All posts tagged: World news

Dennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72

Activist was prominent in San Francisco gay community and co-wrote California Proposition 215, legalizing medical pot

Dennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72

  • Activist was prominent in San Francisco gay community
  • Peron co-wrote California Proposition 215, legalizing medical pot

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontDennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72
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Legal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall

Murder and violent crime found to have decreased most in states bordering Mexico as drug cartels lose business to regulation

Legal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall

Murder and violent crime found to have decreased most in states bordering Mexico as drug cartels lose business to regulation

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontLegal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall
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Hippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis

The state that is the worlds sixth biggest economy will legalise cannabis on New Years Day and expects a boom time for jobs and investment

While Arctic conditions gripped Americas north-east, balmy sunshine bathed Los Angeles last week but that was not the only reason denizens of the Venice boardwalk were feeling mellow. An astringent, earthy aroma infused the Pacific zephyrs wafting through the buskers, joggers, skateboarders, tourists and panhandlers.

Weed is part of the culture here, said Oni Farley, 30, perched on a sandy mound, watching life go by. Its part of the LA/California scene, the laid-back vibe. He ignored a police patrol car that inched through the throng. Ive blazed in front of cops and they dont say anything. To be honest, most of the time Im so high I dont notice them.

Pot wasnt hiding. In multiple different ways it was on display.

Addicted to weed, anything green helps, said a scrawled sign tilted against the backpack of Alexander Harth, 36, a dusty member of the boardwalks homeless population.

On the pavement, Marc Patsiner hawked wooden ornaments etched with Californian symbols: sunglasses, palm trees and marijuana leaves. Its pretty bohemian out here. People associate us with the leaf.

A vape shop offered glass pipes and other pot paraphernalia. T-shirt stores peddled images of Barack Obama smoking a joint alongside other herb-themed garments saying best buds and just hit it.

On Monday, California, the USs most populous state, and the worlds sixth biggest economy, will officially hit it by legalising cannabis.

Think Amsterdam, but sunnier and vaster a watershed event for the legalisation movement. Overnight a shadow industry worth billions of dollars annually will emerge into the light, taking its place alongside agriculture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and other sectors that are regulated and taxed.

It will answer to the newly created Bureau of Cannabis Control bureaucratic confirmation that a day many activists did not dare dream of has indeed come to pass.

A product pilloried in the 1936 film Reefer Madness will become culturally normalised and economically integrated, said Philip Wolf, an entrepreneur who runs a cannabis wedding company and a firm that pairs pot with gourmet food. Its going to help destigmatise the plant. Theres going to be a lot of people making money and people will want to tax those dollars. This is going to spread. California is a trend-setting state.

California legalised pot for medicinal purposes in 1996, ushering in a web of dispensaries, spin-off businesses and creeping mainstream acceptance. That culminated in voters last year approving proposition 64, a ballot initiative which legalised pot sales for recreation. History will mark the date it came into effect: 1 January 2018.

It is expected to unleash profound changes across the state. The Salinas Valley, an agricultural zone south of San Francisco nicknamed Americas salad bowl, has already earned a new moniker: Americas cannabis bucket. Silicon Valley investors and other moneyed folk are hoping to mint fortunes by developing technology to cultivate, transport, store and sell weed. Entrepreneurs are devising pot-related products and services. Financiers are exploring ways to fold the revenue estimated at $7bn per annum by 2020 into corporate banking.

Customers
Customers at MedMen, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. Use of the drug to ease pain and disease has already been decriminalised in California. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

California is not the trailblazer. Colorado grabbed that mantle in January 2014 when it became the first jurisdiction in the world beating Washington state and Uruguay by months to legalise recreational cannabis sales. California is one of 29 US states where pot is legal for medical or recreational use. With medical certificates you can criss-cross the country getting legally stoned.

But cultural, political and economic heft makes California a landmark in the global legalisation campaign. This is the state that incubated the political careers of Richard Nixon, who launched the war on drugs in 1971, and Ronald Reagan, who continued hardline prohibition policies under his wife Nancys slogan just say no.

Californias path to yes wound through Venice, a gritty beachside haven for beat poets, artists and musicians long before hippies wore flowers on their way to San Francisco. The Doors, among others, kept the counterculture torch lit in Venice: here they wrote Light My Fire, Moonlight Drive and Break on Through. A giant mural of a shirtless Jim Morrison still peers down from a wall. It was in Venice that generations of Angelenos and tourists toked illicit spliffs. They still do, though it is now a gentrifying tech enclave.

When California legalised pot for medicinal purposes many cities and neighbourhoods refused to issue licenses for pot dispensaries. In Venice they popped up like toast, as did clinics where for a fee ranging from around $20 to $40 doctors issued pot recommendation letters to ostensible patients. Some were genuine, with ailments and pain alleviated by the herb. Many just wanted to get high. Pretending you have an affliction just to smoke, thats ridiculous, said Farley, the boardwalk observer. Having served in the navy, he claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I dont, but thats what I said.

