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Canada’s largest pharmacy chain inks ‘game-changing’ medical marijuana distribution deal

December 4, 2017 | By Matt Lamers

Medical marijuana could soon be available through the online store of Canada’s largest pharmacy chain in what analysts are calling a groundbreaking deal for the MMJ industry.
Aphria is set to supply the medical cannabis, including leaf and oil, for Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart.

The Ontario-based licensed producer will be designated as the “preferred” supplier as part of a five-year arrangement with the pharmacy chain.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Health Canada will have the final say in determining whether Shoppers Drug Mart can become an online MMJ retailer.

If approved, the deal could breathe fresh life into the growth of Canada’s medical marijuana market, which has seen slowing quarterly growth in patient registrants since late 2016. The market recorded its 200,000th patient in June, up from 75,000 one year earlier.

“Pharmacies should and need to be part of treating patients with medical cannabis. This is a good beginning,” Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld said on a conference call with analysts after the stock market closed Monday.

The “integrity and the discipline” that Shoppers brings to the table could be a catalyst for further growth, he added.

“There are thousands of doctors sitting on the sideline,” Neufeld said. “The patient population could really explode once you have an organization that has the integrity and the discipline that a pharmacist brings to the table.

“Jointly with the doctor relationships they have, it is very powerful and meaningful.”

Aphria trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange as APH.

Shoppers, owned by Loblaw Companies, is the largest pharmacy chain in Canada, with more than 1,200 locations.

Loblaw was the first big corporation in Canada to cover medical marijuana costs for its 45,000 employees.

‘A home run’

Neufeld said the deal is subject to Health Canada’s approval of Shoppers’ application to be a licensed producer and retailer, as well as any other conditions the health agency might impose.

Under the arrangement, MMJ will be shipped in bulk from Aphria’s production facility in Leamington to Shoppers’ distribution center, which already handles the company’s online pharmacy. From there, Shoppers will send the medicine to patients from a central distribution point.

Down the road, Neufeld hopes medical marijuana will be available directly from the physical pharmacy.

“That’s when the home run turns into a grand slam,” he added. “But right now, online is how it’s going to work once they get their licensed producer status with Health Canada’s sanction.”

A prescription from a doctor will still be required.

Canadian regulations currently do not allow the sale of medical cannabis in retail pharmacies.

How the deal works

Shoppers Drug Mart previously said it applied to Health Canada be a producer strictly to distribute medical marijuana and that it has no intention of getting into cultivation.

Aphria agreed not to engage in business transactions with other national pharmacy groups in exchange for being Shoppers’ preferred supplier.

The deal includes minimum annual volumes that Shoppers must purchase from Aphria in order for the drugstore operator to maintain the exclusivity arrangement.

While specific financial terms were not disclosed, Neufeld said, “This is absolutely game changing from a revenue and EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) certainty.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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Canopy to build Denmark’s first medical marijuana production facility

December 5, 2017

Canopy Growth Corp. announced plans to build Denmark’s first medical marijuana production facility to meet demand when Europe’s newest MMJ market comes online next year.

Spectrum Cannabis Denmark ApS – a joint venture between Canopy and Danish Cannabis ApS, a leading European hemp producer – will establish the 430,000-square-foot production facility in Odense, Denmark’s third-largest city on the island of Funen.

The companies plan to convert an existing greenhouse.

The new MMJ facility is expected to employ more than 125 – including the former orchid growers, who will all be offered employment.

Canopy, traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED, estimated the annual retail value of the MMJ will be 500 million Danish kroner ($8 million).

What you need to know:

Denmark will allow medical marijuana use beginning in January 2018.

Spectrum Cannabis Denmark is proceeding through the Danish Medicines Agency’s MMJ licensing process for production.

In the meantime, cannabis will be shipped from Canada to meet growing demand in Denmark.

Products available in 2018 include 10 dried cannabis strains, ingestible cannabis oils and soft gel capsules.

The first phase, converting a current greenhouse, could be completed in early 2018.

The finished facility could serve the needs of about 60,000 patients.

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Canada’s rec marijuana demand will be much higher than industry anticipates, researcher predicts

December 5, 2017 | By Matt Lamers

Demand for recreational marijuana in Canada will be much stronger than industry officials expect, according to data given to Health Canada by one influential research firm.

Stronger-than-expected demand could have consequences up and down the cannabis supply chain.

Cultivators, for starters, could ring up more sales if they’re able to grab a slice of an expanded market, analysts say.

Retailers, in turn, could be also expected to move more product, raising fresh doubts over the ability of Ontario and Quebec’s relatively small number of government-run stores to handle the higher demand loads. (Ontario aims to have 40 provincial-owned storefronts up and running next summer, while Quebec plans to operate 15.)

In addition, stronger marijuana demand could spell tougher competition for alcohol companies.

Miles Light, a co-founder and partner with Marijuana Policy Group (MPG) – a Denver firm that provides analysis, investment and policy advice to private and government clients – said Canadian demand for marijuana flower equivalent could exceed 900,000 kilograms (992 tons) next year.

That’s 40% higher than the two most-cited estimates: Deloitte’s August 2016 estimate of 600,000 kilograms, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s projection of 650,000 kilograms.

“In our view, demand has been underestimated because the number of heavy users in Canada had been underestimated,” Light told Marijuana Business Daily.

He declined to provide specific answers on expected demand given MPG’s ongoing work with the Canadian government.

Health Canada selected the firm to estimate the size of the country’s marijuana market. The government agency has yet to publish the data. Light summarized his findings at last month’s MJBizCon, which is run by Marijuana Business Daily.

Why does MPG project stronger demand? Light pointed to the dates of the surveys used to compile the PBO projections and his firm’s estimate for Health Canada.

“The difference between the (Parliamentary Budget Officer) estimate and us is that they used a survey from 2012 and we used a survey from 2017,” Light said. “The difference in these surveys is that very few people reported heavy use in the 2012 survey – only 12%.

“In (the 2017) survey, it’s double that – about a quarter of users are heavy users, and we also had a higher prevalence rate, so more people consuming.”

As in other legal markets, a small share of heavier users accounts for most of the demand (by weight). In Canada, about 25% of users will account for 80% of recreational marijuana demand, according to MPG’s estimates.

Higher revenue

A market that’s 40% bigger would mean more money up for grabs, and that could mean higher-than-expected revenue across the marijuana supply chain.

However, the ability for licensed producers and retailers to cash in on legalized recreational marijuana will vary depending on a number of factors, including:

Their ability to lure existing customers away from the black market.

Their ability to attract first-time cannabis customers.

For some licensed cultivators, it could hinge on their ability to lock up supply arrangements with provinces. New Brunswick has struck agreements with three licensed producers to buy 13,000 kilograms of cannabis per year worth about 140 million Canadian dollars ($111 million) to meet demand for its recreational market when adult-use marijuana is expected to be legalized next summer.

Khurram Malik, a partner at Jacob Capital Management, said if demand is higher than expected by 2019, then some companies can expect higher revenue in provinces that don’t have distribution constraints, such as a limited number of government-run retail outlets.

“Companies well positioned to take advantage are those who are structured to leverage the unique characteristics of each province’s distribution model,” he said.

“Also, those that are able to build stronger recreational brands from the beginning – the larger producers don’t necessarily have an advantage here – will do well.”

More M&As

Companies that can capitalize on the higher demand by stockpiling cash would also be better positioned to bankroll more mergers and acquisitions as well as international expansion.

Michael Lickver, executive vice president of Wheaton Income – an investment company that trades on the TSX Venture under the symbol CBW – said more revenue could mean more export opportunities.

“Any cash that comes through the door, they’re going to plow it to expansion,” he said. “So if demand is higher, I can see more M&As where companies with more cash are buying the smaller players.

“Any additional cash will go into reinvestment and expansion.”

The impetus for international expansion is potential growth overseas: “Canada’s market for recreational marijuana is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential market for medical marijuana in Germany and Latin America,” Lickver said.

“Germany is 80 million people. There are companies in Africa that are going to be opening,” he added.

“It’s not hard to see the future of this industry. Look at alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. There’s some large players, and that’s it.”

Warning to alcohol

If recreational marijuana demand is indeed stronger, the alcohol industry could face even tougher competition from adult-use cannabis.

“If demand is that high, I would expect that alcohol manufacturers would take a hit,” said Matt Maurer, head of the Cannabis Law Group at Minden Gross in Toronto. “For many people, alcohol consumption goes down as cannabis consumption goes up.”

He suggested that people might pass on picking up a bottle of wine on the weekend to enjoy some cannabis instead.

Canada’s private sector and government-owned liquor outlets sold CA21.3 billion ($16.1 billion) worth of alcoholic beverages in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, according to Statistics Canada, including CA$9 billion of beer.

That’s a little less than Canada’s black market for marijuana, which one recent estimate pegged at CA$22 billion — including exports.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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British Columbia to hand recreational cannabis sales to private, public sectors

December 6, 2017

British Columbia is giving private entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in recreational sales of marijuana next year – alongside the provincial government.

The move to permit private- and government-owned retailers was widely expected.

It gives potentially hundreds of existing medical marijuana dispensaries – which have been operating in the gray market – an opportunity to join the legal market. Details of the regulations won’t be available until next year.

The province announced its decision after considering input from 48,951 British Columbians and submissions from 141 local and Indigenous governments.

What you need to know:

British Columbia will set the minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis at 19.

Like other provinces, British Columbia will rely on a government-run wholesale distribution model. The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will be the wholesale distributor of adult-use cannabis in the province.

British Columbia plans to pass implementation legislation in early 2018.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are going with publicly owned marijuana retail monopolies, while Manitoba, Alberta and possibly Newfoundland are handing marijuana sales to the private system.

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Manitoba looks to private sector to grow, sell recreational marijuana

December 6, 2017

The Manitoba government has introduced legislation to have private businesses grow and sellrecreational marijuana once Canada’s adult-use market launches next year.

Home cultivation, meanwhile, would be banned.

Under the bill, the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries would be responsible for securing all the cannabis for private retail outlets.

That would mean Manitoba would have to look to local MJ producers for the province’s rec market.

New Brunswick was the first province to secure a supply of cannabis — though there is debate whether that province underestimated demand.

Manitoba’s legislation is also notable for including a provision that would allow municipal governments to prohibit retail cannabis sales within their boundaries through a local vote.

What you need to know:

All businesses selling cannabis must be provincially licensed.

The Liquor and Gaming Authority would be renamed the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority and be responsible for licensing cannabis stores and distributors.

Manitoba’s legislation still needs approval from the province’s elected representatives.

A request for proposals for retail cannabis stores remains open until Dec. 22.

Manitoba’s proposed system puts the province’s only two licensed producers – Bonify and Delta 9 Cannabis – in a good position to capitalize on the adult-use market.

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US firm MJardin snaps up ‘major’ stake in fledgling Canadian producer

December 6, 2017 | By Matt Lamers

A prominent U.S. cannabis company has acquired a “major” equity stake in a fledgling producer of medical marijuana in Ontario, and the CEO of Colorado-based MJardin told Marijuana Business Daily“there will be more to follow.”

The investment is the latest sign of growing interest among U.S. marijuana companies in the Canadian MJ market ahead of that country’s planned legalization of adult-use cannabis next year.

MJardin declined to disclose the financial terms or the amount of the stake it purchased in Dunnville, Ontario-based Grand River Organics.

The deal essentially makes Grand River Organics – a “late-stage applicant” to become a licensed producer – an MJardin affiliate.

The Colorado company manages dozens of cultivation facilities for different MJ companies. It also provides consulting services in cannabis cultivation and processing.

The transaction is the second in two months in which a notable U.S. marijuana company has taken a stake in a fledgling Canadian MMJ cultivator.

Last month, Denver-based LivWell Enlightened Health purchased a significant stake in Lethbridge, Alberta-based 51st Parallel.

Ian Dawkins, principal consultant of the British Columbia-based Althing Consulting, sees it as the start of a trend.

“The reason is pretty straightforward,” he said. “A Canadian LP is a unique thing globally speaking, in that they are legal at a federal level, which lets investors delve into cannabis without the banking issues that tie up companies stateside.

“There’s a lot of interest in finding one of these mythical LP applicants that is not already investor-owned.”

The stake in Grand River Organics is MJardin’s first foray into Canada as an owner-operator.

Grand River Organics is one of 460 applications awaiting approval from Health Canada.

MJardin CEO Rishi Gautam said Canada is one of his company’s top strategic priorities, and that MJardin aims to have a”significant presence” in a number of facilities across the country.

“We’ve had our eyes wide open for opportunities,” he said. “There will be more to follow.”

The company will serve as an equity partner in Grand River Organics, providing turnkey cultivation, processing and project management, as well as training, according to a news release.

Grand River’s 40,000-square-foot facility in southwestern Ontario is under construction. 

The companies will collaborate to produce and distribute medical cannabis throughout Canada, while positioning themselves for the  legalization of recreational cannabis.

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CBD manufacturer buys stake in Canadian maker of hemp, MJ pharma products

December 7, 2017

A CBD manufacturer with offices in Canada and California is moving further into the Canadian cannabis market, acquiring a 25% stake in a company in the final stages of licensing to make hemp and marijuana pharmaceutical products.

Isodiol International said it’s acquiring 25% of Canadian National Pharma Group, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. Isodiol also has the option to acquire a controlling stake in the company.

The deal is subject to the Canadian National Pharma Group, called CN Pharma, receiving the marijuana license, after which Isodiol will pay $500,000 Canadian dollars ($391,000) cash and CA$1,000,000 ($781,000) in equity.

The deal would give Isodiol its first stake in a Canadian manufacturer.

Isodiol has headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, and in San Marcos, California.

Isodiol doesn’t currently grow cannabis in Canada, though it sells CBD products there.

CN Pharma has built a 9,750-square-foot grow facility in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

CN Pharma plans to grow and process both hemp and marijuana there in order to make cannabis and hemp extracts or isolate.

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Nova Scotia plans to sell recreational cannabis in government-run alcohol stores

December 7, 2017

The Nova Scotia government unveiled plans to sell recreational marijuana alongside alcohol in government-run stores, a move that essentially bars privately owned businesses from investing in retail opportunities.

The province proposed that marijuana be sold in existing Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. stores to consumers 19 or older.

The plan appears to run counter to public opinion.

A survey of 31,000 people in Nova Scotia found that 56% agreed that recreational cannabis should be available in new stand-alone stores operated by the provincial government – as opposed to existing liquor retail outlets.

What you need to know:

The policy proposals will be put to a vote in Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly in early 2018.

Personal possession will be limited to 30 grams.

There will be a personal cultivation limit of up to four plants per household.

Nova Scotia’s market for recreational marijuana could be slightly higher than neighboring New Brunswick’s 120 million Canadian dollars ($85 million) annually.

The province is currently home to two licensed producers, Breathing Green Solutions and THC Inc. Both are privately held.

Neighboring Quebec and New Brunswick will also sell recreational marijuana in gov

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Colorado to Conduct First Study on the Safety of Dabbing and Driving

Researchers at two Colorado universities have secured over $800,000 in funding for the first-of-its-kind analysis of how cannabis concentrates affect people behind the wheel.

Thursday 12/7/2017 by Zach Harris

As legal weed continues to enter mainstream culture, politics, business, and science, the ever-evolving industry of commercial cannabis products has been met by eager researchers intent on studying every facet of the plant. In Colorado, where recreational cannabis sales have been legal since 2014, one team of researchers is taking a new approach to the hot-topic issue of stoned driving by looking specifically at the relationship between hyper-concentrated cannabis extracts (a.k.a. dabs, wax, shatter, and butane hash oil) and safety behind the wheel.

According to The Coloradoan, researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder will collaborate on the "observational study," the first formal analysis of how drivers are affected by indulging in one of the most potent cannabis consumption methods.

To test how dabbing influences drivers' motor functions and awareness, university researchers are bringing their study to cannabis users' front doors. A press release detailedhow the team will enlist experienced dabbers to go through their regular consumption routines before taking a series of driving-related tests, including a gas and brake pedal simulation that will evaluate leg speed response. Each round of tests will be conducted 10 times over with every subject, and the researchers will not be supplying any of the cannabis products to subjects themselves.

By taking the study to their participants instead of bringing them to a laboratory environment, researchers will look for real-life observational insights into a topic that has been largely overlooked until now.

"The subjects are doing what they would normally do, to themselves," Brian Tracy, a CSU faculty member who's collaborating with the University of Colorado Boulder researchers on the study, told The Coloradoan.

"Users get very high, very rapidly [from dabbing]," Tracy added. "It's almost instantaneous, and the feeling is very strong."

Common sense would suggest that such an intense high would stop even the most experienced cannabis enthusiasts from taking a joyride after getting lit. But, like with all other forms of herb, different users have different tolerance levels, and various product types have a range in potency. Not to mention, a quick social media search will eliminate any doubts about the validity of the study, with countless uploads depicting drivers dabbing in cars, including a number of clips where users are seen handling an open flame.

Outside of the wax-specific study, political officials and researchers across the country have increased their focus and funding on a variety of vehicular cannabis studies. It's clear that drugged driving will continue to be a standout issue in post-prohibition America.

So far, research into the effects of THC on drivers has been inconclusive, and the findings have been further complicated by a current lack of standardized roadside cannabis intoxication tests.

The university study on dabbing and driving will take place over the next three years thanks to $839,500 in grant funding provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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Los Angeles Approves Cannabis Regulations, Industry Predicted to Swell

“This is a watershed moment for the entire cannabis industry."

Thursday 12/7/2017 by Chris Moore

This Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a set of ordinances to license and regulate sales of recreational cannabis within their city. Both proponents and opponents of legalization have criticized elements of these regulations, but the Council has less than a month to put a framework in place before recreational sales begin on January 1st.

"This is a watershed moment for the entire cannabis industry," the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force wrote in a statement regarding these new regulations. "A regulated commercial cannabis market in Los Angeles is an accomplishment over a decade in the making."

City officials are prepared to jump headfirst into the legal cannabis industry — with hopes of quashing the black market and reaping the financial rewards of legal weed — as soon as sales begin next month. A new report by ArcView Market Research projects that the industry will grow to $10 billion by the end of this year, up 33% from last year, and that the legal market will swell to nearly $25 billion by 2021. The report also notes that California's medical marijuana market is already bigger than the total markets in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon combined, and the firm expects global cannabis sales to explode next year when California and Canada both legalize recreational sales. Los Angeles alone is predicted to accrue over $50 million in tax revenue from pot sales next year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One of the main elements of the City Council's deliberations is a social equity program designed to ensure that minorities and lower-income residents of the city will have a chance a participating in the industry. Councilman Curren Price told his fellow legislators at the Wednesday meeting that the War on Drugs has "unfairly targeted communities of color like the one I represent," the LA Times article also noted. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson spoke in support of the program, as well, and urged the Council to "shut down one of the major fronts of the War on Drugs."

The social equity program will provide assistance and prioritize processing for low-income applicants, as well as those who have been previously convicted of cannabis-related crimes or live in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition and law enforcement. "I'm ready to level the playing field so that everyone has a fair shot at reaping the rewards of this booming industry," Price continued. "Because we shouldn't just be rolling out the red carpet to those individuals with deep pockets or powerful corporations."

Another major issue that the City Council had to tackle regards proper business licensing. Officials initially considered offering limited immunity waivers to canna-businesses rather than standard business licenses. Over the summer, cannabis activists gathered at City Hall to protest this proposal, arguing that the lack of official licensing would force businesses to navigate extra hurdles in order to prove to officials that they are legitimate, and would also make it even harder for these businesses to get bank accounts or insurance. The Council listened to the protesters, and the new regulations will grant proper business licenses.

Zoning boundaries and caps on the total number of canna-businesses allowed in the city were also hot topic issues addressed in the regulations. Neighborhood groups pushed the city to tighten these restrictions in order to keep canna-businesses away from schools and specific neighborhoods, while members of the cannabis industry argued that these restrictions were too tight.

The new regulations will allow cannabis stores to open only in specific commercial and industrial zones, and only if they are 700 feet away from schools, parks, other pot stores, and drug treatment centers. Cannabis growers and processors are only allowed in industrial zones that are 600 feet away from schools, and manufacturers using volatile solvents must remain 200 feet away from residential areas. The Council also capped the total number of canna-businesses allowed in the city to 390 pot stores, 336 growers, and 520 manufacturers.

Although there are still many disagreements over the specific details of the regulations, the City Council is prepared to roll with their current plans and adjust them as necessary down the line. "It really does feel like we're building the plane in midair," Councilman Paul Krekorian reportedly said during the recent City Council meeting. And as the LA Cannabis Task Force's statement noted, "For now, a basic framework is in place, but there is still a lot of hard work to be done."

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Key federal medical cannabis protection gets stay of execution – again

December 7, 2017

The only current federal statute protecting medical marijuana businesses from U.S. law enforcement agencies has been extended again, this time until Dec. 22.

The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment – previously known as Rohrabacher-Farr – will remain in federal law for at least another two weeks under a budget deal passed by Congress Thursday afternoon.

The budget bill, known technically as a continuing resolution, will keep the previous federal budget in place through at least Dec. 22 to give Congress more time to hammer out a new budget.

By retaining the previous budget, Congress also kept alive the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-licensed MMJ businesses.

This is the fifth time Congress has extended the budget timeline – and, in turn, Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, which has a sunset clause that requires annual reauthorization from Congress. The last time the amendment was formally reauthorized was in 2015.

In December 2016, Congress passed the first continuing resolution on this issue, which kept the 2015 federal budget in place.

Then lawmakers passed a continuing resolution in April 2017 that lasted less than a week before a third one was passed. A fourth continuing resolution was passed in September.

And now Congress has given itself until Dec. 22 to approve a new budget.

Whether the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment will be part of that new budget is still an open question, though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for it.

But the amendment has hit walls within Congressional committees, which could be a sign it’s in jeopardy.

If Rohrabacher-Blumenauer is allowed to expire, there will be nothing to prevent U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from prosecuting medical cannabis companies under federal law, a path that Sessions has not yet completely ruled out.

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Class-action suit against Canadian medical marijuana producer expands scope

December 7, 2017

The scope of a class-action lawsuit targeting Organigram has been expanded to cover allegations that the cultivator’s pesticide-tainted medical marijuana made patients sick before it was recalled. according to CBC News.

The initial suit alleged that Organigram’s “design, development, testing, manufacturing, distribution, sale and marketing of its purported organic medical cannabis were negligent” and that the MMJ was “unsafe and harmful,” the news outlet reported.

The recall affected 3,895 customers and involved 392 kilograms of dried marijuana and 33 liters of cannabis oil.

Organigram’s product was marketed as “100% organic cannabis” when the discovery of unauthorized pesticides prompted the recall. The company lost its organic certification.

Organigram said it conducted an “extensive investigation” but was unable to determine how the banned pesticide myclobutanil ended up in its cannabis.

Amid calls for stricter product testing standards, Health Canada started unannounced inspections at licensed cannabis cultivators in February to ensure that only registered pesticides are used.

There have been eight medical marijuana recalls in Canada this year.

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Maryland medical marijuana commission hires executive director

December 8, 2017

Only days after legal medical marijuana sales began in Maryland, the state’s MMJ commission has hired a new director.

Joy Strand, a hospital executive, is replacing Patrick Jameson, who resigned in November. 

Jameson took the post in April 2016, succeeding Hannah Byron, the commission’s first executive director.

Here’s what you need to know:

Strand had been serving as CEO of Crisfield-based McCready Health, where she led a health organization that included a hospital and several other health care services.

In 2015, McCready Health partnered with Wellness Farms, a medical marijuana cultivation startup.

Strand takes the reins as Maryland works to award more licenses for its medical cannabis program.

When Jameson resigned, commission chairman Brian Lopez said the transition wouldn’t cause problems for licensees because the state has a compliance director and someone to monitor testing labs.

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Manitoba’s Delta 9 strikes deal to raise CA$20M for cannabis cultivation and retail

December 8, 2017

Delta 9 signed a stock-purchase agreement to raise 20 million Canadian dollars ($16 million) to ramp up cultivation and bankroll its bid to become a retailer of recreational marijuana in Manitoba.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based medical marijuana producer said in a news release it nailed down the bought-deal agreement with a group of underwriters led by Canaccord Genuity Corp.

Once completed, the transaction will mean Delta 9 has raised CA$30 million this year. The company is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol NINE.

The company submitted a joint application with Canopy Growth to become retail operators in Manitoba.

The bid involves 12 stores in the first year of legalization, half of which would be Delta 9 stores, a company spokesperson told Marijuana Business Daily. Another 12 would be opened in Year Two.

Manitoba has introduced legislation to have private businesses sell recreational marijuana when Canada’s adult-use market is expected to launch next year.

What you need to know:

Underwriters agreed to purchase 7.4 million Delta 9 shares at a price of CA$2.70 per share.

The offering is expected to close by year-end and has an option for another CA$3 million.

Delta 9 is one of only two licensed MMJ producers in Manitoba, the other being privately owned Bonify Medical Cannabis.

The company has a national distribution agreement with Canopy Growth.

Delta 9 said it supplies more than half of Manitoba’s medical marijuana market.

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Tax court ruling on 280E case could come this month

December 8, 2017

A ruling from the U.S. Tax Court on whether the 280E provision should not apply to state-licensed marijuana businesses could come before the end of the year.

The case – which was tried in mid-2016 by San Francisco attorney Henry Wykowski – has the potentialto reshape the U.S. cannabis industry by making law-abiding MJ companies truly profitable.

“The court previously advised me that we should expect a decision by the end of the year, and that date is approaching,” Wykowski wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“Tax court decisions are notoriously slow, so I do not read anything into the delay one way or the other,” he continued. “I’m not interested in a fast decision, I want the right one striking down 280E or providing clarity as to how it should be applied.

“Next year is fine with me as long as we prevail.”

A brief was recently filed in another Tax Court case involving 280E, and there was another in which the Tax Court sided with the IRS over a Colorado dispensary in an October ruling, The Cannabist reported.

But the IRS win was based on the dispensary not providing business records to justify their deductions.

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Another Canadian medical marijuana producer inks pharmacy deal

December 8, 2017

CanniMed Therapeutics has entered into a definitive agreement with PharmaChoice to supply medical cannabis products to its 750 pharmacy locations across Canada.

It’s the second time this week a licensed marijuana producer and a major pharmacy chain have joined forces on medical cannabis, following a partnership between Aphria and Shoppers Drug Mart.

However, CanniMed’s deal with PharmaChoice is conditional on Health Canada’s approval of MMJ product distribution through pharmacies — a move that’s still far from certain.

PharmaChoice has committed exclusively to CanniMed as its sole supplier of medical cannabis products, the companies said in a news release, subject to CanniMed meeting product and volume requirements.

The companies declined to specify the volume requirements or financial conditions of the deal.

CanniMed, based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol CMED.

PharmaChoice is a member-owned cooperative of pharmacies headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Saskatoon.

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Michigan MMJ rules, WA halts hemp licensing & Maryland supply shortfall

December 8, 2017 | By John Schroyer, Kristen Nichols and Bart Schaneman

Michigan sets emergency rules for its medical marijuana program, Washington state stops issuing hemp licenses, and Maryland MMJ businesses encounter a supply shortage after sales begin.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Michigan making progress

Michigan is one of the latest state medical cannabis markets to begin fully regulating its industry, and emergency rules issued this week are the next step in laying the groundwork for businesses to obtain licenses.

But plenty of clarity still is needed – along with actual application forms – since the window to apply for business licenses opens Dec. 15.

“We only have the edge pieces to this jigsaw puzzle. So it’s hard to see the complete picture yet,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan NORML chapter and author of the Compassion Chronicles blog.

“Although they create a framework for applicants to apply to the state, it’s clear that these emergency regulations are not the fully fleshed-out program we had hoped to have by Dec. 15.”

For instance, he said, details are lacking in the regulations regarding particular business relationships between MMJ company principals, and there’s also a lack of flexibility in rules for concentrate and edibles makers.

But Thompson said he’s hopeful the program will make great strides in the coming months, in large part because state regulators have been responsive to industry concerns and questions.

“This group of people administering the MMJ program are the easiest group of people to work with that Michigan’s MMJ industry has seen since 2009,” he added.

In other words, after nearly a decade of haphazard local rules and raids on dispensaries by various law enforcement agencies, Michigan appears to be taking baby steps toward a fully legal and regulated MMJ market.

And so it seems there’s good reason for the state’s cannabis entrepreneurs to be optimistic.

Washington hemp woes

News this week that Washington state is going to halt issuing hemp licenses for 2018 seems nonsensical: How can a marijuana pioneer be slow to embrace the nonpsychoactive version of the same plant?

Hemp advocates who have worked in Washington say it comes down to two things – money and politics.

Washington state didn’t authorize hemp production until 2016, four long years after voters there authorized recreational marijuana.

The delay came because of partisan bickering in the state legislature, says Joy Beckerman, founder of the Washington chapter of the Hemp Industries Association.

“A good idea can stop cold in the halls of the legislature because of partisanship,” Beckerman says. “Hemp is not marijuana. We don’t have flashy professional lobbyists.”

When the state planned a 2017 launch of its hemp program, Washington agriculture officials said they needed $150,000 a year to manage it.

The state Department of Agriculture can’t access the millions that marijuana regulators use, and ag officials have concluded that farmers’ fees won’t cover the bill.

“They will fund marijuana to the tune of millions of dollars, but hemp has to fund itself,” Beckerman said.

She’s hopeful state lawmakers will give hemp an infusion of cash to save the program.

Neighboring Oregon had more than 200 hemp growers this year, and Washington could catch up with a little help from the state’s pocketbook, Beckerman said.

“It comes down to funding for us to get this program off the ground,” she said.

Fits and starts in Maryland

Maryland’s medical marijuana dispensaries began sales a week ago with a limited flower supply because only one grower, Curio Wellness, was providing cannabis to the stores.

Most of the seven operating shops sold out of everything, except for some infused products, in a couple of days.

Dispensary owners were hoping to get another shipment of flower shortly after, but they likely won’t be restocked until at least next week.

Bill Askinazi, principal at Potomac Holistics dispensary in Rockville, was among those who ran out.

He initially received about 4 pounds of flower but said he’s expecting his next shipment in three to five days.

And, this time, he believes he’ll receive MMJ from more of the 14 licensed cultivators than just Curio.

“They’re all coming online now,” he said.

In the meantime, his shop has received another round of vaporizer cartridges and infused products.

While the fits and starts of the market might seem frustrating, Askinazi isn’t irritated after having waited more than four years to sell MMJ.

“We’re over that hump,” he said. “In the next few days and weeks we’ll have a lot more supply, and it’ll satisfy the demand.”

Aside from flower, Askinazi’s anticipating more processors coming on board so he can offer a larger variety of products.

“Just give me more quality medicine so I can sell it,” he said.

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Another Canadian medical marijuana producer inks pharmacy deal

December 8, 2017

CanniMed Therapeutics has entered into a definitive agreement with PharmaChoice to supply medical cannabis products to its 750 pharmacy locations across Canada.

It’s the second time this week a licensed marijuana producer and a major pharmacy chain have joined forces on medical cannabis, following a partnership between Aphria and Shoppers Drug Mart.

However, CanniMed’s deal with PharmaChoice is conditional on Health Canada’s approval of MMJ product distribution through pharmacies — a move that’s still far from certain.

PharmaChoice has committed exclusively to CanniMed as its sole supplier of medical cannabis products, the companies said in a news release, subject to CanniMed meeting product and volume requirements.

The companies declined to specify the volume requirements or financial conditions of the deal.

CanniMed, based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol CMED.

PharmaChoice is a member-owned cooperative of pharmacies headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Saskatoon.

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Manitoba’s Delta 9 strikes deal to raise CA$20M for cannabis cultivation and retail

December 8, 2017

Delta 9 signed a stock-purchase agreement to raise 20 million Canadian dollars ($16 million) to ramp up cultivation and bankroll its bid to become a retailer of recreational marijuana in Manitoba.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based medical marijuana producer said in a news release it nailed down the bought-deal agreement with a group of underwriters led by Canaccord Genuity Corp.

Once completed, the transaction will mean Delta 9 has raised CA$30 million this year. The company is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol NINE.

The company submitted a joint application with Canopy Growth to become retail operators in Manitoba.

The bid involves 12 stores in the first year of legalization, half of which would be Delta 9 stores, a company spokesperson told Marijuana Business Daily. Another 12 would be opened in Year Two.

Manitoba has introduced legislation to have private businesses sell recreational marijuana when Canada’s adult-use market is expected to launch next year.

What you need to know:

Underwriters agreed to purchase 7.4 million Delta 9 shares at a price of CA$2.70 per share.

The offering is expected to close by year-end and has an option for another CA$3 million.

Delta 9 is one of only two licensed MMJ producers in Manitoba, the other being privately owned Bonify Medical Cannabis.

The company has a national distribution agreement with Canopy Growth.

Delta 9 said it supplies more than half of Manitoba’s medical marijuana market.

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This is why psychedelics improve your relationship

Erik McLaren 08 December, 2017

For the first time, psychedelics are truly being studied as medicine and not a menace. The promise of psychedelics as a treatment for PTSD seems to have no ceiling, but other findings have shown that psychedelics improve relationships. Finding a partner is one of life’s most worthwhile challenges. Magic mushrooms and MDMA and LSD might be catalysts to a deeper connection according to scientific studies.

Psychedelics improve relationships by helping people understand the impact of their actions.

In 2016, the University of British Columbia followed more than 300 men with substance abuse issues after their release from prison. Some of these men decided to take psychedelic drugs after their release, and some did not. Twenty-seven percent of The group that took psychedelics were arrested on domestic violence charges within six years. That number jumps to 47 percent for men who didn’t take any psychedelics.

