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Which States Are Most Likely to Legalize Pot in 2018?

The election is still a ways off, but one state has legalized pot already in 2018.
Vermont made history back in January by becoming the first state to ever pass a recreational cannabis law through the legislature – as opposed to putting it up for a popular vote. And there are almost a dozen states that are slated to have cannabis legislation on the ballot in November.
So which states will be the next to legalize, and join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and D.C.? Here are the top contenders…

The Top Three

1. New Jersey
Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey running on a very progressive platform, which includes support of marijuana legalization. He promised to sign a recreational use bill into law – if the Democrat led legislature can send one to his desk.
There are currently two proposed bills: one would legalize recreational use for adults 21 and over; the other would decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis. But polling shows that New Jersey voters are pretty evenly split, with 49 percent in favor of legalized pot, and 44 opposed. So there is no guarantee that either of the proposed bills has enough support to make it to the governors desk.
2. Michigan
In Michigan, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has been hard at work to get a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot. They needed 252,523 signatures on their petition, and they collected and submitted more than 360,000 signatures. Now they’re waiting on the Secretary of State’s office to verify the signatures. If confirmed, then the Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative will be up for a popular vote on November 6th. And with recent polls showing 61 percent in favor of legalization, there’s a strong chance that the measure could pass.
3. Connecticut
Earlier this month, an appropriations committee in Connecticut voted to approve house bill 5394, a recreational marijuana bill. The bill calls for state officials to develop a plan for the legalization and regulation of cannabis, as well as expanding substance abuse treatment, education and prevention. The plan is due to be completed by October 1st, at which point it would have to be voted on by the General Assembly, where it still faces some strong opposition.

Other States to Watch:

New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware have all formed committees to evaluate the impact of recreational marijuana markets in their respective states. They are facing the reality of their neighbors – Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont – passing recreational cannabis legislation. The committees are to put forth recommendations for the state legislature, but whether we see any bills up for a vote this year is still up in the air.
Ohio is still working on a recreational marijuana measure, but the deadline to get it on this year’s ballot is rapidly approaching and nothing has been submitted so far. They need to submit the measure and petition more than 305,000 valid signatures by July 4th in order to vote on it in November. And their failed bid in 2015 shows that organizers in Ohio are struggling to bring the interested parties together on this issue.
Finally, Oklahoma and Utah both have medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year. And a number of other states have bills being considered that would legalize medical marijuana, including Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina.

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Grow Lights: How to Choose the Right One

It is tempting to believe that there is such thing as the perfect grow light. A single radiant source that simply out performs everything else out there. Such a light does not exist at the moment but we have a few options. Even sunlight (the full spectrum, nuclear powered, plasma-based grow light in the sky) can damage plants if the rest of their environment is not well suited to them. Cultivators have to choose the right grow light for the right situation.
There are a few key considerations when debating between the most common lighting methods available. Using good old sunlight should work if you live anywhere near the equator but for those in the north or south need to rely on artificial means if they want to produce all year. Different growing techniques lend themselves to different setups as well.
Plasma, Induction, Ceramic Metal Halide, there are a lot of variations when it comes to lighting but for todays discussion we will be limiting the conversation to the three most popular methods. The lights we will discuss are easily obtainable, proven effective and utilized across the industry as the benchmarks that all others must compare to. There is a bit of variation within each category but they all function similarly (although you may need more than a wall socket for some).

Cultivators must consider the size of their garden.

Using a 1000-watt grow light in a two-foot by four-foot closet is generally wasteful and can lead to a lot of unnecessary problems like overheating. On the other hand, trying to cover a commercial garden with a 40,000 sq. ft. canopy in Compact Florescent Lights (CFL) won’t produce the same level of production as other lighting methods.
Growers working with small spaces need to prioritize heat dissipation over light penetration. While higher wattage lights provide more energy for your plants to work with, if the heat they produce is too much, it can stunt the plants growth. Using Compact Florescent (CFL) ballasts over High Pressure Sodium (HPS) or Metal Halide (MH) options can reduce heat buildup in small spaces while Light Emitting Diode (LED) ballasts provide a balanced mix of heat and light at a higher price point.
If you are growing more than 2-3 plants and have enough space for dedicated heat exhaust ducting, an HPS or MH light might be the right solution. The extra space needed to process the heat given off by these lights is made up for in high production levels. There are several sizes ranging from 150 up to around 1000 watts and each is designed to cover a different sized area.

