• House Votes to Protect States With Legal Marijuana From Feds
    The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure on Thursday that protects states with legal marijuana from interference from the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to prevent the states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia from enacting laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of marijuana. The bipartisan measure was sponsored by Democrats Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. and Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California. The House approved the measure on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 267 to 165. With a voice vote on Wednesday, the House passed a similar measure that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with Native American tribes that implement their own cannabis laws on tribal lands. In a letter to fellow representatives before Thursday’s vote, McClintock wrote that “the issue at hand is whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to dictate policy to states on an issue which occurs strictly within their own borders.” “I do not believe the federal government has that authority, but even if it did, states should determine their own criminal justice policies,” he continued. “This is how our constitutional system was designed to function.” “It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Blumenauer, the co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.” Activists Hail Historic Vote Marijuana policy activists and cannabis industry representatives praised Thursday’s action by the House. “Today’s vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition,” said Steven Hawkins, the executive director of cannabis policy reform group the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release. “Congress is recognizing that the federal government must let the states decide on cannabis legalization — and not the other way around.” “Two in three Americans support legalizing marijuana, and more than 25% of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal for adults,” Hawkins added. “We must protect these state laws and prevent federal arrests for people operating state-legal marijuana businesses.” Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also commended the House for its vote. “This is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-21
  • Study Finds Cannabis Use During Pregnancy Increasing in United States
    Researchers have found that the number of women in the United States who use cannabis during pregnancy is increasing, according to a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA. Cannabis use during the first trimester of pregnancy was especially prevalent, researchers determined. To conduct the study, researchers used self-reported data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2002 through 2017. The percentage of pregnant women who had used cannabis the month prior to completing the survey increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2017. Past-month marijuana usage by women during the first trimester of pregnancy increased from 5.7 percent to 12.1 percent. The researchers performing the study analyzed data from women 12 to 44 years old who responded to the survey. The respondents included 4,400 pregnant women and 133,900 women who were not pregnant at the time they participated in the survey. The study determined that women were using cannabis during pregnancy for both medical and nonmedical reasons. Participants in the survey were asked about their current pregnancy status, their marijuana use during the past month, the number of days of marijuana use in the previous month, and daily or near daily use of marijuana, which was defined as more than or equal to 20 days in the past month. The use of marijuana on a daily or near daily basis increased in total from 0.9 percent to 3.4 percent. Daily or near daily use during the first trimester increased from 1.8 percent to 5.3 percent, from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent in the second trimester, and from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent during the last trimester. Medical and Nonmedical Use Reported Beginning in 2013, the survey asked women if their cannabis use had been recommended by a health care professional. Between the years of 2013 and 2017, only 0.5 percent of marijuana use over the previous month was considered strictly medical and had been recommended by a health care professional. “Although many states have approved cannabis for nausea/vomiting (including in pregnancy), the results suggest that clinicians might not recommend it during pregnancy,” the authors of the study wrote. They also noted that the low percentage of cannabis use that had been recommended by a health care professional may reflect the advice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to “discontinue marijuana use” during pregnancy. The effects of cannabis on a developing fetus have not been fully determined, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that marijuana ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Louisville Public Safety Committee Advances Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance
    The capital of Kentucky, a state that lacks even a barebones medical marijuana program, has passed out of committee an ordinance regulating possession of small amounts of marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement. The public safety committee of Louisville’s metro council voted for an ordinance on Wednesday that redirects city police from pursuing small time marijuana possession. Notable exceptions to the ordinance include marijuana being sold, possessed by minors, used while driving, or related to violence. “This is a pretty moderate law actually that’s intended to eliminate a large amount of unnecessary people going through the criminal justice system,” councilperson Brandon Coan told a local NBC affiliate. “When you think about equity and justice, my personal opinion is that this should have happened a long time ago,” said councilperson Green. State law defines possession of up to three ounces of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with up to 45 days in jail. If you are caught more than once growing over five cannabis plants, you face five to 10 years in jail. That would still be the case, but under the ordinance Louisville police will no longer regard the apprehension and prosecution of such offenders a high priority. Gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen has also advocated for a decriminalization plan for cannabis. “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,” he wrote in a press release detailing his support for the issue. “Prosecuting individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana does little to deter drug abuse but does increase the number of people negatively affected by criminal records,” reads the ordinance. There has been no small amount of debate over the issue of cannabis regulation in Kentucky. There is a considerable number of voices in the state who are concerned that marijuana is a “gateway” drug, and that measures such as that of Louisville could create a domino effect that leads to addiction and heightened crime rates. The sole dissenting voice on the Metro Council committee against the decriminalization ordinance was Mark Fox, who once served as police major. “I think this ordinance puts a cloud of the unknown for both the police officers and our citizens,” he said, adding that he supports marijuana legalization, but that he doesn’t think that this is the workaround that Kentucky should ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • New AAA Survey Finds 14.8 Million American Drivers Have Driven Stoned
    There’s no denying that Americans have grown more casual with their marijuana use in recent years. Maybe a bit too casual. That’s the takeaway from new research in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey, which found that almost 70 percent of Americans believe it is unlikely for a driver to get busted by the cops while high on marijuana. AAA also offered up what it called another “alarming finding” in its research: roughly 14.8 million drivers have gotten behind the wheel within an hour of using pot in the last 30 days. Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sounded the alarm in a statement Wednesday, saying that “[m]arijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment.” AAA noted in the study’s release that “marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.” Yang said that “many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving.” “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk,” Yang said. As states and cities across the country have abolished prohibitions against recreational pot use, there has remained a steady chorus who have raised public safety concerns—namely the increased prospect of individuals driving while under the influence of marijuana. Both Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize recreational pot use in the U.S., have strict DUI laws that cover both alcohol and THC. In Washington, an individual who “has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher” can be charged with DUI; in Colorado, the law applies to drivers “with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood,” though officers can make arrests on the basis of their own observations. Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy, said that “law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.” The AAA survey found that seven percent of Americans approved of driving while under the influence of marijuana — a small percentage to be sure, but much larger than the number of individuals who approve of driving while drunk on alcohol or drowsy, both of which fell under two percent. Similarly, only three percent said they approve of driving while impaired by prescription drugs. Marijuana is widely considered safer than alcohol and many prescription ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Authorities Seize $1 Billion Worth of Cocaine in Philadelphia Port
