Monthly Archives: May 2018

Freedom Leaf Travel: Welcome to Baja California

It’s just 17 miles from San Diego to where Mexico begins and two hours from Long Beach, where I used to live. Last year, I moved to Ensenada in Baja California, which is on the Pacific Ocean about two hours (70 miles) south of the border.

Spanning 745 miles north to south, the Baja peninsula is one of the world’s longest. Halfway down it becomes another state, Baja California Sur, and at the southern tip is the tourist destination Cabo San Lucas.

Before the move, I was bombarded with inaccurate information from well-meaning friends about what to expect. The biggest misconception is that Mexico is dangerous. Yes, five of the country’s 32 states have Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warnings, “due to violent crime and gang activity,” according to the U.S. State Department. But Baja is listed as a Level 2, meaning  “Exercise Increased Caution.” The state’s main tourist hubs— Ensenada, Rosarito and Tijuana—are considered safe (see “Baja California Travel Advisory” below).

It’s just 17 miles from San Diego to the Mexico border, and another 70 to Ensenada.

Americans are easily frightened by sensationalistic media accounts of mass executions and cartel violence. But like the violent crime that occurs in the U.S. every day, these activities rarely affect the average citizen or tourist.

A Brief History of Marihuana in Mexico

Pancho Villa (center) smokes a joint on his ranch in Chihuahua.

Mexico has been key in the worldwide spread of marijuana use and cannabis culture. It was through Mexico that the plant found its way to North America’s jazz vipers, beatniks and hippies. But the absurd policy of attempting to suppress cannabis in the same way as truly dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin is a large part of what has propelled Mexico into a crisis of relentless, nightmarish narco-violence.

The legacy of the 500-year Moorish occupation of Spain was critical in Mexico’s rise as a global cannabis hub. The Moors brought hashish and the Maghrebi tradition of kif-smoking to Spain. It survived in the shadows among the Moriscos (crypto-Moors) even after the 1492 Catholic Reconquista and the Inquisition. Cannabis first entered the New World on Spanish galleons bound for New Spain (Mexico).

It caught on with both peasants and the higher classes in Mexico over the centuries. The iconic anthem of the Mexican Revolution, “La Cucaracha,” is about Pancho Villa’s peasant army getting high (“marihuana que fumar”) as they marched through the desert.

NYC Mayor De Blasio Tells Police to End Arrests for Marijuana Smoking

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told top brass at the city’s police department to stop arresting people who are caught smoking marijuana in public, according to a City Hall aide. Currently, smoking in public can lead to arrest, while possession of small amounts of marijuana can lead to a summons. This weekend, the mayor told the NYPD to issue summonses for smoking pot in public, instead of making arrests. The NYPD has…


Vicente Fox’s Global Vision: Legalization of All Drugs

In order to end the cartel violence in Mexico, former president Vicente Fox thinks all drugs should be legalized, what he calls “the whole enchilada.”

Don’t get Vicente Fox started on Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. Oh, why not?

“I just don’t like those two guys,” he says during a phone interview from his home base in the village of San Cristobal, in the state of Guanajuato about four hours northwest of Mexico City. “I don’t think the United States should be in the hands of those two guys. The November midterm elections are a great opportunity for the people of the United States to stop Trump from doing crazy things, to stop him through a strong liberal Congress, a Congress that looks to the future, not this blinded position of Trump looking at the past. He wants a very strong government that controls the borders and decides the fate of society and people. Your citizens should never accept that. The United States is the vanguard, the leader on developed thinking, on freedom of choice, on unity of purpose. This guy should be kicked out.”

Vicente Fox at press conference announcing the Canna Mexico World Summit on May 30-31.

The Canna Mexico World Summit, the international cannabis conference that Fox’s company Centro Fox is presenting on May 30-31 in San Cristobal, is just weeks away. This is the main reason for the phone call, to get the word out …

Weekly Legislative Roundup 5/18/18

Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

Good news – on Thursday the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee for the first time heard and passed language, known as the Joyce amendment, to restrict funding for the Department of Justice to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana programs.

At the state level, Governor Jeff Colyer (R) of Kansas signed a bill exempting CBD from the definition of marijuana. Until then, Kansas was one of the four states in the US that had not reformed it’s marijuana laws to any extent. Now, it’s just down to three – South Dakota, Idaho, and Nebraska.

