Saturday, July 21, 2018

Carter Stevens

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Carter is a staff writer for Green Scene Marketing. He is a freelance writer and attorney who lives in Minnesota. He has lived in seven states, including New York and California. Carter writes about marijuana, politics, and legal issues. His favorite strain is Blue Dream.

Odds are, if you live in the Western Hemisphere, you’ve never come across Bhang. If you have, consider yourself a world traveler.

Bhang, also known as bhang lassi, is an ancient aspect of Hindu culture, one that has been used on the Indian subcontinent for at least 4,000 years. That’s almost as long as people have been smoking weed, which shouldn’t be surprising, as Bhang itself contains marijuana.

But what is it?

Bhang lassi is a form of edible cannabis, usually made into a potent psychoactive beverage. It is used for recreational, medical, and religious purposes among Hindus and other ancient religious groups, especially in India and Nepal.

Bhang cannabis recipe

First, laborers grind marijuana bud and leaves using a mortar and pestle. The pot is then mixed with milk, mangoes, Indian spices, and sometimes ghee (a form of preserved butter common in Asia). This bhang base is then made into a thick drink called Ghota thandai.

Here’s an easy if minimal bhang recipe:

  1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a well-cleaned teapot. Set aside 4 cups of warm milk, which will be used in stages.
  2. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and place 1 ounce of marijuana bud (minus stems and seeds) in the boiling water. Cover the teapot and let the bud simmer for about 7 minutes.
  3. Strain the water through either cheesecloth or a double layer of coffee filters. Squeeze the wet marijuana out of the filter to get as much water out as possible. Save the water.
  4. Put the cannabis in a mortar with 2 tablespoons of warmed milk. Grind the two together firmly but slowly.
  5. Now strain the marijuana again to remove as much milk as you can. Keep the milk.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have strained 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) of milk through the cannabis, making sure to save all the milk.
  7. Put the wet, pulpy pot in the mortar and add 2 tablespoons of chopped blanched almonds. Next, add enough warm milk to soak the almonds and marijuana.
  8. Use a pestle to grind the resulting pulp into a fine paste.
  9. Strain the paste and squeeze out the milk. Save the milk and repeat the process until the cannabis is dry. Then toss out the dry cannabis that remains.
  10. Blend the water and milk that you strained through the pot. Add your spices: 1/8 tablespoon garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon rosewater, and the remaining warm milk. Stir the bhang drink in the mortar.
  11. Finally, chill the bhang lassi until you’re ready to drink it.

While Bhang is mostly used for ritual purposes, it’s also an effective medication and recreational drug. But be careful: If you follow this bhang recipe, your end product should be very potent.

Tell us: Have you ever tried bhang? Do you want to? Leave a comment below.

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Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection say hundreds of pounds of illegal marijuana have washed up on Florida beaches in recent weeks.

Much of the lost cannabis, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, is still floating off the Florida Keys, customs agents say, and it’s been washing ashore for more than a month. Within a period of just 27 days in September and October, agents recovered almost 400 pounds of pot.

They estimated the value of the drugs at more than $300,000 and said they collected it during 15 “drug seizure events” between Sept. 15 and Oct. 12. Some of the marijuana bundles washed up on beaches along the Atlantic Coast, while others were recovered floating in the ocean.

“There has been a significant spike in drugs washing up on shore,” said Todd Bryant, chief of the agency’s Miami Sector Division. “This is at least partially attributable to improved partnerships across the state but potentially also to a shift in smuggling methods.”

Cannabis remains illegal for any use in Florida, though that could change with a vote on medical marijuana Nov. 8. The state has traditionally been a favorite landing spot for drug traffickers. The 1980s, for example, saw a wave of cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs smuggled through South Florida.

Increase in cannabis found on beaches or offshore

But agents say they’ve seen many more drug bundles in the water this year, with 95 seizures in the 2016 fiscal year. There were just 49 such incidents in fiscal year 2015. The customs agency said cannabis found on beaches or offshore should be reported to police.

