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Week In Review: News From Mexico, Missouri, And The Marijuana Policy Project

The news on cannabis developments is coming fast and furious these days. Frankly, we can't keep up with everything, so we offer a weekly roundup of issues and events that should be on your radar, with links to stories that cover the issues in greater depth.

1. Activist quits to protest "Big Cannabis"

Lost among the many engrossing November news stories was a controversial resignation. Dan Riffle, a longtime cannabis activist, left his position as the federal policy director of Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) to protest the encroachment of business on advocacy. In an email to his colleagues, he said he was leaving because the "industry is taking over the legalization movement and I'm not interested in the industry."

In a later interview with International Business Times, Riffle added, "I felt for the last few months the industry was kind of dominating the legalization movement's work in general, and MPP's specifically."

2. Missourians plead guilty to taking medicine

This week, the Missouri activist group Show-Me Cannabis released a hard-hitting video that is getting rave reviews. The 30-second spot titled "Guilty" features actors getting mugshots as they confess the medical conditions that are treated with cannabis.

Currently, both medical and recreational marijuana use is illegal in the state. But that could change in 2016. One group of activists is currently gathering signatures to put the Missouri Cannabis Restoration and Protection Act (MCRPA) on the ballot in November.

There are also two separate initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. One is led by New Approach Missouri (which has been endorsed by Show-Me Cannabis). The other is from Brad Bradshaw - a doctor from Springfield, MO who is also running for lieutenant governor in the state.

Activists outside the state might want to take notice of these ballot initiatives. The Weed Blog's Johnny Green predicts that Missouri could be a major game changer for the legalization movement.

3. Cannabis arrests are both surging and dropping in the U.S.

Nationwide, the total number of marijuana arrests have dipped 6.5 percent between 2003-2014, according to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance. However, arrests are on the rise in some specific states. From 2003-2014, Virginia saw a 76 percent increase in the total number of arrests. Leafly notes that there is a distinct racial disparity in the arrests.

Meanwhile, the SF Gate reports that the annual cannabis arrests in New Jersey has hit a 20 year high - despite attempts to legalize marijuana through the state legislature.

4. B.C. Unions want budtenders in liquor stores

British Columbia's two liquor unions have a couple of very specific Christmas wishes for 2016. They want the federal government to let them handle the province's cannabis sales, and they want to begin stocking the shelves with strains by December 2016.

The unions - the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association - have teamed up to form the Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance of B.C. With a united voice, they are arguing that liquor stores are the safest place for cannabis sales.

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith told reporters, "when this happens, it ought to be sold in the most socially responsible way possible, in an age-controlled environment with the strongest track record of checking identification."

5. Mexico could make legalization a New Year's Resolution

Following the Supreme Court's decision that marijuana is a human right, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has called for a national debate on legalization, beginning in January 2016. The discussion will involve healthcare professionals, legal experts, academics and public figures who will publicly debate reforming the country's cannabis laws.

But one of the biggest opponents is the president himself. In a speech announcing a child welfare program, Peña Nieto said, "I am not in favor of consuming or legalizing marijuana. I am not in favor because it has been proven, demonstrated, that consuming this substance damages the health of children and youths."

However, Peña Nieto is in favor of an educated discussion on the issue: "I am in favor of debate so that specialists can give us some indication of where we should be going," he added.

This story has been updated from its original version.


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