Complexity is also a major consideration with grow lights.

There is a lot more to growing dank herb than sticking a seed in the ground and waiting for mother nature to work her magic. Top producers monitor every element of their operation with grow logs and performance metrics. Most growers can get away with going by eye and only measuring when they must but that won’t produce those head-sized colas that win competitions or get featured on the cover of High Times.
Adjusting CO2 generators, maintaining air conditioners and dehumidifiers, setting timers, calibrating sensors and monitoring schedules are all part of a commercial operation and can quickly add layers of complexity to a seemingly simply project. Getting the most advanced or largest lights possible may add extra layers of complexity like running exhaust ports, vent fans and electrical lines.
Having to install an extra circuit breaker is pretty frustrating but having to get the power company to upgrade the lines and transformers heading to your place in order to put in extra HPS lights can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Using LED lights may have a higher initial investment cost (making quality versions expensive) but the energy savings add up over time.grow light

Budget is always important with grow lights.

Sometimes bigger isn’t better. If all you are doing is looking to offset the cost of buying cannabis, getting a massive light and converting the garage into a clean room worthy of NASA may not be the best route. A low cost (albeit moderate output) closet operation may work better, especially if you don’t consume only the freshest of rosin.
There are tons of options on the market for a small space grow operation with everything in a single kit. The kits normally come with a light, maybe a few pots or hydroponic bays, and they actually work pretty well (in general). They are more expensive than building it yourself but offer significantly higher quality than most people can cobble together on their own. If your goal is to make money, customization is the name of the game.
Installing LED lighting in an industrial in-door grow operation is almost a must. The initial cost is more than offset by the increased operational life of the ballasts along with the drastic (up to 30%) savings on energy. Industrial and commercial operations may still utilize CFL lights for seedling growth given the low overall cost of operating fluorescents.

When it all comes down to performance, a leader emerges.

In the end, we all want the best bang for our buck. CFL’s are great for seedlings/clones but not great for vibrant vegetative/flowering growth. Their low operating temperature also makes using them fairly basic. A low-cost alternative to LED’s for small-scale growers, CFL’s offer a solid base of performance to work up from.
HPS and MH lights offer greater output than CFL’s and are best for medium to large operations. They are specialized to vegetative and flowering and scale well for larger operations. The excess heat HPS and MH light produce compared to other options needs to be dealt with through specialized ducting or increased air conditioning but many ballasts offer specialized ports to make this easier for large strings of grow lights.
LED grow lights offer the highest performance of any grow light option but also come with the highest cost. While they don’t require the ducting of the HPS and MH lights, LED’s provide as intense of a light as any other option.  In addition to being the right intensity, LED’s require far less maintenance with a projected operating life measured in years, not months.

What is your end goal?

We have only toughed on the surface of grow lights and how to choose between them. If you want to get started quickly and easily, look into an assembled unit. It makes all the difference to have a station ready for you and not have to make all the little decisions yourself. Once you get the feel of things, you will likely be able to work with the prebuilt to fit your preferred style of growing until you are ready to do things a little bigger.
If your goal is to make money and you are just getting started, investing in HPS and MH lighting for vegetative growth and flowering along with some CFL may be the right call. Their overall cost is doable and they provide a great end product with a few extra considerations.  This is the most common setup for small to medium indoor growers looking to turn a profit.
If money is no object or you are working on a massive scale, LED lights provide the best returns over time. With minimal energy drain compared to other lights and the low operating temperature makes the energy savings a real consideration. Many units can also provide full spectrum light or specialized wavelengths for different plant cycles making them more versatile than the HPS and MH which must be switched between cycles.
Let us know what you chose to light your garden and why in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

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DEA: Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug

Marijuana has been called a gateway drug for over 80 years.

The battle lines were drawn long before anyone currently driving the gateway debate had assumed power. Political figures have demonized cannabis and those who consume it for almost a century and worked to create a massive industrial prison complex designed to harvest people. Low income and minority people have borne the brunt of the assault.
Americans have been tricked into accepting the most ridiculous claims about cannabis and a whole generation of people have grown up behind bars because of it. Politicians have used slippery speech to sway public opinion and outright changed the law in order to suite their desires for decades. When Reagan and Clinton enacted laws that put more people in jail than the Romans had slaves.
Larry Anslinger didn’t care about how many would suffer without the healing properties of cannabis, he was motivated by an zealous hatred for the plant to create the movie Reefer Madness. President Nixon was motivated by a religious desire to punish people regardless of what his own investigators proved. Reagan had no mercy for people caught in the crossfire when he enacted draconian mandatory punishments for minor drug infractions.gateway

We stand at the dawn of a new era of American drug policy.

