TIME nation

First Recreational Marijuana Legally Sold in Seattle Donated to Museum

In this July 8, 2014, file photo, Deb Greene, 65, Cannabis City's first customer, displays her purchase of legal recreational marijuana at the store in Seattle. Elaine Thompson – AP

A marijuana milestone saved for posterity

The first marijuana sold for recreational purposes in Seattle is being donated to the city’s Museum of History and Industry, the Associated Press reports.

Deb Greene, a 65-year old grandmother, purchased it at the store Cannabis City on July 8, when the state’s first legal, recreational marijuana stores opened. The retiree brought “a chair, sleeping bag, food, water and a 930-page book” so she could camp out overnight and be the first in line, the AP reported at the time.

She purchased two bags of legal weed, one for personal use and another that was signed by Cannabis City owner, James Lathrop, so it could be “saved forever,” Greene told the Seattle Times. “You don’t use history.”

As Greene told the Puget Sound Business Journal, “I wanted to be a part of this, this is part of the history of our city.”

MORE: The Rules About Pot Just Changed in Washington D.C.

MORE: House Votes to Help Pot Businesses Use Banks

MONEY

Should I Invest in a Marijuana Shop?

Have you ever wanted to be a personal-finance advice columnist? Well, here's your chance.

In MONEY’s “Readers to the Rescue” department, we publish questions from readers seeking help with sticky financial situations, along with advice from other readers on how to solve those problems. Here’s our latest reader question:

I have an opportunity to invest in a store in Washington that will sell marijuana for recreational use. The returns are expected to be significant. But there is an ethical question for me: Should I invest in something that may hurt some people’s lives?

What advice would you give? Fill out the form below and tell us about it. We’ll publish selected reader advice in an upcoming issue. (Your answer may be edited for length and clarity.)

Thank you!

[/contact-form]

 

TIME Drugs

The Rules About Pot Just Changed in Washington D.C.

Pot Marijuana Weed
Getty Images

Adults caught with up to one ounce of pot will be fined $25 in the nation's capital

Washington D.C.’s pot decriminalization policy went into effect Thursday, lowering the penalties for marijuana possession to just a $25 civil fine for adults caught with up to one ounce.

The law may still encounter some pushback from Congress, as the Republican-controlled House passed a bill Wednesday that includes an amendment to stop D.C. from using federal or local funds to implement the law. The bill was passed largely along party lines; only six Democrats supported the bill.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who sponsored the D.C. provision, told the Washington Post that pot is “poison to a teenager’s brain” and that the new law would treat teenagers in a dramatically different way to young people right across the Maryland border, where violators younger than 21-years-old are required to appear in court.

The Administration “strongly opposes” the House provision, writing in a letter released Monday that it poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan police department’s enforcement and violates the principle of D.C. home rule.

Washington D.C. has an extraordinarily high rate of marijuana arrests, ranked seventh out of 945 counties examined in a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report. There’s also a huge racial disparity in who gets penalized for smoking weed, according to the same report, which found that black people are eight times more likely than non-blacks to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Possession of any amount of marijuana in the District was formerly counted as a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It remains a criminal offense to smoke pot in the nation’s capital.

TIME Drugs

House Votes to Help Pot Businesses Use Banks

Rethinking Pot Border Town
Customers gather at a medical-marijuana store on July 9, 2014. Zachary Kaufman—AP

But the measure may stall in the Senate

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed one measure designed to help legitimate marijuana businesses gain access to the financial system, and rejected another that would have blocked them from doing so. But the votes may not force a resolution to the cannabis industry’s long-running fight to bank its cash.

The House easily approved an amendment to an appropriations bill that would bar regulators from punishing banks who transact with legal marijuana businesses. The measure, which passed 231-192, is designed to ease the fears of financial institutions, who mostly eschew pot clients, even in states that have relaxed marijuana laws, because the drug remains illegal under federal law.

In the other vote, the House rejected an amendment sponsored by a conservative Republican that would have blocked the implementation of Treasury Department guidelines, issued earlier this year, that gave a yellow light for banks to accept legitimate cannabis clients.

Industry activists hailed the votes as a major triumph. “This is a huge step forward for the legal cannabis industry,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement. “Access to basic banking services is one of the most critical challenges facing legal cannabis businesses and the state agencies tasked with regulating them.”