This was not a clinical trial, but an observational study. The study didn’t instruct these men on dosage, or even what psychedelic drug they should take. Chance alone doesn’t explain the difference between these two groups.

Avoiding domestic violence isn’t a high bar for a partner, however, it is a shockingly common problem. One author of the study told Science Daily, “this study, in stark contrast to prevailing attitudes that view these drugs as harmful, speaks to the public health potential of psychedelic medicine.”

But this isn’t the only study in recent years to run contrary to current attitudes on psychedelics.

Psychedelics improve relationships by inspiring meaningful conversations.

When it comes to romance, finding a partner is often portrayed as the finish line. That can’t be further from the truth. Relationships require constant upkeep and discussion with mutual respect and understanding. MDMA may be able to help inspire those kinds of conversations.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently running the third phase of their federally approved MDMA study to treat PTSD. In 2016, MAPS also sponsored a study that looked at couples therapy with MDMA, where one partner suffered from PTSD. That study is still ongoing, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that it will yield positive results. A similar study in the UK also found MDMA can help couples communicate.  What may also be surprising to some is the fact that the United States only banned MDMA in 1985 and that before that, therapists often used MDMA in couples therapy.

Many couples are turning to magic mushrooms to help keep their relationships in perspective. One study concerning the affect of mushrooms on depression, also found that the shrooms improved participants’ relationships overall. LSD is becoming another tool in improving relationships. Due to the large volume of anecdotal evidence, further research is necessary.

Psychedelics improve relationships by increasing empathy and self-awareness.

Like the early days of medical marijuana studies, the results from almost every study of psychedelic medicines have positive results. Whether it’s helping people cope with death, or alleviating soldiers PTSD, psychedelics have powerful effects on the brain.

Study after study shows that experiences people have psychedelics are routinely the most powerful and meaningful in the participant’s lives. The power in those experiences comes from psychedelics ability to help people through addictions, to generally increasing mindfulness. Some studies show that psychedelics can positively influence someone’s personality, for years to come.

Psychedelics have been linked to increased empathy, and create a situation where the deep and complicated interconnectivity of life seems clear and tactile. This not only makes people better partners, it can make them better people.

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Prince Edward turns to government-run stores to sell recreational marijuana

December 8, 2017

Prince Edward Island plans to corner the market for recreational marijuana by limiting sales to government-owned retail locations, making it the latest province to bar entrepreneurs from investing in storefront opportunities.

PEI will restrict recreational cannabis use to private residences, the provincial government announced Thursday, with potential for designated public spaces “at a later date,” while medical cannabis use in public is to be considered separately.

The province also proposes that marijuana be sold to consumers 19 or older.

What you need to know:

These are PEI’s first directions on cannabis legalization, with further details to be hammered out in the coming months.

Final policy proposals will be put to a vote in PEI’s Legislative Assembly in the the spring.

PEI will be the smallest provincial market for recreational cannabis in Canada.

The province is currently home to one licensed producer, privately-owned Canada’s Island Garden Inc.

Neighboring Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will also sell recreational marijuana in government stores, while Newfoundland is going with a private retail model.

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California opens online system for temporary marijuana business

December 8, 2017

California is taking applications to license its emerging legal marijuana industry.

The state on Friday kicked off the process of considering temporary licenses for what is expected to be thousands of retailers, distributors and testing labs in the new marketplace.

Top state cannabis regulator Lori Ajax says the opening of the online system moves the state “one step closer to issuing California’s first state licenses for commercial cannabis activity.”

The temporary licenses will not be effective until Jan. 1, and businesses need a local permit before applying for state licenses.

Recreational marijuana sales will begin in California on Jan. 1, joining the state’s long-running medical cannabis market.

More information from the state on California’s temporary licensing system can be found here.

– Associated Press

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Diversity still a hot topic in Maryland’s medical marijuana industry

December 11, 2017 | By Eli McVey

Over 35% of those with an ownership stake in a Maryland medical marijuana company – and nearly 60% of those employed by MMJ businesses – are racial minorities, according to preliminary data released by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

But some industry watchers believe those numbers don’t tell the whole story and still contend that the state failed to adequately ensure racial diversity when licensing MMJ businesses.

Four years after Maryland legalized medical cannabis, sales through licensed dispensaries finally began last week.

The licensing process for cultivators, however, was delayed by a legal challenge.

A cultivation company that failed to win a license is arguing that the Maryland commission did not consider an applicant’s race when handing out the preliminary grower licenses – a requirement spelled out in the initial law legalizing MMJ.

Though sales are underway and final licenses have been awarded, the issue of racial diversity in Maryland’s MMJ industry hasn’t been resolved.

State lawmakers will consider “emergency legislation” to expand the MMJ program industry when they reconvene early next year.

Here’s what you need to know about the situation:

Maryland’s commission released diversity data in June based on survey responses from 79 preapproved MMJ businesses. A total of 321 business owners and 238 employees were considered as part of the survey, which will be conducted annually.

Most businesses participating in Maryland’s MMJ industry were included in the survey. Eleven growers, nine processors and 59 dispensaries provided demographic data, representing 73%, 60% and 58%, respectively, of all companies granted preapproval.

The survey data reflects the percentage of respondents who have any ownership stake in a business, not necessarily a controlling stake. For example, 10% of a business may be controlled by a racial minority, meaning the business has a minority owner but is not minority-owned.

A national survey of cannabis business owners and founders conducted by Marijuana Business Daily last August found that 19% of respondents who launched a cannabis business and/or have an ownership stake in a marijuana company are racial minorities.

Though Maryland’s efforts to boost diversity in its MMJ program have been criticized, the data clearly shows a higher rate of minority ownership in marijuana businesses relative to the national average.

It’s also important to note that Maryland’s diversity data refers only to plant-touching businesses, whereas the MJBizDaily survey includes ancillary companies – like marketing firms or law offices – where the rate of minority business ownership is higher.

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First Nations in Canada want more control over legalized marijuana

December 11, 2017

Canada’s First Nations are demanding the right to regulate the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana in their communities, and some near urban areas want to adopt more business-friendly rules to create jobs and earn revenue.

Chiefs representing some 630 reserves at the Assembly of First Nations last week were in general agreement that they, and not federal and provincial governments, should be the ones to set the rules on marijuana retail and use in their communities, the Globe and Mail reported.

Residents of First Nations are exempt from taxation, including on tobacco products. It’s expected that will be extended to recreational and medical marijuana.

However, whether First Nations will be allowed to play by their own rules when it comes to cannabis is still an open question — and it’s one the courts may ultimately have to decide.

The Assembly formed a committee on the legalization of marijuana led by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard.

Day said some communities may not feel they are bound to abide by rules imposed by the provincial government, including on age and distribution frameworks.

Oneida Nation of the Thames, for example, is home to a marijuana dispensary, and the people who run it do not believe they need a licence, Chief Randall Phillips said.

“We will decide who gets it. We will decide how it gets distributed,” he said.

Some chiefs are calling on the government to delay legalization.

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Ohio recreational marijuana campaign unveiled for 2018

A new statewide ballot measure campaign will take a second stab at legalizing recreational marijuanain Ohio.

According to a news release from Ian James – a key player in the ill-fated 2015 ResponsibleOhio legalization campaign – a statewide ballot issue push is underway.

The drive will be spearheaded by Jimmy Gould, founder and chairman of Green Light Acquisitions.

The new campaign must gather 305,592 signatures by July 4 to get the measure on the 2018 ballot, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

According to the news release, the initiative will be an amendment to the state constitution and will focus on “free-market adult consumption of marijuana.”

The 2015 ResponsibleOhio campaign failed by a whopping two-to-one margin at the ballot box, easily the biggest defeat handed to any statewide MJ legalization measure in recent years.

Many observers attributed the failure to the industry structure ResponsibleOhio proposed, which would have granted exclusive rights to marijuana cultivation in the state to just a handful of wealthy campaign donors, essentially creating a market oligopoly.

But Gould said this time would be different, the Enquirer reported, with no such provisions that would reward campaign donors.

The news that the group will attempt to again broaden the Buckeye State’s cannabis industry comes as Ohio’s medical marijuana program is still trying to get up and running.

Regulators recently finished issuing cultivation licenses and are sifting through nearly 400 applications for dispensary permits.

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Senator raises specter of recreational cannabis legalization delay in Canada

Canada’s recreational marijuana industry might not be up and running until the end of 2018, an opposition senator has indicated, raising the specter of a months-long delay that would have major ramifications for businesses up and down the cannabis supply chain.

“The costs of missing that deadline would be severe,” according to The Globe and Mail.

Some costs include:

Producers  ramping up production for a widely expected marijuana shortage starting next summer might instead find themselves dealing with a cannabis glut if there is a significant delay.

Governments and private retailers are signing leases for storefronts. While government monopolies in places like Ontario and Quebec will be more able to swallow sunk costs stemming from a delay, privately owned retailers in Alberta and British Columbia might have a harder time.

Canada’s unelected and unaccountable senators are tasked with studying and sometimes amending legislation already approved by the elected members of the House of Commons.

Legislation passing through the Senate typically is a formality, but the chamber took on new life when then-Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau kicked all 32 Liberal senators out of the Liberal caucus in 2014 in a bid to reduce partisanship.

Since becoming prime minister, Trudeau has appointed only nonaligned independents.

Now the Liberals don’t have enough seats to control the pace of debate.

That could change, and the marijuana legislation could easily be passed, if independent senators team up with the handful of Liberals to form an ad-hoc coalition to set and enforce timelines for debates and votes.

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First Nations in Canada want more control over legalized marijuana

 December 11, 2017


Canada’s First Nations are demanding the right to regulate the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana in their communities, and some near urban areas want to adopt more business-friendly rules to create jobs and earn revenue.

Chiefs representing some 630 reserves at the Assembly of First Nations last week were in general agreement that they, and not federal and provincial governments, should be the ones to set the rules on marijuana retail and use in their communities, the Globe and Mail reported.

Residents of First Nations are exempt from taxation, including on tobacco products. It’s expected that will be extended to recreational and medical marijuana.

However, whether First Nations will be allowed to play by their own rules when it comes to cannabis is still an open question — and it’s one the courts may ultimately have to decide.

The Assembly formed a committee on the legalization of marijuana led by Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day and Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard.

Day said some communities may not feel they are bound to abide by rules imposed by the provincial government, including on age and distribution frameworks.

Oneida Nation of the Thames, for example, is home to a marijuana dispensary, and the people who run it do not believe they need a licence, Chief Randall Phillips said.

“We will decide who gets it. We will decide how it gets distributed,” he said.

Some chiefs are calling on the government to delay legalization.

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Utah Republican starts CBD research company

December 11, 2017

A former GOP congressman from Utah has started a CBD company, where the Republican plans to conduct studies on the possible medical benefits of cannabidiol.

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon told the Standard-Examiner he created the company after his state passed a 2017 law expanding cannabis research under the direction of a physician.

“We realized a long time ago that we should be doing something with CBD,” said Cannon, who was in Congress from 1997 to 2009.

The company, Endo-C, is currently surveying about 100 people about their experiences with CBD for pain relief.

Participants buy CBD gel capsules that contain no THC, though company officials say they may study CBD oils containing up to 10% THC, the limit of Utah’s new CBD research law.

The company is looking for additional patients to survey. Survey participation costs $280 a month.

As a previous editor of the Deseret Morning News, Utah’s oldest newspaper, Cannon brings a prominent GOP name to the Utah company. And two of his ancestors represented the Territory of Utah in the U.S. House.

More changes to Utah’s cannabis laws could be coming next year.

A group of patients is circulating a petition to put medical marijuana on the 2018 ballot. The group has until mid-April to turn in roughly 113,000 signatures from registered voters.

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Senator raises specter of recreational cannabis legalization delay in Canada

 December 11, 2017

Canada’s recreational marijuana industry might not be up and running until the end of 2018, an opposition senator has indicated, raising the specter of a months-long delay that would have major ramifications for businesses up and down the cannabis supply chain.

“The costs of missing that deadline would be severe,” according to The Globe and Mail.

Some costs include:

Producers  ramping up production for a widely expected marijuana shortage starting next summer might instead find themselves dealing with a cannabis glut if there is a significant delay.

Governments and private retailers are signing leases for storefronts. While government monopolies in places like Ontario and Quebec will be more able to swallow sunk costs stemming from a delay, privately owned retailers in Alberta and British Columbia might have a harder time.

Canada’s unelected and unaccountable senators are tasked with studying and sometimes amending legislation already approved by the elected members of the House of Commons.

Legislation passing through the Senate typically is a formality, but the chamber took on new life when then-Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau kicked all 32 Liberal senators out of the Liberal caucus in 2014 in a bid to reduce partisanship.

Since becoming prime minister, Trudeau has appointed only nonaligned independents.

Now the Liberals don’t have enough seats to control the pace of debate.

That could change, and the marijuana legislation could easily be passed, if independent senators team up with the handful of Liberals to form an ad-hoc coalition to set and enforce timelines for debates and votes.

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Hydroponics firms expect ‘huge influx’ of Canadian customers

 December 11, 2017

Hydroponics companies in Canada are already gearing up for an expected “huge influx” of customers once recreational marijuana is legalized in 2018.

The potential home-grow market for adult-use cannabis is being compared to alcohol’s home brew segment, thus opening the door for entrepreneurs, The Globe and Mail reported.

Some companies, such as British Columbia-based nutrient maker and hydroponics wholesaler Green Planet Wholesale, are scaling up manufacturing and distribution capacity to meet the expected demand.

The potential home-grow market has already attracted a multimillion-dollar investment from a major licensed producer.

In October, Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis (Toronto Stock Exchange: ACB) spent 3.9 million Canadian dollars ($3 million) to acquire BC Northern Lights Enterprises, a Vancouver-based company that makes home cultivation kits.

The Globe and Mail noted that the home-grow market is unlikely to ever make a significant dent in overall cannabis demand because federal legislation proposes capping the number of plants per household at four.

Toronto-based hydroponics store Grow It All expects an initial surge in business to taper off as more retail outlets come online.

And some provinces, such as Quebec and Manitoba, are banning home cultivation of adult-use plants altogether.

However, patients in those provinces will still be allowed to grow medical marijuana for personal use.

That market has soared in recent months. From Jan. 1 to June 30, the number of Canadians registered to grow their own medical cannabis or those designated as growers for others skyrocketed 242%, to 6,800 people.

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Colorado certifies more hemp seeds, boosting approved cultivars to seven

 December 12, 2017

Colorado has approved four more hemp cultivars, bringing the nation’s top hemp-producing state to seven varieties of certified seed.

The new varieties, like the previously approved seeds, are intended for fiber and seed production.

Colorado, the only state to certify hemp seeds, does not have any certified seeds suited for indoor cannabidiol production, currently the most profitable use for the plant.

Three of the state’s four new varieties have roots in Europe, having been developed at Poland’s Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants, a state-owned research center.

The final variety was developed by New West Genetics in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Certified seed gives a hemp grower confidence that the variety will contain low enough levels of THC to pass inspection.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Agriculture say that farmers who can show they are using certified seed face “limited testing,” which is done by “field observations” instead of submitting plant cuttings for lab testing.

Colorado, by far the nation’s largest hemp producer, grew more than a third of the nationwide harvest in 2017, according to Vote Hemp, a prominent hemp advocacy group.

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San Francisco cannabis report: Consumption to spike, prices to plummet

 December 11, 2017

The amount of legal marijuana consumed in San Francisco could triple – to 30 million grams per year – after California’s recreational market launches in January, but cannabis prices will fall “dramatically,” according to a new report.

A draft tax report compiled by the City Controller’s office showed that once recreational sales begin, total regulated cannabis consumption is expected to increase to 18 million-30 million grams, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

By contrast, the city’s 45 city-permitted medical marijuana dispensaries or delivery services currently sell about 10 million grams of cannabis annually, the newspaper reported.

San Francisco’s legal adult-use program could generate $130 million-$240 million in annual sales, the report determined.

But the price of cannabis could fall from its current rate of $14 per gram to about $7-$8.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed the city’s recreational cannabis regulations into law last week, one day after the Board of Supervisors approved them.

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Uruguay ups THC limit as recreational cannabis customer base grows

 December 12, 2017


Uruguay’s government has increased its THC limit for recreational customers from 2% to 9%, meaning the country is a step closer to a full-strength adult-use program.

Five months after the launch of recreational cannabis sales, more than 16,000 Uruguayans have registered to buy marijuana, The Independent reported. Roughly 5,000 had signed up for the rec program when sales began July 19.

Here’s what you need to know:

Uruguay is the first country in the world to legalize production, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Although more Uruguayans are signing up to buy recreational cannabis, the market remains limited.

Adult-use marijuana may be distributed in Uruguay only by pharmacies, but just a handful have signed on to sell it.

Only two Uruguayan companies are licensed to grow cannabis.

Selling medical marijuana remains illegal in the South American country.

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Oregon marijuana company tries to grow brand through cycling sponsorship

December 12, 2017

As more and more marijuana companies look for ways to get their brand name out in front of the public, an Oregon cannabis business has decided one way to do that is to sponsor a local cycling team.

Oregon-based cultivator Grown Rogue is backing the Portland Olympia Beer Cycling Team, according to a news release.

The move is designed, in part, to “encourage a new perspective on cannabis” and to help associate marijuana “with healthy active lifestyles,” Grown Rogue founder and CEO Obie Strickler said.

The company also has ambitions to “expand nationally in 2018,” according to the release.

Other MJ companies have sponsored a variety of causes over the years in an effort to spread their brands, such as adopting highways or, as one cultivator did in 2015. even sponsoring the Chicago Marathon.

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Aphria cutting US marijuana exposure amid delisting review

December 12, 2017

Aphria is scrambling to shed direct involvement in American medical cannabis businesses as it undergoes a delisting review by its stock exchange operator.

The Leamington, Ontario-based company has been in the hot seat since the TMX Group – parent of the Toronto Stock Exchange and the TSX Venture Exchange – said companies with direct business ties in American marijuana companies could be delisted from its platforms.

Now Aphria – traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol APH – is moving to “purify” its balance sheet, The Canadian Press reported.

That involves shifting its direct stakes in American MMJ companies to its American affiliate, Liberty Health Sciences.

Aphria has direct investments in Arizona’s Copperstate Farms and Colorado-based MassRoots.

CEO Vic Neufeld said the company is in discussions with TMX Group, and the review will be completed before the new year.

If that doesn’t satisfy TMX Group, Neufeld said the company’s last step would be to spin off Aphria’s U.S. interests and list them on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

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Civil ‘conspiracy’ lawsuits may be next legal threat for marijuana businesses

December 12, 2017 | By John Schroyer



Another legal threat for marijuana businesses across the United States has emerged over the past few months: civil suits involving anti-racketeering laws.

One such case – a nearly 3-year-old lawsuit in Colorado – is scheduled to go to trial in Denver in July.

Two similar suits have been filed against licensed MJ companies and numerous other defendants in Oregon and Massachusetts.

All three lawsuits allege that the licensed companies are in violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The suits also name “co-conspirators” – simply put, other entities that played some role in helping the plaintiffs operate their businesses.

The litigation threat came to light last June, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued a ruling that gave legal legitimacy to some of the racketeering claims made by a Colorado couple who alleged they were being harmed by a licensed marijuana grower’s operation.

The ramifications of the ruling could be the first of many expensive legal fights for cannabis businesses.

For now, the ruling allows a civil RICO lawsuit to proceed against three licensed marijuana companies and three individuals in Colorado.

The upshot? A married couple in Colorado who own land adjacent to a licensed MJ grow stand to win damages upwards of six or seven figures because of the RICO violations.

The bigger picture: “This is an existential threat to the industry,” said Brian Barnes, an attorney with Cooper & Kirk, a Washington DC-based law firm that filed the original lawsuit against the Colorado businesses back in 2015.

His assertion is based on “the scope of the potential liability.”

“Anyone who participates in what the law defines as an illegal drug conspiracy is potentially on the hook for damages caused by the conspiracy,” Barnes said.

“We’ve basically proven that this can be done. I think it’s going to be a big problem for the marijuana industry.”

The threat

If the Colorado plaintiffs are successful, it could open the floodgates for similar lawsuits.

In fact, two more civil lawsuits invoking the RICO act were filed against marijuana businesses in Oregonand in Massachusetts after the 10th Circuit ruling.

The unique nature of RICO cases is that co-conspirators can be found financially liable for up to three times the financial damages – plus attorneys’ fees – even if they weren’t directly responsible for injuries to the plaintiffs.

That’s why two of the three suits have also named financial institutions as defendants for enabling state-licensed marijuana companies by providing them banking services. Other companies the growers have done business with also have been named.

Several marijuana industry attorneys contacted by Marijuana Business Daily said they expect more RICO cases because the lawsuits can lead to pricey out-of-court settlements or lengthy court fights.

Either is a win for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

“I’ve advised (cannabis) clients on the potential for neighbors to bring RICO litigation,” said California marijuana attorney Omar Figueroa, who has spent years working on such cases in federal court.

He called civil RICO litigation “a very serious threat” and noted that “it behooves investors and prospective operators to conduct due diligence and make sure the neighbors are friendly and aren’t going to file a RICO lawsuit.

“RICO litigation can be quite expensive … And it’s not easy to win.”

Figueroa said the big unknown when a RICO case goes to trial is the jurors, who could decide to ignore law and find for whichever side they sympathize with more.

“Many times, jurors make decisions with their hearts first, and they look for reasons to justify their emotional decisions,” he added.

The Colorado case

When Cooper & Kirk originally filed two lawsuits in Colorado in February 2015, the express aim was to quash the state’s fledgling adult-use marijuana industry.

The firm first tried to argue that states don’t have the right to bypass federal law and legalize marijuana.

While the 10th Circuit rejected that argument – affirming a district court’s finding that cannabis opponents don’t have standing to enforce federal law – it did provide an opening for the Colorado plaintiffs by ordering the case to proceed.

That, in turn, provided possible openings for others in the United States who are anti-cannabis.

While one of the original two Colorado lawsuits was settled in early 2016, the one involving the couple is now set for trial beginning July 23.

“I do expect to see more of them,” said Matt Buck, an attorney for one of the defendants in the Colorado case.

But, he added, “I don’t think they’re a serious threat to marijuana businesses, other than costing legal businesses money in defending nuisance lawsuits.”

Still, Buck estimated that RICO cases could cost MJ companies “hundreds of thousands” in legal fees.

Figueroa estimated those costs likely would start at $30,000-$50,000 and increase from there.

The linchpin of the Colorado lawsuit – and of other future RICO cases – seems to be whether Barnes will be able to prove his clients were actually harmed by the cannabis grow.

Barnes believes that will be fairly easy to do.

“The 10th Circuit said there are three ways we can prove injury, for the purposes of RICO,” Barnes said.

Those include proving:

The marijuana farm is creating a “bad smell” that “interferes with my client’s use and enjoyment of their property.”

Barnes’ clients’ property value has dropped as a result of the nearby marijuana business.

There’s a stigma that still accompanies marijuana businesses, which often extends to nearby properties and, in turn, also can affect property value.

Buck, however, scoffed at Barnes’ confidence, saying the odor argument is subjective and the property in question has “quintupled” in value, which he said is verifiable through tax assessor records.

“For them to say the value has been diminished is outrageous,” Buck said.

The Oregon case

The lawsuit in Oregon – filed six days after the 10th Circuit’s June ruling – makes similar claims to those in the Colorado case, including a drop in property values.

The case appears to be heading toward an out-of-court settlement instead of trial, according to court records.

But depending on the terms, it could prove to be a win for the plaintiffs – two property owners south of Portland – and a significant financial loss for the marijuana growers.

“It was a really broad-reaching RICO action, very much modeled after what we saw in Colorado,” said Amy Margolis, who represents one of the Oregon defendants.

The Massachusetts case

The latest RICO action, filed in September in Massachusetts, involves a small-business owner and a cannabis retailer that hasn’t yet opened.

It also uses the methodology laid out by the Colorado case and involves Barnes and his firm.

Other defendants include:

The Massachusetts Department of Health, which licensed the company.

Century Bank, which provides banking services for the primary defendant, MMJ retailer Healthy Pharms.

Whether the case goes to trial or ends up settling is up in the air since the litigation is in the early stages.

Regardless, the real impact of RICO suits could be to simply scare entrepreneurs into quitting the marijuana business, said Valerio Romano, an attorney for one of the Massachusetts defendants.

“These are nuisance claims,” he said. “The idea that someone is going to pack up shop and quit is the real fear.”

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Second Ohio medical cannabis consultant draws scrutiny

December 12, 2017

The system for awarding the precious few medical cannabis cultivation licenses in Ohio was already under the microscope after the revelation that a judge had a felony drug conviction.

And now it’s come to light that a second consultant involved in scoring MMJ grow applications has ties to one of the permit winners.

Keoki Wing, who was hired by the Ohio Department of Commerce to help score cultivation applicants, worked for Nature Med and AOW Management until 2016.

Both companies are owned by the president and CEO of Arizona-based Harvest Grows, the 12th cultivation license winner in Ohio, The Plain Dealer reported.

The state commerce department hired Meade & Wing, Wing’s consulting business, along with two other consultants to help score business permit applications. The contract was worth $150,000 to Wing, but so far his consulting company has been paid only $43,971.

Meanwhile, the commerce department said it was unaware the other consultant in question, Trevor Bozeman, had a prior felony drug conviction for marijuana possession.

Justin Hunt, COO of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, told The Plain Dealer that the agency “vetted each consultant to make sure there was no conflict of interest.”

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Jury Acquits Colorado Woman for Possessing 30 Pounds of Cannabis

Juries wield more power than judges in some cases. In recent years, they have become incredibly powerful agents against pot prohibition.

Tuesday 12/12/2017 by Randy Robinson

On Nov. 29, a Mesa County jury found Brenda Maggio, 60, not guilty of all charges related to marijuana possession over the legal limit and intent to distribute 30 pounds of weed. Her son, Javier, took a plea bargain instead of chancing it with a jury.

In recent years, juries have become incredibly powerful agents against pot prohibition. Colorado juries are known for acquitting defendants charged with weed DUIs, especially if the defendant (1) is a medical patient and (2) didn't fail the roadside tests. In other states with reformed pot laws, juries have acquitted not only medical patients, but cultivators and distributors as well.

Even the New York Times jumped into the fray in 2011, with an op-ed piece urging all American juries to find weed defendants "not guilty" regardless of whether the defendants broke laws on the books. Juries can wield this power using a little-known constitutional right called "jury nullification."

Maggio's defense attorney, David Eisner, did not request jury nullification, although he did unsuccessfully request that the judge dismiss all charges in September. Instead, he argued his client never broke the law in the first place. In Colorado, neither medical nor recreational regulations for home grows cap how much cannabis a plant can produce. Only the number of plants is limited: 6 for recreational grows, and up to 99 for medical (with a doctor's signed recommendation).

Brenda and Javier were charged in 2013, after neighbors called in a report about a "suicidal woman," notes The Daily Sentinel. Once the cops arrived, they smelled weed, and declared the skunky aroma probable cause to search the home. (Ironically, had the cops shown up after the summer of 2017, the Maggios may have been entirely in the clear. In July, a Colorado appeals court declared that the smell of weed is no longer probable cause.) The subsequent search led to confiscating over 30 pounds of product. Maggio refutes the claim that the police showed up at her home due to calls regarding a "suicidal woman." She says the cops came to follow up on a "wellness check" after a dispute over a phone call concerning an IRS hold.

Thirty pounds of weed is a lot of weed. To put this in perspective, 30 pounds is about 480 ounces. If you split that 480-ounce bag into eighths, you'd have just over 3,800 eighth-baggies. In Colorado, medical patients can legally possess up to 12 ounces at a time. Recreational customers can only possess up to a single ounce.

But when it comes to weights and weed busts, the numbers aren't that clear cut. Twelve ounces of what, exactly? A dozen ounces of cannabis flower is one thing, but what about a concentrate, which can pack over three times as much THC into the same weight? How are medicated patches factored into this weight limit? Edibles?

The legal ambiguities regarding weights became the fulcrum for Eisner's case. As he argued in court, there are no weight limits in Colorado, so long as the cannabis comes from a "legal grow." That's because a grow will generate a lot of refuse and discarded parts. Although the remnants may contain trace amounts of THC, they're not exactly usable.

"If a patient has processed a portion of a plant to have two ounces of usable form of marijuana but still has two untouched mature plants, along with the remainder of the third mature plant, what should the patient do?" Eisner wrote to District Judge Gretchen Larson, according to The Daily Sentinel. "There is no guidance in the statutes or the amendment of how the remainder is to be used."

During a phone interview with MERRY JANE, Brenda explained that she grew such a high volume of cannabis because she requires ultra-potent ethanol-extracted oil — otherwise known as Phoenix Tears — to relieve debilitating pain, swelling, and inflammation on her spine caused by a devastating car accident several years ago. Brenda, a former Navy nurse who worked at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is fearful of using conventional pharmaceuticals to treat her injuries, as she believes they would exacerbate liver damage caused by another medical condition she’s grappling with – acute intermittent porphyria. Without cannabis oil, she has issues simply sitting still. With weed, she can walk around, tend to her garden, and otherwise live a functional, fulfilling life.

"I can't grow anything small," she says. "That's what's kept me alive. It's a miracle I'm here."

Fortunately for Maggio, the jury understood many of the nuances regarding medical marijuana and home grows. That's not always the case, and many Americans, if not most, see jury duty as a burden. It's time-consuming, and it doesn't usually pay until after day three. The pay is pretty pitiful, too. Yet anyone called to jury duty could be the deciding factor as to whether an otherwise respectful, law-abiding citizen is guilty of breaking cannabis-related law.

"If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote 'not guilty' — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult," writes Paul Butler in the New York Times piece. "As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer."

To drive the point home, Butler mentions the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a rabid right-winger who was no friend of pot, but believed every juror "'can ignore the law' if the law 'is producing a terrible result.'"

Despite Brenda's full acquittal, her life was upturned by the court battle. Her son is currently on probation as part of his plea deal. She claims the loss of medicine and the court costs took their toll on her, and without another miracle, she will remain financially insolvent.

"This is why people don't fight it," says Brenda, "because they fuck you. There's hell to pay."

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Third Canadian pharmacy strikes pact to be a medical marijuana supplier

 December 12, 2017

Another Canadian pharmacy company has jumped into the medical marijuana business by locking up a supply agreement with a licensed producer, bringing to three the number of chain operators angling to enter the MMJ industry.

Toronto-based Maricann Group has signed an exclusive deal with Lovell Drugs, Ontario’s oldest pharmacy chain. Financial terms were not disclosed.

And unlike the two previous deals between pharmacies and medical cannabis growers, this one doesn’t need approval from Health Canada before MMJ can be supplied to patients.

That’s because Maricann will fulfill prescriptions via registered mail directly to Lovell’s patients under the existing Access to Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes Regulations.

By contrast, CanniMed Therapeutics earlier this month signed an agreement with PharmaChoice to supply medical cannabis products to its 750 pharmacy locations across Canada.

And Shoppers Drug Mart struck a deal with Aphria to well MMJ online.

Lovell Drugs fulfilled its first prescription Dec. 1.

Part of the agreement involves Lovell implementing a medical cannabis education and access program for its pharmacists and “allied” community physicians.

The agreement lasts four years, with an option to extend another three years if the parties mutually agree.

Lovell will receive a percentage of Maricann’s revenue.

Maricann Group is traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol MARI.

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Small Farmers' Success in California’s Legal Cannabis Market Will Depend Upon Educated Consumers

MERRY JANE asked marijuana cultivators at the Emerald Cup how they plan to stay competitive once the Golden State's legal market launches.

Wednesday 12/13/2017 by Madison Margolin

In Santa Rosa, Ca. this past weekend, dozens of Northern California marijuana cultivators gathered at the Emerald Cup to show off their outdoor-grown crop alongside a cornucopia of cannabis-derived products. The farmers' enthusiasm and the diversity of their selection spoke volumes about just how far the cannabis industry has come whilst operating in legal grey area for more than two decades since California legalized medical marijuana through Prop 215 in 1996.  

However, in the wake of the Northern California wildfires and just weeks before the official launch of the state's newly regulated adult-use and medical cannabis market, it was hard not to wonder — with the maelstrom of politics, economics, and even nature working against them, how many of these cultivators will actually succeed in the legal market?

So MERRY JANE hit the festival grounds and asked them (along with a few experts) about their survival plans for legalization.

According to E.D. Lerman, an attorney with Emerald Forest Consulting, proper marketing is a vital tool in helping cultivators distinguish themselves and stay competitive in the marketplace. "For the grower going into the industry in the future, there's going to be a big transition period for them. That's going to take them branding and developing their intellectual property so that there's a demand for their product," says Lerman. As bigger businesses start coming in, a consumer's loyalty to or familiarity with a particular brand will be crucial for smaller cultivators in maintaining their market share.

A brand should reflect story of the farmer and their product, says Enrico Moses, CEO of High Standards Agency, which has helped NorCal clients appeal to the SoCal market (i.e. the world capital of the cannabis industry). "It's meditating on who you want to be in the marketplace and what customer is going to appreciate that message," he says. "Be authentic, don't be faking [and] trying to appeal to someone you think you should be appealing to. The great thing about Northern California cannabis, when you compare it to wine, is to look at how California wine is loved all around the world. I don't think people in Napa Valley have to appeal to people in L.A. to sell their wine."

