The National Organization For Marijuana Legalization, or NORML, is a not for profit organization tasked with the responsibility of supporting and catalyzing the fight for legal cannabis in the United States. With over 40 years of experience navigating these troubled waters, NORML prides itself on providing “a voice for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition” and pushing the conversation about cannabis forward in a more positive direction.
Founded in 1970, NORML has been the self proclaimed “voice in public policy” for cannabis consumers aiming to end prohibition and it has been working toward that end since it began. In the 1970’s NORML members successfully lobbied governing bodies until 11 states had decriminalized cannabis.
As an organization, NORML believes that no adult who uses cannabis in a responsible manner should be treated as a criminal or suffer any legal penalties for use or possession alone. Instead, NORML holds the firm belief that cannabis should be part of a legal market, allowing customers to purchase it in a controlled environment, like a dispensary.
In Their Own Words
“We provide expert witnesses for legislative hearings in support of marijuana reform legislation and to provide testimony to assist defendants charged with marijuana offenses. NORML also…maintains a comprehensive web site, which includes a 50-state legislative tracking system, where visitors can inform themselves about the issues.”
How Do They Do It?
NORML is as grassroots organization and their tactics are a testament to that.
Using social media is an important tool for the organization. The NORML Facebook page has over 894,000 likes. That is a potential 894,000+ people that see the pro-cannabis messages posted on their page. 894,000 + chances to activate something inside a person that makes them want to protest prohibition and fight for legalization. It is easy to get a like on a weed-themed meme, it’s something entirely different to engage your audience in a way that convinces them to make a change or be more open about their cannabis use.
Another way NORML shares its message is on their webpage, Norml.org. With information about the organization’s mission and goals, informational articles, a map of the United States that details each state’s cannabis policies and a search feature that allows you to locate your nearest NORML chapter, the page is decked out with rich array of cannabis materials. Again, there are no kitschy images or jokes about stoners – NORML wants to propagate the idea that anyone can be a cannabis user, even your MOM, and that if they are there is not a thing wrong with that.
NORML also has a number of chapters throughout the United States. Each chapter holds meetings, attends rallies and works to better normalize cannabis on the ground in their local area. It doesn’t get any more grassroots than that.
NORML is also known for lobbying government officials to be better advocates for cannabis users and regulate and legislate accordingly. However, because NORML lobbies state and federal officials, donations to the organization are not tax deductible. But never fear, their sister organization, the NORML Foundation which works to educate people about cannabis and cannabis laws and assist those who have been unfairly persecuted by those laws, DOES allow a tax deduction when donating.
To find your local chapter and get involved in the NORML movement, visit their chapter search page. There are over 150 chapters in the US, but there are places where no chapters exist yet. If your area is one of those places – start a chapter of your own!
And Which States Aren’t Far Behind
This year is looking pretty good for cannabis. Voters being called to the polls this November will have several opportunities to push the legalization effort forward. In at least four states chances are fairly good that cannabis could be made fully legal for adult use and in six others the promised land is just on the other side of that horizon.
Let’s take a look at which state’s voting booths might smell a little extra skunky this year.
Arizona, though a medically legal state, it is still very much divided regarding the full legalization of cannabis. The initiative facing votes this year, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (or Prop 205) is a great chance for cannabis advocates to stand up and make a difference.
California has had medical marijuana since 1996, yet somehow haven’t managed to take that relationship to the next level. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (or Prop 64) has gained a ton of traction and hopes are high that California will finally legalize in 2016, a good 20 years after medical marijuana was officially introduced.
Maine is rocking the medical cannabis game – they even offer reciprocity to licensed med patients from other states. If you can believe it, there are even some cities IN Maine that have essentially legalized cannabis already, they just haven’t done so on a statewide level yet. While there were originally two initiatives fighting for legalization, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol ended their campaign in October 2015 to merge with the Marijuana Legalization Act. The Marijuana Legalization Act is now the state’s only legalization initiative and if the majority votes for it, it will make use cannabis legal for adults 21 and older.
Nevada went full steam ahead with medical cannabis legalization and now it is vying for legalization of cannabis in the state for adults. Period. More information about the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Initiative is available on their website.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Although Connecticut legalized for medical marijuana legalization as recently as 2012, they could legalize fully in the near future. Legalization could have been possible through of one two efforts in 2015, but sessions were stalled and the legalization initiatives were not addressed. However, the state did add 3 additional dispensaries this year and increased the list of acceptable symptoms for a cannabis prescription by five including :
“Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Irreversible Spinal Cord Injury with Objective Neurological Indication of Intractable Spasticity, Terminal Illness Requiring End-Of-Life Care and Uncontrolled Intractable Seizure Disorder.”
Delaware, while medically legal regarding cannabis, started slowly and hasn’t really picked up the pace. With only around 700 registered patients – and one dispensary for the entire state – Delaware is likely going to remain medically legal only, until someone puts up a fight otherwise. The Marijuana Policy Project has begun the fight, founding the Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition in hopes that their efforts can bring sensible drug policies to the state.
