By Peter Firmrite / SF Chronicle May 27th
TRINIDAD, Humboldt County — Pot politics are nothing new to Sunshine Johnston, who has been cultivating cannabis on her organic farm near the famous Avenue of the Giants for many years. But the emergence of land speculators in the Emerald Triangle is threatening to ruin her bucolic buzz.
Johnston, her friends, neighbors and fellow growers are perturbed by hordes of high rollers who are snapping up every old ranch, logging tract and forested parcel that go on the market.
The scramble for land in Humboldt County and, to a lesser extent, Mendocino County, is an apparent attempt by entrepreneurs to cash in on the possible legalization in November of recreational pot peddling in California.
“The way people are behaving is like multinational corporations in Third World countries,” said Johnston, 43, who runs a growers cooperative called Sunboldt Grown that sells medicinal and “artisanal” weed. “There’s a feeling of a free-for-all and of people taking advantage of the local community.”
The land grab is happening here in part because Humboldt has name cachet in the weed world and because the county was the first in California to adopt a commercial marijuana land use ordinance.
‘It’s pot on crack’
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While the use of marijuana is skyrocketing in California, two bills aimed at cracking down on motorists who drive under the influence of pot were shelved Friday after cannabis industry officials said they were not supported by science.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee sidelined a measure by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) that would have made it a crime for a person who has 5 nanograms or more of THC, the active ingredient in pot, per milliliter in their blood to drive a vehicle.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also killed a measure by Republican Sen.Bob Huff of San Dimas that would have allowed law enforcement officers to useoral swab tests to strengthen cases.
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The U.S. House took action to increase military veterans’ access to medical marijuana on Thursday.
By a vote of 233-189, representatives approved an amendment preventing the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) from spending money to enforce a current policy that prohibits its government doctors from filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.
The language is now attached to a bill funding the V.A. and military construction efforts through next year.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on its version of the legislation later on Thursday. Medical cannabis protections for veterans were added to that bill last month in bipartisan vote of 20-10 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is not expected that any senators will offer floor amendments to strike the marijuana provision before passage.
“One of the great concerns we have is how the two million young Americans who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan reintegrate back into society,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the House amendment’s sponsor, said in a floor debate early Thursday morning. “What I hear from veterans that I talk to is that an overwhelming number of them say that medical marijuana has helped them deal with PTSD, pain and other conditions, particularly as an alternative to opioids.”
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Black and Latino teens in Colorado are being arrested for marijuana offences at a disproportionate rate to their white counterparts, and the disparity has grown since recreational use of the drug was legalised.
A report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety found that between 2012 and 2014 arrests of black adolescents between 10 and 17 years old increased by 58%, while among Latino adolescents arrests were up by 29%.
Meanwhile, among white adolescents the number of arrests fell by 8% overall.
Colorado residents voted to legalise recreational use of marijuana for users over 21 years old in 2012, with the law coming into effect in 2014.
Most juvenile arrests are for possession, for which offenders typically pay a fine.
According to the report, Colorado elementary and secondary schools saw a 34% increase in the number of cannabis arrests between 2012 and 2014.
In what could only be described as a desperate smear campaign evidencing the last vestiges of propaganda from the failed war on drugs, corporate media warped the findings of a study about cannabis-related car crashes to the point of being unrecognizable.
On Tuesday, AAA’s safety foundation released a report concerning cannabis impairment and driving, which proved blood testing drivers for THC holds no scientific validity and should be abandoned. But a second part of the report found that — strictly statistically speaking — car crashes involving drivers who had consumed cannabis were on the rise.
In fact, the number of people involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for cannabis did rise — a statistical doubling — but several caveats that should have also been reported by the mainstream press were flatly ignored.
First, and of no small importance, cannabis isn’t even close to the leading cause of fatal crashes. In fact, when it comes to deadly accidents where the driver tested positive for cannabis, “most” had also consumed alcohol or other drugs.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, of 592 drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2013, 38 tested positive for cannabis. In the following year, of 619 deadly crashes, the number testing positive for cannabis jumped to 75. However, as Staci Hoff, Research Director for WTSC, explained:
“Most of these drivers, these 75 drivers, also had alcohol or other drugs” in their systems. Over a five-year period, just 1.8 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers who tested positive only for cannabis.
“So, in our study, we looked at all five years of date, 2010 to 2014,” Hoff continued, “and there were never 3,000 drivers involved in these fatal crashes during that time period. Only 56 of them had THC and only THC, nothing else.”
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The sons of a Colorado woman shot to death in 2014 have filed what appears to be the country's first wrongful-death lawsuit against the recreational marijuana industry.
The lawsuit claims that the company that made the marijuana candy and the store that sold it to Richard Kirk recklessly and purposefully failed to warn him about the bite-sized candy's potency and side effects - including hallucinations and other psychotic behaviors.
Hours after Kirk purchased the marijuana candy on April 14, 2014, his wife, Kristine Kirk, 44, called 911. She said her husband was ranting about the end of the world and jumping in and out of windows at their home in Denver's Observatory Park neighborhood.
All three of the couple's young sons heard the gunshot that killed their mother.
Their youngest son, who was 7 at the time, watched his mother die, according to an amended complaint that was filed on Monday night.
Kirk now faces one count of first-degree murder in his wife's death.
A partially eaten Karma Kandy Orange Ginger candy was found at Kirk's Observatory home after the shooting. The candy - which was roughly the size of a Tootsie Roll - contained 10 servings of THC, with each serving containing about 10 milligrams. THC is the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
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Marijuana impairment in drivers is hard to measure.
There's no established scientific standard that's equivalent to the well-known blood-alcohol content level. Pot's active ingredient, THC, can stay in your system for days, without much indication that you could be long past a state of highness.
"The presence of active THC is generally suggestive of recent marijuana use," the Auto Club of Southern California says in a statement. But that's about as much as you can say about it, scientifically speaking.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently analyzed lab results of drivers arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana and concluded that "legal limits for marijuana and driving are problematic," according to the Auto Club of Southern California.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.