Part of that authenticity is focusing on the factors that distinguish mom-and-pop cultivators from their corporatized competition. Their story — and hence their branding — often revolves around being small-batch, organic, and sun-grown by farmers who pay individual attention to all their crops. The Mendocino Appellations Project, for instance, esteems regions of Northern California where cannabis farmers have a specific agricultural heritage and sophisticated knowledge of the land.

"For us, branding and distinguishing our appellation has been something we're working on to be recognized and have a spot right now as time goes on," says Olivia Caccavo, co-owner of Farms of Trinity Forests. "We come from a really old, tiny weed region [Trinity County, Ca.]. There weren't any farms coming into this legal program before us, and we just wanted to make [the appellation] an opportunity for people to come out of the hills and [sell legally], but it's been a struggle for people to feel comfortable doing that."

Ultimately, the success of these small farmers comes down to the consumer caring about where their cannabis comes from, and how it's cultivated (according to standards including “organic,” “sustainable,” “outdoor,” “small-batch”). "It's marketing, and these big grows are able to fake that, [which] they are," says Caccavo. "You can't believe everything that they write on the jar. But that's all the consumer can see, and where it has to pass through a distributor, there's no direct sales. That means whatever someone is saying about [their] cannabis [product] is based on you believing them."

And that's why two key regulations in California put small farmers at risk: the removal of the one-acre cap threatens small farms by inviting big cultivators to enter the market immediately, and the ban on allowing cultivators to sell directly to consumers obscures consumers' ability to understand how their weed is grown, where it comes from, and why those are important questions to ask. But in Caccavo's eyes, the future is still bleak: "Looking forward to 2023, the small farmer doesn't have a shot," she says. In the meantime, she says, her farm will also try to diversify their product selection.

"Do you want to be boxed wine, or something like you saw in Bordeaux? These are the things that differentiate you in really competitive markets," says Leo Stone, founder of Aficionado. "So look at the wine market. You have a market that's dominated by big agrotech companies, but you also have really small one-acre to 10 or 20 acre plots, which produce some of the best quality in the world. You can only scale quality so high." And that applies to cannabis, as well.

The small farmer's competitive edge relies not only on the strength of the brand, but the diversity and sophistication of the product selection. Rare boutique products and strains can only be cultivated with the kind of attention small-scale farmers are able to provide.

So while it may be easier to "fake" quality with vapes or edibles, flower will likely always have a connoisseur's market — meaning the survival of small, artisan cannabis cultivators depends on an educated consumer base that appreciates and values the nuances which distinguish Walmart weed from boutique bud. This is what marijuana farmers in the Emerald Triangle are betting on, through branding, as they make the heady transition to a legal cannabis market.

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MassRoots board resigns; Dietrich reinstated as CEO

 December 13, 2017 | By John Schroyer

In the latest development in the MassRoots saga, three members of the board of directors have resigned, and former CEO Isaac Dietrich has been reinstated under the terms of a deal struck between the four of them.

“I am back at MassRoots,” an elated Dietrich told Marijuana Business Daily on Wednesday.

Dietrich had previously threatened to move forward with a proxy vote to oust the board, which fired him in October and installed Scott Kveton as CEO of the cannabis-focused social media network.

“The three outgoing board members and I reached a deal, and they resigned from the board,” said Dietrich, who also is a board member of the Denver-based company.

“My slate of directors was appointed, Scott Kveton resigned today, and I was reappointed CEO. So it achieved everything the proxy aimed to achieve, but it was done much more rapidly and at a much lower cost.”

Ean Seeb, one of the three departed board members, confirmed in an interview with MJBizDaily that he, Vincent “Tripp” Keber and Terry Fitch resigned from the board Wednesday.

“Quite frankly, Isaac had a phenomenal plan and a way to move forward, and it seemed to be the best path in the evolution of MassRoots to make the company a success,” said Seeb, a co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting.

Keber is CEO and co-founder of Dixie Brands; Fitch is CEO and founder of Drink Teck.

The resignations and Dietrich’s return as CEO were first reported by Leafly.

The new MassRoots board members – who were handpicked by Dietrich – are:

Charles Blum, a former QS Energy CEO, a Texas-based energy technology company

Nathan Shelton, also a former QS Energy executive

Cecil Kyte, CEO of Rightscorp, a Los Angeles-based copyright-enforcement company

QS Energy and Rightscorp are publicly traded on the over-the-counter market.

Kveton confirmed Wednesday that he had voluntarily resigned as CEO, though he offered no reasons for his decision.

“That’s accurate. I did resign,” Kveton told MJBizDaily before declining further comment on the situation.

In an interview with MJBizDaily, Dietrich said that an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission would detail the agreement between him and the board.

The 8-K was uploaded to the SEC website Thursday morning, along with several other records related to the deal.

According to the 8-K and the separation agreement, the three former board members received an undisclosed amount of cash and shares of MassRoots stock.

The three also signed a mutual release and nondisparagement agreement.

Dietrich’s salary will be $145,000, plus benefits.

The records released Thursday also show that Kveton received $45,000 in severance and compensation and that over 1.5 million shares of stock issued to him were “accelerated and vest immediately upon his resignation.”

Kveton’s resignation and the reinstallment of Dietrich as CEO is a dramatic turn of events.

MassRoots filed suit against Dietrich last month, alleging that he stole more than $250,000 from the company and had been using illegal drugs at the firm’s Denver office.

Dietrich told MJBizDaily on Wednesday that the suit will be withdrawn now that he’s back in charge of the company.

He also said there’s no merit to rumors of a possible criminal investigation into the malfeasance alleged in the lawsuit.

“I have not been contacted by any authorities. There is no investigation,” Dietrich said. “That was completely made up to try to take control of the company away from myself and the shareholders.”

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Aphria inks deal to secure CA$100 million for M&As, expansion

 December 13, 2017

One of Canada’s largest medical marijuana producers announced a stock-purchase deal to raise 100 million Canadian dollars ($77.7 million) in capital, which it intends to apply to the construction of new production facilities globally and in Canada.

To date in fiscal 2017, Aphria has raised CA$237 million, CFO Carl Merton told Marijuana Business Daily. This does not include the most recent deal, as it will close in 2018.

Leamington, Ontario-based Aphria also said in a news release it has given the underwriters involved in the transaction the option to purchase an additional CA$15 million worth of company stock, which would bring the total to $CA115 million.

Flush with money, Aphria said it is evaluating strategic acquisitions and investments.

The company – traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol APH – has been stockpiling cash this year to fund rapid expansion ahead of adult-use legalization in Canada.

The company’s other recent raises include:

Up to CA$92 million in October for the development of infrastructure and the expansion of its geographic footprint in Canada.

Up to CA$111 million in April to expand Aphria’s production capacity.

Up to CA$57 million in February, 80% of which was allocated to facility expansion and the rest toward strategic investments.

The underwriters in the latest deal agreed to purchase on a bought-deal basis 7.27 million Aphria shares for CA$13.75 apiece, giving the transaction a value of CA$100 million.

The offering is expected to close Jan. 9.

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San Diego DA, marijuana businessman agree to settlement in criminal case

December 13, 2017

James Slatic and his San Diego cannabis distribution company have apparently come out on top in a nearly two-year fight with the district attorney’s office.

The DA has agreed in a settlement to return nearly $300,000 to Slatic that was seized in January 2016 when law enforcement agents raided Med-West Distribution, Slatic’s San Diego cannabis company, the Voice of San Diego reported.

That sum is in addition to the $100,000 that the DA returned to Slatic and his family earlier this year.

The return of the $300,000 comes after Slatic agreed last month to plead guilty to a pair of misdemeanors after having been charged with multiple felonies in May.

Slatic received a year of probation and a fine and, under the recent settlement, also agreed to forfeit $35,000, the Voice reported.

But Slatic’s attorney, Jessica McElfresh, isn’t yet done with the DA, according to the Voice.

McElfresh was also charged with multiple felonies earlier this year by the DA’s office in connection with the Med-West investigation, and that case is pending.

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Hemp State Highlight: New York has a $5 million plan to become hemp processing hub

 December 12, 2017 | By Kristen Nichols

New York typically goes big.

And when it comes to hemp, the Empire State is writing the nation’s fattest check yet to promote its new crop.

After a late start authorizing hemp production and a program that is relatively small compared to bigger agricultural producers, New York hopped to the front of the nation’s hemp line in July, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo invited hemp entrepreneurs to compete for $5 million in development grants.

New York’s investment to promote hemp cultivation and processing represented a national first.

Most states have industrial hemp programs.

But the programs are largely funded through farmers paying fees to state departments of agriculture, with the growers getting little in return by way of promoting the plant or finding buyers or processors for the crop.

Experts predict New York’s investment will pay off.

“New York didn’t want to go slow, and the governor was hoping to establish New York as a leader,” said Jennifer Gilbert Jenkins, an agriculture professor at Morrisville State College, which has been experimenting with hemp since 2016.

“Our ag land is never going to be the size of Iowa or the Dakotas. But hemp can be a really important commercial crop for the state.”

Here’s what you need to know about New York’s hemp market.

Industry snapshot 

New York authorized hemp growing in 2015, a year after Congress permitted states to do so. New York’s hemp law allowed for up to 10 educational institutions, farms or businesses to grow and research hemp.

The state has been expanding its hemp program ever since.

In early 2017, New York removed the 10-grower limit and opened the door to an unlimited number of cultivators. The state has also created an advisory panel to come up with ideas on hemp’s business applications.

The big change came in September, when Cuomo announced the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Research Pilot Program, offering 10 grants up to $500,000 each for capital projects such as buying processing equipment.

“We are opening the doors to innovative ideas that could provide a major boost to our farms and communities, creating new jobs and laying the foundation for future economic growth,” Cuomo said in a statement at the time.

As of this year, New York has:

21 licensed hemp growers

7 licensed hemp seed and/or flower processors

2,000 outdoor acres licensed for cultivation

Those numbers are poised to spike dramatically in 2018.

New York received 100 applications to grow hemp next year and has a dozen pending applications for additional processors, said Jola Szubielski, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

New York has no rules for how hemp can be used. Growers report that hemp is being grown for:

CBD extraction

Seed or seed oil

Greens

Fiber

New York is the only state with officially recorded hemp production devoted to consumption of the plant’s leaves.

JD Farms, a 1,500-acre organic farm about 40 miles east of Syracuse, sells baby hemp greens to chefs and restaurants, with the leaves eaten whole on salads. The farm had 120 acres in hemp in 2017, with most of it going for seed production but some for baby greens.

“It’s got a nutty, buttery flavor, not very coarse,” farm owner Dan Dolgin says. “People love it.”

Market considerations

There is no official tracking of hemp commodity prices by any standard exchange.

New York hemp growers interviewed by Marijuana Business Daily report the market is fetching:

$100 or more per pound of dried flowers or buds for use in CBD extraction, with prices varying widely based on CBD content.

50 cents-$2.25 per pound for seeds to be eaten as food products or pressed for seed oil.

No reliable price for fiber, because fiber processors don’t exist.

Industrial and medical future

The hemp market in New York and other states is currently strongest for seeds for use in food products. But Jenkins is betting that may change.

“Grain is the low-hanging fruit right now,” she said. “We go through food fads. A couple years ago, flax seed was the end-all, and now everything has to have hemp in it.

“I think hemp food will always be there. But the potential for hemp to add strength to manufacturing components could have more potential.”

Other researchers in New York want to know if hemp’s strongest market potential lies in medicine. Lawrence Smart, a horticulture professor at Cornell University, said hemp’s medical trials are underwayat several state institutions.

“We’d like to able to understand more about how cannabinoids interact with pain reception,” Smart said.

New York’s heavy research investment, and existing manufacturing capacity, could see the state make big gains over competitors that may appear to offer more room and a better climate for hemp.

“Cuomo wants to jump ahead and grow more hemp than Colorado,” currently the nation’s top hemp producer, said Thomas James, vice president of 22nd Century Group, a biotech firm working with hemp in western New York. “This could be a great thing.”

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New Mexico medical marijuana businesses see big spike in patient pool

 December 13, 2017


New Mexico saw a 77% increase in registered medical marijuana patients in the past year, giving the state’s dispensaries a significantly larger pool from which to attract customers.

New Mexico’s registered patients totaled 45,347 as of Nov. 30, a net gain of 19,650 over the previous year, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Here’s what you need to know:

This is New Mexico’s largest increase in patients over a one-year period since the program launched in 2007.

The program is on pace to hit the 50,000-patient mark by the end of the year.

MMJ numbers increased even though the health department disenrolled thousands of patients, citing “legacy data” that needed to be removed from the state database.

The state’s medical cannabis board voted in April to expand its conditions list beyond the 20 acceptable ailments, but the plan failed to come to fruition.

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Marijuana entrepreneurs already lining up for New Jersey’s looming recreational market

 December 13, 2017 | By Omar Sacirbey

New Jersey can’t even begin the recreational cannabis legalization process until mid-January, but marijuana entrepreneurs across the country are descending on the Garden State in hopes of getting a first-mover’s advantage in what could become one of the most buoyant markets on the East Coast.

Indeed, many marijuana businesses already have a presence in New Jersey, including California-based Terra Tech and Weedmaps, and more are expected.

“The Green Rush is very much on,” said Joshua Bauchner, an attorney at Ansell, Grimm & Aaron, a law firm in Woodland Park, New Jersey.

He noted that his dedicated cannabis practice has taken a flood of calls from marijuana entrepreneurs expecting New Jersey to become the nation’s next recreational marijuana state.

“Since the election,” he added, “I’ve been doing this nonstop.”

Legislative head start

All signs point to Governor-elect Phil Murphy and the New Jersey legislature hitting the ground running after Murphy’s Jan. 16 inauguration.

Murphy has promised to sign a recreational marijuana bill within his first 100 days in office, and lawmakers already are familiar with an adult-use draft bill that State Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced last May.

At the time, Scutari said he wanted a bill ready in case New Jersey’s outgoing prohibitionist governor, Chris Christie, was succeeded by a pro-legalization chief.

If New Jersey lawmakers were to pass an adult-use cannabis law, they would make history as the first legislature to do so. The nation’s five operating recreational states were passed through referendum.

The draft bill is “a really good starting point,” said Dara Servis, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association.

Scutari simply needs to reintroduce the bill after lawmakers return to session Jan. 8.

Although Scutari’s bill is far from final, it’s far along. Key points include:

Governing entities and time frame: Establishment of a Division of Marijuana Enforcement under the state attorney general’s office and requires that regulations be promulgated and applications be released within one year after the governor signs the bill.

Licensing and vertical integration: Five classes of licenses are mandated – cultivation/manufacturing, processing, wholesaling, delivering and retailing. Vertical integration is banned, but companies can own up to three types of business licenses.

Medical operator grandfather preference: New Jersey’s existing medical marijuana operators are allowed to pursue recreational licenses.

Taxes: There will be a 7% tax rate during the program’s first year, with annual increases of 10%, 15%, 20%. The rate then would top out at 25%.

Products: All types of cannabis products are allowed, including flower, concentrates and infused products like edibles and capsules.

Residency: Any company stakeholder must be a state resident for at least two years to qualify for licensing.

While Servis’ association is mostly happy with what’s in the bill, she said there are some points she’d like to see changed or clarified, including a less-stringent residency requirement and having separate recreational and medical programs instead of folding them into one.

Already there

While Murphy’s election sparked a wave of interest in New Jersey as a recreational business destination, some marijuana companies have already set up shop.

Terra Tech – a marijuana company with multiple cultivation, processing and retail licenses in California and Nevada – built a five-acre greenhouse facility in Belvidere in 2013.

But the facility doesn’t produce cannabis.

Rather, Terra Tech’s grow is a federally legal business, Edible Gardens, that cultivates herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme and sage. The products are sold in major groceries like King Kullen, Kroger, Market Basket and Stop & Shop.

“We did it as a hedge to our West Coast cannabis businesses,” said Terra Tech COO Mike James.

But now that legalization appears imminent in New Jersey, Terra Tech is prepared to enter the adult-use marijuana market.

“We definitely want to move forward and apply for the permits,” James said, noting that Terra Tech is eyeing growing, retailing and other parts of the cannabis supply chain.

Weedmaps, the online marijuana retail guide, handles its medical marijuana clients in New Jersey from offices in New York.

But the company is actively involved in trying to shape New Jersey’s adult-use regulatory process.

“We’re working closely and serving as a resource to the incoming Murphy Administration, the state legislature and key stakeholders,” Weedmaps spokesman Carl Fillichio wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“We are all working to advance a first-in-class cannabis policy framework that will stand up as a safe, responsible and successful industry in New Jersey.”

Weedmaps hopes to sell its software solutions to rec businesses that eventually establish themselves in New Jersey, Fillichio added.

Two Colorado-based marijuana companies also have plans to do business in New Jersey: AmeriCann, a real estate company that leases grow sites in multiple states, and The Green Solution, a multifaceted cannabis firm.

Knowing that out-of-state companies could need instate partners is good news to one Jersey-based entrepreneur.

“There’s a benefit to having a partner that is a resident of the state,” said Julie Winter, COO of CBD for Life.

Her CBD manufacturing company in Monmouth County sells to about 40 stores in the state and intends to vie for a recreational license.

Sales by 2018?

With New Jersey’s lawmakers so far along on an adult-use bill and the political will backing legalization, most observers believe the governor will sign rec cannabis into law by June 30 – when the fiscal year ends – at the latest.

So, could sales actually begin in 2018?

“It’s certainly possible,” said Michael Bronstein, a cannabis legalization lobbyist in New Jersey. “But no state has passed a recreational law through the legislature before, so it’ll take a lot of work.”

Servis is more confident.

“If the bill is introduced quickly, which I believe it will be,” she said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the first rec sales happen in 2018 – although it’s mostly going to come from existing medical operators who have been grandfathered in.

“We have a really good shot at it.”

Bauchner believes too much work remains.

“I’d be shocked,” he said.

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World Health Organization gives CBD initial boost, plans to look at cannabis overall

December 13, 2017

Cannabis got a big boost from international health authorities Wednesday when the UN’s World Health Organization said that CBD should not be scheduled as a controlled substance, an initial finding that comes about a month after the agency reviewed cannabidiol therapies.

The WHO also said that it wants to take a closer look at cannabis overall. And it scheduled a May review of “cannabis and cannabis related substances.”

Recommendations from the WHO, an agency of the United Nations, don’t carry the force of law. But they are important guideposts for health authorities worldwide, and the agency’s evaluation of new drug therapies carry big consequences for drug makers and patients.

The WHO’s initial decision on CBD said that the drug “is not likely to be abused or create dependence” and has “some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.”

The WHO postponed a final decision on CBD until the “Special Session on Cannabis” by its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in May.

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National

Last Thursday, federal medical marijuana protections got a two-week reprieve. The passage of a stopgap spending bill means the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment ban on spending federal funds to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal remains in force for at least another two weeks. That's good as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in a statement: "While we are pleased that these critical protections will continue, two weeks is not enough certainty for the millions of Americans who rely on medical marijuana for treatment and the businesses who serve them," Blumenauer said. "As Congress works out a long-term funding bill, it must also include these protections. And ultimately, Congress must act to put an end to the cycle of uncertainty and permanently protect state medical marijuana programs -- and adult use -- from federal interference."

Hawaii

Last Wednesday,the Honolulu police chief admitted the department erred in trying to take guns from patients. Chief Susan Ballard acknowledged to the Honolulu Police Commission that the department's abortive move to make medical marijuana patients turn in their firearms "was incorrect." She said the department will return two guns to people who turned them in voluntarily, but she also said the department will continue to deny new gun permits to cardholders.

Nevada

Last Thursday, the state's highest court okayed the state's medical marijuana registry. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state's medical marijuana registry does not violate constitutional provisions of due process, equal protection, and the right against self-incrimination. "We conclude Nevada's medical marijuana registry does not impinge upon a fundamental right," said the opinion written by Justice Ron Parraguirre. "We further conclude the registry is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public."


Los Angeles City Council Approves Legal Marijuana Rules, Sales Set for January 1. The city council agreed Wednesday to a package of regulations for legal marijuana commerce, clearing the way for legal sales to begin on January 1. The approved rules include a "social equity" program aimed at prioritizing communities that have historically been affected by the war on drugs. Under that program, cannabusiness operators that meet "social equity" criteria would be moved to the head of the line for license applications.

San Francisco Mayor Approves Legal Marijuana Rules, Sales Set for January 6. Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday signed into law legislation setting rules for legal marijuana commerce in the city. But because the city has been slow in reaching agreement on the pot rules, it won't quite be ready on January 1. Instead, city officials are looking at January 6 as the legal sales date.

Delaware Police Look at Gun Ban for Marijuana Users. Law enforcement officials Wednesday told a task force studying legalization that marijuana users should be forced to have an endorsement on their drivers' licenses indicating they use marijuana to help ensure that they cannot own guns. "It would make sure that we are doing everything we can to ensure that prohibited people are not buying firearms in Delaware," he explained after the meeting.

Indiana Prosecutors Formally Oppose Marijuana Legalization. The Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. formally opposed the legalization of marijuana in any form for any reason at a news conference in Indianapolis Wednesday. Also on hand were the Boone County Sheriff's Department, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

Nevada High Court OKs State's Medical-Marijuana Registry. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that the state's medical marijuana registry does not violate constitutional provisions of due process, equal protection, and the right against self-incrimination. "We conclude Nevada's medical marijuana registry does not impinge upon a fundamental right," said the opinion written by Justice Ron Parraguirre. "We further conclude the registry is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public."

Foreign Policy

US, Colombia Vow to Battle Record Surge in Coca Production. At a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Colombian counterpart, chief prosecutor Nestor Martinez, vowed to redouble efforts to suppress coca planting and the cocaine trade. "We're gonna make progress," Sessions vowed. Colombia is seeing coca cultivation grow dramatically in the wake of a peace treaty between the government and leftist rebels of the FARC.

Marijuana Policy

California Secretary of State Launches Online Portal for Cannabusinesses. Secretary of State Alex Padilla has launched on online portal aimed at helping would-be ganjapreneurs get in on the state's emerging $7 billion legal marijuana industry. Padilla's office won't start accepting registrations until January 1, but the portal, cannabizfile.sos.ca.gov, is up and online now.

Ohio Backers of Failed 2015 Legalization Initiative Will Try Again in 2018. One of the cofounders of ResponsibleOhio, whose 2015 legalization initiative fell short at the polls, is set to propose on Monday a "free market" marijuana legalization initiative. Jim Gould and Ian James, the two cofounders of ResponsibleOhio, unsuccessfully applied for one of the state's two dozen medical marijuana cultivation licenses. Their 2015 initiative would have limited commercial cultivation to 10 preselected sites owned by the campaign's funders.

Marijuana Policy

Hartford, CT, City Council Calls for Legalizing and Taxing Marijuana. The city council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a resolution calling for the legalization and taxation of marijuana. The resolution also calls on the city to conduct an economic impact study and hold public hearings on the issue, as well as measures to "ensure racial equity in ownership and employment."

Drug Testing

Wisconsin Democratic Governor Candidate Rakes Walker on Food Stamp Drug Testing. Democratic gubernatorial contender Matt Flynn slammed Gov. Scott Walker's (R) plan to impose drug screening and testing on food stamp recipients Tuesday: "I condemn this in the strongest terms. First, it is hypocritical. Walker and his Republican allies claim to be against intrusive big government, but there has never been a more intrusive, big-government administration in our state's history," he said. "Second, this is foolishly wasteful of our state's limited resources. By the administration's own admission, fewer than one-third of one percent of all food stamp recipients will likely be identified as drug users. Numerous states have passed similar 'reforms' and have actually found that recipients of these programs test positive at a lower rate than the general population. These 'reforms' always cost more money than they save. Third, and most importantly, this policy is offensive in the extreme. It demeans people experiencing poverty. It is unconscionable."

Law Enforcement

Kansas Couple Whose Home Was Raided in Bungled Marijuana Search Loses Lawsuit. The couple, a pair of former CIA employees who were growing tomato plants hydroponically, were raided by Johnson County sheriff's deputies searching for marijuana. Deputies zeroed in on the couple after spotting them at a hydroponics store, then searched their trash and mistook discarded tea leaves for marijuana leaves. The couple sued, alleging deputies violated their Fourth Amendment rights, but a federal jury disagreed. The couple says they will appeal.

International

Colombia Says It Met Coca Eradication Deadline, Hints at Shift to Crop Substitution. Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the country had eradicated some 125,000 of coca planting ahead of a deadline agreed to with the US. He said the target for forced eradication next year would decline to 100,000 acres. This year's forced eradication program was five times larger than last years' and led to clashes between troops, eradicators, and growers that left at least ten coca farmers dead.

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HOW BIGOTED PENNSYLVANIA DRUG WARRIORS TURNED THIS NEW YORK MAN'S LIFE INTO A LIVING HELL

https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2017/dec/05/pennsylvania_false_drug_imprisonment

In June, 2014, Wilfredo Ramos was driving back to his Brooklyn home after visiting his mother in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when two Pennsylvania State Police troopers detoured him into a Kafkaesque nightmare from which he emerged only five months later.

In the meantime, Ramos rotted in jail on bogus charges, losing his job, his car, and his apartment. Now, in a small gesture of redress, the State Police have agreed to pay Ramos $150,000 for his travails in a taxpayer-funded settlement, but the cops still admit no fault or liability.

According to the lawsuit that ended in the settlement, Ramos' nightmare began when he was pulled over by Troopers Justin Summa and Kevin Vanfleet on June 6, 2014. Neither trooper said why they stopped Ramos, and the suit alleged they were engaged in racial profiling because Ramos is Hispanic and was driving a car with New York plates.

Summa claimed he smelled alcohol, and Ramos replied that he had not been drinking. Summa then challenged Ramos, citing his ethnicity and place of residence. "We know you have drugs," Summa told him, "just tell us where they are." Ramos denied possessing any drugs.

Summa then administered a Breathalyzer test, which came back negative for alcohol, and ordered Ramos to perform field sobriety tests, which he completed without any problem. The encounter should have ended at that point, with Ramos being thanked for his cooperation and sent on his way, since there was no evidence he had committed any crime.

But that's not what happened. Instead, although Ramos had cleared all the tests and although they lacked probable cause, Troopers Summa and Vanfleet arrested Ramos for driving under the influence, giving them a pretext to search his vehicle in their quest to make a drug bust. Their search turned up nothing.

The troopers then took Ramos to state police headquarters where they administered yet another Breathalyzer test, which they described as "inconclusive." The next stop was the Lehigh County DUI center, where Ramos consented to have his blood drawn to be tested.

According to the lawsuit, typical practice in Lehigh County is that people arrested under suspicion of drunk driving who have no prior drunk driving arrests and where there was no accident or injuries are released pending blood test results. That didn't happen with Ramos. Instead, he was held under $10,000 cash bail -- an amount he could not raise.

As Ramos rotted in jail, his blood sample was tested twice by the Lehigh Valley Health Network Laboratory, which found on June 18, 2014, that it contained no drugs or alcohol. Trooper Summa then ordered a third test of the sample, this time for a broader spectrum of substances, but again the results were negative.

On the same day the test results came in, Summa testified in a preliminary hearing on Ramos' case that the results were not yet in. He did not tell the court about the negative test results. Ramos remained in jail for 158 days until he was found not guilty in Lehigh County Court after blood tests showed no illegal substances or alcohol in his system.

While Ramos was jailed, he was fired from his job and lost his home. He lost his car, too: The tow truck operator notified Ramos by mail about a deadline to retrieve his vehicle, but because Ramos was in jail, no one was at his residence to receive the letter.

Ramos' lawsuit charged that Troopers Summa and Vanfleet conspired to falsely arrest him despite finding no evidence that he was impaired or had drugs in his car. The lawsuit also named five state police supervisors, from the troop commander to former state police Commissioner Francis Noonan, as liable for racially motivated misconduct, unlawful seizure, violations of due process of law, denial of equal rights, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, and other Civil Rights Act violations.

While the State Police admitted no fault or liability, their willingness to settle the case speaks for itself.

Attorney Joshua Karoly, who represented Ramos in the lawsuit, was magnanimous after the settlement was announced. "It was a mistake that this happened, and this resolution is going to go a long way toward getting his life back on track to where it was before this happened," Karoly told the Lancaster Morning Call. "It makes mistakes like that much less likely when they're brought to the public's attention."

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Massachusetts advances recreational cannabis diversity plan

December 14, 2017

Massachusetts regulators have approved a draft proposal that would give priority review in the recreational marijuana licensing process to business applicants from economically disadvantaged communities.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission will vote next week to finalize those and a slew of other regulations the group has been working on in recent weeks.

Adult-use license applicants must meet two of the following requirements to be eligible for priority review, according to the State House News Service:

A majority of the entity’s ownership belongs to people who have lived in economically disadvantaged areas for five of the past 10 years.

At least 51% of current employees or subcontractors live in economically disadvantaged areas, and that number will increase to 75% by the beginning of business.

At least 51% of employees have a prior drug-related conviction.

A majority of owners can demonstrate significant, past experience of economic empowerment.

Qualified applicants will enter the review process ahead of others, potentially allowing them to open before competitors.

Regulators haven’t yet defined what the thresholds for economically disadvantaged will be.

Los Angeles’ marijuana regulations include a similar program that requires the city to license applicants that were adversely affected by the war on drugs.

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Hawaii taking another look at hemp in 2018

December 14, 2017

Hawaii may expend its limited hemp program dramatically in 2018, when state lawmakers join policy makers in other states and consider allowing farmers to sell the plant.

Hawaii already allows hemp production thanks to a 2016 law allowing limited research plots and seed development.

But the state’s hemp farmers aren’t permitted to sell what they grow, and a proposal before lawmakers would change that.

If passed, the bill would allow commercial sales of flower, stalks and seeds and, thus, would make Hawaii’s hemp program permanent instead of temporary.

The state’s hemp expansion was proposed in early 2017 but didn’t pass, and the bill is still alive for lawmakers in 2018, according to The Tenth Amendment Center, a California-based advocacy group that promotes states’ rights.

Hawaii – which began medical marijuana sales late last summer – joins several other states that allow hemp but are expected to debate expanding their programs next year.

Legislatures in Colorado, Indiana and Virginia are all poised to debate expanded hemp programs to allow for more commercial production or end uses for hemp.

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Ohio medical marijuana license applicant sues state over ‘racial quota’

 December 14, 2017

A multistate medical marijuana company that lost out in the race for one of a dozen large-scale MMJ cultivation licenses in Ohio is suing the state over what it claims is an unfair “racial quota.”

According to The Plain Dealer, PharmaCann Ohio is asking a state court to order that the 12 available large cultivation licenses be awarded to the top-scoring applicants.

The Illinois-based company also is asking the court to put aside a requirement that minority-owned businesses be included in the program.

PharmaCann argues that the “racial quota” included in Ohio’s MMJ law violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause by giving preference to companies owned by minorities instead of basing winners on the state scoring process.

PharmaCann’s application ranked 12th among the applications scored, while two of the license winners – Parma Wellness Center and Harvest Grows – ranked 14th and 23rd, respectively.

But the latter two companies received licenses at the expense of PharmaCann because they satisfied state requirements, The Plain Dealer reported.

The law stipulates that 15% of licenses must be awarded to companies that are majority owned or operated by “economically disadvantaged” groups such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics or Asians.

Another losing applicant has also said it plans to sue the state, according to the newspaper.

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Global cannabis industry raises whopping $2.7 billion in 2017

December 14, 2017




Medical marijuana companies around the world have raised $2.7 billion so far this year to capitalize on explosive growth in the industry, an almost 300% increase from the same time last year.

More than half that total, $1.6 billion, was raised in Canada via 189 transactions, the Financial Post reported.

The data was compiled by New York-based Viridian Capital Advisors through November.

The Viridian Cannabis Deal Tracker also found that M&A fever is gripping the Canadian marijuana space: This year’s 78 M&As in Canada alone nearly match last year’s 85 deals worldwide.

In Canada, most of the capital raises have been done through private placements, but a growing number of businesses are starting to tap debt markets in a big way.

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Regenerative Reefer: How Cannabis Farming Can Reduce Carbon Emissions and Save Water

The Emerald Cup's Regenerative Cannabis Farm Award is promoting better cultivation practices all around.

Thursday 12/14/2017 by Madison Margolin

At the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa, Ca. this past weekend, judges granted a few lucky applicants from its pool of outdoor NorCal cannabis cultivators a new prize established just a year ago: the Regenerative Cannabis Farm Award. The existence of the accolade in and of itself represents a leap into the future of cannabis cultivation; going above and beyond vague, catch-all terms like "organic" and "sustainable” increasingly being used by canna-companies to market their products.

According to the judges, regenerative farming is defined as cultivation that "has a healing effect on the environment through developing closed loop systems that go beyond sustainability in that they improve and remediate." The award was designed to be a "catalyst of positive competition," inspiring and motivating cannabis growers to incorporate regeneration into their cultivation technique.

Jesse Dodd, a.k.a. Biovortex — and creator of the Cup’s new award — explains the matrixhe and other judges used to grade applicants: "We're honoring farms for their practices instead of their products," he says. Not simply a grading system, this rubric of standards also serve as best practices which any farmer can adopt to improve their environment as well as their crop.

"We're looking at a new paradigm in a new way of farming," explains Nick Mahmood, owner and founder of Green Source Gardens in southern Oregon. A cultivation site should remediate the environment, leaving it in better shape than it was farmed, with a secondary goal of producing food, medicine, or other commodity crops. "A garden's bigger purpose is to act as a water filter and a carbon bank," he says.

