• Florida’s Largest Police Force Stops Detaining People Over Pot Smell
    The tell-tale smell of cannabis smoke has long been law enforcement’s best excuse for questioning and detaining people over suspected cannabis possession. And police often use “marijuana odor” as a pretense for stop-and-frisks and searches, whether they actually detected a smell or not. But in Florida, the mere odor of cannabis will no longer be enough cause to detain and search people suspected of consuming or possessing weed. Not because Florida police departments are relaxing their enforcement of marijuana laws. But instead, because Florida has legalized hemp, and officers don’t have the training or the technology to distinguish cannabis from its non-psychoactive cousin. Florida’s New Legal Hemp Law Is Changing How Police Enforce Marijuana Laws After the U.S. federal government legalized hemp late last year, states have been moving to revise their own marijuana laws to carve out space for legal hemp. Under the blanket prohibition of cannabis, many state laws didn’t make a distinction between hemp—now defined as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC—and the forms of cannabis people consume for recreational and health reasons. But in light of the lifting of the federal ban on hemp and hemp products, which range from clothing, food and textiles to cannabidiol (CBD) products, states are bringing their own rules in line with the new federal law. And in Florida, the legalization of hemp is causing an interesting knockdown effect: it’s changing the way police enforce laws against marijuana. So when Florida’s legal hemp law went into effect July 1, 2019, removing hemp and hemp products from the state’s list of controlled substances and therefore making it legal to possess, Florida police departments began instructing officers that the smell of cannabis alone could no longer be just cause for detaining a person or conducting a search. Despite the major difference between hemp and weed—their respective quantities of THC—the two breeds of cannabis have much in common. In the first place, hemp and weed have virtually the same odor. And to the untrained or inexperienced, the plants can look and feel very similar. Indeed, as far as their legal definitions go, the only difference between marijuana and hemp is which side of the 0.3 percent THC they fall on. Go over, and the law considers that to be an illegal substance. Stay under, and you’ve got legal hemp. Miami-Dade Police Now Need “Odor Plus” to Detain People for Weed And it’s exactly because of their similarities, and the apparent difficulty officers have telling the difference, that Florida police ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-19
  • Ohio Lawmakers Advance Measure to Legalize Hemp Farming and CBD Oil
    Lawmakers in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would legalize hemp agriculture and CBD products in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 57, was approved by a vote of 88-3 after being passed by the state Senate in March. Changes to the bill made by the House were also approved on Wednesday. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for his consideration. If he approves the measure, it will go into effect immediately, giving farmers in Ohio a new option for their operations. “This is the best news that’s going to hit farm country this year,” said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township. New Option for Ohio Farmers House Speaker Larry Householder said that in a year that has been tough on Ohio farmers, it was important that the bill was passed before lawmakers went on their upcoming summer recess. “Farmers are getting hit pretty hard right now with tariffs and weather, I think that it can help them plan a little bit,” Householder said. “Now they know that there’s a path for us to have hemp in the state of Ohio.” Under current state law, hemp is a schedule I controlled substance like all other varieties of the cannabis plant. Senate Bill 57 changes Ohio law so that it conforms with the federal legalization of hemp passed by Congress with the 2018 Farm Bill. Under the measure, hemp would be excluded from the definition of marijuana used to enforce drug laws and prohibit the state Board of Pharmacy from listing hemp and hemp products as controlled substances. The bill also requires that CBD oil previously confiscated be returned to the seller, provided that the product conforms with federal law. In August of last year, the pharmacy board released a statement requiring CBD products to be sold only at state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. That decision led many retailers to pull CBD products from their shelves while others openly flaunted the ruling. Bill Sets Regulations for Hemp Agriculture Senate Bill 57 also sets regulations for hemp agriculture, requiring that crops be no more than 0.3 percent THC and that farmers be licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. No cap on licenses has been set by lawmakers. An amendment from Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse that would have removed a regulation that prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony in the last 10 years from being licensed to grow hemp was not approved by the body. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Michigan Announces Cannabis Social Equity Program in 19 Communities
    With $42 million having been announced in medical marijuana revenue during the first four months of sales in Michigan, the state’s policymakers face a distinct challenge. How do you make sure that a decent slice of that money goes to those who have had their lives turned upside-down by Drug War prohibition over the years? The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency [MRA] made part of its strategy to this end clear this week when it released details for a sweeping social equity program that will support cannabis entrepreneurs in 19 communities. “We want to provide an opportunity to get into the business to individuals that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” commented MRA director Andrew Brisbo. “And we’re focusing our resources on those specific communities that have been disproportionately impacted.”  For qualifying applicants, the state has pledged to supply up to a 60 percent discount in application and licensing fees. Individuals will be eligible for more support if they have lived in one of the 19 communities for five years, if they have a marijuana criminal conviction, or if they have been a registered cannabis caregiver for at least two years between 2008 and 2017. Applicants in the program will also have access to industry educational resources, and easier access to governmental agencies that regulate “taxes, environmental laws, business registration, health and human services and occupational safety,” according to the Detroit Free Press. The jurisdictions where the social equity program will take place are Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Ecorse, Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Inkster, Kalamazoo, Mt. Morris, Mt. Pleasant, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Niles, Pontiac, River Rouge, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti. They were selected because they had higher than state average rates of cannabis-related convictions, and for high poverty rates. Michigan has announced that its goal is to give half of all marijuana business licenses in the 19 communities to people who take part in the social equity program.  “I think the incentive here is that … the rising tide lifts all boats,” said Brisbo. “This will provide an overall benefit to the community, ensure that individuals operating the facilities are from that community, and you’re providing good economic opportunities.” This is not the only Drug War justice measure that has been discussed this week in the state. On Tuesday, State Senator Jeff Irwin presented a bill that would institute automatic expungement of low level cannabis misdemeanors. The legislation could affect 235,000 Michigan residents who currently have a blemish on their criminal record for an act that is no ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Federal Agents Question Missouri Officials Over Medical Marijuana Program
    A trio of top officials overseeing the fledgling medical cannabis program in Missouri have been subject to questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that the three officials, all members of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, described the interviews, which took place over the last several months, as “not investigative in nature,” but rather “routine meet-and-greets the FBI requested to get to know the people in charge of the new — and potentially lucrative — industry.” Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 last November to legalize medical marijuana by a massive 66%-34% margin, joining more than 30 other states that have legalized the treatment. Under the new law, physicians can prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from 10 different medical conditions, which include cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma, among other debilitating illnesses. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began accepting applications for such prescriptions late last month. Qualifying patients will receive an identification card, which will enable them to purchase up to four ounces of marijuana per month. Although the interviews between the FBI and the Missouri officials were routine in nature, they do underscore the unique status of marijuana in the country. While cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, a raft of states and cities continue to implement measures allowing for recreational or medicinal use, if not both. Lyndall Fraker, who was appointed by Parsons to oversee the program earlier this year, told the Kansas City Star that it was a “a very friendly, casual conversation” with the FBI that didn’t delve much into specifics. “Just (to) get to know each other and who they were going to be working with potentially down the road in this new industry that’s now legal that’s been illegal, and still part of it is illegal,” Fraker said.  Fraker was interviewed alongside Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, who said that the FBI agents told them that medical marijuana programs “can involve large sums of money, and when there are large sums of money we tend to pay attention.” Williams added that the FBI seemed receptive to Missouri’s vetting process, which will ensure that the third-party company reviewing applications won’t see the names of applicants, a process designed to prevent corruption. “I think that gave them great comfort, as it does us,” Williams told the Kansas City Star. “I don’t want to speak for them, but I think that was reassuring.” Pot remains illegal in Missouri, though the state legislature ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Notorious Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Sentenced to Life in Prison
    Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious drug kingpin known as El Chapo, was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison for his convictions on federal drug, murder, and money laundering charges earlier this year. The sentence marks the end of a 30-year drug trafficking career that saw Guzmán rise to the top of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa drug cartel. Addressing the court at his sentencing hearing at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, Guzmán said he had not been given a fair trial and complained about being held in solitary confinement at Manhattan’s federal correctional facility before and during his three-month trial. He characterized his incarceration there as “psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day.” “Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he said. Judge Brian M. Cogan then imposed the life sentence, mandatory under federal law due to the nature of the “overwhelmingly evil” crimes, plus 30 years. Although Cogan did not specify where Guzmán will serve his sentence, he is expected to be incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, or ADX, in Florence, Colo. Guzmán was also ordered to pay an astronomical $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture, the estimated value of the drugs he smuggled into the United States, according to federal prosecutors. El Chapo Captured Three Times Guzmán spent decades eluding both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including two escapes from custody in Mexico. He was captured for the third time in 2016 by a binational coalition of law enforcement personnel and military troops and extradited to the U.S. the following year to face criminal charges in federal court. Guzmán had been indicted in separate cases in Tucson and San Diego in the early 1990s. At his trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence against Guzmán that had been collected through years of surveillance and investigative work. Witnesses for the prosecution included 14 members of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel who testified against him. Raymond P. Donovan, the agent in charge of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who was involved in two of Guzmán’s captures by law enforcement, said that his sentencing marks the end of his reign, which was aided by bribery and corruption in the Mexican government. “It’s justice not only for the Mexican government, but for all of Guzmán’s victims in Mexico,” said Donovan. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • Senate Schedules Hearing on Cannabis Banking Bill
    A Senate legislative committee has scheduled a hearing on a bill that would give cannabis businesses operating legally under state law access to the U.S. banking industry. The hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives” will be held on Tuesday, July 23 and will include testimony from sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (S. 1200) and representatives of the cannabis, banking, and credit union industries. Under federal drug and money laundering regulations, even those cannabis businesses operating legally under state laws are usually not able to obtain access to common financial services. Consequently, companies in the cannabis industry often do business only in cash, putting the firms and their employees at risk of crime. The SAFE Banking Act would prohibit federal regulators for penalizing financial institutions and their employees for providing services to legal cannabis businesses, likely making more banks willing to serve the industry. Witnesses Set to Testify Witnesses scheduled to testify at next week’s hearing include Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the sponsor of the SAFE Act, and Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado who is one of the 31 Senate co-sponsors of the bill, and John Lord, the CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health and board chair of the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF). Neal Levine, the CEO of the marijuana industry trade group, said in a press release that the upcoming hearing is an indication of cannabis policy reform’s new support in Congress, including the Republican-led Senate. “This hearing is yet another sign that Congress is taking the cannabis banking problem seriously and intends to take action to correct it,” said Levine. “Cannabis businesses operating legally under state and local laws should have the same access to banking and financial services as any other type of business.” Levine added that Lord’s appearance before the committee would give him the opportunity “to discuss the challenges of operating a cannabis business without full banking services.” “With his decade of experience complying with regulations in this constantly evolving industry, John has a perspective shared by few others in the country,” he said. “We expect his testimony will be educational for members of the Committee and make a compelling case for the SAFE Banking Act.” Keeping Communities Safe Jim Nussle, the president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, said the SAFE Act is about keeping communities safe. “At its heart, cannabis banking is a public safety issue. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • West Hollywood Set To Get “First of Its Kind” Cannabis Café
    On Tuesday, West Hollywood stepped out in front of the cannabis dining and entertainment market by approving the country’s first licensed restaurant featuring THC and CBD-infused food. Lowell Farms — a project of marijuana company Lowell Herb Co. — will also offer an open-air smoking area. While cannabis industry types and users rejoiced over the decision, not all neighbors were pleased.   Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Elevation VIP Coop founder Andrea Drummer has been tapped to put together a menu for Lowell Farms that features CBD, THC, or both in every dish, with an emphasis on highlighting cannabis’ benefits for personal wellness. Customers will not be able to order alcoholic beverages (which aren’t allowed at sites selling cannabis comestibles per California law), but will be able to snag tea, coffee, juice, and smoothies with their meal.  “Anyone who has one of those licenses should feel an enormous sense of responsibility—and there should be—not only to the city of West Hollywood but to the country,” Drummer told a local website in April. “There are eyes on us in doing this and executing it.” The location will offer the first brick and mortar cannabis restaurant in the United States, but this will not be the country’s first cannabis café. That would be Portland, Oregon’s World Famous Cannabis Café (now NW Cannabis Club), which offered a space for members to consume marijuana products bought elsewhere, and a food and drink menu. In the UK, The Canna Kitchen has been showing its Brighton customers how to make a meal with weed, and specializes in meat and animal product-free fare infused with CBD and other cannabinoids.  But Lowell Farms will be the current high water mark of the cannabis fine dining trend, which has largely cropped up in the United States in the form of private dinners and pop up events organized by chefs who specialize in marijuana edibles.  Aesthetically, the business plan appears to be anything but out of the norm for the area. The Lowell Farms design showcases a recognizable Hollywood brunch chic. The outdoor dining areas feature walls of dangling succulents and cushioned lawn-type furniture that would not look out of place in a passive aggressive lunch scene on Real Housewives.  West Hollywood started accepting applications for eight consumption lounges permits in April.  Not everyone was thrilled about Lowell Farms’ approval. The synagogue Congregation Kol Ami is located 300 feet away from the site of the future restaurant, and made its disapproval of the plans known early on. The synagogue fears that ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • Columbus, Ohio May Significantly Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession
    The city council in Columbus, Ohio is considering cannabis policy reforms that would significantly reduce the penalties imposed for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The council has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed city ordinance to enact the reforms for Thursday evening. Under the proposed ordinance, possession of up to 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of marijuana would be subject to a fine of up to $10. Those caught possessing between 100 and 200 grams (approximately seven ounces) of cannabis could be fined up to $25. Possession of more than 200 grams would still be a felony. The fine for possession of marijuana paraphernalia would be reduced to $10. The ordinance would also increase funding to help those with previous convictions for marijuana possession offenses have their criminal records sealed. The fines for cannabis possession would not apply to “any person who obtained the marihuana pursuant to a lawful prescription issued by a licensed health professional authorized to prescribe drugs,” according to the ordinance. Punishments More Severe Under State Law Under Ohio state law, possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis can be punished with a fine of up to $150 while possessing 100 to 200 grams of pot could set you back $250 and land you in jail for up to 30 days. Council President Shannon G. Hardin said in a written statement that the council has scheduled Thursday’s public hearing in an effort to receive feedback on the proposal from the community. “We want to know what residents think about on proposed reforms,” said Hardin. “We are having serious conversations about inequalities in the criminal justice system. “There are two key elements to the proposal: lowering fines for small amounts of marijuana possession and increasing funds for Legal Aid attorneys to help seal records for minor convictions so Columbus residents can get good-paying jobs.” Racial Inequality of Cannabis Enforcement Cited In a background paper attached to the proposed ordinance, it is noted that the racial inequality prevalent in the enforcement of marijuana laws has already led other Ohio cities to enact their own ordinances with more lenient penalties for possessing cannabis. The Columbus ordinance “will further the city’s efforts to address criminal penalties that have disproportionate effects on communities of color,” reads the background paper. “Given the racial inequities that exist with enforcement of marihuana laws locally and nationwide, the recent legalization of medical marihuana in the state of Ohio, and the number of recent ballot initiatives and ordinances liberalizing marihuana laws in municipalities ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • New Jersey Opens Major Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program