“If you are out on a boat or on the beach and you see a suspicious package, call local law enforcement immediately,” Bryant said. “Attempting to keep the suspicious package can place you in danger, as violent criminal networks will attempt to recover their narcotics.”

cannabis-washes-up-florida-beaches-hero
Marijuana bricks washed up on a beach in Florida

That may not stop hardcore stoners who find cannabis on the beach, but it’s a valid point: Drug runners often keep track of their product even when they’ve been forced to abandon it. They may even have dumped the weed at strategic locations so it would wash ashore on multiple beaches and allow them to recover at least some of it.

It’s unclear how this cannabis ended up in the waves, but it’s not uncommon for smugglers to ditch their cargo when chased by customs agents. Others may dump their pot in the ocean and then wait for it to wash ashore in remote spots.

Byrant said the increase in floating marijuana bundles could be due to new tactics by foreign drug cartels. Or it could suggest that legalization in four states and the District of Columbia have driven more trafficking operations to the East Coast.

Leave a comment and let us know: What would you do with marijuana if you found it floating in the ocean or washed up on a beach? Would you call police or keep it for yourself?

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Medical marijuana states vote

It’s common knowledge by now that five states will vote on marijuana legalization Nov. 8: Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Recent polls show support is strong in all these places, with chances good for a five-state sweep.

But cannabis initiatives in three other states have received much less coverage this election season. These proposals on the ballot in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, would legalize medical rather than recreational pot.

Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota will all vote on medical cannabis on Election Day – (Click to Tweet)

There’s nothing new about this – nearly 30 states already allow medical cannabis use – and that may explain the lack of interest in these votes. But they’re critical nonetheless. Here’s a look at what’s at stake for MMJ patients on Election Day.

DALY CITY, CA - APRIL 18: A bowl of medicinal marijuana is displayed in a booth at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo April 18, 2010 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. The two day Cannabis and Hemp Expo features speakers, retailers selling medical marijuana smoking paraphernalia and a special tent available for medical marijuana card holders to smoke their medicine. Voters in California will consider a measure on the November general election ballot that could make the State the first in the nation to legalize the growing of a limited amount of marijuana for private use. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Arkansas: Issues 6 and 7

Arkansas voters will decide whether they want to legalize marijuana as a medical treatment for as many as 56 qualifying conditions. But the choice could prove confusing, as there will be two medical pot initiatives on the ballot at the same time.

Issue 6 would allow patients to buy small amounts of cannabis from dispensaries but not grow it at home. The question is structured so that if it passes, the Arkansas Legislature could not change its provisions without a second public vote.

Issue 7, by contrast, would be subject to amendments and repeal by lawmakers. It would cover more conditions than Issue 6 and, most importantly, it would allow limited home grows. Reform advocates generally prefer Issue 7 to 6.

Florida: Amendment 2

Amendment 2 in Florida would allow patients with any of 10 specified conditions to buy, possess, and use small amounts of cannabis as medicine. In addition, doctors could prescribe the drug for other disorders if they believe it could help patients.

A similar effort in 2014 garnered 58 percent of the vote but failed because Florida law requires 60 percent to amend its constitution. But the odds look better this time around, in part because presidential elections tend to produce healthier turnout among the younger, more progressive voters who most support legalization.

North Dakota: Measure 5

Voters in North Dakota will decide whether they want to allow patients with “debilitating medical conditions” to obtain and use whole-plant marijuana. If the proposal passes, the state would become one of the most conservative to approve medicinal weed.

Medical marijuana new yorkA similar measure failed to make the ballot in 2012 after officials declared thousands of voter signatures fraudulent. And chances aren’t great this time, either. North Dakota is a deep red state, and what few polls there are have never shown support reaching 50 percent.

But in North Dakota as elsewhere, every vote matters. As more states legalize cannabis for recreational use, medical marijuana votes get less and less attention, and that means pot advocates must stay vigilant if they want to see reform continue its advance.

What do you think? Will medical marijuana pass in any of these three states? Leave a comment.

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It’s hard to get away with a great high when your eyes are hazy, puffy, and bloodshot. Eye drops may protect you a bit. Sunglasses and tinted contacts might help. But it sure is annoying.

super high eyesSo why do your eyes go red when you smoke up? Is there a scientific explanation? And what can you do to keep your peepers clear, white, and innocent-looking?