One hallmark of regenerative farming is how a cultivator chooses to apply water, and where they source it from. Water should be stored within the cultivation site's immediate landscape, instead of being allowed to run off, Mahmood says. One of best practices, according to the Emerald Cup judging matrix, is to use rainwater catchment and harvesting systems to provide for all irrigation needs, including supplying groundwater to directly to plant roots to enable "dry farming" — rather than solely depending on local or municipal water sources.

"We're looking at incorporating production systems that take drainage and store it in landscapes, so creeks store [more water] and don't flood as hard when it rains," says Mahmood. "One of the [common] problems is pollution and the runoff from [irrigation] systems." When plants fail to absorb nutrients (or chemicals), either because the farmer overdoes it or feeds their plants the wrong stuff, those excess materials pollute the watershed, ultimately making their way to the ocean and contributing to acidification, he explains.

"People shouldn't poison the ground in which they want to grow things," says Mahmood. "If you're concentrating nutrients in one spot, that affects the ecology of the place. The forest should act as a biological filter to clean water as it moves down to the ocean."

As for the cultivation site itself, Emerald Cup judges looked at various criteria regarding soil, nutrition, planting style, pest management, and other markers. They say soil should be protected with mulch — otherwise known as compost or decaying organic material — and the seeds should be planted in the ground, as opposed to, say, in pots.

"We want to see people building soil and sequestering carbon," Dodd says. Supporting healthy soil and carbon sequestration means on-site composting, mulching, not using any kind of nitrate fertilizer, and growing a cover crop — such as buckwheat, clover with fava, bell bean, vetch, peas, or oats — to protect and enrich the soil during the off season. According to the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania-based research nonprofit focused on organic farming, regenerative techniques like the use of cover crops and compost can "sequester more carbon than is currently emitted, tipping the needle past 100 percent to reverse climate change."

"On-site resource acquisition" is another tenet of regenerative farming, adds Dodd, such as using leftover cannabis for compost; integrating animals and vermiculture; and establishing "living soil" that supports a synergistic network of useful bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, slugs, and worms to healthfully provide for plant life.

"We want a perennial polyculture to be part of integrated pest management," Dodd explains. "Creating a biodiversity, bringing in pollinators — the more diversity you have, the more things are kept in balance, the less you need to have other kinds of pest control [like pesticides]."

The idea is to create a system that doesn't require the farmer buy outside ingredients from a gardening store. "We don't go to a grow store to get our nutrients," says Mahmood. "Our grow store becomes the forest and our barn. Our fertility is a result of our animals and the environment of the farm."

Another principle of regenerative farming is abstaining from the use artificial light to extend crop days or get a jump on the seasons, as many cannabis farmers do to manipulate plant yield or other properties. The more that a farmer takes nature’s lead, following the natural cycles of daylight and climate, the smaller their carbon footprint will be.

Of course, the success of regenerative systems becoming more commonplace depends on an educated consumer. "We want to design [cannabis] businesses around biological remediation and restoration of the landscape," says Mahmood. "The consumer should look up the farm — not just asking do they grow the biggest and dankest flowers, but are they trying to make positive change? Steer money in the direction of better practices instead of mindless consumption that does more pollution and damage than anything."

Unfortunately, regenerative practices aren't as popular yet among cannabis farmers, not to mention those of other crops, as they could be. Those who do practice regenerative cultivation serve as a model that can work for anybody, says Karla Avila, owner and operator of Flower Daze Farm in Trinity County, and one of the winners of this year's Regenerative Cannabis Farm Award. "With cannabis, one of the things that's happening as heritage farmers are able to come out of the shadows because of legalization [is that] we can share information and be part of a larger farming community," she says. "Because so many people have been doing this in their own neck of the woods and hiding out, we haven't historically been able to easily share these practices and knowledge outside our immediate communities."

Regenerative farming isn't a new innovation, but it's not standard practice, Avila says. However she thinks the state's new regulations will promote better practices, forcing farmers to change their cultivation techniques. "The regulation on our water use and our runoff of nutrients into the watershed, I think, is really propelling a lot of people think more carefully about what inputs they're using and other farming practices like mulching," says Avila. Another aspect is lab testing, she adds. "Obviously pesticides will become a thing of the past, but unfortunately with the testing, you can still get by with conventional organic [practices] and use [agricultural] inputs that are not sustainably or ethically sourced."

Even if environmental sustainability isn't a farmer's primary concern, these regenerative techniques could improve their cannabis crop overall. As soil quality gets better, plant fertility, yield, and even flavors created by terpene profiles all improve, says Avila. "The whole spectrum of quality goes up in every way." Weed that’s better for you as well as the environment — what’s not to like?

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Global cannabis industry raises whopping $2.7 billion in 2017

December 14, 2017

Medical marijuana companies around the world have raised $2.7 billion so far this year to capitalize on explosive growth in the industry, an almost 300% increase from the same time last year.

More than half that total, $1.6 billion, was raised in Canada via 189 transactions, the Financial Post reported.

The data was compiled by New York-based Viridian Capital Advisors through November.

The Viridian Cannabis Deal Tracker also found that M&A fever is gripping the Canadian marijuana space: This year’s 78 M&As in Canada alone nearly match last year’s 85 deals worldwide.

In Canada, most of the capital raises have been done through private placements, but a growing number of businesses are starting to tap debt markets in a big way.

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Marijuana retail chain operator Sweet Leaf forced to shut down in Denver area

December 14, 2017 | By Bart Schaneman

Sweet Leaf, one of Colorado’s largest marijuana retail chain operators, had all of its Denver-area stores shuttered Thursday as part of police raids that resulted in 12 arrests.

Twenty-six of the vertically integrated company’s licenses have been suspended, according to Dan Rowland, spokesman for the Denver Department of Excise and Licensing.

The Denver Police Department and other agencies executed search and arrest warrants on eight marijuana retail stores across the metro area.

The operation is the result of an extensive, year-long criminal investigation into illegal distribution of marijuana at those locations, according to a news release.

The alleged criminal actions are related to the sale of marijuana in excess of allowable amounts established by Amendment 64.

The Colorado statute allows for the personal use of marijuana, specifically the possession, use, display, purchase and transport of 1 ounce or less of marijuana.

Officers arrested 12 suspects who are currently being held for Investigation of Illegal Distribution of Marijuana.

The suspects’ names, booking photos and arrest documents weren’t immediately available because the operation and booking process are still underway.

Sweet Leaf said it was “surprised” by the raids.

In a statement to Westword, a Denver alternative weekly, the company said:

“It is unclear at this point exactly what actions, if any, Sweet Leaf took to cause the city to issue this order. Sweet Leaf is cooperating with the authorities to resolve this issue and hopes to have all of their stores back in operation as soon as possible.”

Sweet Leaf’s website lists 10 recreational and medical marijuana retail stores in Denver.  Sweet Leaf also has a retail outlet in Portland, Oregon.

In addition, the Denver-based company operates cultivation facilities.

Rowland said Ashley Kilroy, the licensing director for the department, signed the order of summary suspension.

The official order states that Kilroy reviewed an investigation by Denver police and found:

“Reasonable grounds and probable cause exists to believe that Respondents have engaged in deliberate and willful violations of state and local laws or regulations, and/or that the public health, safety, and welfare requires emergency action.”

The company, which boasted over 350 employees in April, had revenue of $60 million in 2016.

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Push continues in Las Vegas for public marijuana consumption

December 14, 2017




Las Vegas is inching toward public cannabis consumption lounges, which would be a boon to marijuana businesses selling to tourists with no legal space to smoke.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Councilman Bob Coffin has proposed an ordinance that would allow the city to permit marijuana consumption lounges.

Here’s what you need to know:

Bryan Scott, the assistant Las Vegas city attorney, said lounges could be granted approval as soon as March.

The lounges could sell paraphernalia but not marijuana.

State law bans marijuana deliveries to anywhere other than a home, so consumers would have to take their own cannabis to a lounge.

In September, the state’s Legislative Counsel Bureau released an opinion that state law does not prevent local municipalities from allowing such lounges.

Nevada officials are holding off on public consumption until they see how a social-use initiative plays out in Denver, where regulators just received their first social-use applicant.

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Four arrested in Nebraska CBD case

 December 15, 2017




A vaping shop in Nebraska has been shut down and the owners and two employees charged with crimes for selling cannabidiol, which Nebraska considers a controlled substance.

The arrests in Herman, about 35 miles north of Omaha, come two months after Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson declared CBD products illegal because they haven’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Dec. 5 bust at DJ’s Vapes came after Washington County authorities got community reports that the shop was selling CBD along with tobacco products, according to the Washington County Pilot-Tribune & Enterprise.

The co-owners, a manager and an employee were arrested and face charges including conspiracy and possessing a controlled substance.

Authorities hinted at more arrests if CBD sales continue in Nebraska.

“To those people who continue to possess or purchase these items, they are on notice that we will enforce the laws of the state of Nebraska and prosecute those individuals to the fullest extent of the law,” county prosecutor Scott Vander Schaaf told the newspaper.

Retailers across Nebraska have reported taking CBD off their shelves because of the attorney general’s decision. But the Herman arrests are thought to be the first Nebraska cases of criminal charges for selling CBD.

A North Dakota tobacco-shop owner faces similar charges in that state.

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California hands out first 20 temporary state cannabis business licenses

December 15, 2017




California has issued the first of what will likely be many temporary business permits, in advance of the Jan. 1 launch of the state’s regulated cannabis industry.

The 20 licenses granted Thursday include temporary permits for nine different companies, and all but one applied for multiple license types.

For instance, eight of the permits went to Santa Cruz-based KindPeoples and include distribution, retail, microbusiness licenses for both recreational and medical cannabis.

Department chief Lori Ajax said in a news release her agency plans “to issue many more before Jan. 1.”

The licenses can be viewed on the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s website.

Temporary permits will be good for 120 days while applicants undergo permanent licensing.

So far, the agency has received more than 200 applications for temporary permits, while over 1,900 users have registered with the online licensing system.

After Jan. 1, it will be illegal for any company to operate in the cannabis industry without at least a temporary permit, if not a full-fledged permanent state.

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Denver marijuana tech firm Baker raises $8 million

 December 15, 2017




Baker, a marketing automation software company serving marijuana dispensaries, has secured $8 million in Series A funding, bringing its total capital raises to $11.75 million.

Denver-based Baker will use the money to fuel growth in California and Washington state, according to a company news release.

The company – which some dub the Salesforce of cannabis – plans to open an office next year in Los Angeles.

The latest funding round was led by Poseidon Asset Management, a cannabis-focused venture capital firm, and included two more venture capital firms, the Panther Opportunity Fund and Phyto Partners, as well as investors who previously invested in Baker.

Baker recently acquired Seattle-based Grassworks, a customer-relationship management software platform targeting the marijuana industry.

According to the news release, the company’s software is in more than 700 dispensaries in 16 states, while its staff grew from 18 to more than 50 full-time employees.

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CBD’s global nod, Ohio MMJ developments & Denver social use

December 15, 2017 |





An international health organization determines that CBD shouldn’t be a scheduled drug, Denver see its first applicant for a public consumption club, and Ohio’s medical marijuana licensing process comes under fire.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Big CBD endorsement

CBD got its most important affirmation yet when the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) announced that cannabidiol shouldn’t be a scheduled drugbecause it has such a low risk of abuse.

Even more important, the health agency says it plans to review all forms of cannabis in May.

“If we are looking for the first step toward the end of global prohibition on cannabis, this is it,” said Michael Brubeck, founder of Centuria Natural Foods, a Nevada-based company that processes CBD and grows hemp in Canada and the European Union.

The WHO’s decision carries no rule of law, but the health agency is enormously influential.

It regularly reviews new drugs and suggests how its 60-plus member nations should regulate them. Member nations include the United States, whose Food and Drug Administration submitted CBD comments this fall.

Could the WHO’s recommendations on CBD – and maybe marijuana next year – influence American drug law?

Absolutely, says Brubeck, whose company is among those suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for declaring CBD a controlled substance.

“By having a global organization tied to the UN claiming that a cannabis derivative not only has zero potential for abuse but also poses no health risks, this statement defuses the rationale behind keeping cannabis a Schedule 1 substance in the U.S.,” Brubeck said.

Social-use pioneers

If the owners of The Coffee Joint are successful in their bid to land a public consumption permit in Denver, they could pave the way for the industry as a whole.

“Right now it’s up to places like The Coffee Joint to be the guinea pigs and work out the kinks,” said Jeffrey Zucker, president of Green Lion Partners, a Denver-based cannabis consultancy. 

The city’s requirements for social-use applicants have been characterized as restrictive enough to dissuade businesses from applying.

It remains to be seen whether the license will be worth the hassle for The Coffee Joint’s proprietors, who also own an adjacent recreational and medical marijuana dispensary.

“In theory,” Zucker said, “I like the idea a lot of a dispensary being able to send customers somewhere to consume if they don’t otherwise have a safe place.”

There are good opportunities with this permit, such as opening opportunities for cross-promotion and increasing awareness of a marijuana brand.

For example, a cannabis customer could buy a pre-roll or vape pen at a retail outlet and consume it at the coffee shop – and get a discount on a beverage or pastry.

It also works the other way: Cannabis brands can market themselves at the coffee shop to attract a casual consumer into a dispensary or retail shop.

Other states are waiting to see how this plays out.

Cannabis businesses in Las Vegas, with its more than 40 million tourists a year, would like to give marijuana customers a place to consume, since it’s illegal to do so  in casinos or hotels.

And they’re watching Denver to see if such a program can work.

Ohio hiccups

Controversy over Ohio’s medical cannabis cultivation licensing process appears to be threatening the slated autumn rollout of Ohio’s new MMJ market.

At least one lawsuit has been filed by a losing applicant, and more are likely on the way.

“It’s highly possible” that more suits against the state regarding the licensing process are on the way, said Brian Wright, executive director of the Ohio Cannabis Association.

“It wasn’t just a case of one or two applicants that said, ‘No fair,’” Wright added. “From what I’m hearing, this has been much more extensive than that.”

Litigation could have any number of possible results, but one of the most likely is a delay in the launch of Ohio’s MMJ industry.

And a delay is even more of a possibility since the recent news of conflicts involving two consultants hired by the state to help score cultivation applications.

“Delays are certainly the greatest concern,” Wright said. “It’s disappointing to see that the process has been handled in a way that seems to be inviting all of these challenges.

“From what I see unfolding, I don’t see this being resolved any time soon.”

However, Wright said he’s still “optimistic” the industry can be up and running by next fall as required by state law.

He noted that several licensees are “moving forward and already breaking ground. And that’s a positive step.”

Also this week, a new push for recreational MJ legalization in Ohio in 2018 was unveiled.

Wright said the backers – who were also behind the ill-fated 2015 ResponsibleOhio campaign – may have a much better chance for success this time around.

“I think it’s a very different effort from 2015. From an industry perspective, full personal use is important. Everyone knows what that means,” Wright said, alluding to immensely increased sales numbers and far more business opportunities.

____________________________

Realism sets in again after Democrats savor a rare win in Alabama

By Richard Fausset NEW YORK TIMES  DECEMBER 16, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Destiny Clark, a transgender woman and Alabama native, couldn’t bear the thought of going to Doug Jones’s election night party and being there when he lost.

So instead, she watched the unimaginable unfold Tuesday night at home, in front of the TV. “It was amazing,” she said, recalling the moment when Jones pulled ahead of Roy S. Moore in the Senate race, and stayed there.

“Like, I jumped for joy, and my dogs looked at me like I was crazy. Tears of joy were running down my face.”

But by week’s end, the ecstatic moment had faded to a more tempered, pragmatic view of the future of progressives, Democrats, and others usually left on the sidelines in one of the nation’s most conservative states.

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“It can happen,” Clark, 33, the president of the rights group Central Alabama Pride, said of a Democratic resurgence. “It’s just going to take a lot of work.”

Moore opposes abortion rights, speaks of “sodomy” as a plague on the national character, and has declared “the transgenders don’t have rights.” He is also an unabashed Islamophobe who has said America was great during slavery’s days.

So, for liberals in Alabama this past week, the improbable victory of Jones, who favors abortion rights and gender equality, unleashed an explosion of joy that echoed the civil rights victories of the state’s past.

But it was leavened with an understanding that the win might have done little, for now, to change the beneath-the-underdog status of Democrats in a Deep South state still under near total Republican control.

“I don’t think we’re out dancing in the streets saying this is a totally new day,” said Jim Folsom Jr., who was Alabama governor from 1993 to 1995, when Democrats were near the end of their historic dominance of Alabama politics. “We’re all realistic enough to know that party identification leans heavily Republican and probably will for the foreseeable future.”

Still, he said, Democrats have to start somewhere. “A lot of those more urban, moderate-leaning to liberal-leaning Republicans who voted Democratic,” he said, “now they’ve discovered they can do it, and the world didn’t come to an end.”

It is a bittersweet place that Alabama liberals find themselves in as they watch the way Jones’s victory has given their compatriots around the country a sense of momentum.

They are well aware that Jones’s victory, by 1.5 percentage points, could be explained in part by the conservatives who stayed home because they were put off by Moore’s extremism, and by the allegations of improper relations with teenage girls that turned Moore from a deeply flawed candidate to a toxic one.

And they know the ad hoc coalition that supported Jones might be difficult to reproduce whenthe next opponent is less polarizing.

Catherine Ross of Mobile, who works in a retail store, was among those Republicans who voted for Jones because she thought Moore reinforced the state’s reputation for intolerance. She found it embarrassing.

“I’d watch the ‘Today’ show every morning and hear them talk about us,” said Ross, 46. “It’s like I wanted to yell, ‘We’re not like this!’ I don’t want people to come here and think they’d be offended. I want businesses to feel like they can come here.”

But acknowledging those realities has not fully squelched the optimism that has surged among many of Jones’s supporters, many of them far from Alabama stereotypes.

Zeenat Islam, 21, a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, moved to Alabama from Pennsylvania in 2010. A Muslim of Pakistani heritage, Islam has experienced moments of discrimination here. But she mostly spoke about a place that was casually multicultural and surprisingly tolerant, even loving. That, she said, was the Alabama that won Tuesday night.

“It shows that the change is happening, the change I really want to see,” she said. “Before I moved here, I was so concerned that I was going to move to this really racist state: ‘Mom, what am I going to do?’ But I feel like this place has opened so many different doors. Southern hospitality, that’s really real. I love — love — it.”

Bryant K. Oden, 37, said he viewed Jones’s victory as part of a larger narrative of healing and progress that he wanted to be a part of when he moved back to Alabama in 2010.

Oden, a radio producer and on-air personality, returned to his native state, one of the nation’s poorest, from the West Coast in 2010, inspired by then-president Barack Obama’s mantra, “We are the change we seek.” Oden has been volunteering in an after-school program to help teach students to write computer code.

Oden said the politics of the state, like his volunteer work, would not create overnight change. But Jones’s win had given him hope. “When you’re dealing with the bureaucracy of government, it never moves fast,” he said. “It’s about educating people about the process and continuing to have the long game in mind.”

No one knows how long it might be, given the scope of Republican dominance here. Gallup ranks Alabama among the most conservative states in the nation. Republicans control all of Alabama’s other statewide offices and have occupied the governor’s mansion since 2003.

______________________________

Jada & ‘the boys’

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · NOVEMBER 29, 2017 ·

Two hours before John Kennedy was murdered at 12:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday November 22 1963, something happened in Dallas which renders the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone nut gunman as silly as arguments that the Earth is flat and astronauts never landed on the moon.

At 10:30 that morning Jada Conforto, the burlesque queen headlining Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club, was hurtling across Dallas in her bronze Cadillac convertible, in such a panic to leave town that she struck a pedestrian at an intersection less than a mile from Love Field, where JFK’s plane had earlier touched down.

The injured pedestrian later testified that Jada said she’d been in a hurry to leave.

Jack Ruby’s top stripper caused an accident while desperately  trying to get out of town.  It never even made the papers.

More on this in a moment.

Because this is just the first of two significant incidents involving Jada. Emphasizing how close she was to the plot to kill JFK,  she was involved in a second  incident whose import changes the story of the Kennedy assassination.

A young friend of Jada’s, 17-year old Beverly Oliver, worked at the club next door. The young naive Beverly spoke to authorities right after the assassination, telling  them that several weeks before JFK’s murder, in the Carousel Club Ruby had introduced her, and also Jada,  to Lee Harvey Oswald. 

Beverly Oliver’s testimony today jibes perfectly with another  bombshell  in the JFK files: the document divulging Jack Ruby’s invitation to an FBI informant, just hours before JFK’s assassination,  to come “watch the fireworks” with him. 

But back after the JFK assassination, Beverly Oliver’s eyewitness testimony, forced to stand alone, was dismissed. She became a target of ridicule. 




Stovepiping the JFK assassination

Before disappearing from Dallas Jada told two journalist friends the same thing Beverly Oliver told investigators.  Jack Ruby knew Lee Harvey Oswald.  Well-respected Texas journalists Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright, both wrote about it later. But Kennedy assassination researchers somehow never found out. Beverly’s eyewitness testimony was still being ridiculed. That’s where I entered the picture. 

I cover the drug trade. I knew that Jack Ruby trafficked heroin; that Jada was a drug and money courier for the Mob; and that cocaine kingpin Barry Seal knew Lee Harvey Oswald too.  That’s a pretty tight circle. Jada. Ruby. Oswald. And Barry Seal.




Seal and Oswald first met at a summer camp of the Louisiana Civil Air patrol in the summer of 1955.  Kennedy assassination researchers all knew about the famous picture from that camp which shows Oswald and David Ferrie. Few, if any, of them know that Barry Seal was there too.

And that’s how I first heard of Jack Ruby’s stripper Jada Conforto, and her connection to the Kennedy assassination. In the world of burlesque in the 60’s, I learned, there was Tempest, Candy Barr, Blaze Starr… and Jada.  As a result, Jada spent a lifetime being connected with ‘the boys.’

The release of the JFK files re-ignited my efforts to find out more about Jada. The result was the discovery that Texas good’ ol boy journalists Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright had written, talked about, and given interviews repeating what she’d told them about Ruby and Oswald.

Because this is not a story, ultimately, about the JFK assassination, which happened more than 50 years ago. It’s a story about the drug trade, a business which provided business opportunities to Jack Ruby, Jada Conforto, and Barry Seal, to name just a few.

This is a story about now.

It’s a small world

According to one of the newly-released JFK files, Jada knew the same people Jack Ruby did. She was a drug and money courier for major figures like Murray ‘The Hump’ Humphreys, a top Mobster in what became known as The Outfit in Chicago. and as the Jada file reveals, Ruby himself appeared deeply involved in the heroin trade.

Barry Seal, who at one time during the 1980’s had been America’s most famous drug smuggler, knew many of the same people Jada and Jack Ruby did.

While writing ‘barry & ‘the boys’ I got a tip that Seal had set up a corporate shell company in Louisiana to launder what might easily have been hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money.  Seal’s shell company was called Trinity Energy, the informant said.

Later I discovered a woman in New Orleans named Lena Wamstad who owned a corporation called Trinity Energy. Whether this was the same company Seal had incorporated turned out to be a more difficult question than one might think.

However, Lena’s corporate shell Trinity Energy company wasn’t in the oil business. It was a steak house chain.

One evening over drinks she told me about her family’s connections to Carlos Marcello’s New Orleans Mob, one of which was through an aunt who had once been a stripper for Jack Ruby in Dallas who Lena called her “Aunt Jada.”

That’s how I first heard of Jada.

“Joseph Conforto was my godfather,” she explained.  “We called him ‘Uncle Junior. He and his wife Jenny raised Jada’s son. Jada was always on the road.”

Jada’s husband, Joseph Conforto, she told me, at one time owned half the nightclubs on Bourbon Street.

The story of these two women from New Orleans reveals that traditional American upward mobility exists even in organized crime.

While her Aunt Jada was a stripper, Lena became an officer in a hundred million dollar corporation.

Jada & ‘the boys’

When Jack Ruby’s top stripper caused an accident while desperately trying to get out of town, it didn’t make the papers. But something significant did happen… Charles Batchelor became the next Chief of Police in Dallas. So his lack of curiosity about an urgent matter connected to the killing of an American President helped him achieve his ambition.  

Asst. Chief of Police Charlie Batchelor wrote the police report about what happened, which seems an odd assignment for a big city top cop in a minor accident. In any even, Batchelor’s reacted was studied indifference. He wrote:

“The woman driving the car gave the impression of being in show business.”

“It is unknown if this has any significance in the Oswald case.”

Jada had been working for the man who had just killed suspected JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. But to Asst Chief Charles Batchelor, this did not appear to be a particularly salient fact.

Batchelor figures in another newly-released JFK document that reeks of a conspiracy to kill Oswald in which he was a participant.

The Dallas Police, the document reveals, requested that one of Ruby’s strippers pick up his dogs and deliver them to a pet shelter after Ruby was taken into custody for killing Lee Harvey Oswald. The stripper, whose name remains redacted more than 50 years later, demurred. 

The reason she gave was that one of Ruby’s dogs, a German Shepherd, had been “used for sex purposes.” It  was later learned that the ASPCA had several years earlier investigated Ruby for sexually molesting one of his dogs.

 The unidentified stripper isn’t done with the Dallas police yet. On the day police moved Oswald, she says, Asst. Dallas Police Chief M.W. Stevenson cleared the basement of reporters and photographers. Batchelor countermanded the order. She says, if weren’t for Charlie Batchelor, Lee Harvey Oswald would still be alive.




Snitches gonna snitch

The newly-released Jada document in the jfk files discloses another well-known character in assassination literature, gordon novel, with whom Jada was acquainted. While he kept an eye on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation, Novel was also snitching to the FBI about Jada.

“Garrison plans to indict Carlos Marcello for the JFK assassination,” Novel reported. “He believes Marcello is tied-up with Jack Ruby.”

Wrote Novel’s handler, “Novel stated he is not certain what evidence D.A. Garrison has on the Marcello-Ruby tie-up, but believes it is connected with Bourbon street night clubs and a Bourbon Street stripper named Jada.”

Jada in Minneapolis

In Bud Shrake’s novel ‘Strange Peaches,’ where Jada is called ‘Jingo,’ she complains about working conditions in Jack Ruby’s club.

“It’s a rat hole! A goddam rat hole. When I dance I kick up dust from the stage and it makes me sneeze. It’s not a fit place for a star. I got two more months on this contract then I’m going to a club in Minneapolis for a month. And then San Francisco if those bitches out there dancing topless don’t put me out of business.”

Jada made it to Minneapolis, and  took a stripping gig there shortly after the assassination. We know this because the FBI continued to keep tabs on her.

While in Minneapolis Jada was busted for narcotics,  suggesting either bad luck, heavy drug use, the presence of someone seeking leverage to ensure her continued silence, or all three. An informant on November 16, 1965 revealed she’d been recently busted.




When the FBI tossed Jada’s hotel room, it fleshed out what they knew about her.

She moved in pretty rarefied company.  Her friends included  ernest friedrich haas (1921–1986). Ernst Haas was a pioneer of color photography, as well as one of the most celebrated and influential photographers of the 20th century.  When a retrospective of his work was held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it was the first color photography exhibition there ever.

Perhaps he took pictures of Jada while she was in New York, where she spent time regularly.

None have surfaced.

And she also consorted with one of the most powerful underworld figures in the country, a top Mobster in The Outfit in Chicago.

Man with a dark side

While not as famous as Al Capone or Sam Giancana, murray “the hump” humphreys was every bit their equal in his outsized influence in the Mob in Chicago.

Born in Wales, Murray Humphreys moved to Chicago while still young, and became a top hoodlum in Al Capone’s criminal underworld. At one time the FBI named him Public Enemy Number One. Gus Russo, author of “Super Mob,” a definitive chronicle of the Mob in Chicago, which is called The Outfit, credits Murray Humphreys with laying out and executing the Outfit’s business plan in the wake of Prohibition. Humphreys was friends with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and led the Outfit’s penetration of Hollywood’s film Industry, using unions he controlled to muscle studio chiefs at will, writes Russo.

Joe Kennedy turned to the gangster to ensure his son won the 1960 presidential election in Illinois.

One night in June, 1960, Russo reports, Tony Accardo, Murray Humphreys, and others sat down and “after a sumptuous lasagna dinner, decide[d] who would become the next president of the United States.”

Hump’s Hideaway

Murray Humphreys was a man with a dark side.

His mansion in Norman Oklahoma, hidden from the highway by overgrown trees and bushes, boasted a lookout tower, a secret room to hide out in when cops came calling, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a large blue marble crypt.

“He took silver dollars and cemented them to the bottom of the pool,” said a long-time friend in Norman, who talked with  reporters after he died. “He would sit and watch people dive over and over again trying to pick up the money from the bottom.”

The current owner of Humphrey’s mansion, while walking the property, recently found bones that looked too large to be from animals. “They looked big enough to be leg bones,” he told one reporter.

There have been persistent reports claim Murray “the Hump” Humphrey knew of the plot to kill JFK, telling his wife beforehand the Mob was “going to get even with Kennedy.”

‘Not a fit place for a star’




Bud Shrake’s novel and articles in TEXAS MONTHLY by Gary Cartwright as well as in books all exhibit the increasingly-rare quality of verisimilitude.

The two Texas journalists put canards to bed that have peppered the arguments of government-sponsored shills for the past 50 years.

Unfortunately, their important testimony concerning the Kennedy assassination is only becoming known now, fifty years too late to do any good.

The same thing is happening today in the drug trade, arguably the largest industry in the world. The extent to which elite  interests in the U.S. control this vital business may not be known for another fifty years.

And the beat goes on.

 





















Pot News 11-25-17

( Please understand that Hopsicker has PTSD from all the shit he has taken these past 30 years of investigating this crap. He is disappo -inted in the movie cause it misses so much of the history that Hopsicker has dug up. See his website at: madcowprod.com for the rest of the story in “Barry and the Boys”. )

A True Story about Barry Seal & the CIA

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · SEPTEMBER 11, 2017




Speaking of the new movie “American Made” about Barry Seal and the CIA and drug trafficking… and we WERE, weren’t we?

I mean, with all the MONEY rolling in– day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade– why would anyone ever talk about anything ELSE?

“The past isn’t over. It isn’t even past.”




Barry Seal died in 1986, long before the Sinaloa Cartel became the Sinaloa Cartel.

And yet, a reference to the Sinaloa Cartel just TODAY is as relevant to Barry Seal, and the organization he worked for, as if he HADN’T been assassinated 16 years ago on orders from George Herbert Walker Bush in a professional hit during which they were directed– all three cartel hit men convicted of Seal’s murder told their attorneys– by an anonymous U.S. military officer who they very quickly figured out was Oliver North….

Because Colombians aren’t dumb.

But they aren’t in charge, either. That’s the job of the American Drug Lords. And if you didn’t know there wereany,  you’ll probably like Tom Cruise’s new movie  ‘American Made’ just fine…

 

___________________________

‘AMERICAN MADE’ LIES, SEX, & VIDEOTAPE

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · SEPTEMBER 17, 2017 ·




It’s hard to credit anything about a movie whose ruthless Medellin Cartel Drug Lords wear powder-blue leisure suits.

Still, when a “based on a true story” movie spreads egregious falsehoods about a man who will someday be of vital interest to future historians,  attention must be paid.

Because of that, the “Sex and videotape” promised in today’s headline will have to wait anther day, just until we can get through the lies.

 In-flight turbulence in the Zeitgeist 

Reports DAILY VARIETY, “Tom Cruise (as Barry Seal) is a devil-may-care playboy in TWA uniform… bored of his domestic flight path, keeping himself amused with the odd bit of cigar smuggling and faked in-flight turbulence, when he’s approached in 1978 by the CIA.”

Everything about this statement is wrong.  The big questions is: why?

Were filmmakers Tom Cruise, director Doug Liman, and screenwriter Nicholas Spanelli just being stupid or careless? Or were they acting in pursuit of a hidden—and possibly more insidious—motive?

Start here: Today Barry Seal is famous for being a CIA pilot. Full stop.

Do current Agency honchos find that fact uncomfortable?  Probably only if they were still controlling drug trafficking into the U.S., right ?

When the movie finishes tanking—its already more than halfway there, placing 4th in Australia, just behind the comedy ‘Girl Trip,’ which is probably not an indication of sizzling box office—maybe one of them will talk.

But  a number of earlier “escapades” of Barry Seal’s would have called him to the attention of the CIA long before he got desperate enough to  fly Cuban cigars into the U.S.

Here’s a (brief) look at two.

Centurions of ‘The American Century’  

Ten American men were out on the town in a night club in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa that night—January 22, 1963—wearing black suits, black skinny ties, drinking, smoking, and generally slouching around at ringside. At some point, probably later in the evening, the nightclub’s photographer wandered over to their table.





When I first showed this photo to someone who should have been there, but wasn’t, his response was sharp and immediate.  “There weren’t—there aren’t supposed to be any pictures.”

Yet there they are, ten men, wearing loopy grins and raising their glasses at the camera like they’re posing for a picture at a Senior Prom. Maybe its almost closing time. Most of the other tables are empty. It looks like the kind of night which began much earlier in a restaurant whose name no one now remembers.

The shutter snaps. The flash-gun goes off. The moment—even as it happened—probably means nothing to anyone there. But today it is the only-known photograph of the CIA’s super-secret assassination squad known as Operation 40.

There’s Barry Seal, plain as day, you can’t miss him, sitting third from left. And right beside him, second from the left, that’s Porter Goss, future head of the Central Intelligence Agency under George W. Bush.