    On Monday, New Jersey’s Department of Health announced plans to accept applications for individuals and entities interested in opening operational and cultivation facilities. The agency said that it is seeking applicants to operate as many as 24 Alternative Treatment Centers, with the aim to place eight in the northern part of the state, eight in the central region and seven in the south. An additional facility will be placed in a yet-to-be-determined region, the department said.  Moreover, the department said it intends to grant licenses for an additional 15 dispensaries, five cultivation centers and four “vertically integrated permits,” which would involve a combination of cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary. The applications, which were made available on Monday, are due on August 22; it costs $20,000 to apply, though failed applicants will receive a reimbursement of $18,000.  All applicants “must submit a security plan and an environmental impact statement,” and demonstrate “experience in cultivating, manufacturing or retailing marijuana and provide quality control and assurance plans,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The permit expansion was put in motion earlier this month when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a bill to grant an additional 24 licenses. It’s part of an ongoing effort by Murphy to dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in the state.  Medical cannabis has been legal in New Jersey since early 2010, when outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine signed the measure into law on his final day in office. But for years, the program suffered from low enrollment due to the law’s strict requirements. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who succeeded Corzine, was a vocal opponent to medical marijuana, calling it a “front for legalization.”  “What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana. Not medical marijuana,” Christie said in the summer of 2014. “Because when we run a medically based program, you don’t see the demand.” But under Murphy, who was elected governor in 2017, the state has made an effort to expand the medical cannabis program, with growing calls to also legalize recreational use. Earlier this month, Murphy signed bill A20, also known as “Jake’s Law” after seven-year-old Jake Honig who died last year from brain cancer. The law brings a number of changes and expansions to the medical marijuana program, including raising the monthly limit for patients from two ounces to three ounces, and allowing edibles to be prescribed to adults (previously, they were only available to minors).  “I am proud to stand with my legislative partners as we break down barriers to ensure this life-changing ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • Plan For Automatic Expungement of Cannabis Records Proposed in Michigan
    There continues to be some large gaps in justice when it comes to the state by state cannabis legalization movement. Among them is a key question; What happens to those individuals with cannabis offenses that took place before the laws changed? Believe it or not, many of them aren’t automatically, retroactively covered by new laws that decriminalize or legalize weed going forward. In Michigan, one senator is looking to right this wrong.  On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor presented a piece of legislation that would guarantee automatic expungement for those with past, low level cannabis misdemeanors on their records. Estimates project that the bill could affect around 235,000 people. That’s key, as criminal records can make a difference in people getting employment, or qualifying for state benefits. Automatic expungement would also dodge the high cost to the state of clearing cases individually in court.  “Automatic expungement for all of our lowest-level cannabis offenders allows people to move on with their lives and making it automatic is essential because many people can’t afford an attorney, or the legal fees associated with an application,” Irwin said, as reported by Click On Detroit. “Cannabis is now legal in Michigan and petty offenses in the past should be no barrier to getting back to work or school.”  In fact, only six percent of individuals with past marijuana crimes have participated in Michigan’s current expungement petition procedure.  “This is so important to a large number of people in Michigan, who when they’re applying for jobs or student loans, they’re put in a position where their record can affect their future,” said Irwin. The bill’s introduction follows this week’s passage of legislation in New Hampshire that establishes a petition process for individuals with low level possession offenses committed before the state’s decriminalization in 2017. That bill does not, however, allow for automatic expungement. Automatic expungement laws have also been passed in California and Illinois, where possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis is now automatically pardoned by the governor.  The processes dictated by many states to apply for such expungements involve attorney fees, and potentially taking time off from work to attend court dates. Such measures are prohibitive, especially when we’re talking about the low income communities that were disproportionately affected by Drug War policing during their states’ prohibition eras.  Fifty-six percent of Michigan voters opted for a recreational cannabis system last year, but the state is still hashing out what, exactly, that business will look like. Earlier this month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • Study Finds Legal Cannabis Reduces Illicit Grows in National Forests
    Conversations about the effects of legalizing cannabis frequently focus on a few key issues: economic opportunity, social justice, the potential for new medical treatments, and other health benefits. What’s less talked about, however, is how cannabis legalization impacts the environment. Researchers have long documented the ways unchecked outdoor cannabis cultivation can strain resources and negatively impact the environment. And data from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that a significant amount of illegally produced cannabis is grown on federal lands— especially, national forests. But what if legalization was making a difference? That’s exactly the question a new, first-of-its-kind study set out to answer. Do cannabis-related policies have any effect on illicit grow operations in U.S. national forests? The answer appears to be that yes, legalization does impact illegal grows. In fact, it reduces them significantly. Expanding Legalization Reduces Illicit Grows in National Forests by a Fifth or More, Study Concludes As the legal cannabis industry in the United States expands, demand for cannabis products is growing with it. But in the U.S. market, supply and demand have yet to find their equilibrium. So despite the major changes in the production and consumption of legal cannabis over the past decade, the unregulated, illicit market still dominates. As recently as 2018, experts estimated that legal sales accounted for over $10 billion of the $50 billion in total cannabis sales that year. Put simply, the illicit marijuana market isn’t going anywhere, at least in the short term. Of course, supplying that market requires a significant number of illicit grow operations. And based on data about law enforcement seizures of outdoor-grown plants, national forests appear to be prime real estate for unlicensed cultivators. Illicit grows in Oregon, Colorado and California feed the bulk of the illegal market’s supply. National forests cover 24 percent of land in Oregon and 21 percent in Colorado. California has more national forests, 20, than any other state. Not coincidentally, illicit grows are highly prevalent in national forests in those states (and other legal cannabis states) despite their shifts toward regulated commercial production. Even in an economic environment that continues to incentivize illicit cultivation, however, legalization is cutting down on the number of grows in national forests. “Recreational cannabis legalization is associated with decreased reports of illegal grow operations on national forests,” according to “Cannabis legalization by states reduces illegal growing on US national forests,” a study just published in Ecological Economics. And that’s good news, not just for the legal industry, but for the flora ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • Someone Planted 34 Cannabis Plants in the Vermont Statehouse Flower Beds
