Washington Senate Approves Less Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill

On
Saturday the Washington Senate
passed
a bill that addresses some of the
concerns
that patients have about new restrictions on medical
marijuana. S.B.
5887
, introduced by Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center), is
substantially more permissive than H.B.
2149
, the medical marijuana bill
approved
last month by the state House of Representatives,
although both bills would abolish dispensaries, require patients to
register with the state, and reduce limits on possession and
cultivation. The patient-friendlier provisions of S.B. 5887, which
passed by a vote of 34 to 15, include:

Collective gardens. The House bill would ban
dispensaries (a.k.a. “collective gardens”) as of May 2015, while
the Senate bill would let them continue to operate until that
September. Even after then, the Senate bill would let patients (or
their designated providers) pool their resources and grow marijuana
together for their own medical use. S.B. 5887 includes rules aimed
at preventing collective gardens from evolving into dispensaries:
Just one garden is allowed per location, no more than four patients
may grow together at a time, and at least 15 days must elapse after
one member leaves before a new member may join. 

Cultivation limit. Each patient (or a
designated provider) would be allowed to grow up to six plants
(down from 15 currently), but there would be no limit on how many
of those six plants could be flowering at one time.

Purchase limits. Patients could buy up to three
ounces of marijuana (more if a health professional says it is
necessary), 48 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form,
216 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids, and 21 grams of
concentrates. Those are three times the limits for recreational
customers. The current possession limit for patients is 24 ounces
of marijuana.

Tax exemptions. When they buy cannabis from
state-licensed stores with “medical marijuana endorsements,”
registered patients would not have to pay standard sales tax or the
retail-level excise tax, but the latter exemption would expire in
September 2015. “I am not happy about that, and we’ll be fighting
for its reinstatement this week,” says Philip Dawdy, media and
policy director at the Washington Cannabis
Association

Supply and access. The state Liquor Control
Board, which would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board, would
be
required
to “increase the amount of square feet available for
production by marijuana producers if the producer agrees to use the
extra space to grow products for medical use and for sale to
medical marijuana endorsed stores.” On the retail end, the board

must
“reconsider the maximum number of retail outlets permitted
and allow for a new license period and a greater number of retail
outlets in order to accommodate the medical needs of qualifying
patients.” When it does so, “a preference may be given to those
license applicants who intend to operate a medical-only store.”

Medical strains. The Liquor and Cannabis
Board
must
“adopt rules on products sold to qualifying patients
under an endorsement, including THC concentration, CBD
concentration, and THC to CBD ratios appropriate for patient
use.” State-licensed pot stores would be allowed to “identify
the strains, varieties, THC levels and CBD levels” of their
products, although state regulations would prohibit the sort of
symptom-specific advice currently available from dispensaries.
“We’ll have to work with LCB in rule making to straighten out what
people can say,” Dawdy says. 

Recommendations. An
amendment
to H.B. 5887 defines “principal care provider”—the
person authorized to recommend marijuana for a patient—as a “health
care professional who is designated by a qualifying patient.” That
provision should help veterans who receive primary care through
V.A. hospitals where doctors are not allowed to recommend
marijuana.

Affirmative defense. Patients with
doctor’s recommendations would continue to have an affirmative
defense against marijuana charges until April 1, 2016, after which
they would have to register with the state, which would give them
immunity from arrest.

Registry privacy. In addition to
confirming a patient’s eligibility for higher purchase limits and
tax exemptions, information from the registry could be
shared
with a law enforcement agency “engaged in a bona fide
specific investigation of suspected marijuana-related activity that
is illegal under Washington state law.” Illegally sharing
information from the registry would be a
Class C felony
.

“I’m not calling it good,” Dawdy says, “but it is a workable
framework for medical going forward.” The Senate and the House
have until Thursday to agree on a compromise bill.

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Intern at Reason This Coming Summer!

The deadline for
Reason magazine’s paid ten-week summer internship,
which begins in June, is coming up (March 26).

