Those spending Christmas Eve without a home in Denver, Colorado this year were treated to a gift, that could only be given in a handful of states, with the intention of spreading cheer and raising awareness.
Nick Dicenzo, the founder of Cannabis Can, a Denver nonprofit organization, lead the group of volunteers to hand out one-thousand free pre-rolled joints to the homeless. Dicenzo explained that the intention of this “Cannamas” was to raise awareness about homelessness, and encourage people to donate to the Cannabis Can organization.
“You are not forgotten, you are appreciated, you are not alone.”
Is Cannabis Can’s slogan.
Cannabis Can volunteers grinding cannabis to be rolled into the joints given to the homeless.
The ultimate goal of Cannabis Can is to purchase several modified RV’s that will give those who are homeless a place to use the bathroom and shower. When asked what his response would be to those who don’t agree with what he is doing, Dicenzo said he would say,
“Merry Christmas, Happy Cannamas — would you like some rolling papers for tobacco?”
According to Colorado law, it is illegal to smoke marijuana in public, but it is legal to gift an adult up to one ounce of cannabis, so the joints were well within the legal limit. Those receiving the joints were required to be 21 years or older, and no cash exchange could take place.
Dicenzo handed out flyers and business cards with the joints, that contained information on where people can donate to the cause. He talked about the reason for saving up to purchase the RV’s for those in need,
“A lot of the people we spoke with really were just like, ‘if I had regular access to a shower, and a haircut my life would be so much better – I’d have so much more opportunity’.”
Dicenzo reported that not everyone accepted the joints, and explained that this gesture was about more than just giving away marijuana.
“‘Cannabis can make a difference,’ is kind of what we’re standing for.”
In a time that is meant to be filled with giving and good deeds, it is great to see cannabis being used to have a positive impact on the lives of those in need.
photo credit: Cannabis Can, The Denver Channel
The National College Athletic Association (NCAA), the non-profit responsible for regulating college athletics in more than twelve-hundred institutions across the United States, released a report in 2014 which revealed that cannabis was the most popular substance used among college athletes.
Over the last decade, more than one-third of the athletic programs within the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) have relaxed their punishments for positive marijuana tests, according to a recent Associated Press report.
By examining the drug policies of 57 of the 65 schools, it was determined that 23 of those universities have reduced positive test penalties or created policies which allow for more positive tests before disciplinary action is taken.
The Big Ten and the Big 12 control their own drug screens, along with the school and NCAA tests already in place. The other three conferences only require their student-athletes to face drug testing through the school and NCAA, and the NCAA has cut its penalty in half for drugs considered recreational, such as marijuana.
As the public view on marijuana has continued to change as states and cities have began making cannabis legal or decriminalized, it appears that the NCAA has been taking a similar stance with its young athletes. With four states legalizing marijuana use, including Oregon and Colorado where a number of Pac-12 schools are located, lessened disciplinary actions for a positive test makes sense.
Dr. Brian Hartline, the NCAA medical chief, believes the organization should spend more time focusing on testing for performance-enhancing drugs, and allow each individual university to decide how to handle disciplinary actions for recreational substances like cannabis.
“If we’re going to test at championship events for things that are illegal, then we shouldn’t just test for pot. If there are any kids under the age of 18 smoking cigarettes, we should test for that. We certainly should be testing for alcohol for everyone under the age of 21,”
“Then we ask ourselves, ‘Where does the moral authority stop?’ I’m all for moral authority as long as there is a philosophical consistency to it.”
The conferences, as well as the NCAA, have begun to focus on making recreational drug violations more of a rehabilitative situation, rather than strictly disciplinary. They are also working to make PEDs and other substances more of a focus through testing.
While the 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill for 2016 may not seem seem like a win for medical marijuana advocates on the surface, it actually is. For the second year in a row, provisions in the bill signed by President Obama on Friday December 18, lifts the federal ban on medical cannabis.
A measure within the 1,603-page bill permits each individual state to design it’s own medical marijuana policies, and prevents the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. In years past, the DOJ has ignored the rights of states who voted to legalize medical cannabis, which led to a number of raids and arrests involving dispensaries, doctors and cultivators.
Similarly to the 2015 spending bill, the 2016 version prevents the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state enacted medical marijuana laws. It also stops both federal organizations from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state industrial hemp research programs.
“The renewal of this amendment should bring relief for medical marijuana patients and business owners. For decades Congress has been responsible for passing disastrous drug laws,”
Commented Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
It’s encouraging to see them starting to roll back the war on drugs by allowing states to set their own medical marijuana policies.”
Not every provision embraced by the cannabis community was included in the final version of the 2016 spending bill. For example, language to permit Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans was not included in the version signed by President Obama. The V.A. will continue to deny services to veterans even in states where the use of medical marijuana is legal.