    At least 34 cannabis plants were removed from a flower bed at the Vermont State House last week after a visitor to the state capitol in Montpelier reported their presence to law enforcement. Capitol Police Chief Matt Romei said, after the plants were discovered, that he was unsure if the young plants were hemp or marijuana and that groundskeepers on the property may have found more plants after the initial discovery. The chief added that he was not surprised that the cannabis plants found a suitable home in the well-tended garden that lines a walkway in front of the statehouse. “You could plant a 2-by-4 piece of lumber in there, and it would grow into a palm tree,” Romei said. “So it is totally not surprising that if somebody would put some marijuana seeds in there, they would grow like weeds.” Growing at Home OK. The State House, Not So Much The Vermont legislature legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults last year, with provisions of the legalization bill also allowing for the home cultivation of cannabis. Adults in the state are permitted to grow up two mature and four immature cannabis per residence. Vermont has also legalized hemp agriculture and the chief said that he was unsure if the plants discovered in the capitol flower bed were marijuana or hemp. Either way, they weren’t being grown in accordance with state regulations. “The State House Lawn certainly does not meet those standards,” Romei said. Determining if the plants found were marijuana or hemp would require lab testing to analyze the amount of THC in them, a step Romei said would not be taken since prosecuting the case is unlikely. Plants must have less than 0.3 percent THC by weight to be considered hemp. Romei said he didn’t know why someone chose the flower bed as a cannabis cultivation site. “We also have no thoughts on why someone would plant it,” the chief added. “But if anyone wants to claim it and let us know why they planted it, we are happy to listen.” However, Romei noted that if anyone did take responsibility for cultivating the plants, they would be subject to prosecution. “The only way we can make a criminal case is if someone comes down and claims it,” Romei said. Romei said that Capitol Police have discovered cannabis plants growing on the State House grounds on previous occasions as well, although this was the first time it has happened since ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • New Bill Ensures Some Retroactive Drug War Justice for New Hampshire
    Governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu has played a key role in the crafting of the state’s medical cannabis legislation. On Friday, in the latest of a series of cannabis vetoes, he struck down a bill that would have eliminated a requirement that patients have at least a three month relationship with their marijuana provider. But on the same day, he did sign into effect HB 399, which will have positive repercussions for those with past cannabis convictions.  The latter will make it possible for those with past offenses concerning quantities of up to three-quarters of an ounce to have their conviction annulled. The legislation will apply to those whose offenses happened before September 16, 2017, the date when the state enacted sweeping decriminalization measures (becoming the last New England state to do so) that did not enact retroactive measures for past victims of Drug War policing. Such annulments, however, will not be automatic. Individuals will still need to petition the court to have the offense erased from their criminal record. Prosecutors will have 10 days after the petition to object to the crime’s annulment. “[This legislation is] going to affect hundreds, if not thousands of people,” the bill’s sponsor, Representative Renny Cushing, told Vermont Public Radio. “This is a good step forward to repairing some of the collateral damage of the war on marijuana.” “HB 399 will allow these Granite Staters to have their records annulled so they can move forward in life with a clean slate,” commented New England’s Marijuana Policy Project political director Matt Simon in a statement. “Governor Sununu should be applauded for signing this important bill into law.” Last year a bill similar to HB 399 was proposed, but it was tabled by New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled state Senate.  The state legalized medical marijuana back in 2013, when Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 573 a.k.a. Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes into law, but has since been concerned with hammering out the logistics of its system. The state began taking applications for non-profit “alternative treatment centers” or ATCs in 2014.  Currently, 7,000 registered patients and their caregivers must obtain their cannabis from one of the state’s four licensed ATCs. That could change soon; in May, the state Senate approved House Bill 364, which would let patients grow up to three mature cannabis plants, three immature plants, and possess 12 seedlings. That bill was passed to the legislature in a packet that contained the two bills considered by Governor Sununu on Friday.  Governor Sununu has shown a ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • Coast Guard Busts Submarine Carrying Over $500 Million Worth of Cocaine, Weed
    A video of a drug bust released Thursday by the United States Coast Guard looks like a scene out of a Hollywood action movie.  The footage shows members of the Coast Guard in pursuit of a semi-submarine—a vessel that was partially underwater, and partially exposed—that had been barreling through the eastern Pacific Ocean while carrying more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine. “Stop your ship!” a member of the coast guard can be heard yelling in the minute-long footage, as his vessel bears down on the semi-submarine. Midway through the video is when things get particularly dramatic. With the Coast Guard ship practically touching the target, a member of the crew eventually leaps atop the semi-submersible vessel, which is known as a “narco-sub.” As waves crash against him, the coast guardsman pounds on the top of the vessel before an individual, whose face was obscured by the Coast Guard, emerges from the submarine’s hatch. The events documented in the video occurred on June 18. It was just one of 14 drug raids over the two months by the Coast Guard, as the U.S. ramps up its efforts to stop smugglers traversing from Central and South America. Since May, the Coast Guard says that it has confiscated roughly $569 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. Vice President Mike Pence was at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado on Thursday as 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana were taken off the island. In addition, 55 accused smugglers were taken into custody.  Cracking down on drugs brought into the United States has been a top priority for the Trump administration, which has advocated hardline immigration and border security policies. On Thursday, Pence saluted the Coast Guard for seizing $3.6 billion worth of illegal drugs and detaining more than 400 smugglers already this year. “The courageous service of the [U.S. Coast Guard] is saving lives!” Pence said on Twitter. He added in a subsequent tweet: “The drugs that are brought across our border bring billions in healthcare expenses, crime & the loss of thousands of Americans lives. The challenges & threats the [U.S. Coast Guard] face underscore why President [Trump] & our administration are determined to SECURE our border!” The vessel shown in the footage released on Thursday was carrying five individuals, according to CNN. Such semi-submersible vessels are far from commonplace in the world of smugglers, due to their exorbitant costs. But when they are deployed, they can be exceedingly difficult for the Coast Guard ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-12
  • Leading Cannabis Brand Bhang Corporation Goes Public
    Florida-based cannabis company Bhang went public on Thursday, with shares in the company beginning trading on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Shares in the company are listed under the ticker symbol BHNG and were up more than 70 percent in Friday morning trading. Bhang currently owns a family of eight active brands with more than 100 cannabis and hemp products including cannabis edibles, beverages, oral sprays, pre-rolls, terpenes, and hemp-derived CBD consumer goods. The brand’s products are manufactured, sold, and distributed by the company directly and through licensing agreements with partners in jurisdictions with legal cannabis. Bhang Expanding Its Reach Bhang’s licensing arrangements include partnerships with Origin House/Crescp in California, Trulieve in Florida, and a 50/50 joint venture with Indiva for distribution in Canada and other international markets. The company’s plans for 2019 include launching eight new brands, offering more products, and expanding its availability to 2,000 stores from the current count of approximately 1,000. Scott Van Rixel, the CEO of Bhang and a 2018 selectee for the High Times 100, said in a press release that going public will help fuel the company’s expansion goals. “We’re proud to announce this major milestone for Bhang and the industry, as we see a national cannabis brand begin trading on the CSE. This public listing fuels our strategy to meet the growing demand for today’s most innovative cannabis products,” Van Rixel said. “While our model is not reliant upon accessing the capital markets, our going public transaction will allow us to evaluate new opportunities to accelerate our growth, build our industry-leading house of brands and increase shareholder value.” He added in an interview that going public now will poise the firm to react quickly once cannabis is legalized in the U.S. nationwide. “When [federal] legalization happens, I’d rather have the long, arduous process of going public out of the way and establish Bhang’s rightful place as a cannabis industry pioneer,” Van Rixel said. Tasty Beginnings Van Rixel, who is a trained chef and chocolatier, said that he started Bhang after visiting a friend’s cannabis facility nine years ago. “Back in 2010, edibles were still coming in basic ziplock bags – no nutritional information, no serving size, no ingredient list. I brought my food industry knowledge in and we changed packaging to include that information and meet [U.S Food and Drug Administration] standards, even though obviously cannabis isn’t an FDA-approved product,” he said. Bhang’s award-winning chocolates primed the company’s early growth and expansion into other product lines. Van Rixel said continuing cannabis ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-12
 
  • Florida’s Largest Police Force Stops Detaining People Over Pot Smell
