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The Shake: The Feds’ Big Eradication Spend and the Massachusetts Smackdown

April 15, 2016

Things are getting real in Massachusetts as election season heats up. Yesterday we told you about the launch of an anti-cannabis coalition in the state, backed by the governor and Boston’s mayor, who’ve come out against an adult-use legalization initiative. Now the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts is calling out the politicians for allowing easier access to booze than cannabis. The group’s communications director called it “the height of hypocrisy.” Meanwhile, police officers and other lawmakers have come out in support of the anti-cannabis coalition. They say they’re worried legalization will roll back progress the state has made in fighting opioid addiction, because some think cannabis is a gateway drug. None of that is really rooted in fact (it actually shows promise in fighting opioid overdoses, and the gateway claims are fraught with bad science), but hey, go with your gut.

The DEA spent $18 million on pulling up cannabis plants. A group of lawmakers last year tried to pass legislation to reroute federal funds away from cannabis enforcement. It fell short. The upshot: The DEA is still dropping millions to uproot and destroy cannabis plants — $18 million last year, or about what it’s spent the three years prior. Eradication efforts even continued in legal states such as Oregon and Washington; in the latter, U.S. taxpayers paid about $26 per plant in cannabis-quashing costs. (Colorado and Alaska declined federal funds, saying they’d enforce illegal grows on their own, the Washington Post says — but then what’s up with the National Guard in Colorado this week?) Make no mistake: Illegal cultivation can sometimes come with problems — environmental degradation, harm to national parks, even violence — but it’s still bizarre on some level to see the federal government spending millions in public funds to uproot cannabis instead of taking a cue from legal states and taxing the pants off it. It’s the economy, stupid.

Why Do the Feds Keep Targeting California?

More and more doctors want cannabis to be legal. On Monday a group called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation will announce its formation, the Washington Post reports. The coalition includes more than 50 doctors, including former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, as well as faculty at some of the country’s top medical schools. Importantly, the group isn’t just backing medical legalization — it also believes regulated adult-use markets are the best approach to harm reduction. It’s a split from the American Medical Association’s anti-cannabis position, and it could signal a shift in doctors’ attitudes about how to keep Americans safe and healthy around cannabis. The group doesn’t advocate for cannabis use, but as founder David L. Nathan, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s medical school and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, says: “You don’t have to be pro-marijuana to be opposed to its prohibition.”

Blockbuster Report Backs U.N. Cannabis Regulation, End to Prohibition


  • It’s Tax Day, Americans! But don’t worry, you just need your return postmarked by Monday. Thought you might like to know.
  • Mexico’s president will skip the U.N.’s drug policy summit. Some critics are accusing President Enrique Peña Nieto of “putting his head in the sand” after his announcement he’ll skip next week’s UNGASS meeting in New York, Vice reports. With much of Mexico pushing for medical legalization, his absence will be a blow to proponents.
  • Like science? Scientific American has a piece up about how rescheduling (or, even better, descheduling) could kickstart major advances in research. 
  • One chef has a new goal with edibles. Michael Cirino, who has a background in molecular gastronomy and food science, wants you to have a nice long, low-level high — instead of one like Maureen Dowd’s
  • More on the country’s 24th medical cannabis state. We told you what Pennsylvania’s newly passed bill will do for medical patients. Here’s what it means for employers
  • A U.S. Senate committee thinks veterans should be able to talk to their doctors about cannabis. An amendment won a ‘yes’ vote yesterday, but it’s got a long way to go to become law.
  • Do you like Broad City? If your answer was “YASSS,” check out this Jimmy Kimmel interview with the cast of the hit show. And yasss, cannabis comes up. 
  • Mixed weather in Colorado. The state may have done $92 million in cannabis sales in February, but now rain threatens to wash away Denver’s largest 4/20 festival. Looking for something else to do? Start here.

 The Best Things to Do in Portland While High: Leafly’s 4:20 to 4:20 Cannabis Travel Guide

  • Don’t sleep on the CARERS Act. Over at the Brookings Institute, John Hudak — who’s helping change the cannabis conversation in Washington, D.C. — makes a strong case for why the act, which would protect patients in medically legal states and help streamline research. Hudak points out that many people don’t know what the CARERS Act is. Now you know. 
  • The latest product: Nug Run wants to sell you a “Nugboxes” subscription. Each comes with cannabis, food, and a choice of a third item. Interested? 
  • How much is your cannabusiness worth? It was only a matter of time until the cannabis movement started using terms like valuation. Attorney Vince Sliwoski at Canna Law Blog has a rundown
  • Even local news media agree medical cannabis is helping patients in New York. The ABC affiliate in Buffalo touches on a child who’s been taking cannabis extract to treat epilepsy. “He’s looking around, he’s vocalizing, he’s doing really well,” his mother tells WKBW
  • But we’re also learning more about cannabis health risks. Which is a good thing. Some people appear to be predisposed to have mental health consequences from heavy cannabis use, and effects can be especially problematic for young people. Scientists are calling for public education, though they’re also “keen not to exaggerate the risks,” the Guardian reports
  • An Australian naturopath faces 15 years for selling cannabis oil and tinctures to patients. Crikey, that’s heartrending
  • And finally, dragon balls. We hate to toot our own horn, but our piece yesterday on these gawk-worthy globes of cannabis oil contains some of the best concentrate porn we’ve seen in some time. Just look at it. Happy Friday.

Man holding two "Dragon Balls," each filled with 3,000 grams of cannabis oil

Image Source: Sara Dilley, with special thanks to X-Tracted Laboratories

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