    Federal authorities seized an estimated $1 billion worth of cocaine at the Port of Philadelphia on Tuesday, in what is being called one of the largest drug busts in American history. The seizure of more than 16 tons of cocaine from a ship docked at the Packer Marine Terminal was announced via Twitter on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Federal agents and canine units raided the ship, the MSC Gayane, on Tuesday afternoon and could be seen entering shipping containers on the vessel. Law enforcement officers discovered and seized approximately 33,000 pounds of cocaine on the ship. Members of the ship’s crew have been arrested and federally charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The ship is owned by the Swiss firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. The MSC Gayane sails under the Liberian flag and arrived at the Port of Philadelphia early Monday morning. The ship had previously visited ports in the Bahamas on June 31, Panama on June 9, Peru on May 24, and Colombia on May 19, according to information from online ship tracking services. MSC Mediterranean Shipping said in a statement that the company was “aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo.” The privately-held company also said that it “takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its service.” High Seas Shenanigans Once aboard the ship, reports ABC News, law enforcement agents swabbed the arms and hands of the ship’s second mate Ivan Durasevidc and discovered traces of cocaine. Durasevidc then allegedly admitted that after the ship left Peru he had helped the MSC Gayane’s chief officer and other men, some of whom were wearing ski masks, transfer packages of cocaine from cargo nets into shipping containers. The chief officer had promised to pay Durasevidc $50,000, according to a criminal complaint. Another crew member, Fonofaavae Tiasaga, told investigators that he had helped unload bales of cocaine from small boats that approached the ship both before and after it docked in Peru. Six boats delivered cocaine and seals to reseal shipping containers to the MSC Gayane between Chile and Panama. Another eight boats brought bales of cocaine during the leg of the voyage between Peru and Panama, Tiasaga allegedly told authorities. He also said that Durasevidc had operated the ship’s crane to hoist the cocaine aboard the ship. Members of the crew then hid the ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Massachusetts Secretary of State Issues Warning About Cannabis Scams
    Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has issued a warning to potential cannabis industry investors to be wary of scams and unscrupulous operators after filing fraud charges against two entrepreneurs in the state. In an alert released by Galvin’s office, the secretary urged investors to approach offers for unregistered securities from unlicensed sellers with caution, noting that the cannabis industry is not monitored by federal regulators or state-chartered banks. “No one regulator can police this marketplace,” Galvin said in the statement. “My Securities Division intends to scrutinize these offerings to proactively prevent investor harm.” Cannabis Entrepreneur Charged with Fraud Galvin’s warning came after his office filed fraud charges against David Caputo and his marijuana cultivation company, Positronic Farms, Inc. According to the complaint in the case, Caputo raised $1.3 million from 40 investors for a recreational marijuana cultivation facility that would also lease space to other cannabis businesses. Caputo had solicited investments from at least 735 prospective investors using methods including press releases, videos, and an unspecified “online news portal.” Caputo had allegedly tried to raise money “from just about any investor willing to contribute monies,” according to the complaint, which added that the company was in the process of obtaining a license for the venture. But according to records from the state Cannabis Control Commission, the company has yet to turn in a completed application. In an online profile for the professional networking site LinkedIn, Caputo is described as an expert in search engine optimization and the founder of a cannabis company. “I’ve been a salesman and a huckster my whole life, but I could never shill for a cause in which I didn’t believe,” Caputo said in his profile. “This is my strength, because it has tended to attract the kinds of projects that I want to work on in the first place.” Charges in Separate Case Filed in April In April, Galvin’s office filed fraud charges against Frederick V. McDonald, Jr., the CEO of the Beverly-based investment adviser US Advisory Group Inc., for raising more than $8 million from more than 100 investors to fund medical marijuana dispensaries that were never opened. McDonald had failed to disclose key risks inherent in the cannabis industry and failed to reveal critical information including his own conflict of interest in the deals. “McDonald’s entire relationship with the emerging cannabis industry has been an improvised effort to learn as he goes, utilizing client funds and firm resources to experiment,” the complaint says. “He utterly failed to uphold the ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Doctors Pen Op-Ed Urging States to Raise Legal Cannabis Consumption Age to 25
    Here’s the latest proclamation to fan the flames over the country’s burgeoning marijuana legalization movement; a group of doctors published an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times advocating for the legal age of cannabis consumption to be raised to 25. Physicians Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek penned the missive, which seeks to alert people to the risks of cannabis consumption early on in life and encourages the development of educational campaigns to raise awareness about the drug’s health risks. “Regular exposure to THC in adolescents can permanently change neuropathways that are related to cognition, including learning, attention and emotional responses,” they write. In many US states that have regulated recreational marijuana, the age limit is the same cut-off as alcohol, 21 years old. The doctors cite a passel of studies that suggest that cannabis has negative effects on kids, from attention span to their ability to process information and memory. One investigation actually showed that IQ scores dropped among individuals who used cannabis on a regular basis as kids. Not all studies have found that cannabis has deleterious effects on children’s functioning. In Jamaica, a seminal study by Melanie Dreher on Jamaican children whose mothers consumed cannabis while they were in the womb found that some reflexes were better among kids whose moms had smoked during pregnancy. The cannabis research that is currently developing is certainly necessary, especially as we are seeing the beginnings of a neonatal marijuana product industry. Davis and Kreek also warned in their article that THC is just not like it used to be. They cite a statistic that in the early ‘90s, the average THC in confiscated marijuana was around 3.7 percent. Today, the average THC content being sold in Colorado dispensaries clocks in at 18.7 percent. Earlier this month, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams also made comments on rising THC content, calling the cannabinoid “the product which causes you to get high, which can cause addiction, which can cause problems.” He compared the risks of high THC cannabis products to those incurred by drinking grain alcohol. It is certainly true that with the rapid development of new products and ways of consuming marijuana, officials need to be vigilant and scientific investigation needs to continue apace with new manners of ingesting the drug. But what the op-ed does not demonstrate is that the authors have a good grasp of the marijuana legalization movement as it pertains to issues beyond health. Protecting kids’ health is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • New Study Finds Correlation Between Cannabis Use and Preterm Birth
    Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute found that cannabis use during pregnancy may increase the risk of delivering the child early. The study, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated 661,617 pregnancies, among them 9,427 women who said they were cannabis users. Twelve percent of the pregnant cannabis users experienced preterm births, compared with only six percent of non cannabis users. Still, some caveats are in order. The researchers said that among those who used cannabis during pregnancy, there were plenty of additional risk factors: 59 percent used tobacco, while nearly 20 percent used alcohol. Another 11 percent said they also used opioids. Among the women who said they only used cannabis and no other substances, the rate of preterm birth stood at 9.1%. “It may be that cannabis exposure is associated more strongly with early and moderate preterm births as opposed to very preterm births, which may have different risk factors including infection, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or incompetent cervix,” the authors wrote. “The risk of preterm birth associated with cannabis exposure was statistically significant in subgroups of women who only used cannabis and no other substances, and among women using tobacco. There was evidence to suggest that the association between reported cannabis use and preterm birth may be stronger within the subgroup of tobacco users, which is a known risk factor for preterm birth.” The authors also noted “several” limitations of the study, saying that the data was derived from “from self-reports, routine care records, and physician disclosure,” and that such sources “may be influenced by social stigma, desirability bias, and fear of intervention by child protection or social services.” Still, those limitations notwithstanding, they said that “self-report does seem to be a reliable method for determining cannabis use during pregnancy in epidemiological studies.” The study can be seen as part of a flowering of research into cannabis use that has dovetailed with the wave of legalization worldwide—including in Canada, where recreational pot use became legal last year. “With recent legalization in Canada and the United States, coupled with evidence of the potential medical benefits of the cannabinoids cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the authors of the study wrote, “it is anticipated that cannabis use may further increase including among pregnant women.” But just as the authors acknowledge that more research is needed, so too have others called for more studies into the health effects of cannabis use. Last month, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research committed $24.5 million ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • New York Lawmaker Pronounces Marijuana Legalization Bill Dead