Given that the deadline is a little over two weeks away I
thought it would be worth reiterating the advice my former
colleague
Mike Riggs
gave to potential intern applicants almost a year
ago:

  • Follow instructions

  • Write the hell out of your cover letter

  • Show some familiarity with the publication

  • Tell me what you can do for us, because we know what we can do
    for you

  • Be Patient

I cannot stress enough the importance of taking these tips
seriously. As I mentioned
back in November
, talented applicants have ruined their chances
of being considered for an internship at Reason by failing to do
something as simple as following instructions.

Something I have been noticing since I have started looking over
intern applications is the tendency for applicants to write almost
identical cover letters to dozens of publications. These cover
letters express an interest in a career in journalism but
oftentimes do not mention why they want to be at Reason in
particular. An application with a cover letter that mentions issues
Reason is known for covering or the writings of a particular editor
is going to grab my attention much more than an application with a
cover letter that mentions Reason once in the introductory
sentence.

Interns here get to write for Reason.com and Reason
magazine about topics that interest them. Our current intern,
Alyssa
Hertig
, has been writing about technology, Bitcoin, and civil
liberties. Zenon
Evans
, who did such a fine job as an intern we hired him,
interviewed Russian libertarian activist
Vera Kichanova
during his internship. Guy Bentley, who
now works at the London-based City A.M. (which you should
all be reading), wrote about foreign
affairs
while he was an intern here.

As well as writing, Reason interns provide admin assistance to
the office, assist staff with research, and transcribe interviews.
The internship is based in Washington, D.C., and interns are
encouraged to attend events in the city that interest them.

If you want to pursue a paid journalism internship in
Washington, D.C. that will allow you to write about topics that
interest you please send in an application. But make sure to take
the tips above seriously.

If you have a question send me an email: mfeeney@reason.com.

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A. Barton Hinkle: Big Government Will Help You Eat Right

How hard is it to read the “nutrition facts”
label on a package of food? According to the Obama administration,
it’s nearly impossible. But do we really need the government’s help
figuring out what’s best to eat? A. Barton Hinkle says we don’t,
and then explains why more government involvement in food labeling
will only make things worse.

View this article.

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Ted Cruz vs. Rand Paul on Foreign Policy: Quién Es Más Reagan?

I for one think Cruz looks much better with the beard. |||The long-interesting
Wacko Birds vs. Angry Birds
split in today’s tumultuous GOP has
tended to distract from the split-within-the-split when it comes to
Tea Party types and foreign policy.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), representing the
anti-interventionist strain, has
insisted from the get-go
that the Tea Party is an explicit
rejection of neoconservative belligerence. While that seemed like
wishful thinking in 2011, the notion gained more plausibility by

September 2003
, when many TP groups and politicians went all-in
against the Obama administration’s
neocon-backed
attempts to use force in Syria. When Paul’s
ambitious and considerably more hawkish Wacko Bird Senate
colleagues Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
joined the doves on Syria
, it was a telltale sign that the
intervention was doomed.

Well, that was then. Vladimir Putin’s thuggish takeover of
Crimea and menacing gestures toward Eastern Ukraine are generating
a lot of hawk-talk about the alleged consequences of American
“weakness,” and its possible embodiment in
anti-interventionists like Paul
. On
ABC News
yesterday, O.G. Wacko Bird Ted Cruz made it
explicit:

The man cannot stay behind the podium. ||| Pete Marovich/McClatchy-Tribune“I’m a big fan of Rand Paul. He
and I are good friends. But I don’t agree with him on foreign
policy,” Cruz said. “I think U.S. leadership is critical in the
world. And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to
deploy military force abroad. But I think there is a vital role,
just as Ronald Reagan did… The United States has a responsibility
to defend our values.” […]

“A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President
Obama’s weakness,” Cruz told Karl on “This Week.” “That Putin fears
no retribution… [Obama’s] policy has been to alienate and abandon
our friends and to coddle and appease our enemies.” 

