By Steve Elliott
The state of Maine has, for the first time, hired an outside group to inspect medical marijuana growing operations, a move being heavily criticized by patient advocates who say the process is poorly planned. The inspections have already begun, with many caregivers being quite surprised when they happen?
The Maine Department of Human Services last month signed a one-year contract with the Maine Sheriffs' Association, of all groups, agreeing to pay them $167,000 to inspect cannabis growing operations across the state, reports Michael Shepherd at CentralMaine.com.
“The department has contracted with the sheriffs association to provide follow-up investigations on complaints that are medical marijuana related,” DHHS spokesman David Sorensen said Friday, reports Nok-Noi Ricker at the Bangor Daily News. “They are not current deputies; they are retired law enforcement personnel," he claimed. "They are essentially investigators. They are not acting as law enforcement agents.”
The inspections are primarily for caregivers, said DHHS spokesman David Sorenson. Caregivers, under Maine's medical marijuana law, are allowed to grow cannabis for up to five patients who have doctors' authorizations to use the herb medicinally.
By Steve Elliott
Perfectly embodying the definition of a sore loser, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the state Supreme Court to strike down Tuesday's ballot initiative which Wichita voters passed to reduce penalties for marijuana possession.
"There are no facts in dispute -- only the legal question of whether the City of Wichita acted outside its authority by purporting to adopt this ordinance in conflict with state law," Schmidt claimed in a Thursday news release accompanying his filing, reports Dion Lefler at The Wichita Eagle.
"A quick, authoritative and final resolution in the Supreme Court will provide the clarity to guide everyone involved," Schmidt said.
A lawyer for the cannabis activists who forced Tuesday's successful decrim vote said it's kind of funny that Schmidt moved on the case only after his side lost.
"I guess if the wrong people win an election in Wichita, Kansas, the attorney general is going to want a do-over," said Scott Poor, the lawyer representing the Wichita Marijuana Reform Initiative group.
The decrim initiative was resoundingly approved by voters, 54 percent to 46 percent. It seeks to reduce the penalty for first-time marijuana possession for adults over 21 to a $50 fine. Violations would be considered infractions, meaning they wouldn't have to be disclosed on most job or scholarship applications.
By Steve Elliott
The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday issued two rulings barring courts and prosecutors from denying medical marijuana use as a term of probation, if the convicted felons in question have valid medicinal cannabis authorizations.
In the first case, a Cochise County man convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell was forbidden from using medical marijuana by a probation officer after his release from prison, reports Michael Kiefer at The Arizona Republic. In the second, a woman pleading guilty to DUI in Yavapai County refused to abstain from using medicinal cannabis as a term of her probation, prompting the prosecution to withdraw the plea agreement. Both had valid Arizona medical marijuana cards.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that both probationers had the right to use marijuana for their medical conditions under state law, and that prosecutors and courts couldn't take that away from them as a term of probation.
"The Supreme Court is recognizing what the people decided when they passed the initiative: You can use your medicine," said David Euchner, assistant Pima County public defender. Euchner argued in both cases as a member of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
The court ruled, however, that the Yavapai County Attorney's Office had the right to withdraw from the offered plea deal because it had not yet been accepted by a judge.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez on Friday signed HB 560 into law, ending the practice of civil asset forfeiture in New Mexico. Civil asset forfeiture, also known as “policing for profit,” allows law enforcement officers to seize personal property without ever even charging — much less convicting — a person with a crime.
Property seized through this process often finds its way into the department’s own coffers. HB 560, introduced by NM Rep. Zachary Cook and passed unanimously in the Legislature, replaces civil asset forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, which requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to a crime.
The new law means that New Mexico now has the strongest protections against wrongful asset seizures in the country.
“This is a good day for the Bill of Rights,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “For years police could seize people’s cash, cars, and houses without even accusing anyone of a crime. Today, we have ended this unfair practice in New Mexico and replaced it with a model that is just and constitutional.”
“With this law, New Mexico leads the nation in protecting the property rights of innocent Americans,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation. “Convicted criminals will still see the fruits of their crime confiscated by the state, but innocent New Mexicans can now rest easy knowing that their property will never be seized by police without proper due process.”
Kaya Holdings, Inc. on Thursday announced that it has commenced with its own medical marijuana grow operations for the cultivation and harvesting of legal marijuana. The grow operation places Kaya Holdings as the first U.S. publicly traded company to own a majority interest in a vertically integrated legal marijuana enterprise in the United States, according to the company.
"This grow begins our path to complete vertical integration where our Kaya Shack stores exclusively sell company produced products," said CEO Craig Frank. "The economics of the industry and our quest for excellence in quality and stability in supply made establishment of this grow an immediate operation imperative. We are proud to have reached it so quickly and with so high a degree of expertise."
"This weekend Kaya employees and contractors will harvest the final round of our first medical marijuana crop rotations which have yielded the company nearly 25 pounds of independently tested-and-certified Oregon connoisseur-grade medical marijuana since January 1, 2015," Frank said. "With planned expansion we are planning to ramp up to much higher production levels."
