The Ebola Crisis Keeps Getting Worse, Battling ISIS Around the World, The War On Drugs and America’s Wealth Gap Unsustainable

https://i0.wp.com/www.cartoonaday.com/images/cartoons/2014/08/Ebola-virus-cartoon-598x400.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/8a/a8a87a88-0574-504a-85ba-4ab3d8439553/54068e0f8a7e4.image.jpghttp://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/drug-war-cartoon.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/m5.paperblog.com/i/61/615103/the-income-gap-is-still-growing-L-w6Xtui.jpegThe Ebola epidemic sweeping across Western Africa this summer shows no signs of slowing down as researchers say it’s about to get worse. According to AOL, Health officials say Ebola outbreak about to get worse, Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control, said: “It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, it’s going to get worse in the very near future.” The World Health Organization told officials to “prepare for an ‘exponential increase’ in Ebola cases in countries currently experiencing intense virus transmission.” The Who suspects that normal containment measures aren’t working due to Ebola victims and their communities mistrust of medical experts. The New York Times: “Now, armed gangs chase health workers away from villages while the sick hide.” As of Monday, The World Health Organization reports the virus has killed 2,105 people with half from Liberia and the rest from Guinea and Sierra Leone mostly. According to WHO: “The whole world is responsible and accountable to bring the Ebola threat under control. Let’s do it. Action, action, and action.” President Obama on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” announced the U.S. military would deploy its resources and logistical expertise to help aid workers on the ground. NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads … there is the prospect then that the virus mutates … and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.” Currently, 53 percent of the people diagnosed with Ebola die as there is no cure for it. On Sunday, the Guardian reported a potential breakthrough saying the human trials were underway for a vaccine that worked on monkeys. However, best case scenario if a vaccine works it will take months to deliver it to victims while victims and people try to help them are on their own. Eleanor Goldberg reports, More Women Than Men Are Dying From Ebola, the current Ebola outbreak may infect as many ads 20,000 people with a disproportionate number being women, experts say. According to UNICEF, more women than men are contracting the disease as they traditionally serve as health care workers and are the ones who take care of the sick in their families. Women account for 55 to 60 percent of the victims who die from Ebola in the current epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Washington Post reported, health teams in Liberia recently reported that women made up 75 percent of victims infected with Ebola. Irin News reports the outbreak can be attributed to the consumption of infected bushmeat of wild animals which many rely on for their livelihood and main source of protein. Sia Nyama Koroma, first lady of Sierra Leone, told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.” Marpue Spear, executive director of the Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia, told Foreign Policy: “If a man is sick, the woman can easily bathe him but the man cannot do so. Traditionally, women will take care of the men as compared to them taking care of the women.” Because of the confrontation associated with the disease due to military surrounding homes and healthcare workers not respecting a patient’s traditions, Ebola victims do not go to treatment centers. However, if these relationships can be mended, then these epidemics could be stopped before they spread to this level. Frankfurter wrote in a blog for Wellbody Alliance: “Health workers should acknowledge, publicly, how frightening this disease will be for affected communities and how difficult it is for families to part with loved ones to likely die in isolation wards. Such sympathetic gestures would serve to align the priorities of communities and the public health response.”