“You’d better believe Putin sees in Benghazi four Americans are
murdered, the first ambassador killed in service since 1979, and
nothing happens,” Cruz added, echoing comments  by
other Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “You’d better
believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and
ignores the red line. You’d better believe that Putin sees all over
the world.”

When asked about Russia’s record of aggression before Obama
became president, including its invasion of Georgia during the
presidency of George W. Bush, Cruz instead slammed Obama […]

Rand Paul, who
one year ago
went to the Heritage Foundation to unveil what he
portrayed as his Reaganesque vision for foreign policy,
did not take kindly
to Cruz’s co-opting of the Gipper, writing
a Breitbart.com column titled “Stop Warping Reagan’s Foreign
Policy.” Excerpt:

Reagan clearly believed in a strong national defense and in
“Peace through Strength.” He stood up to the Soviet Union, and he
led a world that pushed back against Communism.

But Reagan also believed in diplomacy and demonstrated a
reasoned approach to our nuclear negotiations with the Soviets.
Reagan’s shrewd diplomacy would eventually lessen the nuclear
arsenals of both countries.

Many forget today that Reagan’s decision to meet with Mikhail
Gorbachev was harshly
criticized
 by the Republican
hawks of his time
, some of whom would even call Reagan
anappeaser.
In the Middle East, Reagan strategically pulled back our forces
after the tragedy in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 Marines,
realizing the cost of American lives was too great for the
mission. 

Without a clearly defined mission, exit strategy or acceptable
rationale for risking soldiers lives, Reagan possessed the
leadership to reassess and readjust.

Today, we forget that some of the Republican hawks of his time
criticized Reagan harshly for this too, again, calling
him an appeaser
. […]

I also greatly admire that Reagan was not rash or reckless with
regard to war. Reagan advised potential foreign adversaries not to
mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve. 

What America needs today is a Commander-in-Chief who will defend
the country and project strength, but who is also not eager for
war.

Regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, there is
little difference among most Republicans on what to do. All of us
believe we should stand up to Putin’s aggression. Virtually no one
believes we should intervene militarily.

So we are then faced with a finite menu of diplomatic measures
to isolate Russia, on most of which we all agree, such as sanctions
and increased economic pressure.

Yet, some politicians have used this time to beat their chest.
What we don’t need right now is politicians who have never seen war
talking tough for the sake of their political careers.

Tart, substantive exchanges like that are one of the reasons I
lament the GOP’s decision to
condense
its 2016 presidential nominating schedule. The
Republican Party’s approach toward foreign policy is up for grabs,
and with it the party’s potential popularity. Surely on questions
of life and death, more debate is better than less.

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Edward Snowden: NSA Too Busy Spying on Americans To Catch Terrorists

Edward SnowdenIn

testimony published last week
by the European Parliament’s
Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs, NSA
snooping whistleblower Edward Snowden told lawmakers that mass
spying has proven to be an especially ineffective means of
deterring wrongdoing. NSA claims to have prevented multiple
terrorist attacks evaporated upon actual scrutiny. Worse, he says,
the NSA is so busy probing the general public’s gaming habits and
personal communications that it has no time or to devote to
anything useful.

According to
Snowden
(PDF):

The first principle any inquiry must take into account is that
despite extraordinary political pressure to do so, no western
government has been able to present evidence showing that such
programs are necessary. In the United States, the heads of our
spying services once claimed that 54 terrorist attacks had been
stopped by mass surveillance, but two independent White House
reviews with access to the classified evidence on which this claim
was founded concluded it was untrue, as did a Federal Court.

Looking at the US government’s reports here is valuable. The
most recent of these investigations, performed by the White House’s
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, determined that the
mass surveillance program investigated was not only
ineffective–they found it had never stopped even a single imminent
terrorist attack–but that it had no basis in law.