    New York’s bid to legalize the adult use of cannabis is dead for the current legislative session, according to the bill’s primary sponsor. In a statement released Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger said that efforts to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) had fallen short. “It is now clear that MRTA is not going to pass this session,” Krueger said in a tweet. “This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay. Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.” Negotiations Fail If successful, MRTA would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and established a system to regulate and tax marijuana sales. But negotiations among lawmakers failed to reach agreements on issues including how cannabis taxes would be used by the state, the expungement of convictions for past marijuana offenses, and the power of local governments to prohibit commercial cannabis activity in their jurisdictions. “Through months of negotiation and conversation with the governor’s office and my legislative colleagues, we made great strides to improve our bill and bring more people on board,” Krueger said. “We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed cannabis legalization in December after a government study determined that the benefits would outweigh the harm. He then attempted to include the issue in the state budget bill in April but that effort failed. The governor has said that he believes that tax revenues raised through commercial cannabis sales should be directed to the state’s general fund. But many legislators want marijuana taxes to be used for social equity programs that address the harm caused by the War on Drugs and provide support for members of minority communities to participate in the cannabis industry. Decriminalization Bill Considered Instead With the death of MRTA, lawmakers in Albany are scrambling to pass narrower substitute cannabis legislation before the end of the legislative session on Wednesday. One bill would reduce the possession of more than one ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a violation and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions. But Cuomo told local media on Monday that he would like to see the different aspects of cannabis legalization passed together. “I don’t think we should do one component now and then come back and do another component,” Cuomo said. Krueger ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • Study Finds Cannabis May Be Suitable Treatment Option for Fibromyalgia
    Somewhere between three and six million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome that doctors scarcely understand and struggle to effectively treat. But for years, many fibromyalgia patients have shared their stories and experiences treating their symptoms with cannabis. Yet while patients frequently self-report using cannabis to manage their fibromyalgia, there are only a few clinical studies that have assessed whether cannabis can be an effective treatment for the disease. The studies that do exist, however, all present positive results. And a new investigation into the characteristics, safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis therapy for fibromyalgia just added more evidence to the pile. According to the authors of that study, a team of medical researchers in Israel, cannabis may be a suitable treatment option for fibromyalgia. Marijuana Helped Reduce Pain for 81 Percent of Fibromyalgia Patients “Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia,” a study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, assessed 367 fibromyalgia patients’ use of cannabis over a six-month period. Of those patients, 301 were women, and at the end of the six-month assessment period, 261 patients participated in a survey. (Some patients stopped their medical cannabis treatments.) That survey aimed to gather data about how well cannabis managed pain symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. It also asked patients about any side effects associated with their medical cannabis treatments. The results reveal just how effective cannabis can be as a treatment option for fibromyalgia. According to the study, patients began the six-month trial with a baseline pain intensity of 9.0 on a scale of zero to 10. At the end of the six-month assessment period, median pain intensity reduced to 5.0. Furthermore, 194 patients (81.1 percent) experienced at least some improvement in their condition without any serious side effects. Overall, researchers found that patients were most likely to report reductions in pain and other quality of life improvements following their six-month medical cannabis therapy. Cannabis therapy also helped fibromyalgia patients replace or reduce their use of prescription opioids. The study reports that 22 percent of patients “stopped or reduced their dosage of opioids.” Furthermore, 20 percent of patients reduced their use of benzodiazepines. Medical Cannabis “Safe and Effective” Fibromyalgia Treatment In addition to the data on the effectiveness of medical cannabis, researchers also gathered data on the side effects associated with using cannabis to treat fibromyalgia symptoms. Of the fibromyalgia patients who completed the six-month study, less than 8 percent experienced adverse side effects. According to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Federal Aviation Administration Issues Advisory On Cannabis Policy for Pilots
    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to clarify the agency’s cannabis policy for pilots. In a medical advisory published in the current issue of FAA Safety Briefing, FAA Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Michael Berry noted (in dated language) that as cannabis legalization in its various forms continues to spread across the country, the flying community has repeatedly shown interest in marijuana and CBD. “The Federal Air Surgeon’s office has received a number of inquiries about marijuana, due to the recent increase in the number of states around the country that have approved its use for medical and recreational purposes,” Berry wrote. “Specifically, airmen are concerned about the safety of cannabidiol (CBD) oil use and how such use impacts an airman’s medical certificate. Be aware that federal law — not state law — governs FAA medical and pilot certification.“ Berry reminded pilots that they could be subject to drug screenings that detect the use of marijuana and could affect their certification to fly. “The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test includes THC, and its presence at defined levels constitutes a positive drug test,” he wrote in the advisory. Pilots Warned Against CBD Use Berry also acknowledged the growing popularity of CBD and noted that the FDA has approved Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-based medication, for the treatment of severe forms of epilepsy. But he warned that other CBD formulations are unregulated products that may be contaminated with other substances including THC, which is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Berry also noted that using CBD products would not be an acceptable excuse for a pilot who fails a drug screening for THC. “Although most CBD products claim to have under 0.3-percent THC, they could contain high enough levels of THC to make a drug test positive,” said Berry. “Use of CBD oil is not accepted as an affirmative defense against a positive drug test.” Before pilots will be permitted to use medical marijuana, Berry said, much more research would have to be conducted and evaluated by regulators. Until then, no allowances will be made by the FAA for pilots who wish to use cannabis medicinally. “We need to understand much more before considering the use of marijuana and its derivatives for airman certificate holders,” Berry continued. “Please also be aware that no special issuances have been granted for conditions treated with medical marijuana.” What About the Farm Bill? It seems unlikely that Berry’s advisory will be the final authority on the use of cannabis products by ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Mexican Federal Police Scorch 13-Square-Mile Cannabis Grow Site
