• Arkansas Bill Seeks to Limit Advertising of Medical Marijuana Products
    As the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries gear up to open their doors, Arkansas legislators have been pondering just how they’ll be able to advertise their wares. On Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson will be passing a bill that would curtail the places and people to which medical marijuana businesses are allowed to market. Central among the guidelines of SB 441 are restrictions meant to keep marijuana from being advertised to children. Cannabis companies will not be able to advertise to audiences made up of more than 30 percent children, and ads cannot be placed within 1,000 feet of schools or daycares. You also won’t be seeing any cuddly cannabis mascots anytime soon in the state should the bill be signed into effect — cartoon characters will be strictly banned. Cannabis ads will also be prohibited from appearing on public transit, and will be limited from TV, radio, print media, and the internet unless the dispensary can make the case that ads’ audiences will be less than the 30 percent children stipulated. “It makes our jobs as communicators a little bit more challenging because there are a lot of boxes that we need to tick to make sure that our ad will comply with these laws,” Bud Agency’s Elizabeth Michael told a local ABC affiliate. Michael expressed her concurrence with the bill’s measures meant to protect kids, but her hackles were raised over SB 441’s ban of cannabis companies utilizing the caduceus — the twisted, winged staff from Greek mythology often used to signify doctor’s offices — or crosses on promotional materials. Many dispensaries across the country use the green cross to alert passers-by that medical marijuana is available in their shop. “The number of dispensaries who were planning on putting a green cross outside of their business, they may have purchased a sign already,” said Michael. “It might be incorporated in their logo,” she said, adding that the law may entail hiding a company’s branding in order to comply. SB 441 would also prohibit “coupons, rebates, or promotions” unless they are part of a compassionate care plan. Arkansas has seen much movement on the cannabis front as of late. In February, 32 dispensaries received their licenses to sell medical marijuana and the state began to hand out patient identification cards to those who were approved for the program. Local cannabis advocates welcome the progress, which was slow after voters passed Issue 6 back in November of 2016, making it the 28th state ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • Missouri Will Not Make Effort to Help Minority-Owned Medical Cannabis Businesses
    Missouri hasn’t even begun to review applications from businesses looking to participate in its new medical marijuana program. But the state health department has already announced that it will not implement any measures or programs to boost minority-owned medical cannabis businesses. Two Democratic state lawmakers have each introduced bills that would compel the health department to give minority and women applicants a leg up. But neither bill has seen any progress in the Republican-controlled legislature. Without any equity measures in place, there are concerns that larger national and international cannabis companies will squeeze out smaller, locally-owned businesses, making those with limited access to capital incapable of entering the medical market. Missouri Health Department Will Not Work to Ensure Equity in Its Medical Cannabis Industry For decades, drug war-fueled mass incarceration has devastated poor and minority communities across the country. So, too, has redlining and other forms of economic discrimination that make it very difficult for vulnerable groups to obtain loans for housing and small businesses. The United States already has one of the largest wealth disparities in the world. And when broken down across racial categories, it’s obvious: wealth disparity has a color. These are facts virtually no one disputes. Which is why many states and municipalities across the U.S. have legalized cannabis with an eye toward equity. Now that an activity that was harshly and punitively criminalized is a booming legal industry, there’s an urgent need to redress the myriad and long-standing harms of marijuana prohibition. Equity provisions range from establishing processes for expedited criminal record expungement for those with minor marijuana convictions to giving people from historically targeted and disenfranchised communities who want to enter the legal market a way to compete against massive, global cannabis firms. For example, the federal SAFE Banking Act, which recently cleared a key House committee, would compel government agencies to study and find ways to improve access to financial services for minority- and women-owned cannabis companies. And in Connecticut, a recently unveiled plan to legalize cannabis for adult use would give minority applicants a three month head start on the licensing process. Several other states and cities are reinvesting cannabis tax revenue in communities worst-impacted by prohibition. But the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services will take no steps to promote or ensure equity in its licensing process. Instead, officials said they will strip all identifying information from cannabis business license applications before reviewing them. Is Missouri Shutting Out Black and Latino Communities? Officials said the reason for the blind review ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • NYC Council Passes Bill to Ban Testing Prospective Employees for Cannabis
    The New York City Council passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban companies in the city from requiring prospective employees to submit to drug screenings for cannabis. The measure is an attempt by the council to reduce the consequences of using marijuana. Last month, the council passed a resolution calling on the state government to move ahead with the legalization of cannabis. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the sponsor of the bill passed on Tuesday, said that as that happens the government should work to make it easier for people to find jobs. “We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less,” said Williams. “And as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.” Many occupations are excluded from the bill, leaving employers for those positions free to continue cannabis screening tests for applicants. Jobs related to security or which under city regulations have a significant impact on health and safety or positions connected to state or federal government contracts are excluded from the bill. Other exceptions include hiring for police officers, commercial drivers, and those who provide care for children, medical patients, and people with disabilities. Applicants for jobs covered by collective bargaining agreements that allow for drug screening would also not be covered by the bill. An exception for all workers on construction sites, rather than only the operators of heavy equipment as originally proposed, was included in the bill after council members heard testimony from representatives of construction contractor organizations. The bill was passed by the council with a vote of 41-4 now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his consideration. If he decides to approve the measure, the provisions of the bill will go into effect one year after he signs it. Separate Bill Would End Cannabis Screenings for Parolees The New York City Council is also considering ending drug screenings for cannabis for parolees. On Monday, the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to support the measure. Committee chair Donovan Richards said that nearly 300 people on probation in New York were put back behind bars last year simply for a marijuana violation. “Remember, these are people who are otherwise not violating their probation conditions,” Richards said. “That means they are working or seeking work, avoiding police contact and following all the conditions set-out for them by their probation officers. These are people who don’t need marijuana testing to keep them on a straight path.” Richards says five former city ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • Immigrants Denied Citizenship Because They Work in Legal Marijuana Industry
    As the Trump administration continues escalating its attacks on immigrants, federal officials recently denied citizenship to two immigrants solely because they worked in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. The move has quickly become controversial, as activists and progressive lawmakers worry that the federal government might begin using cannabis laws in weed-legal states as a pretext for targeting immigrants. Immigrants in Denver Denied Citizenship In recent weeks, two immigrants living in Denver were denied citizenship. And in both cases, immigration officials cited the same reason: both had worked in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. One of the immigrants denied citizenship is from Lithuania. To date, this individual’s name has not been made public due to concerns over their current employment status. The other is 30-year-old Oswaldo Barrientos, who currently works as cultivation manager at The Dab, a fully legal cannabis company in Denver. Barrientos discovered his interest for cannabis when his mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma skin cancer. In the wake of her diagnosis, he said he immediately began researching medical marijuana. “I studied and read everything I could,” he told High Times. “I just really saw the medicinal value cannabis holds and I truly believe in it. That’s what catapulted me into the industry.” Entrapped by USCIS? A resident and Green Card holder, Barrientos has lived in the United States since he was one, when his mother immigrated to the U.S. from her native El Salvador. In November 2018, as part of his citizenship application, Barrientos completed an interview with officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Leading up to this interview, Barrientos said he aced all the tests required for citizenship. And for the most part, the interview went well, too. But then things took an unexpected turn. According to Barrientos and his lawyers, at the end of the interview, USCIS officials suddenly made him read a number of documents, including things like the legal definition of a Schedule I substance and what qualifies as criminal manufacturing and distribution of illegal substances. They then probed him on his work at The Dab. By the end of the interview, Barrientos said, the USCIS officials had basically forced him to confess to breaking federal drug laws. “That part of the interview, it’s what I call essentially entrapment,” Bryce Downer of Novo Legal Group and one of Barrientos’ lawyers told High Times. Then, on February 7, 2019, Barrientos received a letter from USCIS informing him that he was not eligible for citizenship. “Because of your admission regarding a controlled substance violation,” the letter said, ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • ACLU Demands Arizona Court Stops Prosecutions of Medical Marijuana Patients
    Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona. There are state-licensed dispensaries, physicians and patients. But across the state, and most intensely in Maricopa County under the leadership of Attorney General Bill Montgomery, law enforcement is going after people who legally obtain and use medical cannabis extracts. Patients are facing arrest, prosecution and the threat of prosecution, and some have already served time in prison. While the state Supreme Court reviews the legality of medical cannabis extracts, the ACLU of Arizona is taking aim at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. On Monday, the ACLU sent a letter to Montgomery demanding his office no longer prosecute medical cannabis patients. The ACLU also demanded that Montgomery stop issuing threats to patients. Arizona Is Threatening to Lock Up Patients Who Use Cannabis Extracts Maricopa Country Attorney General Bill Montgomery has been “prosecuting or threatening to prosecute” licensed medical cannabis patients “for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries,” according to a letter sent to Montgomery’s office by the ACLU Monday. ACLU of Arizona criminal justice attorney Jared Keenan said his organization had already confirmed two cases of medical marijuana patients facing prosecution or threats in Maricopa County. One of those cases involves a U.S. Army veteran who was looking at decades behind bars for possessing a vape pen filled with medical cannabis oil. The second case involves a woman who took a plea deal to avoid an indictment. The deal involved compelling the woman to enroll in and complete a “Drug Diversion Program” run by a private contractor that gave more than $1 million in kickbacks to state’s attorneys’ offices. In August 2018, a D.C.-based advocacy group called Civil Rights Corps sued Montgomery over the money-making scheme’s targeting of poor cannabis consumers. “Wealthy people buy their way off diversion quickly, while poor people risk being expelled from the program and prosecuted for a felony solely because they cannot afford to pay,” said Dami Animashaun, lead attorney in the suit. Mikel Weisser, state director for the Arizona chapter of NORML, said his organization routinely handles calls from people arrested for possessing cannabis. Many of the callers are also licensed patients. Out of 40 calls, Weisser said he confirmed the patient status of five callers arrested for extracts and is currently waiting for confirmation on 10 more. ACLU Letter Blasts Maricopa County Attorney General’s Record on Marijuana, Civil Liberties The Arizona Supreme Court just wrapped up oral arguments in the case State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones. Jones is a licensed medical marijuana patient. He served two ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • UK Police Officers Can Now Let Off Small Time Cannabis Possessors With Warning
    UK cannabis users have cause for cheer this week, as the country’s National Police Chiefs’ Council has announced a new policy that gives individual officers discretion when it comes to small time marijuana possession. Though the laws on the books say small amounts can land you five years of jail time, the officers’ association says that constables are now allowed to let people off with a mere recommendation that they seek addiction treatment. The announcement follows a high profile comment from West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson, who said last week that his force declines to document cannabis possession offenses by young people. “My answer is let’s not give everyone a cannabis warning — it’s disastrous for their life chances,” Thompson explained to the House of Commons’ home affairs committee. The Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson Jason Harwin put a finer point on it this week, saying, “There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early intervention treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending and result in the best outcome for both the user and the criminal justice system.” Harwin underlined that individual constables will have wiggle room when it comes to operational priorities, and reminded that the 43 British police forces his organization represents will continue to go after big-time drug smugglers. In response to the announcement, the Daily Mail sought comment from anti-drug crusaders who were, predictably, non-plussed by the thought of the police taking apprehension of small time cannabis users off their docket. The National Drug Prevention Alliance’s David Raynes said, “Deliberately undermining the law on cannabis is no part of the NPCC’s function.” Co-editor of the website Conservative Woman Kathy Gyngell also weighed in; “This is astonishing in view of the cumulative relationship between cannabis and violence.” A report from Parliament last year found that in May 2018, 58 percent of prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded. In 2016-2017, the average cost per prisoner in England and Wales was £22,933. That conservative pundits turn from the dire state of the prison-industrial complex to ascribe to the Alex Berenson take of reefer madness should come as no surprise. But pseudo science no longer appears to be enough motivation for the UK’s police force to spend its days chasing down cannabis users. Those looking for further motivation behind the shift in policy would do well to remember the embarrassing public response to what this vaunted publication called “perhaps the smallest drug bust in history,” which went ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • Connecticut Lawmakers Advance Bills for Marijuana Law Reform
    Connecticut lawmakers have advanced bills to reform the state’s marijuana laws, with a bill that would legalize possession of small amounts of cannabis receiving approval from the legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Monday. And late last month, the General Law Committee voted in favor of a separate bill that would legalize and regulate the cultivation, production, and sale of recreational cannabis. Another bill to levy and distribute taxes on a legal cannabis industry is pending before the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. On Monday, the Judiciary Committee voted 21-19 to approve Senate Bill 1085, with all Republican members and three Democrats voting against the measure. If passed, the bill would legalize possession of up to one-and-a-half ounces of weed or five grams of concentrates and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions. Calling for passage of the bill, Sen. Dennis Bradley noted that cannabis prohibition laws are not enforced equally. “Marijuana is in every single community – white, black, brown,” said Bradley. “It’s in every single level of our community. It’s with affluent people. It’s with people who are impoverished. We have to be real about where we’re living today.” “It was a racist initiative, and we need to put an end to it,” Bradley added. Rep. Maria Horn said that she supports the measure because of the disproportionate impact on the War of Drugs on people of color. “Given the racial animus and racial impact of the enforcement and criminalization of cannabis in the past, that’s a factor that is hard for me to get around,” Horn said. Advocates Say Bill Doesn’t Go Far Enough Kebra Smith-Bolden, the Co-Director of cannabis reform advocacy group the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, told High Times in a telephone interview that SB 1085 is on the right track. “The bill is a good thing and it does represent change and that we are moving forward with legalization in Connecticut,” Smith-Bolden said. “But there are some areas that we wish were a little more clear others [sic] that we’d like to see added to the bill.” “Home cultivation, equity, and opportunity for all people are of the utmost importance and we’re really looking for Connecticut to be the leaders on equity,” she said. Smith-Bolden explained that the bill should include provisions to allow people to grow cannabis at home and to possess cannabis regardless of the source. She also said that limits on the amount of cannabis and concentrates that can be possessed should be increased and penalties for possession over legal limits should be reduced. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization
    Gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in Kentucky on Monday. Under the plan, possession of less than half an ounce of cannabis would be charged as a civil offense, similar to a traffic violation, and subject to a fine of up to $100. Currently, possession of cannabis is a Class B misdemeanor, the lowest level crime in Kentucky, with convictions penalized with up to 45 days behind bars. Edelen, who was elected as Kentucky state auditor in 2011, planned campaign stops in Lexington and Louisville on Monday to share the details of his decriminalization proposal. He said in a press release that it is time to reform cannabis policy in Kentucky. “We need modern laws that reflect our modern world and that means that no one should be held in jail for weeks or be forced into a criminal justice system that limits their potential just for having a small bag of marijuana,” Edelen said. “It’s bad policy and the time has come to change the way we treat marijuana.” More than 11,000 Kentucky residents were convicted of marijuana possession last year, according to Edelen’s campaign, which also noted that research in 2013 determined that Blacks in the state were six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Whites. Decriminalization would also save state resources now being used to incarcerate those convicted of marijuana possession. Four Democrats Vying for Nomination Edelen has three opponents in the race to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Kentucky: Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, and former congressional candidate Geoff Young. Beshear’s campaign has said that he supports a ballot measure to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis but has not expressed support for the decriminalization of marijuana. “Criminal justice reform is important to Andy, and he thinks that people shouldn’t have to serve jail time just for the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Eric Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager. “Andy is also committed to rooting out the bias and discrimination that exists in our criminal justice system, which leads to disproportionately high incarceration rates for people of color.” Gov. Matt Bevin is running for reelection and faces a primary challenge for the Republican nomination from state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods, and Ike Lawrence, who ran for mayor of Lexington last year. Woods, a former state House of Representatives candidate, has called for increased revenue for state government through the legalization of marijuana and casino gambling. The Kentucky primary election ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • New York City Council Members Consider Banning Drug Tests For People on Parole
    As part of some its members’ mission to bring racial justice measures to the end of marijuana prohibition, the New York City Council may pass a law on Monday that would make illegal the hundreds of drug tests performed on residents who are on parole or probation. “We all know that there’s no public safety value in violating people over low level marijuana offenses,” said Donovan Richards, a council member who chairs the public safety committee and proposed the bill. “Especially today when the state has already legalized medical marijuana and is talking about legalizing recreational use.” Richards likened the parole/probation drug test as “one trap door that trips people up,” and said a negative marijuana test could get in the way of individuals working to get their lives back on track after being interrupted by incarceration. The New York Daily News published figures stating that 20,000 people were on probation in 2018, and among those 600 had to go through marijuana testing. “We’re trying to build stable communities,” Richards said. Council members have been among New York’s leaders in considering ways to counteract the racial equities of the War on Drugs throughout the process of legalizing cannabis. That regulation of weed may come to New York on a statewide level if Governor Mario Cuomo continues to work on his re-election campaign pledges to regulate the drug. Though initially part of the governor’s first 100 day goals for his term, Cuomo has recently allowed that the state may need to wait longer to see its first legal marijuana system, dropping allowances for a marijuana program from the upcoming state budget plan. But even as the legalization process encounters challenges in Albany, NYC City Council members have pressed ahead in exploring ways to evolve the system when it comes to cannabis. Many have raised the issue of racial equity programs that could involve prioritizing marijuana business licenses for individuals with prior cannabis arrests or convictions. In February, District Attorney John Flynn began the process of dismissing small-time marijuana possession cases. “Nothing about [marijuana prosecution] made our city safer,” Flynn testified at a NYC City Council committee hearing on February 27. “In fact, these prosecutions eroded public trust in law enforcement and frustrated our core mission.” That day, Flynn said his office is working towards “automatic sealing of previous marijuana convictions”, a feat akin to the mass expungements that have already been undertaken by San Francisco’s district attorney. Lawmakers around the state have been keen to see a legalization that makes allowances ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • Border Patrol Seizes $100,000 Worth of Cannabis in Upstate New York
    Border Patrol agents and police officers seized approximately 50 pounds of cannabis in upstate New York last week in a traffic stop near the Canadian border. Officials estimated the value of the pot at more than $100,000, according to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agents assigned to the Massena Border Patrol Station were on duty in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 3 when they pulled over a red pickup truck in the parking lot of a hotel in Hogansburg, New York. After requesting assistance from other nearby law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol agents were joined by officers from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (SRMTP) and the New York State Police (NYSP). After a canine unit with the SRMTP alerted to the vehicle, the officers discovered the cannabis hidden in luggage which was stowed in the extended cab of the pickup truck. The law enforcement officers then seized the pot and arrested the driver and lone occupant of the vehicle, Kyle Hemings, age 50, of Central Square, New York. After being taken into custody, Hemings was transported to Massena Border Patrol Station for initial processing by agents. The Border Patrol then transferred custody of Hemings and the confiscated marijuana to troopers with the NYSP. Hemings faces first-degree felony charges for criminal possession of marijuana in the case. Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia credited the cooperation of the area’s law enforcement agencies for the seizure of the cannabis. “The outstanding law enforcement partnerships in upstate New York are critical to border security,” Garcia said.  “I would like to thank the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and the New York State Police for working with us to interdict this marijuana smuggling event.” Three Busts in Three Weeks Last week’s bust was the third recent seizure of large amounts of cannabis by agents with the Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector, which is responsible for securing the land border between ports of entry in Vermont, New Hampshire, and northeastern New York. On Saturday, March 23 Border Patrol agents followed a pickup that they considered suspicious from the highway to a gas station in Ogdensburg, New York. When they approached the vehicle to speak to the driver, they noticed a large duffle bag in the back of the vehicle. When the agents asked the driver, Damian D. Cookhorne, 36, about the bag he said that he did not know it was there. A Border Patrol canine team indicated that drugs were in the pickup and agents discovered ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • New Hampshire House Passes Cannabis Legalization Bill
    Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill last Thursday that would legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana. Representatives voted to pass the measure, House Bill 481, by a margin of 200-163 after being approved by the Ways and Means Committee in late March. If passed, HB 481 would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of hashish or concentrates for adults 21 and older. Home cultivation of up to six plants and possession of the cannabis harvested from a home garden would also be permitted. The bill would also establish a regulatory structure for commercial cannabis production and sales. Matt Simon, the New England political director for cannabis reform advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, hailed the passage of the bill in a press release. “We applaud the House for advancing this historic legislation with such strong support,” he said. “HB 481 would replace New Hampshire’s failed prohibition policy with a more sensible system in which cannabis sales are regulated and taxed.” Simon also called on senators to pass the measure approved by their colleagues in the House. “It’s time for the Senate to recognize that regulating cannabis is in our state’s best interest, not just economically, but also in terms of public health and safety,” he said. “New Hampshire has become an island of marijuana prohibition in the region, and Granite Staters are ready to see that change. It is time to join our neighboring states in adopting a new approach.” Rep. Richard Ames, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said that legalization can take cannabis out of the hands of black market operators and create a new industry in the state. “House Bill 481, as amended, will bring cannabis out of the shadows and provide for its appropriate taxation, regulation, and legal use by adults,” he said. Rep. Alan Bershtein said that it was time for the government to take a new approach to cannabis policy, adding that “cannabis prohibition has not worked for the past 82 years. This bill uses economics, not guns and prisons, to address the problem.” Opponents Argue Against Legalization Rep. Stephen Pearson urged fellow lawmakers to vote against the bill, saying cannabis legalization in other states has not succeeded as planned. “The fact is that you were told you were getting the world’s best designer weed, but all you left with was a bag full of seeds and grass clippings,” Pearson said. Kate Frey of nonprofit public policy ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • Meet Representative Earl Blumenauer, the Biggest Legalization Advocate in Congress