Specifically, the board
concluded
, “we have not identified a single instance involving
a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete
difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”

When it comes to legal concerns, the board
noted
“There are four grounds upon which we find that the
telephone records program fails to comply with Section 215,” that
“the program violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act,”
and that “The NSA’s telephone records program also raises concerns
under both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States
Constitution.”

The board’s report also cautioned, “the bulk collection of
telephone records can be expected to have a chilling effect on the
free exercise of speech and association, because individuals and
groups engaged in sensitive or controversial work have less reason
to trust in the confidentiality of their relationships as revealed
by their calling patterns.”

Needless to say, the White House
glibly rejected
the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight
Board’s conclusions.

Snowden went on to point out the failings of the NSA’s
all-you-can-hoover approach to surveillance.

I believe that suspicionless surveillance not only fails to make
us safe, but it actually makes us less safe. By squandering
precious, limited resources on “collecting it all,” we end up with
more analysts trying to make sense of harmless political dissent
and fewer investigators running down real leads. I believe
investing in mass surveillance at the expense of traditional,
proven methods can cost lives, and history has shown my concerns
are justified.

Despite the extraordinary intrusions of the NSA and EU national
governments into private communications world-wide, Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, the “Underwear Bomber,” was allowed to board an
airplane traveling from Europe to the United States in 2009. The
290 persons on board were not saved by mass surveillance, but by
his own incompetence, when he failed to detonate the device. While
even Mutallab’s own father warned the US government he was
dangerous in November 2009, our resources were tied up monitoring
online games and tapping German ministers. That extraordinary
tip-off didn’t get Mutallab a dedicated US investigator. All we
gave him was a US visa.

Nor did the US government’s comprehensive monitoring of
Americans at home stop the Boston Bombers. Despite the Russians
specifically warning us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the FBI couldn’t
do more than a cursory investigation–although they did plenty of
worthless computer-based searching–and failed to discover the
plot. 264 people were injured, and 3 died. The resources that could
have paid for a real investigation had been spent on monitoring the
call records of everyone in America.

Snowden’s testimony also ranged over disclosures to come, and
the complicity of European spy agencies in snooping on each other’s
citizens—and then sharing the data with the NSA, which gets the
full package. Countries even modify their privacy laws to make the
NSA’s job (and that of their own agencies) easier.

All of this, to suck up more data than the spies can process, at
the expense of targeting real threats.

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23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki Says FDA Order Seriously ‘Slowed Up’ Gene Test Sales

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has

succeeded in stifling sales for innovative genetic testing company
23andMe
. “It has slowed up the number of people signing up,”
23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki said during a speech at
music/tech/everything festival South by Southwest
(SXSW) on
Sunday.

In late 2013,
the FDA
 sent 23andMe
a letter
 ordering it to “immediately discontinue
marketing” of its home genetic tests or face “seizure, injunction,
and civil money penalties.”

The
public largely supports direct-to-consumer sales of gene screening
tests
, which for as little as $99 can reveal information such
as ancestry and the presence of hereditary diseases and conditions.
But the FDA worried that consumers may make unwise medical
decisions based on their results. The FDA wants to stop consumers
from accessing important health information for their own good,
see?

Meanwhile, in foreign countries, scholars and government
agencies are going ahead and partnering with 23andMe to continue
moving medicine into the 21st century. At the SXSW
panel, Wojcicki said 23andMe now has 650,000 people in its
database and is “being inundated with requests from academics and
foreign partners.”

Genetics is going to become extremely cheap and part of our
daily life, she said. In China, the Beijing Genome Institute is now
the largest genome testing firm in the world, and Saudi Arabia, the
UK and others are all strong in this area.

Wojcicki also talked about how genetic screening can be used to
reduce health care costs and shift focus from disease treatment to
prevention. This, however, makes it unpopular with both
pharmaceutical companies and their buddies in the FDA, who have
more motive to make sick people better than to keep well people
from getting sick. Wojcicki said she was told by one doctor that,
“the problem with 23andMe is that you generate non-billable
information.” 