The California Alternative Caregivers dispensary set up shop in 2005 on Lincoln Boulevard, on the second floor of a maze of little shops and offices. It was by design, upstairs, all the way to the back. We didnt advertise, said the manager, Jim Harrison, 46. Pot, medicinal or not, still needed to be discreet. If asked about his profession Harrison would say he was a healthcare professional.

The sky failed to fall in on Venice, or other areas with dispensaries, and little by little pot became more mainstream, even respectable. Harrison, who wears a white coat and calls his patrons patients, is proud that his dispensarys protocols, such as sealing and labelling bags and containers, have been replicated in the new state regulations for recreational pot.

Full legalisation feels historic, he said. Its pretty amazing. The cats out of the bag. His dispensary will create a new space for recreation customers and keep a separate room for patients. Tax on medicinal pot is lower so dispensaries expect that market segment to dwindle but not disappear.

The new era may begin with a whimper. State authorities have given counties and cities authority and responsibility to govern the new industry. The result is a patchwork. Some places, such as Kern county, are still banning all commercial pot activity. LA and San Francisco only recently approved local regulations so it could be weeks or months before newly licensed pot shops start sprouting. Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Diego have licensed operators ready to open on Monday.

Golden
Golden State Greens budtender Olivia Vugrin (right), serves a customer in San Diego, California. Dozens of shops in the state will be selling marijuana for recreational use from tomorrow. Photograph: Elliot Spagat/AP

Donald Trumps administration casts a shadow because pot remains illegal under federal law. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has compared the herb to heroin and threatened a crackdown. Fearful of federal prosecution, banks are shunning pot businesses, leaving the industry stuck with mounds of cash which must be transported under armed guard.

Venices bohemians helped pave the way to Californias big experiment but it is another California, that of boardrooms and city halls, which stands to gain.

Based on Colorados experience politicians across the Golden State are expecting tax windfalls. Labour unions are hoping to recruit tens of thousands of workers to cultivate and sell pot.

Wealthy investors are snapping up land in Salinas and other cultivation areas with a view to mass production. Others are forming pot-focused business accelerators and management firms. Start-ups are devising new apps, products and services.

Corporate expansion felt a world away from the patch of sand that Harth, the Venice panhandler, called home. Despite the sunshine drawing big crowds to the boardwalk he stuffed his sign Addicted to weed, anything green helps into his backpack. The dollars werent coming.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis
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How Uruguay made legal highs work

The South American countrys move to full legalisation of cannabis has so far proved a success, especially for its 17,391 users

Every afternoon a long queue of people gathers outside a tiny neighbourhood pharmacy in Montevideo. The shop is so small that they can only be let in one at a time. Its a slow process but the mostly young clients dont seem to mind. They stand outside or sit on doorsteps chatting in groups of twos and threes as they wait their turn in the warm southern spring.

A chemist inside in a green medical coat asks them each to press their thumb on a fingerprint scanner. The electronic device is connected to a central government computer that will either authorise or deny the purchase of their allotted 10 weekly grams of legal marijuana. It is a state-controlled, high quality product guaranteed to provide excellent highs.

On the street 25 grams of marijuana would cost you 3,000 pesos, thats about $100 for something with probably a large amount of pesticide, seeds and stems, says Luciano, a young buyer who is next in line. But here the same amount would cost you only $30, and it comes in guaranteed, premium quality, thermosealed 5g packs.

In July this year, tiny Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the sale of marijuana across its entire territory.

The most important thing has been the change of paradigm, says Gastn Rodrguez Lepera, shareholder in Symbiosis, one of the two private firms producing cannabis for the governments Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis. Uruguay dived in at the deep end without too much international support. They said it wouldnt work. Well, its working now.

With a population of only 3.4 million, squeezed in between its two giant South American neighbours Brazil and Argentina (population 208 million and 43 million respectively), Uruguay has long been at the forefront of liberal policies not only in South America but worldwide.

A divorce law that allowed women to separate from their husbands simply by asking a court for permission was passed as far back as 1913. Abortion was legalised in 2012, with Uruguay the only country in Latin America to do so apart from Cuba.

Part of the reason for Uruguays liberal temperament is a longstanding separation of church and state in a region where the Catholic Church remains dominant. There is no official Christmas day on Uruguays state calendar. Most Uruguayans refer to the holiday by its government denomination of family day. Easter week is referred to as tourism week.

Uruguay locator map

Uruguays switch to a legal marijuana market has not been without its hitches, however, notably the resistance of most pharmacists to act as outlets for the recreational marijuana (medical marijuana remains illegal in Uruguay).

Only 12 of the countrys 1,100 pharmacies have signed up so far to supply the 17,391 government-registered consumers served by the system, which explains the long queues outside. The low price and slim profit margin partly explain their reticence. But the main problem is that banks have threatened to close the accounts of pharmacies selling marijuana, said one chemist who sells marijuana in Montevideo, but who did not want to reveal his name for fear of such bank intervention.

Although sales of the drug have been legalised in various US states, they remain illegal at federal level, leading to a situation where most banks refuse to handle marijuana-related accounts anywhere in the world. Even now that sales in Uruguay have been completely legalised, the fear of running into trouble with the US federal authorities has become concrete.