    The tell-tale smell of cannabis smoke has long been law enforcement’s best excuse for questioning and detaining people over suspected cannabis possession. And police often use “marijuana odor” as a pretense for stop-and-frisks and searches, whether they actually detected a smell or not. But in Florida, the mere odor of cannabis will no longer be enough cause to detain and search people suspected of consuming or possessing weed. Not because Florida police departments are relaxing their enforcement of marijuana laws. But instead, because Florida has legalized hemp, and officers don’t have the training or the technology to distinguish cannabis from its non-psychoactive cousin. Florida’s New Legal Hemp Law Is Changing How Police Enforce Marijuana Laws After the U.S. federal government legalized hemp late last year, states have been moving to revise their own marijuana laws to carve out space for legal hemp. Under the blanket prohibition of cannabis, many state laws didn’t make a distinction between hemp—now defined as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC—and the forms of cannabis people consume for recreational and health reasons. But in light of the lifting of the federal ban on hemp and hemp products, which range from clothing, food and textiles to cannabidiol (CBD) products, states are bringing their own rules in line with the new federal law. And in Florida, the legalization of hemp is causing an interesting knockdown effect: it’s changing the way police enforce laws against marijuana. So when Florida’s legal hemp law went into effect July 1, 2019, removing hemp and hemp products from the state’s list of controlled substances and therefore making it legal to possess, Florida police departments began instructing officers that the smell of cannabis alone could no longer be just cause for detaining a person or conducting a search. Despite the major difference between hemp and weed—their respective quantities of THC—the two breeds of cannabis have much in common. In the first place, hemp and weed have virtually the same odor. And to the untrained or inexperienced, the plants can look and feel very similar. Indeed, as far as their legal definitions go, the only difference between marijuana and hemp is which side of the 0.3 percent THC they fall on. Go over, and the law considers that to be an illegal substance. Stay under, and you’ve got legal hemp. Miami-Dade Police Now Need “Odor Plus” to Detain People for Weed And it’s exactly because of their similarities, and the apparent difficulty officers have telling the difference, that Florida police ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-19
  • Ohio Lawmakers Advance Measure to Legalize Hemp Farming and CBD Oil
    Lawmakers in Ohio’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would legalize hemp agriculture and CBD products in the state. The measure, Senate Bill 57, was approved by a vote of 88-3 after being passed by the state Senate in March. Changes to the bill made by the House were also approved on Wednesday. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for his consideration. If he approves the measure, it will go into effect immediately, giving farmers in Ohio a new option for their operations. “This is the best news that’s going to hit farm country this year,” said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township. New Option for Ohio Farmers House Speaker Larry Householder said that in a year that has been tough on Ohio farmers, it was important that the bill was passed before lawmakers went on their upcoming summer recess. “Farmers are getting hit pretty hard right now with tariffs and weather, I think that it can help them plan a little bit,” Householder said. “Now they know that there’s a path for us to have hemp in the state of Ohio.” Under current state law, hemp is a schedule I controlled substance like all other varieties of the cannabis plant. Senate Bill 57 changes Ohio law so that it conforms with the federal legalization of hemp passed by Congress with the 2018 Farm Bill. Under the measure, hemp would be excluded from the definition of marijuana used to enforce drug laws and prohibit the state Board of Pharmacy from listing hemp and hemp products as controlled substances. The bill also requires that CBD oil previously confiscated be returned to the seller, provided that the product conforms with federal law. In August of last year, the pharmacy board released a statement requiring CBD products to be sold only at state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. That decision led many retailers to pull CBD products from their shelves while others openly flaunted the ruling. Bill Sets Regulations for Hemp Agriculture Senate Bill 57 also sets regulations for hemp agriculture, requiring that crops be no more than 0.3 percent THC and that farmers be licensed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. No cap on licenses has been set by lawmakers. An amendment from Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse that would have removed a regulation that prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a controlled substance-related felony in the last 10 years from being licensed to grow hemp was not approved by the body. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Michigan Announces Cannabis Social Equity Program in 19 Communities
    With $42 million having been announced in medical marijuana revenue during the first four months of sales in Michigan, the state’s policymakers face a distinct challenge. How do you make sure that a decent slice of that money goes to those who have had their lives turned upside-down by Drug War prohibition over the years? The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency [MRA] made part of its strategy to this end clear this week when it released details for a sweeping social equity program that will support cannabis entrepreneurs in 19 communities. “We want to provide an opportunity to get into the business to individuals that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” commented MRA director Andrew Brisbo. “And we’re focusing our resources on those specific communities that have been disproportionately impacted.”  For qualifying applicants, the state has pledged to supply up to a 60 percent discount in application and licensing fees. Individuals will be eligible for more support if they have lived in one of the 19 communities for five years, if they have a marijuana criminal conviction, or if they have been a registered cannabis caregiver for at least two years between 2008 and 2017. Applicants in the program will also have access to industry educational resources, and easier access to governmental agencies that regulate “taxes, environmental laws, business registration, health and human services and occupational safety,” according to the Detroit Free Press. The jurisdictions where the social equity program will take place are Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Ecorse, Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Inkster, Kalamazoo, Mt. Morris, Mt. Pleasant, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Niles, Pontiac, River Rouge, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti. They were selected because they had higher than state average rates of cannabis-related convictions, and for high poverty rates. Michigan has announced that its goal is to give half of all marijuana business licenses in the 19 communities to people who take part in the social equity program.  “I think the incentive here is that … the rising tide lifts all boats,” said Brisbo. “This will provide an overall benefit to the community, ensure that individuals operating the facilities are from that community, and you’re providing good economic opportunities.” This is not the only Drug War justice measure that has been discussed this week in the state. On Tuesday, State Senator Jeff Irwin presented a bill that would institute automatic expungement of low level cannabis misdemeanors. The legislation could affect 235,000 Michigan residents who currently have a blemish on their criminal record for an act that is no ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Federal Agents Question Missouri Officials Over Medical Marijuana Program
    A trio of top officials overseeing the fledgling medical cannabis program in Missouri have been subject to questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that the three officials, all members of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, described the interviews, which took place over the last several months, as “not investigative in nature,” but rather “routine meet-and-greets the FBI requested to get to know the people in charge of the new — and potentially lucrative — industry.” Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 last November to legalize medical marijuana by a massive 66%-34% margin, joining more than 30 other states that have legalized the treatment. Under the new law, physicians can prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from 10 different medical conditions, which include cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma, among other debilitating illnesses. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began accepting applications for such prescriptions late last month. Qualifying patients will receive an identification card, which will enable them to purchase up to four ounces of marijuana per month. Although the interviews between the FBI and the Missouri officials were routine in nature, they do underscore the unique status of marijuana in the country. While cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, a raft of states and cities continue to implement measures allowing for recreational or medicinal use, if not both. Lyndall Fraker, who was appointed by Parsons to oversee the program earlier this year, told the Kansas City Star that it was a “a very friendly, casual conversation” with the FBI that didn’t delve much into specifics. “Just (to) get to know each other and who they were going to be working with potentially down the road in this new industry that’s now legal that’s been illegal, and still part of it is illegal,” Fraker said.  Fraker was interviewed alongside Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, who said that the FBI agents told them that medical marijuana programs “can involve large sums of money, and when there are large sums of money we tend to pay attention.” Williams added that the FBI seemed receptive to Missouri’s vetting process, which will ensure that the third-party company reviewing applications won’t see the names of applicants, a process designed to prevent corruption. “I think that gave them great comfort, as it does us,” Williams told the Kansas City Star. “I don’t want to speak for them, but I think that was reassuring.” Pot remains illegal in Missouri, though the state legislature ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-18
