drugs

California pot taxes lag as illegal market flourishes

Deep in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget is a figure that says a lot about California’s shaky legal marijuana market: The state is expecting a lot less cash from cannabis taxes. The Democrat’s proposed spending plan, released Thursday, projects the state will bank $355 million in marijuana excise taxes by the end of June. That’s roughly half of what was once expected after broad legal sales kicked off last year. Industry experts say the diminished tax income reflects a somber reality: Most consumers are continuing to purchase pot in the illegal marketplace, where they avoid taxes that can near 50 percent in some communities. Tax collections are expected to gradually increase over time, but predicting what that amount will be remains something of a guess. Tax collections for “a newly created market are subject to significant uncertainty,” the budget said. Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association credited Newsom with taking “a realistic look at the challenges” after a bumpy first year of broad legal sales. Newsom also recommended a sharp increase in spending for regulatory programs, although it’s an open question whether it will be enough to help steady the state pot economy. The budget recommends just over $200 million for marijuana-related activities in the fiscal year that starts July 1, which would be over a 50 percent boost from the current year. Initially “the state was too optimistic about how the implementation of legalization was going to work. This governor has paid attention to that,” Drayton said. That said, Drayton added that legal businesses need a break from hefty tax rates that are driving consumers to the illicit economy. Various proposals have been made to cut state pot taxes. State taxes include a 15 percent levy on purchases of all cannabis and cannabis products, including medical pot. Local governments are free to slap on taxes on sales and growing too, which has created a confusing patchwork of tax rates around the state. The state’s top marijuana regulator, Lori Ajax, has said the state intends to get more businesses licensed and operating in 2019, while cracking down on rogue operators who continue to proliferate across the state. At year’s end, California’s effort to transform its longstanding illegal and medicinal marijuana markets into a unified, multibillion-dollar industry remained a work in progress. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of sales in the state remain under the table, snatching profits from legal storefronts. Drayton said more than half the municipalities in the state do not have laws governing the industry. That means pot businesses cannot locate there, since companies are required to have a local license before seeking one from the state. The budget also includes an additional $2.9 million for the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to help chase down tax cheats. Meanwhile, the courts budget includes nearly $14 million for resentencing of thousands of drug offenders whose offenses are no longer crimes since California legalized recreational pot. Newsom, an advocate for legalized marijuana, said it has long been expected the new market would take five to seven years to settle in, with twists and turns along the way. The issues he intends to look at include the distribution pipeline and claims that local governments are gouging the industry. The state will “move expeditiously at licensing more and more dispensaries, making sure we go after the bad actors,” he said.

Wow..  What a mess..  Typical California big government.  It only knows how to raise taxes; not how to solve anything.  The whole state is under solid Democrat control from the governor to the state legislature which has a supermajority of Dems…  No wonder the state is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Dr. Marc Siegel: Pot and your health – Here’s what a physician wants you to know about marijuana

Alex Berenson’s new book, “Tell Your Children; the truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” is coming out at the right time, as more and more states are legalizing marijuana. Currently marijuana recreational use is legal in ten states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Mass, Maine, and Wash D.C.) Medical marijuana is now legal here and in an additional 23 states. There is more public support for marijuana law reform than ever before. The latest polls show that more than 50 percent of people favor marijuana legalization while at the same time the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) believes marijuana should be decriminalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Berenson himself is not in favor of recreational use, in part because of links to mental illness and violence that he explores in the book, though he is in favor of decriminalization. As a physician, I want marijuana users and addicts to be treated as patients – and not criminals – while at the same time I am very aware that regular marijuana use carries significant health risks. I believe we should treat habitual users aggressively and warn them of the associated risks. My job is to let you know that there is no free lunch medically with marijuana or any drug. Even if a state or a society decides that it is wise economically and politically to make marijuana legal, at the same time we must be prepared for the health consequences even more than the legal ones. It’s clear to me that there is enough scientific evidence out there for me to discourage regular marijuana use for most people. Legal marijuana (both medical and recreational) is turning into a multibillion-dollar industry. Sales were expected to hit $10 billion nationwide in 2017 and grow with the legalization of marijuana in California at the start of this year. In a report issued before Sessions’ announcement of a change in federal policy – the effect of which is not yet determined – BDS Analytics forecast that marijuana sales in California alone could total $3.7 billion in 2018 and $5.1 billion in 2019. In addition, states stand to collect billions of dollars in tax revenue from legalized marijuana sales, and much governmental money will be saved by not prosecuting sales and use of the drug. Colorado has already collected over $500 million from taxing legal marijuana. But what about the associated medical risks from increasing usage? This is a critical question we must not ignore. My first concern is traffic accidents, since marijuana is known to impair judgement. Statistics from Colorado since recreational marijuana was legalized show a doubling of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the substance in marijuana that gets users high – in the blood of those involved in fatal car accidents. This is concerning. And though alcohol impairs a driver much more, THC stays in the bloodstream longer. If the two are combined, as they sometimes are, the risk is magnified. A recent study from the Columbia University School of Public Health found that while alcohol increased the risk of causing a fatal car crash five times, testing positive for pot increased it by 62 percent. Those drivers who had both pot and alcohol in their blood at the time of a fatal crash were six times more likely to have caused the accident. Another area of concern is pregnancy. Many pregnant women suffer from morning sickness. But the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends against using marijuana while pregnant – no matter what. And the Centers for Disease Control warns that “marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health.” Why? The CDC points to research showing low birth weight in infants, along with developmental and attention problems in children born to mothers who smoke pot regularly during pregnancy. Unfortunately, pot smoking among pregnant women is on the rise and it is bound to rise even more. A study released from Kaiser Permanente in California in 2018 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that 7 percent of pregnant women surveyed smoked pot, including almost 20 percent of those below the age of 24. The number of pregnant women using marijuana will only increase now that recreational marijuana is legal in California. Berenson focuses on mental health in his book and in fact, when it comes to adolescents and adults, long-term marijuana use has been associated with decreased school and job performance, memory loss, and psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression. With the increase in edible marijuana comes a dramatic increase in Emergency Room visits from overuse, especially among adolescents, who may be getting more THC than they realize. Symptoms include acute anxiety, rapid heart rate and paranoia.

