By C. Moon Reed
JUNE 30, 2017
Nearly 43 million tourists visit Las Vegas every year, and they’re all looking to experience freedoms they don’t get back home. For some people, that means outdoing the most clichéd Hollywood version of Sin City excess. But even a staid conventioneer can find excitement here — like, say, a ludicrously expensive steak at one of the many fancy restaurants.
On July 1, when recreational marijuana goes on sale in Nevada, one more thrill will be on offer.
Fremont Street gift shops already are profiting. Shelves of green ceramic ashtrays with the phrase “High from Las Vegas” now compete with the usual gambling-themed tchotchkes.
Visitors should have no problem purchasing marijuana at dispensaries near the Strip. But where will they consume it? Nevada allows for consumption only in private residences with the owner’s permission. Even if you could make the dubious argument that your hotel room is a “residence,” guess who won’t give their permission? Casino owners.
As of now, that means tourists can put their new pot-leaf shaped ashtrays to use exactly nowhere on the Strip. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Smoking outside dispensaries, at casinos or even in a parked car could result in a $600 fine.” The Nevada Gaming Commission has come out strong against marijuana. And a bill to create consumption lounges went nowhere. Or, put more cutely, it went up in smoke.
Cynical locals suspect that casinos want to ban marijuana because it doesn’t create the right kind of high. Alcohol produces a devil-may-care insouciance that’s conducive to gambling. Marijuana, on the other hand, will only help the bottom line of all-you-can-eat buffets. A paranoid stoner won’t dare to gamble — he’ll think the face cards are watching him.
While there might be some truth to the theory that casinos are reluctant to embrace a drug that causes giggles and sedation, the industry has a bigger reason to steer clear. Even though the American public views marijuana as (more or less) benign, the feds still classify it as a Schedule I drug. As long as it’s in any way illegal, casinos won’t hazard the ire of Big Brother. There’s too much money in the long-established vices — gaming, alcohol and tobacco — to risk everything on upstart entertainment.
The grand resort chains don’t want to risk losing their gaming licenses. That would destroy this town. And if that sounds like hypocrisy from an industry that encourages risk-taking, just remember that it’s the gamblers, not the house, who take on all the risk. (It’s perfectly true that the house always wins.)
But the Vegas mythology has always been about personal freedom, and my guess is that the casinos eventually will fall in line (even if only after the feds indicate they’ll turn a blind eye).
This isn’t the first time our state has defied federal prohibition. In 1923, Nevada repealed its alcohol ban, and Las Vegas saloons openly served booze. Every so often, feds would come up from Los Angeles to roust the lawbreakers, but that wasn’t much of a deterrent.
And so long as casino owners won’t, tourists surely will protect Nevada’s free-spirited values by breaking the rules. Many will get away with it. A suspicious skunky smell already wafts through Strip parking garages. Discrete and odorless edibles likely will be the most ubiquitous, followed by nearly odorless vape pens. Joints will pass anonymously through concert crowds, as they always have.
For visitors from Colorado and Washington — and let’s face it, California, even though full legalization won’t come into effect until January — the Strip’s continued prohibition might enhance the thrill-seeking experience. They’ll come to Vegas to remember how fun it was to smoke pot when it was still illicit.
Read more here.
Senate Bill 162 by state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica would "prohibit medical cannabis and nonmedical marijuana licensees from advertising [or] using branded merchandise," according to the bill. "A licensee shall not advertise medical cannabis or medical cannabis products through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product."
The legislation — it makes clear it would not apply to nonprofit or "noncommercial" speech — is part of a wave of bills intended to smooth out any rough edges included in Proposition 64, the November initiative that legalizes recreational weed in the Golden State. But the proposal would also apply to medical marijuana.
Allen's law intends to ensure that advertisers don't target folks younger than 21. It would limit television ads to times when "71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older," according to the language. This would apply to publications and websites, too. Direct advertisers would have to verify recipients are at least 21.
"At a time, when we are aggressively working to combat the misinformation and damage caused by the outdated Reefer Madness mentality, it would be a misguided mistake to ban cannabis small business owners from advertising and branding," Ryan Jennemann, co-founder of California cultivator THC Design, said via email.
"The proposed legislation would irreversibly harm the responsible efforts being made to re-educate and arm the public with the facts about cannabis, a plant less harmful than alcohol and tobacco," he said. "This concrete roadblock would only make it nearly impossible to arm patients with truth and must be stopped."
The Southern California Coalition, the largest trade group of marijuana businesses in Los Angeles, is also opposed to the proposal. "To ban small businesses from advertising, marketing and branding is ridiculous," the organization's executive director, Adam Spiker, said via email.
"The bill would materially hamstring small business owners' ability to grow in the land of opportunity," he said. "We are firmly against it, and will work to ensure lawmakers are aware of the harmful ramifications it would have."