Maryland is not expected to legalize this year, but it has made strides in recent years. Small amounts of cannabis have been decriminalized in the state but that is a far cry from cannabis being legal. The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition is planning for a strong 2017.
Michigan has a love hate relationship with cannabis. It has been medically legal in the state since 2008, but regulators have tread with unsure footing ever since. At one point, the powers that be even OUTLAWED medical dispensaries forcing business owners to close if they wanted to remain within the law.
This year, MI Legalize was able to collect above and beyond the required amount of signatures to get a legalization initiative on the ballot, but that was blocked when governing bodies stated that many of the signatures could not be verified due to having been collected outside of the allowed 180 day window of time. THE REALLY MESSED UP THING ABOUT IT? The 180 day window of time caveat was created AFTER the signatures had been turned in by MI Legalize. The group appealed to no avail. Next year, the group will need to keep on their toes (even more so if that is possible) to get the initiative on the ballot.
New York’s official medical program rolls out in January, with 5 licensed cultivators for the state. It is believed that full legalization efforts will rely heavily on the outcome of the first year or so of medical marijuana. The Marijuana Policy Project explains why legalization in full is not up for discussion any longer this year,
“Although many bills that would have improved New York’s medical marijuana program were introduced by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senators Gustavo Rivera and Diane Savino in 2016, none of them passed. Most of them died in the Health Committee of the state Senate.”
Vermont came this close last year and ALMOST legalized, ALMOST. There WAS a bill, S.241, that had backup from 54% of Vermonters, it passed through the Senate successfully and then…the House kicked it to the curb. Although the bill did not pass this year, leaders of the House and Senate have agreed to come together to better research and understand the potentials of legal cannabis in their state.
Did It Really Keep Kids Off Drugs?
When and Why It Was Created.
If you went to school in the United States from the 80s on, chances are you took a course through D.A.R.E. program. D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, began in 1983 with the intention of providing alternative support and prevention education to children to lessen their risk of using drugs, experiencing violence and/or being involved in gang activity.
A major perceived catalyst of the program was the untimely death in the mid eighties of prominent college basketball star, 22-year-old Len Bias. Bias, a player from the University of Maryland, was at the very top of his game and had just been the No. 2 overall pick of the NBA Draft (NUMBER 2!). Bias was set to be making his way to the Boston Celtics. At the time, Celtics scout Ed Badger told the press,
“Len Bias is the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time…He’s an explosive and exciting kind of player like that.”
The stage was set for Bias’ unlimited success. But just two short days later and Bias was dead, having passed away a few hours after using cocaine at an early hours party.
ESPN writer Rick Weinberg put it perfectly for his readers,
“The shock of the day’s events do not subside. Not in that moment. Not for years.”
Though Weinberg was correct, he likely didn’t realize that it was more than just the sports community that was affected by Bias’ death.
A War on Drugs had begun. And the shock and awe of that event has still has not subsided. In fact, the war continues. Today, D.A.R.E. program has been integrated into 75% of schools in the U.S. and reaches 52 countries total.
The number one objective of the program is in the name – drug abuse resistance. Cocaine, and later crack, were the big news drugs in the 80’s. After Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act was signed in ‘86, D.A.R.E had the government sanctioned foothold it needed to stay relevant in the school system, indefinitely.
The original intent of the program was not to scare children, but instead to give them the education they would need in order to make a wise decision when drugs or alcohol did cross their path. By showing children what other choices they had, and that they had the power to make those choices, D.A.R.E. program coordinators were aiming to give kids a better life, one free of drugs and violence.
When the D.A.R.E. program began, information was imparted to youth by police officers. Utilizing the police force as instructors for the program is a tactic that is still used today. Sure, a student can listen to their usual teacher talk to them about drugs and violence, but when a uniformed police officer steps into their mundane classroom, badge shiny and handcuffs jingling at their side – the classroom attention perks up.
Children often want to please police officers, in part because, in many instances, they are taught to revere and fear them. Heck, some parents even use local police as a scare tactic when disciplining their kids, much to the distress of the officers hoping to build trust in the community. So it would seem as though using police officers to teach D.A.R.E. was beneficial regarding gaining student’s attention but maybe not so much in the way of allowing children to open up, ask questions and feel comfortable admitting mistakes.
Was it effective? Is it still in schools?
The effectiveness of D.A.R.E. is a difficult thing to measure. Yes, in the 90’s after the program had been initiated, youth polls began to show a decrease in use of marijuana, methamphetamines, LSD and cocaine. However, one could speculate that with a brand new program in place in many classrooms, one that condemns the aforementioned substances, perhaps the children charged with taking these surveys were more guarded and therefore less likely to be honest and admit their use then they had been previous to the D.A.R.E. program.
D.A.R.E. is still in schools today, being taught alongside the literary classics and sex education. It is a very normal, expected part of the school year for students. And while it’s effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, has not prompted any big changes in the program in the last several decades – times ARE a-changing now and an overhaul regarding the use of marijuana may well be in order.
