Pubdate: Wed, 25 Dec 2013
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2013 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


Uncle Sam made a historic posture change, Colorado and Washington
wrote their pot industry rules, the California Crackdown rolled on,
dabs exploded, and the strain Girl Scout Cookies sold out.

Looking back at the biggest cannabis stories in the past twelve
months, we are reminded of the apocryphal curse: "May you live in
interesting times." Oh, indeed.

Uncle Sam Blinks

By far the biggest story of 2013 happened on August 29 when the White
House said it would allow Colorado and Washington to proceed with
their plans to tax and regulate the sale of pot. According to
constitutional scholars, the federal government can't make states
engage in the Drug War. Uncle Sam can, however, block any efforts to
actively contravene federal drug policy - efforts like licensing pot
growers and retail stores.

The White House memo, signed by Deputy Attorney General James Cole,
acknowledges that letting states regulate the drug is now Uncle Sam's
least bad option. To block regulations now would create a free-for-all
in states where weed has become legal.

The Cole 2013 Memo also outlined key ongoing priorities for the
federal government, like preventing organized crime from using pot
legalization as a cover for interstate trafficking.

Historic Senate Session

On September 10, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy chaired
historic hearings that included a county sheriff denouncing the war on
pot as a failure, and the deputy attorney general saying efforts to
regulate the drug could serve federal goals like defunding criminals
and keeping the drug away from kids. The hearing also revealed that
the United States is working to allow banks to service newly legal pot
enterprises, but that a fix for canna-business' tax issues won't be
coming any time soon.

Supreme Setback

In early May, the California Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to
medical cannabis access in California cities and counties that are
opposed to medical marijuana. The court ruled that cities and counties
can ban medical cannabis collectives operating in retail storefronts
called dispensaries.

The case arose out of a ban in Riverside, where activists opened a
dispensary and challenged the ban as unconstitutional. After losses in
local and appellate courts, lawyers for the Inland Empire dispensary
took their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Compassionate
Use Act of 1996 and the Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003 prevents
cities from banning dispensaries. But the justices weren't convinced
that the laws were clear, with Justice Ming Chin stating in oral
arguments, "The legislature knows how to say, 'Thou shalt not ban.'"

The ruling also appears to allow cities to ban private collectives,
and is now being used as part of the legal reasoning behind bans on
medical cannabis cultivation proposed in places like Fresno County.

Harborside Precedent

In January, major Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center set
state precedent when its lawyers got a federal judge to block the
club's eviction. The judge's argument boiled down to one simple
concept: California landlords aren't the US Drug Enforcement
Administration. Harborside had a signed lease telling its landlord
what it was doing, and its landlord was happy to cash the rent checks.
When the DEA threatened the landlord with property forfeiture unless
she evicted Harborside, she moved to boot the collective, which serves
130,000 patients.

But tenants have rights, too. Landlords cannot "sever business
relationships when they suddenly prove risky, or to demonstrate
cooperation with the government," the judge wrote. Lawyers say
dispensaries across California can use the ruling to block eviction
and fight the government.

The Crackdown Drags On

Harborside may have tied up US Attorney Melinda Haag in federal
appeals court until late 2014, but scores of other dispensaries
succumbed to the protracted and widely loathed federal crackdown on
medical pot businesses in California. Dispensary owners with clean
records like Matthew Davies were sent to prison for years for lawful
state activity, even though 65 percent of Californians support
well-regulated legal pot.

LA Votes to Clean House

On May 21, voters in the biggest medical pot city in the world voted
to limit the number of dispensaries from about 800 to around 135.
Measure D passed 62 to 37 percent, and the city attorney is now
aggressively moving to shutter all the clubs that don't make the cut.
Prices went back up.

Colorado and Washington Set Rules

Colorado and Washington state officials spent much of 2013 writing
historic new rules for their legal pot industry, coming up with a
licensing system for growers, wholesalers, and retailers. The states
set tax rates, clarified tourism rules, picked packaging, and rapidly
tried to prepare for legal sales in 2014.

Sativex for Epilepsy

In October, the FDA announced it would allow some doctors to use the
pot molecule cannabidiol to treat epilepsy, marking another mainstream
endorsement for the alternative therapy. The FDA will allow purified
CBD to be used on fifty patients in San Francisco and New York. GW
Pharmaceuticals provides the CBD product Epidiolex, which is extracted
from pot plants.

The Year of the Cookies

The scrumptious weed strain Girl Scout Cookies caught fire in 2013,
winning four Cannabis Cups in a one-year period and rivaling the hype
around OG Kush. It's allegedly a San Francisco-bred mix of Durban,
Florida Kush, and a secret strain dubbed "F1."

Dabs Explode

In February, US fire officials warned first responders about idiots
blowing themselves up trying to make butane hash oil (BHO) - a type of
concentrated marijuana that became dominant on dispensary hash shelves
in 2013. Blasting BHO in California remains illegal, though possessing
it for medical purposes is not.

Uruguay Legalizes It

On December 12, the South American nation of Uruguay became the first
country in modern history to legalize pot when its legislature passed
a bill allowing each person to grow six plants. Government-approved
grows will provide the drug in pharmacies.
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MAP posted-by: Matt