Despite an abundance of empirical evidence about the medical benefit of cannabis from reputable medical professionals from the Shafer Commission to Sanjay Gupta, it remains a schedule 1 controlled substance. This classifies weed as having “no medical benefits” and creates massive hurdles for scientists and doctors looking to research cannabis. It also puts it in the same medical category as heroin.
With the rise of Trump and the appointment of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, the entire industry is bracing for another impact. Part of the collective wince comes from the evasive actions of top officials on the matter through election season. Instead of giving clear messages about how they plan to pursue policy, government officials are as vague as possible about how they plan to pursue policy.
This evasive attitude has made many wary of the how the Trump Administration plans to deal with cannabis. Statements in the past by Jeff Sessions like “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” and his past issues of discriminatory prosecution during the Civil Rights movement has helped to stir up old debates.

The debate surrounding legalizing marijuana has resurrected the Gateway Theory.

This theory presumes that experimenting with marijuana inevitably results in the use of harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Until recently, the DEA website contained dozens of lies and inaccuracies and it begrudgingly changed them only after being threatened with legal action.
Many people don’t know that it is illegal for federal agencies to spread incorrect information. Yet when it comes to cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been doing it for years. In less than a month, a petition from Change.org calling on the DEA by a to stop lying about medical cannabis received 85,000+ signatures.
The petition was started by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nonprofit organization working to increase access to medical cannabis. “The DEA has actually admitted that the theories that cannabis use leads to harder drugs (gateway theory), long-term brain damage, psychosis, and other alleged harms, are not based in scientific fact, and yet they keep distributing this false information”, says ASA. “[W]e have found 25 instances of these false claims on their website.”

The petition for updated information was direct and their arguments were air-tight.

The group argued that the document previously known as “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” had a few inaccurate claims about cannabis.  They showed how the page was in violation of the Information Quality Act which requires that administrative agencies provide accurate information to the public. The DEA also had to respond to requests for correction of information within 60 days.
A separate petition was filed by the Department of Justice demanding that the DEA immediately update misinformation about cannabis. While neither the DEA nor the DOJ responded to ASA’s request, the document which contained the majority of the inaccurate statements was removed from their website.
But the governement is made up of more people than ever before. There is a lot of room for competing ideologies and goals to play out. A key observation of the Shafer Commission is that many of the risks of drug use are the result of drug policy/enforcement rather than from the drugs themselves.

The “gateway drug” stigma refuses to die.

A prime example of how this stigma presents itself is New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He wants to keep cannabis illegal in New York State because it “leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of truth to proof that that’s true.” He holds this view despite the results of a major study on medical marijuana conducted by the venerable Institute of Medicine, which included an examination of marijuana’s potential to lead to abusing other drugs.
The study found that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” Even the DEA has gone on record to say “Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances,” while refusing to reschedule cannabis in August of 2016.
The continuing stigma prevents meaningful reform of marijuana laws by perpetuating harmful misinformation.  A Rasmussen poll found that a large percentage of Americans believe the gateway argument. Nearly half of voters (46%) believed marijuana use leads to harder drugs. Thirty-seven percent (37%) did not see marijuana as a “gateway” drug.

Patterns in progression of drug use are strikingly regular.

Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people come across. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs used marijuana before the harder stuff. In fact, most adult users begin with alcohol and nicotine long before moving on to cannabis and other illicit drugs.
In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a thorough study which researchers spent 12 years putting together. They tracked a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers reported that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also detrimental to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse.
The myth of the Gateway effect needs to be put to rest once and for all. The more research that is conducted the clearer it becomes that cannabis use does not lead to abuse of other drugs. Some promising research has also shown that cannabis can actually help people kick the other stuff like heroine. As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, it is more important than ever to put the gateway myth to rest. Thanks for reading.
 

