Marijuana tourism site draws associations’ focus


A cannabis company’s plan to turn a Southern California town into a marijuana-focused tourism destination has prompted two local Baptist associations to make it a destination for missions too.



CNN.com screen capture


This month, the cannabis company American Green Inc. announced it is purchasing the entire 80-acre town of Nipton, Calif., along the California-Nevada state line, some 60 miles southwest of Las Vegas. American Green says it will develop Nipton into a “first-of-its-kind eco-tourism experience for conscious cannabis consumers,” CNN reported.

 

Upon hearing of the reportedly $5 million purchase, the High Desert Baptist Association in Lancaster, Calif., and the Southern Nevada Baptist Association in Las Vegas were moved by the need for ministry in Nipton, which is 25 miles from the nearest church of any denomination.

 

“The need for gospel witness is magnified by” the potential transformation of Nipton into a marijuana tourism destination, said Harry Watson, director of missions (DOM) for the Southern Nevada Association.

 

American Green’s plans for the desert town – which currently has about 20 residents – include marijuana retail outlets, cannabis-infused water and marijuana edibles, according to media reports. Nipton already includes an old west-style hotel, an RV park, houses and a coffee shop, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

 

High Desert DOM Don Parker told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, “My hope is that we can work together to start a ministry or campus church in that area to proclaim the gospel and help people understand the implications of rejecting the gospel.”

 

Though marijuana remains illegal under federal law, recreational use of the drug has been legalized in both Nevada and California.

 

The two DOMs have scheduled a meeting in October to plan ministry ventures in Nipton.

 

Watson envisions beginning the ministry by asking American Green if local Baptists can provide a chaplain for the town to help employees and tourists grappling with emotional, psychological and spiritual issues. The ministry likely would be based in Las Vegas and model the chaplaincies at various Nevada resorts, Watson told BP.

 

Resort owners often welcome such “industrial chaplaincy” because it improves workers’ lives and makes them better employees, Watson said.

 

Hopefully, the chaplaincy “would lead into a Bible study, which would lead into a worship service,” Watson said.

 

Parker said goals for ministry in Nipton would be to “understand the people and serve them where they have needs,” “build relationships [and] trust” and “be a listener” – because “good listeners can be good influencers and share the gospel as God draws people to Christ.”

 

While American Green CEO David Gwyther cited Nipton as part of a “cannabis revolution” with “the power to completely revitalize communities,” according to AP, Parker believes marijuana’s effects on Nipton will be negative.

 

Watson added that “making a change in society is the ultimate end” of Christianity, but “the ministry [in Nipton] will be purely to the people” in order to share the gospel.

 

People who will travel to Nipton to abuse marijuana, Watson said, “know what they’re doing is wrong. But they need the opportunity to discover the gospel.”

 

American Green’s development plan for the town will take 18 months, CNN reported, and cost some $2.5 million.

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 



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Nevada Gaming Commission Reaffirms Ban on Legal Cannabis in Casinos – News


Back in November, the state of Nevada voted to legalize recreational cannabis, effectively adding another tourist honeytrap to the state’s internationally acclaimed gaming industry. However, visitors looking to dabble in both Sin City’s green and gambling will have to do so separately or risk running into trouble with some 420-unfriendly pit bosses.


After a policy meeting last Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission reaffirmed that the consumption and possession of marijuana will remain illegal in casinos as long as the plant remains a federal felony. State regulators have stated that cannabis could threaten the reputation of the renowned gaming industry, and unanimously opposed the integration of legal pot into gambling resorts.   


For now, public use of marijuana is illegal in Nevada, meaning that tourists looking to mingle in pot shops and slot machines must be discreet in their enjoyment. Instead of creating their own policy for the gaming industry, some committee members have used the public consumption law to support their reasoning. Others simply pointed to federal prohibition, arguing that casinos should operate in accordance to United States law.   