  • Notorious Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Sentenced to Life in Prison
    Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious drug kingpin known as El Chapo, was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison for his convictions on federal drug, murder, and money laundering charges earlier this year. The sentence marks the end of a 30-year drug trafficking career that saw Guzmán rise to the top of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa drug cartel. Addressing the court at his sentencing hearing at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, Guzmán said he had not been given a fair trial and complained about being held in solitary confinement at Manhattan’s federal correctional facility before and during his three-month trial. He characterized his incarceration there as “psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day.” “Since the government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will never be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” he said. Judge Brian M. Cogan then imposed the life sentence, mandatory under federal law due to the nature of the “overwhelmingly evil” crimes, plus 30 years. Although Cogan did not specify where Guzmán will serve his sentence, he is expected to be incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, or ADX, in Florence, Colo. Guzmán was also ordered to pay an astronomical $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture, the estimated value of the drugs he smuggled into the United States, according to federal prosecutors. El Chapo Captured Three Times Guzmán spent decades eluding both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including two escapes from custody in Mexico. He was captured for the third time in 2016 by a binational coalition of law enforcement personnel and military troops and extradited to the U.S. the following year to face criminal charges in federal court. Guzmán had been indicted in separate cases in Tucson and San Diego in the early 1990s. At his trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence against Guzmán that had been collected through years of surveillance and investigative work. Witnesses for the prosecution included 14 members of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel who testified against him. Raymond P. Donovan, the agent in charge of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who was involved in two of Guzmán’s captures by law enforcement, said that his sentencing marks the end of his reign, which was aided by bribery and corruption in the Mexican government. “It’s justice not only for the Mexican government, but for all of Guzmán’s victims in Mexico,” said Donovan. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • Senate Schedules Hearing on Cannabis Banking Bill
    A Senate legislative committee has scheduled a hearing on a bill that would give cannabis businesses operating legally under state law access to the U.S. banking industry. The hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives” will be held on Tuesday, July 23 and will include testimony from sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (S. 1200) and representatives of the cannabis, banking, and credit union industries. Under federal drug and money laundering regulations, even those cannabis businesses operating legally under state laws are usually not able to obtain access to common financial services. Consequently, companies in the cannabis industry often do business only in cash, putting the firms and their employees at risk of crime. The SAFE Banking Act would prohibit federal regulators for penalizing financial institutions and their employees for providing services to legal cannabis businesses, likely making more banks willing to serve the industry. Witnesses Set to Testify Witnesses scheduled to testify at next week’s hearing include Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the sponsor of the SAFE Act, and Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado who is one of the 31 Senate co-sponsors of the bill, and John Lord, the CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health and board chair of the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF). Neal Levine, the CEO of the marijuana industry trade group, said in a press release that the upcoming hearing is an indication of cannabis policy reform’s new support in Congress, including the Republican-led Senate. “This hearing is yet another sign that Congress is taking the cannabis banking problem seriously and intends to take action to correct it,” said Levine. “Cannabis businesses operating legally under state and local laws should have the same access to banking and financial services as any other type of business.” Levine added that Lord’s appearance before the committee would give him the opportunity “to discuss the challenges of operating a cannabis business without full banking services.” “With his decade of experience complying with regulations in this constantly evolving industry, John has a perspective shared by few others in the country,” he said. “We expect his testimony will be educational for members of the Committee and make a compelling case for the SAFE Banking Act.” Keeping Communities Safe Jim Nussle, the president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, said the SAFE Act is about keeping communities safe. “At its heart, cannabis banking is a public safety issue. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • West Hollywood Set To Get “First of Its Kind” Cannabis Café
    On Tuesday, West Hollywood stepped out in front of the cannabis dining and entertainment market by approving the country’s first licensed restaurant featuring THC and CBD-infused food. Lowell Farms — a project of marijuana company Lowell Herb Co. — will also offer an open-air smoking area. While cannabis industry types and users rejoiced over the decision, not all neighbors were pleased.   Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Elevation VIP Coop founder Andrea Drummer has been tapped to put together a menu for Lowell Farms that features CBD, THC, or both in every dish, with an emphasis on highlighting cannabis’ benefits for personal wellness. Customers will not be able to order alcoholic beverages (which aren’t allowed at sites selling cannabis comestibles per California law), but will be able to snag tea, coffee, juice, and smoothies with their meal.  “Anyone who has one of those licenses should feel an enormous sense of responsibility—and there should be—not only to the city of West Hollywood but to the country,” Drummer told a local website in April. “There are eyes on us in doing this and executing it.” The location will offer the first brick and mortar cannabis restaurant in the United States, but this will not be the country’s first cannabis café. That would be Portland, Oregon’s World Famous Cannabis Café (now NW Cannabis Club), which offered a space for members to consume marijuana products bought elsewhere, and a food and drink menu. In the UK, The Canna Kitchen has been showing its Brighton customers how to make a meal with weed, and specializes in meat and animal product-free fare infused with CBD and other cannabinoids.  But Lowell Farms will be the current high water mark of the cannabis fine dining trend, which has largely cropped up in the United States in the form of private dinners and pop up events organized by chefs who specialize in marijuana edibles.  Aesthetically, the business plan appears to be anything but out of the norm for the area. The Lowell Farms design showcases a recognizable Hollywood brunch chic. The outdoor dining areas feature walls of dangling succulents and cushioned lawn-type furniture that would not look out of place in a passive aggressive lunch scene on Real Housewives.  West Hollywood started accepting applications for eight consumption lounges permits in April.  Not everyone was thrilled about Lowell Farms’ approval. The synagogue Congregation Kol Ami is located 300 feet away from the site of the future restaurant, and made its disapproval of the plans known early on. The synagogue fears that ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-17
  • Columbus, Ohio May Significantly Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession
    The city council in Columbus, Ohio is considering cannabis policy reforms that would significantly reduce the penalties imposed for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The council has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed city ordinance to enact the reforms for Thursday evening. Under the proposed ordinance, possession of up to 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of marijuana would be subject to a fine of up to $10. Those caught possessing between 100 and 200 grams (approximately seven ounces) of cannabis could be fined up to $25. Possession of more than 200 grams would still be a felony. The fine for possession of marijuana paraphernalia would be reduced to $10. The ordinance would also increase funding to help those with previous convictions for marijuana possession offenses have their criminal records sealed. The fines for cannabis possession would not apply to “any person who obtained the marihuana pursuant to a lawful prescription issued by a licensed health professional authorized to prescribe drugs,” according to the ordinance. Punishments More Severe Under State Law Under Ohio state law, possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis can be punished with a fine of up to $150 while possessing 100 to 200 grams of pot could set you back $250 and land you in jail for up to 30 days. Council President Shannon G. Hardin said in a written statement that the council has scheduled Thursday’s public hearing in an effort to receive feedback on the proposal from the community. “We want to know what residents think about on proposed reforms,” said Hardin. “We are having serious conversations about inequalities in the criminal justice system. “There are two key elements to the proposal: lowering fines for small amounts of marijuana possession and increasing funds for Legal Aid attorneys to help seal records for minor convictions so Columbus residents can get good-paying jobs.” Racial Inequality of Cannabis Enforcement Cited In a background paper attached to the proposed ordinance, it is noted that the racial inequality prevalent in the enforcement of marijuana laws has already led other Ohio cities to enact their own ordinances with more lenient penalties for possessing cannabis. The Columbus ordinance “will further the city’s efforts to address criminal penalties that have disproportionate effects on communities of color,” reads the background paper. “Given the racial inequities that exist with enforcement of marihuana laws locally and nationwide, the recent legalization of medical marihuana in the state of Ohio, and the number of recent ballot initiatives and ordinances liberalizing marihuana laws in municipalities ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • New Jersey Opens Major Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program