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Marijuana Policy Under President Trump

President Trump. Those are two words I thought would never be uttered together. But much to my dismay, Donald Trump has won the election, and is now on his way to become President of the United States of America.
So what does this mean for the future of the legalization movement, and the War on Drugs?
It’s difficult to say what position Trump himself takes on the issue. He told reporters last year that, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue.”
But how much of what this man says can we really believe? He has proven that he will say anything to please the electorate and/or generate media coverage. And his stance on legal pot has changed quite a bit through the years – at one point he was reportedly even in favor of legalizing all drugs – and he has repeatedly spoken out against recreational pot.
So on the issue of cannabis, like on so many others, Trump is basically a big, fat question mark. There is no telling what he really thinks, or what he will do when he takes office.
Perhaps the best way to determine how the Trump administration will approach drug policy is to take a look at his appointments. Who is he surrounding himself with? Who is he putting in positions of power?
And that’s where it starts to get really ugly.
Trump announced his pick for attorney general this week: senator Jeff Sessions. For those of you who don’t know who he is, the Republican senator from Alabama basically embodies every Hollywood stereotype of a white lawyer from the deep south… He makes racist jokes at work, and refers to black co-workers as “boy.” He called the NAACP a communist organization. He opposes the Voting Rights Act and supports mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders.
He admitted to making the following “joke” to his colleagues while serving as prosecutor in Alabama: “I was fine with the Klu Klux Klan until I found out they smoked pot.”
That one statement, I think, sums up who Jeff Sessions is, what he believes, and his attitude toward marijuana (among other things). And if you’re a pot smoker, a person of color, or anyone who cares about civil rights and criminal justice reform, the thought of Sessions assuming the position of America’s top prosecutor should send shivers down your spine.
Fortunately, his appointment does have to be confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate is still in Republican hands. We can only hope that there are enough senators of good conscience, on both sides of the isle, who will be willing to risk “the wrath of Trump” in order to oppose his appointment of a notorious racist to be next U.S. attorney general.
Whether Sessions gets confirmed or not, the fact that he was picked in the first place is troubling enough. It’s a clear sign of which direction the President-Elect plans to take this country during his term: backwards.
At a time when 60% of Americans support recreational marijuana, when 8 states plus D.C. have already voted for it, and no less than 28 states have medical marijuana programs in place, Trump taps a guy whose drug policy is reminiscent of Reagan and Anslinger. Despite the growing consensus that cannabis needs to removed from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, and decriminalized at the federal level, Trump is assembling a cabinet that will do anything but.
It looks like under President Trump, the War on Drugs is alive and well… for the next 4 years at least.
Photo: AP/EVAN VUCCI – APIMAGES

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Indian Tribes Legalize Pot

 
U.S. states aren’t the only ones leading the way in marijuana reform; in recent months, several Native American tribes have also taken steps to legalize pot.
It started late last year with a memorandum from the Department of Justice. Sent in response to questions from a tribe in Washington state (where of course, weed is legal), the memo essentially said that Uncle Sam would not enforce marijuana laws on sovereign tribal land — giving them the same freedom the states have to set their own drug policy.
While the message might have been intended for tribes whose surrounding states had already legalized weed, it also has implications for more than 500 other federally recognized tribes. Dozens of tribes from across the country attended forums and expressed an interest in marijuana as a possible source of medicine and revenue.
A tribe in South Dakota was among the first to test the waters. On June 11th, the Flandreaux Santee Sioux Indians voted to legalize marijuana on their lands. They have plans to start a sizable grow operation and even an Amsterdam-style pot lounge, which could be up and running by the end of the year.
But then on July 8th, the DEA raided tribal lands in California, seizing 100 lbs. of pot and thousands of plants. The land was owned by the Pit River tribe, who had set up dozens of greenhouses right alongside CA highway 395, in plain view of passing traffic.
The grow-op was supposedly approved by the tribal council back in February, although that is now in dispute. Feuding among tribal leadership raises questions about the legality of the operation, and even seems to be a major cause of the raid — it was a member of the tribe who informed the Fed and triggered the whole chain of events. But whatever the reason for the raid, it has caused a great deal of fear and uncertainty in many other tribes who had also been considering legalization.
Nevertheless, in August the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin voted in favor of recreational and medicinal pot use in their territory. The tribal council is now in the planning and researching stage, exploring the logistics, potential revenue and other benefits for the tribe. Other Wisconsin area tribes are also considering legalization, including the Red Cliff and Sakoagan tribes, which have passed similar referendums.
What happens to these few brave tribes who accept the risks of being the first to legalize pot, will largely determine how many follow in their footsteps. As the July raid clearly demonstrates, a memorandum is not a law. And until the U.S. government reforms it’s drug policy, there is still the looming possibility of raids, arrests, prosecution and imprisonment.
And for the tribes, the loss of much-needed federal funds.