Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Medical marijuana advocates on Tuesday vowed to reopen a San Francisco-area college devoted to cannabis cultivation and known as the “Princeton of Pot” a day after federal agents shut down the school in a raid.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, some on crutches and in wheelchairs and smoking hand-rolled joints. The demonstrators carried signs that said, “Cannabis is medicine; let states regulate” and chanting “Feds off my meds.”
Monday’s raid on Oaksterdam University, which offers courses on growing and dispensing of marijuana, turned the Oakland-based school into the latest flashpoint between federal law enforcement and medical cannabis advocates in states where pot has been decriminalized for medicinal purposes.
Federal authorities also searched the home of veteranmedical marijuana activist and Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee, as well as a nearby medical marijuana dispensary he runs.
Lee, confined to a wheelchair by a spinal injury, was a leading proponent behind a failed California ballot initiative in 2010 that would have legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in the state for recreational use.
“In a wheelchair, he’s a threat,” Wayne Justmann, an adviser for medical pot supply shops, said facetiously as he spoke to Reuters at the rally. “He’s a guy who’s helped so many people.”
Rather than targeting Lee, Justmann added, “Go after that guy who killed seven and injured three.” He was referring to the former student of a private, Christian college who killed seven people and wounded three others in a shooting rampage on Monday.
Lee himself said he worried that he might be prosecuted.
“They can indict me any day,” he said, recounting how he was awakened by federal agents armed with assault rifles appearing at his Oakland apartment with a search warrant. “They can arrest me any day.” Agents briefly detained but did not arrest Lee.
The school was closed after agents searched it, but it will reopen Wednesday, Lee’s lawyer, Laurence Jeffrey Lichter said.
Although marijuana remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of legalized medical-cannabis statutes, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
In those states, including California, the U.S. government has sought in recent months to shut down storefront dispensaries and greenhouses deemed by federal investigators to be drug-trafficking fronts, as well as those that are located close to schools and parks.
The Obama administration has said it would not single out individual patients who possess or grow their own marijuana in states with medical pot statutes. But federal prosecutors have warned they will continue to go after operations that support for-profit, illegal drug dealing under the guise of medical pot.
Federal action has led to dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries being shut down in California, but so far no one has been charged with criminal activity in connection with the crackdown, Lichter said.
by Carly Schwarz, Huffington Post
SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of medical marijuana activists gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to support California’s multi-million dollar cannabis industry, under siege since the federal government launched an aggressive crackdown last fall.
A handful of local legislators and cannabis patients addressed the heated crowd before marching down the street to the federal courthouse to address U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who has championed anti-marijuana actions in the Bay Area.
“We’re patients, not criminals!” the protesters chanted, along with cries of “DEA, go away!” and “Fire Haag!”
“Today, we are all green,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu in a fiery speech. Chiu and fellow city supervisors who attended the event pledged to expedite the permitting process for local pot shops that have been forced to close and wish to reopen elsewhere.
California’s medical marijuana industry has been struggling since federal prosecutors began targeting dispensaries in October. More than 100 California busineses have been forced to shut down, and hundreds more have received threatening letters claiming their landlords could be jailed if they continue to operate.
Five cannabis clubs in San Francisco have shuttered, leaving employees without work and patients without access to their medicine. Haag sent the same threatening letters to roughly a dozen more (some dispensaries won’t go on the record as to whether they had received a warning). On Monday, federal authorities raidedOakland’s world-famous Oaksterdam University and the home of its founder, Richard Lee, one of the state’s most outspoken medical marijuana activists.
The U.S. attorneys’ actions mark a sharp departure from the Obama administration’s 2009 Ogden Memo, which declared that prosecutions in states that have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes would not be a priority. Advocates argue the federal government should direct its energy elsewhere.
“It’s a total waste of federal resources,” Stephanie Tucker, spokesperson for theSan Francisco Medical Cannabis Task Force, told The Huffington Post. “They’re attacking a peaceful, regulated community and it’s wasting money. Shame on them.”