And front left, leaning on the stage, that’s Felix Rodriguez, famous for a dozen reasons, like killing Che Guevara in the mountains of Bolivia in 1967, or helping out his friend, then Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, twenty years later doing ‘God-knows-what’ at Illopango Air Base in El Salvador.

Does it look like Barry Seal will have to resort to cigar smuggling to catch the eye of the CIA?

Barry Seal & The Mexican Connection

FAST FORWARD to July 1, 1972.

It’s a Saturday.  It’s just ten days after the arrest of burglars in Washington’s Watergate Complex.

The musical “hair” is closing on broadway, and Sammy Davis Jr’s single “Candy Man” and “Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond are fighting it out for No.1 on the charts.

The TV series Bewitched is airing it’s final episode. And, as if by magic, also on that day, because of the brewing Watergate scandal,  Attorney General John N. Mitchell will resign as chairman of President Nixon’s re-election committee.

It’s still six years before the ‘based on a true story’ movie “AMERICAN MADE” says Barry Seal first caught the eye of the CIA… for smuggling cigars.

And then this happens: Pilot Barry Seal is arrested in Shreveport and indicted in New Orleans for conspiracy to export enough C4 plastic explosive to blow the island of Cuba half-way up the Florida Keys.

“That’s now what transpired”

From Barry & ‘the boys'”:

“It was,” pilot James Miller, who was busted with Barry, explains, “part of an ongoing CIA plot to overthrow Castro in the 70’s.”

“Barry Seal,” Miller begins, picking his words carefully, “was led by someone that he obviously had a lot of faith in to believe that Cuba was going to be overthrown with the backing of the United States Government, through the CIA.”

“We were offered support from the Mexican Air Force. We flew in to an Air Force Base in Mexico. We met with some people who had uniforms on–I had no idea what their rank was–and we were assured by them that we would have their full support if we needed it and wanted it.”

“Then we returned to the United States with the understanding that we had the full support of the U. S. and the CIA. But….that’s not what transpired.”

Authorities swoop in as Barry Seal’s DC-4 is being loaded in Shreveport and arrest everyone involved in the operation.  Seal is very publicly busted, for illegally attempting to fly  C4 plastic explosives to Mexico.

Authorities don’t know it, but they have just temporarily shut down what will soon be known, with the release of the Nixon tapes, as “The Mexican Connection.”

Seal was flying a specialty airline:  weapons-for-heroin 

Barry Seal’s 1972 arrest occurred during the Watergate summer of 1972.

On July 3, 1972, The New York Times reported:

“Federal officials have arrested seven men in Texas and Louisiana on charges of conspiring to smuggle munitions to Mexico. A DC-4 was seized at the Shreveport Regional Airport loaded with almost seven tons of plastic C-4 explosive, 7,000 feet of explosive primer cord, and 2,600 electric blasting caps.

Among those arrested were Richmond C. Harper, 48, the brother of Tito Harper, a rancher and Director of the Frontier State Bank of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Marion Hagler, a former Inspector with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Murray Kessler and Alder B. Seal were also arrested. Kessler, who was a house guest at the Harper ranch last June, had a record of six convictions in Federal and state courts on charges of interstate theft, transporting stolen property, bookmaking and conspiracy to possess heroin. Federal authorities described him as an associate of the Gambino organized-crime family.

The CIA v. Richard M. Nixon

It was part of a larger war between the CIA and Richard Nixon over the newly-created apparatus the President had devised to bring control of all drug intelligence into the White House. The CIA, to put it mildly, did not approve.

Former military pilot James Miller, who was arrested with Seal that day,  described it as a weapons-for-heroin flight.





 

In an interview for “Barry & ‘the boys'” Miller stated it was by no means the first such CIA-sponsored mission that he and Barry Seal had flown.   Had Miller, an ex-military pilot,  known he was involved in a weapons-for-heroin transaction?

He did.  “This was not the first time this pipeline had been used,” said Miller, matter-of-factly.  “That was why it was such a shock when we were arrested.”

Seven tons of plastic explosive buys a lot of heroin




Barry’s co-conspirators were a rich assortment of people connected with everything from organized crime to the White House’s new drug enforcement czar.

Murray Kessler  was an associate of the Gambino Family. He was also a “known associate” of Barry Seal, Guy Banister and David Ferrie in the 1960’s.  And he was a frequent house guest  of another defendant, Richmond Harper, at his ranch on the Mexican border.

richmond harper, the trial showed ,was the middle-man in the weapons-for-heroin deal.

“Harper,” Barry Seal told James Miller,  had “deep deep ties right in to the White House.”

Richmond Harper was described as a “tall lean guy wearing a cowboy shirt with the monogrammed initials “RCH,” a string tie and cowboy boots,” according to author Pete Brewton.

Kessler’s rap sheet included six convictions on charges of interstate theft, transporting stolen property, bookmaking and conspiracy to possess heroin.  A Customs agent tailing him through an airport described Kessler in his report as “50-ish and Jewish-looking, wearing a open-collar gray shirt with a gray sports suit, accompanied by a “bleached blond in white slacks and a red polka-dotted jacket.”

She must have made quite an impression.

So how far back does Murray Kessler go?  “Murray Kessler had been an anti-Castro guy, since his days with Guy Banister,”  according to retired DEA agent Dick Gustafson, who knew him. “It was like a mantra he carried around with him.”

The explosives, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisiana, “were headed to Cuban exiles in Mexico, who were going to use them in an effort to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro.”

And no one was the wiser.

Barry Seal’s 1972 bust was big news only in Texas and Louisiana. And it was never connected to Watergate in the press.

How deep into the “deep state” did Barry Seal go?  Listen to the clip from the actual White House tapes below, and draw your own conclusion.

From what it sounds like, Barry Seal didn’t need to impress the CIA because he was bored with TWA, partly because he was already one their most valued assets, and also by 1978, Barry Seal hadn’t been working for TWA for years.

How much money do you need?”

Reported the The Washington Post on May 1 1974:

One transcript, which later became known as the ‘smoking gun,” shows Nixon and Dean discussing accommodating blackmail demands by the Watergate burglars.

“The transcript reveals, Mr. Nixon repeatedly discussed different methods by which as much as $1 million could be paid to the burglars without the payments being traced to the White House. The purpose of such payments, in the President’s own words, would be “to keep the cap on the bottle,” to “buy time,” to “tough it through.”

“How much money do you need?” the President asked Dean early in the March 21 conversation, according to the transcript.

“I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years,” Dean replied.

“We could get that,” the President continued. “On the money, if you need the money you could get that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done.”

When Nixon tells John Dean that he knows how to get a million dollars,  it is probably barry seal’s operation he is talking about. 

________________________

Keeping it in ‘The Family:’ Director’s Mobbed-Up Dad

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 22, 2017 · UPDATED SEPTEMBER 22, 2017

 

Doug Liman,  the director of the new Tom Cruise movie ‘AMERICAN MADE,’ has a dirty secret in his family closet. His Dad was a Mafia groupie. Which wouldn’t matter, except Liman loudly claims his new film is based on the true story of Barry Seal, when it isn’t.  And it amounts to a further Iran Contra-Cocaine Cover-Up.

ALSO: Isn’t the Mob involved somehow, at least reportedly, in the drug trade, the subject of Liman’s new movie?

Harvard lawyer, ultra-Establishment, had secret side

Doug Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, a respected and even lionized Establishment figure in the 1980’s,  is regularly portrayed as a prominent Wall Street lawyer who selflessly served as lead counsel in the U.S. Senate’s Iran-Contra investigation, better-known as The Kerry Commission.  The probe never got to the bottom of the over-ripe and completely-exposed Contra Cocaine scandal.

Which now makes a certain sense. Because attorney Arthur Liman was also a Mafia groupie, a “toadying sycophant” to a man whose extensive Mob ties went back to his days growing up in Brooklyn.

For more than 20 years, he was  the consigliere to Steve Ross, the media mogul  who engineered the world’s largest media and entertainment company into existence with the disastrous TIME-WARNER  merger.

The deal began the destruction of the time inc journalism empire , but made Ross $193 million (in 1980’s money).

Doug Liman isn’t even the first member of his family to help conceal the truth about CIA drug trafficking. That’s because—just like Frank Sinatra— Arthur Liman had a “hoodlum complex.”

There are no “alternative facts”

The real Barry Seal flew for the CIA at the Bay of Pigs. He flew for the CIA again with Air America in Laos.  While getting ready to fly for them again in 1972, he was busted on a DC-4 cargo plane loaded with 13,500 pounds of C4 plastic explosive.

Just 10 days after the Watergate break-in, the plane was on its way to Mexico where the explosives were to be traded for heroin, which could be sold to pay off the busted Watergate burglars,  already clamoring for hush money.

Yet according to the movie ‘AMERICAN MADE’ Barry Seal only showed up on the CIA’s radar when the Agency noticed that he was successfully smuggling Cuban cigars into the U.S.  (Talk about sticking it to the man.)

Did the filmmakers test that proposition with focus groups?  Does smuggling cigars show Seal as naughty but not too naughty to be sympathetic?

Couldn’t Liman have made a rollicking romp—about a happy-go-lucky drug smuggler in the cocaine-fueled go-go ‘80’s—just as easily with Tom Cruise and his aviator shades playing someone named Tommy Two-Ton? OrBolivia Bob?

Instead, the movie Doug Liman made deliberately distorts the life of Barry Seal, an authentic and important American historical figure.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Days of Christmas past

It was Dec 23 1991, two days before Christmas. The driveway in front of Guild Hall in East Hampton was choked with limousines for the funeral of Steve Ross.

Steve Ross’ bodyguard Tony Battisti, who had been at his side for over a decade, stood at the door surveying everyone who entered. Crowded into a small space were executives from the new TIME-WARNER,  as well as the people they had recently deposed.

Ross had made the stars his intimates. There to pay their respects were Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw, Lisa and Dustin Hoffman, Chevy Chase, Quincy Jones and Nastassja Kinski, Paul Simon, and Barbra Streisand.

But there were still some present who recalled his former life, like Caesar Kimmel, Ross’s partner in Kinney parking,  who author Connie Bruck said was currently the manager of a gambling casino in Moscow.

And, of course, Arthur Liman, who for more than 20 years had been Ross’s lawyer, close friend, booster and protector. Liman was the only business associate to address the group.

“Reading from notes, Liman spoke about Ross in much the same way he always had, emotional, admiring, adoring,” wrote Connie Bruck, in “Master of the Game” her book about Steve Ross.

Bruck had previously authored “Predators Ball,” about Michael Milken, who was one of Arthur Liman’s clients.

“I rail, as you do, that I cannot speak with him just once more,” Liman said.

“Quincy Jones also spoke. Addressing Ross directly, as he lay in his casket, voice quavering, he said “On a dance floor, Steve, you could really kill it!”

Steven Spielberg spoke. So did opera star Beverley Sills.

Barbra Streisand sang “Papa can you hear me.”

Mob Boss




Steve Ross, who grew up poor in Brooklyn,  married into a chain of New York area funeral parlors, which he took public by merging with Kinney, a parking lot company that was a Mob front.

Ross’s partner in Kinney was Caesar Kimmel. Among Caesar Kimmel’s interests was owning Jai Alai facilities. One of his partners was “Fat Tony” Salerno.

Caesar Kimmel’s father, Emanuel Kimmel,  had been a bootlegger, a major bookmaker, gambler, and one of the first operators of the numbers racket in New Jersey.

He was also a “close associate” of Mobster Abner ‘Longie’ Zwillman, who at the height of the Thomas Dewey Mob prosecutions was named one of the “Big Six.”

The others were Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Louis Lepke Buchalter, Jake Shapiro and Meyer Lansky.

Kinney made payoffs to Fat Tony Salerno, who Fortune magazine once called “the wealthiest gangster in America.” Salerno, convicted of racketeering in 1986, was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Bragging in a wiretapped call about how much money the Genovese family made from Kinney, he said, “We OWN Kinney.

Steve Ross’ early partners were gangsters, and he never lost his connection with them. Throughout his subsequent career, he  was dogged by Mob ties.

Every time I try to get out…

In 1969, Steve Ross purchased the moribund Warner-Seven Arts film and record company for $400 million.  But even after Steve Ross moved into the movie business and began shedding friends like a reptile shedding old skin, he continued doing business with his Mobster associates.




One example: at the height of Steve Ross’ success, Warner executives took bribes to invest in the Westchester Premier Theater, a Mafia-run business set up to skim money.  The soon-to-be defunct suburban New York theater gave a Warner’s assistant treasurer $170,000 in return for investing Warner funds in the theater’s public offering.

Three Warner executives and several organized crime figures were convicted of everything from defrauding investors to looting the theater while it was in bankruptcy. Yet despite the treasurer’s close personal and business ties to Ross, he was never charged in the case.

Author Connie Bruck wrote that he could thank Arthur Liman.

The scandal featured a famous photograph of Ol’ Blue Eyes taken in Sinatra’s dressing room backstage at the Westchester, after his April 11, 1976, performance.

In the picture with Sinatra are Carlo Gambino, Joseph Gambino, Jimmy ‘The Weasel’ Fratianno, future Gambino boss Paul Castellano, Frank ‘Funzi’ Tieri, reputed head of the Genovese family, Gregory De Palma and Richard Fusco.

Carlo Gambino, of course, was the “the Boss of Bosses” at the time, and head of the crime family that still bears his name.

Barry Seal’s fellow pilot James Miller told of a meeting the two of them took with Gambino when they were seeking permission to fly fresh shrimp from Honduras to restaurants in New York.

Paul Castellano was Carlo Gambino’s successor. Castellano was later shot and killed outside of Sparks Steak House on the Upper East Side, presumably by John Gotti or a Gotti associate. Jimmy Fratianno was considered the West Coast head of organized crime until he testified against the mob and entered the Witness Protection Program.

The TIME guys weren’t dummies 

Near the end of his long and remarkable business run, Steve Ross acquired TIME INC.  TIME executives thought they were acquiring Ross’ Warner Communications.

Steve Ross was the man who talked the Ivy League journalists at Time Inc into “merging” with his Warner Communications and creating TIME-WARNER. TIME was a remarkably genteel upper-class world, a white-shoe company where money-making was in the service of journalism.

As the merger talks gained steam, the former president of TIME INC. James Shepley, and Arthur Temple, a TIME INC director,  were overheard fanning the flames about Ross.

Shepley said, “Steve Ross is Mafia.”

After the Time board voted for the merger, one director said “Mafia, 12; Whiffenpoofs, 0.”

Toady toady toady 

Are we making too much of what could be seen as Arthur Liman’s attorney-client relationship with Steve Ross?

Not according to Connie Bruck’s book about Ross, in which Liman is almost a constant presence  “Master of the Game.” From her bio at the new yorker: 

“Connie Bruck has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1989. She writes about business and politics.”

Bruck portrays Arthur Liman as a toadying sycophant so blinded by loyalty to Ross that he was more cohort than counsel, bending the law to near-breaking point to protect Ross from answering for any number of breaches of fiduciary duty to shareholders.

In a supporting role, there is attorney Arthur Liman, the lapdog Wall Street barrister who endlessly protected Ross from stockholders, the press and those few corporate board members who sought to call their imperious leader to account.”

“Some who knew the two men believed that Liman was so protective of Ross that, in matters involving him, Liman lost his sense of proportion.”

“Some commented, too, on Liman’s seeming infatuation with Ross, on the way this highly-sophisticated middle-aged lawyer seemed more a starry-eyed adolescent when he talked about his friend.”

“Among those who legitimized Steve Ross in the eyes of the people at TIME were Felix Rohatyn and Arthur Liman. Liman was the single most influential force for Ross with TIME.”

“Rhapsodic as always when he was speaking about Ross, Liman told me that Ross had just created the greatest deal in history.”

“During the nearly twenty years that Liman had been at Ross’ side, through recurrent crises, Liman had saved Ross repeatedly. And his own stature had grown. The more stellar Liman’s reputation grew, the more invaluable he became to Ross.”

“Liman was performing that role that Ross always loved best in his advisers: the outside man—lending things the patina of objectivity— who is really a secret insider.”

“Arthur Liman was Steve Ross’ best man at his third and final wedding. Several years later he became the godfather of Ross’ daughter Nicole.”

“Liman brought to his relationship with Ross a devotion that suggested a bond that was intensely personal.”

Lawyer and Ross confidant Arthur Liman called Warner board members before the February meeting to discuss Nicholas’ dismissal. Bruck writes, ”When I asked one of them how Liman had persuaded him that this was the right course, he replied, ‘It wasn’t a call to persuade.

It was ”This is what Steve wants, and you go along with it.”

It was a done deal.”

History begin to come into focus

Arthur Liman was widely regarded as one of the best trial lawyers of his day, especially when it came to defending people charged with securities fraud or other white-collar crimes.

Yet Lieut. Col. Oliver L. North, who impressed exactly nobody as the sharpest knife in the drawer, ate him for lunch.

Was that by accident? Or by design?

What does this say about “his son the director,” Doug Liman, and his bizarre cover-up of the real life of Barry Seal in AMERICAN MADE?

_________________________

Mystery behind fatal plane crash dogs ‘American Made’

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · OCTOBER 2, 2017 ·

The word which best describes the new movie ‘American Made’ isn’t “boffo.” It’s “manslaughter.”




No one in the future will recall the opening numbers for ‘American Made, a movie that’s supposedly about barry seal.  A typical industry headline:”Tom Cruise’s ‘American Made’ Flying Low With $17M Bow.”

None of the interesting dish on the new Tom Cruise vehicle ‘American Made’ is about the movie itself, which turns out to be a pink cotton-candy confection featuring Tom Cruise, his sunglasses, and his ever-widening grin. All of this is accompanied by intense levels of frenetic activity designed to make the ingredients seem important.

Everything about the deadly plane crash during production of ‘AMERICAN MADE’ vibes hinky. The people involved in the deadly accident are not who they seem.

Instead of a “madcap 80’s romp, the logline for ‘American Made’ should be “Two men died making a frivolous movie.”

One week before ‘American Made’ opened, news broke that the estates of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl, were blaming, at least partially, Cruise and director Liman for the crash.

Asked whether he had a comment on the lawsuit, Doug Liman responded, “No. Just that i’m a pilot and tom cruise is a pilot. I don’t know anything specific about the accident, because it didn’t happen during the filming. They were just moving one of the airplanes. I was just going to say that it’s just a reminder — something all pilots know — which is that flying is really dangerous. Not in commercial planes, by the way.”

They were just “plane movers.” Seems we’ve heard that one before.

Ankling out of harm’s way

Flying back to the production’s base in Medellin didn’t happen during filming? Because cameras weren’t rolling when the plane flew into a mountain? Liman, a highly-competent director, might have made an even better lawyer.  But the explanation is not likely to absolve the director from blame.

His star, Tom Cruise—who’s nowhere to be found—seems to have voted with his feet.

“Another big factor that has slowed American Made‘s turnstiles is thatcruise isn’t out there aggressively selling the movie in his standard globe-trotting style, “reported Deadline Hollywood.

“More specifically, there haven’t been any world premieres where Cruise is known to stroll the red carpet for two hours, speaking to fans and signing autographs.”

“Some industry journalists concluded Cruise is avoiding interviews due to the death of the two pilots during production, and the fact that their estates are suing the production.”

The deadly consequences of “limania” 




‘american made’ isn’t about barry seal. It merely uses his name for publicity value.   What the movie is really about is Tom Cruise, a happy-go-lucky adventurer with a big toothy grin.

His character should have been given a generic drug trafficker name, like “Bolivia Bob.”

Through the simple expedient of pretending barry seal’s drug trafficking career with the CIA never happened, Cruise and director Doug Liman concoct a weightless confection that adds nothing to American’s knowledge of government involvement in the blizzard of cocaine that defined the 1980’s.

It is a breathtakingly arrogant appropriation of American history.

Now that same arrogance—which film crews long ago dubbed “limania”—has led to the loss of two lives. Working for him is the fact that, as he’s quick to mention, he’s got “ties” with the CIA.




The director is notorious for things like having made a tired film crew on ‘The Bourne Identity’ work overtime into the night to light a forest so he could play paintball.

A flurry of lawsuits

The crash has developed into a huge legal situation. The two insurance companies involved have each filed lawsuits. Both believe they can squirm out of liability for the crash. They claim that epic hanky-panky on the set— they leave the particulars vague—frees them from fiduciary responsibility.

One of the lawsuits  quotes startling emails written by one of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin, who was, in effect, speaking from beyond the grave.  To an associate back in Hollywood, Purwin, one of Hollywood’s most accomplished helicopter stuntman, wrote “American Made was the most dangerous project I’ve ever encountered.”

“You can not imagine how difficult the air scenes with Tom Cruise and the whole air crew are,” he complained in another email. “Each time, it is only a very narrow ridge between one safe operation and an accident.”

“DL (Doug Liman) and TC (Tom Cruise) are adding entire scenes and aerial shots on the fly. Had to bring in Uni Safety to help wrangle them. In the last 48 hours, this has become the most insane s— I’ve ever dealt with,” the note said.  Purwin added that there was one instance that required tremendous skill to ensure ‘TC (Tom Cruise) Caesar and I wouldn’t be coming home in a box.’

According to the lawsuit, Purwin also wrote, “You have no idea the exposure TC and the entire Aerial Team is realizing every time we get in the air. There’s a very ‘thin line’ between keeping all aerial activities safe and having an accident. Trust me on this!”

Families’ lawsuits blame Liman and Cruise

The lawsuits filed by the families of the two dead pilots accuse Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman of “negligence.”  In court records, the litigants accuse the production companies and other parties of behaving ‘unlawfully and carelessly.”

According to one local pilot, the weather conditions weren’t suitable for flying. He suggested that the pilots weren’t trained in how to fly in Colombia. I fly there regularly, and I would have stayed on the ground that day,” he said.  “You have to have experience to fly in Colombia. You cannot fly here like you fly in Miami, where there’s not a mountain anywhere. If you fly in South America, you have to be very trained in the conditions.”

An executive producer sent a complaint to the film’s insurance company before the accident, the lawsuits claim, directly criticizing Cruise and Liman’s on-set approach.

“Tom Cruise’s ‘insane’ and ‘dangerous’ demands caused death of pilot, family alleges” read a typical headline about the lawsuits filed by the estates of the deceased.

The lawsuits cite “Tom Cruise and Doug Liman’s “desire to film a high-risk, action-packed motion picture” as being partly responsible for the accident. Additional scenes were added on the fly, the suits charge. The pilots involved didn’t have proper training to handle the added scenes, some of which were shot in dangerous weather.

“The demands of filming in Colombia, together with Cruise’s and Liman’s enthusiasm for multiple takes of lavish flying sequences, added hours to every filming day and added days to the schedule,” the court papers said.

Mystery pilot Carlos Berl

Three people, all pilots, were aboard the doomed flight. But only two of them—Alan Purwin and Jimmy Garland—had a reason to be there.

The third pilot was Venezuelan (or Colombian, accounts differ) Carlos Berl, did not.

Carlos Berl had never before worked on a movie production. Carlos Berl had never before flown an unforgiving twin-engine Piper Aerostar 600.

The latest filings in his family’s lawsuit for negligence reveal some startling new information: Carlos Berl did not want to be there, and there are even indications that he may have been coerced.

_____________________

The JFK assassination and ‘Barry & ‘the boys’

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER ·  NOVEMBER 25, 2017




Two hours before john kennedy was assassinated on Friday November 22 1963  at 12:30 p.m. Central Time,  the stripper headlining Jack Ruby’s Carousel nightclub in Dallas was in a panic to get out of  town.  

The National Archives and Records Administration today began releasinggovernment documents never been disclosed on the Kennedy assassination, under a law passed in 1992 after Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” provoked widespread discontent about foot-dragging on disclosure. (Thanks, Oliver!)

There are a number of passages in ‘barry & ‘the boys’  which reveal facets of the Kennedy Assassination never before known—or even suspected to exist—in the literature of the Kennedy assassination. Why? Is it because I’m the smartest, most fearless investigative journalist alive? 

However attractive as an explanation that might be, there’s another one that’s far more plausible: 

Among journalists whose living depends on knowing which stories to flog like a mule,  and which to leave strictly alone, reporting which exposes CIA drug trafficking operations—especially in anything like real time— remain verboten, taboo, and highly-discouraged.

See, for instance, Gary Webb.   

The story I want to tell today is about two women from the same family in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The first, “Aunt Jada,” was a stripper, exotic dancer extraordinaire, and savvy survivor who managed to play a  significant role pointing to Jack Ruby’s knowledge of the upcoming Kennedy Assassination. 

The second woman,  Jada’s niece Lena,  who exemplifies traditional American upward mobility,  even  in organized crime,  became an officer in a hundred million dollar corporation strongly suspected of being involved in the money laundering industry which sprang up around Barry Seal.  

drug smuggling, money laundering, and covert ops leading to assassination plots  are hallmarks of the one U.S. governmental Agency, and its most famous operative, barry seal, that is most often accused of complicity in the death of John Kennedy. 

Drug pilots are glorified bus drivers with epaulets

How I got the story: At a certain point during a two-year investigation into Barry Seal n Louisiana,  I got ‘wised-up.’ 

Afterwards, romantic tales of drug pilots skimming the waves across the Gulf of Mexico  to avoid radar detection became uninteresting, as I realized that unless you’re an amateur free-lancer—and there are few of them— flying drugs into the United States is no more eventful than driving a school bus. 

If you did a line of coke during the 1980’s—in a club, at a bar, in a bathroom stall, anywhere—chances are pretty good it came through Barry Seal’s Transportation and Logistics Division. It was a huge undertaking, bigger than  Procter & Gamble’s massive operation to stock and re-stock pharmacy and supermarket shelves with toothpaste and Charmin.

And it was Barry Seal who kept the trains running on time in the drug trade in the U.S.  It is a $400 billion a year industry in the U.S. alone, creating a slush fund as big as the dead zone awash with plastic refuse in the Pacific. Big enough to buy a Presidential election. Or almost anything else.

I was left with just one big question:  Who gets to pass out all that fresh green?

Using Barry Seal’s own records I began trying to trace the money up the line, looking for the Big Boss, or the Old Man, as Seal called him.

Then I got a fateful tip.  “Take a look at ‘Trinity Energy,” advised a source. “Richard Ben-Veniste (Seal’s one-time attorney) incorporated a Trinity Oil or Trinity Energy to launder money for his client.”

Be careful what you wish for

The tip eventually allowed a glimpse into the “corporatization” of the drug trade.  But it was also a mixed blessing. Because before I had even finished investigating Barry Seal’s drug money laundering connections, I had been  sued, separately, by two men whose names surfaced in connection with what was apparently a touchy topic. 

The lawsuits were successful in keeping ‘Barry & ‘the boys’ out of  bookstores  for almost five years. I was eventually forced to settle, and remove both men’s names from my book.  (And no, Project Censored never called.)

Still, I was able to uncover evidence of a “close business associate” of Barry Seal who incorporated a company called ‘Trinity Energy’ that was sold for $22 million in 1995, ending up in the hands of a Delaware company, ICF Kaiser, then being run by Tony Coehlo, a former California congressman who went on to run Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign. 

That was shocking news. Then a second (but related) company called Trinity Energy yielded evidence which was even more interesting. 

This is that story.

A serious case of post-Mardi Gras blues

The sign on the front door of a steak house in New Orleans’ French Quarter said “closed,”  which enraged the restaurant’s proprietor, who entered, and angrily strode across the darkened main dining room. 

Accounts of what happened next agreed. When the smoke cleared, it was apparent he’d been shot three times at point blank range… by his wife.

At his wife’s trial for attempted murder, he testified, “I went inside and asked someone why the restaurant was closed. Then I looked at the bar, and Lena (his wife and business partner) was sitting on a stool. When I asked her why the restaurant was closed, she reached into the pocket of her sweater, and instantly I knew why it had been closed, and why all the workers had been sent home.”

“I threw my hands up and said, ‘uh, don’t Lena! Then I saw the blue flame from the gun.”

“I felt the bullet hit me in the jaw. I turned and tried to dive behind the bar. She shot me two more times, in the back. I fell to my knees and crawled toward the bar on my stomach.”

 “I was on the phone with Lena when she shot him,” a Houston restaurateur who was a longtime business associate of the couple told me. 

  I heard the shots and the commotion. When she picked the phone back up, I said, “Lena, did you  just shoot Dale?”

She said, “’Yeah, I shot the bastard. But it was a really little gun. He’ll live.’”

“All the way from Gulfport to New Orleans”

Lena had pumped three .25-caliber bullets from a derringer into her husband’s imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound bulk. Was it a fit of pique?

The answer was ‘no,’ according to the dozen witnesses who testified on Lena’s behalf, who characterized her husband as a “raging bull” and described numerous occasions on which he had physically abused his wife.  In his defense, he had told police he didn’t beat his wife “any more than any other husband.”

Their only child also spoke of a reign of terror. “Once on Father’s Day, my mom gave my Dad a pencil sharpener for a present,”he testified. “And he threw it at her in the car, called her a bitch and a whore, and was driving and hitting her all the way from Gulfport (Mississippi) to New Orleans.”

Days later a courtroom packed with supporters cheered the verdict of not guilty of attempted murder.

Why is this of interest to the story of Barry Seal?

In 1981, when drug traffickers were hauling in so much money they resorted to weighing it on pallets, incorporation papers filed in Louisiana listed both of these two ‘star-crossed lovers’ as officers in a company called Trinity Energy.

Aunt Jada’ Had a Secret

Lena had been married to one of Carlos Marcello’s minions, who, after a season on a “shrimp boat” in the late 1970’s became independently wealthy, and a hugely-successful restaurateur.

And Janet, or Jada, Conforto, or Conforte, was Lena’s aunt, the star headliner the weekend Kennedy was murdered.

“I noticed you’ve been sniffing around the New Orleans Conforte’s,” wrote someone who had been following our progress. “You might be interested in the fact that ‘Jada’ was the stage name of a stripper from New Orleans who was Jack Ruby’s girlfriend and whose real name was Janet Conforto.”




When Jack Ruby was arrested, authorities found hundreds of 8×10 glossies of Jada in the trunk of his car. Ruby had been handing them out to anyone who would take one.

Turns out, Aunt Jada had a secret. On the morning of the Kennedy assassination,  She was in such a panic to leave Dallas that she ran over a pedestrian.

Driving a white Cadillac convertible with Louisiana plates, Jada Conforto stopped just long enough to phone someone in Jack Ruby’s office to pick up the slightly-injured pedestrian,  and take him to a hospital.  To the traffic officer filling out the report,  she said, “Please just hurry up and call someone in Ruby’s office to fix things. I’m in a hurry to get to New Orleans.”

It is clear that there was something extremely urgent that Jada had to do.  She had to get out of town.

“By the way, about that Oswald thing”

She should have been getting ready to ‘open’ at the Carousel. Instead, Dallas police documents indicate, she suddenly became fiercely  intent on ‘getting the fuck out of Dodge.’ 

In a letter filled with coded references to the head of the Dallas Criminal Investigation Division, Dallas Asst. Chief of Police Charles Batchelor reported that a local man had been hit by a woman fleeing Dallas in a hurry at 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the assassination. Although Jada was a well-known top-billed stripper for Ruby,  the letter said “The woman gave the appearance of being in show business.”

Then, with studied indifference, the letter states “It is unknown if this has any significance in the Oswald case.”  

On the morning of the JFK assassination, Jack Ruby’s girlfriend was frantically fleeing Dallas.  According to the Dallas Police,  it had no significance to the Oswald case. And it didn’t even make the papers. 

Investigating Barry Seal’s links to drug money laundering—which ostensibly have nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination—turned up evidence that the FBI’s characterization of Jack Ruby as a small-time operator “never able to cultivate” friendships with important figures in organized crime left something to be desired.

An invite to the Marcello bash

There’s a coda:  I asked Lena if she’d put me in touch with ‘Aunt’ Jada’ for an interview.

She said, “Jada’s dead. She was killed in a motorcycle accident during the (House Select Committee) Kennedy assassination investigation.”

“My sister in Kenner told me a few years later that Jada had been murdered because she knew too much.”

I also asked where she and her mobbed-up hubby were on the day of the assassination.

She said, “We were on our way to a big party that night, the big post-acquittal bash Carlos Marcello held after being found “not guilty” of federal charges on the same day Kennedy died.”

“I was on a streetcar on Canal Street, shopping for a new dress to wear to the party when I heard the news. I turned around and went home, and didn’t have the heart to go to the party. But he (my husband) went.”

 And so it goes.

 

___________________________

THE JFK FILES: RUBY KNEW

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER  NOVEMBER 25, 2017

According to the testimony of two women from the demimonde in Dallas—Jada Conforto, a fiery and highly intelligent red-haired beauty who at the age of 27 was already one of the stars of burlesque, and Beverly Oliver, a naïve 17-year old singer from the club next door to the Carousel Club— Jack Ruby knew Lee Harvey Oswald. 



Moreover, Ruby also knew the assassination of JFK was imminent, newly-released jfk files show. 

Beverly Oliver told Warren Commission investigators that Jack Ruby introduced her, with Jada present, to Lee Harvey Oswald in his club several weeks before the assassination. 

Oliver’s testimony was peremptorily dismissed, and ridiculed as fantasy. But what has until now been virtually unknown is that Beverly Oliver’s testimony was confirmed by Jada in conversation with two well-known and highly-respected journalists in Texas, before she left Dallas for good several days after the assassination.

Edwin ‘Bud’ Shrake and his life-long best friend Gary Cartwright were sportswriters at the Dallas Morning News who shared an apartment in Dallas together that became a hub for late-night parties during 1963.  The two men— who both went on to have illustrious careers as celebrated journalists, novelists, and screenwriters— were between divorces.  Jada was a frequent visitor.  So too was Jack Ruby. 