    On Monday, New Jersey’s Department of Health announced plans to accept applications for individuals and entities interested in opening operational and cultivation facilities. The agency said that it is seeking applicants to operate as many as 24 Alternative Treatment Centers, with the aim to place eight in the northern part of the state, eight in the central region and seven in the south. An additional facility will be placed in a yet-to-be-determined region, the department said.  Moreover, the department said it intends to grant licenses for an additional 15 dispensaries, five cultivation centers and four “vertically integrated permits,” which would involve a combination of cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary. The applications, which were made available on Monday, are due on August 22; it costs $20,000 to apply, though failed applicants will receive a reimbursement of $18,000.  All applicants “must submit a security plan and an environmental impact statement,” and demonstrate “experience in cultivating, manufacturing or retailing marijuana and provide quality control and assurance plans,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The permit expansion was put in motion earlier this month when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a bill to grant an additional 24 licenses. It’s part of an ongoing effort by Murphy to dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in the state.  Medical cannabis has been legal in New Jersey since early 2010, when outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine signed the measure into law on his final day in office. But for years, the program suffered from low enrollment due to the law’s strict requirements. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who succeeded Corzine, was a vocal opponent to medical marijuana, calling it a “front for legalization.”  “What there’s a huge demand for is marijuana. Not medical marijuana,” Christie said in the summer of 2014. “Because when we run a medically based program, you don’t see the demand.” But under Murphy, who was elected governor in 2017, the state has made an effort to expand the medical cannabis program, with growing calls to also legalize recreational use. Earlier this month, Murphy signed bill A20, also known as “Jake’s Law” after seven-year-old Jake Honig who died last year from brain cancer. The law brings a number of changes and expansions to the medical marijuana program, including raising the monthly limit for patients from two ounces to three ounces, and allowing edibles to be prescribed to adults (previously, they were only available to minors).  “I am proud to stand with my legislative partners as we break down barriers to ensure this life-changing ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • Plan For Automatic Expungement of Cannabis Records Proposed in Michigan
    There continues to be some large gaps in justice when it comes to the state by state cannabis legalization movement. Among them is a key question; What happens to those individuals with cannabis offenses that took place before the laws changed? Believe it or not, many of them aren’t automatically, retroactively covered by new laws that decriminalize or legalize weed going forward. In Michigan, one senator is looking to right this wrong.  On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor presented a piece of legislation that would guarantee automatic expungement for those with past, low level cannabis misdemeanors on their records. Estimates project that the bill could affect around 235,000 people. That’s key, as criminal records can make a difference in people getting employment, or qualifying for state benefits. Automatic expungement would also dodge the high cost to the state of clearing cases individually in court.  “Automatic expungement for all of our lowest-level cannabis offenders allows people to move on with their lives and making it automatic is essential because many people can’t afford an attorney, or the legal fees associated with an application,” Irwin said, as reported by Click On Detroit. “Cannabis is now legal in Michigan and petty offenses in the past should be no barrier to getting back to work or school.”  In fact, only six percent of individuals with past marijuana crimes have participated in Michigan’s current expungement petition procedure.  “This is so important to a large number of people in Michigan, who when they’re applying for jobs or student loans, they’re put in a position where their record can affect their future,” said Irwin. The bill’s introduction follows this week’s passage of legislation in New Hampshire that establishes a petition process for individuals with low level possession offenses committed before the state’s decriminalization in 2017. That bill does not, however, allow for automatic expungement. Automatic expungement laws have also been passed in California and Illinois, where possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis is now automatically pardoned by the governor.  The processes dictated by many states to apply for such expungements involve attorney fees, and potentially taking time off from work to attend court dates. Such measures are prohibitive, especially when we’re talking about the low income communities that were disproportionately affected by Drug War policing during their states’ prohibition eras.  Fifty-six percent of Michigan voters opted for a recreational cannabis system last year, but the state is still hashing out what, exactly, that business will look like. Earlier this month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-16
  • Study Finds Legal Cannabis Reduces Illicit Grows in National Forests
    Conversations about the effects of legalizing cannabis frequently focus on a few key issues: economic opportunity, social justice, the potential for new medical treatments, and other health benefits. What’s less talked about, however, is how cannabis legalization impacts the environment. Researchers have long documented the ways unchecked outdoor cannabis cultivation can strain resources and negatively impact the environment. And data from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that a significant amount of illegally produced cannabis is grown on federal lands— especially, national forests. But what if legalization was making a difference? That’s exactly the question a new, first-of-its-kind study set out to answer. Do cannabis-related policies have any effect on illicit grow operations in U.S. national forests? The answer appears to be that yes, legalization does impact illegal grows. In fact, it reduces them significantly. Expanding Legalization Reduces Illicit Grows in National Forests by a Fifth or More, Study Concludes As the legal cannabis industry in the United States expands, demand for cannabis products is growing with it. But in the U.S. market, supply and demand have yet to find their equilibrium. So despite the major changes in the production and consumption of legal cannabis over the past decade, the unregulated, illicit market still dominates. As recently as 2018, experts estimated that legal sales accounted for over $10 billion of the $50 billion in total cannabis sales that year. Put simply, the illicit marijuana market isn’t going anywhere, at least in the short term. Of course, supplying that market requires a significant number of illicit grow operations. And based on data about law enforcement seizures of outdoor-grown plants, national forests appear to be prime real estate for unlicensed cultivators. Illicit grows in Oregon, Colorado and California feed the bulk of the illegal market’s supply. National forests cover 24 percent of land in Oregon and 21 percent in Colorado. California has more national forests, 20, than any other state. Not coincidentally, illicit grows are highly prevalent in national forests in those states (and other legal cannabis states) despite their shifts toward regulated commercial production. Even in an economic environment that continues to incentivize illicit cultivation, however, legalization is cutting down on the number of grows in national forests. “Recreational cannabis legalization is associated with decreased reports of illegal grow operations on national forests,” according to “Cannabis legalization by states reduces illegal growing on US national forests,” a study just published in Ecological Economics. And that’s good news, not just for the legal industry, but for the flora ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • Someone Planted 34 Cannabis Plants in the Vermont Statehouse Flower Beds