What do you think about the D.A.R.E. program. Do you have any memories of being taught drug abuse resistance education? Let us know in the comments below.
Charlotte’s Web, a cannabis strain known for it’s low THC and high CBD content, was specially cultivated for and named after Charlotte Figi. Charlotte Figi is a young girl who lives in Colorado and was only 3 weeks old when she had her first seizure. After success using oil extracted from the strain R4 (they purchased 2 ounces of it for $800), the Figi’s were hopeful that cannabis was the tool their daughter needed to control her seizures. But as their extracted oil began to run out, the Figi’s knew that financially, they needed to find a new source of cannabis. It was more or less luck when Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mom, turned to some brothers she heard were cultivating high CBD strains. CBD wasn’t being highly valued at this point and had been bred out of most of the market favorites so the brothers didn’t know what to do with this high CBD plant. It was a perfect match. The brothers named their strain after Charlotte and the rest is history.
For clarification, Charlotte has a condition known as Dravet Syndrome. People with Dravet Syndrome experience seizures, sometimes multiples types of seizures, that can be caused by flashing lights, high emotions, excitement or even slight changes in body temperature. Epilepsy.com details a few more of the potential symptoms:
- Low motor tone – can lead to painful foot problems
- Unsteady walking
- Older children and adults may develop a crouched gait
- Chronic infections
- Low humoral immunity
- Growth and nutrition problems
- Problems with the autonomic nervous system
- Behavioral or developmental problems such as autism spectrum disorder
A blood test can be performed to confirm the diagnosis of Dravet Syndrome and doctors warn that early diagnosis can be crucial to managing the condition.
Charlotte’s Health Today
Charlotte is in better health than she has been before. She’s a tween now, and while she doesn’t speak she enjoys the things in life her parents were never sure she would be able to.
“She can walk, ride a bike. She goes to school,” says Paige. Charlottes takes her medicine twice a day, mixed in food, and is down to just two seizures a month, instead of one every 30 minutes.
The science of how CBD eases the symptoms of Dravet, and epilepsy as a whole, is still a little inconclusive. Seizures occur in the brain and are a result of abnormal electrical misfires between brain cells. Essentially, the use of cannabis prevents those rapid misfirings from occurring at their natural rate – if at all. CBD rich strains that are low in THC are preferred because without much THC the plant does not have many “psychotropic” effects making it more “appropriate” for use by children.
And Charlotte’s Web is not the only strain that is capable of slowing down the rate of seizures in patients. Any low CBD strain has the potential to produce similar results. In fact, many patient families treating with cannabis believe in the entire cocktail of cannabinoids – CBD, THC, CBN, THCA – the list goes on. In any case, the strain you chose is your choice.
When you have a choice that is. One report I found had a dismal statistic about epilepsy and cannabis…
“The average number of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) tried before using cannabidiol-enriched cannabis was 12.”
If cannabis weren’t so villainized, it would make it easier for patients and families to request to try cannabis a lot sooner.
The current political climate is in a state of change. Medical marijuana has become almost an accepted eventuality in many states where it is not yet legal, and legally consumed recreational cannabis is not far behind. With soaring financials, low crime results and lots of great positive feedback from the Colorado cannabis community and beyond, it will be hard to keep cannabis in the doghouse for much longer.
Cannabis is such a popular issue, even our 2016 Presidential Candidates have had to take very public stances on how they would continue or squash the fight for medical and legal marijuana. We even have a blog about it.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is It Totally Safe For Kids?
Typically, plants that are high in CBD are low in THC. If the THC count is low enough, the plant is considered HEMP instead of CANNABIS. Any oil derived from a HEMP plant is considered to be legal. States mandate the level of THC allowed before a product is no longer considered HEMP.
It is safe for kids because, well, cannabis is non toxic. We all know this by now right? Furthermore, people find great comfort in the fact that CBD rich, THC deficient plants do not produce the same high/stoned effect and therefore can be used by children without nearly as much controversy.
Which Means It Is Safe For Me Too, Right?
Will I Fail A Drug Test?
Of course each case is different. But if the strain you have used is high CBD, and low THC, it will not show up in a drug test. When testing for marijuana, THC is the cannabinoid identified, and CBD would not be recognized in a simple test.
Will I Get High?
CBD is noted to be a very effective tool for body relaxation, but you won’t feel any cerebral effects at all.
So…Is It Safe For Pets
Pets can have epilepsy too. When they do, the drug phenobarbital is commonly prescribed. But side effects can significantly change your pet’s lifestyle and include lethargy, increased appetite, dizziness, confusion and long-term liver damage. CBD can be used to treat epilepsy in pets without many of the same, negative side effects. The question of how safe cannabis is for pets in the long term has yet to be seen.
Editor’s note: Have you ever wondered how the states differ in dispensary visits? This blog is a “how to” that describes the dispensary process in legalized states. We will update this list as more states legalize recreational marijuana.