    Marijuana legalization has been a long, uphill battle, but Representative Earl Blumenauer is positive things will only improve from here. “I know for a fact that this is the most pro-cannabis Congress in history,” the Portland-based legislator said over the phone. “It’s going to continue.” The Democratic representative for Oregon’s third district since 1996, Blumenauer is a lifelong public servant who has fought for legalization since his time in the state legislature and Portland City Council. A state legislator fresh out of college when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, Blumenauer points to those early debates as foundational for his long standing outlook on the issue. “I became firmly convinced then as a part of the debate’s research that the failed policy of prohibition of marijuana was ill-advised and unfair and made no sense. It’s something I have continued to work on, it’s an issue I have felt strongly about in Congress.” At 70 years old, Blumenauer is the fiercest advocate for marijuana in Congress. Assisting nearly 90 candidates throughout the 2018 campaign season, he has become a source of information for those curious about the substance’s current legal standing and future legislative opportunities. The bow-tie loving Congressman may represent one of the safest Democratic districts in the country, but he understands the importance of working across the aisle to end the federal government’s restrictive outlook on weed. Blumenauer is a co-founder and co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group that works to narrow the cannabis policy gap and support other members of Congress with their legalization proposals. Originally established in 2017, the Cannabis Caucus is now co-chaired by Democrats Blumenauer and Barbara Lee (CA-13) as well as Republicans David Joyce (OH-14) and Don Young (AK), another co-founder. Blumenauer calls it a forum for members and staff “to exchange ideas and work together.” When asked why legalization is often labeled a Democratic issue, Blumenauer blames President Nixon’s “blatantly political” War on Drugs. The restrictive, law enforcement heavy approach proceeded despite the lenient recommendations made in The Report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. In Blumenauer’s view, the policies enabled the administration to “demonize people they perceived as their enemies, people of color and kids,” and that attitude set the tempo for the Republican party. Even though the Congressman can point to numerous examples of Republican leadership torpedoing cannabis legislation, including his own amendments that would have made it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to access medical marijuana, ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • California Bill Would Allow Terminally Ill Patients to Use Cannabis in Hospitals
    California cannabis activists gathered with state Sen. Ben Hueso in front of a state government building in downtown San Diego on Friday to garner support for Senate Bill 305, The Compassionate Access to Cannabis Act. If passed, the bill would allow terminally ill patients with a doctor’s authorization to use cannabis medications in health care facilities. SB 305 was introduced by Democrat Hueso in February and is scheduled for a hearing by a Senate committee next week. The bill is also known as Ryan’s Law, in honor of Ryan Bartell, who died of pancreatic cancer last year at the age of 42. After his diagnosis, Bartell was placed in a Washington health care facility where he was given high doses of opiates to relieve his pain. Wishing to treat him with cannabis instead, Bartell’s family was informed that the facility he was at did not permit cannabis medications. With assistance from Nurse Heather Manus of the Cannabis Nurses Network, the Bartell family was able to move Ryan to a different facility and begin using cannabis medications. “He was able to be alert instead of just on morphine and just being out,” Nurse Heather told High Times. “He was actually able to spend those last days alert, pain-free, with his family and really had that quality of life during his end of life care.” The Compassionate Access to Cannabis Act was written largely by Jim Bartell, Ryan’s father, in hopes that other patients and families will not need to suffer through the effects of narcotics and have the opportunity to cherish every moment they have with their loved ones. Many hospitals and other health care facilities prohibit the use of cannabis medications because of the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, which requires institutions that receive federal funds to prohibit the use and distribution of controlled substances. Ryan’s Law allows patients who are at the end of life to use cannabis medications with a doctor’s approval and gives health care facilities the authority to implement a policy to allow cannabis use while ensuring the safety of other patients and hospital staff and guests. Ken Sobel, an attorney who helped Jim Bartell write Ryan’s Law, says that the bill can help take away the stigma still associated with cannabis as medicine. “It’s extremely important because it brings into the mainstream something that has been essentially prohibited, which is to integrate what we know about how effective cannabis medicine can be and the rights of patients to use it, even in a healthcare facility,” Sobel ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05
  • Local Governments Sue State of California Over Cannabis Delivery Laws
    Local governments for 24 cities and one county are suing California state regulators in an effort to change cannabis home delivery regulations that were adopted earlier this year. The suit, which was filed in Fresno Superior Court on Thursday, seeks to allow local governments to block deliveries of cannabis products to addresses within their jurisdiction. The legal action names the Bureau of Cannabis Control and its head, Lori Ajax, as defendants in the suit. At issue is a provision in the permanent regulations that were initially released by the BCC in June of last year that reads “a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California.” Walter Allen, a council member for the city of Covina, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the BCC regulation is contrary to Prop 64, the initiative passed by voters in 2016 to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis. The proposition included language to allow local governments to ban cannabis businesses from operating in their jurisdictions. “Californians voted to allow recreational and commercial cannabis with the specific promise that each community would be able to regulate or even ban it within their community,” said Allen. “The BCC’s actions in adopting this regulation burden local governments in jurisdictions that have regulated or banned commercial cannabis deliveries.” “We don’t want deliveries in our city because of the concern over criminal activity,” added Allen, who is a retired police officer. “The problem we have is the state has taken it upon itself to bypass Proposition 64 and supersede our local ordinances, and we are really upset about that.” The plaintiffs in the suit also include Santa Cruz County and the Northern California cities of Angels Camp, Atwater, Ceres, Clovis, Dixon, McFarland, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, San Pablo, Sonora, Tehachapi, Tracy, Turlock, and Vacaville. In Southern California, the cities of  Arcadia, Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Downey, Palmdale, Riverside, and Temecula have joined the suit against the BCC. Plaintiffs Want Local Control Ryan Coonerty, chair of the Board of Supervisors of Santa Cruz County, said that the delivery regulation takes away power guaranteed to local governments by the initiative. “The BCC is fundamentally changing Proposition 64, eroding local control and harming our local cannabis businesses by allowing commercial cannabis deliveries in every jurisdiction in California,” said Coonerty. “This betrays the promise made to the voters in Proposition 64.” But Dale Gieringer, the director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the local governments in the lawsuit are trying ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05
  • Study Finds Feces, Other Contaminants in Majority of Hashish Samples in Madrid
    A team of researchers with Complutense University just published the first scientific study of the cannabis resin, i.e. hash, sold illegally on the streets of Madrid, Spain. And their findings suggest that street hash poses a major public health risk, both for the people handling it and those smoking it. According to the report, most, as in 88.3 percent of the 90 hash samples researchers obtained, were not suitable for human consumption due to the presence of feces and other contaminants. Hash in Madrid is Sh*t—Literally An alarming new report from forensic scientists in Madrid has found that most illegal cannabis products sold there are contaminated with human fecal bacterial. According to lead researcher and Pharmacist Manuel Pérez Moreno, the way drug traffickers smuggle and handle hash is responsible for the contamination. Due to Spain’s strict prohibition against cannabis, much of the hash sold on the streets of cities like Madrid is smuggled in. For drug traffickers, there’s a simple way to do that. Just wrap a small amount of hash in some plastic and swallow it. Then when the coast is clear, take some laxatives to retrieve the stash. “And that’s what goes on sale,” Moreno said. Dealers typically sell hash in two quantities: a larger unit, called an “ingot,” and a smaller unit, called an “acorn.” While one could conceivably swallow and pass both sizes, the acorn is much more manageable in that regard. And that likely accounts for the disparities in contamination researchers observed between the two types. Comparing the two, researchers found that 93 percent of the “acorns” tested positive for E. coli bacteria. But just 29.4 percent of the ingots sampled contained E. coli. Escherichia coli bacteria live in the intestines of mammals. Most are harmless, part of our natural microbiome, but some are extremely dangerous. E. coli infections can cause serious bouts of diarrhea, severe abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting and even hemorrhaging. And the hash samples researchers analyzed didn’t just contain traces of fecal bacteria. They contained significant quantities. According to Pérez’s report, each gram of cannabis resin contained roughly 500 times the maximum amount of E. coli allowed by U.S. marijuana regulations. (Yes, there is a threshold for “acceptable” amounts of microbial contamination in regulated cannabis products.) Without Access to Legal Medical Cannabis, Patients Turn to Dangerous Street Hash Furthermore, the study found that 10 percent of all the hash samples contained a species of moldaspergillus, that can trigger serious infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems. In other words, exactly ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05
 
  • Arkansas Bill Seeks to Limit Advertising of Medical Marijuana Products
    As the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries gear up to open their doors, Arkansas legislators have been pondering just how they’ll be able to advertise their wares. On Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson will be passing a bill that would curtail the places and people to which medical marijuana businesses are allowed to market. Central among the guidelines of SB 441 are restrictions meant to keep marijuana from being advertised to children. Cannabis companies will not be able to advertise to audiences made up of more than 30 percent children, and ads cannot be placed within 1,000 feet of schools or daycares. You also won’t be seeing any cuddly cannabis mascots anytime soon in the state should the bill be signed into effect — cartoon characters will be strictly banned. Cannabis ads will also be prohibited from appearing on public transit, and will be limited from TV, radio, print media, and the internet unless the dispensary can make the case that ads’ audiences will be less than the 30 percent children stipulated. “It makes our jobs as communicators a little bit more challenging because there are a lot of boxes that we need to tick to make sure that our ad will comply with these laws,” Bud Agency’s Elizabeth Michael told a local ABC affiliate. Michael expressed her concurrence with the bill’s measures meant to protect kids, but her hackles were raised over SB 441’s ban of cannabis companies utilizing the caduceus — the twisted, winged staff from Greek mythology often used to signify doctor’s offices — or crosses on promotional materials. Many dispensaries across the country use the green cross to alert passers-by that medical marijuana is available in their shop. “The number of dispensaries who were planning on putting a green cross outside of their business, they may have purchased a sign already,” said Michael. “It might be incorporated in their logo,” she said, adding that the law may entail hiding a company’s branding in order to comply. SB 441 would also prohibit “coupons, rebates, or promotions” unless they are part of a compassionate care plan. Arkansas has seen much movement on the cannabis front as of late. In February, 32 dispensaries received their licenses to sell medical marijuana and the state began to hand out patient identification cards to those who were approved for the program. Local cannabis advocates welcome the progress, which was slow after voters passed Issue 6 back in November of 2016, making it the 28th state ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • Missouri Will Not Make Effort to Help Minority-Owned Medical Cannabis Businesses
    Missouri hasn’t even begun to review applications from businesses looking to participate in its new medical marijuana program. But the state health department has already announced that it will not implement any measures or programs to boost minority-owned medical cannabis businesses. Two Democratic state lawmakers have each introduced bills that would compel the health department to give minority and women applicants a leg up. But neither bill has seen any progress in the Republican-controlled legislature. Without any equity measures in place, there are concerns that larger national and international cannabis companies will squeeze out smaller, locally-owned businesses, making those with limited access to capital incapable of entering the medical market. Missouri Health Department Will Not Work to Ensure Equity in Its Medical Cannabis Industry For decades, drug war-fueled mass incarceration has devastated poor and minority communities across the country. So, too, has redlining and other forms of economic discrimination that make it very difficult for vulnerable groups to obtain loans for housing and small businesses. The United States already has one of the largest wealth disparities in the world. And when broken down across racial categories, it’s obvious: wealth disparity has a color. These are facts virtually no one disputes. Which is why many states and municipalities across the U.S. have legalized cannabis with an eye toward equity. Now that an activity that was harshly and punitively criminalized is a booming legal industry, there’s an urgent need to redress the myriad and long-standing harms of marijuana prohibition. Equity provisions range from establishing processes for expedited criminal record expungement for those with minor marijuana convictions to giving people from historically targeted and disenfranchised communities who want to enter the legal market a way to compete against massive, global cannabis firms. For example, the federal SAFE Banking Act, which recently cleared a key House committee, would compel government agencies to study and find ways to improve access to financial services for minority- and women-owned cannabis companies. And in Connecticut, a recently unveiled plan to legalize cannabis for adult use would give minority applicants a three month head start on the licensing process. Several other states and cities are reinvesting cannabis tax revenue in communities worst-impacted by prohibition. But the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services will take no steps to promote or ensure equity in its licensing process. Instead, officials said they will strip all identifying information from cannabis business license applications before reviewing them. Is Missouri Shutting Out Black and Latino Communities? Officials said the reason for the blind review ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • NYC Council Passes Bill to Ban Testing Prospective Employees for Cannabis
    The New York City Council passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban companies in the city from requiring prospective employees to submit to drug screenings for cannabis. The measure is an attempt by the council to reduce the consequences of using marijuana. Last month, the council passed a resolution calling on the state government to move ahead with the legalization of cannabis. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the sponsor of the bill passed on Tuesday, said that as that happens the government should work to make it easier for people to find jobs. “We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less,” said Williams. “And as we move toward legalization, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.” Many occupations are excluded from the bill, leaving employers for those positions free to continue cannabis screening tests for applicants. Jobs related to security or which under city regulations have a significant impact on health and safety or positions connected to state or federal government contracts are excluded from the bill. Other exceptions include hiring for police officers, commercial drivers, and those who provide care for children, medical patients, and people with disabilities. Applicants for jobs covered by collective bargaining agreements that allow for drug screening would also not be covered by the bill. An exception for all workers on construction sites, rather than only the operators of heavy equipment as originally proposed, was included in the bill after council members heard testimony from representatives of construction contractor organizations. The bill was passed by the council with a vote of 41-4 now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his consideration. If he decides to approve the measure, the provisions of the bill will go into effect one year after he signs it. Separate Bill Would End Cannabis Screenings for Parolees The New York City Council is also considering ending drug screenings for cannabis for parolees. On Monday, the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to support the measure. Committee chair Donovan Richards said that nearly 300 people on probation in New York were put back behind bars last year simply for a marijuana violation. “Remember, these are people who are otherwise not violating their probation conditions,” Richards said. “That means they are working or seeking work, avoiding police contact and following all the conditions set-out for them by their probation officers. These are people who don’t need marijuana testing to keep them on a straight path.” Richards says five former city ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-10
  • Immigrants Denied Citizenship Because They Work in Legal Marijuana Industry
    As the Trump administration continues escalating its attacks on immigrants, federal officials recently denied citizenship to two immigrants solely because they worked in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. The move has quickly become controversial, as activists and progressive lawmakers worry that the federal government might begin using cannabis laws in weed-legal states as a pretext for targeting immigrants. Immigrants in Denver Denied Citizenship In recent weeks, two immigrants living in Denver were denied citizenship. And in both cases, immigration officials cited the same reason: both had worked in Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. One of the immigrants denied citizenship is from Lithuania. To date, this individual’s name has not been made public due to concerns over their current employment status. The other is 30-year-old Oswaldo Barrientos, who currently works as cultivation manager at The Dab, a fully legal cannabis company in Denver. Barrientos discovered his interest for cannabis when his mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma skin cancer. In the wake of her diagnosis, he said he immediately began researching medical marijuana. “I studied and read everything I could,” he told High Times. “I just really saw the medicinal value cannabis holds and I truly believe in it. That’s what catapulted me into the industry.” Entrapped by USCIS? A resident and Green Card holder, Barrientos has lived in the United States since he was one, when his mother immigrated to the U.S. from her native El Salvador. In November 2018, as part of his citizenship application, Barrientos completed an interview with officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Leading up to this interview, Barrientos said he aced all the tests required for citizenship. And for the most part, the interview went well, too. But then things took an unexpected turn. According to Barrientos and his lawyers, at the end of the interview, USCIS officials suddenly made him read a number of documents, including things like the legal definition of a Schedule I substance and what qualifies as criminal manufacturing and distribution of illegal substances. They then probed him on his work at The Dab. By the end of the interview, Barrientos said, the USCIS officials had basically forced him to confess to breaking federal drug laws. “That part of the interview, it’s what I call essentially entrapment,” Bryce Downer of Novo Legal Group and one of Barrientos’ lawyers told High Times. Then, on February 7, 2019, Barrientos received a letter from USCIS informing him that he was not eligible for citizenship. “Because of your admission regarding a controlled substance violation,” the letter said, ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • ACLU Demands Arizona Court Stops Prosecutions of Medical Marijuana Patients
    Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona. There are state-licensed dispensaries, physicians and patients. But across the state, and most intensely in Maricopa County under the leadership of Attorney General Bill Montgomery, law enforcement is going after people who legally obtain and use medical cannabis extracts. Patients are facing arrest, prosecution and the threat of prosecution, and some have already served time in prison. While the state Supreme Court reviews the legality of medical cannabis extracts, the ACLU of Arizona is taking aim at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. On Monday, the ACLU sent a letter to Montgomery demanding his office no longer prosecute medical cannabis patients. The ACLU also demanded that Montgomery stop issuing threats to patients. Arizona Is Threatening to Lock Up Patients Who Use Cannabis Extracts Maricopa Country Attorney General Bill Montgomery has been “prosecuting or threatening to prosecute” licensed medical cannabis patients “for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries,” according to a letter sent to Montgomery’s office by the ACLU Monday. ACLU of Arizona criminal justice attorney Jared Keenan said his organization had already confirmed two cases of medical marijuana patients facing prosecution or threats in Maricopa County. One of those cases involves a U.S. Army veteran who was looking at decades behind bars for possessing a vape pen filled with medical cannabis oil. The second case involves a woman who took a plea deal to avoid an indictment. The deal involved compelling the woman to enroll in and complete a “Drug Diversion Program” run by a private contractor that gave more than $1 million in kickbacks to state’s attorneys’ offices. In August 2018, a D.C.-based advocacy group called Civil Rights Corps sued Montgomery over the money-making scheme’s targeting of poor cannabis consumers. “Wealthy people buy their way off diversion quickly, while poor people risk being expelled from the program and prosecuted for a felony solely because they cannot afford to pay,” said Dami Animashaun, lead attorney in the suit. Mikel Weisser, state director for the Arizona chapter of NORML, said his organization routinely handles calls from people arrested for possessing cannabis. Many of the callers are also licensed patients. Out of 40 calls, Weisser said he confirmed the patient status of five callers arrested for extracts and is currently waiting for confirmation on 10 more. ACLU Letter Blasts Maricopa County Attorney General’s Record on Marijuana, Civil Liberties The Arizona Supreme Court just wrapped up oral arguments in the case State of Arizona v. Rodney Christopher Jones. Jones is a licensed medical marijuana patient. He served two ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • UK Police Officers Can Now Let Off Small Time Cannabis Possessors With Warning
    UK cannabis users have cause for cheer this week, as the country’s National Police Chiefs’ Council has announced a new policy that gives individual officers discretion when it comes to small time marijuana possession. Though the laws on the books say small amounts can land you five years of jail time, the officers’ association says that constables are now allowed to let people off with a mere recommendation that they seek addiction treatment. The announcement follows a high profile comment from West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson, who said last week that his force declines to document cannabis possession offenses by young people. “My answer is let’s not give everyone a cannabis warning — it’s disastrous for their life chances,” Thompson explained to the House of Commons’ home affairs committee. The Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson Jason Harwin put a finer point on it this week, saying, “There is strong evidence to suggest that recommending minor offenders for early intervention treatment instead of pursuing convictions can prevent re-offending and result in the best outcome for both the user and the criminal justice system.” Harwin underlined that individual constables will have wiggle room when it comes to operational priorities, and reminded that the 43 British police forces his organization represents will continue to go after big-time drug smugglers. In response to the announcement, the Daily Mail sought comment from anti-drug crusaders who were, predictably, non-plussed by the thought of the police taking apprehension of small time cannabis users off their docket. The National Drug Prevention Alliance’s David Raynes said, “Deliberately undermining the law on cannabis is no part of the NPCC’s function.” Co-editor of the website Conservative Woman Kathy Gyngell also weighed in; “This is astonishing in view of the cumulative relationship between cannabis and violence.” A report from Parliament last year found that in May 2018, 58 percent of prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded. In 2016-2017, the average cost per prisoner in England and Wales was £22,933. That conservative pundits turn from the dire state of the prison-industrial complex to ascribe to the Alex Berenson take of reefer madness should come as no surprise. But pseudo science no longer appears to be enough motivation for the UK’s police force to spend its days chasing down cannabis users. Those looking for further motivation behind the shift in policy would do well to remember the embarrassing public response to what this vaunted publication called “perhaps the smallest drug bust in history,” which went ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • Connecticut Lawmakers Advance Bills for Marijuana Law Reform
    Connecticut lawmakers have advanced bills to reform the state’s marijuana laws, with a bill that would legalize possession of small amounts of cannabis receiving approval from the legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Monday. And late last month, the General Law Committee voted in favor of a separate bill that would legalize and regulate the cultivation, production, and sale of recreational cannabis. Another bill to levy and distribute taxes on a legal cannabis industry is pending before the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. On Monday, the Judiciary Committee voted 21-19 to approve Senate Bill 1085, with all Republican members and three Democrats voting against the measure. If passed, the bill would legalize possession of up to one-and-a-half ounces of weed or five grams of concentrates and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions. Calling for passage of the bill, Sen. Dennis Bradley noted that cannabis prohibition laws are not enforced equally. “Marijuana is in every single community – white, black, brown,” said Bradley. “It’s in every single level of our community. It’s with affluent people. It’s with people who are impoverished. We have to be real about where we’re living today.” “It was a racist initiative, and we need to put an end to it,” Bradley added. Rep. Maria Horn said that she supports the measure because of the disproportionate impact on the War of Drugs on people of color. “Given the racial animus and racial impact of the enforcement and criminalization of cannabis in the past, that’s a factor that is hard for me to get around,” Horn said. Advocates Say Bill Doesn’t Go Far Enough Kebra Smith-Bolden, the Co-Director of cannabis reform advocacy group the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, told High Times in a telephone interview that SB 1085 is on the right track. “The bill is a good thing and it does represent change and that we are moving forward with legalization in Connecticut,” Smith-Bolden said. “But there are some areas that we wish were a little more clear others [sic] that we’d like to see added to the bill.” “Home cultivation, equity, and opportunity for all people are of the utmost importance and we’re really looking for Connecticut to be the leaders on equity,” she said. Smith-Bolden explained that the bill should include provisions to allow people to grow cannabis at home and to possess cannabis regardless of the source. She also said that limits on the amount of cannabis and concentrates that can be possessed should be increased and penalties for possession over legal limits should be reduced. ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-09
  • Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization
    Gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana in Kentucky on Monday. Under the plan, possession of less than half an ounce of cannabis would be charged as a civil offense, similar to a traffic violation, and subject to a fine of up to $100. Currently, possession of cannabis is a Class B misdemeanor, the lowest level crime in Kentucky, with convictions penalized with up to 45 days behind bars. Edelen, who was elected as Kentucky state auditor in 2011, planned campaign stops in Lexington and Louisville on Monday to share the details of his decriminalization proposal. He said in a press release that it is time to reform cannabis policy in Kentucky. “We need modern laws that reflect our modern world and that means that no one should be held in jail for weeks or be forced into a criminal justice system that limits their potential just for having a small bag of marijuana,” Edelen said. “It’s bad policy and the time has come to change the way we treat marijuana.” More than 11,000 Kentucky residents were convicted of marijuana possession last year, according to Edelen’s campaign, which also noted that research in 2013 determined that Blacks in the state were six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Whites. Decriminalization would also save state resources now being used to incarcerate those convicted of marijuana possession. Four Democrats Vying for Nomination Edelen has three opponents in the race to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Kentucky: Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, and former congressional candidate Geoff Young. Beshear’s campaign has said that he supports a ballot measure to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis but has not expressed support for the decriminalization of marijuana. “Criminal justice reform is important to Andy, and he thinks that people shouldn’t have to serve jail time just for the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Eric Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager. “Andy is also committed to rooting out the bias and discrimination that exists in our criminal justice system, which leads to disproportionately high incarceration rates for people of color.” Gov. Matt Bevin is running for reelection and faces a primary challenge for the Republican nomination from state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods, and Ike Lawrence, who ran for mayor of Lexington last year. Woods, a former state House of Representatives candidate, has called for increased revenue for state government through the legalization of marijuana and casino gambling. The Kentucky primary election ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • New York City Council Members Consider Banning Drug Tests For People on Parole
    As part of some its members’ mission to bring racial justice measures to the end of marijuana prohibition, the New York City Council may pass a law on Monday that would make illegal the hundreds of drug tests performed on residents who are on parole or probation. “We all know that there’s no public safety value in violating people over low level marijuana offenses,” said Donovan Richards, a council member who chairs the public safety committee and proposed the bill. “Especially today when the state has already legalized medical marijuana and is talking about legalizing recreational use.” Richards likened the parole/probation drug test as “one trap door that trips people up,” and said a negative marijuana test could get in the way of individuals working to get their lives back on track after being interrupted by incarceration. The New York Daily News published figures stating that 20,000 people were on probation in 2018, and among those 600 had to go through marijuana testing. “We’re trying to build stable communities,” Richards said. Council members have been among New York’s leaders in considering ways to counteract the racial equities of the War on Drugs throughout the process of legalizing cannabis. That regulation of weed may come to New York on a statewide level if Governor Mario Cuomo continues to work on his re-election campaign pledges to regulate the drug. Though initially part of the governor’s first 100 day goals for his term, Cuomo has recently allowed that the state may need to wait longer to see its first legal marijuana system, dropping allowances for a marijuana program from the upcoming state budget plan. But even as the legalization process encounters challenges in Albany, NYC City Council members have pressed ahead in exploring ways to evolve the system when it comes to cannabis. Many have raised the issue of racial equity programs that could involve prioritizing marijuana business licenses for individuals with prior cannabis arrests or convictions. In February, District Attorney John Flynn began the process of dismissing small-time marijuana possession cases. “Nothing about [marijuana prosecution] made our city safer,” Flynn testified at a NYC City Council committee hearing on February 27. “In fact, these prosecutions eroded public trust in law enforcement and frustrated our core mission.” That day, Flynn said his office is working towards “automatic sealing of previous marijuana convictions”, a feat akin to the mass expungements that have already been undertaken by San Francisco’s district attorney. Lawmakers around the state have been keen to see a legalization that makes allowances ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • Border Patrol Seizes $100,000 Worth of Cannabis in Upstate New York
    Border Patrol agents and police officers seized approximately 50 pounds of cannabis in upstate New York last week in a traffic stop near the Canadian border. Officials estimated the value of the pot at more than $100,000, according to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agents assigned to the Massena Border Patrol Station were on duty in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 3 when they pulled over a red pickup truck in the parking lot of a hotel in Hogansburg, New York. After requesting assistance from other nearby law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol agents were joined by officers from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (SRMTP) and the New York State Police (NYSP). After a canine unit with the SRMTP alerted to the vehicle, the officers discovered the cannabis hidden in luggage which was stowed in the extended cab of the pickup truck. The law enforcement officers then seized the pot and arrested the driver and lone occupant of the vehicle, Kyle Hemings, age 50, of Central Square, New York. After being taken into custody, Hemings was transported to Massena Border Patrol Station for initial processing by agents. The Border Patrol then transferred custody of Hemings and the confiscated marijuana to troopers with the NYSP. Hemings faces first-degree felony charges for criminal possession of marijuana in the case. Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia credited the cooperation of the area’s law enforcement agencies for the seizure of the cannabis. “The outstanding law enforcement partnerships in upstate New York are critical to border security,” Garcia said.  “I would like to thank the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and the New York State Police for working with us to interdict this marijuana smuggling event.” Three Busts in Three Weeks Last week’s bust was the third recent seizure of large amounts of cannabis by agents with the Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector, which is responsible for securing the land border between ports of entry in Vermont, New Hampshire, and northeastern New York. On Saturday, March 23 Border Patrol agents followed a pickup that they considered suspicious from the highway to a gas station in Ogdensburg, New York. When they approached the vehicle to speak to the driver, they noticed a large duffle bag in the back of the vehicle. When the agents asked the driver, Damian D. Cookhorne, 36, about the bag he said that he did not know it was there. A Border Patrol canine team indicated that drugs were in the pickup and agents discovered ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • New Hampshire House Passes Cannabis Legalization Bill
    Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill last Thursday that would legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana. Representatives voted to pass the measure, House Bill 481, by a margin of 200-163 after being approved by the Ways and Means Committee in late March. If passed, HB 481 would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of hashish or concentrates for adults 21 and older. Home cultivation of up to six plants and possession of the cannabis harvested from a home garden would also be permitted. The bill would also establish a regulatory structure for commercial cannabis production and sales. Matt Simon, the New England political director for cannabis reform advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, hailed the passage of the bill in a press release. “We applaud the House for advancing this historic legislation with such strong support,” he said. “HB 481 would replace New Hampshire’s failed prohibition policy with a more sensible system in which cannabis sales are regulated and taxed.” Simon also called on senators to pass the measure approved by their colleagues in the House. “It’s time for the Senate to recognize that regulating cannabis is in our state’s best interest, not just economically, but also in terms of public health and safety,” he said. “New Hampshire has become an island of marijuana prohibition in the region, and Granite Staters are ready to see that change. It is time to join our neighboring states in adopting a new approach.” Rep. Richard Ames, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said that legalization can take cannabis out of the hands of black market operators and create a new industry in the state. “House Bill 481, as amended, will bring cannabis out of the shadows and provide for its appropriate taxation, regulation, and legal use by adults,” he said. Rep. Alan Bershtein said that it was time for the government to take a new approach to cannabis policy, adding that “cannabis prohibition has not worked for the past 82 years. This bill uses economics, not guns and prisons, to address the problem.” Opponents Argue Against Legalization Rep. Stephen Pearson urged fellow lawmakers to vote against the bill, saying cannabis legalization in other states has not succeeded as planned. “The fact is that you were told you were getting the world’s best designer weed, but all you left with was a bag full of seeds and grass clippings,” Pearson said. Kate Frey of nonprofit public policy ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • Meet Representative Earl Blumenauer, the Biggest Legalization Advocate in Congress
    Marijuana legalization has been a long, uphill battle, but Representative Earl Blumenauer is positive things will only improve from here. “I know for a fact that this is the most pro-cannabis Congress in history,” the Portland-based legislator said over the phone. “It’s going to continue.” The Democratic representative for Oregon’s third district since 1996, Blumenauer is a lifelong public servant who has fought for legalization since his time in the state legislature and Portland City Council. A state legislator fresh out of college when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, Blumenauer points to those early debates as foundational for his long standing outlook on the issue. “I became firmly convinced then as a part of the debate’s research that the failed policy of prohibition of marijuana was ill-advised and unfair and made no sense. It’s something I have continued to work on, it’s an issue I have felt strongly about in Congress.” At 70 years old, Blumenauer is the fiercest advocate for marijuana in Congress. Assisting nearly 90 candidates throughout the 2018 campaign season, he has become a source of information for those curious about the substance’s current legal standing and future legislative opportunities. The bow-tie loving Congressman may represent one of the safest Democratic districts in the country, but he understands the importance of working across the aisle to end the federal government’s restrictive outlook on weed. Blumenauer is a co-founder and co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group that works to narrow the cannabis policy gap and support other members of Congress with their legalization proposals. Originally established in 2017, the Cannabis Caucus is now co-chaired by Democrats Blumenauer and Barbara Lee (CA-13) as well as Republicans David Joyce (OH-14) and Don Young (AK), another co-founder. Blumenauer calls it a forum for members and staff “to exchange ideas and work together.” When asked why legalization is often labeled a Democratic issue, Blumenauer blames President Nixon’s “blatantly political” War on Drugs. The restrictive, law enforcement heavy approach proceeded despite the lenient recommendations made in The Report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. In Blumenauer’s view, the policies enabled the administration to “demonize people they perceived as their enemies, people of color and kids,” and that attitude set the tempo for the Republican party. Even though the Congressman can point to numerous examples of Republican leadership torpedoing cannabis legislation, including his own amendments that would have made it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to access medical marijuana, ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-08
  • California Bill Would Allow Terminally Ill Patients to Use Cannabis in Hospitals
    California cannabis activists gathered with state Sen. Ben Hueso in front of a state government building in downtown San Diego on Friday to garner support for Senate Bill 305, The Compassionate Access to Cannabis Act. If passed, the bill would allow terminally ill patients with a doctor’s authorization to use cannabis medications in health care facilities. SB 305 was introduced by Democrat Hueso in February and is scheduled for a hearing by a Senate committee next week. The bill is also known as Ryan’s Law, in honor of Ryan Bartell, who died of pancreatic cancer last year at the age of 42. After his diagnosis, Bartell was placed in a Washington health care facility where he was given high doses of opiates to relieve his pain. Wishing to treat him with cannabis instead, Bartell’s family was informed that the facility he was at did not permit cannabis medications. With assistance from Nurse Heather Manus of the Cannabis Nurses Network, the Bartell family was able to move Ryan to a different facility and begin using cannabis medications. “He was able to be alert instead of just on morphine and just being out,” Nurse Heather told High Times. “He was actually able to spend those last days alert, pain-free, with his family and really had that quality of life during his end of life care.” The Compassionate Access to Cannabis Act was written largely by Jim Bartell, Ryan’s father, in hopes that other patients and families will not need to suffer through the effects of narcotics and have the opportunity to cherish every moment they have with their loved ones. Many hospitals and other health care facilities prohibit the use of cannabis medications because of the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, which requires institutions that receive federal funds to prohibit the use and distribution of controlled substances. Ryan’s Law allows patients who are at the end of life to use cannabis medications with a doctor’s approval and gives health care facilities the authority to implement a policy to allow cannabis use while ensuring the safety of other patients and hospital staff and guests. Ken Sobel, an attorney who helped Jim Bartell write Ryan’s Law, says that the bill can help take away the stigma still associated with cannabis as medicine. “It’s extremely important because it brings into the mainstream something that has been essentially prohibited, which is to integrate what we know about how effective cannabis medicine can be and the rights of patients to use it, even in a healthcare facility,” Sobel ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05
  • Local Governments Sue State of California Over Cannabis Delivery Laws
    Local governments for 24 cities and one county are suing California state regulators in an effort to change cannabis home delivery regulations that were adopted earlier this year. The suit, which was filed in Fresno Superior Court on Thursday, seeks to allow local governments to block deliveries of cannabis products to addresses within their jurisdiction. The legal action names the Bureau of Cannabis Control and its head, Lori Ajax, as defendants in the suit. At issue is a provision in the permanent regulations that were initially released by the BCC in June of last year that reads “a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California.” Walter Allen, a council member for the city of Covina, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the BCC regulation is contrary to Prop 64, the initiative passed by voters in 2016 to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis. The proposition included language to allow local governments to ban cannabis businesses from operating in their jurisdictions. “Californians voted to allow recreational and commercial cannabis with the specific promise that each community would be able to regulate or even ban it within their community,” said Allen. “The BCC’s actions in adopting this regulation burden local governments in jurisdictions that have regulated or banned commercial cannabis deliveries.” “We don’t want deliveries in our city because of the concern over criminal activity,” added Allen, who is a retired police officer. “The problem we have is the state has taken it upon itself to bypass Proposition 64 and supersede our local ordinances, and we are really upset about that.” The plaintiffs in the suit also include Santa Cruz County and the Northern California cities of Angels Camp, Atwater, Ceres, Clovis, Dixon, McFarland, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, San Pablo, Sonora, Tehachapi, Tracy, Turlock, and Vacaville. In Southern California, the cities of  Arcadia, Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Downey, Palmdale, Riverside, and Temecula have joined the suit against the BCC. Plaintiffs Want Local Control Ryan Coonerty, chair of the Board of Supervisors of Santa Cruz County, said that the delivery regulation takes away power guaranteed to local governments by the initiative. “The BCC is fundamentally changing Proposition 64, eroding local control and harming our local cannabis businesses by allowing commercial cannabis deliveries in every jurisdiction in California,” said Coonerty. “This betrays the promise made to the voters in Proposition 64.” But Dale Gieringer, the director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the local governments in the lawsuit are trying ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05
  • Study Finds Feces, Other Contaminants in Majority of Hashish Samples in Madrid
    A team of researchers with Complutense University just published the first scientific study of the cannabis resin, i.e. hash, sold illegally on the streets of Madrid, Spain. And their findings suggest that street hash poses a major public health risk, both for the people handling it and those smoking it. According to the report, most, as in 88.3 percent of the 90 hash samples researchers obtained, were not suitable for human consumption due to the presence of feces and other contaminants. Hash in Madrid is Sh*t—Literally An alarming new report from forensic scientists in Madrid has found that most illegal cannabis products sold there are contaminated with human fecal bacterial. According to lead researcher and Pharmacist Manuel Pérez Moreno, the way drug traffickers smuggle and handle hash is responsible for the contamination. Due to Spain’s strict prohibition against cannabis, much of the hash sold on the streets of cities like Madrid is smuggled in. For drug traffickers, there’s a simple way to do that. Just wrap a small amount of hash in some plastic and swallow it. Then when the coast is clear, take some laxatives to retrieve the stash. “And that’s what goes on sale,” Moreno said. Dealers typically sell hash in two quantities: a larger unit, called an “ingot,” and a smaller unit, called an “acorn.” While one could conceivably swallow and pass both sizes, the acorn is much more manageable in that regard. And that likely accounts for the disparities in contamination researchers observed between the two types. Comparing the two, researchers found that 93 percent of the “acorns” tested positive for E. coli bacteria. But just 29.4 percent of the ingots sampled contained E. coli. Escherichia coli bacteria live in the intestines of mammals. Most are harmless, part of our natural microbiome, but some are extremely dangerous. E. coli infections can cause serious bouts of diarrhea, severe abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting and even hemorrhaging. And the hash samples researchers analyzed didn’t just contain traces of fecal bacteria. They contained significant quantities. According to Pérez’s report, each gram of cannabis resin contained roughly 500 times the maximum amount of E. coli allowed by U.S. marijuana regulations. (Yes, there is a threshold for “acceptable” amounts of microbial contamination in regulated cannabis products.) Without Access to Legal Medical Cannabis, Patients Turn to Dangerous Street Hash Furthermore, the study found that 10 percent of all the hash samples contained a species of moldaspergillus, that can trigger serious infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems. In other words, exactly ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-04-05