While the world fights to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa, the U.S. and other world leaders are discussing plans to rid the world of another political and social disease, ISIS. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance at a conference on defense innovation Wednesday that unsophisticated militaries and terrorist groups are acquiring destructive weapons and Moscow and Beijing are modernizing their armed services including electronic warfare and special operations capabilities, Lolita C. Baldor reports, Chuck Hagel: U.S. Needs To Maintain Military Superiority. Hagel said: “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space — not to mention cyberspace — can no longer be taken for granted. And while the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given. We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority. This will not only require active investment by both government and industry — it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation” in how American buys and develops new technologies. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Wednesday to press Iraq’s Shiite Leader to give more power to Sunnis or jeopardize any hope of defeating the Islamic State group as Iraq’s new government has finally been put in place and the threat of ISIS increases, the Associate Press reports, Kerry to meet with new Iraqi Prime Minister. Kerry’s arrival happened just two days after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in and seated his top government ministers. The trip marks the first high level U.S. meeting with the new prime minister and symbolizes the Obama administration’s support for Iraq three years after the U.S. left. However, it also signals to the Shiite Muslim leader that the U.S. is watching to make sure he gives Iraqi Sunnis more control over local power structures and security forces. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will “meet with Iraqi government officials to welcome them on the successful formation of a new government” and “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat ISIL and the threat that it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world.” Kerry’s trip comes on the eve of a meeting win Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he and Arab leaders across the Mideast will discuss what nations can contribute to the fight against ISIS. Officials hope to have a strategic blueprint against ISIS with specific steps nations are willing to take by the opening of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month. White House official said Tuesday that Obama will ask Congress to authorize the arming and training of Syrian opposition forces but will press forward without formal sign off from lawmaker on a broader military and political effort to combat the Islamic State. The president’s broader strategy could include more wide ranging airstrikes against Iraq and Syria and hinges on military and political commitment from allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. A senior U.S. official said the conference participants will discuss how to dry up foreign funding for the Islamic State and counter propaganda used to recruit people into the extremist group. In addition, al-Abadi promised to create a national guard of local fighters to secure Iraq’s 18 provinces run by a governor. This would ensure the Iraqi army and its mostly Shiite forces would not be in charge of security in Sunni regions along for salaried jobs, government pensions and other benefits to areas of Iraq where al-Maliki, the former prime minister, denied for years. Zeina Karam reports, UN Aid Reaches Record Number Of Syrians, the World Food Program has assisted 4.1 million Syrians in the last month reaching more of those in need with shipments traversing borders and front lines on Tuesday. Syria’s civil war has touched off a massive humanitarian crisis, with some 10.8 million people in need of assistance, including 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas, according to the U.N. Previously, humanitarian aid was block without Syrian government approval first ensuring the rebel held areas remained off limits, but in July, the U.N. Security Council authorized movement of humanitarian aid to Syrians in opposition areas without government approval. IN a statement Tuesday, the World Food Program said over the last six weeks it and its partners have reached more than 580,000 people with deliveries crossing battle lines. The August figures include five cross-border convoys that delivered rice, lentils, oil, pasta and other staples for 69,500 in difficult zones to reach in Aleppo, Idlib, Quneitra and Daraa provinces. Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for Syria, said: “We are reaching more people every day with urgently needed food assistance — many of them have been going hungry for months. We will build on these gains in the coming weeks and months and hope that all parties to the conflict will continue to facilitate our access to the women, children and families that remain out of our reach behind conflict lines.” The U.N. agency said fighting and security concerns continue to hamper access to many areas, particularly in Hassakeh, Deir el-Zour and Raqqa provinces.

Meanwhile, the war on drugs, which has had little if any success, has left hundreds of thousands dead and fleeing, leading to demands to completely overhaul the drug policies around the world including legalization of psychoactive substances like marijuana. Matt Ferner reports, World Leaders Condemn Failed Drug War, Call For Global Reform, on Tuesday in New York City, 10 members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy urged all governments to embrace models that include decriminalization of consumption, legal regulation of drug markets and strategic refocusing of criminal enforcement. Sound policy, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said, “does not allow human rights to be put aside in order to extend the repression of drugs.” The commission consists of 21 former presidents and other prominent individuals who are trying to advance “humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.” Its members include Cardoso; former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss; former Colombian President César Gaviria; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; Louise Arbour, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Cardoso believes the new approach should stress public health and ensure drug users have access to health care. Gaviria argues the legalization of marijuana and other illicit substances “strengthens the fight against cartels.” Cardoso said the world’s governments must put pressure on the Untied Nations before the United Nations before the 2016 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) to begin incremental change in the “inadequate” strategies of the “war on drugs” found in current international conventions. Zedillo points out the current U.N. system of prohibition has led to increase in consumption and “created a disaster, not a world free of drugs.” Cardoso said: “We cannot abolish the use of drugs. So we need cultural modification.” Zedillo accuses the U.N. of straitjacketing the effort to adopt new policies, adding: “2016 is an opportunity to start a new international regime where governments can really control this drug problem. Our objective is to have a framework that empowers governments to pursue more rational policies. The specifics of those policies are to be defined by those governments and their civil societies.” The report comes as punished for drug oriented crimes around the world are already being reconsidered and in some countries reshaped. Cardoso said there were experiments going on all around the world with great reform success in the United States, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and Uruguay. he said: “We have experiences in Portugal since 1991, where they have decriminalized the use of drugs. Users get treatment assistance but are not put in jail. It has been very effective in Portugal; the results are quite clear.” In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to approve legal regulation of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. While the U.S. government bans the use, some states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of the drug and 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in an interview with The Huffington Post, said: “These world leaders have seen, from their own experience, how the failed war on drugs harms countries and populations. I have no doubt that President Obama will evolve and join this group and the majority of Americans in at least endorsing the legalization of marijuana, just as he did with marriage equality. The only question is if this evolution will occur before or after his term as president ends. I’m sure the global commission’s members would welcome him to their ranks as one more former head of state on the record for legalization, but it’ll be a lot more impactful if he undergoes this transformation while he still has the power to change failed policies that harm people every day.”

While the war on drugs seems to be making some headway in the world, the socioeconomic war being fought between classes, namely the wealthy and poor, has grown. Reuters reports, America’s Wealth Gap ‘Unsustainable’ According To Harvard Study, Harvard Business School released a study Monday titled “An Economy Doing Half its Job” said American companies were showing signs of recovering their competitive edge in the world market since the financial crisis, but workers keep struggling to demand better pay and benefits. The report says “such a divergence is unsustainable” based on a survey of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni around the world highlighting the problem with the U.S. education system, transport infrastructure, and the effectiveness of the political system. Some 47 percent said the next three years they expect U.S. companies to be both less competitive internationally and less able to pay higher wages and benefits versus 33 percent who though the opposite. According to the survey, the results are an improvement from a 2012 Harvard Business School survey of its alumni showing 58 percent expected a decline in U.S. competitiveness. However, Harvard wrote the respondents of the 2014 survey “were much more hopeful about the future competitive success of America’s firms than they were about the future pay of America’s workers.” Harvard called on corporate leaders to help solve America’s wealth gap by working to buttress the kindergarten-to-12th-grade education system, skills-training programs, and transportation infrastructure, among other things. The report said: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy whose firms win in global markets without lifting U.S. living standards. But any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American. Thriving citizens become more productive employees, more willing consumers, and stronger supporters of pro-business policies. Struggling citizens are disgruntled at work, frugal at the cash register, and anti-business at the ballot box.” Meanwhile, in a speech given at the Urban Institute Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put U.S. companies using tax inversion on notice, according to CNBC: “This practice allows the corporation to avoid their civic responsibilities, while continuing to benefit from everything that makes America the best place in the world to do business. … This may be legal, but it’s wrong. And our laws should change.” Lew urged Congress to address the problem through comprehensive tax reform, but also warned the Treasury would act independently to crack down on inversions in the very near future. Tax inversion, which involves a company relocating its headquarters to a low tax nation while still maintaining their U.S. operations, has become common practice over the last year with Burger King being the latest corporation accused of inversion after merging with Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons. Bloomberg’s Peter Cook says the Treasury’s options are limited: “They have several ideas on the table, I’m told, at the Treasury Department. They haven’t decided on one single fix. But Lew’s message this morning was: we can only do this at the margins. Only Congress can have a real, long-term fix here.” The Obama adminsitration estimates there are dozens of inversion in the works which have not been announced, but Lew urges Congress to make any legislative fix for inversion retroactive to all deals since May including the Burger King-Tim Hortons merger. According to Ryan Gorman, Amid tax backlash, Burger King acquires Tim Horton’s but keeps US HQ, Berger King announced Tuesday it purchased Tim Hortons but will keep its headquarters in the U.S. after speculation that the it would move north to avoid taxes. In a Facebook post, Burger King said: “We hear you. We’re not moving, we’re just growing and finding ways to serve you better. Our headquarters will remain in Miami where we were founded more than 60 years ago and… BKC will continue to pay all of our federal, state and local U.S. taxes.” According to Congressional Research Service data complied by the Post earlier this year, Burger King would have been the 48th company to immigrate abroad with more than 70 making the move since 1983.

Washington Pot Shops Open for Business

https://i2.wp.com/tbo.com/storyimage/TB/20140708/ARTICLE/140709482/EP/1/2/EP-140709482.jpg

Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

On Tuesday, Washington became the second state to allow people, living in and out of state, to buy marijuana legally in the Unites States without a doctor’s note. Several dozen people lined up outside shops like Top Shelf Cannabis, in Bellingham near Seattle, to purchase the drug as soon as state regulations allowed at 8 a.m. according to Gene Johnson’s article Washington pot shop customers cheer first legal sale. The start of the legal pot sales in Washington was a major step in a 20 month long process. Washington and Colorado voted to legalized marijuana back into November 2012 for adults over 21 and to create state licensing systems for growing, distributing and taxing pot. Sales of pot in Colorado began on Jan. 1. Washington issued its first 24 licenses Monday with six opening Tuesday, according to the Associate Press, and some opening later in the week or next and others opening in a month or more. While Colorado already had regulated medical marijuana system making its transition smoother to recreational selling, Washington’s unregulated medical marijuana system made for a bumpier transition since officials had to start from scratch to write regulations that made sense. Unfortunately, because growers and sellers were scrambling to prepare, product shortages caused the prices for pot to be higher as there are only 100 approved licensed growers in the state out of 2,600 applicants and only a dozen ready for harvest by early this month. The regulations included protocol for testing marijuana and requirements for child resistant packaging. Officials also had to determine how much criminal history was too much to get a license and what type of security systems pot shops and growers must have, the article reports. Washington law allows the sale of up to one ounce of dried marijuana, 16 ounces of pot-infused solids, 72 ounces of pot-infused liquids or 7 grams of concentrated marijuana, like hashish, to adults over 21.

A Friendlier 420 Government

https://i0.wp.com/www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Medical_Marijuana_Neon240x240.jpg

On Tuesday June 24, 2014, HuffPost reported that the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the medical evidence associated with the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in an effort to possibly downgrade the classification of the drug as a Schedule I drug which is the most dangerous. As Matt Ferner explains in the article, FDA To Evaluate Marijuana For Potential Reclassification As Less Dangerous Drug, the recent review of the drug was at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Agency according to the FDA Press Officer, Jeff Ventura. Ventura describes the process to Ferner as follows: “FDA conducts for Health and Human Services a scientific and medical analysis of the drug under consideration, which is currently ongoing. HHS then recommends to DEA that the drug be placed in a given schedule. DEA considers HHS’ analysis, conducts its own assessment, and makes a final scheduling proposal in the form of a proposed rule.”

The United States currently has five schedules for drugs or chemicals to make those drugs. Schedule I covers those drugs the DEA regards as the highest potential for abuse with no medical use such as heroin and LSD. While rescheduling would not legalize marijuana, it could allow for more research into the drug as well as allow banks to feel more secure about lending to state legalize marijuana businesses. During a Friday House Committee hearing on Oversight and Government Reform, FDA Deputy Director Doug Throckmorton stated, “While DEA is the lead federal agency responsible for regulating controlled substances and enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, FDA, working with NIDA, provides scientific recommendations about the appropriate controls for those substances. To make these recommendations, FDA is responsible for preparing what’s called an eight-factor analysis, which is a document that is used to assess how likely a drug is to be abused. There are eight factors the FDA must consider when deciding which schedule marijuana falls under (as described by the CSA):