Every dispensary has its own company policy regarding workers or customers handling the product. Some dispensaries allow you to inspect the buds you’re shopping with tongs and/or under a magnifier. Other dispensaries have a jar on the counter but only sell pre-packed nugs of that strain, rather than straight out of the jar. And while you can’t exactly TOUCH the buds yourself in any scenario, you can get pretty up close and personal with the marijuana before you purchase it.
Is On-Site Consumption Allowed
Consumption while on site at a dispensary is NOT allowed in Colorado. Consumption in any public place is illegal. Colorado cannabis users are lucky though because while “public” use is out the door at the moment, the laws aren’t super clear – which leaves room for a lot of grey area. Cannabis events can advertise as private, sell tickets in advance thereby limiting entry so it isn’t open to the public. This method has been working for everyone so far and barring any raucous or violent incidents taking place at such an event (which hasn’t happened yet) it will continue to work for the foreseeable future.
Is On-Site Food, Drink or Alcohol Allowed
Don’t even try it. Maybe you can drink water from a water bottle while you’re in the waiting room, but don’t think of chowing down or popping a brewsky.
Generally, cannabis facilities are going to need to be 1,000 ft from any K-12 school. Not that anyone K-12 could get INTO one of these facilities, because to be allowed inside a person is carded and must be 21 or older… Education media outlet, Chalkbeat, covered the zoning requirements and discovered an interesting bit,
“State law recommends a 1,000-foot buffer between medical marijuana facilities and schools, drug rehabilitation centers and child care centers. But the law allowed local authorities to set their own rules.
So Colorado Springs, for example, allows marijuana facilities within 400 feet of schools while Denver has several closer than 1,000 feet. Those facilities have been allowed to continue operating because they opened before the state law was enacted.”
Denver is getting its chance to legalize social use once and for all. Take a long hard look at Initiative 300 (also known as The Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program Initiative) and vote YES on 300 in November if you are a Denver resident!
The inspection process in Washington is a fairly limited one. At Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, Washington, customers are presented with a list of available strains and products that day. There is absolutely no green on the sales floor to look at or smell before purchase. The customer selects their strain and amount desired and a Main Street Marijuana employee retrieves your pre-packed order from a secured area and you’ve got your stash.
ALL cannabis in Washington is pre-packaged, right after it has been tested and approved for consumption by a lab. Testing helps prevent product containing mold, pesticides or other hazardous contaminants from circulating into the community. Only the best for Washingtonians!
Is On-Site Consumption Allowed
Initiative 502, the measure the legalized recreational cannabis in Washington, did not however, legalize on-site consumption. No dispensary can allow a client, patient or otherwise, to consume cannabis on their property. The laws regarding actual consumption are similar to Colorado’s – you can only smoke it if you are not in “view of the general public.”
Is On-Site Food, Drink or Alcohol Allowed
Licensed marijuana shops can only sell marijuana and marijuana infused products, as far as consumables go. And no other type of business, like a head shop or convenience store, will be able to apply for a license to sell pot within their current business.
“Retail cannabis shops must not be within 1000 feet of any K-12 school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter.”
It is also an option for cities, town and/or counties in the State of Washington to relegate marijuana businesses to a specified area or zone or ban them altogether!
If you are a data nerd (I am! I am!) check out this informative, weekly report the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board puts out. It’s got info on licensing, locations, production, sales and compliance for cannabis businesses within the state.
Check – In
The Cannabist reported on the unique, not so uptight way recreational dispensaries in Oregon handle check-in,
“Oregon dispensaries won’t be taking names as they do with registered medical marijuana patients, but they must record the customer’s birthdate and information about products purchased.”
Is On-Site Consumption Allowed
Measure 91 legalized cannabis for recreational use but,
“Public consumption is still prohibited under law. Licensure for a cannabis café allowing public use would require a statutory change. Also, cannabis falls under the regulation of Oregon’s Clean Air Act in 2016.”
Just like Washington and Colorado, Oregon does not allow in dispensary consumption – or any type of public consumption for that matter. Anyone surprised? All use of cannabis or cannabis products must take place out of view of the public.
There is one exception though! If you are an employee of the dispensary and a registered medical patient you CAN consume on property. However,
“it is important to note that as of March 1, 2016, an employee may not smoke or use a system that includes combusting, inhaling, vaporizing, or aerosolizing.”
So I guess that leaves…drinking cannabis, sublinguals (under the tongue method) or edibles, patches and topicals. It isn’t a joint on your lunch break, but it is some kind of bone thrown at the medical patients working in the cannabis industry.
Is On-Site Food, Drink or Alcohol Allowed
Nope. If someone has the ability to sell marijuana, they will not simultaneously have the ability to sell alcohol. If a business with a liquor license allows marijuana consumption, they could lose said license.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, dispensaries in Oregon follow the 1,000 foot rule when it comes to K-12 schools (or another dispensary). If a dispensary is opened within 1000 feet of a primary or secondary school, or within that proximity to another licensed dispensary the police are going to shut that down as soon as they catch wind of it.