    At least 34 cannabis plants were removed from a flower bed at the Vermont State House last week after a visitor to the state capitol in Montpelier reported their presence to law enforcement. Capitol Police Chief Matt Romei said, after the plants were discovered, that he was unsure if the young plants were hemp or marijuana and that groundskeepers on the property may have found more plants after the initial discovery. The chief added that he was not surprised that the cannabis plants found a suitable home in the well-tended garden that lines a walkway in front of the statehouse. “You could plant a 2-by-4 piece of lumber in there, and it would grow into a palm tree,” Romei said. “So it is totally not surprising that if somebody would put some marijuana seeds in there, they would grow like weeds.” Growing at Home OK. The State House, Not So Much The Vermont legislature legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults last year, with provisions of the legalization bill also allowing for the home cultivation of cannabis. Adults in the state are permitted to grow up two mature and four immature cannabis per residence. Vermont has also legalized hemp agriculture and the chief said that he was unsure if the plants discovered in the capitol flower bed were marijuana or hemp. Either way, they weren’t being grown in accordance with state regulations. “The State House Lawn certainly does not meet those standards,” Romei said. Determining if the plants found were marijuana or hemp would require lab testing to analyze the amount of THC in them, a step Romei said would not be taken since prosecuting the case is unlikely. Plants must have less than 0.3 percent THC by weight to be considered hemp. Romei said he didn’t know why someone chose the flower bed as a cannabis cultivation site. “We also have no thoughts on why someone would plant it,” the chief added. “But if anyone wants to claim it and let us know why they planted it, we are happy to listen.” However, Romei noted that if anyone did take responsibility for cultivating the plants, they would be subject to prosecution. “The only way we can make a criminal case is if someone comes down and claims it,” Romei said. Romei said that Capitol Police have discovered cannabis plants growing on the State House grounds on previous occasions as well, although this was the first time it has happened since ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • New Bill Ensures Some Retroactive Drug War Justice for New Hampshire
    Governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu has played a key role in the crafting of the state’s medical cannabis legislation. On Friday, in the latest of a series of cannabis vetoes, he struck down a bill that would have eliminated a requirement that patients have at least a three month relationship with their marijuana provider. But on the same day, he did sign into effect HB 399, which will have positive repercussions for those with past cannabis convictions.  The latter will make it possible for those with past offenses concerning quantities of up to three-quarters of an ounce to have their conviction annulled. The legislation will apply to those whose offenses happened before September 16, 2017, the date when the state enacted sweeping decriminalization measures (becoming the last New England state to do so) that did not enact retroactive measures for past victims of Drug War policing. Such annulments, however, will not be automatic. Individuals will still need to petition the court to have the offense erased from their criminal record. Prosecutors will have 10 days after the petition to object to the crime’s annulment. “[This legislation is] going to affect hundreds, if not thousands of people,” the bill’s sponsor, Representative Renny Cushing, told Vermont Public Radio. “This is a good step forward to repairing some of the collateral damage of the war on marijuana.” “HB 399 will allow these Granite Staters to have their records annulled so they can move forward in life with a clean slate,” commented New England’s Marijuana Policy Project political director Matt Simon in a statement. “Governor Sununu should be applauded for signing this important bill into law.” Last year a bill similar to HB 399 was proposed, but it was tabled by New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled state Senate.  The state legalized medical marijuana back in 2013, when Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 573 a.k.a. Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes into law, but has since been concerned with hammering out the logistics of its system. The state began taking applications for non-profit “alternative treatment centers” or ATCs in 2014.  Currently, 7,000 registered patients and their caregivers must obtain their cannabis from one of the state’s four licensed ATCs. That could change soon; in May, the state Senate approved House Bill 364, which would let patients grow up to three mature cannabis plants, three immature plants, and possess 12 seedlings. That bill was passed to the legislature in a packet that contained the two bills considered by Governor Sununu on Friday.  Governor Sununu has shown a ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-15
  • Coast Guard Busts Submarine Carrying Over $500 Million Worth of Cocaine, Weed
    A video of a drug bust released Thursday by the United States Coast Guard looks like a scene out of a Hollywood action movie.  The footage shows members of the Coast Guard in pursuit of a semi-submarine—a vessel that was partially underwater, and partially exposed—that had been barreling through the eastern Pacific Ocean while carrying more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine. “Stop your ship!” a member of the coast guard can be heard yelling in the minute-long footage, as his vessel bears down on the semi-submarine. Midway through the video is when things get particularly dramatic. With the Coast Guard ship practically touching the target, a member of the crew eventually leaps atop the semi-submersible vessel, which is known as a “narco-sub.” As waves crash against him, the coast guardsman pounds on the top of the vessel before an individual, whose face was obscured by the Coast Guard, emerges from the submarine’s hatch. The events documented in the video occurred on June 18. It was just one of 14 drug raids over the two months by the Coast Guard, as the U.S. ramps up its efforts to stop smugglers traversing from Central and South America. Since May, the Coast Guard says that it has confiscated roughly $569 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. Vice President Mike Pence was at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado on Thursday as 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana were taken off the island. In addition, 55 accused smugglers were taken into custody.  Cracking down on drugs brought into the United States has been a top priority for the Trump administration, which has advocated hardline immigration and border security policies. On Thursday, Pence saluted the Coast Guard for seizing $3.6 billion worth of illegal drugs and detaining more than 400 smugglers already this year. “The courageous service of the [U.S. Coast Guard] is saving lives!” Pence said on Twitter. He added in a subsequent tweet: “The drugs that are brought across our border bring billions in healthcare expenses, crime & the loss of thousands of Americans lives. The challenges & threats the [U.S. Coast Guard] face underscore why President [Trump] & our administration are determined to SECURE our border!” The vessel shown in the footage released on Thursday was carrying five individuals, according to CNN. Such semi-submersible vessels are far from commonplace in the world of smugglers, due to their exorbitant costs. But when they are deployed, they can be exceedingly difficult for the Coast Guard ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-12
  • Leading Cannabis Brand Bhang Corporation Goes Public
    Florida-based cannabis company Bhang went public on Thursday, with shares in the company beginning trading on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Shares in the company are listed under the ticker symbol BHNG and were up more than 70 percent in Friday morning trading. Bhang currently owns a family of eight active brands with more than 100 cannabis and hemp products including cannabis edibles, beverages, oral sprays, pre-rolls, terpenes, and hemp-derived CBD consumer goods. The brand’s products are manufactured, sold, and distributed by the company directly and through licensing agreements with partners in jurisdictions with legal cannabis. Bhang Expanding Its Reach Bhang’s licensing arrangements include partnerships with Origin House/Crescp in California, Trulieve in Florida, and a 50/50 joint venture with Indiva for distribution in Canada and other international markets. The company’s plans for 2019 include launching eight new brands, offering more products, and expanding its availability to 2,000 stores from the current count of approximately 1,000. Scott Van Rixel, the CEO of Bhang and a 2018 selectee for the High Times 100, said in a press release that going public will help fuel the company’s expansion goals. “We’re proud to announce this major milestone for Bhang and the industry, as we see a national cannabis brand begin trading on the CSE. This public listing fuels our strategy to meet the growing demand for today’s most innovative cannabis products,” Van Rixel said. “While our model is not reliant upon accessing the capital markets, our going public transaction will allow us to evaluate new opportunities to accelerate our growth, build our industry-leading house of brands and increase shareholder value.” He added in an interview that going public now will poise the firm to react quickly once cannabis is legalized in the U.S. nationwide. “When [federal] legalization happens, I’d rather have the long, arduous process of going public out of the way and establish Bhang’s rightful place as a cannabis industry pioneer,” Van Rixel said. Tasty Beginnings Van Rixel, who is a trained chef and chocolatier, said that he started Bhang after visiting a friend’s cannabis facility nine years ago. “Back in 2010, edibles were still coming in basic ziplock bags – no nutritional information, no serving size, no ingredient list. I brought my food industry knowledge in and we changed packaging to include that information and meet [U.S Food and Drug Administration] standards, even though obviously cannabis isn’t an FDA-approved product,” he said. Bhang’s award-winning chocolates primed the company’s early growth and expansion into other product lines. Van Rixel said continuing cannabis ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-07-12