Non-billable, private information—23andMe allows
consumers to access their genetic info without a physician,
insurance company, or government middleman (which is probably
another strike against it in the FDA’s eyes). “Everyone has the
right to their genetic information and to use it,” said Wojcicki.
For now, however, 23andMe doesn’t have the right to tell you how to
get that information. 

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How Human Beings Shaped “Wild” Forests

I've got my property title RIGHT HERE.Here’s a doubly interesting Smithsonian

story
about a study in southeast Asia. After examining pollen
samples from Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Thailand, and Vietnam, the
magazine reports, the paleoecologist Chris Hunt and the
archeologist Ryan Rabett concluded that “humans have shaped these
landscapes for thousands of years.” That may sound uncontroversial,
but it isn’t: “Although scientists previously believed the forests
were virtually untouched by people, researchers are now pointing to
signs of imported seeds, plants cultivated for food, and land
clearing as early as 11,000 years ago—around the end of the last
Ice Age.”

The article goes on to explain the evidence and reasoning that
led Hunt and Rabett to their conclusions, as well as how their
findings feed into “a larger discussion about when and how our
species began shaping the world around us.” All very interesting
stuff, especially for those of us who do not fetishize “untouched”
“wilderness” and see human beings as a part of nature, not an
intrusive alien force.

And then we get to the other reason the piece is interesting.
Hunt thinks there’s a political dimension to his work, a way to
help indigenous people stake out a Lockean claim to their
territories:

This kind of research is about more than glimpsing
ancient ways of life. It could also present powerful information
for people who live in these forests today. According to Hunt,
“Laws in several countries in Southeast Asia do not recognize the
rights of indigenous forest dwellers on the grounds that they are
nomads who leave no permanent mark on the landscape.” The long
history of forest management traced by this study, he says, offers
these groups “a new argument in their case against eviction.”

Such tensions have played out beyond Southeast Asia. In Australia,
for example, “the impact of humans on the environment is clear
stretching back over 40,000 years or so,” says environmental
geoscientist Dan Penny, of The University of Sydney. And yet, he
says, “the material evidence of human occupation is scarce.”
Starting in the 18th century, the British used that fact “to
justify their territorial claim” to land inhabited by Aboriginal
Australians—declaring it terra nullius (belonging to
no-one), establishing a colony, and eventually claiming sovereignty
over the entire continent.

It would be a stretch, of course, to treat that pollen alone as
a property title, especially so many centuries later and among men
and women who aren’t necessarily the descendents of the people
who lived in those forests 11,000 years ago. But as a way to change
the terms of the conversation around those seizures and
evictions—to show that mixing your labor with the land can take
many forms, and that individuals can intervene in their
environments in ways that aren’t always obvious to outsiders—Hunt
may well be right about his study’s implications. 

You can read the rest of the Smithsonian
article here.
And if you’re willing to shell out $35.95 for it—or if you have
access to the site through an academic institution—you can download
Hunt and Rabett’s paper from the Journal of Archaeological
Science

here
.

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Amtrak ‘Residency’ Offers Free Rides to Writers Who Don’t Disparage It

'look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'Do you write? Are you looking
for a free ride? Do you like Amtrak, or can you at least avoid
disparaging it? If so, it wants to hear from you:

Amtrak is excited to announce the official launch of
the #AmtrakResidency program.

#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow
creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and
writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment.
Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance
route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped
with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside
roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on
availability.

Amtrak is one of those worst of both worlds public/private
hybrids. Instead of using the power of privatization to improve
services previously offered by government (what happens in
successful public private partnerships), Amtrak is a “for-profit”
corporation that doesn’t actually turn a profit because it gets
annual funding from the federal government and various state
governments who have stepped in any time the feds have tried to
trim funding.

