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By Philip Ross

At International Business Times

Three U.S. senators are expected to introduce a bill into Congress today (3/10/15) that would legalize medical marijuana nationwide, a move advocates of marijuana legalization are applauding as an historic step toward ending the federal prohibition on a product whose medicinal applications are many. Experts described it as the most far-reaching medical marijuana bill ever to go to Congress and the first time such a bill has been seen in the Senate.

“This is a significant step forward when it comes to reforming marijuana laws at the federal level,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an emailed statement. “The vast majority of Americans support laws that allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana … The introduction of this legislation in the Senate demonstrates just how seriously this issue is being taken on Capitol Hill.”  

Among other things, the bill would downgrade marijuana to Schedule 2 on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s classification system. As a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana currently is considered as having a “high potential for abuse” and “no … accepted medical use.”

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By Thomas Atkins

At AFP

From aspiring "bud tenders" to research scientists and Wall Street analysts, marijuana enthusiasts of every stripe gathered in Washington looking for ways to capitalize on America's evolving pot laws.

Billions of dollars could be up for grabs in years to come as states allow medical marijuana or fully decriminalize the drug — even though it remains illegal under federal law.

In a scene unthinkable during the first two decades of America's long-standing "war on drugs," dozens of pot industry representatives squeezed into a swish hotel just a few blocks from the United States Capitol.

Several were raising money for cannabis ventures or looking to recruit staff but — aside from some futuristic-looking metal pipes and glass bongs — there was little of the paraphernalia one might ordinarily expect at a cannabis convention.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you kind of need to jump on it now to be ahead of the game," said Nicklaus Tilford, a Tennessee chef who had just given his resume to a Washington-based medicinal marijuana grower searching for a part-time "junior gardener."

"It's either now or never," he said.

A total of 23 states have now legalized marijuana for medical use. Colorado, Washington state, Alaska, Oregon and the US capital have recently passed laws legalizing it altogether.

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By Aniko Hoover

At BestDUILawyer.com 

It's a very interesting time for Law in California.  In California, Police routinely ignore new laws and policy and continue to raid grows and issue DUI's to patients who have less than 5ng/ml of THC in their blood. While technically or scientifically speaking the police and district attorneys may be wrong, patients who think they are following the law, and possibly are following the law, routinely plead guilty in plea bargains to crimes even though technically they may be completely innocent. Most patients caught up in the legal system simply cannot afford the legal fees for private attorneys and for a trial which would require them to provide expert witnesses to prove their innocence. So, while the law may say you are legal to grow the plants you need and are legal to take your medicine, the law can be thrown out the window when the police stumble upon your grow or you pass through a DUI checkpoint.

As you may or may not know, 5ng/ml of THC is sort of a standard in determining whether or not someone will be charged with a DUI in states like Colorado and Washington or Montana for determining if someone is impaired because it is equated with driving that is similar to drunk driving.

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By Lisa Leff

At Associated Press

Marijuana legalization proponents are gathering in San Francisco this weekend to hear about efforts to add the nation's most populous — and arguably most pot-infused — state to the four others where it is now legal for adults to buy and use the drug recreationally.

The International Cannabis Business Conference on Sunday and Monday is expected to draw about 1,000 investors, entrepreneurs and activists from California and elsewhere for an overview of the legalization landscape.

Advocacy groups are now drafting a 2016 ballot initiative that could transform California from a place where only medical marijuana is legal to a global center of state-approved recreational weed.

The measure's passage might seem like a foregone conclusion after voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska legalized marijuana use and obliged their governments to develop guidelines for how and where pot can be grown, sold and taxed.

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By Sean Williams

At the Motley Fool

To put it mildly, marijuana is a complicated issue.

Over the past decade we've seen public opinion on the drug make a complete 180, moving from a majority of people preferring it remain illegal, to a majority of the public now favoring its legalization in some form (either medically or recreationally).

Marijuana's dual allure
The rationale behind marijuana legalization takes two main forms. From the perspective of individual states, it offers a fresh way of generating tax revenue without having to boost taxes on all residents within a state. Both recreational and medical marijuana being prescribed/sold bear taxes that consumers pay. These taxes can help states bridge budget deficits without affecting all residents' pocketbooks.

Source: GW Pharmaceuticals.

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By HECTOR AMEZCUA

At the Sacramento Bee

With one eye on a looming effort to legalize recreational marijuana in California, organizations representing the state’s cities and police officers are pushing a Sacramento-area lawmaker’s bill to regulate medical cannabis.

Assembly Bill 266, by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, would set up a statewide regulatory scheme, but local jurisdictions would continue to have the final word on licensing medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.