Additionally, Governor Doug Ducey (R) of Arizona signed hemp legislation into law, the Illinois Senate sent a bill allowing medical cannabis at schools to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), and Michigan’s House speaker said the legislature won’t take up marijuana legalization and will instead leave it up to the voters this November.

At a more local level, district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn announced that with limited exception, low-level marijuana-related offenses would no longer be prosecuted. And The Allentown, Pennsylvania City Council approved a marijuana decriminalization proposal.

Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home …

Blumenauer’s Canna-PAC Raising Money for Pro-Pot Candidates

Rep. Earl Blumenauer surrounded by High NY’s Mike Zaytsev (left) and Todd Hinden.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) talked up de-scheduling marijuana on a May 11 visit to Brooklyn to raise money for his new Cannabis Fund political action committee.

Blumenaeur, known for the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment that prevents the federal government from prosecuting states with  legal medical cannabis programs, touched on a wide range of issues at the High NY event at WeWork in South Williamsburg.

Rather than changing cannabis’ current federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug to another schedule, Blumenauer advocates removing it as a controlled substance altogether. “This is within our capacity,” he told about 100 attendees. “If we get the politics right, have hearings and experts come in, it would probably not be scheduled at all within the course of the next five years. It can happen sooner. We’ll see states be allowed to treat cannabis the way they treat alcohol.”

Blumenauer’s Cannabis Fund PAC is backing pro-pot candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections. “I’m raising money to give to candidates who have the courage to say the right thing and to make it a little easier for them to step up,” he explained.

Medical Cannabis Patients, Medical Professionals, Advocates, and Industry Leaders Converge at National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in D.C.

May 22 – May 25, 2018
Contact: Debbie Churgai | 202-857-4272 x.8 |

WASHINGTON, DC — Starting on Tuesday, May 22nd and running until Friday, May 25th, medical cannabis patients, advocates, medical and legal professionals, and industry business leaders will gather at Americans for Safe Access’ (ASA) Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity conference in Washington, D.C. to learn and exchange ideas about how to navigate and steer medical cannabis policy in this ever-changing political landscape.

What: 6th Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference
Where: Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC,
When: Tuesday, May 22nd through Friday, May 25th

This year’s conference will focus on the life-saving role that medical cannabis can play in the fight against the Opioid Epidemic. In 2017 ASA launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign, to help protect current medical cannabis programs, remove barriers for people with pain, chronic pain, and Opioid Use Disorder, and to educate medical professionals, service providers, and patients about medical cannabis and pain.


How Massachusetts Became a Leader in Regulating Marijuana

While much of the nation was reeling from Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 election, cannabis advocates were cheering when recreational-legalization initiatives passed in four states: California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

By 2017, marijuana would be officially legal for adult use on the entire West Coast, as well as in Colorado and Nevada. The New England victories finally gave East Coast legalization supporters something to crow about.

While Maine’s legalization process has been beset by delays (in part thanks to its reefer-mad governor Paul LePage), Massachusetts filed its final regulations on March 7. Starting July 1, the Bay State will be home to the only legal recreational marijuana market east of the Mississippi River.

In addition, residents will be able to grow up to six plants. However, they can’t be visible to the public “without the use of binoculars, aircraft and other optical aids,” according to the FAQ at

Historic House Appropriations Committee Vote On Marijuana

Medical marijuanaToday, the House appropriations committee for the first time heard and passed language, known as the Joyce amendment, to restrict funding for the Department of Justice to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana programs.

“Today marks a victory for medical marijuana programs and a loss for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Passage of this amendment through regular order in the appropriations committee represents another big step in the normalization of state level marijuana reform in the Congress of the United States,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal

Previously, the amendment had not gone through the committee process and was inserted into the appropriations bill on the floor of the House, yet was blocked in 2017 by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a militant marijuana prohibitionist. The amendment was offered by Representative David Joyce (R-OH).

“We thank Representative Joyce for his leadership to protect the 46 states that have reformed their marijuana policies and the over 2 million patients that they serve,” said Strekal.

Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. The amendment, previously known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to

Progressive Policy Change In New York City

Cannabis PenaltiesIn a surprise joint press conference, Cyrus Vance Jr. and Eric Gonzalez, the respective District Attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City, both announced that with limited exception low-level marijuana-related offenses would no longer be prosecuted.  Both cited a six-month-long study that revealed that there was no discernible impact upon issues of public health and safety by ending the prosecution of these minor cannabis offenses.  The positive side of this new policy is the discontinuance of the persecution of communities predominated by people of color who have been disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for these low-level cannabis offenses.  As such, both District Attorneys publicly vowed that as of August 1, 2018, they would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession and consumption cases.    The talismanic significance of that delayed date is unknown as New York City needs this program implemented now, not weeks from now.

This new approach comes on the heels of past mayoral pledges that sought to relax enforcement policies.  Until recent years, an individual caught smoking marijuana was required to be arrested and processed through the system resulting in criminal misdemeanor charges. Often the amount of time elapsing between arrest and arraignment would be anywhere from 12-24 hours or more before a defendant would be produced before the court to answer the charges.  Many of those charged with a cannabis misdemeanor would nonetheless have their cases effectively dismissed by moving under the Penal Law for an …

Cannabis Track Added to 2018 Food Safety Consortium

The 6thAnnual Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo has announced a series of talks focused on cannabis. In addition to the categories such as Operations, Detection, Compliance and Supply Chain, the Call for Abstracts now includes a fifth category in this year’s program: Cannabis Quality.

The Cannabis Quality series will feature presentations by subject matter experts in the areas of regulations, edibles manufacturing, cannabis safety & quality as well as laboratory testing. The Food Safety Consortium itself is hosted by our sister publication, Food Safety Tech, but the Cannabis Quality series will be co-hosted by Cannabis Industry Journal as well.

Rick Biros, President/Publisher, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
Rick Biros, conference director of the Food Safety Consortium

Citing the need to address safety in a burgeoning market, Rick Biros, conference director, believes education is key to helping the cannabis industry mature. “As the cannabis industry evolves, so does the need to protect the consumer,” says Biros. “Just as we protect the safety of our food supply chain, it is important to educate the cannabis industry about protecting their supply chain from seed to sale. Through these educational talks, we want to help bridge that gap, hosting a forum for those in the cannabis industry to interact with food safety professionals.”

The 2018 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo will be held November 14–16 in Schaumburg, Illinois. The event is a top food safety conference that features Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) industry experts …

More Parents Are Smoking Weed: Study

Parents are puff, puff, passing! While fewer moms and dads are smoking cigarettes than ever before, their cannabis use rose from 11 percent in 2002 to 17 percent in 2015, according to new research out of Columbia University. Furthermore, cannabis use among parents with kids at home rose from 5 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2015. Both findings are based on data from the National Survey and Drug Use and Health. – Read…


How to Become a Cannabis Advocate

By Herbert Fuego for Westword

Most people thought the fight was over when Colorado voters legalized commercial cannabis in 2012, but that victory led to a series of smaller battles over such issues as social consumption, home-grow limitations and industry expansion. Proposals continue to pop up on both the local and state level that could advance or limit your rights as a cannabis consumer, patient, grower or business owner. Want to make sure things go in the right direction? Here’s how to become a cannabis advocate:


When It Comes To The Issue Of Cannabis And Opioids, The DEA Admits It Knows Nothing

In testimony before Congress last week, by DEA acting administrator Robert Patterson opined that the medicalization of cannabis is exacerbating opioid abuse. But when prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not. Further, he denied being aware of any evidence — including recent, well-publicized studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and others — indicating that cannabis mitigates pain or that its legal access is associated with reduced levels of opioid-related mortality.

I summarize this mind-boggling exchange in my recent Hill op-ed, which is excerpted below

Specifically, when asked by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz if the DEA was aware of the landmark 2017 National Academy of Sciences study finding, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis [is] effective for the treatment for chronic pain,” Patterson answered that he was not.

He further acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with several state-specific, longitudinal studies, such as those from Minnesota and New Mexico, finding that chronic pain patients who register to partake in cannabis therapy dramatically decrease their use of opioids and other pain-relieving drugs. (Separate assessments of state-authorized medical cannabis patients in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and elsewhere affirm these conclusions).