Jack, Jada, Bud, Gary…and the Kingston Trio

Jada Conforto and Bud Shrake were a hot item during the months before the assassination. Jack Ruby was telling local newspapers the big story with Jada was that she was the only stripper in Dallas who was trained in ballet, had a college degree,  and was also a descendant of John Quincy Adams. True or no, there was something different about Jada.

From “who was jack ruby?” by Gary Cartwright, Texas Monthly, November 1975:

“Ruby invited us to the Carousel one night, and Shake came home with Jada. We all became good friends, and when Jo and I got married a few weeks later, Jada gave us our first wedding gift — a two-pound Girl Scout cookie tin full of illegal weed she had smuggled across the border in her gold Cadillac with the letters JADA embossed on the door.

“Jada cleared customs with 100 of the two-pound tins in the trunk of her car. She was accompanied by a state politician (who knew nothing about the load) and wore a mink coat, high-heel shoes, and nothing else.

“The first thing she did at customs was open the door and fall out, revealing more than the customs official expected. One of  Jada’s great pleasures was driving around Dallas in high heels and a mink coat, with her orange hair piled high and her coat flaring open.”

 From “Assessing that bloody weekend” by Kent Biffle in the Feb 4, 2001 Dallas Morning News:

“Gary and Bud were between marriages, sharing an apartment on Cole Avenue. Morning newspaper folks are night owls, and the Shrake-Cartwright pad that year was a late-night hangout for musicians, strippers and other nocturnal creatures. I recall a Dallas TV anchor telling me that late one night, Gary knocked on her apartment door, seeking to borrow ice. Clutching a couple of trays, he invited her to drop by, saying ‘We’ve got the Kingston Trio up there tonight.’

“She humored him, told him good night, and was stunned to learn the next day that Gary really did have the Kingston Trio up there.”




Both Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright passed away during  the past five years. 

From Cartwright’s Feb 25 2017 New York Times obituary: 

Gary Cartwright, 82, Irreverent Texas Journalist

In the weeks leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Dallas apartment that Mr. Cartwright shared with his friend and fellow reporter, Bud Shrake, was a popular late-night hangout for, among others, Jack Ruby and one of Ruby’s favorite strippers, Jada.

Mr. Ruby, the nightclub owner who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, was a recurring figure in Mr. Cartwright’s journalism. As Mr. Cartwright wrote in ”Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter” (1983), ”On the morning of the assassination, Ruby called our apartment and asked if we’d seen Jada.”

“My friend Lee from the CIA”

Gary Cartwright and Bud Shrake weren’t fringe journalists wearing bandanas, pearl-buttoned cowboy shirts, and purple tie-dyed jeans with hand-sewn patches…

They were already nationally-known sports reporters successfully facing the rigors of daily journalism. Both were on their way to stellar careers as award-winning journalists, prolific novelists, and highly-successful screenwriters.  

Alas, Bud and Gary did not belong to the pool of nationally-known political journalists unofficially ‘accredited’— Dan Rather’s name comes to mind— to cover the assassination. But on the other hand, there were no national correspondents who could boast that they’d been dating Jada Conforto, Jack Ruby’s star stripper, like Bud Shrake could.

Nor could anyone from CBS or the New York Times casually mention that they’d received a phone call from Jack Ruby just before JFK was killed.

Gary Cartwright could. 

In “Scene of the Crime” from the dec 1990 Texas Monthly, Gary Cartwright wrote:

“It all looked so different 27 years ago… My friend Bud Shrake and I shared an apartment on Cole Avenue in Dallas in 1963. Ruby and other characters from the Carousel Club, including an unforgettable stripper named Jada, hung around our apartment. The morning of the assassination, Ruby called our apartment looking for Jada.  Shrake said he hadn’t seen her, which, as I recall, was true. 

“Ruby said, in a threatening tone, ‘I’m warning you for your own good, stay away from that woman. She’s evil.’”

 What Jada Told Bud and Gary

“Evil woman” Jada Conforto and Beverly Oliver asserted—independently and at different times—that they’d been introduced to Oswald by Jack Ruby.  Their testimony provides further confirmation for the bombshell in the newly-released JFK files that reveals Jack Ruby’s invitation to an FBI informant to “watch the fireworks” with him just hours before JFK’s assassination.

Back to Gary Cartwright in the dec 1990 Texas Monthly:

“After the assassination Jada told us Ruby once introduced her to Lee Oswald at the Carousel. While they were having drinks, she said, Beverly Oliver, a singer from the Colony Club next door, stopped by and was also introduced. Jada is dead now, but I phoned Beverly not long ago and asked if she remembered. 

‘Sure do,’ she said. ‘Ruby introduced him as ‘my friend Lee from the CIA.'”

“I’m reminded how astonishingly innocent we all were. We didn’t dream that our friend Jada was a drug courier for the mob, or that Ruby was anything more than a violence-prone punk. Now it appears the Mafia singled Ruby out for special assignments, like carrying bribe money to Cuba to bail Santos Trafficante out of jail, and Trafficante was a key figure in the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Castro!

“Who could have guessed that the CIA was in bed with the Mafia?”

Who Was Bud Shrake

While Ann Richards was Texas Governor, she and Bud ‘kept company.’ He became Texas’ ‘First Guy.’

“Bud was tall and laconic, and he was very good indeed with the ladies,” wrote his best friend Gary Cartwright in Shrake’s obituary after he died in 2013. 

For the hot skinny on Bud Shrake, one could do worse than to turn to LIZ SMITH, the native Texan who was one of America’s premier gossip columnists. Liz Smith almost always knew the score. From her July 21, 1992 column:

“I suggested to Linda that “Designing Women” could use a guest shot with the very witty Gov. Ann Richards of Texas. She loved the idea, so don’t be surprised if it happens.

“SPEAKING OF Ann Richards – as we have so often recently – she opted for a bit of R ‘n’ R in Gstaad, Switzerland, after she left New Yorkers panting with admiration last week. She has joined her good friends Bud Shrake and June and Dan Jenkins in the Swiss Alps. These Texas warriors all go way back with each other. Shrake and Jenkins are two of the greatest sports writers who ever faked left and turned to the right. June Jenkins is the creator of Juanita’s Tex-Mex cafes in Manhattan, Fort Worth and Florida. She’s also a former beauty queen, immortalized in all of her husband’s novels from “Semi-Tough” to “Baja, Oklahoma.”

“The governor may be a bit out of her element in the Alps, but she is in very good hands.”

Strange Peaches

Bud Shrake wrote about Jada, in a work of fiction. Smart Bud.  In his  novel ‘Strange Peaches,’ Jada is called ‘Jingo the tiger lady,’ presumably because Jada used a big stuffed tiger doll in her act, which she enthusiastically humped during the climax of the show.

Even years later, Shrake lovingly recalled her “curving butt;” her sandals with three-inch heels;  her penciled eyebrows: orange lipstick; eyes dark with mascara; even her “twisting cone of lacquered orange hair.” 

On Jada’s telephone tussle with Jack Ruby:

“Immediately after Jingo took the phone, she and Ruby began arguing,” Shrake writes. “I gathered it was an argument that had been going on for some time, and they were merely continuing after taking a break.”

“Jingo screams, “You double-crossing mutha, you can’t treat me this way, I’m a star!”

“Later Jingo leaves for her room at the Holiday Inn. It took an hour to put on her make-up, she explained, and she preferred doing it in the motel rather than in her gamy dressing room. ( Jack Ruby kept several cats and dogs in his club.)

“Why don’t you take off from work tonight? Some people are coming over to swim and eat barbecue,” asks Shrake’s character.

“‘Jingo’ replies, “Ruby’s already threatening to sue me for missing work when I had to go to Chicago. First he threatened to beat me up. What a laugh that is. I said listen, you fucker, you think you’re rough, but you’re not the only one that carries a gun and knows how to use it.”

“Jingo said “I know some people can hang you on a hook.  Ruby asked, would you really cool me?  She says ‘lay a finger on me and find out.’

Beverly Oliver gets wised-up

Beverly Oliver told investigators she was introduced—with Jada present—to Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in his club several weeks before the JFK assassination.

But before that, Jada had already told the same story to Texas journalists Bud and Gary, who happened to be good friends of hers. Then, shortly after the assassination, she disappeared. Cartwright and Shrake both reported her account of meeting Oswald with Beverly. But not right away. A little later on. 

Why later on?  Why didn’t the staggering story that Jada told two highly-competent journalists immediately go public? It’s an obvious question. And it’s one that Beverly Oliver, during her later testimony, said had an obvious answer. 

Beverly Oliver testified before the Assassination Records Review Board on November 18, 1994.  She stated she had been 17 years old at the time of the assassination. In addition to Ruby’s introducing her to Lee Oswald, she told the Board she had been filming with an experimental 8mm movie camera when Kennedy was shot. Her film was confiscated by a man who she said identified himself as an FBI agent. She handed over her camera to him because he was an authority figure, and she feared being caught in possession of marijuana.

Q: Did you ever tell this to any official agency—FBI or police department—at the time?

A: No I didn’t.

Q:Why not?

A: Because I was scared

Q: Why were you scared?

A: Because by that time even a little stupid 17-year old could put together that two and two weren’t adding up to four.

Q:What do you mean by that?

A: Well, Jada had disappeared for one thing.

Q: All right let’s stop a moment. Jada was the red-haired stripper that was at the table with Ruby and Oswald

A: Jada was the first person to come out and admit to having met Oswald in the club with Ruby two or three weeks before the assassination.

Q: And how did you find that out?

A: it was in the Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times-Herald.

Q: Did you ever see Jada again?

A: Never. Not to this day. I don’t know what happened to her. I know that no one has seen her, nobody I know anyway.

Bud Shrakes and Gary Cartwright were highly creditable and eminently believable journalists who reported disclosures which—had they come to light back when they could have made a difference—might have cast some serious shade on the official story of a lone-nut gunman.

Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald knew each other; at least a handful of prominent Texans had seen the two together. That might have shook things up a little bit.

Tomorrow we’ll see the dishonest stratagems used to keep the American public from finding out.

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Trump Asserts First Amendment Rights in Lawsuit Alleging He Incited Violence

Posted by Bill Conroy - October 30, 2017

At the same time, he seeks to muzzle the free-speech rights of the press

President Donald Trump made headlines during his campaign for the presidency, and since taking office, by attacking and even threatening the media — and by extension the First Amendment protections afforded the press. Those attacks typically follow media stories that are critical of Trump or otherwise paint his administration in a bad light.

At the same time, however, Trump is currently using the First Amendment to shield himself in a pending federal lawsuit that alleges he used inflammatory rhetoric to incite violence at his campaign rallies.

As a candidate and now as president, Trump has been accused of abusing the First Amendment to the Constitution — which guarantees freedom of speech and the press — by attacking the press, which he has described as “an enemy of the American people.” Earlier this month, for example, in the wake of a story that was critical of him, Trump took to Twitter and threatened to terminate a major news network’s TV license.

On the campaign trail, and again while president, Trump has threatened to “open up libel laws” to make it easier to sue and silence the press, even though a longstanding U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the First Amendment requires public figures and politicians like Trump to demonstrate “actual malice” on the part of the press to win a lawsuit. (Actual malice is defined by the courts as publishing a defamatory statement knowing it is false, or doing so with reckless disregard for its truth.)

In addition, despite the courts having ruled that the First Amendment protects the press’ right to publish classified information so long as journalists don’t encourage or coerce sources to break the law, Trump allegedly urged former FBI Director James Comey to consider pursuing and jailing journalists who report classified information.

These attacks on the media and First Amendment were launched by Trump even as he is claiming First Amendment protections related to words he unleased at a campaign rally in Kentucky in March 2016 that, according to a pending federal lawsuit, led to an assault on three individuals. The plaintiffs in that court case attended a Trump campaign rally on March 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, that was held at a public venue ­— the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The plaintiffs, one of whom is African American, concede they were at the rally as protestors. After Trump told the crowd to “get ‘em out of here,” the plaintiffs allege they were assaulted by members of the audience — in particular by members of a white supremacist group called the Traditionalist Worker Party.

The plaintiffs’ pleadings continue:

Trump went on to state: “In the old days, which isn’t so long ago, when we were less politically correct, that kinda stuff wouldn’t have happened. Today we have to be so nice, so nice. We always have to be so nice.” Then Trump went into a discussion about waterboarding, and how it is “absolutely fine.”

Incitement to Violence

Following Trump’s threatening inventive at the Louisville campaign rally, the three protestors bringing the lawsuit contend they were subsequently attacked and forcibly ejected by members of Trump’s audience, with several individuals from the Traditionalist Worker Party allegedly playing a major role in shoving and pushing them out of the building and punching one of the plaintiffs in the stomach at one point.

A good portion of the assault on plaintiff Kashiya Nwanguma, an African American female and a student at the University of Louisville at the time of the assault, was captured on video. [Links to video clips here.]

Trump claims that his speech is protected by the First Amendment, and he also denies that his words at the Louisville campaign rally in any way incited the crowd to violence, and he also insists that he was directing his orders to remove protestors to security personnel and not the general audience. The attorneys for the three plaintiffs dispute those assertions.




More from the plaintiff’s pleadings in the case:

Prior to [the Louisville campaign rally], the media had reported extensively on the tense, violent atmosphere at Mr. Trump’s rallies that arose from his hostile and pugnacious reaction to protesters, his habit of singling out protesters and urging his supporters to “get ‘em out of here,” his complaints that people were “too nice,” his recollections of the “good old days” when protesters were “carried out on stretchers,” and his offer to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they committed a crime or violated someone’s civil rights in the course of forcibly removing a protester from a rally.

… Mr. Trump surely appreciated the imminence of unlawful conduct that would likely follow his directives given the violence his speech had triggered at rallies before Louisville; in any event, what Mr. Trump knew and when he knew it will be fair game in discovery.

There is no question that Mr. Trump both directed and ratified the … activities in which his supporters engaged while removing protesters from his rallies, including the one in Louisville. And there already exists evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump not only was aware that his words were likely to incite lawless conduct, but that he relished their effect.

The pleadings also point out that one of the defendants involved in assaulting the three plaintiffs, an individual named Matthew Heimbach, is the leader of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party. Heimbach, according to the lawsuit, later pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct in relation to his behavior at the rally “and then played a leadership role in the recent neo-Nazi/white supremacist march on Charlottesville, Virginia, that claimed the lives of a young female counter-protester and two police officers.”

Trump’s attorneys have filed an appeal in the case, describing the litigation as “politically motivated” and seeking to get a higher federal court to intercede in the lower-court proceedings to prevent further fact finding in the case (called discovery). The appeal also asks the higher court to rule on the question of whether Trump’s statement at the rally (“Get ‘em out of here!”) can be considered an incitement to riot.

The lower-court judge, who had ruled that the case should proceed prior to Trump’s “interlocutory appeal” to a higher court, points out in one of his rulings that whether a statement can be considered an incitement to riot “does not ‘turn on the objective meaning of the words at issue,’ as the Trump defendants contend [but] rather, that determination depends in part on the circumstances surrounding the statement.”

In other words, context matters. Yelling fire at a TV video game in the privacy of your home, for example, is not the same as yelling fire in a crowded theater.




More from the judge’s earlier ruling in the case:

Trump’s order unquestionably was “perceived as encouraging violence or lawlessness” by at least some members of his audience, including [defendants Alvin] Bamberger and Heimbach.  Bamberger’s cross-claim [states] that he acted in response to [Trump’s] “urging.” Heimbach’s answer [in the pleadings asserts] as a defense that he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of [Trump] ….”

Despite the violence that ensured immediately following Trump’s command to the audience ordering them to “get” the three protestors “out of here,” Trump, in his still pending appeal on the question of whether his speech at the rally is protected, insists that he was only “exercising a core constitutional right when he reacted to the disruptive protestors by saying, ‘Get ’em out of here!’”

“His statements were nothing more than an ‘exercise [of his] free-speech rights and autonomy over the content of [his] own message’ at his own political campaign rally,” Trump asserts in his pleadings. “… Without a swift and assertive rebuke from this [appeals court], such politically motivated lawfare will continue to proliferate, and will become an increasingly common tool of political sabotage in future campaigns.

“Waiting for a final judgment [in the lower court] will make it impossible to address this problem, because by that time plaintiffs will have succeeded in their mission of using the legal system to burden the president and penalize [Trump] for exercising [his] First Amendment rights,” Trump further alleges in the litigation. “This [appeals] court should not allow that to happen. For the foregoing reasons, this [appeals] court should [order that] the claims [in the lower court] against [Trump] be dismissed.”




More from Trump’s pleadings:

… Without this [appeals] court’s intervention, this litigation will inflict irreparable harm on [Trump] by subjecting [him] to punitive litigation as the price of exercising [his] core First Amendment rights, and by imposing intrusive discovery — which already includes … requests for the president’s “tax returns” and the names “of all medical providers from whom Trump has sought or received any psychological” treatment. … Allowing plaintiffs’ meritless claims to go forward would effectively punish [Trump] by forcing [him] to undergo burdensome litigation, including intrusive discovery and depositions, as the price of exercising [his] First Amendment rights.”

Double Speak

So, it seems Trump has a double standard with respect to the First Amendment. When he is accused of using abusive speech that crosses the line into inciting a riot, he argues that the First Amendment affords him broad protections, and that such claims should be dismissed as a result.

Yet, when the press airs or publishes stories critical of him and his administration that he describes as “fake news” or otherwise dislikes, he argues that federal authority should be brought to bear to limit the media’s ability to publish or air such information, and he goes as far as to claim that members of the press are “the enemy of the American people.”

The federal appeals court has not yet issued a ruling on whether Trump’s words at the Louisville rally (“Get ‘em out of here!”) can be considered as a potential incitement to riot, or if those words are protected under the First Amendment, as Trump claims, or whether it will even accept Trump’s appeal. The appeals court’s answer will determine whether the litigation against Trump in the lower federal court in Kentucky will continue, and under what conditions.

Regardless of the outcome, Trump’s stance on free-speech protections does not seem at all dissimilar to the position held by various tyrants and dictators across the globe over the centuries: Freedom of speech is a right that applies only to the crown (Trump and his cronies in this case) and not to you or me, or the press, absent his approval. That seems to be the only way to explain Trump’s invoking of the First Amendment in the Louisville case as a defense for his speech even as he continues to attack and threaten to abridge the First Amendment free-speech rights of the press.

Stay tuned….

__________________________

Ethics commission investigating altered State Police report

By Andrea Estes  NOVEMBER 24, 2017

The state Ethics Commission has launched an investigation into how and why the former head of the Massachusetts State Police ordered two troopers to delete embarrassing information from an arrest report involving the daughter of a district court judge.

Ethics investigators this week interviewed troopers Ryan Sceviour and Ali Rei to determine which law enforcement officials played a role in ordering the alterations, the head of the State Police union confirmed Wednesday.

It marks the third probe of the scandal. State Police Superintendent Richard McKeon and his chief deputy abruptly retired earlier this month after McKeon admitted that he had ordered the troopers to alter reports on the arrest of Alli Bibaud, deleting her offer of sex in exchange for leniency as well as references to her father, Judge Timothy Bibaud.

Anyone involved in changing the police report could face charges of violating the state conflict of interest law, which bars anyone from using an official position to get something for themselves or others that an ordinary person could not get. Violations can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and potential criminal prosecution.

_______________________

New Jersey Just Reached Tipping Point For Recreational Cannabis Legalization

 

Steve Elliott 14 November, 2017

 

Ready your lungs New Jersey; the victory of Democrat Phil Murphy in the race for governor clears the deck for recreational cannabis legalization in the Garden State. Governor-elect Murphy has said he wants to see marijuana legalized, and that he will sign a legalization bill as soon as it arrives on his desk.

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legally marijuana,” Murphy had said after winning the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

If New Jersey legalizes recreational weed, it would be the ninth state to do so.

The goal is to move to legalize cannabis within the first 100 days of the new administration.

Meanwhile, in the New Jersey Legislature, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said his goal is to get the measure passed within the first 100 days of the Murphy administration, reports NJ.com. That carries some weight since Sen. Sweeney controls which bill the 40-member Senate will debate and vote on.

Murphy said he expects the sales tax from legal cannabis — estimated at $300 million a year — as a major revenue source to help fund education and public worker pensions.

“Assuming Murphy wins, it’s full steam ahead,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who has for years been a friend to cannabis activists. Sen. Scutari currently sponsors a recreational legalization bill that is still being revised.

“The election of Phil Murphy gets us a giant step closer. Without him, I don’t know where we would be. He has a 100 percent commitment to it,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Governor Chris Christie poses a political obstacle until his second term ends in January.

Don’t expect any of these positive changes to happen until the current occupant of New Jersey’s governor’s mansion, Chris Christie, vacates the premises. Christie’s second term ends at noon on January 16.

“It would be a waste” to hold another hearing on his legalization bill while Christie remains in office, according to Sen. Scutari. Christie has said the very idea of legalizing weed is “beyond stupidity,” and is a public health hazard that would probably lead to more heroin and opioid use.

Sen. Scutari said he’s still meeting with people interested in the booming cannabis industry to make “improvements” to his legalization bill, S. 3195. Scutari held a public hearing on the proposal in June.

Legalization “should provide an opportunity for businesses — an economic opportunity,” Sen. Scutari said.

Unfortunately, Scutari’s bill doesn’t include a provision to let people grow their own cannabis. If that doesn’t change, New Jersey could become only the second state in the Union, after Washington, to legalize marijuana but leave its home cultivation illegal.

The legalization bill aims to address the economic hardship that disproportionately affects minorities.

Marijuana legalization advocates and members of community groups attend a rally against marijuana arrests in front of One Police Plaza on June 13, 2012, in New York City. Andrew Cuomo has urged the state’s lawmakers to pass the law which many say leads to the arrests of a disproportion of minority youths. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Scutari said he is trying to include language in his bill to help promote cannabis entrepreneurship among minorities unfairly affected by marijuana prohibition. The concern had been raised at his public hearing for the bill in June.

Such language has to be approached carefully, according to Scutari, because giving anyone an unfair advantage in a profitable, competitive marketplace wouldn’t pass legal safeguards.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with it,” he said. “After tonight, I will.”

“Candidates across the country should take notice, as Phil Murphy won the Governor’s seat soundly because of, not in spite of, his open and focal support for legalizing marijuana — a position supported by 65 percent of New Jersey voters and 64 percent of Americans nationwide,” said NORML Executive Director Altieri.

“NORML looks forward to working with Governor-elect Murphy and other stakeholders in the state to end the disastrous policy of marijuana prohibition and to implement themoral, economic, and scientifically sound policy of legalization and regulation in the Garden State,” Altieri said.

According to Marijuana Majority board member Sam Tracy, Tuesday’s wins at the ballot box “show that marijuana reform only continues to gain momentum.”

“Next year, multiple states will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for medical or adult use, and candidates in races for state and federal office will be asked about these issues, so they’d do well to come up with good answers,” Tracy said. “As the public becomes even more supportive of legalization, we expect these victories to continue.”

______________________________ 

Cannabis Is Being Sidelined In The Opioid Crisis For One Infuriating Reason

Rob Hoffman 16 November, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C.—This year, new safe injection sites and overdose prevention units have gained federal approval to operate in Toronto, Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria. While Canada’s first safe injection site, Insite, has seen well over 6,000 overdoses since their facility opened in 2003, there have been, astonishingly, zero deaths. There has been a steep decline in diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C as well.

Still, the opioid crisis persists, claiming twice as many lives this year as last year. Last year, the rate of overdoses doubled from the year before. While safe injection sites have proven effective at preventing overdoses, their facilitation of treatment options—to get users off of dangerous opioids like heroin and fentanyl—hasn’t had a perceptible impact on the overall number of overdoses.

One wonders how much the type of drugs used for treatment plays into this. Currently, safe injection sites and overdose prevention units connect users to doctors and institutions that prescribe lesser opioids like Suboxone and Methadone, which are supposed to wean users off of their addictions to more dangerous substances, like heroin. But Suboxone and Methadone are opioids too, that come with their own addictive properties, potentials for abuse, long-term health impacts and eventually withdrawalsymptoms.



To be sure, for all their shortcomings, Suboxone and Methadone have also, in many cases, been found to be effective drugs for treating addictions to substances like heroin. But a number of new studies suggest that cannabis is also an effective treatment method for pain, and opioid use disorder, whether used as an adjunct or in some cases replacement for the standard drugs used for treatment (e.g., Suboxone and Methadone.) The significance of cannabis as a treatment drug is its safety: there is no potential for fatal overdoses, addictive properties are lower, and withdrawal symptoms virtually non-existent compared to opioids.

You would imagine, then, that cannabis would be added to the roster of drugs that safe injection and overdose prevention facilities recommend to treat opioid use disorder. But after calling around to every safe injection site I could find listed in the country, not a single one has integrated cannabis into treatment options.



This week I spent some time at an overdose prevention unit in Victoria—a city that is currently home to the third highest rate of overdose deaths in the province with thehighest opioid-related deaths in the country—to get a perspective on whether cannabis is gaining any traction as a viable treatment option.

While Victoria is currently in the process of building an official safe injection site, slated for the spring or summer of 2018, a temporary overdose prevention unit has been operating on the grounds of the Our Place Society, which provides food and resources for the city’s poor and vulnerable people. The overdose prevention unit connects users to Island Health, where they can access prescriptions for opioid use disorder treatment drugs like Suboxone and Methadone. But what about medical marijuana?

“Right now we’ve just been facing the crisis at hand, and it just hasn’t come up yet.” Says Anna, who currently runs the overdose prevention unit. Anna’s perspective is that cannabis can’t replace Suboxone or Methadone entirely, but she does see it as a viable treatment option. “I think it would be more something that, for people that find Suboxone makes them feel sick, or if they just cant take it because you know, it keeps them up or makes them feel weird.” She also thinks it can be used for patients who suffer from a lack of appetite, or for helping to treat dope sickness.

I wanted to corroborate her opinion about cannabis’ efficacy with users, who have first-hand experience with opioid use disorder.

At Our Place, I spoke to an older man named Al, who tells me he’s been struggling with an ongoing opioid addiction for 25 years. Al tells me that “if you’re in full-blown withdrawal, at the very best [cannabis] will take the edge off.” But in his experience, “Adding weed as part of the treatment with methadone is not a bad idea. Especially with the new methadone, I’m finding that it doesn’t last as long. The older stuff used to get 36, even 48 hours sometimes without a dose, and I would barely be feeling sick. Nowadays, 20 hours in I’m starting to feel the initial feelings of withdrawal. And that’s the time to smoke a joint—it takes that edge off, and it gives you that little bit of extra time.”

“Buck” who is 23 and addicted to heroin, shoots up Suboxone, a maintenance drug for opioid dependence that is also highly addictive on February 6, 2014, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin recently devoted his entire State of the State speech to the scourge of heroin. Heroin and other opiates have begun to devastate many communities in the Northeast and Midwest leading to a surge in fatal overdoses in a number of states. As prescription painkillers, such as the synthetic opiate OxyContin, become increasingly expensive and regulated, more and more Americans are turning to heroin to fight pain or to get high. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The short period of relief provided by treatment drugs is a common problem for users, according to Jonathan, one of the onsite paramedics at the overdose prevention unit. And once this relief starts to wane, many users turn to illicit drugs “I keep hearing stories with the methadone especially. You only get your 500 ml for the day, and that’s only enough to get someone un-sick in the morning when they’re having withdrawals, so they take that in the morning, but 12-14 hours later, at night, it’s not affecting them anymore, and then their prescription’s out for methadone so…they’re turning to dope at the end of the day again.” Says Jonathan.

Dale Robert Cardinal, who’s been using opioids to treat his ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory disease) for the past eight years, is one such person. Cardinal tells me he’s been “cut off” his usual medication (morphine), and like many others, he knows, has a difficult time affording pain medication. Without access to prescription medications, “We just have to do other drugs that are provided on the street, and some of us are dying, a lot of us are dying. I know four people, and I know them by name.”

Cardinal believes that concentrated and specialized cannabis oil could be an effective alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, and while simply smoking weed isn’t effective for pain relief, it does help.

Jonathan also doesn’t believe cannabis alone could provide effective relief for heavy addiction symptoms, but that it would be a useful adjunct to Suboxone or Methadone. “Especially with a lot of the side effects that can come along—the nausea and sickness and loss of hunger—I think that would be a really big benefit of it.”

Grant McKenzie, Director of Communications for the Our Place Society, has a similar perspective.

“I know that a lot of the people that we work with, they’re combining other drugs with their methadone.” Grant tells me. “they’re taking the methadone so they don’t get sick, but they miss getting high, or they miss that feeling. So they’re adding dangerous drugs on top of the methadone, which then leads to overdose and death. And so if there were a way to have them using certain strains of cannabis on top of the methadone, the chances of them sticking with the methadone rather than looking for crystal meth or heroin would be, in my opinion, greater.”




While cannabis probably won’t be a miracle cure, pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to at the Our Place Society’s overdose prevention unit— users, paramedics, and upper-level staff alike—thinks that cannabis is useful in treating opioid use disorder. So why don’t they recommend users to facilities where they can access medical marijuana?

Grant says that it “will probably explode once it becomes legalized, that I see that as a strong possibility as an alternative to what we’re using now.” (Though ultimately he says the decision would be up to Island Health, who neglected to comment in time for this article). But the thing is, medical marijuana is already legal. In fact, it’s been legal since 2001. Nearly two decades ago! It remains widely undervalued in its medical potential.

So, in short, there isn’t any good reason why cannabis isn’t being promulgated as a treatment option.

As far as I can tell, the only reason for this is the stigma attached to a substance that is, until next year, recreationally illegal. Marijuana’s history as a widely policed, illicit drug, makes it particularly difficult to wrap one’s head around using it to combat addiction to other illicit, widely policed drugs. But this is, of course, a terrible reason: people are dying, and cannabis is a known and effective method of treatment.

To be sure, it’s impossible to overstate the sheer importance of the work done by people who operate safe injection and overdose prevention units. They are saving lives. But if we have a shot at curbing the opioid crisis, it’s going to require every resource at our disposal. Cannabis, as multiple studies have shown, is a particularly effective resource. Everyone I’ve talked to acknowledges this. But cannabis cannot continue to be praised by health workers while simultaneously sidelined as a treatment option. It’s time for healthcare workers to actively push for the use of medical marijuana in treating opioid use disorders, lest we neglect a perfectly viable treatment option in favor of the status quo.

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An Extensive Study Shows That Ending Mass Incarceration Will Reduce Crime Longterm

Zack Kotzer 12 November, 2017




 The concept of incarceration, the beliefs behind its practice, the dehumanization, its exploitation, its entire practice deserves to be scrutinized the most critical light imaginable. Prisons, as we know them, present a horrifying reality. Nearly 1% of the US’ population is behind bars, and despite having only 5% of the global population, the US accounts for a quarter of the global prison population. A disproportionate amount of re-offenders are arrested on smaller drug charges. And of course, none of that is to mention the insanely disproportionate amount of people of color who make up those prison populations. There exists a fractured and corroded justice system from top to bottom. It’s no wonder that groups across the aisle are calling for reform. A reformation process wouldn’t be easy, but it’s a growing necessity. One organization wanted to make this clear in no uncertain terms, going all in just to waver their own doubt.

“(We) at Open Philanthropy asked ourselves: what if we’re wrong?,” writes researcher David Roodman, commissioned by Open Philanthropy. “It may seem strange to launch a grantmaking program even as we question its empirical basis. But Open Philanthropy had already invested significant time in studying criminal justice reform as a cause.”

In his extensive study, which looks into cases in Italy, the Netherlands and states like California and Maryland, which had sweeping changes to their juvenile offender policy around 2001, Roodman wanted to explore what effect incarceration rates and periods of imprisonment had on the overall crime.  




“What if our grantees win reforms that cut the number of people behind bars, and that pushes the crime rate up?,” wrote Roodman. “How likely is that? And how likely is it that any increase would be large enough to overshadow the benefits of decarceration, which include taxpayer savings and expanded human freedom?”

 The key takeaway is that “decarceration has zero net impact on crime.”

The hypothesis that prisons take crime off the street does not hold much water. Letting criminal offenders in or out does not boost crime in surrounding areas. Rather, the war on drugs has resulted in more powerful criminal organizations, more localized poverty, and more broken families. It is financially and ethically irresponsible to hold prisoners captive for extended periods of time. It is obvious that long-term prisoners or light offenders often leave in worse shape than they entered.

Roodman found that mass incarceration only prevents short-term crime, but increases it substantially in the long term. A reduction in prison populations would provide the opposite effect.

California provided Roodman his strongest illustration. In 1994 they implemented the three-strikes law, where if someone had a combined violent crime with any two other felonies, they could be locked away for life. The state found that it was not reducing the violent crime rate, and worse yet their prisons were becoming crowded with more minor offenders. They scaled back the laws by approving Proposition 36 in 2012, giving Roodman a good timeframe to work with.

US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama was the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

“By cutting the time Californians spend in prison, the state is cutting the time they spend building relationships with other convicted offenders, even joining gangs,” found Roodman, “the time they spend trading tricks for robbing homes; the time they spend unable to integrate into the formal work economy; and the time they spend wondering why, if the system doesn’t give a damn about them, they should give a damn about it. In other words, perhaps by reducing time, realignment is reducing the criminogenic aftereffects of incarceration. If so, realignment may be raising crime in the short-term but is lowering it over the long run.”