The problem with the banks was an unforeseen hitch, says Eduardo Blasina, president of Montevideos cannabis museum, set in an old house in the artsy Palermo district of the capital city. But these bumps will get smoothed out eventually.

The potency of the original government-licensed marijuana also failed to satisfy consumers at the start. The government made a mistake because the first batch they released to the market in July had a potency level of only 2% THC, says Blasina.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis content. This is much lower than the levels found in legal recreational weed in US states like Colorado.

The government quickly got the message and has now upped the content to 9% THC, says the Montevideo pharmacist. A consumer himself, he adds: Ive tried it and I can assure you that it provides a most satisfactory experience.

Registered
Registered users queue outside a pharmacy to buy legal marijuana in Montevideo. Photograph: Andres Stapff/Reuters

For those who would rather not buy their legal weed at a pharmacy, Uruguays marijuana law allows consumers to plant their own at home (up to six plants) or join special privately run cannabis clubs with a maximum of 45 members who are allowed to withdraw 40g per month from the clubs crop.

The transformation of consumers has been astounding, says Blasina. Theyve gone from buying low-quality products from street dealers to becoming gourmet experts who compete with the crops at their clubs.

Confident that pharmacists will eventually find a way to work round the refusal of banks to handle their accounts, Blasina is more worried about the ban on selling legal marijuana to visitors from abroad in a country where tourism keeps growing, partly due to Uruguays beautiful beaches, but also because of its growing reputation as a liberal haven in South America.

Visitors arrive here hoping to enjoy freedom in one of the most liberal countries in the world, so they feel disappointed when they find out they cant buy legal marijuana, says Blasina. They end up buying it on the street, which contradicts the whole point of the law, which is to cut traffickers out of the business.

Blasina and others have started pressing the government for the passports of tourists to be stamped with a permit to purchase a small amount of marijuana during their stay. A record number of visitors will arrive this summer and what will we say to them? Sorry, you cant smoke? he says.

There are ways round the problem, however. The quality of the marijuana is so high that the 40 monthly grams permitted by the government far exceeds what I could smoke on my own, says one Uruguayan who works with foreigners travelling here. So I always have enough to share around with visitors.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHow Uruguay made legal highs work
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Dennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72

Activist was prominent in San Francisco gay community and co-wrote California Proposition 215, legalizing medical pot

Dennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72

  • Activist was prominent in San Francisco gay community
  • Peron co-wrote California Proposition 215, legalizing medical pot

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontDennis Peron, father of medical marijuana in California, dies at 72
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Canadian marijuana advocate blasts hypocrisy of ex-police cashing in on cannabis

Former public servants and police officers are finding opportunities in the countrys fledgling industry including some who were once adamantly anti-pot

One of Canadas most prominent marijuana activists has taken aim at former police officers who have entered the countrys fledgling cannabis industry, saying it was hard to stomach that those who spent years sending people to jail for pot offences are now poised to profit as the country moves towards legalisation.

Its a mix of hypocrisy and pure profiteering, Jodie Emery told the Guardian. They made a living off tax dollars for trying to keep people out of the cannabis business and now theyre going to position themselves to cash in.

Her remarks come as legislation aimed at legalising recreational marijuana by 1 July 2018 was passed in the House of Commons. The bill will now head to the Senate, paving the way for Canada to become the first country in the G7 to fully legalise the drug.

Former public servants, politicians and law enforcement officers have gravitated towards the sector, which analysts say could eventually be worth somewhere between C$5bn and C$10bn annually.

The most controversial of these would-be entrepreneurs is Julian Fantino, a former Toronto police chief who once likened the decriminalisation of marijuana to legalising murder and, just two years ago, declared his complete opposition to legalisation.

Julian
Julian Fantino was opposed to legalisation but now is aiming to profit from the likely billion-dollar industry. Photograph: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Fantino recently announced that he would helm a company that connects patients to medical cannabis among other services. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.

A former Conservative MP, Fantino was also part of a government that sought to crackdown on marijuana offences, passing legislation stipulating mandatory jail time for those caught with six plants or more.

At the launch of his company, Aleafia, last month, Fantino waved off questions about his past views. Days gone by, we all had a certain attitude and certain perception of things being what they are and what they were, he told reporters.

Fantino said he had embarked on a fact-finding mission after being approached by Afghan war veterans who wanted access to marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and pain. [I] learned a lot about this whole space and medical marijuana and that to me was the conversion, if you will, to enable us to be more helpful to people who are not presently attaining the kind of results from their medication, which is usually opiates. Fantino did not respond to a request for an interview with the Guardian.

Emery described Fantinos message as deeply offensive. Im always happy to see our opponents admit that we were right by adopting our messaging and what weve been saying for so long, she said. But its hard to stomach when he isnt saying that hes sorry for arresting people for cannabis, hes not saying sorry for ruining lives and trying to prevent access to patients and veterans for all those years.

Emery who along with her husband Marc own the Cannabis Culture brand, which at one point included more than a dozen marijuana dispensaries across Canada was arrested in March on charges of drug trafficking and possession.