During the discussion, the commissioners discussed a handful of topics, including the allowance of pro-cannabis events at casinos, business relationships between gaming companies and the marijuana industry, and licensees and cannabis companies exchanging financing. However, the appointed regulators refused to go into details on the issues, opting to discourage any connections between casinos and cannabis. According to Commission Chairman Tony Alamo, each individual case should be judged on its own merit.


Although Nevada’s recreational cannabis started off with a boom, the state’s longstanding alcohol and gaming sectors have been reluctant to accept the newly established market. Liquor wholesalers are fighting tooth and nail to appeal a recent court decision that would permit distribution licensing to applicants outside of the booze industry. Meanwhile, gaming regulators have urged casinos to keep an eye out for stoned gamblers on their premises.


The Nevada Gaming Commission will host more meetings in the coming months, but their initial outlook doesn’t bode well for the state’s cannabis industry. Until federal illegality is lifted, there’s a good chance that bringing your bud to the blackjack table will be an automatic bust.


 



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Nevada regulators reaffirm wall between casinos, marijuana


Nevada’s gambling regulators are grappling with how to deal with the state’s latest legal vice — recreational marijuana— and they’ve made it clear that pot doesn’t belong in casinos.

In the first of a series of policy discussions on Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission reiterated that as long as marijuana consumption and possession is viewed as a felony by federal authorities, it will have no place in Nevada casinos.

Commissioners said the reputation of the gaming industry is at stake and there needs to be clear separation.

“On one hand you have the gaming industry and on the other hand you have the marijuana industry … The two shall not meet,” Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said.

Commissioners did, however, spend more than an hour discussing what Alamo said would be the least controversial aspects of potentially bringing marijuana into casino resorts — third-party and business associations between licensees and individuals and companies involved in the marijuana industry.

That aspect was shot down, though. No votes were taken, but commissioners unanimously concluded that licensees should be discouraged from hosting shows or conferences that promote the use, sale, cultivation or distribution of marijuana.

Licensees also shouldn’t maintain business relationships with marijuana companies, including landlord-tenant arrangements.

Commissioners also said licensees should not receive financing from or provide financing to an individual, entity or establishment that sells, cultivates or distributes marijuana.

In that discussion, commissioners agreed that there is not enough separation in spousal relationships for a gaming company to be allowed to conduct business with the wife or husband of anyone involved in the marijuana business.

Marijuana policy will be discussed over a series of commission meetings in future months, Alamo said.



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Marijuana brand’s success leads to sticky trademark lawsuit


Five or six years ago, medical marijuana grower Don Peabody was trimming his harvest when he got a phone call. To his surprise, Peabody’s hand was so sticky from his weed’s resin that as he went to hang up the phone, the handset stuck to his palm.

Peabody was reminded of Gorilla Glue, a popular, super-strong adhesive, so he dubbed his sticky strain Gorilla Glue #4. The strain went on to become the Prada of cannabis, sought by connoisseurs. The potent hybrid took top accolades at leading pot competitions in Michigan and Southern California. In 2015, it was named best hybrid flower at the High Times Cannabis Cup world championship in Jamaica.


But the fame has become something of a curse. Peabody’s Las Vegas company, GG Strains, is embroiled in a landmark trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the Gorilla Glue Co. of Ohio, makers of the liquid adhesive.

In March, the 18-year-old, privately held glue firm outside Cincinnati filed a federal lawsuit claiming that GG Strains’ business infringes on and dilutes its “famous, valuable brand.” Gorilla Glue did not respond to interview requests.

“We understand where they’re coming from,” GG Strains CEO Catherine Franklin said.

The straitlaced glue brand’s voice is drowned out by weed fans on social media. Almost all mentions of the hashtag #GorillaGlue involve dank buds, not adhesive applications. GG Strains has twice the Instagram followers of the glue company.

“If you get glued, you’re gonna tell the world,” Franklin said.

