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By David Downs

at SFgate.com

The three year-old federal crackdown on medical cannabis businesses in California will continue, a Dept. of Justice official told the Los Angeles Times last week.

Deputy Atty. Gen. James M. Cole told the Times: “If you don’t want us prosecuting [marijuana users] in your state, then get your regulatory act together,” he said.

Eighteen years after Californians legalized medical marijuana and called for a statewide cannabis program, legislators again failed to enact one in 2014 session. Instead, California has left issues of mmj cultivation, distribution and sales to cities, the majority of which ban dispensaries.

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California’s State Board of Equalization has estimated that $1.4 billion could be netted annually by legalization of recreational marijuana. For a state that has struggled with its budget for years, this seems like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. While some politicians have pushed for taking advantage of this possible revenue stream, a recent vote to change California marijuana standards failed to pass.

California already allows medical marijuana by doctor prescription and hauls in over $100 million each year in revenues, but that number is dwarfed by the amount that could be earned through legalizing recreational use. Not only would tax revenues skyrocket, but savings would also be recognized through reduced law enforcement efforts.

While some expenses would be incurred in order to set up a system of regulation around legalized recreational marijuana, similar to what already exists for medical marijuana, most experts project that California could still net well over $1 billion dollars annually. California NORML, an organization dedicated to reforming marijuana laws, estimates that California could earn revenue of $1 billion per year with a simple $1 per joint tax. That’s not taking into account the revenues earned through sales of other products, dispensary fees, or any other tax related to marijuana sales.

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By Katy Steinmetz,

At TIME

Election Day this year will be big on pot.

The battle over legalizing recreational marijuana in California—the big enchilada that may tilt legalization not only in the U.S. but other countries—is already being set for 2016. But while many reformers’ eyes are focused on the next presidential election, this year’s votes on marijuana initiatives have the power to shape that fight.

Here are the races to watch in November…

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) 

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana advocacy group, began raising money for a campaign to legalize recreational pot use in California in 2016. Analysts say this will add a twist to presidential election as well.

The Marijuana Policy Project filed paperwork with the California secretary of state's office registering a campaign committee to start accepting and spending contributions for a pot legalization initiative on the November 2016 state ballot, the group said.

The measure would be similar to the initiatives passed in 2012 by voters in Colorado and Washington, the first U.S. states to legalize recreational usage of marijuana for adults over 21.

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On August 14, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee held SB 1262 in committee, effectively putting it on the back burner until 2015.The proposed bill, which would create medical marijuana regulations in the state of California, has been controversial since its inception.

Any bill that proposes annual spending of $150,000 or more is automatically sent to the suspense file in order to be considered when the availability of revenue is known. Therefore, this move does not indicate an unsurmountable barrier to the proponents of legalized medical marijuana, but it does put the bill on hold. Since the bill was not approved by August 15, it will not be under consideration for the remainder of 2014.

Concerns for Suspended Bill 1262

With the writers of SB 1262 leaving California legislature, the medical marijuana supporters will need to find new champions. Lou Correa and Tom Ammiano, who hoped to see SB 1262 passed before their terms expired, will leave unsatisfied with the results of their efforts.

Some have pointed to the $20 million in annual expenses to oversee a newly created medical marijuana industry as the most unsurmountable hurdle. Given that the availability of legal medical marijuana would also increase tax revenues by an estimated $400 million, this seems like a poor excuse for sidelining the bill. In Colorado, where marijuana was legalized at the beginning of 2014 for medical and recreational purposes, tax revenues from the marijuana industry have skyrocketed beyond expectations.

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Washington (AFP)

The New York Times called for the legalization of marijuana, in a bold editorial comparing the federal ban on cannabis to Prohibition.

The prestigious publication said pot laws disproportionately impact young black men and that addiction and dependence are "relatively minor problems" — especially when compared with alcohol and tobacco.

"It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished," the newspaper said.

"It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."