Weed is not the only intoxicating drug that causes red eyes. Too much alcohol, too much cocaine, almost any amount of methamphetamine will turn your eyes bloodshot. But it all depends on the person.

Some people are simply more sensitive to red eyes, and there’s not an awful lot that can be done to change that. Most potheads will have the experience at least once, but it’s far more common for some users than others. If your eyes tend toward the bloody, you’ll just have to work harder at covering up.

Here’s why it happens:

THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana, lowers blood pressure. This then causes blood vessels in the eyes to expand, or dilate. As the ocular capillaries dilate, blood flow increases and pressure inside the eyes drops. The extra blood flow gives the expanded capillaries their bloodshot look, creating a web of red within the whites of the eyes.

This is why cannabis is widely used to treat glaucoma, a serious chronic eye disease that causes high pressure within the eyes, leading to permanent vision loss and severe pain. Pot reduces ocular pressure and staves off glaucoma’s worst complications.

Why does weed give you red eyes

It’s important to note that red eye is not caused by marijuana smoke. Instead, it’s triggered by THC and other chemicals in the pot plant known as cannabinoids.

The dose of cannabinoids delivered by the weed you smoke helps determine how red your eyes become (as do your genes, allergies, and general sensitivity to marijuana). Smoking a bong-load of low-grade cannabis one day may have no effect while a few puffs of high-grade pot the next could leave you scrambling for Visine.

So how to avoid dreaded red eyes? Here are a few tips.

First, pick strains that deliver less THC. Many strains are high in CBD and other medically beneficial cannabinoids but low in THC. This means you won’t get as high, but if you’re more concerned with medication than recreation, this is a good way to keep your eyes white.

leaf-02-1024x682

Always have eye drops handy. The best brands are specially formulated to treat redness. And drink lots of water. Red eyes often come with dryness, and extra hydration makes that less likely.

Finally, don’t sweat your bloodshot eyes too much. The redness doesn’t pose a threat to your health or safety, unless maybe it tips off the narcs and gets you arrested on pot charges. Otherwise, it’s just another minor inconvenience, hardly enough for any serious stoner to give up the habit.

What do you think: Are red eyes a serious problem for you? Do you even care if people see you with bloodshot eyes?

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If you vape tobacco, you’re familiar with nicotine e-liquids and the cartridges that carry them. But you may not have heard of the marijuana counterpart of these mixtures, commonly referred to as liquid THC or marijuana e-liquid.

So what is cannabis e-liquid, how is it made, and is it worth the bother? Here’s a brief explanation of THC e-liquid.

Also popularly known as THC e-juice, these concoctions are made by stripping THC from dried marijuana bud, refining it, and injecting it into a plastic cartridge. The cartridge is then attached to a vape pen and vaporized, exactly like nicotine e-liquid.

THC liquid is similar to hash oil, which is easier to find and more widely used in the stoner community, but they’re made in different ways and provide somewhat different effects. Hash oil is made by soaking ground pot in a solvent chemical such as rubbing alcohol or butane, and then boiling off the remaining solvent – leaving behind a thick, smokeable resin with high THC concentrations.

THC Liquid
Raspberry Flavored Liquid THC Marijuana eJuice

Liquid THC is also made using alcohol, but instead of oil, the end product is a liquid tincture made of pot, alcohol, and glycerin. The marijuana bud is soaked in high-proof alcohol and strained, and the remaining liquid is mixed with glycerin to create the final product. A syringe is then used to inject the tincture into a small plastic cartridge that is screwed onto the tip of a vape pen.

Here’s how it works:

First, grind your weed, fine but not to a powder. Then soak the marijuana in a jar of high-proof alcohol (at least 90 percent alcohol by volume) for 10-14 days. Shake the jar once a day for 30-60 seconds. Finally, strain the alcohol through cheesecloth or a double layer of coffee filters.

The resulting tincture should be ready for vaping. Cartridges can be found at legal pot shops or online. They are generally designed to be attached to any standard vape pen on the market.