    Last week, the US Border Control announced a gigantic drug bust had been made by Mexican authorities using technology and training from US government agencies. Mexican officials torched a 13 square mile marijuana growing operation six miles from the US-Mexico border in La Rumorosa, Baja California. Law enforcement officials destroyed more than 42,000 plants that weighed 70,000 pounds. “This significant drug seizure is an excellent example of the effective collaboration among law enforcement agencies in the United States and Mexico,” said a US Customs and Border Protection communiqué about the massive destruction of cannabis, whose cannabis supposedly would have retailed at $276,900,000 USD. The announcement comes at a politically weighted moment. President Donald Trump has made enforcing border security one of his top issues in 2019, even going so far to shut down the federal government for 35 days in the hopes of wresting an agreement from House Democrats to fund the way (the plan failed). More recently, Trump announced that he had come to “the agreement that everybody says I don’t have” when it came to talks with Mexico over expanding its role in stopping the flow of Central American refugees, who the president blames for high crime rates and unemployment in the United States. Indeed, when Mexico released the actual text of said “agreement”, it turned out to be more of a commitment to continue talks than the confirmation of a comprehensive partnership. In it, Mexico agreed to a “binding bilateral agreement to further address burden-sharing and the assignment of responsibility for processing refugee claims of migrants.” News of the June 11 La Rumorosa bust also served as an announcement for a US government project called the Binational Academy, which imparted training in April and May to Mexican federal police in the areas of “intelligence gathering, situational awareness, target enforcement operations, building entry, land navigation, and first aid.” The Binational Academy also provided the Policia Federal with “new equipment”. The press release stated that a US Border Patrol specialty unit provided “training and equipment to Mexican officials which later supported their discovery and eradication of a huge illegal marijuana grow site.” The June 11 bust was complicated by the fact that Mexican officials couldn’t get to the grow site, which was located far from serviceable roads. Luckily for them, the US government’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs was able to provide “4×4 trucks and all-terrain vehicles” to get the job done. GPS equipment already received via the Binational Academy came in ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Michigan Governor Adds Voice to Push for Banking Access for Cannabis Businesses
    A bipartisan group of 20 state and territorial attorney generals has called for the passage of a federal bill that would give cannabis industry businesses access to the U.S. banking system. In a letter sent to leaders of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, the governors urged the passage of the Secure and Fare (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595). Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, one of the governors who signed the letter, said that voters have made it clear that it is time for a new approach to cannabis policy. “Michiganders turned out in historic numbers in this last election to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and we must respect the will of the voters,” Whitmer said. “There is an inherent danger for businesses operating in an all-cash business because financial institutions are unable to accept the risks and penalties associated with providing service to this industry under current law. This letter sends a clear message to Congress that our states are looking for a real solution to a real problem, and we support them to get this done.”   Cannabis Industry Denied Access to Banking Due to federal drug and money laundering regulations, even cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state laws are often unable to obtain financial services regularly used by other industries. As a result, companies in the cannabis industry often do business only in cash, creating extreme risk for the firms and their employees. The SAFE Banking Act would protect financial institutions and likely make more banks willing to serve the cannabis industry. “Many of our states have implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability of the cannabis industry,” wrote the governors in the letter. “However, without banking services, cannabis businesses are less able to obey the law, pay taxes, and follow these important regulations. The public safety risks posed by these cash-only businesses can be mitigated through access to banking service providers.” The governors called on congressional leaders to join the states in supporting cannabis operators willing to leave the black market and subject their businesses to regulation and taxation. “State and federal governments have a shared interest in upholding the rule of law, protecting public safety, and transitioning markets out of the shadows and into our transparent and regulated banking system. Without access to banking services, state-licensed cannabis businesses operate predominantly on a cash basis. This poses a significant public safety risk to customers and employees,” the letter reads. Letter Signed by 20 Governors In ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17
  • New York Lawmakers May Vote on Marijuana Legalization Wednesday
    New York’s current legislative session ends on Wednesday, June 19, and it’s the last chance lawmakers will have to vote on marijuana legalization. Over the weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held talks with Senate and Assembly members to discuss possible action on a legalization proposal. Lawmakers and the governor failed to reach an agreement on Sunday, but it’s possible a deal could materialize on Monday. If it does, Gov. Cuomo will have to initiate a special procedure to rush the bill to a vote by the Wednesday deadline. Marijuana legalization advocates are currently demonstrating in front of the capitol in Albany to push Gov. Cuomo and New York lawmakers to take advantage of the last-second opportunity. Gov. Cuomo Could Rush Vote on Legal Marijuana A bill to legalize marijuana in New York that was pronounced dead earlier this year has suddenly surged back to life. At first, it looked like the proposal didn’t have enough votes to pass in the Senate. Lawmakers were unable to come to a compromise on taxes and other regulations, and Gov. Cuomo told reporters in June that it wouldn’t be feasible to push for the bill’s passage this session. But some of the bill’s major backers wouldn’t admit defeat. Instead, they vowed to push on toward compromise. With the June 19 deadline looming, Gov. Cuomo held weekend meetings Saturday and Sunday with state lawmakers. Discussions reportedly centered around two key sticking points. One, whether to give municipalities the authority to opt out of the legal industry, and two, how to spend the revenue generated from taxes and fees. If lawmakers and the governor secure a deal Monday, they’ll have until Wednesday to vote on a legalization bill. But the last-minute approach would require Gov. Cuomo to bypass public review of the legalization proposal. New York’s constitution typically requires that a new bill have three days of public review before the Legislature can vote on it. But the governor can order a message of necessity and waive the requirement. That would allow lawmakers to rush the bill to the floor for a vote before the session adjourns. And if lawmakers approve a bill, Gov. Cuomo has vowed to sign it. Advocates Rally with Time Running Out on Legalization Vote The disagreement over taxes remains one of the main concerns for lawmakers who support legalization as a social justice issue. Gov. Cuomo has pushed to direct marijuana tax and fee revenue into the state’s General Fund. But many lawmakers say marijuana revenue should ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17
  • Virginia Attorney General Calls for Marijuana Legalization in the State
    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is getting impatient waiting for the state’s lawmakers to move forward on marijuana legalization. On Saturday, he published an op-ed in Virginia newspaper the Daily Press advising them to “decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, address past convictions and start moving toward legal and regulated adult use.” Perhaps the intended audience of the editorial is Virginia’s House Republicans, who have effectively blocked most legislation that would open access to cannabis and reduce its related penalties for possession in the state. Though hopes were high at the start of the year, the state assembly declined to pass two different plans to legalize cultivation and personal use. Even while many states around the country march forward towards cannabis regulation, many conservative legislators still see the issue as a potential landmine in the upcoming November elections. In a rare moment of forward motion, the Virginia Senate did pass a bill allowing school nurses to administer medicinal cannabis to students in February. During the same week, SB 1157 got the go ahead, authorizing nurses and doctors to prescribe THC-A and CBD oil and lays the groundwork for future regulations around medicinal cannabis in topical, capsule, lozenge, and suppository form. Virginia has had a medical marijuana system of sorts in place since 2015, when an affirmative defense law was passed that allowed patients to take the still technically illegal drug with a physician’s recommendation without fear of legal punishment. In 2018, the program was expanded past intractable epilepsy to include any reason deemed necessary by a health practitioner. Many doctors have steered clear of prescribing marijuana entirely, leaving patients oftentimes confused about where to get their meds. In his recently published piece, Herring takes on Virginia’s cannabis arrest numbers, which he says have gone up by 115 percent between 2003 and 2017, a time period in which the amount of first time offender convictions also soared. Multiplying the problem, the arrests are vastly biased on a racial level. Herring cites a number from the Virginia Crime Commission that shows that Black Virginians make up 46 percent of first time offender arrests, yet only comprise 20 percent of the state’s population. They are also more likely to be convicted of said crimes, and sentenced to jail time for them. “We can’t avoid the conversation any longer, especially when our current system continues to saddle Virginians with convictions and even jail time, and black Virginians at a strikingly disproportionate rate,” wrote Herring. There is little ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17
 
  • House Votes to Protect States With Legal Marijuana From Feds