  1. Its actual or relative potential for abuse
  2. Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter

The reason for the current review, as explained to HuffPost by a DEA spokeswoman, is due to two public citizens who petition the agency for review. If the review favors rescheduling and the DEA approves, marijuana could be moved to a Schedule II drug like cocaine and methamphetamine. Two previous times, in 2001 and 2006, marijuana has come up for review due to similar requests and both times federal regulators felt that it should remain a Schedule I substance since at the time there was not enough research about the efficacy in treating ailments. The only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. resides at the University of Mississippi and the National Institute on Drug Abuse oversees that operation. NIDA has conducted 30 studies on the benefits of marijuana to date, while approving more than 500 grants for marijuana studies as there has been a market upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Both the DEA and other federal authorities have been accused of obstructing science around the drug and delaying the rescheduling process.  As of recent, a number of studies have demonstrated the increasing medical potential of cannabis as the purified forms help to fight certain forms of aggressive cancer even finding that its use helps with blood sugar control and slowing the spread of HIV.  Right now, there are 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to Ferner, that have legalized marijuana for medical use with New York being next in line. In addition, 10 other states have legalized CBD-oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient often used for epilepsy patients, for research or limited medical purposes. Even though the FDA is not ready to approve marijuana as a safe and effective drug, it does want to continue to study the potential benefits for medical treatment. Posted last Friday, the FDA did say with regards to its latest guiedlines for the drug that:

“The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”

Colorado May Not Be As 420 Friendly As We Thought

Despite the massive amount of revenue to the state and for that matter federal government the legalization of marijuana could bring, Colorado is re-considering its legalization of marijuana. As people tens of thousands of people from all walks of life descended on Denver Colorado on April 20,2013, no one expected that the celebration would be cut short. After the Boston Marathon bombing, police focused on crowd security and were not as concerned about the yearly pot event billed as the largest April 20 celebration.  The festival the previous year brought 50,000 people together and were hoping to bring more people since it is the first celebration since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use Associated Press reports. Even with legalization, open and public use is illegal, but authorities look the other way as the 420 friendly participants celebrate at a park at the base of the state Capitol and music keeps the crowd entertained well past 4:20. Both states are waiting for federal response to votes and want to set up commercial pit sales limited only to medicinal marijuana right now. The celebration drew many marijuana activists from out of state.

However the day was marred by a shooting during the rally that wounded two people and Denver police last Monday had yet to arrest anyone in connection with incident but did interview a man wanted in connection causing the event to be canceled for security reasons. The man seen in a YouTube video was believed to be an accomplice to the primary shooter last Saturday according to police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police urged people to watch the video showing a man in brown and wearing a white checkered shirt walking away from the scene. Jackson said last Monday the man came in voluntarily and spoke to detectives then left later that day. Police received numerous tips based on videos and photos provided by revelers and encouraged the public to keep sending them around the time of 5p.m. when the shooting occurred. Still unknown is the primary shooter but the man was wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt and black pants at the rally and it is not known whether it is gang related or not Associated Press reports. The shooting happened last Saturday at the end of the outdoor celebration when the crowd became panicked after shots were heard leaving a man and woman with non-life threatening gunshot wounds and a juvenile grazed by a  bullet which was treated at a nearby hospital. Organizers canceled a Sunday event after the shooting and it remains unclear if the shooting would affect future events.

This last Friday, backers of the Amendment 64 announced a news conference for the morning at the State Capitol to denounce what they are saying is an effort by anti-legalization group’s effort to repeal Colorado’s recreational marijuana legislation Huff Post reports. Mason Tvert, former co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign ans communication director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that “numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado.” According to Huff Post, Tvert believes lawmakers are considering putting the secret measure before Colorado voters on November 2013 if voters don’t pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes which is on the same ballot. Tvert, according to his statement, commented,”We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously. Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved.” Any effort to repeal the law may be more difficult as the measure is part of the state constitution which requires the lawmakers to prove a repeal would be constitutional. Two thirds majority of the House and Senate would be needed to place the repeal on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year makes it almost impossible to do.