Pro-pot votes in the Republican-controlled House are another marker of just how mainstream marijuana is becoming. But they are not necessarily a sign that the banking issue will be resolved anytime soon.

A bill to open the banking industry to pot clients would still have to clear the U.S. Senate, which is no easy feat for far less controversial legislation. There is no guarantee the measure will come up for a vote in the midst of a contentious election season, with control of the chamber up for grabs. And some legislators from both parties oppose opening the financial system to marijuana money. After the Treasury guidelines were issued, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored a blistering letter arguing that the department had “severely undermined” its mission.

“Following the guidance may expose financial institutions to civil or criminal liability,” Feinstein and Grassley wrote. “Congress and the President may reconsider marijuana’s legality, but until federal law is changed, selling marijuana, laundering marijuana proceeds, and aiding and abetting those activities all remain illegal. Far from clarifying the obligations of financial institutions, FinCEN’s guidance appears to create uncertainty where none had existed beforehand.”

Multiple Democratic Senate aides did not immediately respond to questions about the measure’s chances of passage in the upper chamber. Without Congressional approval, banks are unlikely to take the risk of changing their policy.

TIME neuroscience

A ‘High’ From Marijuana Is Really the Opposite in Your Brain

Daily Life In South Africa
A youth smokes marijuana in Soweto township, near Johannesburg, on July 2, 2013 Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

Marijuana dulls your response to dopamine

A new study suggests marijuana blunts the brain’s reaction to dopamine, making users less responsive to the chemical responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure.

In the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers studied the brains of 24 marijuana abusers — that is, people who smoked multiple times a day — and how they reacted to methylphenidate, a stimulant often used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Using personality tests and brain imaging, the researchers found the pot users had blunted behavioral, cardiovascular and brain responses to methylphenidate compared with control participants. Marijuana abusers scored lower on tests of positive emotional activity and higher on negative emotional reactions.

The researchers believe that pot not only dampens the brains’ dopamine reaction to stimulants but also influences the area of the brain involved in reward processing. The participants had lower reward sensitivity, higher levels of irritability, and likely more depression and anxiety.

The researchers conclude that the way pot interferes with the brain may contribute to drug cravings. And that a “high” is really the opposite in the brain.

TIME Drugs

Facing High Demand, Seattle’s Only Legal Pot Shop Already Out of Stock

Seattle Marijuana
Deb Greene (C), the first customer at the Cannabis City retail marijuana store, watches store owner James Lathrop (R) pen a handwritten note on her bag on July 8, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Cannabis City was the first retail marijuana store to open in Seattle today and one of the first group now operating in Washington state, nearly a year and a half after the state's voters chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Elaine Thompson/AP—Getty Images

Cannabis City expects to reopen July 21.

Seattle’s only legal marijuana dispensary is out of pot only three days after opening its doors. The shop, Cannabis City, expects to reopen on July 21, according to a voicemail message for incoming callers.

The shop is one of a few dozen across the state to receive a license to sell marijuana legally in Washington, where a state law legalizing the sell of recreational marijuana went into effect this week.

The store sold 11 pounds of the drug between opening day on July 8 and the end of the day on Thursday, the shop’s owner told the Tacoma News Tribune.

“We knew it was coming,” said owner James Lathrop. “We didn’t have any guaranteed additional deliveries.”

Voters in Washington and Colorado approved marijuana legalization laws in the fall of 2012. Colorado’s law went into effect earlier this year.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 11

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Palestinian death toll nears 100; Nigerian schoolgirls; Border crisis; House Republicans to sue Obama over ACA employer mandate delay; Congress moves to save Highway Trust Fund; Berkeley to give free marijuana to the poor

  • Palestinian Death Toll Nears 100 as Hamas Promises More Attacks on Israel [NYT]
    • “Mr Netanyahu’s mistake—compounded by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians on the West Bank—is to think that their versions of normality can be sustained simply by managing the conflict. A stand-off is always liable to tip into violence.” [Economist]
  • How to bring back the Nigerian schoolgirls, three months on [New Yorker]
  • “Thousands of children from Central America are undertaking a perilous journey to the U.S. border despite warnings from the U.S. that they will be sent back. In fact, many will get to stay.” [WSJ]
    • Obama, Senate Democrats Clash Over How to Handle the Border Crisis [Hill]
    • “Immigration officials and Border Patrol agents will run out of money if Congress doesn’t approve emergency funds to deal with the flood of young migrants at the southwest border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told senators Thursday.” [L.A. Times]
  • “House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.” [TIME]
    • “The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured.” [Politico]
  • “Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to save the country’s main highway fund, but differences in plans from the House and Senate are likely to spur a congressional showdown in the coming weeks.” [TIME]
  • “The Bear is Loose”: Is Obama Breaking Free or Running Away? [WashPost]
  • Don’t Laugh: Berkeley Plans to Give Free Marijuana to the Poor [NYT]
TIME Drugs