Roodman admits it’s an optimistic conclusion that less prison would lead to less crime. Measuring the short term is always more conclusive, the future poses a lot of questions. And there is minutia that is hard to quantify, like drug and job rehabilitation prison could, hypothetically, provide, though the escalating American prison nightmare makes it hard to keep the faith. It is clear, however, that the attitude that prison prevents crime, or even deters it, is being dismantled.

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One Of The Longest Serving Attorney Generals In History Is All About His 420 License Plate

Zack Kotzer 08 November, 2017

 

Ex-Attorney General William Sorrell has a very special custom license plate. While it technically isn’t a vanity plate, he seems pretty proud of it nonetheless. If you’re in Vermont and see a yellow Jeep cruising by with ‘420’ on the bumper, then go ahead and wave hello to the longest-serving attorney general in state history.

At 70 years old, Sorrel served in office until January of this year, and yes, he knows what 420 means and, yes, he’s all about it.




“It makes me smile every time I see it,” Sorrell told the Vermont Digger. “It’s a source of pleasant amusement.”

Since being issued the plate, Sorrell said he’d enjoyed the cheers from a random passerby. Mostly thumbs up and a few people asking how much it cost to get the plate. Sorrell wouldn’t comment on whether or not he’s enjoyed cannabis himself, but he has backed legalization in the state.

The plate isn’t hanging on his personal vehicle as any political statement or support for the legalization effort; it’s just pure coincidence. High ranking state officials qualify for lower-numbered license plates. When Sorrel was acting attorney general for the state, he was the number ‘7.’ In 2003, when then-Vermont Governor Howard Dean was preparing to leave office for failed presidential bid (Remember when candidates were disqualified for having a weird yell? Must have happened on another planet.) he promised Sorrell he’d reserve a three-digit plate for him.

Dean had no idea 420 had any significance and had the plate was put aside for 13 years. Never knowing what it said, Sorrell was delighted when he finally got his plate. “I started to laugh out loud,” Sorrell said, “I took it out of the manila folder and raised it in the air, laughing. Everybody got a huge kick out of it.”

Sorrell was cool about having the 420 plate, even if he’s not exactly a smoker himself. The only alteration he had made to the plate was to change it to a conservation plate, meaning there’s a fish on it now. Personal use marijuana is currently legal in Vermont and possession up to an ounce. The fight for full legalization hit a roadblock last May when current Governor Phil Scott vetoed the most recent attempt to allow sales in the state.

Maybe Scott could take a ride in the 420-mobile, see if it changes his perspective.

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Researchers In Colorado Turned A Dodge Sprinter Into Traveling Marijuana Research Lab

Rob Hoffman 09 November, 2017




Researchers at the University of Colorado have come up with an innovative solution for getting around stringent medical marijuana research laws. They’re calling it the CannaVan.

The CannaVan is a mobile marijuana research lab, operating out of a Sprinter Van. This project was launched to give researchers more freedom to conduct better studies on medical marijuana and to side-step the complications of absurd and limiting federal laws.

One of these laws, for example, forces researchers to exclusively obtain medical marijuana from one place: a farm run out of the University of Mississippi, and operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One problem with this, however, is that this marijuana is not a great example of the product a typical marijuana-user would consume (particularly in a state like Colorado, where recreational weed is legal).

One of the researchers, Cinnamon Bidwell who works at the University of Colorado Change Lab, recently spoke to Colorado Public Radio (CPR) about this problem, saying that the average THC content in this government-provided marijuana is between five or six percent. By contrast, your average dispensary-acquired bud might have a 16, 17 or 18 THC percentage.

Researchers also have to submit piles of paperwork and navigate a complex bureaucratic landscape to get their hands on marijuana that can be used in their studies. This is true even in states like Colorado, where researchers could, after work, walk into a dispensary and purchase recreational marijuana on the spot. This convoluted process is one of the major factors that makes marijuana research so painfully slow and cumbersome in the United States.

Another problem is that many universities are also afraid that conducting research into medical marijuana, which is still under federal prohibition, will affect their standing with federal grants (of which the University of Colorado receives over $300 million per year).




Federal regulations ultimately harm the accuracy of medical marijuana research, a field with profound human consequences. As a result, many researchers have been left with no choice but to find loopholes—like the CannaVan.

As it turns out, one of the best ways to get around these complications, researchers with the University of Colorado Change Lab discovered, was to conduct research off of university property. Regarding the marijuana used in the research, the test subjects would simply buy their own.

“What we came up with is we can’t bring people to the lab and have them use cannabis, but we can bring the lab to the people,” Kent Hutchinson, a researcher at the University of Colorado Change Lab, said to CPR.

The CannaVan simply shows up to participants (all frequent marijuana users) homes, and performs tests on them—some physical (e.g., blood-work) and others mental (e.g., memorizing lists)—before and after they consume their marijuana. Researchers also use a breathalyzer to ensure no alcohol was consumed before the test. At the end of the testing, participants are given $150 for their time and help.

“The mobile laboratory allows us to collect blood immediately before and after a participant finishes using their cannabis in their own home and allows us to collect self-report, interview, and neurobehavioral measures without any delay and with a minimum of inconvenience to participants.” Reads the CannaVan’s official bio on the University of Colorado Boulder’s website.

There are still kinks in their research style, such as controlling doses that their participants take. (Because they’re not able to administer doses themselves, participants essentially smoke as much or as little as they’d like.)

This mobile method of research is so beneficial, it’s even attracting the attention of federal organizations, like the National Institute on Drug Abuse itself (the same agency that runs the Mississippi marijuana farm). Which is all fine and dandy. But when research laws are so limiting that even the federal agencies responsible for overseeing them are forced to conduct research by driving around the country in converted work vans, maybe it’s time to pass new legislation.

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Alberta’s plan to allow marijuana use in hotels could create huge industry

November 24, 2017 | By Matt Lamers




Alberta is set to become the first province in Canada to give hotel owners the option of allowing recreational marijuana consumption in guest rooms, creating a potentially huge new cannabis tourism sector.

It’s also the first time a province has sought to regulate a safe place to legally consume adult-use marijuana outside the confines of a private home.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley told Marijuana Business Daily that hotel operators would be able to permit cannabis use in guest rooms where tobacco smoking is permitted.

“We recognize that not all Albertans would necessarily have a place to legally consume cannabis if we limited to consumption to private residences, and we aren’t yet in a position to license cannabis cafes or lounges as we need direction on edibles from our federal partners,” Ganley said.

“Given that these are private businesses, they also have the ability to prohibit it on their property.”

So far, Yukon, Ontario and New Brunswick have proposed home-only consumption laws, while Quebec has gone as far as to forbid cannabis consumption in 41 places.

Interviews with government officials and industry sources suggest business opportunities will likely be focused on niche or boutique hotels in destination markets, such as near Banff and Lake Louise ski areas, as well as non-franchise hotels in some urban settings.

‘Important for tourism’

Dave Kaiser – president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association – said the allowance of cannabis consumption in hotels would give Alberta’s tourism industry a competitive edge over other jurisdictions.

“A lot of hotels might be interested. If there’s a potential market there that we could provide, it could be important for tourism and we would be interested in those opportunities,” said Kaiser, whose association represents over 800 hotels, motels, inns and resorts that employ roughly 30,000 Albertans.

“I think our industry would be interested in that opportunity if it came to be.”

Kaiser noted, however, that many franchise hotels already ban smoking outright.

And some municipalities in the province, such as Canmore, ban smoking in all hotels.

Smaller hotels already are sensing an opportunity.

Mike Shymka, manager of the Town and Country Hotel in Calgary, said his family run business will “definitely” allow marijuana consumption in smoking-designated rooms.

“If other hotels don’t allow cannabis and we do, then people will gravitate here because they’ll have the option,” he said. “There’ll definitely be market demand for it.”

He believes giving customers the freedom to consume cannabis legally without having the stigma of doing it illegally will be a draw for Alberta’s tourism sector.

“It’s a very smart decision for Alberta to give business owners the option and the freedom,” Shymka said.

Boutique hotels

Alberta’s NDP government has put forward what analysts have hailed as the most business-friendlymarijuana framework in the country, and that includes the tourism industry. 

Businesspeople told Marijuana Business Daily that boutique hotels in destination markets might be in a position to capitalize.

“Some people might choose to go to Lake Louise instead of Whistler (in British Columbia) because it’ll be easier for them to do what they enjoy doing,” said Shymka.

In a submission to the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat, the Banff & Lake Louise Hospitality Association said it is likely the cannabis industry will become an integral part of tourism and hospitality as markets for marijuana products and distribution become clearer.

However, association spokeswoman Brenda Stanton told Marijuana Business Daily it’s too early to identify any specific opportunities for hotel operators because more research needs to be done.

Jason Kujath, speaking for the Alberta Cannabis Stakeholders Group, said leaving recreational cannabis consumption to the discretion of business owners could end up being a great value proposition for boutique hotels in resort mountain towns. “For those smaller businesses, there will be an opportunity to cater to a cannabis community,” he said.

“I think people will travel here to take part in our entrepreneur-driven model, because the experience here will be so variable based on different business plans.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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New rules would have major impact on most Canadian cannabis businesses

November 22, 2017

A new set of regulatory proposals has been released by Health Canada that would have wide-ranging implications for most businesses in Canada’s marijuana industry — and even many stuck in the gray market.

The regulations would facilitate the coming into force of the Cannabis Act – which is still subject to parliamentary approval – and the transition from the current legal framework that bans recreational marijuana and regulates medical marijuana.

The changes were released as part of a consultation paper that will be subject to public comment until Jan. 20, 2018.

The proposed regulations will have a major impact on a business if it’s involved in practically any area of the legal cannabis sector, including ancillary services and hemp production.

Other key takeaways:

Health Canada is soliciting feedback on whether people with histories of nonviolent, lower-risk criminal activity should be permitted to participate in the legal cannabis industry.

The regulations would permit both outdoor and indoor cultivation of cannabis, whereas currently outdoor production has not been permitted. However, cannabis would need to be stored and processed indoors.

The new rules propose four types of cultivation licenses: standard cultivation, micro-cultivation, industrial hemp and nurseries.

Micro-cultivation licenses are going to have a major impact on the marijuana industry in British Columbia because it potentially provides an avenue to bring thousands of gray-market growers into the regulated fold.

If a province or territory fails to establish a retail framework for recreational marijuana, the federal government could temporarily license the sale of cannabis to consumers, ordered over the phone, online or via written order.

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Canadian cannabis producers brace for entry of alcohol, tobacco firms

November 21, 2017




Three-quarters of Canadian cannabis producers expect big tobacco, pharmaceutical and alcohol companies to muscle their way into the marijuana sector over the next three years.

Recognizing there is substantial opportunity in the cannabis sector, established industries are expected to enter the space, such as Constellation Brands’ recent stake purchase of Canopy Growth, according to a survey by EY consultancy firm.

The survey of licensed producers also suggests the recent wave of consolidation is just the beginning of a trend in which the industry is dominated by a few large players post-legalization.

According to surveyed companies, areas that are ripe for heavy investment in the next three years are clinical trials (50%); growing capacity (37%); IT such as automation and e-commerce (37%); human capital (25%) and processing or extract technologies (25%).

Other key takeaways from the survey:

Only 37% of licensed producers say they’re focused on scaling up capacity to meet anticipated post-legalization demand.

Such low interest in ramped-up production might stem from producers’ struggles to raise capital to support the cost.

The two highest barriers to entry are access to capital and the speed at which Health Canada is issuing licenses.

An uncertain regulatory environment is impeding companies’ ability to make strategic investments.

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Aurora launching hostile takeover for rival CanniMed

November 20, 2017




Aurora Cannabis said Monday it is proceeding with a hostile takeover attempt for CanniMed Therapeutics this week after the rival medical marijuana producer rebuffed its initial friendly bid for 544 million Canadian dollars ($425 million) in stock.

The hostile bid represents a new development in Canada’s emerging marijuana industry ahead of next year’s planned legalization of recreational cannabis.

Aurora announced its intention to acquire all issued and outstanding common shares of CanniMed last week and offered to open talks with the Saskatchewan-based company.

So far, however, CanniMed has declined to communicate with its larger rival, according to Aurora.

Instead, CanniMed said last week it had reached an agreement to buy Ontario-based Newstrike Resources Ltd. (TSX Venture Exchange: HIP) in an all-stock deal.

Aurora called CanniMed’s move a “poison pill” tactic and said it would take its offer directly to CanniMed’s shareholders.

Aurora said it already has secured the approval of CanniMed’s three largest shareholders, accounting for 38% of its shares.

What you need to know:

Aurora (Toronto Stock Exchange: ACB) said its proposed offer – currently valued at CA$24 per CanniMed share – represents a 56.9% premium to CanniMed’s closing price on Nov. 14, the day before Aurora first announced the offer.

It’s unclear if CanniMed board member Rob Duguid’s resignation, announced Monday, is related to the Aurora offer.

If successful, Aurora’s offer to purchase CanniMed would be the largest acquisition to date in the North American marijuana industry.

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3 medical marijuana titans team on ‘epic’ partnership to serve global market

November 17, 2017 | By Matt Lamers




A groundbreaking marijuana joint venture has been created.

Three leading international cannabis businesses are pooling their intellectual property and technology to create products for the global marijuana market, starting with Canada.

Under the joint venture, Ontario’s Canopy Growth will give ownership stakes in one of its wholly owned licensed medical marijuana producers to Amsterdam’s Green House Brands and Denver-based Organa Brands.

In exchange for a stake in Agripharm, Green House and Organa Brands have granted an exclusive, royalty-free licence to the Ontario cultivator to use their technology, trademarks, genetics and other intellectual property.

The joint venture will create a Canadian base for both Green House – which owns Strain Hunters, Green House Seed Co. and King of Cannabis – and Organa Brands, a provider of vape pens, edibles and other infused products.

The two companies plan to use the partnership as a springboard to access the global market by leveraging Canopy’s international operations in Canada, Australia, Germany and other nations.

“Branding and distribution are going to be key to success for cannabis businesses. Those factors are going into this relationship (the joint venture),” Arjan Roskam, founder of Green House Brands, told Marijuana Business Daily on Friday at MJBizCon in Las Vegas. (The event is put on by Marijuana Business Daily‘s parent company.)

Green House is aggressively expanding into North America.

Organa Brands, meanwhile, is stacked with industry-leading intellectual property and manufactures products in 12 facilities in 11 states and Jamaica, selling them in over 1,200 retail locations.

“It’s the beginning of a relationship, and these guys have done it long enough and well enough that people want to buy what they do,” Bruce Linton, CEO of Canopy, told an audience during MJBizCon.

The companies hope to exploit international production, product distribution platforms and brick-and-mortar retail locations.

The joint venture will start in Canada.

But the bigger picture is access to international markets – or, as Roskam described it, “dispensaries on the moon. There’s no limit.”

Chris Driessen, president and owner of Organa Brands, told Marijuana Business Daily at MJBizCon that everything from standard operating procedures to intellectual property are going into the venture – “and mostly that’s involving our extraction methods and formulations around our products.”

“The sky is the limit when you have three of the most influential cannabis brands in the world that are unifying to start the process of global expansion, starting in Creemore, Ontario,” he added.

What you need to know about the deal:

Agripharm has a 20,000-square-foot indoor growing facility in Creemore, Ontario.

Agripharm will not conduct any business in the United States.

Canopy will retain 40% ownership of Agripharm, while Green House and Organa Brands will own 40% and 20%, respectively.

Matt Lamers  mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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HiTunes: What Was the First Song in History to Explicitly Reference Marijuana?




Monday 11/20/2017 by Patrick Lyons




In our new series, "HiTunes," we'll be investigating various marijuana lore throughout music history, debunking myths and sifting through hazy rumors for the blunt truth. What came first, Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" or the purple haze strain? Why have multiple artists written songs warning others about smoking with Willie Nelson? Is Redman's song "How to Roll a Blunt" actually an effective instructional guide? We'll explore these urban legends and more, but first we're starting from the beginning.

The Legend: Depending on which baby boomer you ask, either cannabis wasn't a mainstay in the music industry until the '60s, or you weren't allowed to sing about anything fun until the '60s.

Both assumptions are based in easily-observable truth, but they're overstated.

Compare the '57 Chevys, malted milkshakes, and hip-wiggling commonly associated with '50s rock 'n roll to the imagery associated with music a decade later — long hair, free love, acid tests, psychedelic album art — and it's very clear that marijuana's prevalence in the arts increased over a short period of time. The '60s also saw increased lyrical freedom. Let's use the most profane word in the English language as an example. There's a solid handful of songs by popular artists released on major labels in the '60s that contain the word "fuck," including The Doors' "The End," Jefferson Airplane's "We Can Be Together," and Al Stewart's "Love Chronicles." Before that, you'd be extremely hard-pressed to find a well-circulated song prominently featuring the expletive.

But let's be honest: people have always loved saying "fuck" and musicians have loved ganja long before it became part of mainstream music culture. Do a little digging and you'll find that some dude named Eddy Duchin recorded a version of Louis Armstrong's "Ol' Man Mose" in 1938 in which he subbed out the word "bucket" for "fuck it." Similarly, you can find quite a few tracks that explicitly reference marijuana decades before the '60s established tunes and toking as birds of a feather. Below, we'll explore some historic songs in an attempt to figure out which record was the first to overtly mention grass.

The Popular Answer: Cab Calloway's "The Reefer Man" (1932)

There's no misconstruing this one as innuendo or metaphor. This track, first recorded by theatrical bandleader Cab Calloway, opens with a skit that's like the Prohibition Era equivalent of a Cheech and Chong bit. Calloway — in conversation with one of his bandmates — observes a man who's "full of that reefer," to which someone responds, "You mean that cat's high?!" What follows is a funny, slightly derogatory song about a stoner (not a dealer as the title might imply) who thinks he can walk on water and confuses watermelons with pickles.

Although not amounting to much more than a light, "Potheads, am I right?" critique, Calloway's song was probably the first to describe the actual effects of cannabis, even if he was exaggerating. Coupled with the song's blatant title, "The Reefer Man" is a common answer for "first weed song," reflective of the marijuana-infused Harlem jazz scene of the '20s and '30s. Other fixtures of the era also recorded covert odes to the plant using various slang terms. For example, there was "You'se a Viper," first recorded by Stuff Smith in 1936, with "viper" being a code word for a fellow pothead, due to the hissing sound made by pulling on joints. Another popular slang term was…

The Dark Horse: Louis Armstrong's "Muggles" (1929)

Before the word was co-opted by J.K. Rowling, "muggles" or "mug" was another Harlem nickname for weed. Jazz legend Louis Armstrong was a noted cannabis fan — once cracking jokes about getting high on a TV appearance, and commonly cited as the first celebrity arrested for possession — and this 1929 instrumental is said to be his ode to the herb. Obviously, "Muggles" is nowhere near as explicit as "The Reefer Man," but you could argue that Armstrong was trying to recreate a high with his tranquil, soaring composition. Brownie points for predating Calloway's track and also portraying weed in a more positive light. But if we look back beyond popular music scenes and into the realm of folk music, there are even older examples of musicians paying homage to cannabis.

The Truth (Probably): "La Cucaracha"

Everyone knows this traditional Spanish song, which some accounts date back to the Middle Ages, and most agree was brought ashore to Mexico in the early 19th Century. Although it originated in Europe, the song is commonly associated with Mexico, mostly because of its increased popularity during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s. During this time, soldiers on both sides would write new stanzas that commented on politics or satirized their opponents, which is a common feature of most folk music around the world. One particular verse has stuck with the song throughout the past century, and it just so happens to contain a literal mention of the word "marijuana."

Sung by members of Pancho Villa's revolutionary army, this version poses then-Mexican president Victoriano Huerta as the titular cockroach, critiquing his allegedly aggressive drinking and smoking habits. Here's the English translation of the verse in question:

The cockroach, the cockroach

Can't walk anymore

Because it doesn't have, because it's lacking

Marijuana to smoke

Unless Huerta had access to some potent sativa, that's a pretty odd way to portray a weed habit. Regardless of its accuracy, this verse has remained one of the most popular in modern renditions of "La Cucaracha." On multiple occasions, Looney Tunes made use of this version during Speedy Gonzales episodes, usually to contrast him with his lethargic friend Slow Poke Rodriguez.

Modern bands like the Gipsy Kings have sung this stanza in their renditions of "La Cucaracha," too. And while you probably won't hear the average mariachi band name-drop mary jane in a modern-day rendition, it doesn't discredit the original song's lyrics that nod to the sweet leaf. Since the origins of folk songs are hard to track, with songwriters frequently uncredited, it's hard to confirm with full confidence that "La Cucaracha" is the OG weed tune. There very well may be earlier, less widespread songs that name-drop marijuana, but as far as we know, some Villist soldiers in the 1910s made history when they got wind of their ruler's proclivity for pot.

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Saskatchewan could open up cannabis sales to entrepreneurs

November 20, 2017




Saskatchewan doesn’t want to be in the business of owning retail marijuana outlets, according to its justice minister, suggesting more opportunities could be in store for entrepreneurs in the province.

Justice Minister Don Morgan said Saskatchewan is leaning toward a private sales model, CBC News reported.

Saskatchewan’s impending recreational marijuana industry could generate 250 million Canadian dollars ($200 million) in economic activity per year, according to a recent study by the University of Saskatchewan, which also recommended adopting a private retail model.

Morgan said of recreational marijuana, “we don’t want to own it, market it or warehouse it.”

What you need to know:

The federal government is aiming to legalize recreational cannabis next summer, and provincial governments are responsible for their own distribution and sales schemes.

Saskatchewan hasn’t indicated when it will introduce legislation.

It’s a relatively small market, with about 700,000 adults.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are going with publicly owned marijuana monopolies, while Manitoba, Alberta and possibly Newfoundland are handing marijuana sales to the private sector.

Saskatchewan is home to four licensed producers so far.

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Oakland sorting through 255 marijuana business applications

November 20, 2017




Marijuana regulators in Oakland, California, have received 255 business license applications for cannabis cultivation, sales, distribution and transportation, another indicator of the huge interest the Golden State’s impending market is generating.

California’s new regulated market goes online Jan. 1 in the cities and counties that allow it.

Oakland has long been a proponent of regulated marijuana and could lead the way for the state’s legal rollout.

Here’s what you need to know, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:

78 of the applications are for indoor grow operations.

55 applications are for delivery businesses.

The city plans to approve a handful of applicants by Jan. 1. Others can apply for a temporary state license.

Oakland has already approved licenses for the eight retail marijuana shops that were grandfathered in under the previous medical cannabis law. However, those eight businesses still must obtain a state license.

The city plans to double its retail marijuana stores to 16 by the spring.

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Newfoundland considers handing cannabis sales to private sector

November 20, 2017




Newfoundland and Labrador might allow privately owned stores to sell recreational marijuana, a move that would open up significant retail opportunities for entrepreneurs in the province.

If the plan is approved, Newfoundland would become the first province east of Manitoba to give entrepreneurs a piece of the retail marijuana market.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp., a Crown subsidiary, might license and regulate private stores so the province wouldn’t have to absorb the cost of renting space and hiring staff, according to CBC News.

What you need to know:

Newfoundland could unveil its legalized marijuana framework as early as next week.

After the province’s bill is tabled, it must be approved by the House of Assembly, where the governing Liberal party enjoys a comfortable majority.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick are going with publicly owned marijuana monopolies, while Manitoba and Alberta are handing marijuana sales to the private sector.

Newfoundland is a relatively small market, with about 344,000 adults.

Newfoundland wasn’t home to any of Canada’s 74 licensed producers as of Nov. 20.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia haven’t unveiled how they will sell recreational marijuana.

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Labeling error leads to recall of medical marijuana in Canada

November 23, 2017




A licensed producer of medical marijuana that issued a voluntarily recall says more than 70% of the product has been returned.

Aurora Cannabis – based in Alberta and traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol ACB – issued the recall last week for for 1.9 kilograms (4.2 pounds) of dried marijuana because of a labeling mistake.

The THC identified on labels was higher than the concentration present in the product, an error Executive Vice President Cam Battley attributed to an IT bug, which he says the company has since fixed.

The products contained a THC value of 16.2% instead of 8.17% and a CBD value of 0.05% instead of 5.91%, according to the recall notice posted on Health Canada’s website.

Health Canada and Aurora said no reports of adverse reactions have been received.

“The fact that it’s a small amount of product doesn’t mean we’re not taking this seriously,” Battley said. “We don’t want to even have a small recall.”

Customers were given a full credit.

What you need to know:

The product was valued under 20,000 Canadian dollars ($15,700).

It’s a Type II recall, meaning exposure to affected products may cause temporary adverse health consequences, or there’s little likelihood of serious adverse health consequences.

It’s the industry’s eighth medical marijuana recall of the year.

Amid calls for stricter product testing standards, Health Canada started unannounced inspections at licensed cannabis cultivators in February to ensure that only registered pesticides are used.

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Reinventing the Legal Bud Biz-Con: Meet the Minds Behind the First “Destination” Cannabis Conference

Tuesday 11/21/2017 by Zach Harris




If you’ve ever been to a cannabis business conference, you generally know what to expect from the expo and networking scene. In most cases, industry events are held in cavernous rooms at airport-adjacent hotels, where hordes of suit-and-tie green rushers all try their best to convince each other that their company is one step ahead of everyone else’s. And despite some of the same high-profile sponsors and speakers, most conferences are a far cry from their Cannabis Cup cousins, focusing entirely on the profit margins of getting high instead of the act itself.

That’s where Alex Rogers comes in. A cannabis community mainstay since the not-so-glorious days of full prohibition in the early 1990’s, Rogers served six months in a German prison for cannabis-related crimes in 2006 before returning to the U.S., eventually settling in Oregon and opening one of the Beaver State’s premier medical marijuana clinics.

With medical and recreational legalization taking off faster than anyone predicted in the decade since he returned to the States, Rogers has shifted his focus to those now ubiquitous cannabis business conferences. Starting locally and expanding globally, Rogers founded the Oregon Cannabis Business Conference, and subsequently the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) — both with the express goal of bringing culture, activism, and community to the exponentially expanding industry.

After launching the ICBC in 2014, Rogers partnered with cannabis media expert Dean Arbit — the co-founder of California’s New West Summit cannabis conference and creator of the San Francisco Chronicle’s online marijuana blog Smell the Truth — in 2016. Since then, the pair has thrown B2B events in San Francisco, Vancouver, Berlin, and are now bringing the event this December to Kauai, Hawaii, where the duo will host the world’s first “destination cannabis conference.”

To find out what makes their events stand out from the competition, and what visitors and locals alike can expect at the Kauai conference, MERRY JANE tracked down Rogers and Arbit to talk all things ICBC ahead of the December symposium. You can also check out our recent chat with comedian and ICBC speaker Doug Benson here.

MERRY JANE: Let’s start at the beginning, how did you both get involved in the cannabis industry, and how did you become partners?

Alex Rogers: I’ve been in the the cannabis industry since ‘93, from working on Jack Herer’s California hemp initiative to working with groups like Cypress Hill. After about 10 years of fucking around in Europe, I came back to Oregon and started one of the state’s biggest and most prominent medical marijuana clinics, which lead to the Oregon Cannabis Business Conference, and from there, I made the leap to the international conferences and the concept of the ICBC.

But I’m not a CEO, I’m more of an artist/activist and I don’t consider myself a hardcore business guy. So I built the business, but I didn’t understand about scaling and marketing and a lot of these fundamental things it takes to make a business. I grew the ICBC out of pure fire and vision, but then it became bigger than me, and I realized if I was going to take it to the next level I needed advice and partners. Fortunately Dean — who has sold businesses, comes from media, and had previously founded the New West Summit — came on close to a year and a half ago, and he was that fix. He is a CEO, he’s scaled businesses before, and when we partnered together, he respected my old-school activism [and] my hardcore balls-to-the-wall attitude, and I respected his business acumen. Since then we’ve been able to take the ICBC to the next level.

With the international conferences, you’ve set up shop in Berlin, San Francisco, Vancouver and now Hawaii...not exactly San Bernardino, California. Before we get into Hawaii specifically, what is so important about bringing the cannabis industry to world renowned destinations?

Rogers: I consider myself an international citizen. I’ve lived in many different countries and I speak many different languages, and to go to markets that are nascent and burgeoning has been incredible. We did get a little lucky in Germany with medical marijuana legalization turning right before our event, but by thinking globally we were the first to market in Europe as a B2B conference. My whole goal is to spread cannabis internationally.

Dean Arbit: On the business side of it, it made a ton of sense because we had all of these cannabis trailblazers in North America, and we were able to bring them to new consumer markets in Europe. It makes all the sense in the world.

Except that their products still can’t legally cross state, not to mention international borders, right? That doesn’t put a damper on business?

Arbit: No, not really. At our conference in Berlin, our American and Canadian partners were being introduced to the market and businesses in Germany, which is now poised to be a massive medical market — but where they still have no framework for cultivation. The reason that the international cannabis community is huge for us is because our federal laws prevent us from [expanding nationwide], but brands should not sit there and be stifled because of our fucked-up federal laws. We’re still gonna put together players that are doing it right, wherever they are in the world.

That makes sense. Keeping with that idea that most conferences tend to take a more straightlaced, conservative approach to the cannabis industry, you both make sure to bring a strong sense of activism and culture to the ICBC. Why is that so important to you?

Arbit: Point blank the difference is this: we are throwing a cannabis event, and we are both deep cannabis folk. So the people that come to our events aren’t the newbies trying to meet people, it’s the established veterans of the industry coming together to see their brethren, in an environment that’s not overwhelmingly green, or rather wet behind the ears.

Rogers: If you had told me 25 years ago when I had my dreadlocks and I had my sign on Haight-Ashbury saying “legalize weed” — if you had told me that weed was going to be where it is now — I would have thought to myself, ‘How else is the world different? Where are we with alternative energy?’ and the rest. I could never have predicted that cannabis would be legal and usurped by the normal American uber-capitalist business narrative, but now that we are, we’re still going to do our little part to show people that the cannabis revolution is a cultural revolution, whether anyone likes it or not.

It used to be that suits would come in the game and they couldn’t make any money because they would clash with the hippies, or not speak the same language, but now the suits are making the money, and you don’t need to smoke weed or be into the culture to make money in the industry. And that’s fine: all we’re trying to do is push a little more consciousness back into the space when it comes to how people do business and conduct themselves.

The plant is powerful, and we just wanted to have some basic respect for it going forward; to push a little more irie thinking into the industry.

In that same vein, ICBC Kauai has been billed as the world’s first “destination” cannabis conference, Can you tell me what that entails?

Rogers: I wanted a more intimate environment where really big players in the industry could come together to make serious connections. Instead of events that are hurried, hectic, and overwhelming, I wanted something chill and comfortable. I want to create a new level of cannabis industry networking.

While Hawaii’s medical marijuana program is still relatively new, the state has a long and fruitful history with cannabis. Do you expect a large contingent of local ganjapreneurs, or mostly shoobies?

Rogers: Absolutely, that’s our main goal — to connect Hawaiian canna-businesses with mainland investors and financiers. From Oahu to the Big Island to Maui to Kauai, a ton of the top people in Hawaii [from both] cannabis and hemp will be there.

It’s really important to us because Hawaii is kind of this odd post-colonial land almost bordering on the third world. We plan to confront that head on, and talk about how growing cannabis and hemp is good for Hawaiian locals and Hawaii’s economy.

We recently booked Dustin Barka, a world famous surfer, Kauai local, and GMO activist for the event, and we’ll be predicating our hemp panel on getting petrochemical companies out of Kauai. [There’s] a solution in hemp where Hawaiians don’t lose their jobs, but transition into new employment in an industry that is even more profitable, and healthier for the land.

Local Hawaiians will also get discounted pricing on tickets to the conference.

Lastly, are there plans for the next ICBC destinations?

Rogers: Yeah, we’ve got a big year for 2018. We’ve got San Francisco, Berlin, and Vancouver again, then we’re doing Portland, Oregon in September. And then for 2019, we’re already looking into doing events in Australia and Europe. I want to do another destination event in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I just want to share these beautiful spots on Earth with the cannabis community.

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The power of data, fundraising and expansion: Q&A with Headset’s Cy Scott

November 21, 2017 | By Omar Sacirbey





When Cy Scott, Scott Vickers and Brian Wansolich co-founded the strain and dispensary listings website Leafly in 2010, a developed marijuana consumer market already existed.

The legal cannabis industry, however, was still getting started.

Leafly thrived and, before long, caught the attention of Privateer, a cannabis-focused holding firm that bought the web company in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

Soon, medical and recreational legalization and regulation swept the nation, spawning thousands of new marijuana businesses.

And that, in turn, spawned the tech trio’s newest idea: software that helps cannabis companies track and regulate inventory so they work in a more efficient manner.

So in 2015, Scott, Vickers and Wansolich left Leafly and founded Headset in Seattle.

The company has raised $4.5 million – including a $2.5 million infusion in January – and plans to increase its funding to fuel ambitious expansion plans that include breaking into Canada when that country legalizes recreational marijuana next summer.

Marijuana Business Daily spoke with Scott about how data can help cannabis companies, the importance of expanding carefully and how to woo investors.

Do people in the industry know how to use data to their benefit?

There’s a spectrum of experience.

There are a lot of people coming into cannabis from other industries where they had data analytics, and now they’re looking for data analytics in cannabis.

But there are others who maybe have never been exposed to data and how to use it. For those people, we provide training and education, so they can get the most out of our products.

What is your most popular product?

We think about Headset as everything that is the data analytics part of the industry – the data layer of cannabis is what we really want to be.

Anything that has to do with transactional data. That’s the common thread.

