Thursday, September 29, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter In New Marijuana Legalization Video from #Yeson64

by David Downs
Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 11:51 AM

Marijuana is a leading driver of race-based police brutality in America, according to a new video released online this week from a group helping to legalize cannabis in California.

Hot off the heels of their incendiary Jay-Z video on mass incarceration, the Drug Policy Alliance has released “It’s Not Legal Yet: Why We Must Legalize Marijuana in California,” highlighting the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Blacks and Latinos.

Even though California decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 2010, Black and Latinos continue to get pot tickets at far higher rates than whites in California. They’re also overrepresented among California’s 25,000 or so annual arrests for things like selling pot or growing it. California had nearly 500,000 arrests for marijuana from 2006 to 2015.

The DPA notes:
Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana felonies. Latinos are 35 percent more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana offense: 45 percent more likely for a misdemeanor and 26 percent more likely for a felony. Further, marijuana infraction enforcement in Los Angeles and Fresno was nearly four times more severe for Black Californians and 1.5 times more severe for Latino Californians than whites.
“With gripping images and narration, this short film raises up the critical racial and social injustice issues at stake under marijuana legalization in California,” stated Lynne Lyman, California state director for Drug Policy Action. “It upholds Brave New Films’ tradition of making hard-hitting films on the most pressing issues in our communities.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Amoeba Records Hits Big With Pot Shop Permit in Berkeley

by David Downs
Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 9:26 AM

Last October, we broke the news that cannabis might be helping to save the music industry. Amid the collapse of record sales and the rise of legal cannabis, musicians are launching marijuana brands. Also, the West Coast’s most famous record store, Amoeba Records, had opened a medical marijuana doctor’s office, and was applying for a coveted license to sell medical cannabis in Berkeley

Last week, those plans came to fruition: The Berkeley City Council agreed to grant the ailing record store a license to dispense medical cannabis from their Telegraph Ave. store. The store will be called BC3, for Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective, at 2465 Telegraph Ave.


“We. Got. The. Berkeley. Dispensary. Permit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A record store and a dispensary, who could have imagined this awesomeness?!?!?!?!?!?” wrote Amber Senter, Amoeba permit team member,  on Facebook.

It could be a minimum of several months before any Amoeba Records Dispensary sees its first customers. The records store’s conversion of its jazz room and exterior requires approvals from Berkeley’s Department of Planning and Development.

Berkeley council also approved another pot-shop dispensary, to be operated by the group behind San Francisco’s enormously successful, well-run, award-winning The Apothecarium. Berkeley’s The Apothecarium will be at 2578 Shattuck Ave.

These two new permits come after Council awarded a permit to its first Black, female, senior citizen pot shop owner Sue Taylor.

Competition was fierce for Taylor’s permit, and Council agreed to add two more permits after she won hers. Berkeley currently has three licensed, operational dispensaries: Berkeley Patients Group, CBCB, and BPCC. BPCC led a campaign to oppose any new permittees near its small, low-profile store on Telegraph Ave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Plan Would Require City of Oakland To Be Part Owner of Any New Marijuana Business

by David Downs
Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 11:05 AM

Is the city of Oakland looking to profit off of the local marijuana business?

That's the plan, at least according to a new proposal put forward by Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Larry Reid, and Noel Gallo. They want to require any new Oakland pot company to make the city a partner — and direct revenue from the cannabis industry to elected officials’ special projects.

The idea, however, might run afoul of several laws — such as state medical-pot regulations that ban an entity from owning multiple cannabis licenses.

Specifically, Oakland would require new pot-shop owners to give the city 25 percent ownership stake in a business, plus one seat on a company’s board. Companies that don’t cut Oakland in would not get a permit and thus would not be allowed to operate under local or state law.

The proposal builds on Oakland’s Equity Permit Program, which sends convicted Drug War offenders to the front of the line for new canna-business permits. Residents of certain police beats would also be prioritized under the program.

Brooks’ pitch to take the city directly into the local pot biz will come up at next week’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

But Brooks’ plan might not be legal, according to state Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle on the matter. City revenue from owning pot businesses would flow directly to three city programs. “One of them, the Hispanic Engineers, Builders & Contractors of California, has no website or state records, and is run by a childhood friend of Gallo’s,” the Chronicle reports.

Read the city proposal to mandate part-ownership of local businesses below:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Watch: The Revolutionary Jay Z Video Op-Ed Against The Drug War

by David Downs
Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 7:22 AM

New York hip-hop mogul Jay Z’s latest hit isn’t a song — it’s an op-ed in the Grey Lady.

The New York Times opinion piece “The War on Drugs Is An Epic Fail” is an illustrated video narrated by the platinum-selling artist and highlighting pot prohibition and legalization's racial inequity. 

The video was produced with drug-law reformers Drug Policy Alliance — who held a Washington, D.C., meeting on racial equity in legal pot this week — as well as Revolve Impact. Viral videos and the internet more broadly are helping to drive support for pot prohibition's end to historic levels.

Illustrated by Molly Crabapple, the video promises to “educate millions of people about the devastation wrought on the African American community because of the drug war,” stated Asha Bandele, Senior Director for Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects at the Drug Policy Alliance. “That it is offered at a moment when policymakers are finally joining advocates in demanding an end to the architecture that actually incentivizes biased policing and police violence makes it especially timely,” said Bandele.