    The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure on Thursday that protects states with legal marijuana from interference from the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to prevent the states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia from enacting laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of marijuana. The bipartisan measure was sponsored by Democrats Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. and Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California. The House approved the measure on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 267 to 165. With a voice vote on Wednesday, the House passed a similar measure that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with Native American tribes that implement their own cannabis laws on tribal lands. In a letter to fellow representatives before Thursday’s vote, McClintock wrote that “the issue at hand is whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to dictate policy to states on an issue which occurs strictly within their own borders.” “I do not believe the federal government has that authority, but even if it did, states should determine their own criminal justice policies,” he continued. “This is how our constitutional system was designed to function.” “It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Blumenauer, the co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.” Activists Hail Historic Vote Marijuana policy activists and cannabis industry representatives praised Thursday’s action by the House. “Today’s vote is the most significant step Congress has ever taken toward ending federal marijuana prohibition,” said Steven Hawkins, the executive director of cannabis policy reform group the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release. “Congress is recognizing that the federal government must let the states decide on cannabis legalization — and not the other way around.” “Two in three Americans support legalizing marijuana, and more than 25% of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal for adults,” Hawkins added. “We must protect these state laws and prevent federal arrests for people operating state-legal marijuana businesses.” Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also commended the House for its vote. “This is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-21
  • Study Finds Cannabis Use During Pregnancy Increasing in United States
    Researchers have found that the number of women in the United States who use cannabis during pregnancy is increasing, according to a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA. Cannabis use during the first trimester of pregnancy was especially prevalent, researchers determined. To conduct the study, researchers used self-reported data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2002 through 2017. The percentage of pregnant women who had used cannabis the month prior to completing the survey increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2017. Past-month marijuana usage by women during the first trimester of pregnancy increased from 5.7 percent to 12.1 percent. The researchers performing the study analyzed data from women 12 to 44 years old who responded to the survey. The respondents included 4,400 pregnant women and 133,900 women who were not pregnant at the time they participated in the survey. The study determined that women were using cannabis during pregnancy for both medical and nonmedical reasons. Participants in the survey were asked about their current pregnancy status, their marijuana use during the past month, the number of days of marijuana use in the previous month, and daily or near daily use of marijuana, which was defined as more than or equal to 20 days in the past month. The use of marijuana on a daily or near daily basis increased in total from 0.9 percent to 3.4 percent. Daily or near daily use during the first trimester increased from 1.8 percent to 5.3 percent, from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent in the second trimester, and from 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent during the last trimester. Medical and Nonmedical Use Reported Beginning in 2013, the survey asked women if their cannabis use had been recommended by a health care professional. Between the years of 2013 and 2017, only 0.5 percent of marijuana use over the previous month was considered strictly medical and had been recommended by a health care professional. “Although many states have approved cannabis for nausea/vomiting (including in pregnancy), the results suggest that clinicians might not recommend it during pregnancy,” the authors of the study wrote. They also noted that the low percentage of cannabis use that had been recommended by a health care professional may reflect the advice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to “discontinue marijuana use” during pregnancy. The effects of cannabis on a developing fetus have not been fully determined, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that marijuana ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Louisville Public Safety Committee Advances Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance
    The capital of Kentucky, a state that lacks even a barebones medical marijuana program, has passed out of committee an ordinance regulating possession of small amounts of marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement. The public safety committee of Louisville’s metro council voted for an ordinance on Wednesday that redirects city police from pursuing small time marijuana possession. Notable exceptions to the ordinance include marijuana being sold, possessed by minors, used while driving, or related to violence. “This is a pretty moderate law actually that’s intended to eliminate a large amount of unnecessary people going through the criminal justice system,” councilperson Brandon Coan told a local NBC affiliate. “When you think about equity and justice, my personal opinion is that this should have happened a long time ago,” said councilperson Green. State law defines possession of up to three ounces of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with up to 45 days in jail. If you are caught more than once growing over five cannabis plants, you face five to 10 years in jail. That would still be the case, but under the ordinance Louisville police will no longer regard the apprehension and prosecution of such offenders a high priority. Gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen has also advocated for a decriminalization plan for cannabis. “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,” he wrote in a press release detailing his support for the issue. “Prosecuting individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana does little to deter drug abuse but does increase the number of people negatively affected by criminal records,” reads the ordinance. There has been no small amount of debate over the issue of cannabis regulation in Kentucky. There is a considerable number of voices in the state who are concerned that marijuana is a “gateway” drug, and that measures such as that of Louisville could create a domino effect that leads to addiction and heightened crime rates. The sole dissenting voice on the Metro Council committee against the decriminalization ordinance was Mark Fox, who once served as police major. “I think this ordinance puts a cloud of the unknown for both the police officers and our citizens,” he said, adding that he supports marijuana legalization, but that he doesn’t think that this is the workaround that Kentucky should ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • New AAA Survey Finds 14.8 Million American Drivers Have Driven Stoned
    There’s no denying that Americans have grown more casual with their marijuana use in recent years. Maybe a bit too casual. That’s the takeaway from new research in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey, which found that almost 70 percent of Americans believe it is unlikely for a driver to get busted by the cops while high on marijuana. AAA also offered up what it called another “alarming finding” in its research: roughly 14.8 million drivers have gotten behind the wheel within an hour of using pot in the last 30 days. Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sounded the alarm in a statement Wednesday, saying that “[m]arijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment.” AAA noted in the study’s release that “marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.” Yang said that “many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving.” “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk,” Yang said. As states and cities across the country have abolished prohibitions against recreational pot use, there has remained a steady chorus who have raised public safety concerns—namely the increased prospect of individuals driving while under the influence of marijuana. Both Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize recreational pot use in the U.S., have strict DUI laws that cover both alcohol and THC. In Washington, an individual who “has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher” can be charged with DUI; in Colorado, the law applies to drivers “with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood,” though officers can make arrests on the basis of their own observations. Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy, said that “law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.” The AAA survey found that seven percent of Americans approved of driving while under the influence of marijuana — a small percentage to be sure, but much larger than the number of individuals who approve of driving while drunk on alcohol or drowsy, both of which fell under two percent. Similarly, only three percent said they approve of driving while impaired by prescription drugs. Marijuana is widely considered safer than alcohol and many prescription ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Authorities Seize $1 Billion Worth of Cocaine in Philadelphia Port