The Gorilla Glue case could have far-reaching implications for the cannabis industry where — due to a clash between state and federal laws — intellectual property rights remain largely unsettled. Cannabis producers have long borrowed from pop culture to name their once-illicit marijuana flowers and infused food and drink. Medicinal pot users and recreational shoppers across the country can regularly spot strains named Dirty Sprite, Candyland or AC/DC on licensed store shelves. But legalization could force brands to be more original.

“There’s a lot of work the industry has to do about how it identifies its product,” said Shabnam Malek, a partner at Brand & Branch, an Oakland firm specializing in cannabis intellectual property law.

In most industries, the owners of a hit product trademark its name before it is released or shortly thereafter. The federal government, however, doesn’t issue trademarks for marijuana strains, since the drug remains federally illegal.

Instead, GG Strains has received state trademarks in Nevada and Colorado and applied for one in California. Such protection is critical, since GG Strains sees itself as a licensing firm. When a pot farmer in a legal state believes it’s growing Gorilla Glue #4, it can ask GG Strains to certify the product based on its look, smell and chemical composition. GG Strains has certified producers in California.

That’s valuable, because in the cannabis world, strain names like Gorilla Glue #4, Sour Diesel and Blue Dream lack official certification. What one pot shop calls Sour Diesel might not exactly match the look, taste and effect of marijuana sold down the road under the same name. And if customers buy all the Sour Diesel in stock, unsavory stores have been known to slap “Diesel” on a similar strain to keep sales going.

So far, GG Strains has been unable to settle with the Gorilla Glue Company.

Curtis Smolar, a San Francisco lawyer with De La Peña & Holiday, said court cases like this could hinge on the reasonable possibility of confusion between the products. For example, a cannabis soda brand that looked like Coca-Cola’s famous trademark would likely be infringing. Still, this particular area of the law remains undefined.

“It’s going to be an incredible patchwork” of state, federal and trademark law, he said. And international law raises other issues.

Franklin said he doesn’t expect dispensary customers to confuse the extremely potent, chocolate-fuel-smelling cannabis flower bud with a liquid polyurethane adhesive found in hardware stores.

But as the case moves toward trial, GG Strains is concerned the suit was filed in a federal court in Ohio rather than in a Nevada state court. Both medical and recreational cannabis are legal in Nevada, and residents of the state might provide a more sympathetic hearing; Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but legal sales have not begun.

For now, strain naming is still an informal process, and there are no laws requiring accurate strain labeling at the retail counter. But as the market grows, more companies are trying to protect their names.

In recent years, the Girl Scouts of the USA has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least two California dispensaries selling strains called “Girl Scout Cookies.” The Girl Scouts declined to comment.

Aaron Justis, CEO of the Los Angeles dispensary Buds & Roses, received a complaint from the Girl Scouts in 2016, so he changed the strain’s name to “Veganic Platinum Cookies,” which he said both honored the strain’s origins and satisfied the Girl Scouts.

“If you want to build a brand, it’s gotta be something you can trademark,” he said.

For now, GG Strains is asking customers and the media to refer to Gorilla Glue #4 by the moniker “GG#4” to avoid confusion. In the meantime, though, GG Strains is doing business online.

Alex Halperin is a Los Angeles freelance writer.

Pot meets pop

Cannabis producers have long borrowed from pop culture. Now, legalization could force producers to branch out. Here are 15 potentially infringing product names:

Zkittlez: The award-winning California strain is a homonym of a popular candy from the Wrigley Co.

Sour Patch Kids: This hybrid strain spotted in the Bay Area shares the name of a leading candy.

Girl Scout Cookies: One of the world’s most popular strains has drawn the youth organization’s ire.

Gorilla Glue #4: America’s No. 1 strain references a popular adhesive.

Skywalker OG: A popular type of OG Kush takes its name from George Lucas’ imagination, now property of the Walt Disney Co.

Green Hornet Gummies: An edible named after a DC Comics action hero.

Gushers: Shares the name of a popular children’s snack made by General Mills.

Candyland: A new hybrid strain with a name that echoes the board game by Hasbro.

Grape Ape: A purple strain shares its name with a ’70s animated TV show.