Everclear marijuana tincture
Everclear marijuana tincture

Some manufacturers add flavoring to their cannabis e-liquid, typically with essential oils, other tinctures, or artificial flavors. But be cautious and do what research you can: Some commercial vape liquids contain carcinogens. This isn’t true of straight marijuana e-liquid, since THC e-juice contains only natural THC, glycerin, and alcohol.

Vaping THC liquid can be a lot of fun. It can also be very effective for medical use, since vaping is easier on the lungs than smoking. The tincture contains highly concentrated THC, which delivers quite a punch.

But don’t expect the same high you’ll get from smoking hash oil through an oil rig. THC concentrations are similar, but the effects of such concentrates are typically stronger when they’re smoked.

If you enjoy vaping your pot, liquid THC is a great choice. It’s easier and more effective than vaping dried bud, which can be quite a hassle. And maybe best of all, you can just stick your pen and cartridge in your pocket and keep it with you all day long.

Tell us: Have you ever tried liquid THC or standard hash oil? What did you think? Leave a comment below.

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Weed resin

It’s the gunk that drives stoners nuts: marijuana resin. If you’ve ever finished off a bowl, a bong, or a bubbler, you’re familiar with the thick black oil your burnt-up dope leaves behind.

But what is weed resin? Can it get you high? And what’s the best way to smoke resin?

First off, marijuana resin is simply a combination of black ash and the sticky leavings of marijuana oil. It’s similar to hash oil, a product made by stripping THC from cannabis bud, but also very different.

Because resin has already been smoked, it contains less THC than dried bud and much less than concentrated hash oil. So while resin may remind you of real hash oil, smoking resin won’t give you anything like the same effect.

Marijuana Resin
A ball of marijuana resin.

Smoking resin is a personal choice, but there are a few facts you should know before you do it.

1. Resin won’t get you very high

Less THC isn’t the same thing as no THC, so while marijuana resin is weak, it can still get you high – if you smoke enough of it. But it takes an awful lot, sort of like getting drunk off 3.2% beer. And if you’ve ever cleaned a pipe, you know weed resin is not the most pleasant substance in the world.

2. Resin tastes godawful

There are reasons people generally don’t smoke cannabis resin. Among other problems, it tastes like shit. Gone are all the aromatic subtleties of your favorite strains. All that’s left is a black mush that tastes like ash and tar – which is exactly what it is.

3. Smoking resin isn’t very good for you

You certainly shouldn’t smoke marijuana resin on a regular basis. Most of what goes in your lungs will be tar and other noxious chemicals. And it’s not just that you’re inhaling these substances; you’re not inhaling much of anything else (besides a bit of THC). That means oxygen is pushed out of your lungs. This low-grade asphyxiation may even be the cause of most of your buzz.

4. Resin isn’t easy to smoke

Marijuana resin
Marijuana resin

So what’s the best way to smoke resin? First you need to collect the stuff. Use a nail file, razor blade – anything that works to scrape your cannabis resin off of the glass, ceramic, or other pipe material where it collects. But be careful: Weed resin is roughly as sticky as actual tar, so handle carefully.

Roll the resin into a ball, place it inside a bowl, and toke away. Don’t bother rolling the stuff in a joint or blunt, and avoid vaporizers. The best method may be a bong, as the water should filter out some of the harshest chemicals before they reach your lungs.

5. Resin can get you through a pinch

For all the reasons not to smoke weed resin, it may be just the thing in a tight spot. There’s nothing worse than running out of pot and money on the same day, and a decent supply of resin could get you through at least a few hours. Then again, if you’ve built up tolerance, it may not do anything for you at all.

Either way, the choice is yours. Cannabis resin is definitely gross, but let’s be honest: We’ve all been there once or twice.

Tell us: Have you ever had to resort to smoking resin? How did it go? Leave a comment below.

October is peak season for marijuana growers’ expos, and there’s a big one coming to Colorado at the end of the month.