Though the drug remains illegal under federal law, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Studies have shown that California’s medical marijuana industry generatesupwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue.
Haag has remained relatively mum on the issue, repeatedly citing dispensaries’ proximities to schools and parks as justification for the crackdown. “I hope that those who believe marijuana stores should be left to operate without restriction can step back for a moment and understand that not everyone shares their point of view,” she told HuffPost in a statement. “People are deeply troubled by the tremendous growth of the marijuana industry and its influence on their communities.”
But advocates said they believe Haag’s argument thin. Cathy Smith, co-founder and manager of HopeNet, a dispensary in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, told HuffPost that the neighborhood has become dramatically safer in the nine years since her business opened its doors. Crime has dropped significantly, largely due to the increased presence of lighting and surveillance cameras her store installed in order to adhere to the city’s strict regulations surrounding cannabis clubs.
“Nine years ago I wouldn’t be open past 5 p.m. because I was worried about our female customers,” Smith said. “Now we’re open until 9. The neighborhood has improved that much.”
So much, in fact, that a few years ago, a private school opened around the corner. And now HopeNet’s landlords have received their own threatening letter from Haag because of the shop’s proximity to that school.
“Haag says she can’t tell the difference between a good club and a bad club,” Smith said. “I’m here to show her the difference. We are the club that is different; there’s no question about it.”
In addition to selling medical marijuana and related supplies, HopeNet offers a series of weekly community events, including a veterans’ support group, a ladies’ afternoon tea and various life skills workshops. “We like to think of ourselves as a family,” Smith said. “We don’t just sell pot here — we help people.”
And the family is willing to fight. Supporters of Smith’s business have sent hundreds of handwritten letters to Haag’s office demanding she back off, and others have tried (unsuccessfully) to schedule in-person meetings.
Similar to the HopeNet’s community’s outpouring of support, he actions of Haag and her counterparts have served to strengthen the ties of pot proponents across the Bay Area. “It’s only emboldening us and bringing us together,” said Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a coalition of active and retired police officers, prosecutors and judges who actively speak out against the drug war. “People who used to compete in the marketplace are now standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Advocates have drawn the endorsements of a fair share of legislators, as well. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-S.F.) recently introduced a measurethat would establish uniform regulations for pot shops throughout the state based on San Francisco’s strict and successful standards for operating dispensaries. On Monday, a coalition of lawmakers from five states penned an open letter to the Obama administration demanding an end to the crackdown.
Meanwhile, as some San Francisco cannabis clubs close down, others plan to open. Last month, the planning commission approved three new dispensaries for the city’s Excelsior district, and another opened in the Mission last week.
Those targeted by federal authorities vow to defend their businesses and the industry until the end. “They can indict me any day. They can arrest me at any time,” Lee said during Tuesday’s rally. “One way or another, Oaksterdam will fight on.”
So will San Francisco.
by Chris Roberts, San Francisco Examiner
The City’s 21 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are all illegal, according to a court filing by District Attorney George Gascón that could portend a seismic shift in San Francisco cannabis policy.
City law allows medical marijuana to be bought in businesses called dispensaries and delivered to patients who have been prescribed marijuana by a licensed physician. Dispensaries must acquire business licenses and seller’s permits from the state Board of Equalization before receiving city Department of Public Health permits to sell marijuana.
Yet in December, a woman was arrested for making a delivery on behalf of Mr. Nice Guy, a city-licensed dispensary whose storefront was shut down under pressure from the federal Justice Department. Police said the woman was arrested with $631 in cash, more than 100 plastic bags of dried marijuana buds and hashish, and 48 “edibles” — marijuana-laced cookies, brownies, or other treats.
Despite being presented with paperwork showing that the woman and buyer were licensed patients and that she was working on behalf of a registered dispensary, the DA charged her with two felony counts for marijuana possession and sales, said her attorney, former District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
In a legal brief, Gascón argued that the law is not on her side.