    Federal authorities seized an estimated $1 billion worth of cocaine at the Port of Philadelphia on Tuesday, in what is being called one of the largest drug busts in American history. The seizure of more than 16 tons of cocaine from a ship docked at the Packer Marine Terminal was announced via Twitter on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Federal agents and canine units raided the ship, the MSC Gayane, on Tuesday afternoon and could be seen entering shipping containers on the vessel. Law enforcement officers discovered and seized approximately 33,000 pounds of cocaine on the ship. Members of the ship’s crew have been arrested and federally charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The ship is owned by the Swiss firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. The MSC Gayane sails under the Liberian flag and arrived at the Port of Philadelphia early Monday morning. The ship had previously visited ports in the Bahamas on June 31, Panama on June 9, Peru on May 24, and Colombia on May 19, according to information from online ship tracking services. MSC Mediterranean Shipping said in a statement that the company was “aware of reports of an incident at the Port of Philadelphia in which U.S. authorities made a seizure of illicit cargo.” The privately-held company also said that it “takes this matter very seriously and is grateful to the authorities for identifying any suspected abuse of its service.” High Seas Shenanigans Once aboard the ship, reports ABC News, law enforcement agents swabbed the arms and hands of the ship’s second mate Ivan Durasevidc and discovered traces of cocaine. Durasevidc then allegedly admitted that after the ship left Peru he had helped the MSC Gayane’s chief officer and other men, some of whom were wearing ski masks, transfer packages of cocaine from cargo nets into shipping containers. The chief officer had promised to pay Durasevidc $50,000, according to a criminal complaint. Another crew member, Fonofaavae Tiasaga, told investigators that he had helped unload bales of cocaine from small boats that approached the ship both before and after it docked in Peru. Six boats delivered cocaine and seals to reseal shipping containers to the MSC Gayane between Chile and Panama. Another eight boats brought bales of cocaine during the leg of the voyage between Peru and Panama, Tiasaga allegedly told authorities. He also said that Durasevidc had operated the ship’s crane to hoist the cocaine aboard the ship. Members of the crew then hid the ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Massachusetts Secretary of State Issues Warning About Cannabis Scams
    Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has issued a warning to potential cannabis industry investors to be wary of scams and unscrupulous operators after filing fraud charges against two entrepreneurs in the state. In an alert released by Galvin’s office, the secretary urged investors to approach offers for unregistered securities from unlicensed sellers with caution, noting that the cannabis industry is not monitored by federal regulators or state-chartered banks. “No one regulator can police this marketplace,” Galvin said in the statement. “My Securities Division intends to scrutinize these offerings to proactively prevent investor harm.” Cannabis Entrepreneur Charged with Fraud Galvin’s warning came after his office filed fraud charges against David Caputo and his marijuana cultivation company, Positronic Farms, Inc. According to the complaint in the case, Caputo raised $1.3 million from 40 investors for a recreational marijuana cultivation facility that would also lease space to other cannabis businesses. Caputo had solicited investments from at least 735 prospective investors using methods including press releases, videos, and an unspecified “online news portal.” Caputo had allegedly tried to raise money “from just about any investor willing to contribute monies,” according to the complaint, which added that the company was in the process of obtaining a license for the venture. But according to records from the state Cannabis Control Commission, the company has yet to turn in a completed application. In an online profile for the professional networking site LinkedIn, Caputo is described as an expert in search engine optimization and the founder of a cannabis company. “I’ve been a salesman and a huckster my whole life, but I could never shill for a cause in which I didn’t believe,” Caputo said in his profile. “This is my strength, because it has tended to attract the kinds of projects that I want to work on in the first place.” Charges in Separate Case Filed in April In April, Galvin’s office filed fraud charges against Frederick V. McDonald, Jr., the CEO of the Beverly-based investment adviser US Advisory Group Inc., for raising more than $8 million from more than 100 investors to fund medical marijuana dispensaries that were never opened. McDonald had failed to disclose key risks inherent in the cannabis industry and failed to reveal critical information including his own conflict of interest in the deals. “McDonald’s entire relationship with the emerging cannabis industry has been an improvised effort to learn as he goes, utilizing client funds and firm resources to experiment,” the complaint says. “He utterly failed to uphold the ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-20
  • Doctors Pen Op-Ed Urging States to Raise Legal Cannabis Consumption Age to 25
    Here’s the latest proclamation to fan the flames over the country’s burgeoning marijuana legalization movement; a group of doctors published an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times advocating for the legal age of cannabis consumption to be raised to 25. Physicians Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek penned the missive, which seeks to alert people to the risks of cannabis consumption early on in life and encourages the development of educational campaigns to raise awareness about the drug’s health risks. “Regular exposure to THC in adolescents can permanently change neuropathways that are related to cognition, including learning, attention and emotional responses,” they write. In many US states that have regulated recreational marijuana, the age limit is the same cut-off as alcohol, 21 years old. The doctors cite a passel of studies that suggest that cannabis has negative effects on kids, from attention span to their ability to process information and memory. One investigation actually showed that IQ scores dropped among individuals who used cannabis on a regular basis as kids. Not all studies have found that cannabis has deleterious effects on children’s functioning. In Jamaica, a seminal study by Melanie Dreher on Jamaican children whose mothers consumed cannabis while they were in the womb found that some reflexes were better among kids whose moms had smoked during pregnancy. The cannabis research that is currently developing is certainly necessary, especially as we are seeing the beginnings of a neonatal marijuana product industry. Davis and Kreek also warned in their article that THC is just not like it used to be. They cite a statistic that in the early ‘90s, the average THC in confiscated marijuana was around 3.7 percent. Today, the average THC content being sold in Colorado dispensaries clocks in at 18.7 percent. Earlier this month, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams also made comments on rising THC content, calling the cannabinoid “the product which causes you to get high, which can cause addiction, which can cause problems.” He compared the risks of high THC cannabis products to those incurred by drinking grain alcohol. It is certainly true that with the rapid development of new products and ways of consuming marijuana, officials need to be vigilant and scientific investigation needs to continue apace with new manners of ingesting the drug. But what the op-ed does not demonstrate is that the authors have a good grasp of the marijuana legalization movement as it pertains to issues beyond health. Protecting kids’ health is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • New Study Finds Correlation Between Cannabis Use and Preterm Birth
    Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute found that cannabis use during pregnancy may increase the risk of delivering the child early. The study, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, evaluated 661,617 pregnancies, among them 9,427 women who said they were cannabis users. Twelve percent of the pregnant cannabis users experienced preterm births, compared with only six percent of non cannabis users. Still, some caveats are in order. The researchers said that among those who used cannabis during pregnancy, there were plenty of additional risk factors: 59 percent used tobacco, while nearly 20 percent used alcohol. Another 11 percent said they also used opioids. Among the women who said they only used cannabis and no other substances, the rate of preterm birth stood at 9.1%. “It may be that cannabis exposure is associated more strongly with early and moderate preterm births as opposed to very preterm births, which may have different risk factors including infection, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or incompetent cervix,” the authors wrote. “The risk of preterm birth associated with cannabis exposure was statistically significant in subgroups of women who only used cannabis and no other substances, and among women using tobacco. There was evidence to suggest that the association between reported cannabis use and preterm birth may be stronger within the subgroup of tobacco users, which is a known risk factor for preterm birth.” The authors also noted “several” limitations of the study, saying that the data was derived from “from self-reports, routine care records, and physician disclosure,” and that such sources “may be influenced by social stigma, desirability bias, and fear of intervention by child protection or social services.” Still, those limitations notwithstanding, they said that “self-report does seem to be a reliable method for determining cannabis use during pregnancy in epidemiological studies.” The study can be seen as part of a flowering of research into cannabis use that has dovetailed with the wave of legalization worldwide—including in Canada, where recreational pot use became legal last year. “With recent legalization in Canada and the United States, coupled with evidence of the potential medical benefits of the cannabinoids cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” the authors of the study wrote, “it is anticipated that cannabis use may further increase including among pregnant women.” But just as the authors acknowledge that more research is needed, so too have others called for more studies into the health effects of cannabis use. Last month, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research committed $24.5 million ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • New York Lawmaker Pronounces Marijuana Legalization Bill Dead
