legalization status in the U.S.: who wants to join the party?

Washington has led the pack with legalization of recreational marijuana — and it looks like the trend will continue.

cannabis legalization in the U.S.

Image via USA Today

moving towards legalization

The road to the present growing cultural acceptance has been bumpy, but straight. Currently, 23 states have enacted a medical marijuana law, allowing a variety of consumption methods for those needing cannabis to overcome physical ills. After decades of stark illegality, California kicked things off in 1996 by passing the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for their own personal use. Since then, the legalization movement has gained speed adding state after state to promote use in medical patients and beyond. Washington voters joined the like-minded residents of Colorado in 2012 to legalize recreational use for the first time in our nation’s history.

who’s up next?

But of course, it has not stopped there. With less than three weeks to go before the November elections, three states, Washington D.C. and an American territory will vote on the future of legalization in their region. Guam and Florida will vote on whether to allow medical patients access to cannabis. While, Alaska, D.C. and Oregon will vote on recreational legalization. Since each state initiative is drafted separately under its specific constitution, a wide variation exists between the bill even though the common theme remains. For example, if D.C.’s measure passes, adults could cultivate up to six plants, which is not legal in Washington for those without medical marijuana cards. However, the District of Columbia vote would not approve retail stores because initiatives cannot have that power there. Oregon voted in 2012 along with Washington and Colorado, but failed to convince enough residents towards legalization. This year, with a newly worded initiative and support from the Drug Policy Alliance, the measure’s sponsors hope to convince voters of the case for legalization. Considering Oregon residents smoke more marijuana than most in the country things might turn out differently this year. Further down the future, a number of groups are already making moves towards establishing initiatives in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016 and beyond.

polling parallels

The legalization trend has kept in line with America’s attitudes towards marijuana. Polling company CivicService released a large new data set in August, which asked 450,000 adult citizens whether they would support or oppose a law which would legalize and regulate marijuana. A full 58 percent of respondents said they would support it, with 29 percent answering they would “strongly support” it. Though Washington’s experience has been a bumpy road all its own, the process will surely inform the newcomers to the party and possibly ensure a smoother ride towards national legalization.

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forget edibles, drinkables are the new hot product

Drinkables have emerged onto the legal marijuana product scene in a big way. Despite some recent, literal explosions on the market the user-friendly method of imbibing marijuana has taken first Colorado, then Washington by storm.

a bevy of beverages

Lemonades, fruit juices, coffees and sodas have joined the cadre of caramels and trail mixes to give canna consumers a new way to relax. The infused-drinks are mostly made by grinding marijuana and then letting the concoctions stew until the desired potency is reached. Of course, Washington restrictions maintain that a serving cannot exceed 10 milligrams of THC. Several companies have already emerged on the new market with state-licensed products ready to sell. Zoots, a brand of Db3, sells individual shots of marijuana-infused teas. Mirth Provisions, offers a variety of sodas, lemonades and coffees. With so few players in a thirsty market the future of who will make the best drinkables remains in questions. As with the whole of the industry, the legal youth of licensed processors means a very uncertain, and exciting, future.

careful with your cannabis

Though Colorado has welcomed edible and marijuana-infused products into its retail stores since their opening, Washington took things a little more carefully. Because of some nervousness over two Colorado deaths, in which edible marijuana may have played a role, Washington rule makers made an emergency rule change before stores opened. The new stricter standard leaves local canna lovers with less options, but tighter control on what’s available. For instance, current processing rules restrict businesses from pasteurizing, canning or refrigerating products. This limits the types of drinks that can be produced, making many products still illegal. Remember, Washington rule makers remain extremely cautious with the type of products they will approve. The state Liquor Control Board has repeatedly expressed a desire to ensure no products will attract or appeal to underage users.

can I get a sip off that?

As said previously, the obvious benefits for both the industry and consumers of drinkables, is the ease and approachability of use. For a market trying to establish itself as mature in the face of legalization and for curious customers who always wanted to try recreational marijuana, drinkables offer an excellent opportunity. The state expects a great amount of marijuana revenue to stem from tourism, so a large variety of products should only appeal more to out-of-towners. Moreover, the expansion of products offered by drinkables reflects the growing experimentation of the industry at large. So, drink responsibly!