CannaGrow ExpoThe CannaGrow Expo, hosted in Denver from Oct. 29-30, is a gathering for cannabis cultivators who want to learn about the “art and science of growing,” organizers say. The two-day educational event will provide professional insight into the growing business and the agricultural techniques behind it.

The Expo is open to all adults 18 and older, but it’s targeted toward cultivators, grow managers, pot shop owners, and cannabis enthusiasts who want to learn how to grow and harvest the plant. Topics include cultivation technology, tools, and techniques, organizers say on their website.

CannaGrow Expo 2015
Images from the CannaGrow Expo 2015

The event will feature 25 classes focused on cultivation, each taught by “world-class growers.” Networking and an open expo hall with vendor displays will also be included.

Educational sessions will include a lecture on “Cultivation 101,” a beginner’s class offered once each day of the expo. The 85 vendors sponsoring the event include major cannabis-themed companies such as Leafly, as well as dozens of cultivation companies, pot shops, marijuana processors, and laboratories.

“If you care about cultivating world-class cannabis, you need to be at the CannaGrow Expo,” the website says.

Sadly, however, no toking will be allowed at the CannaGrow Expo. Marijuana is legal in Denver, as it is in the rest of Colorado, but the expo is not licensed for pot consumption, and the venue also wouldn’t allow it.

CannaGrow Expo 2015
Photos from the 2015 event

But that means adults between the ages of 18 and 21 are welcome to attend, with or without a medical marijuana card. The event is open to the public, but organizers stress that it’s a professional gathering designed to spread information about effective grow methods.

Organizers have reserved a block of rooms for visitors at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Hotel & Convention Center, at a discounted rate of $129 per night. The hotel is also the site of the expo and is located 10 minutes from Denver International Airport. It’s 20 minutes from downtown Denver.

Costs for attending the CannaGrow Expo itself vary. A full two-day pass runs $499 per person, while a single-day pass (either Saturday, Oct. 29 or Sunday, Oct. 30) costs $229 per adult. Interested growers may also purchase the full set of slides and other educational materials presented at the expo for $1,195. That cost does not cover attendance at the event itself.

Cannabis Cultuvation Expo
If you live in Colorado, head down to the CannaGrow Expo 2015 to learn about all the latest tips and techniques in the world of cannabis cutivation.

Check-in starts 9 a.m. Saturday in the lobby of the hotel. Two 50-minute lectures are scheduled between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., with three choices offered during each session. Lunch runs from noon to 1 p.m., followed by three classes at 1 p.m., two classes at 2 p.m., and an ice cream break at 3 p.m. Saturday’s events will finish with a networking round table and a cocktail hour starting at 5 p.m.

Sunday’s events starts at 9 a.m. with registration and coffee. Classes begin at 10 a.m., following the same schedule as Saturday until 3 p.m., followed by a tea hour and two final panel discussions. The expo closes at 5 p.m.

Leave a comment: Have you ever attended a marijuana cultivation convention? Did it help you grow pot?

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Archaeologists exploring an ancient burial site in China discovered a stash of 2,500-year-old marijuana plants, marking some of the oldest evidence of human pot consumption.

The team of scientists discovered 13 whole cannabis plants inside a tomb in northwest China. The plants were still mostly intact, preserved by the arid environment, though they were yellowed and dried.

The find adds new evidence to support the claim that humans have grown and used cannabis for thousands of years – not only as industrial hemp but as a psychoactive drug. And it supports the belief that many religious groups used marijuana in their sacred rites.

Cannabis Burial Site
Cannabis plants were arranged across the body of a middle-aged man before his burial in Turpan, China, around 2,500 years ago.

Hongen Jiang, an archaeologist who led the team from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported the plants were used to cover a human body like a burial shroud. Jiang said this was the first such discovery of its kind in the world.

Marijuana has been found in other regions, including a famous site 400 miles away in Siberia. Jiang’s dig in the remote Turpan Basin also uncovered several other tombs with cannabis plants.

The team described its new find in October, saying the man in the cannabis shroud was in his mid-30s and was lying atop the roots of the plants. The tips, removed of their flowers, were wrapped around his face like a shroud, according to an article published by the archaeologists in the journal Economic Botany.

ancient-cannabis-hairs
A detail from one of the ancient cannabis plants, showing the resinous “hairs” that contain psychoactive compounds.