“While California’s medical marijuana laws may be complex, the law is clear that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal,” Gascón wrote. “The … shell game that continues to be played with medical marijuana immunities does not change that conclusion.”
Gascón’s office cites the 1996 Compassionate Use Act as well as state court decisions to make his argument, which says medical marijuana patients must “participate directly in the cultivation of marijuana” to enjoy protection under the law.
“This means that people with AIDS have to be out digging in the dirt to enjoy protection under the law,” countered former District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who is representing the woman in court. “This is impossible.”
Gascón’s office declined to comment on the pending court case, but spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said the brief in question actually dates back to the administration of former District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is now state Attorney General. Her nuanced comments suggest that the DA’s office may be having second thoughts about its position.
“We have since reviewed the brief and while it accurately reflects state law, we have determined it needs to be revised to reflect the positions of the city of San Francisco and also the policies of the District Attorney’s office,” Stillman wrote via email.
Local defense attorneys say they haven’t previously seen this argument in San Francisco, and that it resembles filings made in Los Angeles by District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ran against Harris and lost in 2010.
“It’s disappointing to see the San Francisco district attorney’s office parroting the garbage spewing out of Steve Cooley’s office when they try to torture an interpretation of [state law] beyond any recognition,” said Oakland attorney Robert Raich, who argued a 2005 medical marijuana case before the United States Supreme Court.
The inconsistent policies — with one county agency calling illegal what another one issues permits for — is “emblematic of the ongoing disconnect in San Francisco with regard to the city’s approach to medical cannabis,” complained Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/03/gasc-n-all-sales-marijuana-are-illegal#ixzz1qNn8aZEr
by Chris Roberts, SF Weekly
Union Pulls Plug on Medical Reform, Other Ballot Measures Starved For Cash; Legislature, Ammiano Last Hope for Reform Now
Nobody likes to celebrate with a loss, but for the medical marijuana movement, 2010 and the historic defeat of semi-legalization measure Proposition 19 already look like the good old days.
Feast turned to famine quickly: Multiple marijuana legalization and medical marijuana reform ballot initiatives vied this year and last for a spot on voters’ ballots in November. But United Food and Commercial Workers and Americans for Safe Access withdrew on Thursday their Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, and leading proponents of legalization initiative Regulate Marijuana Like Wine are already looking ahead to 2014.
But with the federal Justice Department’s crackdown on California cannabis in full swing, that may be too long to wait, leaving all eyes now on an outspoken lawmaker from San Francisco to save cannabis in California.
Oakland union organizer Dan Rush, chief of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp division of UFCW’s national chapter, told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday afternoon that the union was “pulling the plug” on the MMCRT, which would have created a state-level bureaucracy to oversee and regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry not unlike what Alcoholic Beverage Control does for liquor.
Cash was the main reason, ASA executive director Stephanie Sherer told SF Weekly on Thursday evening: with about six weeks left before signatures were due in Sacramento — initiatives need over 500,000 valid signatures to qualify; campaigns usually submit 750,000 or more by the April 20 deadline — the campaign had $1.25 million of the $2 million needed just to pay signature-gathering companies to qualify.
More cash would be needed to run a campaign, so the call was made to focus on Sacramento, said Sherer, who added that the campaign started late and nonetheless “achieved [its] dream: to get something in the Legislature.”
“We’re not dropping anything,” said Sherer, who said the money will be spent on a “public awareness campaign” to sway lawmakers’ minds. This may work now when it did not before: leery lawmakers in Sacramento wanted proof that the often divisive and divided medical marijuana movement was not “a mile wide and an inch deep,” she said. “Well, we’re not.”
ASA and UFCW raised the cash in increments of $500 to $10,000 from medical marijuana dispensaries, dispensary organization, patients, advocates, and pot growers big and small, she told SF Weekly (financial disclosure forms have yet to be filed with the Secretary of State).