The federal government will also still be able to punish banks who do business with state-legal marijuana providers. Although these provisions gained momentum and support in the House and Senate, the provision to allow legal cannabis businesses access to banking was not included in the final bill.
“While marijuana was once treated like a dangerous third-rail by most elected officials, the inclusion of these provisions demonstrates how it has now become a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics and policymaking,”
Said Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority. “Polls show that a growing majority of voters support ending prohibition, and lawmakers can’t help but listen.” Angell also pointed out that this is the second year in a row that Congress has supported limiting the power that federal agents and prosecutors have in terms of interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
“Since the Justice Department is being so stubborn, the next step should be for lawmakers to pass permanent standalone legislation that goes beyond these temporary spending riders. Then the DEA will have a much harder time undermining Congress and voters.”
While attaching spending riders to federal legislation is not going to put an end to cannabis prohibition in the United States, it must start somewhere. Polls show that the majority of American voters support the legalization of cannabis, and a super majority support legalizing it for medicinal use.
Known for creating Napster and being the first president of Facebook, tech billionaire Sean Parker is now lending a hand to the campaign to legalize cannabis in California.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the organization leading the campaign, announced in an email to supporters that Parker will match every donation made to the California chapter.
Mason Tvert, the Communications Director of MPP, shared his reaction to Parker’s generosity,
“We’re very excited about the generosity he’s shown. This is someone who wants to see marijuana prohibition end and helped bring a lot of folks together, and now he’s putting his money where his mouth is.”
All donations, which can be for any amount but will not be tax deductible, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Parker. With California having the world’s eighth largest economy, the total cost of cannabis legalization could reach $20 million. Tvert pointed out that this fundraising effort will be crucial for taking the next steps towards legalization,
“This is going to be a very large and very expensive campaign and so I believe we really need to raise as much money possible to ensure we get it done this coming year.”
Parker is no stranger to philanthropic donations, as he has previously contributed to research funds for conditions like cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Recognizing that cannabis prohibition does more harm than good, Parker is now contributing to the initiative in California.
With 700,000 people arrested each year on non-violent marijuana charges in the United States, issues such as drug law reform and eliminating mass incarceration are gaining support from a new generation of activists.
According to Marijuana Law and Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance Amanda Reiman,
“This younger generation of activists — many millennials, many entertainers — are feeling less stigma about coming out about this issue. It’s safer. Folks our age care about this stuff — some just happen to have billions of dollars.”
San Francisco attorney Matt Kumin, received the MPP email last week and shared his thoughts.
“The more people contribute to it, the more it gains support. You start to generate grassroots enthusiasm when you get them involved in fundraising,”
he said. “There are things in this initiative I like and don’t like, but if California votes 60% for legalizing cannabis — you can affect the pace of change in the rest of the country.”
While the generous donations from Parker do not guarantee that legalization will become a reality in California, it will likely have a powerful impact the future of the initiative.
Click HERE to donate now.
photo credit: Stanford
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the medical marijuana laws in the Wolverine State do not offer legal protection for patients who consume cannabis in their personal vehicles. Following a 2-1 vote in Lansing, a precedent has been set dictating that registered medical marijuana patients cannot smoke cannabis while parked in their own car outside of a private business.
This ruling came after Robert Carlton was arrested for smoking medical marijuana inside his car in the parking of a Mt. Pleasant Casino. Carlton and his attorney contended that his vehicle is not open to the public and therefore he should be free from legal prosecution. Judges at the circuit and district levels agreed with this argument.
Unlike the circuit and district judges, the Court of Appeals judges did not side in favor of Carlton. They decided that although Carlton was inside of his vehicle at the time, it was parked in a public place which cancelled out the immunity extended to registered medical marijuana patients under the law.
According to judges Michael J. Kelly and Christopher M. Murray:
“The lot remains a public place and the fact that a person in a vehicle occupies a place that can be characterized as private in some limited sense does not alter the fact that the person is at the same time located in a public place. And, as with the bathroom stall, whether the members of the general public are able to see the person smoking medical marijuana does not alter the public character of the place.”
Douglas Shapiro, the third Court of Appeals Judge, did not agree with the majority opinion. He said that while the state medical marijuana law makes it illegal to consume cannabis on any form of public transportation, he believes that personal vehicles could be viewed as private locations in certain circumstances. To explain why he sided with the defendent, Shapiro wrote:
“The majority looks only at whether the vehicle itself is in a place defined as public. But the statutory language leaves open the possibility that in some circumstances a private vehicle can constitute a ‘private place’ even though it is located in an area to which the public has access.”
Michigan is working on plans to organize a medical marijuana system with more regulated dispensaries, grow operations and related businesses.