The grow operation will rotate varieties within the perpetual harvest room to include more than 30 strains of marijuana, according to Kaya Holdings. The company expects to expand the grow operations throughout 2015, enlarging capacity and increasing the number of varieties grown.
The American Seed & Oil Company Medical Cannabis Cooperative, an organization of independent hemp and marijuana cultivation organizations, was announced on Tuesday. The intent of the cooperative is that by working together, cultivators can more rapidly and soundly expand their respective operations.
American Seed & Oil Company is dedicating its previously announced $1.2 million in secured funding to The Medical Cannabis Cooperative.
"American Seed & Oil Company is committed to establishing a leadership position within the developing U.S. legal cannabis industry," said Steven Rash, CEO of Algae International, Inc. and its operating subsidiary, the American Seed & Oil Company. "We believe our investment of time, talent and resources in a Cooperative Cannabis Cultivation strategy will more rapidly expand our revenues and assets than solely investing in the construction of wholly owned cannabis cultivation operations."
"We are already piloting a number of cannabis consumer products; working to develop a number of cannabis commercial products; contributing to the effort to mature and advance legalization nationwide and at the same time investing in the infrastructure to grow and process cannabis," Rash said. "We continue to evaluate and evolve our overall approach toward all these ends.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Thursday announced plans to introduce bicameral legislation next week that would reconcile state marijuana laws and federal tax law.
The Small Business Tax Equity Act, which was introduced last Congress by Congressman Blumenauer, would create an exception to Internal Revenue Code Section 280E to allow marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law to take deductions associated with the sale of marijuana like any other legal business.
“More than two-thirds of Americans now live in jurisdictions that have legalized either the medical or adult use of marijuana,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “It’s time for the federal government to catch up."
"Section 280E creates an unequal and unrealistic tax burden on these businesses," Blumenauer said. "I’m excited to work with Senator Wyden in introducing the Small Business Tax Equity Act, which would bring much needed fairness and level the playing field for small businesses that follow state laws and create jobs.”
“Our legislation would provide an overdue update to federal tax law, which has not caught up to the fact that it’s 2015 and Oregonians have voted both to legalize medical marijuana and to regulate marijuana for recreational use,” Senator Wyden said. “This is a question of standing up for the people of Oregon, and ensuring that the federal government respects the decision Oregonians have made at the ballot box.”
Megan Stone, Owner of The High Road Design Studio, is Redesigning the Marijuana Retail Industry
Megan Stone, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based cannabis retail designer and owner of The High Road Design Studio, is helping to revolutionize marijuana retail on a national level. Stone was honored last month with the fourth annual Designer Dozen Award by Visual Merchandising and Store Design Magazine (VMSD).
Stone was selected for her progressive and innovative work in the cannabis industry. The award is hosted by VMSD magazine and parent company ST Media Group. It showcases 12 of the best and brightest emerging retail designers under 35.
“This list of up-and-coming talent represents the ones introducing new strategies and concepts and impacting the shopping experience in the 21st century,” said VMSD Editor-in-Chief Patricia Sheehan.
An authority in the cannabis field for her breadth of experience and dispensary designs, Stone, a 2006 graduate of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, jumped into the market in 2013 when she graduated the Interior Designers Institute and founded The High Road Design Studio.
As a former budtender and dispensary manager, Stone brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her company, educating cannabis business owners on the importance of design in professionalism, branding, customer loyalty, and profitability.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) refuted the Justice Department’s recent interpretation of a spending provision intended to protect state medical marijuana laws and confirmed that any criminal or civil action against medical marijuana providers is a violation of federal law. The full letter is available at http://www.mpp.org/DOJletter.
The letter comes in response to statements made last week by a Justice Department spokesman to The Los Angeles Times. In the article, the spokesman said the Justice Department can still prosecute medical marijuana cases, notwithstanding the spending restriction adopted by Congress. The full article is available at http://mppne.ws/1a6F6bb.
In the letter, the Congressmen call the Justice Department’s interpretation “emphatically wrong” and ask Holder to “bring [the] Department back into compliance with federal law” by halting prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions in states with medical marijuana laws.
By Steve Elliott
If you're an American citizen, you must be aware that federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents spend plenty of your tax money in Latin America. Recent revelations that DEA agents attended sex parties hosted by the same drug traffickers they were supposed to be fighting shed some revealing light on what they've been up to.
According to a report from the Department of Justice, several DEA agents -- some with top security clearances, mind you -- allegedly participated in multiple sex orgies with prostitutes "funded by the local drug cartels." Some of the federal agents also got cash, gifts and weapons from the traffickers, reports Daniel Robelo at AlterNet.
Incredibly, the sex parties occurred at the agents' "government-leased quarters," where laptops and other equipment were easily accessible, raising "the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents' conduct, according to the report.
Less widely reported was a much more serious allegation that U.S. soldiers and military contractors raped at least 54 women and girls between 2004 and 2007 while deployed as part of Plan Colombia -- the nearly $10 billion U.S. Drug War "military aid" package designed to prop up the deeply corrupt Colombian government.