It’s now up to the Legislature and Ammiano, who introduced a bill very similar in language to the UFCW-ASA effort. It has yet to be called for a hearing in committee. A spokesman for Ammiano was not immediately available for comment late Thursday.
Ammiano will need Republican cosponsors as well as support from his Democratic colleagues in order to make any headway.
Meanwhile, the three legalization measures are still starving for billionaires. A few weeks ago in LA, proponents for Repeal Cannabis Prohibition, Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, and the California Cannabis and Hemp Health Initiative issued a “statement of unity” that included a clarion call to rich people. All ballot initiatives were in desperate need of cash; they remain so today.
In 2010, recall, Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University spent millions of his own money to put Proposition 19 on the ballot. The initiative won more votes than Meg Whitman, but was still defeated on the ballot, 46.2 percent for to 53.8 percent opposed.
Once on the ballot, he received big money contributions from George Soros, Peter Thiel, and other progressive-minded angel investors; those rich pot-loving folk have yet to pony up this year, and it now appears they won’t.
Though “anything can still happen,” said Steve Kubby, one of the proponents for Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. “I’m all about miracles.”
And he might need one. RMLW has $54,000 in the bank and about 200,000 signatures, said Kubby, an “eyeball estimate, mind you” he gave via telephone after looking at a stack of papers in his South Lake Tahoe home. “We have to do an audit, but I can tell you we have a pile.”
The challenge now is to figure out how to get a voter initiative on the ballot and how to win a campaign without a billionaires’ largess. That has not been done: it was Soros who bankrolled Proposition 215 in 1996.
“I do not understand how a person with billions who enjoys cannabis even on occasion, and who sympathizes with the damages of cannabis prohibition on our society, would not take a shot at real reform for 2012 in the nation’s most populous state,” said East Bay-based organizer and activist Mickey Martin, who used to head up edibles collective Tainted, Inc. before a federal bust. “For a few million bucks we could have cannabis freedom for 12% of America in one effort. Someone needs to write that check.”
Martin pointed to 2016, a presidential cycle, as the more likely “next time around” for cannabis legalization or reform. Kubby pointed forward to 2014, when fundraising and signature-gathering can be done in the cheaper offseason.
“We’ll raise the money ourselves, between now and 2014,” he said. “I can tell you with certainty, if we don’t get onto the 2012 ballot, this will definitely be on the 2014 ballot.”
So keep the faith, marijuana users. And try to befriend some billionaires while you’re at it.
by Chris Roberts, SFWeekly
Call it an industry, call it a movement, call it a gigantic scam. Law enforcement and politicians can’t agree what to call California’s medical marijuana scene, except to say it exists in a legal gray area.
And how. A dispensary operator in Vallejo was arrested last week – twice – because the police chief and a majority of the City Council believe state medical marijuana law doesn’t allow dispensaries to conduct “sales,” and because there’s no local ordinance allowing dispensaries, they’re illegal.
But state law doesn’t say that, according to the retired legislator who wrote the law. And just in case there’s still confusion on the matter, a bill introduced Friday by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) not only allows for medical marijuana sales — and would appear to allow for profit — it also makes it clear that dispensaries are fine and dandy under state law.
If passed, Ammiano’s bill, A.B. 2312, would allow “collectives, cooperatives, and other business entities to cultivate, acquire, process, possess, transport, test, sell, and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.” This is a departure from current law, which says the above are not subject to penalties.
The bill also makes it a misdemeanor for a doctor to give a bad recommendation, and would limit dispensaries to one per a city of 50,000 residents. And — and most importantly — it creates a medical marijuana bureaucracy.
The governor, the assembly speaker, and the Senate Committee on Rules would appoint nine people to the Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement, a new body within the Department of Consumer Affairs. This body would be in charge of the Medical Marijuana Fund, which would be funded with state fees and fines.
Ammiano’s bill is similar to a proposed ballot initiative: The Medical Marijuana Regulation Control and Taxation Act, the brainchild of medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access and labor union United Food and Commercial Workers. A major difference is that the MMRCTA includes a state tax, which requires a two-thirds majority, according to a release from Ammiano’s office.