 

Tvert commented the two ballots would be included in the same resolution, while lawmakers have not commented yet. The House Finance Committee did pass House Bill 1318 7-6 last Thursday which wants 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on marijuana in the state according to Huff Post. The Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear voters could reject one or both tax proposals leaving the state to foot the bill for enforcing pot sales. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so with a narrow margin in committee while the same is true of HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational sales in the state with a vote of 6-5. According to a Public Policy Poll, Huff Post reports that backers of Amendment 64 have confirmed that 77 percent of the voters support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent opposed. The poll polled 900 registered voters from April15-16. The taxes if passed would yield $90.9 million according to the Colorado Futures Center, but backers of the amendment were told by state officials that the cost to enforce the recreational regulations would be no greater than $30 million meaning lawmakers could lower the tax rates to 10 percent and still come out ahead at $60 million. Tvert said on Friday, “If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates.”

Smart Colorado the Huff Post reports describes their vocal opposition to marijuana legalization on their website as:

 

We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.

Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.

The actual Amendment 64 passed last November limits sale, possession and growing of the drug for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states:

Adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.

 

420 Friendly: The Rule Rather Than Exception

Tax Revenue From Marijuana Legalization

As Washington struggles to find a solution to the fiscal crisis now in swing, several states have found a way to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in their state which has the potential to bring billions in revenue to states struggling to meet their own budgetary concerns. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank Huff Post reports, the federal legalization of marijuana would offer large new revenue streams that could potentially relieve some of financial strains on the federal budget. Carol Davis, a senior analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy told the Huff Post that, “We don’t know the size of the marijuana market right now, and we certainly don’t know what would happen to the price and the demand for marijuana under different levels of legalization. But we do know that legalization would lead to a positive revenue impact on the income and sales tax side.”According to a 2010 study, legalizing the drug would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually assuming that it would be taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco as well as the income earned by pot producers to standard income and sales tax.

Besides federal benefits, according to the study, states and local governments stand to save billions on the current spending regulating marijuana use. The state of Washington estimates it will generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue in five years due to the legalization, while eighteen states and Washington D.C. have already legalized medicinal marijuana and another 10 are currently considering legislation according to the National Cannabis Industry Association. A recent Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans support the legalization of weed, however opponents argue that fiscal benefits are outweighed by social impact such as violence, crime and social disintegration according to a Heritage Foundation report.

Could the United States become a 420 friendly society? Possibility but with restrictions. What does 420 friendly mean? Well I have often wondered about the origins and had look no further than Huff Post. Depending on who you ask and how coherent they are, the answers range from the number of active chemicals in weed to teatime in Holland to even yes Hitler’s birthday according to Huff Post. The origin of the term celebrated by pot enthusiasts around the world on April 20 has been lost in the smoke filled memories of the people who created it. The Huff Post has actually traced the origins back to a Point Reyes, California forest where it turns out it not only started but explains how it spread. High Times, a marijuana focused magazine, published the story that the term 420 came from police code in San Rafael, California in the 1970s where the police began to use it to refer to marijuana and from there spread. However the true story does start in San Rafael, but involves five San Rafael High School friends known as Waldos as they hung out at a wall outside the school coined the term in 1971. Today the code appears in pop culture and mainstream like in Pulp Fiction, Price is Right, Craigslist postings and in 2003 when California Legislature codified medicinal marijuana under the bill named SB420.

The Waldos have proof that they used the term in the early 70s speaking with Huff Post and prefering to stay with the names Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave, Waldo Mark, etc. as pot was still illegal in 2009 when the interview took place. California since then has decriminalized possession making the fine a little more than a parking ticket as medicinal marijuana shops have popped up all over the state and weed is not so taboo. In 2012, their story was told by Huff Post to set the record straight about the origins and spread of the term 420. The story begins in 1971 when the Waldos got word that a Coast Guard service member could not tend his marijuana plants anymore near Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station, so the group with a treasure map decided to find the free bud. The Waldos would meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside school at 4:20 p.m. after practice to begin their hunt. The group would remind each other to meet up at 4:20 to search for the treasure and were unsuccessful in their first couple of searches. The group would take a ride out to Point Reyes at 4:20 smoking the entire way week after week, but never actually found the patch. The group adopted the codeword to used around school and parents to hide the fact they were smoking pot.

