.”

Colorado’s constitution, unlike Washington’s, requires separate voter approval for new taxes. The price of legal marijuana in Colorado therefore will depend on the fate of Proposition AA, an initiative on next month’s ballot that would authorize not only the 15 percent excise tax mentioned in Amendment 64 but also a special sales tax of up to 15 percent. That’s on top of the standard state and local sales taxes, which in Denver total 8 percent. Meanwhile, voters in Denver, where most pot stores will be located, will decide whether to approve an additional municipal marijuana tax of up to 15 percent.

Supporters of the marijuana taxes, including Amendment 64 co-author Brian Vicente and the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, argue that they are necessary to fund an effective regulatory system, which in turn will help discourage federal interference. Opponents, led by Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and longtime marijuana activist, argue that excessively high taxes will undermine regulation by preserving the black market. “Over-taxation creates a marijuana market ripe for takeover by the unregulated, untaxed, underground market,” Corry says.

The Proposition AA campaign deems that prospect “unlikely,” saying “the combined taxes on retail marijuana sales will add about 22 percent to the retail cost of marijuana products”—less than half the impact of Washington’s taxes. That estimate does not include local taxes, which could make a big difference given Denver’s important role in the marijuana industry.