Nobody from team Ammiano was available for comment Sunday, but even if it doesn’t pass, the bill will “raise awareness” in the legislature that the industry needs some kind of fix, UFCW organizer Dan Rush said via e-mail.
Even if the bill is passed, however, it’s highly unlikely it will become law: A bill passed last year allowing California farmers in select counties to grow hemp was returned without Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, and it’s generally taken as a given that Brown will not sign any medical marijuana-related bills.
So who’s going to convince local law enforcement that sales are allowed — and what about profit?
Claims that dispensaries turn profits has been used by both federal and state law enforcement officials to shut down pot clubs. But barring medical marijuana operators from turning a profit was never on the table, said retired state Sen. John Vasconcellos, the author of 2003′s Senate Bill 420.
“It was a deal-breaker,” he said in a recent telephone interview. The bill does include language saying “nothing in this section shall allow,” a profit, but that does not mean a profit isn’t prohibited either, he said.
But since law enforcement officers have gone on record with this newspaper saying that medical marijuana is a sham, good luck using that one in court.
For more San Francisco politics and beyond, follow The Snitch on Twitter.
Courtesy of Courier Mail
A SINGLE-ENGINE plane crammed full of illegal drugs was intercepted by federal fighter jets today after it strayed into the airspace of Marine One — while President Barack Obama was on board — near Los Angeles International Airport.
The incident ended when the pair of F-16 fighter jets successfully escorted the plane to the ground. Local law enforcement boarded the plane and found it be part of a marijuana smuggling operation.
Sources said that authorities found more than 20 pounds (10 kilograms) of marijuana aboard the aircraft.
The President was never in danger, sources told NBC.
“Two F-16 fighters scrambled out of March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, to respond to a temporary flight restriction violation by a Cessna 182 aircraft over Los Angeles,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement Thursday.
“After intercepting the aircraft, the F-16s followed it until it landed without incident at approximately 12:30pm MST, where the plane was met by local law enforcement.”
Mr Obama was returning to the Los Angeles airport for a flight to San Francisco when the plane was intercepted.
Mr Obama had been in Los Angeles for a fundraising concert featuring the Foo Fighters.
by Chris Roberts, San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco’s medical cannabis dispensary program resumed licensing and inspecting medical marijuana collectives, Department of Public Health officials announced Monday. The move comes after the agency said last week that the application process was suspended.
Under clarified rules, existing dispensaries must sign a statement swearing that all medical marijuana sold on-site is cultivated in California and comes from a grower who is a member of the dispensary’s nonprofit collective.
The health department is responsible for inspecting and permitting The City’s 21 existing medical marijuana businesses and accepting applications for new clubs. New applications stopped being processed in December following a ruling in a state appeals court. In that case, Pack vs. the City of Long Beach, the court ruled that California cities violated federal law by regulating and permitting medical marijuana.
That ruling was vacated when the California Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal, and San Francisco’s city attorney gave the health department the green light to resume its program Jan. 20, but the department had announced last week that all applications were still on hold indefinitely.
Despite reviving the licensing and inspection program, some changes were made.
Several types of medical marijuana-laced food produced by companies outside San Francisco and sold at many dispensaries throughout the Bay Area are now banned at city dispensaries, according to a memo issued by Larry Kessler, a senior inspector at the health department who runs the dispensary program.
Dispensaries also “may not sell or distribute medical cannabis or medical cannabis products produced by commercial enterprises or by another collective/cooperative,” Kessler wrote.
San Francisco became the first city in California to license dispensaries when the Board of Supervisors passed the Medical Cannabis Act in 2005.
The city currently has 21 such businesses, down from 26 a year ago. Sine November, five have closed after receiving warning letters from Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California.
The City’s Planning Department is expected to hear two applications for new dispensaries in the Excelsior district at its Feb. 16 meeting, including one that submitted its application more than a year ago.