Her arrest came amid warnings by government and law enforcement officials that despite the legislation snaking its way through parliament, recreational marijuana remains illegal in the country.

The charges bar Emery, who has been released on bail but faces life in prison, from participating in the marijuana industry once it is legalised. So its sad to think that not only are we not allowed to compete against the cops getting in the pot business, but were still forever branded criminals, she said.

The government is currently mulling whether those convicted of minor drug offences should be allowed to work in the sector.

Emery said at least 11 high profile former police officers were now tied to the pot industry, including a former second-in-command with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had joined forces with Fantino to head Aleafia.

Others include a former West Vancouver police chief who has for years consulted for medical marijuana companies and a former deputy of the Toronto police who, after 38 years in law enforcement, began working with marijuana businesses in 2012. The Liberal governments plans for legalisation are being led by Bill Blair, another former Toronto police chief.

Emery described the situation as unfair. They not only enforced the law against people in a way thats recognised as racially biased, targeting poor, marginalised people but they actively opposed reform to the law, she said. Its like a creationist being put in charge of teaching evolution in university.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontCanadian marijuana advocate blasts hypocrisy of ex-police cashing in on cannabis
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High time: introducing the Guardian’s new cannabis column for grownups

Cannabis has long been shrouded in misinformation and stoner stereotypes. But with California now the worlds largest legal market, and others likely to follow suit, its time to start talking like adults. In a new column, Alex Halperin kicks off a conversation and invites your questions

Today, California becomes the worlds largest legal marijuana market. Its not the first American state to go fully legal, but with its outsized cultural influence and economy larger than France, its about to do for cannabis what Hollywood did for celluloid and Silicon Valley did for the semi-conductor.

Already, 30 US states have legalized medical marijuana (Med). Next year, Canada is likely to become the first large industrialized nation to legalize recreational (Rec), with support from prime minister Justin Trudeau. Germany, Israel and Australia have the beginnings of Med industries. Legal marijuana is coming to your neighborhood, maybe a lot sooner than you think.

For decades the plant has been stigmatized, at best, as a time waster for malodorous and unproductive men, with the disapproval factor steepening after age 30. But here in Los Angeles, the worlds most important cannabis market, a rebranding is underway. Marketers are positioning marijuana as a mainstream wellness product, a calorie-free alternative to an after-work cocktail. In short, its on the brink of global conquest.

Theres much to celebrate in that. Among other things, cannabis can be fun, and in some patients it relieves certain kinds of suffering. In the US, legalization is an important victory for criminal justice reform, and racist war on drugs tactics which continue to ruin many lives.

For that reason and many more, marijuana needs to be taken seriously, even though it can make people act goofy.

With legalization, many more people will spend much more of their time high. It will have profound consequences for how adults relax, yes, but also how they date, parent and work. Already, seniors are the fastest growing group of users in the US.

Legalization supporters often say cannabis is safer than alcohol, and this view has gained mainstream credibility. As Barack Obama said, it was no more dangerous than alcohol.

A
A bag of cannabis seen in Toronto. Canada is likely to become the first large industrialized nation to legalize recreational use. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Its true that you cant fatally overdose on cannabis. And the drug is less likely than booze to presage a car accident, an assault or another life shattering event. But legalization may give rise to unforeseen problems. (Some doctors have expressed concern about use during pregnancy.)

No one knows how mass-market weed will change how we live and relate to each other. Its safe to guess it will alter daily life as irrevocably and intimately as landmark products like cars, smartphones and reliable birth control.

Society has embarked on these kinds of mass experiments before. More than a decade into the social media age were only beginning to appreciate the implications for our brains and for our world.

Cannabis, at least, is a familiar entity. The plant has been known as both a psychoactive and a medicine for millennia. But much of the existing information and superstition is anecdotal, since for a lifetime its been almost impossible to study this chemically complex plant.

Due to marijuanas outlaw past, and its most famous property, a fog of misinformation and bullshit envelops the plant and everything it touches. As a reporter, Ive been listening to it for three years.

Now that world-class marketers have arrived on the scene, the fog has, if anything, thickened. The shelves of California pot shops abound with products implying medical benefits. Several brands of cannabis lubes claim to heighten female orgasms. In stores, they sit alongside tempting gourmet chocolates and infused breath mints, discrete enough for work.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHigh time: introducing the Guardian’s new cannabis column for grownups
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Hippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis

The state that is the worlds sixth biggest economy will legalise cannabis on New Years Day and expects a boom time for jobs and investment

While Arctic conditions gripped Americas north-east, balmy sunshine bathed Los Angeles last week but that was not the only reason denizens of the Venice boardwalk were feeling mellow. An astringent, earthy aroma infused the Pacific zephyrs wafting through the buskers, joggers, skateboarders, tourists and panhandlers.

Weed is part of the culture here, said Oni Farley, 30, perched on a sandy mound, watching life go by. Its part of the LA/California scene, the laid-back vibe. He ignored a police patrol car that inched through the throng. Ive blazed in front of cops and they dont say anything. To be honest, most of the time Im so high I dont notice them.