Read more here.
By Joe Tacopino
June 6, 2017 | 6:52pm
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly had offered to resign amid ongoing friction over his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into ties between aides of President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Trump has berated Sessions in private meetings, blaming the Attorney General for the eventual appointment of a special counsel in the investigation which prompted Sessions to offer to resign, ABC News reported, citing multiple sources close to the president.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment about the offered resignation.
The report came just hours after White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to say if the president still had confidence in his attorney general.
“I have not had a discussion with him on the question,” Spicer said.
Sessions recused himself from the Russian inquiry in March after it was revealed that he misled Congress on his meeting with the Russian ambassador.
The attorney general’s recusal left the investigation in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel in May.
By Steven Nelson, Staff Writer | June 6, 2017, at 4:09 p.m.
Led by an outspoken legalization opponent, Jeff Sessions' Justice Department is reviewing federal marijuana policy, with significant changes possible soon. Almost nothing about the review process is publicly known and key players in the policy debate have not been contacted.
The outcome of the review could devastate a multibillion-dollar industry and countermand the will of voters in eight states if the Obama administration's permissive stance on non-medical sales is reversed.
What is known: The review is being conducted by a subcommittee of a larger crime-reduction task force that will issue recommendations by July 27. The subcommittee was announced in April alongside other subcommittees reviewing charging and sentencing.
The task force is co-chaired by Steve Cook, an assistant U.S. attorney in Tennessee who like Sessions advocates harsh criminal penalties and a traditional view of drug prohibition. The other co-chair is Robyn Thiemann, a longtime department official who works as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy.
The marijuana subcommittee is led by Michael Murray, counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, U.S. News has learned.
After graduating from Yale Law School in 2009, Murray ricocheted between law firms and public-sector jobs. He served less than a year as an assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia in 2013 before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, according to his LinkedIn page. He worked at the Jones Day law firm before joining the Trump Justice Department.
Murray could not be reached for comment and Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior declined to comment on the “deliberative processes within the department“ when asked to discuss Murray’s role.
The department declined to identify other members of the subcommittee, the scope of its policy review or name outside groups that are being consulted.
The lack of information provided and the seemingly secretive nature of the review has proponents of a more lenient marijuana policy concerned.
“It’s difficult to ascertain any clear information about the subcommittee and how they’re working,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group representing marijuana businesses.
Read more here.
DPA and ACLU of CA Sue City of Fontana to Uphold Rights Granted by California's Marijuana Legalization Law
June 6, 2017 - By Joy Haviland
Yesterday, the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU of California filed a lawsuit against the City of Fontana challenging a city ordinance that is intended to effectively prevent residents to enjoy the rights granted to them by Proposition 64 (also known as the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” or “AUMA”). The Fontana ordinance makes it unreasonably difficult and expensive for residents to cultivate marijuana at their private residence as Prop. 64 allows.
On November 8, 2016, the people of California voted in favor of Prop. 64, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six marijuana plants inside their private residence away from public view. While the new law allows cities to regulate indoor personal cultivation, they must do so reasonably and cannot prohibit anyone outright from cultivating.
Shortly after the law took effect, several cities acted against the will of the voters and adopted ordinances that are so restrictive they operate as a de facto ban on cultivation. And for some groups of people, such as people with a prior felony drug conviction, it is an outright ban. In Fontana—where Prop. 64 passed with 53.5 percent of the vote and with 52.5 percent in the surrounding San Bernardino County—the Mayor and City Councilmembers even boasted that they wanted this ordinance to be the most restrictive in the state and they hoped it would to deter people from cultivating marijuana.
In addition to being unreasonable and in conflict with Prop. 64, the ordinance violates several state constitutional rights. Among other problematic provisions, the ordinance requires residents to register with the city, undergo a criminal background check, open their home to city officials for an inspection, and pay an expensive fee before obtaining a permit that would allow them to grow marijuana plants in their private home. If someone cultivates marijuana but fails to obtain the city permit they are subject to a misdemeanor even though the conduct is legal under state law.
The Drug Policy Alliance’s affiliated organization, Drug Policy Action, served as a co-chair of the Prop. 64 campaign committee. DPA is committed to making sure the measure is implemented the way that the voters of California intended.
The primary purpose of legalization is to reduce the criminalization of adults for using, possessing, and cultivating marijuana. The overwhelming majority of states that have legalized the adult use of marijuana have also legalized the personal cultivation of marijuana plants at a private residence. Personal cultivation also gives consumers a legal alternative to retail marijuana, which cannot be purchased in the state until 2018, and to marijuana in places where local governments legally choose to ban marijuana businesses. (Medical patients, however, may continue to purchase medical marijuana at dispensaries.)
Read more here.
Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.