    New York’s bid to legalize the adult use of cannabis is dead for the current legislative session, according to the bill’s primary sponsor. In a statement released Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger said that efforts to pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) had fallen short. “It is now clear that MRTA is not going to pass this session,” Krueger said in a tweet. “This is not the end of the road, it is only a delay. Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives up-ended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.” Negotiations Fail If successful, MRTA would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and older and established a system to regulate and tax marijuana sales. But negotiations among lawmakers failed to reach agreements on issues including how cannabis taxes would be used by the state, the expungement of convictions for past marijuana offenses, and the power of local governments to prohibit commercial cannabis activity in their jurisdictions. “Through months of negotiation and conversation with the governor’s office and my legislative colleagues, we made great strides to improve our bill and bring more people on board,” Krueger said. “We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed cannabis legalization in December after a government study determined that the benefits would outweigh the harm. He then attempted to include the issue in the state budget bill in April but that effort failed. The governor has said that he believes that tax revenues raised through commercial cannabis sales should be directed to the state’s general fund. But many legislators want marijuana taxes to be used for social equity programs that address the harm caused by the War on Drugs and provide support for members of minority communities to participate in the cannabis industry. Decriminalization Bill Considered Instead With the death of MRTA, lawmakers in Albany are scrambling to pass narrower substitute cannabis legislation before the end of the legislative session on Wednesday. One bill would reduce the possession of more than one ounce of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a violation and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions. But Cuomo told local media on Monday that he would like to see the different aspects of cannabis legalization passed together. “I don’t think we should do one component now and then come back and do another component,” Cuomo said. Krueger ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-19
  • Study Finds Cannabis May Be Suitable Treatment Option for Fibromyalgia
    Somewhere between three and six million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome that doctors scarcely understand and struggle to effectively treat. But for years, many fibromyalgia patients have shared their stories and experiences treating their symptoms with cannabis. Yet while patients frequently self-report using cannabis to manage their fibromyalgia, there are only a few clinical studies that have assessed whether cannabis can be an effective treatment for the disease. The studies that do exist, however, all present positive results. And a new investigation into the characteristics, safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis therapy for fibromyalgia just added more evidence to the pile. According to the authors of that study, a team of medical researchers in Israel, cannabis may be a suitable treatment option for fibromyalgia. Marijuana Helped Reduce Pain for 81 Percent of Fibromyalgia Patients “Safety and Efficacy of Medical Cannabis in Fibromyalgia,” a study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, assessed 367 fibromyalgia patients’ use of cannabis over a six-month period. Of those patients, 301 were women, and at the end of the six-month assessment period, 261 patients participated in a survey. (Some patients stopped their medical cannabis treatments.) That survey aimed to gather data about how well cannabis managed pain symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. It also asked patients about any side effects associated with their medical cannabis treatments. The results reveal just how effective cannabis can be as a treatment option for fibromyalgia. According to the study, patients began the six-month trial with a baseline pain intensity of 9.0 on a scale of zero to 10. At the end of the six-month assessment period, median pain intensity reduced to 5.0. Furthermore, 194 patients (81.1 percent) experienced at least some improvement in their condition without any serious side effects. Overall, researchers found that patients were most likely to report reductions in pain and other quality of life improvements following their six-month medical cannabis therapy. Cannabis therapy also helped fibromyalgia patients replace or reduce their use of prescription opioids. The study reports that 22 percent of patients “stopped or reduced their dosage of opioids.” Furthermore, 20 percent of patients reduced their use of benzodiazepines. Medical Cannabis “Safe and Effective” Fibromyalgia Treatment In addition to the data on the effectiveness of medical cannabis, researchers also gathered data on the side effects associated with using cannabis to treat fibromyalgia symptoms. Of the fibromyalgia patients who completed the six-month study, less than 8 percent experienced adverse side effects. According to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Federal Aviation Administration Issues Advisory On Cannabis Policy for Pilots
    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory to clarify the agency’s cannabis policy for pilots. In a medical advisory published in the current issue of FAA Safety Briefing, FAA Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Michael Berry noted (in dated language) that as cannabis legalization in its various forms continues to spread across the country, the flying community has repeatedly shown interest in marijuana and CBD. “The Federal Air Surgeon’s office has received a number of inquiries about marijuana, due to the recent increase in the number of states around the country that have approved its use for medical and recreational purposes,” Berry wrote. “Specifically, airmen are concerned about the safety of cannabidiol (CBD) oil use and how such use impacts an airman’s medical certificate. Be aware that federal law — not state law — governs FAA medical and pilot certification.“ Berry reminded pilots that they could be subject to drug screenings that detect the use of marijuana and could affect their certification to fly. “The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test includes THC, and its presence at defined levels constitutes a positive drug test,” he wrote in the advisory. Pilots Warned Against CBD Use Berry also acknowledged the growing popularity of CBD and noted that the FDA has approved Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-based medication, for the treatment of severe forms of epilepsy. But he warned that other CBD formulations are unregulated products that may be contaminated with other substances including THC, which is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Berry also noted that using CBD products would not be an acceptable excuse for a pilot who fails a drug screening for THC. “Although most CBD products claim to have under 0.3-percent THC, they could contain high enough levels of THC to make a drug test positive,” said Berry. “Use of CBD oil is not accepted as an affirmative defense against a positive drug test.” Before pilots will be permitted to use medical marijuana, Berry said, much more research would have to be conducted and evaluated by regulators. Until then, no allowances will be made by the FAA for pilots who wish to use cannabis medicinally. “We need to understand much more before considering the use of marijuana and its derivatives for airman certificate holders,” Berry continued. “Please also be aware that no special issuances have been granted for conditions treated with medical marijuana.” What About the Farm Bill? It seems unlikely that Berry’s advisory will be the final authority on the use of cannabis products by ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Mexican Federal Police Scorch 13-Square-Mile Cannabis Grow Site