Pot wasnt hiding. In multiple different ways it was on display.

Addicted to weed, anything green helps, said a scrawled sign tilted against the backpack of Alexander Harth, 36, a dusty member of the boardwalks homeless population.

On the pavement, Marc Patsiner hawked wooden ornaments etched with Californian symbols: sunglasses, palm trees and marijuana leaves. Its pretty bohemian out here. People associate us with the leaf.

A vape shop offered glass pipes and other pot paraphernalia. T-shirt stores peddled images of Barack Obama smoking a joint alongside other herb-themed garments saying best buds and just hit it.

On Monday, California, the USs most populous state, and the worlds sixth biggest economy, will officially hit it by legalising cannabis.

Think Amsterdam, but sunnier and vaster a watershed event for the legalisation movement. Overnight a shadow industry worth billions of dollars annually will emerge into the light, taking its place alongside agriculture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and other sectors that are regulated and taxed.

It will answer to the newly created Bureau of Cannabis Control bureaucratic confirmation that a day many activists did not dare dream of has indeed come to pass.

A product pilloried in the 1936 film Reefer Madness will become culturally normalised and economically integrated, said Philip Wolf, an entrepreneur who runs a cannabis wedding company and a firm that pairs pot with gourmet food. Its going to help destigmatise the plant. Theres going to be a lot of people making money and people will want to tax those dollars. This is going to spread. California is a trend-setting state.

California legalised pot for medicinal purposes in 1996, ushering in a web of dispensaries, spin-off businesses and creeping mainstream acceptance. That culminated in voters last year approving proposition 64, a ballot initiative which legalised pot sales for recreation. History will mark the date it came into effect: 1 January 2018.

It is expected to unleash profound changes across the state. The Salinas Valley, an agricultural zone south of San Francisco nicknamed Americas salad bowl, has already earned a new moniker: Americas cannabis bucket. Silicon Valley investors and other moneyed folk are hoping to mint fortunes by developing technology to cultivate, transport, store and sell weed. Entrepreneurs are devising pot-related products and services. Financiers are exploring ways to fold the revenue estimated at $7bn per annum by 2020 into corporate banking.

Customers
Customers at MedMen, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. Use of the drug to ease pain and disease has already been decriminalised in California. Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

California is not the trailblazer. Colorado grabbed that mantle in January 2014 when it became the first jurisdiction in the world beating Washington state and Uruguay by months to legalise recreational cannabis sales. California is one of 29 US states where pot is legal for medical or recreational use. With medical certificates you can criss-cross the country getting legally stoned.

But cultural, political and economic heft makes California a landmark in the global legalisation campaign. This is the state that incubated the political careers of Richard Nixon, who launched the war on drugs in 1971, and Ronald Reagan, who continued hardline prohibition policies under his wife Nancys slogan just say no.

Californias path to yes wound through Venice, a gritty beachside haven for beat poets, artists and musicians long before hippies wore flowers on their way to San Francisco. The Doors, among others, kept the counterculture torch lit in Venice: here they wrote Light My Fire, Moonlight Drive and Break on Through. A giant mural of a shirtless Jim Morrison still peers down from a wall. It was in Venice that generations of Angelenos and tourists toked illicit spliffs. They still do, though it is now a gentrifying tech enclave.

When California legalised pot for medicinal purposes many cities and neighbourhoods refused to issue licenses for pot dispensaries. In Venice they popped up like toast, as did clinics where for a fee ranging from around $20 to $40 doctors issued pot recommendation letters to ostensible patients. Some were genuine, with ailments and pain alleviated by the herb. Many just wanted to get high. Pretending you have an affliction just to smoke, thats ridiculous, said Farley, the boardwalk observer. Having served in the navy, he claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I dont, but thats what I said.

The California Alternative Caregivers dispensary set up shop in 2005 on Lincoln Boulevard, on the second floor of a maze of little shops and offices. It was by design, upstairs, all the way to the back. We didnt advertise, said the manager, Jim Harrison, 46. Pot, medicinal or not, still needed to be discreet. If asked about his profession Harrison would say he was a healthcare professional.

The sky failed to fall in on Venice, or other areas with dispensaries, and little by little pot became more mainstream, even respectable. Harrison, who wears a white coat and calls his patrons patients, is proud that his dispensarys protocols, such as sealing and labelling bags and containers, have been replicated in the new state regulations for recreational pot.

Full legalisation feels historic, he said. Its pretty amazing. The cats out of the bag. His dispensary will create a new space for recreation customers and keep a separate room for patients. Tax on medicinal pot is lower so dispensaries expect that market segment to dwindle but not disappear.

The new era may begin with a whimper. State authorities have given counties and cities authority and responsibility to govern the new industry. The result is a patchwork. Some places, such as Kern county, are still banning all commercial pot activity. LA and San Francisco only recently approved local regulations so it could be weeks or months before newly licensed pot shops start sprouting. Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Diego have licensed operators ready to open on Monday.

