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Greedy Politicians Are Already Wrecking the Legalized Cannabis Industry

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On New Year’s Day 2018, California became the sixth state to end prohibition by legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis. In addition to striking a blow against the disastrous War on Drugs, the full-fledged legalization of marijuana was also expected to trigger an economic boom throughout the Golden State, as it did in other states like Colorado.

Now that the first year of legal cannabis sales has come to a close, however, it appears that reality has fallen short of the initial projections. And thanks to California’s proclivity for excessive regulation and taxation, the “green rush” that the state hoped for has yet to come to fruition.

Over the last several years, marijuana legalization has proven to be an idea whose time has come. As it stands today, ten states and the District of Columbia allow for recreational use of the plant and an additional 23 states allow for medicinal use. National polling also shows that 62 percent of the country now favors some form of legalization.

Most people now realize that the War on Drugs has been a complete disaster as well as a huge waste of resources, which has softened many hearts when it comes to the issue of legalization. But there are also economic incentives that have made ending prohibition exceedingly popular across the country. By legalizing cannabis, you open up the door for an entirely new industry with the potential to bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year and create a countless number of new jobs. This is appealing even to those who are personally opposed to recreational use of the plant.

California had high hopes that this would be the case with its own economy. On the eve of legalization, several state officials predicted that recreational cannabis would result in the creation of 6,000 new dispensaries across California. This certainly would have made a substantial impact on the economy, but unfortunately, the actual number of new stores fell far below the prior year’s generous predictions. According to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, only 547 temporary and annual licenses were issued to new retail stores in 2018. As a result, the green rush that was expected to grow the economy never came. In 2018, cannabis sales only amounted to $2.5 billion, which on its own might not seem too shabby but is, in fact, half a billion less than the total number of sales for 2017, when only medical cannabis was legal.

So why has California failed to replicate the booming green economies of other states? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is the root of the majority of the state’s problems: too much regulation and taxation.

Setting up shop in California’s heavily regulated economy is hard enough for regular businesses, but when a substance like cannabis is involved, the process becomes all the more complicated.

For starters, business owners have to seek approval not only from the state but from local municipalities as well. Unfortunately, many cities have instituted their own bans on recreational cannabis. Of California’s 482 different cities, only 89 actually allow recreational dispensaries. Other states have faced this problem, but many dispensaries have taken advantage of a loophole in the system.

By offering product delivery, many dispensaries have been able to expand their services to cities where the dispensaries themselves have been banned, but the use of the plant is still legal. California currently has a ban on marijuana delivery services, which has made it more difficult for “potrepreneurs” to meet the demands of those living in cities where dispensaries are still illegal. However, the Bureau of Cannabis Control is looking at a proposal that would put delivery of the plant back on the table, which would help boost sales across the state.

Even those living in one of the 89 cities where retail is permitted are still subjected to layers of regulation that make it difficult to get a business up and running. Having to seek licenses from both the state and the city is difficult enough on its own, not to mention expensive. But prospective dispensary owners must also comply with rules and regulations handed down not only from the text of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act but also from the Bureau of Cannabis Control and any local governments as well. This makes the whole process extremely tricky to navigate.

As Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML told the Los Angeles Times,

The cannabis industry is being choked by California’s penchant for over-regulation. It’s impossible to solve all of the problems without a drastic rewrite of the law, which is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.

Another difficulty faced by cannabusinesses all across the state is finding a bank willing to do business with you. Since federal prohibition is still very much in effect, banking institutions are nervous to get into bed with the industry. Already, banks are overly scrutinized in an attempt to monitor potential criminal or terrorist activities. Doing business with dispensaries does put these financial institutions at risk, so the fear is justified.

Once all these regulatory and financial hurdles are overcome, there is still one major issue: the black market. Since marijuana sales are subject to a “sin tax,” consumers end up paying the government 35 cents for every dollar they spend on legal cannabis. This has made the black market ever more intriguing to consumers, who know they can escape excessive taxation by going through a street dealer. According to Fitch Ratings, when all is said and done consumers end up paying about 45 percent more for legal marijuana than they do on the black market.

Tom Adams of BDS Analytics, a company that tracks the cannabis market, said:

The bottom line is that there’s always been a robust illicit market in California—and it’s still there. Regulators ignored that and thought they could go straight into an incredibly strict and high-tax environment.

It’s actually rather shocking that California hasn’t been leading the way in the cannabis industry, considering how it has led the nation in ending prohibition.

It might not have been the first state to legalize recreational cannabis, but it has generally been ahead of the game when it comes to ending marijuana prohibition in general. In 1996, the state passed the Compassionate Use Act, which made the plant available to those seeking it for medical purposes. This was the nation’s first law of its kind, but it wasn’t the first time California had taken a jab at the drug war.

In 1972, it became the first state with a ballot initiative for the legalization of marijuana. Had Californians voted “yes” on Proposition 19, the law would have been changed to ensure that “no person in the State of California 18 years of age or older shall be punished in any way for growing, processing, transporting, or possessing marijuana for personal use, or for using it.”

Of course, it would not be until 2016, when California voters passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, that the state would finally legalize recreational use. But considering that medical cannabis had already been a consumer good for over ten years, state regulators should have at least had some exposure to how a legal market might look.

But California is known for its overly-regulated and heavily taxed economy. And this climate of government overreach has hampered the cannabis industry from raking in the revenues that many had hoped it would. If California regulators are wise, they will take a lesson from other states.

As the Los Angeles Times reports:

There is less of a tax burden in Oregon, where voters legalized recreational pot in 2014, and state and local taxes are capped at 20%. With nearly a tenth of the population of California, that state has more licensed cannabis shops—601. On a per capita basis, Alaska has also approved more pot shop licenses than California,—94 so far. The state imposes a tax on cultivation, but there is no retail excise tax on pot.

Legalizing marijuana is about a lot more than money. At the core of the argument against prohibition is the belief that every individual has the right to determine what substance they choose to put into their bodies.

However, while not everyone is on board with the “I own me” philosophy, economic incentives have helped make legalization more appealing to those who may have traditionally been opposed to it. But as California is learning the hard way, if legalization is just an excuse to increase regulatory burdens for entrepreneurs and excessively tax consumers, then no one stands to make any money at all. This is an important lesson to keep in mind as more states finally move to put an end to prohibition.


By Brittany Hunter / Creative Commons / FEE.org

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Corruption

Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars

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A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.

Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.

Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.

In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.

Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”

Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.

“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.

“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”

Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.

When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”

“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”

Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.

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Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month

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A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.

The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.

It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.

The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.

Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.

Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.

“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.

“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”

The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.

Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.

Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.

Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

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2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found

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An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.

The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.

Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.

“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”

Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”

Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.

At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”

While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.

The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.

Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.

 Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.

About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”

Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.

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