Animal Crackers: A new hybrid references a popular children’s snack.

CBD-rich Shirley Temple: A new cannabidiol-rich strain takes the name of the famous child star.

Super Glue
: This Gorilla Glue variant is named for another popular adhesive.

Berry White: The old-school cannabis strain has a name that’s a variant of the famous soul singer’s.

AC/DC: A popular CBD-rich strain shares the name of an especially litigious Australian rock band.

Dirty Sprite: A new type of cannabis flower borrows its name from a soft drink produced by the Coca-Cola Co.

— David Downs

Go Online

For the Chronicle’s enhanced cannabis coverage: www.GreenState.com



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Nevada Gaming Commission Tells Casinos to Avoid Marijuana


The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) extinguished any rumors this week that the state regulator might ease its position on legalized recreational marijuana.

While lines are forming around town for recreational marijuana, the Nevada Gaming Commission is once again warning casinos to keep their distance. (Image: Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Commission members told the casino industry to steer clear of any relationships linked to the cultivation of marijuana, and shouldn’t hold conventions or expos that promote the use or sale of cannabis.

No votes were taken on the matter, but the NGC board was in unanimous agreement: just say no to drugs (regardless of whether it’s deemed legal by state law).

“We’re not setting policy here. We are discussing and interpreting the law as it stands,” NGC Chairman Tony Alamo said. “Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug making it illegal under federal law.”

With Nevada voters approving both medical and recreational marijuana, the issue presents various concerns for casinos throughout the country’s most gambling-addicted state.

Though the odds are longer than Conor McGregor upsetting Floyd Mayweather this weekend, the federal government could legally intervene, as federal law preempts conflicting state and local laws. The NGC isn’t taking any chances, however, and mandating its casinos don’t get high on marijuana.

Friends With No Benefits

While millions of tourists and locals are partaking in recreational marijuana, the NGC says casinos must do their best to stay away.

In addition to refusing conventions linked to marijuana, resorts were also told this week that they shouldn’t even maintain relationships with weed companies, and that extends to leasing them office or manufacturing space. Commissioners also explained that licensees cannot receive money stemming from a company that sells, cultivates, or distributes cannabis.   

The NGC marijuana policy discussion was the first of several on the newly legalized drug. At future meetings, the board will provide specifics on how licensees should handle patrons smoking weed inside hotel rooms and on the casino floor. But here’s a preview: make sure no one is consuming marijuana on casino property.

Nevada’s recreational marijuana law allows only for private consumption. “A person who smokes or otherwise consumes marijuana in a public place, in a retail marijuana store, or in a moving vehicle is guilty of a misdemeanor,” Nevada law states.

Caesars Restructuring Approved

Less interesting topics were also considered during Thursday’s NGC meeting, including Caesars Entertainment’s plan to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In a complex corporate maneuvering, Caesars will separate all of its real estate assets into a trust controlled by creditors who were owed billions of dollars before the company filed for bankruptcy in 2015. The real estate investment trust will lease the gaming floors back to Caesars, which will maintain operations and revenue from gaming.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board approved the reorganization earlier this month. The NGC gave its blessing for the newly formed entities, and issued new licenses.

Caesars’ new arrangement has now been signed off on in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, and Iowa. Only two jurisdictions remain, Louisiana and Missouri, and once approved there, Caesars will be cleared to officially exit bankruptcy protection.



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You Can Buy Grass in Vegas. But Try Finding a Place to Smoke It


This article first appeared on Reason.com.

Since the beginning of 2014, when Colorado became the first state to let marijuana merchants serve recreational consumers, those customers have faced the challenge of finding a place where they can legally enjoy the cannabis products they can now legally buy.

That problem is especially acute in Nevada, one of the four states where voters approved legalization last November and the first to see recreational sales, which started on July 1 as retailers who once catered exclusively to state-registered patients opened their doors to anyone 21 or older.