On Facebook she wrote: "The drug war has created or driven policies that incentivize extrajudical killing. It's one tool we can take out of their evilass box. Thank you #JayZ"

“As a resident of California, I am especially pleased that this video speaks directly to the heart of economic equity,” stated Dream Hampton of Revolve Impact.  She stated, “In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, which is the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever. It not only reduces and in many cases eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, but it’s retroactive, meaning people needlessly sitting in jail for small amounts of marijuana, can get out and have their records expunged. Plus, it drives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to communities most harmed by police and the criminal justice system,” Hampton stated.

On Thursday, the DPA briefed Congress on diversity in the cannabis industry, where less than one percent of the growing legalized market is owned and/or operated by individuals of color. Structural barriers in highly regulated pot markets block entry for people without large amounts of money, political connections, and a clean record.

Jay Z notes in his video that since 1970, blacks and other marginalized groups were targeted by the drug war, leading to unprecedented mass incarceration, marginalization and poverty. Today, one in ten black men will be imprisoned in their lifetimes.

“It is clear the historical enforcement of cannabis prohibition has been overwhelmingly against people of color, now we are seeing the systematic exclusion of people of color through the state procurement process for licensing cannabis operators," said Dr. Malik Burnett, a physician at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "It’s simply unequal treatment under the law by another name. Minority cannabis operators from around the country are coming together to discuss how we can stop this discrimination and use the cannabis industry to create equity, economic justice, and restore communities most impacted by the failed war on drugs," he said.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Major Donors Attack Pot Legalization Nationwide

by David Downs
Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 9:42 AM

Two major donations have come in to uphold pot prohibition in California and Arizona.

In Arizona, the makers of the deadly painkiller Fentanyl gave $500,000 to defeat that state's legalization effort, which is barely polling at 50 percent.

And today in California, the Los Angeles Times reports a millionaire from Pennsylvania has contributed $1.3 million to defeat Proposition 64, which would legalize adult use of cannabis in the Golden State.

Prop. 64 allows adults 21-and-over to carry an ounce of pot in public,  grow up to six plants, and keep the entire harvest.

A millionaire retiree on the other side of the country, Julie Schauer hopes to deny Californians with her donation to the No on 64 Committee. Schauer obtained the money from a family trust, the Times reports.

The national group opposing legalization, Project SAM, said not all of Schauer’s $1.3 million will be spent opposing pot user’s rights in California. Project SAM is fighting against legalization in a half-dozen states this year.

The L.A. Times reports anti-pot forces in California have raised a total of less than $300,000. Prop. 64 supporters have donated $6 million.

Prohibition supporters only need to raise a fraction of what proponents must take in, experts say. That’s because Prop. 64’s majority support is relatively soft. No on 64 has touted polls showing they can move support from 61 percent in favor to just 40 percent with only one ballot argument: kids and pot advertising.

A new poll released over the weekend found Prop. 64 polling at 71 percent support, but analysts note that support promises to erode as voters begin to hear arguments against the initiative.

Legalization opponents argue that taxing and regulating the plant will endanger youth and cause public health problems.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tickets On Sale Now for 'Route 64': A Special Marijuana Legalization Discussion and Event

by Nick Miller
Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Want to learn more about the finer details of Proposition 64, the ballot measure that would legalize adult-use marijuana in California?

Of course you do. That's why, on Tuesday, October 11, the Express will host a very special panel discussion of Prop. 64 at Berkeley's David Brower Center.

Tickets are on sale now. Admission comes with drinks and light snacks afterward, and an opportunity for further discussion with panelists and guests.

More details coming soon, so check back here or RSVP at our Facebook event page!

Email Nick Miller at with questions.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Maryland Medical Marijuana So White, Meetings To Be Held

by David Downs
Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 11:47 AM

About a third of Maryland residents are Black, but not a single one of them have obtained a golden ticket to dispense medical marijuana in the state’s new system.

That is cause for an upcoming meeting between the state’s medical marijuana commissioner and the attorney general, The Baltimore Sun reports Thursday.

Medical marijuana law in Maryland specifically allows officials to consider applicants’ race when doling out licenses. But the state’s attorney general said race-aware licensing would be unconstitutional, so the state’s licensing commission never tried it.

That’s a deep irony, given Maryland’s long history of race-based policing, The New York Times reported in 2015. “Racial profiling continues despite the fact that it is against the law of the United States; it’s against Maryland law,” one source told the Times.

None of the 30 companies handpicked to be in Maryland’s medical pot system are led by Blacks, the Sun reports. The remaining 811 applications for up to 94 dispensaries are being reviewed without regard to race, the Sun reports.

Maryland’s medical marijuana law is one of the few that specifically states regulators should “actively seek to achieve" diversity.

The Maryland Attorney General’s office agrees “the commission could have done more to achieve racial diversity,” the Sun reports. A legal challenge from the Legislative Black Caucus could loom.

In contrast to California’s relatively wide-open medical marijuana law of 1996, subsequent state systems have become increasingly restrictive — sometimes requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars on-hand to qualify for application review. East Coast dispensaries are often chaired by local power brokers, like retired police chiefs, and relatives of politicians.

Good faith efforts to ensure lawful operators often act as a barrier to less wealthy, less connected applicants, who may have a past conviction from the pot trade, critics note. 

In related news, Berkeley officials considered race when they awarded the city's most recent new dispensary permit.

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