The tomb was found among 240 others in a dry, sparsely populated region between the Taklimakan and Gobi deserts, near the Mongolian border. Archaeologists believe the site was located along the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that linked Asia and Europe. A group of people known as the Subeixi lived and traded in the area, according to National Geographic.

Jiang’s team found three other tombs in the Turpan Basin cemetery that contained fruit, leaves, and stems from whole cannabis plants. They don’t know whether the pot grew wild, was harvested locally, or was imported via the Silk Road, but the fact that the plants were intact points to local cultivation.

The discovery is the latest in a string of digs that have uncovered cannabis leavings in ancient graves. The practice was apparently common for thousands of years in the mountainous areas of Central and East Asia, especially the border region between China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Siberia.

Preserved marijuana plants
In an unprecendented discovery, the ancient cannabis plants were discovered in a complete and well-preserved state.

In 2006, researchers in Russia determined that a 2,500-year-old mummy was buried in the Altai Mountains with cannabis pollen. They concluded the woman, known as the Ukok Princess, was a spiritual shaman who likely died of breast cancer and used marijuana to treat the pain.

That, along with other findings, suggests some ancient peoples used cannabis specifically to get high. Older discoveries in Northern China, dating back as far as 7,000 years, included hemp products but no evidence the plant was used as a drug.

Meanwhile, more recent burials in the region, dating back no further than 2,000 years, show no evidence of hemp products. That has led scientists to speculate that people who lived there 2,500 years ago sniffed or smoked marijuana as an intoxicant rather than using the plant for its hemp fibers.

Leave a comment and tell us: Do you think ancient people used marijuana as a drug?

Credit: National Geographic

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There’s no avoiding it: Election Day is almost here, and roughly 99 percent of the American public couldn’t be happier to see it pass. It has been that ugly.

But ugly is not the same as unimportant. The stoner vote is critical, not only in legalizing marijuana in more states, but also in choosing a president whose decisions will impact drug policy for generations.

So how best to use your vote? Here are our endorsements for Election 2016.

California: Yes on Prop. 64

California is about to legalize marijuana, give birth to the world’s largest pot market, and forever change drug law in America. With public support around 60 percent, Proposition 64 is expected to pass, but every vote matters.

Prop. 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults over 21 to buy, use, and possess up to 1 ounce of pot, and to grow up to six plants at home. It would also impose a special sales tax and stringent industry regulations.

marijuana leaves

Among the many important issues on the 2016 ballot, this is easily one of the biggest for tokers. It’s also an easy call. We recommend a yes vote on 64.

Nevada: Yes on Question 2

Nevada voters face essentially the same decision as their California neighbors. Question 2 would legalize sale, possession, cultivation, and consumption of small amounts of cannabis in private. The proposal requires a majority vote to pass, and polls show it winning roughly 50 percent, so it could still go either way.

That means every vote could make the difference between legal weed and continued prohibition. If you live in Nevada, please get out and vote yes on Question 2.

Marijuana Vote

Arizona: Yes on Prop. 205

Arizona’s Proposition 205 would legalize the purchase, possession, and use of up to 1 ounce of weed, plus home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants. With public support strong, if not yet strong enough to breathe easy, advocates are hopeful.

Arizona, like Nevada, requires a vote of at least 50 percent to pass a constitutional amendment. The most recent polls show slightly more than half plan to vote yes, putting Prop. 205 on the edge of victory. But your vote could help tilt it over the top, so we recommend a yes vote.

Maine: Yes on Question 1

You may notice a pattern here. Five states will vote on legalization, and the proposals are all very similar. But the rules would be a bit less strict under Question 1 in Maine. Adults would be allowed to use up to 2.5 ounces of pot and grow up to six flowering plants at home.

Polls show support for Question 2 is strong at about 53 percent. But even that is close enough that every vote matters. We support this initiative and hope you will too.