Very recently a dispensary in Portland was robbed. No one was hurt, because no one was there, but at least four of the robbers were reportedly wielding handguns. Read more over at The Oregonian (Live).
Where do our 2016 choices stand on cannabis?
HILLARY CLINTON – DEMOCRATIC PARTY NOMINEE
Hillary Clinton is the very first woman elected as nominee for a major political party. And because she is so familiar with pushing gender boundaries, the cannabis community hopes that she’ll push drug law boundaries as well. Clinton’s most recently recorded opinions show acceptance of medical marijuana but was singing a VERY different tune in 1996 when she said,
“Casual attitudes towards marijuana and minors’ access to cigarettes raise the likelihood that teenagers will make a sad progression to more serious drug use & earlier sexual activity.”
Thankfully, Clinton has changed her tune since, saying in 2015,
“What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we have two different experiences or even experiments going on right now.”
She still does not support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes at this point. But it appears as though there is hope for a change going forward.
The Democratic Party is well known for being the more liberal thinking party these day. But that is not how it began. In fact, in the 19th century the party was supportive of slavery. It was only later, in the middle of the 20th century, that the Dems went through a reformation of sorts and began the morph into the party we know today.
DONALD TRUMP – REPUBLICAN PARTY NOMINEE
Donald Trump isn’t the most likely person you’d think of to approve of medical marijuana, but he sure does. Like Clinton though, he does not think that cannabis used for recreational purposes is legit. Not yet at least. In 2015 The Washington Post quotes,
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
And, to be fair, he used to go so far as encourage the end of the drug war, stating to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 1990,
“We’re losing badly the war on drugs…You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
Whaaaa? Where did THAT Donald go?
Trump has no former political votes to consider because, well, he has not been in the political world until recently. Interestingly, not having the political experience is a point many of his supporters appreciate about him. In their minds, his lack of time in the world of politics means he hasn’t formed any bad habits and isn’t the typical politician type who respectfully minds their p’s and q’s.
The Republican Party hasn’t always been the on the conservative side and their core values were actually historically much more similar to Dem values today. Republicans, also known as the Grand Ole Party or GOP, formed in the 1850’s to combat the expansion of slavery into Nebraska and Kansas territories. And it was a Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, that signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
GARY JOHNSON – LIBERTARIAN NOMINEE
Gary Johnson first spoke up as a marijuana legalization supporter as Governor of New Mexico in 1999. In the video below Johnson is shown answered a question about his most recent cannabis experience, saying that he had
“Some Cheeba Chews and it was, uh….it was pleasant.”
The Libertarian Party considers themselves tolerant, principled and caring. Part of their mission, gathered from their website, reads
“The Libertarian Party is for all who don’t want to push other people around and don’t want to be pushed around themselves. Live and let live is the Libertarian way.”
Libertarians didn’t formally become a party until the 1970’s in Colorado Springs of all places, making it still a very young party indeed. And according to their website, their beliefs are, “In a nutshell, we are advocates for a smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom.” They don’t identify as either conservative or liberal and have adopted the “live and let live” motto as their own personal battle cry.
JILL STEIN – GREEN PARTY NOMINEE
Candidate Jill Stein is living up to the expectations of a “green” candidate. She supports both medical and recreationally used marijuana, much like Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
“I also support legalization of marijuana, ending war, and other bread-and-butter concerns for young people.” 2012
At its core, the Green Party is about the comfort, well being and equal rights of everyday people. Their webpage says all in just one sentence. “We are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters and regular citizens who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics.”
Foreseeable Changes For States
It doesn’t appear, based on the current information, as though any of the candidates supports cutting off state’s rights. They’ve all spoken to states rights being top priority when it comes to medical marijuana, though Clinton and Trump have both referred to it as an experiment of sorts.
The proof is in the pudding folks, check out even more candidate viewpoints at ProCon.org’s election specific website.
Your Guide to Marijuana Edibles
Marijuana edibles are an easy starting point for a lot of newcomers to the cannabis game. You don’t have to roll it, you don’t have to carb it and you don’t have to dab it. But you should know a little about cannabis and edibles before you start chomping down on every magic muffin or special brownie.
Before we begin the history lesson, a disclaimer: We do not promote the use of cannabis by those under the age of 21+ without a medical card. If you consume cannabis outside of a state or district where it is legal, you are doing something illegal. Your call, not ours.
Historical Mention and Today
In his article for The Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, the relied upon publication of psychiatry in Brazil, Dr. Antonio Zuardi details the ancient use of cannabis by Indian and Chinese cultures most notably. Accepted and used for its psychoactive properties, its medicinal properties and for its strength as a textile, cannabis was a part of life. It was even freely used to aid to meditation by Buddhists.