He further claimed ignorance with regard to the findings of a highly publicized study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finding that medical cannabis regulation is associated with year-over-year declines in overall opioid-related mortality, including heroin overdose deaths.

North Carolina NORML along with several other pro-cannabis organizations recently organized the Tar Heel State’s largest pro-cannabis march in recent memory. There were people from across the state, and even some long time residents that had to move to a state that allows them to medicate the way they want, despite having a majority of their families here.

On April 20th, we saw the biggest push for reform at a federal level ever by North Carolinians. North Carolina NORML along with veterans, people with disabilities, and folks from all walks of life were able to come together and march in solidarity with one another.

The cannabis movement has been stagnant in North Carolina, at best. There is a great divide in supporters who are ready for any small step, even if that means giving up their right to grow their own or even to medicate with “flower” or bud. Other supporters within the state have a sense that if they settle for “extract only” laws or laws that restrict growing rights, that they will not be able to get those rights added in later.

To see fractions of the movement come together for this event is enormously satisfying. Under new leadership, North Carolina NORML has began turning up the heat and focused on getting people involved. We understand that people need to be constantly involved otherwise they get bored and move on. We need to make sure everyone is engaged, …

Cannabidiol Oil Won’t Get You Buzzed but It Could Get You Busted

CBD oil is a controlled substance — and the ‘jury is still out’ on its health benefits. Cannabidiol oil, or CBD, is generating a lot of buzz in the world of alternative medicine and many Canadians are buying in. The oil, which is extracted from marijuana plants, doesn’t have the same mind-altering effects as smoking pot. People rub it on their achy joints or put it under their tongue to help them sleep. Some purveyors…


Cannabidiol Oil Won’t Get You Buzzed but It Could Get You Busted

CBD oil is a controlled substance — and the ‘jury is still out’ on its health benefits. Cannabidiol oil, or CBD, is generating a lot of buzz in the world of alternative medicine and many Canadians are buying in. The oil, which is extracted from marijuana plants, doesn’t have the same mind-altering effects as smoking pot. People rub it on their achy joints or put it under their tongue to help them sleep. Some purveyors…


Join NORML in Aspen for a Taste of Freedom

NORML Aspen Legal Seminar

We’re just a few weeks away from NORML’s annual Aspen Legal Seminar at the beautiful Gant Hotel. We hope you’ll join us there to enjoy a taste of freedom and connect with professionals committed to establishing industry best practices that are consumer-friendly and promote social justice. Network with leading criminal defense and cannabusiness attorneys who’ll share expert advice in federal and state marijuana laws. Indulge in a delicious meal by critically acclaimed chef Chris Lanter of Cache Cache restaurant at the NORML Benefit Dinner hosted by Chris and Gerry Goldstein.


If you haven’t already, please take a moment to share the event with your networks.

Link to share:

Sample language for attendees: Join me in Colorado for NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

NORML Aspen Legal Semnar

General sample language: NORML’s Aspen Legal Seminar is just a few weeks away. Get expert advice from the best and the brightest in cannabis law while enjoying the sweet taste of freedom. Attorneys earn CLEs. You don’t want to miss this!

If you can’t join us this year, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation in support of NORML’s work reforming marijuana laws:

As always, thank you for your continued support and dedication to NORML’s mission. Looking forward to seeing you in Aspen!…

Weekly Legislative Roundup 5/11/18

Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

Let’s talk about Congress. Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) cosponsored the Marijuana Justice Act! Sen. Harris announced in a video message that she will be joining Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden in promoting this important legislation. This comes just a week and a half after California senior Senator Diane Feinstein (D) told reporters that she has dropped her opposition to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana. And U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is cosponsoring Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) hemp legalization bill.

Additionally, in a historical first, a Congressional committee has advanced marijuana law reform legislation; one that would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct more studies on cannabis’ medical benefits.

At the state level, Michigan Senate Republicans are expected to discuss whether to enact marijuana legalization instead of allowing the question to appear on the ballot, with the fear that a ballot question would turn out hundreds of thousands of democratic voters. The New Jersey Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee will hold a Saturday hearing on marijuana legalization, and county prosecutors across Vermont are looking at ways to expunge prior marijuana convictions.

Also, Connecticut’s legislative leaders said marijuana legalization is off the table for this session. As more state legislatures are adjourning for the session, more and more bills are dying, and therefore …