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The Top Five Pro-Marijuana Stories You Didn’t Read About in 2014

Russ Belville

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The end of the year always brings retrospectives. We can count 2014 as the best year so far for marijuana reform, with three-for-three wins for marijuana legalization on the national level, adding more medical marijuana states, ending the federal war on medical marijuana, and so on. Many articles in the marijuana media and some mainstream sources have done a great job cataloging the best of 2014 in big marijuana stories.

Here, however, we bring you a list of some of the less-covered good-news marijuana stories of 2014 that nevertheless signaled passing the tipping point on inevitable cannabis re-legalization.

Oregon Marijuana Education Tour Fails Spectacularly

What a difference two years makes! In 2012, Oregon voters were presented with an initiative to legalize marijuana. Enter Kevin Sabet, who works with local Oregon drug rehab and prevention groups to present a drug summit in October as legalization ballots are being mailed to voters. The summit is paid for in part by federal drug prevention grant money.

Fast-forward to 2014. Oregon has legalization on the ballot, and Sabet once again colludes with the local anti-drug forces to present not just a summit, but a 13-city “educational tour,” paid for with the same federal grant money. But this time, the initiative’s chief petitioner cried foul to the media, noting that federal educational grantees are legally barred from using the money for electioneering.

The resulting scandal forced half of the tour stops to be canceled. The remaining destinations had to scramble to raise private funds to pay Sabet his $3,000-per-stop fees plus expenses. Complaints and calls for federal investigation were called for by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and now the evidence of misuse of federal funds is in the hands of drug reform attorneys for possible litigation. Best of all, legalizers in 2016 now have a playbook on how to obstruct the use of tax dollars by prohibitionists to fight legalization in their states.

The Drug Testing Index Went Up For the First Time Ever

Quest Diagnostics is the leading purveyor of drug testing for workplaces in America. Since 1988, they’ve published their Drug Test Index, which includes a measurement of the positivity rate on workplace piss tests. Of the 7.6 million piss tests performed in 2013, 3.7 percent came up positive for the combined US workforce. Both federally-mandated safety-sensitive workers and the general US workforce saw slight increases in the positivity rate.

How is this a pro-marijuana story? Because this is the first time since 1988 that piss test positives have gone up and marijuana is driving the increase.  Marijuana use has greatly increased since 1988 but the positivity rate has always declined or remained steady. There are many reasons for that, including savvy workers who know how to beat tests and fewer companies choosing to test urine. We may have bottomed out to the lowest possible level of piss test positives. As more workers test positive following legalization, more companies will question the value in spending money on tests that end up costing them good employees, especially in legal marijuana and medical marijuana states.

Not One Halloween Marijuana Candy Distribution

Leading up to the election marijuana prohibitionists predicted the dire outcome of legalization in Colorado would result in sociopathic stoners choosing to give out $15 THC-infused candies to trick-or-treaters in lieu of a 15¢ regular candy. It never happened, of course, as it hasn’t ever happened in the 18 years medical marijuana’s been a reality in this county, but this time the police and media played it up so much against the backdrop of legalization that its failure to materialize may have been the last time the boy can cry “Wolf!” on the edibles issue.

Cannabis Carpetbaggers Get Their Comeuppance

OpenVape, a company that makes cannabis vaporizer pens, was proud to announce its new progressive employee drug testing policy, “progressive” in that it would not test for cannabis metabolites in potential employees’ screenings, but only for cause, like being in an accident. Their spokesperson was shocked when much of the cannabis community loudly objected online, going as far as publicly deriding the maturity and motivation of critics.  Eventually the company understood that it’s not which drug being tested for, but the piss testing itself that angered cannabis consumers, and they implemented a policy of performance-based impairment testing that should be the standard for any industry.

Now the community faces Privateer Holdings, a venture capital firm that owns Leafly and is now marketing Marley Natural, a brand of cannabis in cooperation with the estate of Bob Marley. Yet over the past two years, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, has gone out of his way in numerous media outlets to denigrate so-called “stoner culture,” even bragging that part of what attracted Privateer to Leafly was the lack of pot leaves and Bob Marley all over the site. How Marley Natural goes over with the cannabis buying public has yet to be seen.

The NFL Keeps Disproving Marijuana Stereotypes

There have been success stories in the NFL among marijuana users for a long time, going back to five-time pro-bowl center Mark Stepnoski. But this year, the juxtaposition of suspending the NFL’s statistical-best 2013 wide receiver, Josh Gordon, for an entire season over pot versus suspending videotaped domestic abuser Ray Rice for only two games strained even football-addicted America’s tolerance for double standards.

The result was a media firestorm over domestic abuse acceptance in the NFL and society, but the unintended consequence was a re-thinking of why the NFL should be so harsh on cannabis consumers, especially after the teams from the two legal marijuana states just played in the Super Bowl.  This year, the NFL finally relaxed its marijuana standards a little. In the meantime, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, busted for marijuana in the summer, was the #2 statistically-best player at his position, with another busted back, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, sitting at #4. And once again, the two teams from the legal states are among the top four playoff seeds.

"Radical" Russ Belville hosts 'The Marijuana Agenda' on YouTube, a live weekday news/talk program all about cannabis. Learn more at MJAgenda.com.

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