None of those involved has faced any consequences.
LEAD Establishes Unique Collaboration Among Law Enforcement, Human Service Agencies, Business Leaders, and Community Members
Interest in LEAD Grows Among Major Cities Across the Nation, Including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Albany
According to a new, independent study by a University of Washington evaluation team, one of the nation’s most innovative and promising approaches to ending the War On Drugs and mass incarceration has been shown to produce a dramatic drop in recidivism.
In 2011, Seattle launched "Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion" (LEAD), a bold new harm reduction-oriented approach to address low-level drug and prostitution crimes and break the cycle of addiction, joblessness and homelessness. Under LEAD, police officers exercise discretion to divert individuals for certain criminal offenses (including low-level drug sales) to a case manager and a comprehensive network of services, instead of booking them to jail and initiating the standard criminal justice process.
LEAD established a unique collaboration between multiple stakeholders who all work together to find new ways to solve old problems. Stakeholders include police, district attorneys, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers and other service agencies, the business community, public defenders, elected officials, and community leaders.
“We are going to put our political muscle behind this to make sure it gets passed.”
New Approach Oregon has hired a lobbyist to help pass bills in the Oregon Legislature that would reduce marijuana offenders’ jail sentences and clear marijuana-related offenses from criminal records.
The group behind Oregon’s law to legalize marijuana is also teaming up with the Bus Project to organize volunteers, host phone banks and win endorsements for House Bill 3372 and Senate Bill 364. Both bills await hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. SB 364 has already passed the Senate.
“We built a powerful organization to legalize marijuana,” said Anthony Johnson, executive director of New Approach Oregon, “and we plan to use it to make sure these bills are passed. Let’s stop ruining lives by treating marijuana as a crime and start saving money by getting people out of jail and giving them a fresh start.”
Oaksterdam University to Prepare D.C. Residents to Work in the Legal Cannabis Industry
Oaksterdam University – which calls itself the nation’s only recognized cannabis college – On June 27 and 28 will bring to Washington, DC, the city’s first certified career training program for candidates seeking to enter the legal cannabis industry.
The two-day event, to be held at the Capital Hilton located at 1001 16th Street, NW, is sponsored by local cannabis entrepreneur Ben David Sheppard and his portfolio of cannabis companies, MD Canna-Care & Cultivation, House of Jane and Jane’s Brew Gourmet Coffees teas and other fine edibles.
The training will provide participants with the critical information they need to pursue a cannabis career, from opening a dispensary or delivery business, to structuring a legal cannabis entity, understanding their legal rights under the District’s and other states’ laws, bud tending, vending and more. The Washington, DC, certification program is a good testing ground for Oaksterdam as it eyes Washington, DC, as a potential headquarters for its planned East Coast campus.
When the District of Columbia approved Initiative 71 last November, it made possession of marijuana legal in the city. Officials estimate that the local marijuana economy could become $130 million annually. And, CannaInsider has estimated that states with legal cannabis laws will create more than 200,000 new industry jobs in 2015 alone.
The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would reduce state penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The hearing is scheduled to take place in the Texas State Capitol Extension E2.030 upon adjournment of the House.
HB 507, authored by committee vice-chair Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), will be one of several marijuana-related bills considered by the committee on Wednesday. It is the only proposal that would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100.
Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
“When I was a prosecutor, I saw firsthand how scarce our criminal justice resources are and how disproportionately harsh drug convictions can be on nonviolent offenders, especially young people,” said Rep. Moody. “As a lawmaker, I have a responsibility to make sure we’re spending our resources wisely and treating our people fairly. That’s what HB 507 is about.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 72,150 arrests or citations issued for marijuana-related offenses in Texas in 2012, 97 percent of which were for simple possession. That same year, nearly 90 percent of all burglaries, including home invasions, and 88 percent of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved.
By Steve Elliott
Louisiana residents have a much more relaxed and tolerant approach toward marijuana than is reflected by their state's harsh laws, according to a statewide survey conducted by Louisiana State University this winter.
The university asked about three different marijuana polices, reports Julia O'Donoghue at The Times-Picayune.
First of all, the survey found that a majority of Louisianans oppose legal marijuana for personal use. Fifty-two percent of state residents still oppose legalizing cannabis for recreational use, but the gap between those who don't want to legalize and those who support it -- at 45 percent -- is shrinking.
In 2013, 56 percent said they opposed legalization, and 42 percent said they supported it, a gap of 14 points. Now, that gap has shrunk to just a seven-point difference.
Young adults ages 18-29 in Louisiana support legal marijuana, with 68 percent supporting and 32 percent opposed.
One state lawmaker has filed legislation to put possession, distribution and dispensing of cannabis on the Louisiana ballot on November 8, 2016. Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) said voters should get to decide whether pot becomes legal.
Secondly, the survey found that most Louisiana residents support medical marijuana. Sixty percent support medicinal pot, but for some reason that number has shrunk since last year, when 79 percent said they supported it.