Golden
Golden State Greens budtender Olivia Vugrin (right), serves a customer in San Diego, California. Dozens of shops in the state will be selling marijuana for recreational use from tomorrow. Photograph: Elliot Spagat/AP

Donald Trumps administration casts a shadow because pot remains illegal under federal law. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has compared the herb to heroin and threatened a crackdown. Fearful of federal prosecution, banks are shunning pot businesses, leaving the industry stuck with mounds of cash which must be transported under armed guard.

Venices bohemians helped pave the way to Californias big experiment but it is another California, that of boardrooms and city halls, which stands to gain.

Based on Colorados experience politicians across the Golden State are expecting tax windfalls. Labour unions are hoping to recruit tens of thousands of workers to cultivate and sell pot.

Wealthy investors are snapping up land in Salinas and other cultivation areas with a view to mass production. Others are forming pot-focused business accelerators and management firms. Start-ups are devising new apps, products and services.

Corporate expansion felt a world away from the patch of sand that Harth, the Venice panhandler, called home. Despite the sunshine drawing big crowds to the boardwalk he stuffed his sign Addicted to weed, anything green helps into his backpack. The dollars werent coming.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHippy dream now a billion-dollar industry with California set to legalise cannabis
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Peru legalises medical marijuana in move spurred by mother’s home lab

Proposal to decriminalise the drug came after police raided a makeshift laboratory where a group of women made cannabis oil for their sick children

Lawmakers in Peru have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill to legalise medical marijuana, allowing cannabis oil to be locally produced, imported and sold.

With a vote of 68-5, Perus Congress approved the bill which will be written into law in 60 days, once regulations for producing and selling cannabis have been set out.

Alberto de Belaunde, a governing party lawmaker and advocate of the proposal, said: Weve ensured that thousands of patients and their family members will enjoy a better quality of life.

This is a historic moment and my dream is that empathy and evidence can continue to defeat fears and prejudices, he told the Guardian.

This was not an abstract debate, it had a human face, he added.

The legislative approval followed a government proposal to decriminalise the medical use of marijuana for the treatment of serious and terminal illnesses after a police raid in February on a makeshift laboratory where a group of mothers made marijuana oil for their sick children.

The laboratory was in the home of Ana Alvarez, 43, who founded the group Buscando Esperanza or Searching for Hope to treat her 17-year-old son Anthony who suffers from a rare and severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, as well as tuberous sclerosis, which causes tumours to grow on the brain and other organs.

Were very happy with the fact that Peruvian law has approved this, Alvarez told the Guardian. But were not totally satisified.

We want associations like ours to be included in the production of this natural medicine, she said, adding that the new bill only allowed strictly regulated local production of cannabis oil, precluding organisations like hers.

She was also worried that imported marijuana derivatives would be too expensive for her to buy for her son and for the families of other patients. The homemade oil was made for a fraction of the cost, she said, and came in different varieties for the personalised use of more than 300 patients.

We would have liked the patients associations to be have been allowed to produce their own cannabis oil, De Belaunde agreed, adding it could be possible through university investigations into medicinal marijuana, which are now permitted.

After Colombia, Peru is the largest producer of coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, and it has a thriving illegal drug trade. It is now the sixth country or territory in Latin America to legalise the use of cannabis in some form.

The medicinal use of cannabis oil is now legal in Perus neighbours Colombia and Chile as well as in Puerto Rico. In Uruguay, marijuana cultivation and use is permitted in all its forms.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontPeru legalises medical marijuana in move spurred by mother’s home lab
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‘One false move and you’re done’: how US cities are changing for runaway kids

Runaway youth have always fled to cities but they now find themselves adrift in much costlier cities, where even the fully employed are barely scraping by

The first thing Zach Hicks did after he was run over in Roanoke, Virginia, was to write a Facebook post. He kept it simple: I just got ran over by a truck. The first commenter was his mother, hundreds of miles away in the midwest, who also kept it simple: WTF!?!?!?!?

He was retrieving a dog, Sobaka, that hed been given by a band of Hells Angels. The dog had bolted and was cowering beneath an 18-wheeler truck. Against his better judgment, Hicks crawled under to pull Sobaka out, and was hit.

The wheel started going over my leg, and then my side and then the side of my face, he says. I know what tire treads look like from underneath.

That was August 2015, two years after hed left home in Oregon. Today he is resting in a secluded alley on Masonic Avenue, a stones throw from Haight Street in San Francisco. Fifty years ago, the children with windy feet ran to this very block from parts unknown, in search of something anything during the Summer of Love.

The kids are still coming, along with legions of tourists who ensure this neighbourhoods street signs are among the worlds most photographed. But this is a side of San Francisco few will ever see.

Hicks is joined by a dozen tattooed and pierced young men and women wearing luminescent orange vests. They smoke, sip Gatorade, and all but inhale three donated pizzas between shifts sweeping the pavement and wiping graffiti off the walls. Some of these young people ran away from home, some were abandoned, and some experienced a bit of column A and a bit of column B. Christian Calinsky, the founder of Taking it to the Streets, a work and housing programme for young homeless people, considers it largely a difference without a distinction in his mind they simply left home.

Theyre both on the same playing field, man. I really cant distinguish, says Calinksy, 44, a former runaway who was homeless for large stretches between ages 12 and 34. All their traumas are the same in my mind. But I dont see people as their trauma. I see them as their potential.

Hicks, 22, has plenty of both. He sports a beard like a rhododendron bush and a rugby players build. He has piercing blue eyes, a ready smile, and the phrase 25 Jokes tattooed across his knuckles. Thats how I make my bread when Im on the road. And its five for a dollar; when you buy in bulk you get the extra joke.

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One in every 25 public school students in San Francisco is homeless. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty

His story is instructive of the modern nature of runaways in the US. Hicks grew up in the economically depressed, dope-saturated Pacific Northwest. He shows me his ID; yes, he really was born in 1995. Mum was around bikers, he says. I grew up in a double-wide trailer and she ran meth for bandits. She had me and stopped but we still had all our connections to the brotherhood.

He says his father would take him away as a toddler, only to mistreat him. After interventions by Child Protective Services, he ended up back in his mothers custody. Before too long, Hicks says, I got into some bad shit. He burgled the medical marijuana outfit, making off with four pounds of pot; the next time he tried it, he found himself with a gun in his face.

After several years at a facility for at-risk youth in rural eastern Oregon, he was placed with an older family member who had started smoking meth and was living in a backwoods, hickerbilly town where the only things to do are smoke meth, smoke weed or drive a big truck around in circles.

Like many young men and women across the country, he says he had no choice but to leave. He ended up in a fetid squat, first rooming with meth friends and then, after a police raid, sleeping alongside them in a cave in Bend, Oregon. There, high and morbidly curious, they set his sleeping bag ablaze.

At the age when most young people are ready to start their adult lives, Hicks was ready to end his. But then he met a train-hopper traveller kid who asked me to smoke a bowl with him and tell him why I was crying. Hicks confessed that he couldnt take being homeless in this town forever (he still refers derisively to non-transient homeless people as home bums) but had no money to leave. The traveller laughed, and said: Alls you need is a backpack, a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie [pen] so you can make some money. Thats your credit card.

And so Hicks ran away to a new life. He hitched three rides over five days from Virginia to San Diego. If you get in the wrong car or piss off the wrong person, youre dead. One false move and youre done. And then he smiles. But it is fun, man.

Larkin
Larkin Street Youth Services provides housing and education for young people in San Francisco

Counting runaways

New kids like Hicks arrive at the Larkin Street Youth Services centre in San Franciscos Tenderloin district every day. Theres still an honest-to-goodness bulletin board here, where hand-written messages are folded and pinned. One features several selfies of a grinning teenage girl and the words, Olivia, call Abuelita. A pair of kids amble in and glance at the board. Ah, says a tall boy. A new one.

Kids have always run away from home. The places they flee to, however, are changing. Todays runaways are finding themselves adrift in much costlier cities, where even fully employed and well-educated people are finding it increasingly difficult to scrape by. In San Francisco a city with a $10bn municipal budget and a population of only around 870,000 one of every 25 public school students is homeless. Thats about one in every classroom.

I tricked with the hustlers in those days, says Jeff Sheehy, who is now a city councilman representing the predominantly gay Castro district, a Mecca for many rudderless LGBT youths running from untenable home lives.

Nearly half of San Franciscos young homeless people identify as LGBT. Sheehy left home in 1988 after he was blackballed by his family for revealing his homosexuality a common storyline in this city, whether they live in a luxury condos or in a van by the river. Sheehy partied with kids who were hustling and lived four or five to a room, in single-room occupancy hotels on Polk Street. He worked a series of menial jobs to pay for food, beer and $300 a month rent.

Now those single-room hotels are gone; Polk Street has gentrified to the point that its no longer even a gay neighbourhood, with 400 sq ft flats in Sheehys old building now starting at $2,564 a month.

Its hard to know for certain whether there are more or fewer runaways now. A federally funded national tally is due this year the first since a Department of Justice survey back in 1999, which estimated that 1.68 million young Americans had experienced a runaway/throwaway episode.

Zach
Zach Hicks left Oregon, and found himself in San Francisco. Photograph: Joe Eskenazi

But counting young homeless people is hard. As the billboard at the Larkin Street Youth Services centre testifies, they excel at only being seen when they want to be seen. Fluctuations in national tallies more likely represent changes in the counting system than in the on-the-ground situation.

A recent jump in runaways could be due to a new law which mandates that foster service providers file reports when their charges go missing, explains Preston Findlay of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). You never want to be an alarmist when you say theres been a dramatic increase, Findlay says. In this case, one small silver lining is that it may in part be due to better reporting.

Once away from home, young people are more vulnerable than the adult homeless population. They can, as Hicks noted, get in the wrong car.

I do have to be more cautious with [some folks] in my speaking to them because of the trauma they suffered from males, says Calinsky from Taking it to the Streets. Findlay confirms that of the more than 18,500 endangered runaways who reported to his organisation in 2016, one in six was deemed a likely victim of child sex trafficking. Of those, seven out of eight were in the care of social services before they went missing.

As well as LGBT youth, foster children are also heavily overrepresented among the runaway population. In San Francisco, one in every four homeless people under 25 is a former foster child; and one in every five foster children is expected to experience homelessness within four years of leaving the programme.

Audrina is all of the above: a transexual former foster child who ran away to San Francisco from Billings, Montana. She is the eldest of six children; her mother was just 15 when she gave birth. I ended up getting taken away from her. I was in foster care for five years, says the shy, petite 24-year-old. I got adopted by what I thought was a good Christian family. But they became more and more abusive of me.

Following a violent confrontation when she was 17 with her adoptive father, she left home and has been travelling ever since. She started drinking, then doing stronger stuff. This is my one-year anniversary of being sober from meth, she says with a wan smile. I was walking around each night looking for a fight, carrying knives. And the one night I didnt have my knives on me was the only night I ever got into a fight.

The fight was both a horror and an exhilaration and it took its toll. My chest started tightening up and I ended up falling down and having a seizure on Van Ness Avenue. I was overdosing on meth. She quit cold turkey. I have no idea how.

She recently formed her own group at the citys LGBT centre aimed at helping fellow young people. Shes doing great, says Calinsky, though Audrina is a harsher critic: My life has been a series of stupid choices.

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In San Francisco, one in four homeless people under 25 is a former foster child. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP

A homeless homeless centre

Fuck sciatica, fuck the fact heroin makes me throw up and fuck these stairs, says a barefoot young woman. She is young, but walks with a cane as she climbs the steps to the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, passing Mary Howe who props up a sign reading Homeless Youth Alliance (HYA).

This is an office shift for Howe, the organisations executive director and a former heroin-addicted runaway. On Christmas Day in 2013, the HYA lost the lease on its longtime drop-in centre. Ever since, the homeless centre has itself been homeless.

Theres something to be said for putting a lot of effort toward youth who are homeless, Howe says. In the long run, its cost-beneficial. They are the ones who will become a part of the adult homeless population.

At every level of government, money has been allocated towards alleviating chronic adult homelessness. Adults remain the neediest and most visible representatives of a shameful national epidemic. But Darla Bardine, the executive director of the National Network for Youth, notes that the federal funding necessitated by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008 has been flat for years.

In San Francisco, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is allotted annually to combat homelessness, but only 8% of it is directed toward young people despite 21% of the citys tallied homeless being younger than 24.

In California, homeless youth advocates were overjoyed to secure an additional $10m in yearly state funding to be split among Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. Thats a step up from the $1.1m the four counties split for the prior 29 years but its still a paltry sum, representing less than 0.01% of the states $125bn budget.

There have been some wins: in recent years San Francisco has opened several hundred housing units earmarked specifically for young homeless people. Many units are additionally reserved for extended foster care youth. In 2012, California expanded its foster care system to cover young people up to their 21st birthday, eliminating the draconian scenario of youths who grew up in turbulent situations getting the heave-ho as their 18th birthday gift.

There is no shortage of sound ideas to pre-emptively stave off runaway situations. Children in California can no longer be charged with prostitution after many years, the legal mindset has finally changed to view them as victims, rather than criminals. Ive heard from some kids that prostitution may be a better choice for them than what they feel theyre facing in a foster situation, says Eliza Reock, a child sex-trafficking specialist at the NCMEC. But at what point would we accept abuse of a child as a solution? Its a big indicator we need to step up and do better.

In Los Angeles County, interventions are triggered when children exhibit certain warning signs, such as chronic truancy or substance abuse. On the federal level, Bardines organisation has created a comprehensive System to End Youth and Young Adult Homelessness broken down into prevention services, early and crisis intervention services, long-term services and after-care services.

We have to be looking earlier, says Doug Styles, the executive director of Huckleberry Youth Programs, a San Francisco-based agency ministering to young homeless people that was formed in 1967. More than nine in 10 young people who show up at Styles door are eventually reunited with their families. But the real trick would be preventing that trip in the first place, he says. We can probably identify some profiles of people likely to become homeless. We should be working with them earlier on. We should be working with school systems.

These are smart ideas but not revolutionary. Los Angeles is already doing some of these things. For the most part, the problems are in the execution, or lack thereof. Most plans run aground on the need for additional money and housing two things few major cities ever really have enough of.

Youth providers are careful not to bite the government hand that feeds them, but cant help noting theyre fed far less (proportionately) than providers serving adult homeless populations. Statistically, underserved young people are likely to be tomorrows visible and resource-intensive chronically homeless adults, but dollars are prioritised to help the homeless people the taxpayers see, rather than the homeless kids they do not.

Hicks, however, has a message for those taxpayers: dont worry about him. Look, I come from nothing, he says. This is normal life for me. In San Francisco, you could be the scummiest person, you could be a doctor. You can be whatever you want to be. This city gives you all the skills to do it.

As were talking he suddenly decides to barrel across a three-lane road to catch a bus. Two cars bear down on him. Hes not looking, and doesnt appear to care. They slow and swerve at the last moment, and this time they dont hit him.

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  • This piece was amended on 9 October 2017 to clarify the circumstances of Jeff Sheehys departure from home and the type of road Hicks ran across.

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