This column increased in size by 50 percent a few weeks ago, and yet there is still barely enough space for all the canna-news. Light one up and let's jump right in.
PUFF, PUFF, PUBLISH—Portland made national news this week when our branch of the USPS put out a memo to area newspaper publishers. In it, they reminded our modern-day William Randolph Hearsts that it is still illegal "to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance." It went on to say, "If an advertisement advocates the purchase of clinical marijuana through a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, it does not comply" with federal law.
This is problematic for newspapers that use USPS to mail copies of their editions, often to rural readers who may not have access to home delivery through other methods. As we know, cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, and there are federal laws against advertising for illegal substances. When you are as financially successful as the USPS, telling whomever you wish to "suck it" is just good business—especially when it's those fat-cat pillars of our economic engine, newspapers.
Oregon's elected officials quickly jumped in, with Representative Earl Blumenauer and Senator Ron Wyden asking the USPS for some insight on "what appears to be an outdated interpretation" of the law. Anyway, the next time you stealthily send your Iowa cousin a quarter of Oregon's finest, maybe don't include a copy of this paper.
NOT THAT CIVIL—Civil asset forfeiture is a perfectly sensible policy that allows the nice people in blue to seize money and possessions from you, even if you have not been charged or convicted of a crime. The Drug Policy Alliance released a study saying that 80 percent of those who have had property and cash seized have never been charged with any crime.
The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit civil liberties law firm, put out a report last month that states that the combined value of assets seized by the Justice and Treasury departments reached $5 billion in 2014, while the value of items taken by burglars hit $3.5 billion.
Does all that money come from cannabis businesses and consumers? No, but there are some disturbing examples of when it did: In February 2014, a 24-year-old black college student had $11,000 seized by officials at a Kentucky airport because his suitcase "smelled like marijuana." They found no guns, drugs, or evidence of a crime, but took all the money nonetheless.
Never mind that if you do work in the canna industry, you cannot legally open a bank account of any sort if your income is derived from cannabis-related activities. To that end, having cash on your person that you cannot otherwise place into a bank makes you a target for not only thieves, but Uncle Sam and local law enforcement as well. So try not to smell like weed, I guess. And good luck with that.
CLEANER CANNABIS FOR ALL—While all cannabis sold to medical and recreational buyers in Oregon must be lab tested, starting in June 2016 those lab tests are going to be stricter and offer more protection for consumers.
The labs will need to be state accredited, a process that will weed out (thanks, it just comes natural to me) those with questionable equipment and practices. Growers will no longer be allowed to cherry-pick the finest buds from their batch for testing, which will now screen for almost 60 pesticides. If your flower doesn't pass, prepare to have it destroyed while a state regulator oversees its death using something other than a bong.
As the ever-excellent Noelle Crombie reports in the Oregonian, these Oregon Health Authority rules will have a major impact. She writes, "The state requirements detail how each batch of cannabis should be tested and tracked, rules that set marijuana apart from other products people consume."
Crombie quotes David Farrer, a public health toxicologist with the Oregon Health Authority, who told her, "Every product that you purchase on the shelf you could trace back to the batch that was tested for pesticide. That is a tremendous amount of assurance that doesn't exist for any other agricultural product."