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By LISA RATHKE,

Associated Press

Move over, pot brownies. The proliferation of marijuana edibles for both medical and recreational purposes is giving rise to a cottage industry of baked goods, candies, infused oils, cookbooks and classes that promises a slow burn as more states legalize the practice and awareness spreads about the best ways to deliver the drug.

Edibles and infused products such as snack bars, olive oils and tinctures popular with medical marijuana users have flourished into a gourmet market of chocolate truffles, whoopie pies and hard candies as Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana in the past year.

"You're seeing a lot of these types of products like cannabis cookbooks," said Erik Altieri, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "They've always been popular among a subset of marijuana, but with the fact that more and more people from the mainstream are able to consume, there's a lot more interest."

Many pot users turn to edibles because they don't like to inhale or smell the smoke or just want variety. For many people who are sick or in pain, controlled doses of edibles or tinctures can deliver a longer-lasting therapeutic dose that doesn't give them the high.

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Florida sits poised, anxiously waiting to see if it will join the District of Columbia and the other twenty-one US states that have already legalized marijuana for medicinal use. If voters prove to pass this law (A Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative) in the coming November elections, the sunshine state should receive an estimated $700 million in tax revenue. Even if laws don’t go into effect for a year, as has been the norm for most states that have allowed marijuana for medicinal use, entrepreneurs are already planning on ways to join in on this expanding multi-million dollar industry. 

Although legalization in Florida right now is mostly talk and speculation, which has not stopped those interested in capitalizing off cannabis to prepare for impending changes in current legislation. As legalization has not yet occurred, there have been no laws outlined by officials as to exact logistics for setting up business in the industry. There have, however, been entrepreneurs from other states whom have knowledge in the industry that are looking at real estate that may be capitalized on for future businesses that hold potential for medical marijuana.

If Florida voters decide to implement the legalization of medical marijuana into current law, officials may take heed on what other states have done before in establishing rules and regulations regarding businesses involved in the growing and distribution of medical cannabis. As Florida prepares for this monumental change, there are conferences and seminars taking place all over the state that allow those interested in starting a medical marijuana business that allow people to speak directly with lawyers, doctors, and experts in the medical marijuana field specific questions about operating such a business.

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Today, the House of Representatives voted on an amendment that stops the DEA and other federal prosecutors from arresting or charging, otherwise holding anyone federally legally liable for breaking the law in states where medical marijuana is already legalized. Generally and interestingly, no one expected the House to pass this amendment, making this quite the welcome surprise, even for supporters of this kind of legislation. Basically, the House voted to stop the feds from poking their noses into the affairs of states regarding their own medical marijuana laws- so if you use or sell medical marijuana in states where it’s legal, federal prosecution doesn’t concern you anymore. The bill still has to pass through the Senate, but with a current senate filled with supportive democratic votes, it sounds like this bill will be signed by the president in due time.

Federal prosecution has held back a lot of people looking to open a medical marijuana business in states where it’s been legalized. The reason being, even if you live in a state like California where medical marijuana is legal, if the Federal Government decides to do so they can arrest you and charge you for breaking federal law- even if you live in a state where its legal- and the state of California could do nothing about it. This sort of legal system flies in the face of many who value the idea of sovereignty among states, where laws made by states are withheld and uphold in those states and the Federal Government has no jurisdiction as to what happens in that state. Ideally, as long as medically grown marijuana isn’t passing over state lines, the federal government has no right to arrest and charge anyone.

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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reminded marijuana growers in Colorado and Washington State that they not allowed to use federal irrigation waters – consistent with the Federal stance against the marijuana industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation maintains dams, canals and power plants in the western states including Colorado, Washington and California.

Dan DuBray, chief of public affairs stated "As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people,", The bureau says it receives a number of inquiries about water usage for marijuana related operations.

"Reclamation will operate its facilities and administer its water-related contracts in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended. This includes locations where state law has decriminalized or authorized the cultivation of marijuana. Reclamation will refer any inconsistent uses of federal resources of which it becomes aware to the Department of Justice and coordinate with the proper enforcement authorities," it said.

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