Las Vegas now has about two dozen businesses selling recreational marijuana, but not a single one—not a bar, not a restaurant, not a hotel, not a club—where you can use it.

That is a serious problem for a city that each year sees more than 40 million tourists, who account for most of the newly legal marijuana buyers. Armen Yemenidjian, who owns Essence Cannabis Dispensary, a pot shop on The Strip, told CBS News “70 to 80 percent” of his customers are tourists. Presumably the percentage is lower at stores further from the city’s most popular attractions.

But the Nevada marijuana market is expected to become one of the country’s largest on the strength of its tourist business, and it is hard to believe there is no plan to accommodate all of those visiting cannabis consumers.

David Burr removes leaves on marijuana plants to allow more light for growth at Essence Vegas’s 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On July 1, Nevada joined seven other states allowing recreational marijuana use and became the first of four states that voted to legalize recreational sales in November’s election to allow dispensaries to sell cannabis for recreational use to anyone over 21. Since July 1, sales of cannabis products in the state have generated more than USD 1 million in tax revenue. Ethan Miller/Getty

Question 2, Nevada’s legalization initiative, makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a $600 fine, to consume marijuana in a store that sells it or in any “public place,” defined as “an area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted regardless of age.”

You might think ( as I did ) that the phrase “regardless of age” suggests marijuana consumption would be legal in a business that does not sell cannabis but excludes anyone younger than 21, the minimum age for legal purchase and possession.

But according to Morgan Fox, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, which backed Question 2, the language was intended to mean “regardless of age restrictions.”

In other words, “regardless of age” was supposed to modify “the public” rather than “invited” and “permitted,” meaning that even a business that is open only to people 21 or older would qualify as a “public place.”

That is certainly the way the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) reads the law. “Marijuana consumption is only allowed at private residences,” says Jennifer Davies, an LVMPD public information officer. “It can never be consumed inside a business.”

Private clubs seem like a possible loophole, since they are not open to the general public. But as frustrated entrepreneurs in Denver have discovered, police tend to apply a strict definition of private clubs, the result of which is that any cannabis lounge accessible enough to attract tourists probably would not qualify.

One other possibility would be parked limousines or buses. Question 2 bans marijuana use “in a moving vehicle” but says nothing about stationary ones. The vehicle would have to be privately booked to avoid being deemed a public place, and even then police probably would take a dim view of it.

Question 2 does authorize the state legislature to “amend provisions of this act to provide for the conditions in which a locality may permit consumption of marijuana in a retail marijuana store.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), a prominent Question 2 supporter, tried to do that last spring with S.B. 236, which would have allowed local governments to license businesses, including cannabis retailers, where marijuana could be legally consumed.

The bill, which also would have allowed one-time licenses for special cannabis-friendly events, passed the Senate but never got a floor vote in the Assembly.

The result, as CBS News puts it, is that “the law here essentially says what tourists buy in Vegas, they can’t use in Vegas.” Nor can they legally take it home to consume there.

As Yemenidjian, the marijuana merchant, observes, there’s “no other industry in the world” where “you can you buy a product and then not use it anywhere.”

Why did Question 2’s backers decide to kick the can down the road of this issue?

“It became clear early on that the initiative could not win if it included public consumption,” MPP’s Fox says, “and it was decided that the better course would be to try to improve the system after the initiative passed.

“Apparently it is a pretty common sticking point. None of the adult-use initiatives have included public consumption in any form, though they left the path open for this to change through regulation or legislation.

“It might be one of those things where even though it is the right way to go, the average voter just isn’t there yet, possibly because there are very few examples in the U.S. to point to (and those exist in a gray area). When people see various forms of marijuana businesses in practice elsewhere and being regulated effectively, they become much more comfortable with them.”

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a nationally syndicated columnist.



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Nevada regulators reaffirm stance that pot and gaming don’t mix


L.E. Baskow

Customers at the Essence cannabis shop on Las Vegas Boulevard South line up as sales of recreational marijuana began at midnight in Nevada on Saturday, July 1, 2017.