Massachusetts: Yes on Question 4

Question 4 is another easy call. This Massachusetts initiative would legalize possession of up to 10 ounces of cannabis in private and up to 1 ounce in public. Like the other proposals, it would also impose new regulations and a sales tax.

Many of the state’s political leaders have pushed back against Question 4, but public support stood at 55 percent as of early October. Still, it would be foolish to assume victory is guaranteed – especially if you don’t make the effort to vote.

Hillary Clinton for President

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

It should be clear by now that there are only three viable choices for stoners in the general election. Libertarian Gary Johnson promises the purest vision of drug reform; Green Party candidate Jill Stein strongly favors legalization nationwide; and Democrat Hillary Clinton says she would reschedule marijuana under federal law while supporting further legalization in the states.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, is imploding on the campaign trail and is no longer a serious candidate for the White House. This is not a bad thing for tokers: Trump never represented realistic hope of reform. He is too erratic, too inconsistent, too unreliable to be trusted.

Clinton isn’t perfect for reformers who see change coming too slowly. But she’s the strongest choice available, by far. A vote for Stein or Johnson is wasted. A vote for Clinton is the best step toward ending pot prohibition forever.

Tell us: How will you vote in November? Leave a comment below.

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In one of the dumbest, most wasteful, and least productive marijuana busts on record, Massachusetts State Police officers raided the property of an 81-year-old woman in September, just so they could seize a single illicit cannabis plant.

Margaret Holcomb, who lives in Amherst in Western Massachusetts, said she was growing one marijuana plant in her backyard garden, tucked between raspberry plants. She uses pot, she said, to treat advancing glaucoma, arthritis, and insomnia.

The cost and inconvenience of getting a medical marijuana card were beyond her, Holcomb said, so she grew her plant covertly. But it came as a shock when she realized what authorities had done.

Raided by state police and National Guard

A team of state police officers and members of the Massachusetts National Guard swooped down on her property Sept. 21, bringing a helicopter, several police vehicles, and a number of state troopers to raid her yard. They uprooted the plant and took it away in a pickup truck.

The raid was one of several that day, said State Police spokesman David Procopio. All told, officers collected just 43 plants from multiple properties. The smallest busts netted only one or two plants each, while the largest came away with 20 plants, far from a viable commercial grow.

Marijuana plant seized
Tim Holcomb points at a spot in the ground where his mother Margaret Holcomb’s marijuana plant was seized the other day from her backyard in Amherst.

None of the property owners were charged with a crime, Procopio says, making it unclear why the raid was launched in the first place. The busts, he said, were coordinated by the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program, which pays states to uproot as many plants as they can.

Massachusetts received $60,000 from the program in 2016. That was a slight drop from the $75,000 spent in 2015, a year in which state authorities destroyed only about 3,000 plants total. It cost about $24 to seize each plant – a massive waste to taxpayers.

A DEA spokesman insisted that states ultimately decide how to spend the money, not the federal government. But anti-drug efforts involving both state and federal police agencies typically take their lead from the DEA.

The Cannabis Eradication Program aims to “halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States.” The DEA makes no exceptions for medicinal pot, unlike police in places where the drug is legal under state laws. And even there, authorities sometimes bust legitimate patients.

Marijuana plant seized
A stomp of a marijuana plant that was seized the other day from Margaret Holcomb’s backyard in Amherst.

The program is drawing increasing push back from lawmakers who say it’s a waste of money and police resources. But it has never been terribly popular: By the mid-2000s, even the DEA admitted that most of the pot it seized is “ditchweed,” or wild marijuana plants unsuitable for psychoactive use.

The raids have taken place across Massachusetts. On Martha’s Vineyard, state troopers and National Guard troops recently took four plants from another 81-year-old, former cancer patient Paul Jackson.

Though he has no medical marijuana card, Jackson said he didn’t think his small garden would raise any concerns.

“I figured what I was growing was such a small amount, what the hell was the big deal?” he said.

Tell us what you think: Will raids like this continue if Massachusetts voters legalize cannabis Nov. 8? Leave a comment below.

See also: Reform Moves East: Maine, Massachusetts to Vote on Legal Weed

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