As they continued to use the term, eventually luck would have it that the term would spread farther than they could ever imagine thanks to the Grateful Dead. As San Francisco’s hippie utopia collapses and miscreants took over The Haight, the Grateful Dead packed up and moved to Marin County hills just blocks from their high school. Beside the geographic location, several of the guys had connections to the Dead through family like Mark Gravitch’s father who took care of real estate, Dave Reddix’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with the bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick Reddix recalls to Huff Post that he smoked with Lesh but couldn’t recall if he used the term 420 around him but must have. The Dead, recalls Dave Reddix, had a rehearsal space on Front Street, San Rafael, California and they used to practice there. The friends would hang out listening to the music and smoking making it possible that Patrick spread the term to Phil Lesh as well as Dave himself while hanging with Lesh. As the Grateful Dead toured through the 70’s and 80’s playing hundreds of shows per year, the term spread through the underground and once High Times picked up on it the magazine made the term global. The Waldos say it took a few years for the term to spread but by the early 90’s were hearing it all over San Rafael, even in unexpected places such as Ohio, Florida and Canada as well as spotting the digits on signs and park benches.

In 1998, the Waldos set the record straight and got in touch with High Times even presenting evidence to back up their story. Stashed away in a San Fransisco bank vault, Reddix, Gravitch, Capper and Patty Young have kept a flag with the 420 stitched on it, letters, newspaper clipping and other pieces of memorabilia Huff Post reports. The men are still excited to this day about their impact on international subculture as the group is considering doing a documentary about their experience, a dictionary of slang and whatever else might come their way.

One Nation Under Pot With Liberty and Justice for All

Marijuana Industry

The War on Drugs will never end anytime soon, but some progress has been made to make marijuana at least medicinal marijuana legal in the United States with the help of an unlikely source. As more and more states legalized medicinal and non medicinal marijuana use, the more mom and pop dispensaries are popping up across the nation forcing the federal government to take action on a battle they might not win especially with growing support from the medical community and now labor unions. As you stroll down the busy streets of Los Angeles lines with a variety of wares for sale you might notice something a little bit different about your neighborhood friendly medicinal marijuana shop around the corner and for that matter pot dispensaries that dot the city. The difference you ask: On the door underneath the green cross, representing medical marijuana can be purchased here, is a sticker for the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) which is the largest retail union in the U.S.

The Venice Beach Care Center, one of three medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles staffed by due paying union members, symbolizes the growing the bond between medical marijuana industry and struggling labor unions. Another 49 in Los Angeles plan to join with the UFCW this year the union says, Reuters reports. During the last few years, the UFCW has increasingly become involved in campaigns to allow medical marijuana in California, 17 other states, and even Washington D.C. In the November elections, UFCW operatives helped efforts in Colorado where voter approved the measure that allows 21 years of age or older to carry at least one ounce or less of the drug. A law similar in Washington was approved as well as regulation of marijuana growers, processors and retailers according to Reuters. The strategy behind the support of marijuana from UFCW partly comes from the hope that the marijuana industry will create hundreds of thousands of members at a time to rebuild the labor union membership. Retail unions and organized labor has struggled to keep their collective bargaining power in recent years, but hope that the 3,000 UFCW members who work in the cannabis industry will keep growing. The problem remains whether or not the U.S. government will accept the industry whose product is illegal under federal law but increasingly accepted by states making it difficult to predict the number of job that will be created as well.  The president has already said publicly he will not pursue recreational pot users in Colorado and Washington since the legalization on Nov. 6, but will the government allow widespread sales of the drug since it is still illegal on the federal level.

Even with an uncertain future, many in the marijuana industry see great growth potential especially unions and retailers. According to Sea Change Stragtegy, a non profit research firm, estimates the market could grow to $8.9 billion by 2016 (think of all the tax money people) and a study done by Washington state’s Office of Financial Management said legalization could bring $1 billion in sales per year to the state which hols only 2 percent of the U.S. population. Dan Rush, leader of the UCFW cannabis division, hopes the industry expands to supports jobs across the country from growers to truck drivers to carpenters to retail clerks and could rival the alcohol industry or U.S crops estimating that 100,000 workers could be added to their unions in California alone. For now, marijuana retailers have invited the UFCW into their shops in hopes to legitimize their business and gain support against those who operate outside the law.