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washington marijuana sales through october 6, 2014

Who is buying recreational marijuana in Washington State? A lot of Oregonians. Some folks from Idaho. Washington residents to be sure, but also, a lot of Oregonians. The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) released detailed marijuana sales data from July 8 through October 6th last week. The data allows us to look at sales by retail establishment, so we can finally see where sales are occurring. Nearly $14 million in recreational marijuana has been sold in Washington since July 8, 2014. Breaking down the sales by County indicates Washington’s neighbors really enjoy legalized marijuana too. Of the $14 million in total sales, $4.69 million or 34% of the total occurred in Clark and Spokane counties, which border Oregon and Idaho respectively. Clark and Spokane County comprise just 13% of Washington’s total population and have a combined seven retail stores. By comparison King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties comprise 51% of the state’s total population and have 12 combined retail stores. Yet combined they have sales of $4.49 million or $243,345 less than Clark and Spokane Counties. Maybe the Oregon Ducks football team has been making a few road trips to Vancouver, Washington? This data could foreshadow big trouble for Washington’s future tax collections if Oregon voters pass Measure 91 on November 4th. That measure would create a tax structure much different than the State of Washington’s. Measure 91 would levy a one-time flat tax of $35 per ounce on growers. If we assume growers would sell to retailers for $5 per gram, the effective tax rate would be 25%, one time. Washington State levies a 25% excise tax on growers, then on processors and again on retailers. These taxes are rolled into the price at each level and retailers also must charge state and local sales tax. Washington’s aggressive tax structure has resulted in recreational marijuana prices at least double and up to three times greater than medical dispensaries and the black market. If Measure 91 passes, prices in Oregon should be at least 25% lower than Washington State. This would cause Oregon shoppers to stay at home. Just as important, it will create an incentive for Washington residents to cross the border for more than flat screen TV’s and dishwashers. If Measure 91 passes, the Washington State Legislature will be forced to make substantial changes to the current tax structure. Or face revenue collections far less than current projections.

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anti-prohibition: top 5 arguments to keep pot legal

Not everyone voted for Initiative 502. A full 44 percent of the Washington population checked ‘no’ on the ballot that brought us legalized pot. Many believe legalizing marijuana will destroy the county, children, everything! However, a variety of compelling arguments exist on the other side of that debate, beyond the desire to get high.

cannabis legalization

Image via Examiner.com

Here are a few reasons why keeping pot legal could benefit Washington, its children, everything!

pot-less prisons

A longstanding reason for the legalization of recreational marijuana is that it will help end the practice of convicting people for possession, only to send them away to prisons -stuffed with harder criminals- and return them to society worse than when they entered. The process to winnow these convictions down to drug rehabilitation has taken shape over the last few decades, but many, including a great majority of Washingtonians who voted in favor of I-502, believe making recreational marijuana use legal, is the right solution. The hard tactic towards drug possession has also proven an expensive pursuit. The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy says national budgetary spending on drug control rose up above $15 billion by 2009. With so many worse drugs out there, using some of that money to catch a casual marijuana user with a joint seems egregious and wasteful.

weed jobs

Legalization of marijuana might make climbing out of this Great Recession nightmare a little easier. Although the numbers for Washington are scarce, the news out of Colorado is that the new recreational industry has already created thousands of jobs and analysts expect that impact to grow. They aren’t just talking about the scarce retail jobs, but the need for workers in the vast indoor and outdoor farms that need tending, the processing of different products, and staffing the businesses to sell to stores. That doesn’t even touch on the government side of things (the permit investigators, the communications staff, even the testing facilities to track the plants all benefit from the legalization of marijuana).

pub-stitution

A growing body of studies is showing that marijuana is safer than alcohol, both in the short term and the long term. Many studies have also suggested that users substitute marijuana use for alcohol. Supporting legalization reflects a public health perspective to promote safer options for recreation. At the most extreme level, the Center for Disease Control found 25,692 deaths attributable to alcohol in 2010, the most recent data available. While the same study found zero deaths attributable to marijuana, subtracting indirect causes such as traffic accidents. One study shows that over 41 percent of its respondents say that they use cannabis as an alcohol substitute, citing less withdrawal, fewer side effects and better self-control. Considering the social benefit, multiple studies have shown that no link exists between marijuana usage and aggression. While, it should come as no surprise that the same could not be found with alcohol.

legal Cannabis for kids’ sake

Washington State has a severe shortage in funding for its public schools. If you don’t believe us, just ask the state supreme court. They decided, in the 2012 McCleary v. State case, that the school system was underfunded by up to $7 billion and gave the legislature an order to up its spending by 2018. Well, that’s a lot of money and both houses are still trying to determine the best solution to the court order. With the wealth of issues facing the state (transportation, anyone?), that amount of funding isn’t just laying around. Enter legalized marijuana. New estimates from the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council found that recreational marijuana could provide over $630 million in revenue by 2019. That won’t cover all the educational expense, but it would certainly help.

et al.

Let’s back up and look at that $630 million forecast. That’s just for the next five years. Over time, considering the industry continues in a stable fashion, that influx of revenue into the Washington economy could make large changes for its residents. Government will never have enough money to cover all citizen requests and needs. And very few people enjoy tax hikes. So, regulating the marijuana industry, letting eager customers pay for it while creating jobs and adding to the state’s coffers seems like a pretty good plan to us.

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marijuana producers: keep the cannabis carbon footprint low!

marijuana producers carbon footprint

Image Credit: LeafScience.com

Staying green may prove difficult for budding marijuana producers, but we found a few tips to lessen the load on Mother Nature. The state hired the Botec Analysis Corporation out of Berkeley, CA in early 2013 to evaluate the environmental impact of legalizing recreational marijuana production. Botec produced a long study which shed some light on how production might affect the state’s carbon footprint. The largest take away the study provides is that most of the marijuana production dangers to the environment arise from its clandestine history and can be lessened with producer education. In the words of the study, “many of the most environmentally harmful practices in cannabis cultivation arise from a lack of information among regulators and the secret nature of cultivation.” The study found the largest factors that impacted the environment included water disposal, pesticides and electricity use. The study also meant to act as a resource for the whole country. If the swelling of pro-pot sentiment continues to spread legalization, Botec wanted to provide information to lessen the potential environmental impact. “If legal cannabis production moves toward national acceptance, the importance of developing environmentally sound production practices will grow, and policies made now in Washington and Colorado, the early adopters, may shape practices in the new industry nationwide,” the study reads. So what should beginning marijuana producers know about keeping their cannabis carbon footprint low?

got a light?

For indoor grows, the largest impact and cost, comes from lighting. The study says lighting can add up to almost one third of the total production costs and that doesn’t include the strain it places on coal burning utilities. LED lights will provide the most bang for your bud buck and play nice with nature in the meantime. “LEDs offer not only high overall light output-per-watt efficiency but also the potential to “tune” the emitted spectrum to plant needs,” the study reads. “This adaptability, along with lower waste heat production, means that LEDs have the potential for very large energy savings in comparison with existing lighting technologies.”

greenhouse grown

Although the nature of a marijuana producer’s grow depends heavily on the space available and the various permitting processes, the Botec study says using a greenhouse method to grow will have the least negative impact on the environment. “We find that the predominant environmental concern in marijuana production is energy use for indoor production (less importantly for greenhouse production) and in particular the climate effects of this energy use Greenhouse cultivation of cannabis entails lower energy consumption, GHG production, water consumption, wastewater production, fertilizer application, and toxic risks than indoor cultivation,” the study reads. ” should promote greenhouse cultivation of cannabis, including cultivation in eastern Washington where the climate is more favorable. Allowing production in standard greenhouses, rather than requiring new construction of high-security greenhouses, would encourage substitution away from environmentally problematic indoor growing.”

climate conscious branding

The study calls for the state to promote a labeling of marijuana grown with environmentally conscious methods. Though the state hasn’t yet made that push, producers should actively promote whatever efforts they make into growing green weed. It serves both a purpose to differentiate your product from other producers who might take their carbon footprint into consideration, and helps spread education. ” should consider branding cannabis that excels on environmental grounds, similar to the ENERGY STAR program,” the study reads. “Such labeling programs, which affix a readily identifiable label among the most efficient products, can drive environmentally responsible purchasing and encourage a “race to the top” among producers.” There is no reason why producers should wait for the state to take this initiative. Rather, new producers should be the leaders in a green movement to define Washington-grown marijuana as environmentally conscious. It’ll help the earth and help sell a good product.

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