Friday, December 20, 2013

Weed all about it: The origins of the word ‘˜marijuana’ in the US

Source: Aljazeera America

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How did the drug, once commonly known in the U.S. by its scientific name, cannabis, come to be called marijuana?

The term “marijuana” enjoys a secure place in the American lexicon. The recent drive to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes has certainly helped loft the word into the mainstream. Marijuana-legalization movements for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state have played a role, too, as has the nascent legalization and decriminalization campaign sweeping through Latin America, most notably in Uruguay.

But throughout the 19th century, Americans used the word “cannabis” when referring to the plant. Pharmaceutical companies like Bristol-Myers Squib and Eli Lilly used cannabis in medicines — widely sold in U.S. pharmacies — to treat insomnia, migraines and rheumatism. From 1840 to 1900, U.S. scientific journals published hundreds of articles touting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
So why does the term “marijuana” dominate the discourse in the United Sates, while most people in Europe and large swaths of Latin America refer to the drug as cannabis, the botanical name for the plant?

The answer, in part, is found in the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910. After the upheaval of the war, scores of Mexican peasants migrated to U.S. border states, taking with them their popular form of intoxication, what they termed “mariguana.”

Upon arrival, they encountered anti-immigrant fears throughout the Southwest — prejudices that intensified after the Great Depression. Analysts say this bigotry played a key role in instituting the first marijuana laws — aimed at placing social controls on the immigrant population.

In an effort to marginalize the new migrant population, the first anti-cannabis laws were targeted at the term “marijuana,” says Amanda Reiman, a policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. Scholars say it’s no coincidence that the first U.S. cities to outlaw pot were in border states. It is widely believed that El Paso, Texas, was the first U.S. city to ban cannabis, when it approved a measure in 1914 prohibiting the sale or possession of the drug.

Around the same time, West Indian and Mexican migrants started taking marijuana with them to ports along the Gulf of Mexico — most notably New Orleans, where the media began associating cannabis use with jazz musicians, blacks and prostitutes. Media outlets across the country helped fuel the hysteria, churning out headlines like “Loco weed now cultivated and smoked in cigarettes” and “Murder weed found up and down coast.” By the early 1930s, 29 states had banned marijuana.
But nobody played a larger role in cementing the word in the national consciousness than Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. An outspoken critic of the drug, he set out in the 1930s to place a federal ban on cannabis, embarking on a series of public appearances across the country.

Anslinger is often referred to as the great racist of the war on drugs, says John Collins, coordinator of the LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project in London.

Collins is not certain if Anslinger truly was a bigot. “But he knew that he had to play up people’s fears in order to get federal legislation passed,” Collins said. “So when talking to senators with large immigrant populations, it very much helped to portray drugs as something external, something that is invading the U.S. He would use the term ‘marijuana’ knowing that it sounds Hispanic, it sounds foreign.”

Anslinger reportedly kept files on jazz musicians titled “Marijuana and Musicians,” and monitored band mates who played alongside Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, among others. And he began his federal campaign against the drug by publishing a report titled “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth” in 1937.

That year, Anslinger testified before Congress in favor of marijuana prohibition.
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” he said during testimony. “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage."

Anslinger’s crusade succeeded. In 1937 Congress approved the Marijuana Tax Act, which criminalized pot possession throughout the United States.

U.S. perceptions of marijuana is coming full circle, especially as states increasingly recognize the plant’s medicinal benefits. The U.S. public has played a role too, as polls show that a majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization.

And Americans have helped in that transformation — to make cannabis their own. “Marijuana,” after all, does sound foreign and strange, with its multiple syllables. Instead, many prefer the more colloquial, monosyllabic words “pot,” “weed,” “grass,” “herb,” “smoke” and “dope.”
The rest of the world has followed suit, in apparent defiance of the U.S.-imposed word “marijuana.” Mexicans, for example, have adopted the terms “mota,” “pasto” and “gallo.” In the rest of Latin America, names range from “chala” in Argentina to “tobareto” and “grifa” in Ecuador and “hierba” in Venezuela. In Spain, “Maria” is a popular term, while the French, in an apparent nod to the U.S., often use “Marie Jeanne.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

Marijuana arrests plummet 65 percent after legalization

source: coloradaoan

Pot-related crimes in Larimer County dropped sharply after Amendment 64 passed.

The number of people jailed for marijuana crimes is down 65 percent in Larimer County one year after Coloradans voted to legalize it.

A pro-legalization campaign in the 2012 election
advocated to “regulate marijuana like alcohol,” and that largely appears to be happening.

Pot remains illegal under federal law, and the sale of nonmedical marijuana continues to be a crime until the first stores begin opening in early 2014. Even so, fewer pot dealers are getting busted.
“It’s more of a licensing issue than it is a criminal violation, from where we’re seeing it,” said Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith. “Trying to prosecute any of the violations that weren’t massive has not been a good use of resources.”
He said his investigative unit — the one that made headlines the past several years for busting marijuana grows across the county — will often find marijuana at the scenes of other drug crimes, but resources and priorities have otherwise shifted mostly away from marijuana.
“The citizens have made it more legal,” he said.

Of people booked into the Larimer County Jail by all agencies, including the sheriff’s office, the number facing marijuana-related crimes decreased from about 268 in 2012 to 95 since Amendment 64 passed.

When only medical marijuana was legal to possess, Smith said officers could confirm through paperwork whether somebody was breaking the law. Amendment 64 limits the amounts adults 21 and older can possess (an ounce) and grow (six plants). But Smith said any given case could be open to interpretation; for example, someone could be growing 18 plants but say they were acting for their roommates.