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/01/san-francisco-medical-marijuana-licensing-program-resumes#ixzz1lMC2RykU
by Chris Roberts, SFWeekly
San Francisco city officials indefinitely suspended the city’s medical marijuana dispensary permitting program on Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health.
Pending permits had been on hold since December, after a ruling in a state appeals court case halted similar permitting programs across California. That case was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and during the appeal, the city could resume processing permits, a spokesman for the City Attorney told SF Weekly last week.
But the city reversed its decision today. All medical cannabis dispensary permit applications are on hold indefinitely, according to Jim Soos, an assistant director of Policy and Planning with the city Department of Public Health, until the city can “receive assurance that it is in compliance with state and federal law.”
DPH staff made the decision to put all permits on hold in consultation with the City Attorney’s Office, which provides legal advice to all city departments, he said.
“We’re waiting for more clarity from the state on our ability to issue permits,” said Soos, who added that the federal Department of Justice’s recent closure of five permitted dispensaries also weighed on the city’s decision. “Until the Health Department can sort out the criteria driving the [Justice Department]‘s actions, it will not be issuing permits.”
A year ago, the city had 27 licensed dispensaries, with up to a dozen more applying for permits. Since then, five permitted San Francisco dispensaries have closed after receiving letters from Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. The letters informed the dispensaries’ landlords that they were in violation of federal law, and were subject to forfeiture of their property and up to 40 years in prison if the dispensaries didn’t close.
Jack Gillund, a spokesman for Haag, said the office had no comment.
The city was among the first in California to begin issuing permits to medical cannabis dispensaries in 2005, after the Board of Supervisors passed the Medical Cannabis Act, legislation authored by then-Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.
San Francisco’s medical cannabis dispensary program had been on hold following a state court of appeals ruling on Pack vs. the City of Long Beach. The court ruling said that a city issuing permits for medical marijuana by itself was a violation of federal law.
The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it would hear an appeal on the case. During the appeal, permits could start being processed again, the City Attorney said last week. A spokesman for the City Attorney’s office said earlier on Wednesday that that legal advice offered last week has not changed.
It is not immediately clear what influenced the city’s change of heart. Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said the office could not offer further comment, citing attorney-client privilege.
Sources inside the medical marijuana community are speculating that Haag’s office may have threatened San Francisco city officials with a lawsuit, in a manner similar to threats of a lawsuit issued to Mendocino County over its permitting process. That permitting process was canceled Tuesday.
It is also unclear who will issue legal advice to San Francisco on its ability to issue permits. In a letter sent to lawmakers last year, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said that the Legislature must offer more clarity on what the state’s medical marijuana laws allowed. A spokesman for Harris was not able to immediately comment Wednesday when contacted by SF Weekly.
by Paul Elias, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — The state’s high court will attempt to clarify marijuana’s hazy legal status in California.
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday voted unanimously to review how cities and counties regulate marijuana dispensaries.
The court will address whether local governments can bar the pot shops despite voter passage of Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana use with a doctor’s recommendation.
The court also will consider the continued conflict between state and federal authorities, who don’t recognize Proposition 215. Under federal law, marijuana is illegal in all forms.
An appellate court last year struck down Long Beach’s attempt to license pot stores, ruling that the local ordinance conflicted with federal law. Another appellate court upheld Riverside’s right to close and prohibit dispensaries.
The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments for the cases.
At The Apothecarium, a quaintly upscale medical marijuana club in San Francisco’s Castro District, the vibe is even jollier than usual this month. To boost holiday spirits, the dispensary is giving a storewide 15 per cent discount to patrons who donate to its canned food drive, making year-end contributions to local charities and raffling off a seriously spiked “ganja-bread” house made with a whopping 80 “doses” of pot-infused butter.
“We have a whole bunch of decorations up, holiday music playing. It’s pretty festive here right now,” said Ryan Hudson, The Apothecarium’s executive director. “Why not? We are just like any other business, in that regard.”