Today, cannabis is more widely accepted than it has been since prohibition of the plant began in the 30’s, but it is a far cry from being widely accepted. And it is certainly not recognized as a legitimate medical treatment by the nation’s governing bodies. It is accepted by many medical professionals however, including Cheif Medical Correspondent for CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Gupta most recently wrote a piece for CNN entitled, “DEA’s missed opportunity on medical marijuana” in which he notes,
“The road to medical marijuana research is paved with surprises and hypocrisy nearly everywhere you look. While the DEA continues to dig in on Schedule I status, deeming no medical benefit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services simultaneously holds a patent on cannabinoids for a wide range of medicinal purposes.”
At this point, cannabis is fully legal for use by adults 21+ in three states, Colorado, Washington and Oregon, as well as in the District of Columbia. Cannabis has been voted as legally medically viable, in 43 of the 50 states according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). 16 of those 43 are CBD specific only, but one could argue that is a step in the right direction.
How Does Cannabis Become Infused With Food?
There are several ways to incorporate cannabis into foodstuffs. Some people use sticks and stems for budget friendly cooking material, some use only the finest herb for some high quality confections and others use straight concentrates in order to more accurately dose portions.
So how does THC dissolve into butter or oil? I’m not scientist and I’m not going to pretend to be one today. Instead, I turned to TheNug.Com for a little science lesson,
“Coconut oil has the highest saturated fat content of all oils, and most scientists agree that THC binds to saturated fats…Some swear by using olive oil in edibles, it is highest in unsaturated fat and has the second-lowest content of saturated fat (vegetable oil has the lowest).
THC is non-polar, so it binds best with non-polar solvents. Some scientists say that the effectiveness of the solvent isn’t determined by the molecule’s saturation, but instead by the size of the fatty acid chain. By this logic, olive oil would be the best choice because of its large Oleic Acid chain.”
Did you get that? Basically, a large fatty acid chain is ideal when considered what substance you’re going to infuse with cannabis. I like fatty acid chains and I can not lie.
How Is It Absorbed Into My Body And What Are The Effects?
When cannabis is smoked or vaporized it is inhaled into and absorbed by the lungs. Your lungs are lined with these little guys called “alveoli” that help in this process. It only takes only seconds for your lungs to do their job, absorbing the cannabis smoke (or vapor) and passing it along to the bloodstream and then to the brain. Seconds.
However, edibles are different because they go through your stomach and liver to be processed. The stomach does not not absorb the THC in cannabis nearly as quickly as the lungs do and because of this, the time it takes an edible to actually set in can often be a gamble. The effects vary from person to person, with some even reporting no discernable effect whatsoever. Remember to “Start Low and Go Slow.” Begin with a 5-10 milligram serving and give yourself a good 2 hours before deciding whether or not to take more.
Don’t forget, the effects of cannabis tend to last longer when consuming an edible versus smoking a joint or using a vaporizer.
The Legal Stuff
Of course the only legal edible is one made and consumed in a state where it is legal for either an adults 21 and older or by a licensed medical patient. If you buy an edible in Colorado and take it out of Colorado – you now are in possession of an illegal edible. Good chance you could get arrested for this if you’re caught, depending on where you are caught.
Much of the reason people are uptight about cannabis infused desserts and food items in general boils down to the age old credo, “What About The Children?”
Colorado edibles makers are finding out just what this October as new laws regarding their products spring into action. On October 1, 2016, all edibles being produced in Colorado must be stamped or otherwise imprinted with a required “THC” symbol. But is this a necessary precaution that will keep infused products out of the hands and mouths of kids under 21 or is it a case of overregulation of the cannabis industry?
Closing and Further Reading – Cookbooks, Websites, Videos
For more information on making your own cannabutter or cannaoil we recommend this video on the Westword and this video on The Cannabist. Also check out this brownie recipe for a quick way to use your cannabis infused butter or oil. Finally, take a peek at The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook by Robyn Griggs Lawrence if you’re able. It is filled with easy to difficult recipes for the home chef to learn to incorporate marijuana into your diet. Bon Apetit!
Legal or Just Sort Of Legal?
Cannabis Is Legal In Washington, DC
Cannabis was legalized for adult recreational use in November of 2014. Colorado had not melted down in an apocalyptic nightmare when cannabis became legal there, the way many detractors of marijuana had predicted. So, just 11 months into the Centennial State’s great cannabis experiment, the nation’s capital voted to follow suit.
It was thanks to a perfect storm of preparation, action and respected opinion that began the process. A group called DCMJ formed in early 2013. After banding together DCMJ wasted no time and set to work collecting signatures and email addresses of like minded residents in April of that year.
In June, shortly after DCMJ began their efforts, the American’s Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report (available in full here) detailing not only the disparity between black and white arrests for marijuana in the United States, despite similar rates of use between the two races, but also made a spectacle of the billions of dollars the nation wastes every year on arrests of marijuana offenders. The report is an incredible read and speaks very matter of factly about the obvious “black and white” differences with jolting statistics, like that “In 2010, nationwide the white arrest rate was 192 per 100,000 whites, and the black arrest rate was 716 per 100,000 blacks.”