    Last week, the US Border Control announced a gigantic drug bust had been made by Mexican authorities using technology and training from US government agencies. Mexican officials torched a 13 square mile marijuana growing operation six miles from the US-Mexico border in La Rumorosa, Baja California. Law enforcement officials destroyed more than 42,000 plants that weighed 70,000 pounds. “This significant drug seizure is an excellent example of the effective collaboration among law enforcement agencies in the United States and Mexico,” said a US Customs and Border Protection communiqué about the massive destruction of cannabis, whose cannabis supposedly would have retailed at $276,900,000 USD. The announcement comes at a politically weighted moment. President Donald Trump has made enforcing border security one of his top issues in 2019, even going so far to shut down the federal government for 35 days in the hopes of wresting an agreement from House Democrats to fund the way (the plan failed). More recently, Trump announced that he had come to “the agreement that everybody says I don’t have” when it came to talks with Mexico over expanding its role in stopping the flow of Central American refugees, who the president blames for high crime rates and unemployment in the United States. Indeed, when Mexico released the actual text of said “agreement”, it turned out to be more of a commitment to continue talks than the confirmation of a comprehensive partnership. In it, Mexico agreed to a “binding bilateral agreement to further address burden-sharing and the assignment of responsibility for processing refugee claims of migrants.” News of the June 11 La Rumorosa bust also served as an announcement for a US government project called the Binational Academy, which imparted training in April and May to Mexican federal police in the areas of “intelligence gathering, situational awareness, target enforcement operations, building entry, land navigation, and first aid.” The Binational Academy also provided the Policia Federal with “new equipment”. The press release stated that a US Border Patrol specialty unit provided “training and equipment to Mexican officials which later supported their discovery and eradication of a huge illegal marijuana grow site.” The June 11 bust was complicated by the fact that Mexican officials couldn’t get to the grow site, which was located far from serviceable roads. Luckily for them, the US government’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs was able to provide “4×4 trucks and all-terrain vehicles” to get the job done. GPS equipment already received via the Binational Academy came in ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-18
  • Michigan Governor Adds Voice to Push for Banking Access for Cannabis Businesses
    A bipartisan group of 20 state and territorial attorney generals has called for the passage of a federal bill that would give cannabis industry businesses access to the U.S. banking system. In a letter sent to leaders of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday, the governors urged the passage of the Secure and Fare (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595). Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, one of the governors who signed the letter, said that voters have made it clear that it is time for a new approach to cannabis policy. “Michiganders turned out in historic numbers in this last election to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and we must respect the will of the voters,” Whitmer said. “There is an inherent danger for businesses operating in an all-cash business because financial institutions are unable to accept the risks and penalties associated with providing service to this industry under current law. This letter sends a clear message to Congress that our states are looking for a real solution to a real problem, and we support them to get this done.”   Cannabis Industry Denied Access to Banking Due to federal drug and money laundering regulations, even cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state laws are often unable to obtain financial services regularly used by other industries. As a result, companies in the cannabis industry often do business only in cash, creating extreme risk for the firms and their employees. The SAFE Banking Act would protect financial institutions and likely make more banks willing to serve the cannabis industry. “Many of our states have implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability of the cannabis industry,” wrote the governors in the letter. “However, without banking services, cannabis businesses are less able to obey the law, pay taxes, and follow these important regulations. The public safety risks posed by these cash-only businesses can be mitigated through access to banking service providers.” The governors called on congressional leaders to join the states in supporting cannabis operators willing to leave the black market and subject their businesses to regulation and taxation. “State and federal governments have a shared interest in upholding the rule of law, protecting public safety, and transitioning markets out of the shadows and into our transparent and regulated banking system. Without access to banking services, state-licensed cannabis businesses operate predominantly on a cash basis. This poses a significant public safety risk to customers and employees,” the letter reads. Letter Signed by 20 Governors In ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17
  • New York Lawmakers May Vote on Marijuana Legalization Wednesday
    New York’s current legislative session ends on Wednesday, June 19, and it’s the last chance lawmakers will have to vote on marijuana legalization. Over the weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held talks with Senate and Assembly members to discuss possible action on a legalization proposal. Lawmakers and the governor failed to reach an agreement on Sunday, but it’s possible a deal could materialize on Monday. If it does, Gov. Cuomo will have to initiate a special procedure to rush the bill to a vote by the Wednesday deadline. Marijuana legalization advocates are currently demonstrating in front of the capitol in Albany to push Gov. Cuomo and New York lawmakers to take advantage of the last-second opportunity. Gov. Cuomo Could Rush Vote on Legal Marijuana A bill to legalize marijuana in New York that was pronounced dead earlier this year has suddenly surged back to life. At first, it looked like the proposal didn’t have enough votes to pass in the Senate. Lawmakers were unable to come to a compromise on taxes and other regulations, and Gov. Cuomo told reporters in June that it wouldn’t be feasible to push for the bill’s passage this session. But some of the bill’s major backers wouldn’t admit defeat. Instead, they vowed to push on toward compromise. With the June 19 deadline looming, Gov. Cuomo held weekend meetings Saturday and Sunday with state lawmakers. Discussions reportedly centered around two key sticking points. One, whether to give municipalities the authority to opt out of the legal industry, and two, how to spend the revenue generated from taxes and fees. If lawmakers and the governor secure a deal Monday, they’ll have until Wednesday to vote on a legalization bill. But the last-minute approach would require Gov. Cuomo to bypass public review of the legalization proposal. New York’s constitution typically requires that a new bill have three days of public review before the Legislature can vote on it. But the governor can order a message of necessity and waive the requirement. That would allow lawmakers to rush the bill to the floor for a vote before the session adjourns. And if lawmakers approve a bill, Gov. Cuomo has vowed to sign it. Advocates Rally with Time Running Out on Legalization Vote The disagreement over taxes remains one of the main concerns for lawmakers who support legalization as a social justice issue. Gov. Cuomo has pushed to direct marijuana tax and fee revenue into the state’s General Fund. But many lawmakers say marijuana revenue should ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17
  • Virginia Attorney General Calls for Marijuana Legalization in the State
    Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is getting impatient waiting for the state’s lawmakers to move forward on marijuana legalization. On Saturday, he published an op-ed in Virginia newspaper the Daily Press advising them to “decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, address past convictions and start moving toward legal and regulated adult use.” Perhaps the intended audience of the editorial is Virginia’s House Republicans, who have effectively blocked most legislation that would open access to cannabis and reduce its related penalties for possession in the state. Though hopes were high at the start of the year, the state assembly declined to pass two different plans to legalize cultivation and personal use. Even while many states around the country march forward towards cannabis regulation, many conservative legislators still see the issue as a potential landmine in the upcoming November elections. In a rare moment of forward motion, the Virginia Senate did pass a bill allowing school nurses to administer medicinal cannabis to students in February. During the same week, SB 1157 got the go ahead, authorizing nurses and doctors to prescribe THC-A and CBD oil and lays the groundwork for future regulations around medicinal cannabis in topical, capsule, lozenge, and suppository form. Virginia has had a medical marijuana system of sorts in place since 2015, when an affirmative defense law was passed that allowed patients to take the still technically illegal drug with a physician’s recommendation without fear of legal punishment. In 2018, the program was expanded past intractable epilepsy to include any reason deemed necessary by a health practitioner. Many doctors have steered clear of prescribing marijuana entirely, leaving patients oftentimes confused about where to get their meds. In his recently published piece, Herring takes on Virginia’s cannabis arrest numbers, which he says have gone up by 115 percent between 2003 and 2017, a time period in which the amount of first time offender convictions also soared. Multiplying the problem, the arrests are vastly biased on a racial level. Herring cites a number from the Virginia Crime Commission that shows that Black Virginians make up 46 percent of first time offender arrests, yet only comprise 20 percent of the state’s population. They are also more likely to be convicted of said crimes, and sentenced to jail time for them. “We can’t avoid the conversation any longer, especially when our current system continues to saddle Virginians with convictions and even jail time, and black Virginians at a strikingly disproportionate rate,” wrote Herring. There is little ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-06-17