For years, as legislators offered bills to impose rules on California’s teeming medical marijuana industry, law enforcement remained staunchly opposed. The aversion of cops to bills they saw as further legitimizing marijuana helped sway lawmakers to vote no.

That changed last year with a bill backed by the California Police Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities. The legislation failed, but now Cooley is carrying a follow-up bill he hopes will conclude what has become a perennial debate.

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The complications caused by the conflict between state and federal law continues as dispensaries that are legal in their state of business attempt to file federal tax returns. Since the selling of marijuana is still a federal criminal act, filing a tax return admits illegal activity, but that is not the only problem. The tax law has code dealing with filing of illegal income. However, don’t think that you’re off the hook – the tax code limits the deductibility of expenses when it comes to illegal businesses.

According to the IRS Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (CSA), taxes are due on the sale of controlled substances, such as heroin, opiates, and marijuana (including medical). As Al Capone’s case proves, tax evasion can turn out to be a larger problem than confessing to an illegal activity on your income tax return. As long as dispensaries are operating under state law, they do not need to fear federal prosecution of their business, but they may be in for a shock when they calculate their taxable income under the CSA code.

Section 61 of IRS Tax Code identifies gross income for business purposes and the business expenses that can be deducted to calculate taxable income. Though costs of doing business were originally allowed as deductions, Section 280E, enacted in 1982, specifically disallows the deduction of any expenses beyond costs of goods sold. Costs of goods sold (COGS) is defined as the inventoried costs of the substance sold (in our instance this would be cost of producing medical marijuana or reimbursement). As counterintuitive as this may seem, you get to deduct the “illegal” part but nothing else. Other related business expenses, such as office, admin or storefront costs, are disallowed.

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By Nitasha Tiku

At The Verge

It was only a matter of time before someone spun the "Uber for __" wheel and landed on WEED. More and more states are voting in favor of legalization. Congress recently instructed the feds to back off medical marijuana. Peter Thiel's venture capital fund just bet millions that legal cannabis is gonna be huge. Why not pair pot with our newfound appetite for on-demand delivery via smartphone?

"Uber for weed" was so inevitable that at least six startups attempting to deliver medical marijuana to your door launched in the past eight months: Eaze, Nestdrop, Meadow, Grassp, Dave, and Canary. That doesn't include standard offerings like the "dozens" of delivery services in Seattle, for example, that will let you call in and place an order.

Even Uber itself has partnered with Weedmaps, a popular dispensary locator, as well as a Denver-based pot shop called the Clinic, in order to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Would you believe there's something in it for Uber, too? The partnership lets Uber sow the seeds for its rumored API, which would insert a "Get an Uber" button into every app on Earth.

The only thing more obvious than the demand for these apps is the inevitable crackdown. Imagine Uber's bitter clashes with city governments and then factor in the political pressure around a federally controlled substance.

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In February 2013, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act was introduced. This act was a joint effort by congressmen from Oregon and Colorado for the purpose of updating the federal treatment of marijuana to reflect a respect for state legalization laws. This act was developed to update the tax treatment of marijuana based businesses and gain federal recognition of legal marijuana in certain states.

If enacted, this act would have created a 50% tax on marijuana at the producer level, similar to taxes on tobacco and alcohol. Other provisions would have included specific fees and further study of the marijuana industry for additional reform. The 2013 Marijuana Tax Equity Act died in committee.

The objective of updating internal revenue code in reference to marijuana did not end with the death of the 2013 bill. Since that time, several other bills have been introduced in the interest of changing the federal laws regarding marijuana and states’ rights to regulate it.

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By Karen Weise

At Bloomberg Businessweek
 

As Jon Stewart mockingly noted on Tuesday night, the $1.1 trillion federal appropriations bill is packed with all sorts of nuggets that weren’t widely touted. In addition to the list Stewart scrutinized, 85 words tucked into the 1,603-page bill give for the first time some federal legal protection to medical marijuana use, even though pot itself will still be illegal under federal law.

The amendment forbids the Justice Department from using federal funds for anything that will “prevent” states from implementing their own laws that legalize medical marijuana. Taylor West, the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that will prevent the feds from policing medical pot customers and providers who operate legally under state law. “Those federal funds cannot be used to raid them or shut them down” just for existing in the first place, she said.

The amendment was sponsored by two California representatives. Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s district covers coastal Orange County, which has become home to several marijuana businesses, including the investment firm Ghost Group, a Rohrabacher donor. Democrat Sam Farr’s district covers the Central Coast, including Santa Cruz, where interest in this issue is, well, obvious.

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