Offenses by people younger than 21 continue to be enforced, he said. The ages of people recently booked on marijuana crimes appear to support that.

Fort Collins Police Capt. Don Vagge said social norms appear to be changing. Officers breaking up a loud house party will see people inside passing joints.

“In years past, at a loud party complaint, they would hide or dispose of that in some way,” he said.
 Law enforcers say they expect marijuana to become more widely used, leading to more marijuana DUIs. Defense attorneys say they’re noticing a recent uptick in marijuana DUI cases and are expecting more.

“Marijuana does less harm than alcohol, and making marijuana illegal while alcohol was legal didn’t make a lot of sense,” said Fort Collins defense lawyer Brad Allin. “However, we are adding another drug that can be legally used, and that will increase the number of law violations. ... It will increase the number of (people who use marijuana) and get behind a wheel.”

Colorado this year made it illegal to drive on more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. But because that number varies widely depending on the person, defense attorneys are allowed to argue in court that the driver wasn’t intoxicated.

“I’ve been a defense attorney almost 15 years, and I’ve never seen as many DUI marijuana cases,” said Denver-based marijuana lawyer Sean McAllister, who represents the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Colorado.

Marijuana, serious crimes


Vagge said there continue to be crimes targeting marijuana. Around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, five men robbed a Fort Collins home on the 1100 block of South Bryan Avenue.

“One suspect held the occupants at gunpoint while the others searched the house,” Vagge said in an email. “They stole cellphones, marijuana pipes and some marijuana. The cellphones were discarded outside, and other items of value were not taken, leading us to believe that the marijuana was the target.”
No arrests had been made by this story’s deadline.

“We had some of that before (Amendment 64),” Vagge said. “There’s nothing that I would say is a dramatic increase of what we’ve had before.”
He said he’s been working with other parts of city government on coming up with rules to regulate retail marijuana stores, which are banned until March in Fort Collins city limits. Two stores are expected to open sooner in unincorporated Larimer County east of Fort Collins.

Asked whether retail marijuana could drive out the black market, Vagge responded: “We don’t know yet. The theory makes sense to me. ... There isn’t a large (black) market for alcohol sales.”

Meanwhile, despite the sharp decrease in marijuana-related bookings at the jail, the number of total jail bookings appears on track this year to be just as high as the last.

“It certainly hasn’t done anything to reduce crime,” Smith said.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Heroin Dealers Can Deduct Samples On Their Taxes, But Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Can't Deduct Rent?

source: Forbes

 A convicted heroin dealer has a tax problem. He’s still in prison, mind you, but he also owes taxes. In fact, he owes 80,000 euros, although the French authorities did ease up on how they computed the tax bill. After all, every business has expenses, including illegitimate ones.


Heroin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The French tax authorities allowed the convicted businessman to deduct his costs for transporting the stuff—let’s call them muling expenses. What’s more, it was even OK for him to deduct the cost of the heroin he consumed himself, they said. See Convicted heroin dealer told to pay 80,000 euros in tax on drugs. After all, business is business.

As a general matter, taxes apply to every business. Whether the products you sell are legal or contraband, profits are taxable. The tax bill in question involved revenue from dealing drugs, but the expense side of the ledger seemed especially strange.

The French authorities said, “Your personal consumption has been evaluated at four grammes per day, which can be deducted from your sales.” Plus, since the tax bill acknowledged that the dealer’s primary supplier was in far off Belgium, there were allowable travel expenses, too. Despite such allowances, the dealer’s lawyers are challenging the taxes.

Indeed, some of the dealer’s assets and cash were confiscated. There’s even a claim that the French authorities are double dipping. In any case, French authorities are not as used to taxing criminals as their American counterparts. It was only in 2009 that a French law was enacted to tax crooks.
In contrast, the U.S. has a long and rich tradition of taxing the criminal element. The infamous Al Capone was convicted not of murder, graft or racketeering, but of income tax evasion. No matter how you make your living, the tax laws apply, and income is income.

Still, we generally pay tax on net not gross income. But for criminals, if you report your illegal income, it may be admitting to a crime. Claiming tax deductions can look even worse than reporting income in the first place.

Illegal payments like paying a hitman to get rid of a competitor are not deductible. Beyond such obvious rules, there are additional limitations on deductions that are much less understandable. Although French law and U.S. law are different, when you consider the French heroin dealer it makes it that much harder to understand the confounding problem of legal marijuana dispensaries that can’t claim tax deductions.

As the medical marijuana industry has learned the hard way, Section 280E of the tax code denies even plain vanilla tax deductions for those dealing in “controlled substances.” It’s the mismatch of federal and state law, but the issue could easily be fixed. It hasn’t been, so a legal industry is being pushed underground, as the leading trade publication for the marijuana industry reports.

One interim answer has been for medical marijuana dispensaries to deduct expenses from other businesses that are distinct from dispensing marijuana. If a dispensary sells marijuana and is in the separate business of care-giving, the care-giving expenses are deductible. If only 10% of the premises are used to dispense marijuana, most of the rent is deductible.

Of course, good record-keeping is essential. See Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Persist Despite Tax Obstacles. And that means transparency too. Still, one must be careful about exactly what one claims and how one describes it. After all, tax evasion–intentional
conduct to defeat the income tax laws–is a felony.

It carries a prison term up to five years, and any sort of tax scheme to cheat the government can fall into this broad category. Even misdemeanor tax charges can be serious. Wesley Snipes beat the more serious charges and was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns in 2008.
Hopefully the tax laws applying to legal medical marijuana dispensaries will be reformed soon.

You can reach me at This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.

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