When it comes to recreational marijuana here, the message from the Nevada Gaming Commission to casino companies is clear: Stay away from the newly legal industry, whether it’s pot use by customers or business relationships with the weed industry.

The commission discussed the issue Thursday during its monthly meeting at the request of the gaming industry and the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the enforcement arm of the state’s gaming regulatory structure.

Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said it had discussed the issue twice before — once after Nevada began selling pot for medical use in 2015 and then again last December, shortly after voters approved legalized recreational sales.

Alamo said he thought the commission’s message had been clear but said it was obvious the industry and the board wanted more direction.

“Today, we have five commissioners present, live and in color,” he said, referring to past marijuana discussions when some commissioners were absent and others recused themselves. “I want to make sure my colleagues were in agreement with comments I’ve made. … I’ve stated the following, that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug making it illegal under federal law.”

Because of that, “the commission can’t allow licensees to knowingly within their sidewalks knowingly break federal law,” Alamo said.

Three of the four other commissioners — Randolph Townsend, Philip M. Pro, and Deborah J. Fuetsch — agreed, often emphatically, with Alamo’s position throughout the meeting.

Commissioner John T. Moran Jr. agreed that pot and gaming shouldn’t mix, but differed in his reasoning.

“One has to ask how we can change years and years and years of gaming history and ignore a federal felony and say that doesn’t count,” he said, acknowledging that the commission can’t condone violations of federal law.

But Moran then cited NRS 453D, the Nevada law that legalized weed, as the main reason he thinks marijuana should not be used in casino resorts.

“Anyone using marijuana In a public place is guilty of a misdemeanor,” Moran said, quoting the law. “The parameters and goal posts have been established and we can’t move them one way or the other,” he added.

“That makes it pretty clear,” he said. “It’s not going to be allowed in a public place until the law gets changed or doesn’t get changed.”

After broadly discussing gaming and marijuana, the commission addressed three issues on the meeting’s agenda: Events at casinos that promote marijuana; business relationships between gaming companies or gaming executives and the marijuana business; and licensees receiving financing from or providing financing to marijuana businesses.

However, the commissioners avoided specifics and largely repeated their general disapproval of any connection between gaming and the use or the business of marijuana.

In fact, Alamo pointedly said the commission wouldn’t create detailed rules regarding marijuana, even though board member Terry Johnson asked the commission at least twice for specific policies instead of broad policy statements.

“We’re not setting policy here,” Alamo said. “We are discussing and interpreting the law as it stands.”

Pro, a former district court judge, compared the commission’s statements to the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. The commission was offering guidance, Pro said, that will have to be interpreted as each individual case comes before the board and commission.

“I don’t think stating a broad policy we can anticipate every situation,” Pro said.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised. An earlier version erroneously stated that the commission was acting on an order from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.



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Efforts to ease or remove pot laws expanding to more states


Marijuana Business Daily is reporting efforts are now under way in five new states to legalize either recreational or medical marijuana.

There are signature drives in Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah and South Dakota to legalize medical marijuana. South Dakota also has a proposed ballot measure that would legalize recreational pot use as does Michigan.

The efforts are given a good chance for passage in all of those states. Oklahomans for Health has already raised the signatures needed to put that question on the 2018 ballot while backers in Michigan, the magazine reports, already has 100,000 plus of the 252,523 signatures needed.

Organizers in South Dakota say they have three quarters of the signers needed for both initiatives but the number of signers needed by November is just 13,871.

New Approach Missouri has collected about a third of the 160,000 signatures needed there but, in Utah, it’s too soon to tell since that legalization movement just started this month.

According to Governing Magazine, 26 states have now legalized marijuana in some form.

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In eight of those states, both medical and recreational marijuana use is now legal: Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Washington. Nevada voters did so last November.

In addition, Washington D.C. has legalized personal use but not commercial sale of pot.

Another 23 states have passed laws allowing some medical use of marijuana and 14 states have joined D.C. in decriminalizing pot to some degree.



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