Maybe it was just a matter of time. Now that using marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia, some of the plant’s purveyors and advocates are putting a leafy slant on the winter season, a reliable sign of a maturing industry with its own customs, community outreach and commercial pull.
Nowhere is the high-ho-ho-ing of Christmas more evident than in Michigan and the five western states where storefront medical marijuana dispensaries have flourished. Despite the near-constant threat of law enforcement raids, some pot shops are stocking up on pumpkin and peppermint-flavoured edibles, serving as toy and winter coat collection points, and extending a dazzlingly creative assortment of holiday specials and gift-giving options to regular members.
The Yerba Buena Collective, a club with six locations in San Jose, California, launched its seasonal promotions after Thanksgiving, when it offered hourly promotions that included up to half off the expensive, smokeless vaporizers pot connoisseurs covet like some consumers prize big screen televisions and up to 30 per cent off concentrated cannabis waxes.
The dispensary, which is hosting a toy drive this season, also has put together a prepackaged US $100 gift box that comes up with two marijuana strains, hash, four pot-laced treats, a hemp energy drink imported from Amsterdam and the buyers’ choice of an herb grinder, a pipe or a lighter-rolling papers combination.
On its website, it advises customers the boxes are designed for “gift ideas, sampling packs, and most importantly SAVINGS!”
In gratitude for living in a state where marijuana is easy to come by, a Northern California legalization activist with a devoted YouTube following who goes by the stage name Coral Reefer organized a “Smoky Santa” giveaway for her loyal viewers. In exchange for a donation the amounts she received averaged US $13 110 people will receive a marijuana-themed holiday gift bag.
Reefer, 23, said she does not use her real last name because she does not want her online social network followers to know who she really is. And she did not want to disclose the bags’ contents to avoid ruining the Christmas surprise.
“I feel in California we can get really spoiled with what we have, especially when I get feedback from the rest of the country how they aren’t able to partake in cannabis at all,” she said. “So many viewers are young people and they feel like there is no friend they can smoke with, no adult they know who smokes and has a regular job, no community they can even talk to.”
Adding a charitable dimension to their operations in the face of continued federal raids is another way pot outlets build loyalty and legitimacy.
Kitty Miller, who along with her husband operates a twice-monthly cannabis farmers market in Washington state, was moved by the number of regular customers she saw struggling with illness or finances this year to give a philanthropic angle to their annual fall marijuana-tasting competition. Proceeds from the event, scheduled for Saturday night, will go toward providing Christmas dinner and gifts such as wheelchairs, children’s toys and clothing for needy medical marijuana patients.
Washington residents with doctors’ recommendations to use marijuana will be asked to pay US $80 to serve as judges in the contest, which Miller has dubbed the “Kindness Cup.” For the admission price, they will receive goodie bags filled with one-gram samples from the 11 growers who have entered the competition, tastes from the 27 entrants in the edibles category, 14 different marijuana salves, creams and cosmeceuticals, and an assortment of beverages.
“There are a lot of people who have suffered through hard times themselves, and the holidays speak to everybody’s hearts,” Miller said. “Harvest was a month, month-and-a-half ago for some (growers), and if at any time any of us have anything to give, it’s at this time.”
Reflecting the sophisticated tastes of experienced medical marijuana users, Millers’ market is selling 58 different holiday food products that come with an extra kick. The line includes peppermint chocolate bark, mint and gingerbread flavoured cocoa mixes, and “medicated” gingerbread house kits.
Starting early this morning, Canadian and American cities along the North American West Coast have been Occupying and closing down ports. The protests are said to span from Anchorage, Alaska down to San Diego, California.
This is the second time since the Occupy Wall Street Movement began that the Port of Oakland has been closed by Occupy protestors.
The Occupy Oakland camp is holding a General Assembly now at Frank Ogawa Plaza, better known among Occupiers as Oscar Grant Plaza, which will be followed by a march to the already closed Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth largest.
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