Just one month after the ACLU’s report was released, the Washington Lawyer’s Committee of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs delivered it’s own opinion in a report entitled, “Racial Disparities in Arrests in the District of Columbia, 2009-2011, Implications for Civil Rights and Criminal Justice in the Nation’s Capital” (available to read in full here). The 35 page report echoed the sentiments of the ACLU, expressing the view that “ drug abuse and addiction are most appropriately treated primarily as public health concerns rather than criminal matters.”
July also marked the transition of the DCMJ to the DC Cannabis Campaign. The environment was ripe for change and the DC Cannabis Campaign was ready. They were going to take take the bull by the horns and make it happen.
The Battle For Initiative 71
The DC Cannabis Campaign posted their entire ballot Initiative, entitled Initiative 71 (available in full here), on their website in October of 2013. Then they waited and listened. They considered the praise and criticism they received from people who read it before they submitted the final language for Initiative 71 in January of 2014.
The Initiative would move beyond the decriminalization status recently adopted by the District. It aimed to secure the rights of adults 21 and older in the district to:
- Possess, purchase and transport of up to two ounces of cannabis for personal use.
- Cultivate up to six marijuana plants – with only three at maturity at any given time. If there was more than one adult growing cannabis in the household, the total amount Initiative 71 allowed in a single unit was 12 (with only six at a time in maturity).
- Transfer up to one ounce to another adult 21 or older – for free, no sales, no money can exchange hands.
- Use or purchase cannabis paraphernalia for cannabis use, cultivation and/or processing.
After obtaining official petitions from the DC Board of Elections in April, the DC Cannabis Campaign set out once again to collect signatures. This time they needed to collect the valid signatures of some 22,373 DC registered voters. They had just over two months to do it in order to ensure its inclusion in the general election in November 2014.
Collecting around 300 signatures everyday would be overwhelming for some, but seemingly not for the DC Cannabis Campaign. On July 7 they submitted an estimated near 57,000 DC resident signatures and qualified Initiative 71 for the November ballot. Spirits were…high.
On November 4, 2014, Washington D.C. voted. Initiative passed with 70% of the vote, 115,050 to 49, 168 according to the now re-re named DCMJ. The DC Board of Elections certified the count on December 3rd and became a law on February 26, 2015. Less than two years after their formation, the DCMJ had accomplished their goal of legalizing cannabis in D.C.
There’s A Catch
There is no legal place to purchase cannabis in Washington, D.C. While it is perfectly legal to consume, the Initiative included no way for dispensaries to operate – or even for caregivers to accept donations for their flower, concentrates or edibles. Online digital media provider, Stuck in DC, recounts the account of Kush Gods, a short lived company that provided edibles for $10 “donations” before getting busted and shut down by the police.
The only legal place to use cannabis is in a private residence, except for one caveat. It is still illegal to consume marijuana in your home if you are on federal land, ie federal housing. Which means if you so happen to be a lower income resident of D.C. who lives in federal housing, who voted for legal cannabis so that you too could be afforded the right if the vote passed, you’re just out of luck. You can’t grow any cannabis in your unit and you can not smoke, vape or eat cannabis in your unit.
Which begs the question…is that good enough? Did Initiative 71 go far enough?
More Change Moving Forward
Many residents of D.C. didn’t think that it was good enough and it seemed like there might be a shift in February of 2016. It was beginning to look as though the D.C. Council was going to loosen up it’s stance regarding private marijuana clubs. Current law was preventing businesses to allow marijuana consumption, regardless of “private” club status or not. For all intents and purposes, using marijuana anywhere outside a residence was illegal in D.C.
This juxtaposition between what voters wanted and the reality of legalization is what prompted the creation of a special task force, intended to examine the pros and cons of giving the community the opportunity for legal, privately licensed cannabis clubs to operate in Washington, D.C. Proponent of private clubs, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, made clear her intent in pushing the issue in an interview for the Washington Business Journal saying, “For me, this isn’t about who gets to smoke and where. We wouldn’t be in this position if the Congressional rider hadn’t made us think last year that the sky would fall unless we implemented a full ban on social use in communal spaces…The sky hasn’t fallen and we are a year wiser. The time is right to consider designated spaces for communal use of marijuana.”
The task force was given several months to explore the issues before reporting back to the council. However, in April, just two months into timeline, Councilman Kenyan McDuffie reintroduced legislation for a permanent ban on private cannabis clubs, despite the January poll by the Washington City Paper suggesting that 60% of D.C. residents supported regulated, private cannabis clubs. The ban passed, with a vote of 7-6. The decision was crushing for the Nadeau, who likened it to a “slap in the face.”
Because the ban is considered “permanent”, it is not clear if there will ever be a legal way forward for cannabis clubs in Washington, D.C. Despite the sentiments of the public, the majority of the D.C. Council refuses to budge. In the meantime, according to the Mayor of the District of Columbia it is perfectly legal to host a party of adults 21 and up inside of a private residence, provided there is not more than 2 ounces of cannabis per person in the home. So it’s not a total loss?