Get the picture?  Thanks to Dr. Marc Siegel, M.D. for this sobering, fact-based, report.  Dr. Siegel is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center.   For more, click on the text above.

Report: Afghan District Bordering Iran Embracing Crystal Meth Production

Nearly 80 percent of all households in the Afghan district of Ghoryan, located in Herat province along the Iranian border, are involved in some stage of the crystal methamphetamine-making process that is currently fueling addiction epidemics plaguing Afghanistan and Iran, TRT World reported this week. TRT is the national broadcaster of the government of Turkey. According to the United Nations, Herat is the top crystal meth-producing province in Afghanistan. Herat lies on Afghanistan’s border with Iran where crystal meth use is rampant. TRT suggested that the crystal meth epidemic gripping Iran has spilled over to Afghanistan, noting that many Afghan meth “cooks” learned their skills in the Islamic Republic.

For more, click on the text above.  Crazy..

Marijuana legalization outperforms Senate winners in Michigan, Missouri

Measures legalizing marijuana in Michigan and Missouri garnered more votes during Tuesday’s midterms than Senate candidates elected in either state. Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana by casting over 2.34 million ballots Tuesday in favor of a measure, Proposal 1, that will allow adults to possess, buy and grow limited amounts of the plant for personal use, as well as pave the way for the state to implement a system for regulating and taxing retail sales. The measure, which makes Michigan the tenth state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, received more votes than the Democratic winners of the state’s Senate race, incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and the state’s attorney general race, Dana Nessel, as first reported Thursday by Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news site. Ms. Stabenow and Ms. Nessel received roughly 2.2 million and 2 million votes, respectively. A measure legalizing medical marijuana in Missouri, meanwhile, Amendment 2, was passed by a margin of 65.5 to 34.5 upon approved by over 1.5 million votes. Similarly the measure outperformed both the winner of the state’s Senate race, Republican candidate Josh Hawley, and Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. They received over 1.2 million and 1.1 million votes, respectively. Utah voted to legalize medical marijuana as well Tuesday, but the measure, Proposition 2, received roughly 70,000 votes less than the winner of the state’s Senate race, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Marijuana Moment noted. A fourth state to consider marijuana legalization Tuesday, North Dakota, ultimately rejected the effort by a margin of roughly 60-40. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though 33 states and D.C. have passed legislation permitting the plant for either medicinal or recreational purposes as of Tuesday’s elections. In the nation’s capital, meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday that the District will mount efforts to legalize recreational marijuana sales starting early next year. Both medical and recreational marijuana have been legal in D.C. for years, but previous efforts to establish a system for licensed and regulated sales have been halted by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats are poised to take control of the House as a result of Tuesday’s races, however, giving D.C. its best odds ever of joining the seven states that have previously passed laws permitting retail sales: Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

Trump signs sweeping opioids bill, says effort will make ‘big dent’ in deadly crisis