How bad is it at Amtrak? Their 2013 budget and business plan
(pdf)
spun nearly 40 years of operating deficits as a good thing because
the “history of operating deficits demonstrates consistent
improvement over a long period”, when viewed in 2012 U.S. dollars.
In nominal U.S. dollars, operating deficits have remained
relatively constant.

Amtrak has just one profitable division to speak of, the
Northeast Corridor, which runs from Boston to Washington, D.C.
 On this route, Amtrak tickets are most expensive. They help
off-set much lower prices in other parts of the U.S., where local
members of Congress tend to lobby Amtrak to keep prices down even
when price hikes might not bring the routes to profitability. And
even in the case of the Northeast Corridor, it’s only “profitable”

excluding
the route’s capital costs, for which Amtrak insists
it still needs a government subsidy, as it does for most of its
“business”.

So what’s the wisdom of a “Residency” for a company that’s never
managed to even break even? Amtrak still advertises, and its
support among enough Washington politicians probably ensures it
will continue to be able to bleed money and get away with it. Is
the “Amtrak Residency” a transparent attempt to buy some positive
press from participants? Amtrak skeptics, libertarians, and other
critics of the government appear to need not apply. The official terms of the
program outline that applications cannot “[d]isparage sponsor, its
agencies, any other person or entity affiliated with the Program or
products, services or entities that are competitive with any of the
foregoing.” At an estimated retail value of $900 per “residency,”
it could be cheap but useful propaganda for a company that relies
on money from politicians and not a profitable business model.

Via the Twitter feed of Doug
Stanhope

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Jacob Sullum on the Helpless Anger of U.N. Drug Warriors

The International Narcotics Control Board insists
that all countries conform to its reading of anti-drug treaties,
regardless of what their own laws say. Jacob Sullum writes that the
escalation of the INCB’s zero-tolerance scolding may signal a
worldwide re-evaluation of the never-ending, always failing war on
drugs.

View this article.

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Poll: 59 Percent of Americans Support Sanctions on Russia, Are Not Keen on Military Response to Ukraine Crisis

According to the
CNN/ORC International
survey released today almost 60 percent
of Americans support the U.S. and its allies using sanctions
against Russia in order to pressure Moscow into removing forces
from Crimea. The poll also found that more Americans approve than
disapprove of how President Obama has been handling the ongoing
crisis in Crimea by 48 percent to 43 percent.

Although most Americans do support sanctions on Russia in
response to the situation in Crimea the use of sanctions is opposed
by 55 percent of Americans under the age of 35. CNN Polling
Director Keating Holland believes that young Americans’ comparative
hesitancy regarding sanctions on Russia may have something to do
with the fact that they don’t have the memories of the Cold War
that older Americans do. From CNN:

More than six in 10 older Americans support sanctions, but 55%
of Americans under the age of 35 oppose them,” said CNN Polling
Director Keating Holland. “It’s possible that generation gap is due
to older Americans’ memories of the Soviet Union as the chief
threat to the U.S.; many younger Americans may have no memory at
all of the Cold War and most of those under the age of 25 were not
even born when the Soviet Union collapsed.”

While almost 59 percent of Americans do support the U.S. and its
allies imposing sanctions on Russia slightly over half oppose
sending economic aid to Ukraine, and over 75 percent are against
sending military supplies to Ukraine.

When it comes to possible military responses to the Ukraine
crisis Americans are overwhelmingly opposed, with only 12 percent
of respondents saying they would support having American troops on
the ground in Ukraine and 17 percent saying they would support U.S.
airstrikes on Russia forces in Ukraine.

This is not the first time during Obama’s presidency that
polling has shown that Americans oppose military responses to
international crises.

Shortly after the chemical attack in Syria last summer
Reuters/Ipsos poll found that
only 9 percent
 of Americans favored a U.S. military
response.

Earlier today Reason.com published an
article
by Steve Chapman on the futility of sanction on
Russia.

More from Reason.com on Ukraine here.

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