Colorado Is Consuming Way More Pot Than Anyone Ever Believed

Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Co.
Hundreds of people lit up joints, bongs, pipes and marijuana cigarettes at exactly 4:20 p.m. during the Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver on April 20, 2014, to celebrate the legal use of marijuana in the state. Helen H. Richardson—Denver Post via Getty Images

And most is consumed by a minority of daily users

About 9% of Colorado’s population consumes marijuana, according to a market demand study conducted by the state department of revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division and the state’s Marijuana Policy Group. And those users, it’s estimated, will get through about 121.4 metric tons of pot every year.

According to the report, that consumption — calculated through survey results, demographic data and source data — is “31 percent higher than a recent department of revenue assessment, 89 percent higher than a study by the Colorado Futures Center, and 111 percent higher than an older study by the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.”

The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division analyzed the market demand for the drug, which Colorado began selling for recreational use in January, in an effort to “effectively manage production within the regulated industry,” according to a press release.

According to the study, published Wednesday, the bulk of the demand for the drug comes from the most frequent users. About 21.8% of users report consuming marijuana almost daily, accounting for 66.9% of the total demand in the state. That constitutes a lot of consistent tokers. Across the country, only 17% of American adults consume marijuana that frequently, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

About 29.2% of adults report smoking less than once a month in Colorado.

But it looks like Coloradans aren’t the only ones getting Rocky Mountain high. Using sales-tax analysis and data from tourist offices, the study’s authors estimate about 44% of all retail sales of marijuana come from tourists — the bulk of whom visited mountain communities. In all, visitors are expected to consume about 8.9 metric tons of pot per year.

TIME White House

Obama’s New Drug Policy Looks a Lot Like the Old One

Michael Botticelli
Michael Botticelli, left, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, speaks to community leaders in Roanoke, Va., on July 9, 2014 Erica Yoon—AP

A new emphasis on treatment and addiction, but no change on marijuana

The Obama Administration unveiled an updated drug policy Thursday, including a new emphasis on treatment and addiction programs and a push to curb abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers.

Michael Botticelli, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, framed the retooled strategy as a shift away from the punitive policies that have produced record incarceration rates.

“Our prisons and jails are already overcrowded with people who desperately need compassionate, evidence-based treatment for the disease of addiction—not a jail cell,” Botticelli said in a statement before an event in Roanoke, Va.

Among the elements of the plan are expanded access to drug education, treating drug addition as a health issue rather than a criminal one, and a push to divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than prisons. It promotes tackling the twin scourges of heroin and prescription opiates, whose abuse rates have climbed.

The Administration’s call for criminal-justice reform reflects widespread agreement, inside the White House and out, that the war on drugs has been a misbegotten failure. The Department of Justice has emphasized the need to overhaul its approach from being “tough on crime” to being “smart on crime.” The updated policy is a continuation of that strategy. “The plan we released today calls for reforming our criminal justice system to find alternatives to incarceration—and effective interventions across the entire system to get people the treatment they need.”

But for the most part, the Administration’s approach looks like more of the same. It outlines no changes to the White House’s approach to marijuana, a blow to legalization advocates in the same week that Washington state became the second to legalize the sale of cannibis to adults for recreational purposes.

Despite the President’s belief that pot is less harmful than alcohol, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I drug on par with cocaine and ecstasy. Discrepancies between state and federal pot laws have blocked legitimate weed-business owners from accessing banks and left the threat of jail time looming over users, sellers and growers even in states where some form of the drug is now legal.

The new strategy calls the increasing perception that cannabis is relatively harmless—fed not only by state legalization efforts, but also perhaps the President’s own remarks to that effect—a “serious challenge” to drug reform efforts.

“The drug czar’s office is still tone deaf when it comes to marijuana policy,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Why stay the course when the current policy has utterly failed to accomplish its goals?”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser