DISMANTLING THE DRUG WAR: Is Cannabis a Gateway to Legalizing Drugs?

The pace of marijuana reform continues to accelerate, with more states approving medical programs and adult-use initiatives with every election cycle. Even at the federal level, momentum towards progressive drug policy has increased, and the War on Drugs is more unpopular than ever. What does this evolution mean for other criminalized substances? Could cannabis pave the way for the end of drug prohibition, or will the new administration stymy efforts to broaden the scope of legalization?

The cannabis movement sparked the hope that we can take a more sensible and compassionate approach to regulating substances, rather than relying on an entrenched “drug war” mentality that stigmatizes drug users. We’re now engaging in conversations surrounding drug policy in our communities and in the halls of Congress previously unimaginable to cannabis advocates; questioning the efficacy of our current drug laws, calling out the institutional racism that drove the drug war, and pushing public support away from a system of mass incarceration and toward one that prioritizes public health.

Marijuana reform has also provided drug decriminalization advocates with a blueprint for action. The earliest cannabis activists were successful because they reframed the dialogue, focusing on the medicinal, rather than recreational, aspects of the plant. At that time, many were unconvinced of cannabis’ healing powers; now, the numerous potential medical benefits are more readily accepted. The progress we’ve seen in the past 20 years began with a commitment to bringing safe medicine to people who needed it most, and, unsurprisingly, that passion translated into the path towards legalization.

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ITALY JUST OPENED ITS FIRST CANNABIS CLONE SHOP: But Will Italian Law Stifle This Budding Development?

Milan saw the opening of Italy’s first cannabis clone shop, the Hemp Embassy, on June 15. This concept, never before seen in Italy, offers the public a chance to buy live cannabis plants to take home—but according to Italian law, they may not allow the plants to produce flowers!

We went to check out the opening of the new store, and talked to owner Alberto Valsecchi about the concept. He explains that his company is working in partnership with the original Hemp Embassy in Vienna, Austria, a store that has been open since 1998. They offer three hundred high-quality, much sought-after cannabis strains.

“I had been thinking of a concept along these lines since the early ‘90s, and over the last few years I visited Barcelona so many times to figure out the finer points of the law, and whether I could open a social club in Italy. Then, in 2013/2014, I met a German girl and had a daughter – they both live in Austria. So destiny brought me to the right country where a similar dream had already been brought to life,” says Alberto.

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BARRETT BROWN: Award Winning Investigative Journalist Released From Prison With Renewed Determination

In 2012 an investigative journalist was arrested for investigating. The arrest of Barrett Brown should have created more of an outrage but seems to be yet another story of injustice left largely ignored, making activist and journalist synonymous with criminal. Brown contributed to Huffington Post, The Guardian, Vanity Fair and founded Project PM which investigates private companies working with the state for private intelligence. Brown is an activist who was imprisoned for linking to material already available on the internet and sharing it with other investigative journalists and activists.

In the day and age where the phrase “fake news” is thrown around like candy at a 4th of July parade, internet journalists make it a priority to link back to any hard hitting and fact backing content that proves that their efforts and articles are well researched and factual. Sourced material is imperative. The fact that someone can face criminal prosecution for doing so is a direct assault on freedom of the press and freedom of speech. After sharing this link the FBI raided his home, seized his computers and threatened his mother with obstruction of justice for hiding laptops in her kitchen cupboards. This is where things took a turn for the worst and Brown came a little unhinged in a series of three YouTube videos aimed at the FBI, more specifically FBI agent Robert Smith saying that he would, “ruin his life and look into his fucking kids.”

“…we do it in the right way and we provide charismatic leadership and an ethos that works to burn off this morass—this ridiculous over-entertained culture, then we will finally see results.”

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MESSING WITH MONTANA’S METHODS: Setbacks for Medical Cannabis in Big Sky Country

Montana is a sweeping vista kind of state, with a diverse group of both liberals and conservatives, including some Hollywood-types, who have decided to carve out a bit of the state for themselves. They seek a calm, natural, healing life.

When it comes to legalizing medical cannabis, however, the back and forth between lawmakers, patients and business owners has been as unsettling as a Montana gully-washer for years. Lawmakers are still discussing details of the November, 2016 victory, where 57 percent of voters voted to expand the state’s medical marijuana system.

This passage came about after years of challenges in the courts and polls to limit or kill the bill, forcing some patients out of the program. Voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2004, which was then repealed in 2011.

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THE IRONY OF SAFETY IN WASHINGTON’S LOCKBOX LAW

In an interesting turn of events your reefer now has more regulations than your revolver. Since the beginning of cannabis legalization the opposing views have often centered around children. One of the biggest concerns have been kids having easier access to cannabis and small children mistakenly consuming cannabis. A new law in Washington allows dispensaries to give away lockboxes in hopes of creating a safer space in the homes of those with children and pets.

Due to the fact that Washington State has strict guidelines about what a dispensary can sell there needed to be a law passed for this to happen. Dispensaries are not required to give away lockboxes, so this will not come out of their budget and Mason County health officials claim to have a “large quantity” of small safes they’re planning to supply to the county’s marijuana shops, but how long their “large quantity” will last is unknown.

The law is clear that the free lockboxes cannot be used as a sales gimmick to retain more customers or make sales. It is simply an attempt at making homes safer from accidental consumption. Although the Washington Poison Center has received more calls from people concerned about exposure to marijuana, statistically it isn’t all from the kids getting into their parents stash, often times it is “older adults” who didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.

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I’M A FRIEND OF DENNIS

Dennis Peron is a hero in the cannabis community. He opened the Cannabis Buyers Club (the first dispensary in the US), coauthored Prop 215 and has dedicated forty years of his life to helping others. Here in California, his impact can be seen in person. He still advocates and helps those in need, every single day. Having recently received a lifetime achievement award from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, DOPE Magazine decided to similarly honor the amazing things Peron has done, not just for the pro-cannabis movement, but for the LGBTQ+ community as well. His dedication to healing and helping, becoming family for thousands of AIDS patients who no longer had support, as well as his personal sacrifices have all led to a better world for those in need of medicine. And, according to Peron, anyone who smokes cannabis is using it to medicate mind, body or soul.

, BrDuring the Vietnam War, Peron saw unfathomable pain and suffering. When he returned to the states, he decided to bring back a desire for peace and compassion for those going through hard times…and about two pounds of cannabis. During the 1970s and ‘80s, Peron sold cannabis out of his living room, with the phrase “I’m a friend of Dennis” becoming a sort of password for entrance. Peron could more effectively challenge authority, feeling he had nothing to lose—a gay man with no spouse, no children, no house. They couldn’t bully or blackmail him. He was arrested over a dozen times, and was even shot in the thigh by an officer during a raid. The officer was later quoted as saying that he wished he had killed Peron, so that there would be “one less f*ggot” in San Francisco. Yet even throughout the terror and persecution, Peron continued to supply cannabis to those in need.

Peron didn’t just challenge the laws by breaking them—he made his own. He drafted and collected the needed signatures for Prop W, which made the possession of an ounce or less of cannabis in San Francisco legal. He worked alongside Harvey Milk in both his 1973 and ‘74 campaigns, and eventually tipped the vote for Milk in his historic 1977 victory by encouraging all those hippies in the Haight to register to vote. Peron’s greatest achievements would come years later, however, during and after the wake of terrible tragedy.

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FAKE WEED, REAL CONSEQUENCES

Starting around 2011, it happened in the nation’s capital—a lot.

Police responding to reports of a crazy person, naked, yelling, running down the street, obviously overdosing on…something.

Most suspected meth. Some suspected LSD. Others thought the crack epidemic was back. And an uninformed few thought it was the result of marijuana addiction—that this was reefer madness.

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LEGAL EXTORTION

The marijuana growing business in Washington’s Chelan County – especially the area’s outdoor growth – is being reduced significantly, if not entirely. And, if you ask some of the producers in the area, it’s also being done violently.

Over the past year, officials in the country, responding to residents’ claims that the smell of weed (especially during its harvest) is offensive and even potentially dangerous, have been working to pass measures that would make outdoor marijuana growth illegal in the county. And while those measures haven’t been made law yet, some producers, like Scott Edson of Outlaw Cannabis, say their farms have already been attacked.

Edson, who co-founded Outlaw in 2015, says much of his company’s outdoor growth is produced on the rooftop of a large warehouse. Outlaw, since its founding, has produced “thousands of pounds” of marijuana, but lately his property’s landlord has been receiving pressure from Chelan County officials to cease Outlaw’s outdoor production all together.

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THE SILVER STATE HAS STRUCK GREEN

The Silver State struck green recently. On November 8th of 2016, Question 2 passed and by January 1st it was legal for adults 21 and older in Nevada to possess certain amounts of cannabis. Not to mention the anticipated opening of shops by July this year. But before you go lighting a J down the strip or start growing a few plants of your own, you might want to reconsider. Sin City is known as a city of excess and lawlessness and Nevada has guidelines seeming to pander specifically to the business investor.

Progress is always welcome and for many this is exciting news. Here are some of the pros and cons of the new laws:

Pro: If you are 21 and older you can possess up to an ounce of marijuana or up to one-eighth of an ounce of cannabis concentrate at a time.

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CANNABIS MOVES TO THE HEAD OF THE CLASS

Academia is stepping up to help develop an understanding and acceptance of cannabis, working with industry moves and shakers to expand what we know and fill in the gaps of what we don’t.

The prospect of more frequent and higher-quality academic cannabis research received a glimmer of hope last year when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), while not changing the schedule of cannabis, allowed for more research to be done by both researchers and private companies.

The University of Mississippi, through its National Center for Natural Products Research School of Pharmacy, has been the only place where researchers can get legally-grown cannabis for their research. The university supplies high-quality marijuana to cannabis researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and has a partnership with the Food and Drug Administration.

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