Of course not everyone supports the idea of unions in the marijuana industry, a prime example of this can be seen in Colorado where retailer see the legitimacy that the labor unions bring but worry that the support could crumble the shaky financial footing of their small operations. As one retailer in Denver explained that the concern is having a union shop will drive up costs and hurt the value of his business: “Colorado isn’t a big union state anyway. I was surprised that they put so much focus and money in here in the first place.” The struggle to legitimize a demonized industry continue in state’s where marijuana has been legalized. The UFCW’s Rush who is based in Oakland, California, remembers in 2009 when deciding to get involved with he marijuana industry as not all the leaders were sold, but eventually was able to persuade enough leaders that the same union that organized Hotess bakery workers could represent the people who made pot brownies according to Reuters. Last year in California federal authorites shut down 200 medical marijuana business including the first unionized shop demonstrating the gap between federal and state laws. Union leaders hope to help these business navigate through the legal jargon and pressure lawmakers to change as UFCW local 770 in Los Angeles is pushing a ballot measure to set zoning and safety standard for medical pot dispensaries as police and residents have complained about less reputable shops in some neighborhoods. Ayrn Taylor, 23 who works at Venice Beach Care Center, says, ” I feel safer with the union around.” The union gathers enough signatures for the local ballot in May limiting the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles to 130, while the 50 plus union dispensaries would be allowed to stay open even though their are 900 dispensaries believed to be in operation in Los Angeles according to one city councilman. If the ballot is approved, it would put most of these out of business and make the UFCW a major player in the legalized marijuana market.

Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado

 Nederland Could Be First Town To Set Up For Recreational Marijuana Industry In Colorado.

Well this town has the right idea because the reality is that whether people are 420 friendly or not, people will continue to use marijuana so why not regulate like alcohol. At least some benefits to all will be had from the regulation of this very common drug. Marijuana advocates tired of waiting for Amendment 64 to be implemented are looking to pass a local ordinance in Nederland that would make it the first in Colorado to set up recreational marijuana industry before the statewide regulations goes into effect. Mayor Joe Gierlach dismisses their actions saying the people who drafted it don’t understand the planning processes and time it takes to set up regulations. A shadow task force made up of advocates monitoring the government appointed task force make their legal recommendations  for the set up of recreational marijuana facilities  and also brought their own ordinance to Nederland Town Clerk. Rico Colibri who is a member of this group said that the slow progress in establishing statewide regulations shows that the state isn’t ready to do what it promised which is have marijuana regulated like alcohol. “Amendment 64 was a message to D.C. — that is what they said during the campaign — and our ordinance is a message to the General Assembly,” Colibri said.

One issue driving the ordinance is a desire to get rid of black market distribution which without regulated businesses would get rid of marijuana purchases that are supporting criminals. It is now legal for adults 21 and older to purchase an ounce of marijuana to use it in their homes. Right now sophisticate drug cartels are providing the marijuana, instead of the small town being able to collect tax revenue and setting an example of what the state could do says Colibri. The ordinance would allow separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers making it easier to have places where production, sale and consumption could legally take place under one roof. Next on the agenda once verified, will be collect 420 signatures from Nederland voters which will demonstrate strong support and convince the Board of Trustees to adopt it without voting on it in the next election. Mayor Gierlach referred to the ordinance as premature and “until we can revise our codes in a very sensible way that makes sense for the community, who knows…I don’t think people even want Rico (Colibri ) to write our local code” since he is new to the area. He also said that the ordinance raises concerns about potential zoning issues and in response to the black market many residents grow their own which may be impacted negatively. The town has a meeting Feb. 26 where the town attorney will be updating the town on implications at the state level and local implementation task force will be seated. In addition, other meetings with the town’s advisory board wil be scheduled and sustainability criteria will be applied to any new regulation.