How will the ‘green wave’ of cannabis acceptance reshape America?

Legal cannabis is raising spirits and revenues in Colorado, while helping Denver, the ‘Mile High City,’ re-earn its name. Thumbing their noses at federal lawmakers by legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis use, Colorado lawmakers anticipate taking in a whopping $134 million in taxes on legal pot sales this year. And that’s just the beginning.

High revenues from “getting high” got a major lift from Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement in January that U.S. treasury officials, wishing to cash in by taxing stoner dollars, will issue new regulations regarding banking services for state-approved cannabis concessions.

Banks in those states where pot is legal for medical or recreational use will now be able to offer business loans to pot entrepreneurs and hold revenues from lucrative marijuana businesses, without winding up in the slammer alongside many of the 750,000 Americans busted each year for possession or sale of ganja. Instead of spending approximately $10 billion annually fighting the hopelessly futile battle of pot criminalization, feds hope to top up the nations’ budget with a gravy train of revenues.  Time will tell whether this becomes a new revenue stream for funding schools and roads, or a bongs-for-bombs proposition.

President Obama, who has admitted to smoking marijuana in the past, threw his hat into the green ring just days before the Holder announcement with a seemingly off-the-cuff yet very well orchestrated set of comments on pot, as “a bad habit and a vice,” yet no more dangerous than alcohol. His comments indicate a seismic shift in the federal position on cannabis, and have sent tremors through the alcoholic beverage industry, whose members worry that at least some American booze revenues will go up in smoke. The slogan, “This bud’s for you,” is already taking on new popular meaning.

Meanwhile, in Colorado and Washington, businesses offering products rich in the non-psychoactive marijuana ingredient CBD or cannabidiol, are receiving visitors from all over the nation who are afflicted with chronic pain, MS, epileptic seizures, neurological disorders, and other health complaints that may respond positively to cannabis treatment.

A hemp lifestyle company called Kannaway is launching its own CBD-rich hemp oil for medical purposes, and predicts astronomic growth for the “hemp lifestyle.”

At the same time, NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is working harder than ever to beat pot prohibition once and for all, hoping to push states whose voters are receptive to medical marijuana over the voting edge in upcoming ballot initiatives. According to NORML, “Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use.”

Prisons, many of them for-profit private enterprises, will just have to identify other citizens to incarcerate.

Concerned educators point out that legalizing marijuana may be harmful to young people, saying the drug may damage their ability to learn. Like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis seems destined to be legally an adult-only product. Pot use among the young is bound to result in a great deal of clarifying legislation in most or all states. We can anticipate a lot of activity intended to protect our youth from cannabis.

With medical marijuana now legal in 20 U.S. states and legislation set to argue for the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in many more, the stage appears set for the final taking-down of pot prohibition, which, like alcohol prohibition, has failed substantially. Medical marijuana dispensaries, pot shops, cannabis bakeries, and hundreds of cannabis-based products, from pre-rolled joints to cannabis cupcakes and lollipops, are sprouting up in the market so fast it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Ever since the World Health Organization’s 1997 report on pot, which showed grass to be far safer than either alcohol or tobacco, lawmakers have fretted over the skunky-scented weed. With federal eyes now focused on perhaps billions of dollars in annual cannabis tax revenues, their panic has subsided a bit. In their starry eyes, green can produce green.

Eventual legalization of cannabis will neither be all good nor all bad. Like the end of alcohol prohibition, the end of pot prohibition will radically reduce criminal involvement in the pot trade. Like any other drug, pot will have its responsible users, its heavy users, and its abusers. To quote a curly-haired folk singer from New York, the times they are a changing.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France.

Uruguay’s president nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for legalizing marijuana

"It is a promise to bridge the gap between defiant marijuana consumers and the prohibiting society. Hopefully, the start of the acceptance of this consumption by society and the concomitant development of understanding of its use as a natural medicine, historically used for spiritual liberation, might initiate a process of healing in a world, very confused and deeply divided, over its religious legacy," the Dutch NGO stated on its website.

The president of Uruguay has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. According to his advocates, José “Pepe” Mujica's much talked-about marijuana legalization is in fact "a tool for peace and understanding."

For the second year in a row, the Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica’s marijuana legalization drive since 2012, insisting that the consumption of marijuana should be protected as a human right, has endorsed his candidacy, along with members of Mujica's leftwing political party the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (Collective of Uruguayan growers) and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).

Despite an avalanche of global criticism, in late December Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of the popular herbal drug. Under the new law, which comes into full effect in early April, Uruguayans will have several options to gain access to it.

The Drugs Peace Institute said that Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world."

The institute pointed out that, unlike coca-based products that reinforce the ego and individual self-esteem, marijuana has the "peculiar quality of diminishing the consumer’s ego." It pointed out that so far only one government leader has succeeded in challenging the prohibition: "the World’s Poorest President” - Mujica - dubbed so due to his modest lifestyle.

"Jose Mujica once said that he’s been looking for god but [hasn’t] found him yet. By legalizing marijuana and opening the doors of spiritual happiness to the young, he might not have found the god of other nations…, but he certainly has followed in the footsteps of Jesus when he said ‘Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these,’" the NGO noted.

“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Uruguay’s president responded in Havana, as quoted by La Nación Argentine daily. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana - we're taking aim at the drug traffic," Uruguay's 78-year-old guerrilla-turned president said.

The leader of the South American state has championed the controversial legislation as a way to snuff out the illegal drugs trade in Uruguay, noting that both Washington and Colorado had legalized marijuana. He signed the bill into law on December 25. The Uruguayan government has until April 9 to finalize the regulations that will govern the sale and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana aficionados will be given carte blanche to grow cannabis. However, the law forbids having more than six hives per person. There will be a cap on the amount that can be bought every month, initially set at 40 grams. Residents aged over 18 will have to register in a special nationwide database that keeps track of how much marijuana was purchased in the past month. The law will forbid foreigners to buy it, and in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40, the market price for the drug will be set at a dollar a gram.

Late last month, Uruguay's National Cannabis Federation launched special training courses on the cultivation of the popular plant. The training courses are also put forward as one of the measures taken by the authorities to control the trafficking and consumption of marijuana.

The international community lashed out at Uruguay's leader, with the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board chief, Raymond Yans, saying that Uruguay "knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty." Mr Yans argued in a statement that claims that the law would help reduce crime were based on "rather precarious and unsubstantiated assumptions."

Uruguay's president made it into the top 10 finalists for the award last year. However, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Mujica has been president of Uruguay since 2010. He was a member of an armed political group inspired by the Cuban revolution, the Tupamaros, in the 1960s and ‘70s. After the military coup in 1973, during the dictatorship, he spent 14 years in prison. This included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years.

When democracy was restored in 1985, Mujica was freed under an amnesty law. He was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a senator afterwards. When he became president, he pledged to give away 90 percent of his monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Much to everybody's surprise, the unpretentious leader has also shunned the grandeur of the presidential residence in favor of his humble farmhouse.