But how will the decrease change the current landscape?
In Colorado, those that run in cannabis cultivation circles have long been discussing and predicting just when the recreational market prices would even out. Currently, medical product is less expensive to acquire than product grown for recreational purposes. For example, a gram of medical pot from KindLove dispensary in Glendale can be purchased for $12. In contrast, a gram of recreational product from the same dispensary will run you $15. Now, after 2 ½ years of a regulated recreational market, that anticipated leveling out of prices is finally becoming a reality as wholesale price points for cannabis in Colorado drop significantly.
“We all knew it was coming, because more and more production capacity is coming online… Medical is hanging in there, but rec is really finally starting to plummet…Probably 30% in the last four or five months.” says Jay Czarkowski, of Boulder-based Canna Advisors.
Another source, Cannabase, is a wholesale marketplace for licensed cultivators and retailers in Colorado and has a wealth of data to back up insider claims and reports of a drastic decrease in price for wholesale product. They are able to provide such conclusive and compelling information because they estimate that a good 70% of the licensed businesses in the state that purchase wholesale cannabis product are registered through their site.
According to the Cannabase numbers, in January of 2016 prices for wholesale recreational flower were hovering around an average of $2,106 per pound of product. However, throughout the year the asking price has decreased steadily and in June of this year, one pound of wholesale recreationally cultivated flower averaged at a cost of only $1402. That is a decrease of close to $1000 in just 6 months. Side note – the lowest amount that was paid for a pound (versus the average listed above) in January was $1,800 and in June was down to just $750.
Retail shops and edibles producers know it is a great time for their respective businesses and they have the opportunity to use this severe disparity in price to their advantage. If these businesses are able to leverage the steep drop and capitalize on the difference, they stand to see an increase in revenue.
Interestingly, the decrease in recreational wholesale product has not considerably affected the wholesale medical market. In January of this year, a medical pound could be purchased for $1,900. By the end of this past June the cost was only $50 cheaper at $1,850.
Why has the cost decreased so significantly in such a short period of time…and for one market but not for the other.
For one reason, over the last year, the recreational marijuana cultivation industry has exploded. Close to 100 new rec. cannabis cultivation licenses have been added to the existing list since June of 2015, bringing the total number of dispensaries in the state of Colorado from 465 to 554. That is a 20% increase in 12 months. Conversely, when the same statistics are examined on the medical side, a similar trend is not seen. In fact, medical cultivators have only increased by 24 total, growing from 764 to 788 in the last year. That is an increase of only 3%, which pales in comparison to the recreational stats.
CEO of Cannabase, Jennifer Beck, weighs in on the anomaly saying, “It is an eerily simple problem. Capital is attracted to grows. Everyone wants to be the Bud Light, the Coors, the Bob Marley, the defining brand, and there aren’t enough people in Colorado to buy up all this product in real time…I’m concerned that we’re going to have way too much overproduction.”
In other words, the market is being flooded with recreational product and with so much product and not quite as much demand to meet it, prices have been lowered in order to get it out the door.
And while the drop in price is good for rec shops, it is not exactly great from the perspective of the cultivators. Some industry insiders are even rumored to be eyeballing a cannabis cultivation exit strategy. Tradiv director of trade, Cecilia Gilboy, shared with MJBizDaily via email, concerns she’s heard regarding the low price of wholesale recreational marijuana, “One business owner told me, ‘When your product is as good as ours and you still can’t sell it, that’s a pretty clear sign it’s time to get the f*** out.’”
But some growers are asserting that much of the average price difference can be attributed to quality. “You can still get around $2,000 for (a pound), if it’s premium…But for mid-grade, it’s right around $1,400-$1,500 a pound. And if it’s low-grade you won’t be able to get more than $1,100-$1,200 for it” says Brett Terry, owner of wholesale marijuana distributor, Sherpa Supply.
So what can be done and how? And does anything need to be done?
One recommendation insiders are bringing up is a modernization of current indoor grows. Outdated lighting setups waste electricity and cause excess money to be spent. But grows that do take the time to update and adopt a more modern approach to lighting growing techniques can experience an increase in yield. That increase in yield, in turn, can positively affect a product’s potential value on the wholesale market.
Additionally, powdery mildew, bugs and pesticide concerns can’t be as well addressed in an indoor grow says Terry, “Any grower that is an indoor facility right now and isn’t able to control the mite issue or the pesticide issue or powdery mildew and isn’t able to put out a top, top product, they’re not able to compete in price.”
There is no lack of opinion on how or why the average recreational wholesale prices for flower has dropped so quickly. But no matter how many or how closely potentials are examined, industry consultant Czarkowski doesn’t believe there is a way to predict any future outcomes. “I’ve been watching these cycles for the past seven years, and I absolutely don’t think things are going to stabilize in just another year or two. There’s always going to be some short-term seasonal stabilization in price, but that’s all we’ve ever had,” he said.