President Trump signed a mammoth opioids bill Wednesday designed to expand treatment options, fund nonaddictive painkillers and stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs from abroad, calling it a critical piece of ongoing efforts to put a “big dent” in the crisis. The president offered handshakes all around after signing the bill in the ornate East Room of the White House, handing his pen to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, who steered the effort on his side of the Capitol. A bipartisan effort, the bill cleared both chambers by wide margins and offered a respite from partisan bickering over the Supreme Court and midterm contests. It also came hours after authorities intercepted mailed pipe bombs targeting CNN and past and present Democratic leaders. Mr. Trump told addiction survivors, law enforcement and other guests the bill capped “historic” efforts he’s taken in the last year to rein in the drug overdose epidemic, which killed a record 70,000 people in 2017. He cited indictments of Chinese nationals suspected of trafficking fentanyl, the launch of a Just Say No-style campaign against opioid use and a crackdown on doctors who wrote fraudulent prescriptions for opioids. And officials from a series of private companies, from Amazon to Facebook, shook hands with Mr. Trump while a narrator listed their efforts to combat addiction. “You won’t see the results immediately, but you’ll see the results in the future, and the very quick future,” Mr. Trump said. Dozens of lawmakers from both parties contributed to the legislative effort, which lifts cap on Medicaid funding for drug treatment, extends help to addicted mothers and empowers package inspectors to root out deadly fentanyl from China. Yet only one Democrat — Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire — was on hand for the signing, which comes less than two weeks before Election Day. A key part of the bill, the STOP Act, forces the U.S. Postal Service to collect advanced electronic data on packages entering the U.S. Private couriers such as UPS and FedEx already procure advanced data, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses to target suspicious packages that might contain fentanyl from clandestine labs in China and elsewhere. All packages from China, and 70 percent of the overall flow, must have the information available by the end of this year, and 100 percent global compliance is due by 2021. “This should cut down, almost immediately, the suspicious packages coming in from places like Mexico and China that contain illicit opioids like fentanyl,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said. Officials say fentanyl has become the number-one killer in the drug-overdose crisis.

Trump declares opioids from Mexico, China ‘almost a form of warfare,’ tells Sessions to sue drug makers

Calling opioids coming into the U.S. from China and Mexico “almost a form of warfare,” President Trump on Thursday urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate foreign sources of fentanyl that he said are “killing our people.” Speaking during a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Trump also took the unusual step of urging Sessions to file a “major” new lawsuit against opioid suppliers and manufacturers, rather than join existing lawsuits filed by states affected by the spread of the highly addictive, deadly drugs. “It’s almost a form of warfare,” Trump said, referring to the drugs he called “garbage” that are flowing into the country. “I’d be very firm on that. It’s a disgrace and we can stop it.” Trump added: “I’d also like to ask you to bring a major lawsuit against the drug companies on opiods. Some states have done it, but I’d like a lawsuit to be brought against these companies that are really sending opiods at a level that — it really shouldn’t be happening. … People go into a hospital with a broken arm, they come out, they’re a drug addict.” More than 1,000 lawsuits by more than a dozen states have already been filed nationwide against distributors and manufacturers in recent months amid the opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, New York sued the maker of the prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin, saying Purdue Pharma has misled both patients and doctors about the dangers of their drug. In June, Massachusetts also sued Purdue and its executives, accusing the company of fueling the deadly drug abuse crisis by spinning a “web of illegal deceit” to boost profits. The lawsuit, which the state’s attorney general said was the first to call out the names of company executives in connection with opioid deaths, came as Purdue was already defending against lawsuits from several other states and local governments. Other companies involved in litigation with states include manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals, as well as distributors. The suits generally involve claims that the drug makers have improperly downplayed the addictive qualities of their drugs, and that distributors have negligently handled their shipments. Sessions said he would comply with the president’s requests. “We absolutely will,” Sessions said Thursday. “We are returning indictments now against distributors from China; we’ve identified certain companies that are moving drugs from China, fentanyl in particular. We have confronted China about it … Most of it is going to Mexico and then crossing the border, unlawfully, from Mexico.” There were no signs of tension in the room, even though the attorney general has been a target of Trump’s ire in recent days.

Glad to hear..  Whatever people may think, or say, about AG Jeff Sessions, he has been a very loyal soldier in Trumps army.  For more on this article, click on the text above.

Nearly $900G in drug cash seized on plane bound for Mexico; two 19-year-olds held, authorities say

Two 19-year-old men were arrested Tuesday, accused of smuggling nearly $900,000 in suspected drug-related cash, authorities said. The suspects, identified as Joan Pablo Hoyos Avila and Rafael Gabriel Martinez Leal, each face a bulk-cash smuggling charge, for which they could get five years in prison if convicted, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Hoyos was identified as a business student at the University of the Incarnate Word, a private Catholic university in San Antonio. Acting on a tip, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents halted a private plane at San Antonio International Airport that was preparing to depart for Monterrey, Mexico, according to the newspaper. Authorities found the cash bundled inside sealed boxes aboard the plane, after asking the craft’s five occupants – including the pilot – if they had any valuables to declare, the report said. Martinez accepted full responsibility for the cash smuggling operation, according to an affidavit, while Hoyos told authorities that he had accepted cash from several individuals and stored it in his garage until Martinez was able to pick it up.