Our most popular product right now is Headset Bridge, which is a retailer direct data sharing platform. It enables a retailer, dispensary to share a vendor’s inventory sell-through and price point back with that individual vendor.

It really helps these vendors, these brands and the product manufacturers better forecast demand, so they can see, if it’s a new product, how fast it’s moving.

That means they can do better forecasting, they can optimize production runs, make sure that they have optimal inventory, and even do things like inventory management for the retailer.

We really taken a page from the Walmart model, where they share the data with the vendors, and then the vendors supply them with the optimal amount of inventory. It solves a real pain point for these operators.

Tell us about your expansion plans.

(Since Headset’s inception), our products have gone into use in a number of markets, including Colorado, Oregon, California and Nevada.

The nice thing about what we do is that it works in pretty much any market, we don’t have to do a lot of modifications to the system.

It’s just a matter of us having the resources to reach out to those new markets.

We’re focused mostly on the West Coast, the mature markets that have been medical or adult use longer.

That said, we have accounts in places like Washington DC and Illinois, but they’ve been less of a priority as we expand our reach.

Markets like California are very important to us, so we’re investing a lot of resources in that market to get ahead of 2018 and to be able to support businesses that are operating now.

We’re also looking at places like Canada for expansion. We’re trying to figure (Canada) out a little bit, probably like everyone is.

How many employees do you have, and do you have the resources to expand?

We started the year with seven employees and now have 15 employees doing things like design, product development, engineering, data science.

But we also have accounting and sales executives, and those are the roles that are really helping with the expansion – doing the outreach, connecting with the brands, dispensaries and retailers, and introducing them to Headset. That’s a big chunk of our team.

By the end of the year we should have 20 people on the team. We’ll be investing in sales, marketing and engineering.

Any worries about expanding too fast?

We’re venture capital-backed, so in a lot of ways you want to expand rapidly, capture as much of the market as you can.

We have angel investors, ArcView member investors, some high-net-worth individuals. The two biggest are Poseidon Asset Management and Hypur Ventures.

We’ve raised around $4.5 million dollars. Early next year we plan to kick off our Series A, although the size is still to be determined.

What kind of investors would you like to have in the Series A raise?

We’ll probably have existing investors coming back and following on in a large way. We’re also looking at some more institutional venture capital.

We’ve been getting a number of inbound from more traditional venture capital groups that aren’t necessarily cannabis-focused or haven’t made an investment in cannabis (that) are very interested in potentially coming in with our A Round.

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TerrAscend announces CA$52 million financing, Canopy partnership

November 21, 2017




A Mississauga, Ontario-based medical marijuana company is taking steps to raise 50 million Canadian dollars ($40 million) through a private placement of its securities to expand its existing facility and pursue strategic pharmaceutical assets.

TerrAscend – traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol TER – said in a news release that it entered into subscription agreements involving 47 million shares of the company.

Once the private placement closes, JW Asset Management will own 36.8% of TerrAscend, Canopy Growth will own 12% and Canopy Rivers will own 12%.

JW Asset Management specializes in early stage venture investments.

Canopy Rivers, a subsidiary of Canopy Growth, invests in and enters into cannabis streaming agreements with licensed producers.

What you need to know:

The closing of the private placement is subject to TerrAscend joining Canopy Growth’s CraftGrow program.

Canopy’s CraftGrow brings cannabis grown by a variety of producers to the Tweed Main Street online marketplace.

Each share sold in the private placement will consist of one common share and one warrant for an additional share.

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L.A. firm aims to boost Colorado hemp farm to 900 acres

November 21, 2017




A Los Angeles-based real estate company is seeking to expand an 80-acre hemp research site in Pueblo, Colorado, by almost 12-fold, which would make it one of the largest hemp operations in the state.

Agritek Holdings – which has water and mineral rights on the 80-acre site it already owns in Pueblo – has been given first rights to the 900-acre site that surrounds it and is in negotiations to buy the site, according to a news release.

The company will focus on creating and patenting genetic strains of zero-THC medical hemp and creating CBD-infused products such as tinctures, sublingual strips, creams, gel-caps and beverages.

Once operational, the 980-acre site will be able to harvest 350,000 pounds of dry flower per year that can be used for extraction into oils with CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids, Agritek said.

Besides Colorado, Agritek has operations in Washington state, Puerto Rico and Canada and owns permitted facilities in California.

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Hemp growers slowly getting help in battle against weeds, pests

November 21, 2017 | By Kristen Nichols

As the hemp industry grows, an increasing number of farmers are finding themselves in need of help combating weeds and pests.

Hemp farmers typically lack soil-management expertise and pest-management options, and there aren’t many outlets they can turn to for assistance.

So when hemp crops are attacked by leaf-chewing corn earworms – or greenhouses suffer, say, a white mold infestation – publicly funded horticulture advisers usually know little about the crop or won’t offer assistance.

And hemp growers in most places can’t use pesticides because of federal regulations.

“I’ve got growers out here who are asking for help – asking, ‘What can we do?’ – when they see pests,” said Robert Pearce, a soil scientist at the University of Kentucky.

The good news for hemp farmers is that pest-fighting strategies are becoming more available, ranging from using rich, healthy soil to being a stickler for cleanliness to combat things like weeds.

But most important, additional help is on the horizon.

Some research universities that have been slow to embrace marijuana are putting serious effort into researching hemp, a crop that is now legal to grow in 33 states.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized cultivation for research purposes and pilot programs.

Hemp growers also can tap their cannabis colleagues who are cultivating marijuana.

After all, hemp and marijuana are both the species Cannabis sativa and susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases.

From leaf-chewing caterpillars to seed-stealing finches and microscopic organisms, plenty of visible and invisible critters can set in.

Indoor versus outdoor

The first question facing a hemp grower is where to raise the crop.

There are pros and cons to growing hemp in a greenhouse or warehouse versus outdoors, and pest management is a big consideration because bugs are a problem in either environment.

But while greenhouses frequently see pests drawn by heat and humidity – especially mildews and molds – outdoor hemp fields are susceptible to different bugs and even bird attacks.

That means a hemp grower must be prepared for pests in either environment.

“We look at greenhouses differently than we look at a field,” said Nicole Ward Gauthier, a plant pathologist for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “There are different types of disease pressures in each system.”

Soil is key

Traditional farmers experimenting with hemp are often tempted to try the crop on a piece of marginal land – tucked away from public view and not the farmer’s main revenue producer.

That can lead to avoidable mistakes.

“It’s not a straightforward thing of just go put hemp in a field and it’ll grow,” said Tom Hutchens, director of research for Atalo Holdings, a hemp research, development and processing company in Winchester, Kentucky.

Cultivators must understand that hemp:

Needs well-drained loam soil, so valleys or anywhere with standing water after a rain should be avoided.

Gobbles nitrogen from the soil, which makes it a bad choice in an area with low nitrogen levels in the first place. Even in nitrogen-rich soil, hemp can need an additional 130 pounds per acre of nitrogen before harvest.

Shouldn’t be planted where the soil might already be harboring rots or borers that also attack hemp. Researchers suggest not planting hemp on land that just held canola, edible beans, soybeans or sunflowers – all invite pests that are also known to infect hemp.

As for greenhouse and warehouse hemp growers need to think about soil or growing matrix, too.

Make sure not to recycle soil that might have any pathogens in it, such as gray mold (Botrytis cinereal) or white mold (Sclerotinia scleroriorum).

Dirt’s an enemy

Cleanliness also is essential.

Hemp grown indoors often suffers from the same pests that plague marijuana in warm, moist environments – powdery mildew and Botrytis cinereal, a type of fungus sometimes called gray mold or noble rot.

“Dirty hoses, used pots, used (growing) media – they can all lead to some nasty outcomes in a greenhouse,” Gauthier said.

Indoor growers should use a disinfectant such as quaternary ammonium chloride (brands include GreenShield or Physan 20) or even bleach to clean surfaces between every hemp crop.

Even a clean crop with no visible pests or disease damage could be grown in soil harboring nasty critters biding their time.

Gauthier also recommends that indoor hemp growers install foot mats treated with disinfectant and require workers and visitors to use them before entering a greenhouse.

The mats help prevent employees from tracking in microscopic pests from the ground outside.

Disinfecting mats are commonly used in marijuana greenhouses and should be used in hemp greenhouses, too.

Last line of defense

Farmers also can seek out hemp that can suppress weeds itself.

Hemp plants that reach 12 inches tall within four weeks can help shade the soil and block weeds growing in between hemp plants.

The trouble with using hemp as self-defense, though, is that farmers don’t yet know which breeds of hemp will grow so quickly at their location.

Limited pesticide options mean that once bugs are visibly chewing on hemp leaves, it’s too late.

“There’s nothing you can do; you have to just sit there and let your crop get eaten up,” said Burt Eure, who is working on developing hemp seed at White Hat Seed Farm in Hartford, North Carolina.

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Almost 400 apply for Ohio’s medical marijuana dispensary licenses

November 21, 2017




Ohio regulators are sorting through 370 applications for business licenses to open medical cannabis dispensaries.

Now that the deadline for applications has passed, the state’s Board of Pharmacy must begin the task of finding the best candidates, the Toledo Blade reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

Ohio planned to award up to 60 dispensary licenses statewide, but no applications were received for two geographic districts that accounted for three of the permits.

Dispensaries can sell oil, patches, edibles, flower and other approved medical cannabis products.

The state prohibits smoking medical cannabis, but dispensaries will be permitted to sell flower to be vaporized.

The Commerce Department has the power to award more licenses based on market demand once the program is operational by Sept. 8, 2018.

No date has been set for license approval.

Licenses yet to be awarded: large-scale cultivation, processors and testing labs.

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Sacramento begins widespread marijuana crackdown

November 21, 2017




The Sacramento, California, police department plans to ask the City Council this week for an additional $850,000 in funding to continue a crackdown on its marijuana industry through the first six months of 2018.

According to the Sacramento Bee, California’s capital city began its months-long crusade in August, including a 60-day citywide sweep by the SWAT team that resulted in the seizure of 5,000 illegal cannabis plants, 10 arrests, millions of dollars in fines and 600 grow operations shuttered.

The crackdown comes in advance of the Jan. 1 launch of California’s recreational marijuana market.

Countering illegal operations and the black market has been a big question mark in the state, with some localities giving the issue little thought and others taking the matter seriously.

Sacramento, it appears, is taking the matter seriously.

The city sent out 959 warning letters to suspected illegal grow operations, the newspaper reported, and of those, 614 were closed down after police visited to inspect the premises.

Local officials have also issued $6.8 million in fines, served 12 search warrants and seized $15,000 in cash.

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Ex-MassRoots CEO makes move to oust board, current leadership

November 20, 2017




MassRoots founder and former CEO Isaac Dietrich on Monday filed paperwork with federal regulators to call for a special meeting and new shareholder vote, an attempt to force his way back into the company and dethrone the other board members who fired him last month.

Dietrich – who owns 15.82% of the company’s outstanding stock – wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that the shareholder vote would take place “within the week.”

The meeting would take place at the offices of the New York law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, according to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The move is the latest in a power struggle over MassRoots that began with Dietrich’s Oct. 16 firing and escalated last week when the company filed a civil suit against Dietrich claiming he stole $250,000 and committed other “serious misconduct.”

Dietrich’s SEC filing asks shareholders to:

Remove board members Terry Fitch, CEO and founder of Drink Teck; Ean Seeb, co-founder of Denver Relief Consulting; and Vincent “Tripp” Keber, CEO and co-founder of Dixie Brands.

Replace them with Dietrich himself; Charles Blum, a former QS Energy CEO and MassRoots board member; Nathan Shelton, also a former QS Energy executive; and Cecil Kyte, CEO of Rightscorp.

“The nominees for the Board of Directors will make MassRoots’ top priority becoming a central technology platform in the California market by aggressively growing MassRoots’ market-share of businesses and consumers,” Dietrich wrote in the filing.

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Longtime Marijuana Policy Project chief Rob Kampia stepping down

November 21, 2017




The founder of Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, is bowing out as executive director of the organization.

Kampia, who co-founded MPP in 1995, will become director of strategic development and will continue to serve on the boards of directors for both MPP and the MPP Foundation, according to a news release issued Tuesday.

Matthew Schweich, who joined MPP in 2015 as the director of state campaigns, will become the interim executive director until the organization finds a permanent replacement for Kampia.

MPP board member Troy Dayton said in the statement the change was made to allow Kampia more flexibility to focus on specific reform efforts.

“Shortly after Election Day (2016), Rob quickly shifted gears in December to start the Michigan 2018 legalization campaign,” Dayton said. “With the Michigan signature drive now complete, it is the right time to shift Rob’s focus to new and bigger projects.”

Under Kampia’s watch, MPP was instrumental in a number of statewide cannabis legalization victories.

Though he’s often been a divisive figure in the cannabis community, it’s quite arguable that no other activist has had more of an impact on marijuana legalization in the United States than Kampia.

MPP board member Rene Ruiz acknowledged as much in the release and praised Kampia for “enormous and unparalleled contributions to marijuana policy reform efforts across the country for over two decades.”

Kampia said in the release he:

Was “honored” to have spent 22 years as MPP’s executive director.

Plans to focus on lobbying members of Congress directly for federal reforms.

Wants to spend time working on further changes to marijuana laws in Michigan, New York and Texas.

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Florida’s medical marijuana program enlists help for patient ID card production

November 22, 2017




In an effort to get medical marijuana into consumer hands quicker, Florida’s health department has awarded a third-party contract to produce the state’s MMJ identification cards.

State regulators have fallen behind because of a flood of MMJ registrations over the past eight months.

The $7.9 million contract went to Jacksonville-based Veritec Solutions, a subsidiary of Intuition, according to Firstcoastnews.com.

Under the contract – which will be paid over a five-year period – Veritec will collect $4.19 per registry identification card for the first 199,999 cards it produces annually.

There were 50,775 registered patients in Florida as of Nov. 8, but the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use has printed just over 29,000 cards, according to the news outlet.

An average of 264 new patients per day are being added to the state’s MMJ registry, nearly triple the 90 patients who were being registered daily in March, Firstcoastnews.com reported.

Florida’s surgeon general, Celeste Philip, told the news outlet that the current level of patient registration is expected to stay the same for the next 30-60 days, which will result in wait times for cards of more than 90 days.

Philip added the state expects 300,000-500,000 patients to register within the next two years.

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New rules would have major impact on most Canadian cannabis businesses

November 22, 2017




A new set of regulatory proposals has been released by Health Canada that would have wide-ranging implications for most businesses in Canada’s marijuana industry — and even many stuck in the gray market.

The regulations would facilitate the coming into force of the Cannabis Act – which is still subject to parliamentary approval – and the transition from the current legal framework that bans recreational marijuana and regulates medical marijuana.

The changes were released as part of a consultation paper that will be subject to public comment until Jan. 20, 2018.

The proposed regulations will have a major impact on a business if it’s involved in practically any area of the legal cannabis sector, including ancillary services and hemp production.

Other key takeaways:

Health Canada is soliciting feedback on whether people with histories of nonviolent, lower-risk criminal activity should be permitted to participate in the legal cannabis industry.

The regulations would permit both outdoor and indoor cultivation of cannabis, whereas currently outdoor production has not been permitted. However, cannabis would need to be stored and processed indoors.

The new rules propose four types of cultivation licenses: standard cultivation, micro-cultivation, industrial hemp and nurseries.

Micro-cultivation licenses are going to have a major impact on the marijuana industry in British Columbia because it potentially provides an avenue to bring thousands of gray-market growers into the regulated fold.

If a province or territory fails to establish a retail framework for recreational marijuana, the federal government could temporarily license the sale of cannabis to consumers, ordered over the phone, online or via written order.

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New U.S. medical marijuana markets – one year later

November 22, 2017 | By Bart Schaneman




If it was a big year for recreational marijuana in 2016, then the past 12 months have been huge for medical marijuana.

Voters or state legislatures in 11 states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – approved or advanced medical cannabis measures.

And just as they are in the rec states, MMJ initiatives are moving forward at varying speeds and with mixed measures of success.

Some medical marijuana states, such as Pennsylvania, are progressing swimmingly and could even begin sales ahead of the proposed deadline.

That’s the exception rather than the rule, however, as states such as Arkansas and North Dakota are falling behind schedule.

Then there are states like West Virginia, which are taking their time to develop rules and won’t likely begin sales until as far away as 2019.

Here’s where the 11 new MMJ states stand today:

ARKANSAS

What at first blush looked to be a smooth unfolding of Arkansas’ medical marijuana program now looks as if it might be snagged by lawsuits and other hang-ups.

Voters in this Bible Belt state passed an initiative by a 53%-47% margin last November to allow a medical cannabis program, and things were progressing normally.

Then the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission said it needed to delay the rollout of the program because of the time required to conduct FBI background checks on all applicants.

Key dates

The application deadline was Sept. 18. But the commission has since said the first licenses won’t be approved until well after January.

And now rejected applicants have filed lawsuits charging that state regulators wrongly denied their attempts. If the courts favor the applicants, the commission must “shut down” until the matter is resolved.

First legal sales

The state had planned to award business licenses by the end of 2017 and launch sales in March 2018. But it’s likely sales won’t start until fall 2018 at the earliest.

License info

The state plans to award five grow licenses and 32 dispensary permits.

Applicants for grow licenses were required to pay a $15,000 fee, and potential dispensary owners paid $7,500. Rejected applicants’ fees were refunded.

A single license holder is limited to one dispensary and one cultivation facility.

CALIFORNIA

While California has had medical marijuana sales for years, it’s finally going to have a statewide regulated market.

The California legislature combined the state’s medical marijuana and recreational programs under the same regulatory umbrella with the passage of crucial legislation in 2017.

Updated statewide regulations were released last week, and the state is pushing for a Jan. 1 rollout.

An important aspect to watch, however, is how local municipalities handle the MMJ sector.

Some have voted to allow medical marijuana but not recreational, others have chosen to give MMJ businesses first crack at adult-use sales, and more have voted to not allow any MMJ sales at all.

Key dates

Last week, the state released emergency regulations that are expected to result in finalized rules.

First legal sales

According to Alex Traverso, chief of communications for California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, some areas of the state expect to be selling regulated medical cannabis close to the Jan. 1 launch.

License info

Dispensaries will be required to have both state and local licenses to operate.

There will be no state limits on licenses, but many local governments are creating their own caps.

Licenses will be categorized as either medical or adult-use and separated in the traceability system.

FLORIDA

Ballooning patient counts and potentially some of the largest companies in the cannabis industry are two key components of Florida’s medical marijuana market.

More than 50,000 patients have registered for ID cards, but less than 30,000 cards have been issued so far.

MMJ is highly popular in the state with 71% of voters approving its sale in November 2016.

And while the state’s licensing structure strictly limits the number of businesses, it does allow licensees to own many dispensaries.

Key dates

After much deliberation, Florida lawmakers ironed out regulations in June for the full-strength MMJ market.

The state was mandated to issue 10 more licenses on top of the seven original licenses by Oct. 3, but regulators licensed only half by the deadline. Lawmakers blamed the delay on a lawsuit challenging the licensing process, hurricanes and a lack of resources.

First legal sales

Sales are underway in Florida.

License info

Currently there are 12 licensed MMJ businesses.

Businesses are allowed to open 25 dispensaries.

When the additional five businesses are licensed, the state will have 425 total MMJ dispensaries.

HAWAII

The state’s regulated medical marijuana market got off to a rough start.

Hawaii’s first two licensed dispensaries opened in August but were quickly forced to shut down when the cannabis supply dried up. The businesses quickly righted the ship, however, and went on to post strong numbers in subsequent weeks.

Key dates

The Aloha State approved its first cannabis testing lab in July, helping to alleviate a bottleneck in the supply chain.

The state health department is mandated to look at the number of patients at the end of the year and determine if more licenses are needed.

First legal sales

Sales are underway.

License info

The program allows for eight vertically integrated licensees.

Each licensee can own two dispensaries.

Each licensee can own two cultivation operations.

LOUISIANA

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program isn’t much to speak of at the moment.

While two universities – Louisiana State and Southern – have stepped forward to grow MMJ, physician participation so far has been low, and political obstructionism has kept the industry from getting started for years now.

But the state’s program now appears to be on track, and some are hopeful that it will reach fruition within another year.

Key dates

Cultivation is expected to begin in early 2018.

Each university’s contract will last five years.

First legal sales

Sales are expected to begin in 2018.

License info

The state will license 10 pharmacies to sell medical cannabis.

There will also be transportation, extraction and medicine production permits issued by the state.

MARYLAND




With dozens of licenses issued and more than 18,000 patients registered, the long wait for MMJ in Maryland appears to be over.

Four years after the program’s inception, the state’s dispensaries could begin legal sales any day now.

And the patient pool has the potential to be sizable – at least one business owner projects it could reach 100,000 registrants.

Plus, cultivators have been growing medical cannabis since the summer of 2017. However, lawsuits over the lack of racial diversity could potentially gum up the works.




Key dates

Licensed dispensaries have until Dec. 14 to open for business.

Brian Lopez, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said he hopes to see 20-30 MMJ dispensaries open by the end of 2017.

Nearly all the dispensary license winners have yet to be approved to begin sales.




First legal sales

Sales are slated to start in first quarter of 2018, if not sooner.




License info

13 cultivators have been licensed.

4 processing licenses have been awarded.

2 testing labs have been licensed.

102 dispensary licenses have been awarded.

MONTANA

At one point, Montana had 30,000 patients registered to purchase MMJ.

But then came years of court fights over a 2011 attempt by state lawmakers to regulate the industry out of business, and the number of patients dropped as many dispensaries closed up shop. Then a 2016 ruling by the state Supreme Court threw a wrench in the works – temporarily shuttering dispensaries and forcing a rebuild of the program.

Last November, voters approved a ballot initiative to resurrect the program, and it looks as though the market will regain its footing.

Patient counts have more than doubled this year. As of July, 17,819 patients had registered, up from just over 8,000 at the end of 2016.

That’s not to say it’s all roses in the Treasure State.

Billings – Montana’s largest city – voted in August to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries. At least one dispensary in the city is flouting the ban.

Key dates

A public hearing over the proposed rules is scheduled for Nov. 30 at the state health department.

The proposed regulations are expected to go into effect by April 30, if not sooner.

First legal sales

Sales are underway.

License info

Under the proposed rules:

Providers with fewer than 10 patients would pay an annual license fee of $1,000.

Those with more than 10 registered patients would pay $5,000.

Businesses that were closed in August 2016 will have to reapply for licenses.

NORTH DAKOTA

Although it’s one of the smallest legal medical cannabis markets in the United States, North Dakota seems to be suffering from delays that are typical in larger markets.

Voters approved medical cannabis in November 2016, and the governor in April approved rules crafted by lawmakers.

Annual dispensary sales are expected to eventually amount to only $10 million-$20 million, according to Marijuana Business Daily estimates.

State regulators recently proposed rules that wouldn’t allow dispensaries, manufacturers and testing labs to apply for licenses until April at the earliest – six to eight months behind the original schedule.

It’s estimated that cultivators will need about six months to start growing.

Key dates

The health department plans to file all required information by Feb. 1 at the latest.

The department will take public comment through Dec. 26.

First legal sales

Sales will likely begin in late 2018.

License info

Two cultivation and eight dispensary licenses are allowed.

Regulators can issue more licenses based on the number of patients.

Cultivators are capped at 1,000 plants. However, that number could be increased or additional cultivation licenses could be added.

All applicants will pay a nonrefundable $5,000 fee.

Cultivation licensees will pay $110,000 and dispensaries $90,000 for two-year certificates.

OHIO

Regulators are putting together the pieces for a successful launch.

The state has awarded 11 cultivation licenses to smaller growers and plans to award up to 12 larger licenses later this month.

Regulators didn’t add a residency requirement for applicants and have seen fierce competition from out-of-state businesses.

However, the state was delayed about a month in awarding the cultivation licenses. If that trend continues, Ohio might struggle to meet its projected rollout date of September 2018.

Key dates

The bulk of the key deadlines for rules and regulations were in September 2017.

The next major deadline is for the program to be operational by September 2018.

First legal sales

Sales are slated to begin in fall 2018.

License info

Regulators received 109 applications for large commercial cultivation licenses and 76 applications for smaller grow licenses.

The application process for producer licenses is planned to begin in the next couple of months.

Would-be dispensary owners had a Nov. 17 deadline to apply for permits.

PENNSYLVANIA

This state’s medical marijuana program has hit the ground running. In fact, the program could actually be ahead of schedule, a rarity for the industry.

The first plants are growing, and sales are expected to start in the first few months of 2018.

More than 6,000 patients had registered for the MMJ program as of Nov. 1, and that number is expected to grow.

The state still needs to work out the application process and some lawsuits over licenses. But barring any lingering issues from those situations, the program looks to be a success.

Key dates

Once the remaining cultivation businesses are given the go-ahead to begin growing, expect to see more product ready for sale in six months or less.

First legal sales

Sales are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.

License info

All 12 grower/processor licenses and 27 dispensary permits have been issued. The state has also approved two testing labs.

Only one of those 12 growers has gotten formal approval to begin cultivation. The remaining 11 licensees could be approved to begin growing medical cannabis any time now.

Phase 2 has yet to be rolled out. It would involve a second round of cultivation and dispensary licenses.

WEST VIRGINIA

Many people across the industry were surprised when West Virginia legalized medical marijuana through the legislature in April 2017.

While the Mountain State certainly is moving in the right direction, the inability of MMJ dispensaries to sell smokable flower leaves some hoping for a change in the law.

The state in June announced the formation of a regulatory body that will be charged with shaping the market.

Regulators have asked for about $2 million to launch the program.

Key dates

No patient or caregiver ID cards will be issued until July 2019.

A state attorney is working out the evaluation criteria for the three types of business licenses – dispensary, cultivation and processing. The first round of applications could be released in the first quarter of 2018.

First legal sales

No sales are expected until mid-2019.

License info

10 growers, 10 processors and 30 dispensaries are allowed.

Each dispensary licensee will be allowed two locations.

Each cultivation or processing licensee will be allowed two locations.

Cultivation applicants will be allowed to apply for processing permits, and vice versa, but neither can also apply for a dispensary license.

Full vertical integration of MMJ businesses isn’t allowed.

barts@mjbizdaily.com

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 PENNSYLVANIA COPS ABUSE ELDERLY COUPLE IN RAID ON MARIJUANA PLANTS THAT WEREN'T

Pennsylvania, couple has filed a lawsuit against township police and an insurance company in the wake of a misbegotten drug raid that netted only hibiscus plants.

Edward Cramer, 69, and his wife, Audrey Cramer, 66, were quietly enjoying their golden years this fall when they called their insurance company about a neighbor's tree that had fallen on their property. That's when things started going wacky, as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

The insurance company, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, sent its local agent, Jonathan Yeamans, to the Cramer's place, but Yeamans apparently had more than insurance claims on his mind. According to the lawsuit, Yeamans surreptitiously took photos of flowering hibiscus plants in the backyard, then sent them to local police as evidence of an illegal marijuana grow.

The Cramers claim that Yeamans "intentionally photographed the flowering hibiscus plants in such a manner as not to reveal that they had flowers on them so that they would appear to resemble marijuana plants."

Yeaman's photos went to Buffalo Township Officer Jeffrey Sneddon, who claimed to have expertise in identifying marijuana, and who, incorrectly identifying the plants as marijuana, applied for and received a search warrant for the Cramers' property.

And the raid was on! According to the lawsuit, Audrey Cramer was home alone, upstairs and only partially dressed when police arrived around noon on October 7. She went downstairs to open the door, only to be confronted by a dozen or so officers pointing assault rifles at her.

The lead officer, Sgt. Scott Hess, ordered Mrs. Cramer to put her hands up and told her he had a search warrant, but refused to show it to her, the complaint alleges.

Then, "Hess entered the home and went upstairs. Upon returning downstairs, he demanded that (Cramer), a 66-year-old woman, be handcuffed behind her back in a state of partial undress."

Mrs. Cramer asked police if she could put on a pair of pants nearby, but was told "in no uncertain terms," that she could not. She was instead placed under arrest and read her right.

Police then walked her outside the house and left her standing, handcuffed, in her underwear in public for 10 minutes, before police walked her, barefoot, down a gravel driveway to a police car. The suit claims police refused her request to let her put on sandals.

When Mrs. Cramer asked Hess "what on earth is going on," he told her police were searching for marijuana. She explained that the plants in question were hibiscus -- not marijuana -- but Hess, also claiming drug identification expertise, insisted they were indeed pot plants.

She spent the next 4 ½ hours in a "very hot" patrol car, her hands cuffed behind her.

Edward Cramer returned home in the midst of the raid, only to be met by leveled police guns, removed from his car, arrested, and placed in the police car with his wife for the next two hours. According to the lawsuit, Cramer repeatedly asked to show police that the plants were hibiscus, with the flowers clearly in bloom, to no avail.

"Why couldn't the police see what it was?" Al Lindsay, the Cramers' attorney, said in a phone interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Being arrested, for people like this who have no history with crime and no experience with law enforcement, this is an incredibly traumatic experience."

Police released the couple from the patrol car only after an hours-long search failed to turn up any marijuana in the home or the yard. The lawsuit says that Sgt. Hess seized the hibiscus plants even though he admitted he didn't think they were pot plants and labeled them "tall, green, leafy suspected marijuana plants."

While police didn't charge the Cramers with any crimes, the couples' experience was traumatic enough for them to seek medical treatment, and Edward Cramer has been seeing a trauma therapist.

Now, with their lawsuit filed Thursday, the Cramers are seeking justice. The suit, filed in Butler County Court, names Nationwide, Nationwide agent Yeamans, Buffalo Township, and three of its police officers. It alleges police use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Neither Buffalo Township nor Nationwide have been willing to comment on the case.

And to add insult to injury, the Cramers got an October 26 letter from Nationwide informing them that marijuana had been found on their property and if they failed to remove the plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance policy.

The Cramers are seeking "monetary and compensatory damages," as well as attorneys; fees and court costs.

Just another day in the war on plants.

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CALIFORNIA'S RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR THE LEGAL MARIJUANA MARKET

When California initiates legal marijuana commerce on January 1, it will be the world's largest legal pot economy. Now, just weeks away, we're finally seeing the rules that are going to govern the transition from black and gray market to a legal, taxed, and regulated market.

(Never mind for now that huge swathes of the state's marijuana industry are going to remain in the black market because their crops are destined for states where pot remains illegal -- this is about the legal market in California.)

"I feel a big sigh of relief. It's a big milestone for us to release these regulations," said Lori Ajax, chief of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control. "But there's still a lot of work to be done. No rest for the weary."

State officials unveiled the regulations -- 276 pages of them -- on Thursday. They will govern licensing for state-legal marijuana businesses, as well as a huge range of regulatory issues, from edibles to deliveries to store hours and locations to the size of marijuana farms and more.

Here are the links to the regs themselves:

Bureau of Cannabis Control regulations (PDF)

CA Department of Food and Agriculture regulations (PDF)

CA Department of Public Health regulations (PDF)

And here are some of the highlights:

Sales will begin on January 1, but -- and this is a big but -- only in localities where local officials have created local permitting processes. The state will license businesses only when they have local permits, so cities and counties that have dilly-dallied, like San Francisco (!), are not going to be ready to start sales on day 1. And some localities have decided not to allow marijuana businesses at all, so access to pot shops is going to be patchy.

Marijuana retailers will be allowed operating hours between 6:00am and 10pm, but will have to be at least 600 feet away from schools and day-care centers. And they will need to have 24-hour video surveillance.

Free samples only for medical marijuana patients or their caregivers.

No marijuana sales at strip clubs. Sorry.

Licensing fees are spelled out, and they range from $800 a year for a marijuana delivery service up to $120,000 a year for businesses doing multiple activities that make more than $4.5 million a year. For growers, license fees will range from as low as $1,200 to as much as $80,000, depending on the size of the grow.

There are no limitations on the size of marijuana farms. The Agriculture Department had proposed a one-acre cap, but dropped it before issuing its regulations. Also dropped was a cap on how many small farms and nurseries individuals can own. This likely means the emergence of large-scale pot farming operations and increased pressure on the Ma-and-Pa producers who created the state's pot industry in the first place.

Marijuana delivery services will be allowed, but will be limited to motorized vehicles driven by humans. No bicycles, boats, or drones will be allowed, and neither will self-driving vehicles.

Edibles will be limited to serving sizes that contain no more than 10 milligrams of THC and no edible can contain more than 10 servings, or a maximum of 100 milligrams of THC. The term "candy" cannot be used in any branding, and product labels that portray cartoons or otherwise target kids will not be allowed. And edibles can't be made in the shape of a human being, animal, insect, or fruit.

While edibles are allowed, marijuana-infused alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, or seafood (!) is not. No pot lobster for you.

Advertising is going to be very restricted. The regulations limit advertising to outlets where at least 71.6% (?) of the audience is "reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older." Good luck with that.

Marijuana-themed events at public facilities, such as fairgrounds, are allowed, but only with a special license.

All products must be tested, but the regulations will allow the sale of untested products through July 1 -- if the product is labeled as such or if  it is put in child-resistant packaging.

Prices are going to go up. A bag of good quality bud that currently goes for $35 is likely to cost $50 or $60 when recreational sales and other taxes kick in.

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Marijuana Policy

House Republicans Block Bill to Address Marijuana Banking Issues. House Republicans have blocked an attempt by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) to consider a bill that would prevent the federal government from punishing banks that do business with marijuana companies. Republicans in the House Banking Committee shot it down because they said it wasn't relevant to the issue under consideration, stress tests for banks.

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Campaign Turns in 360,000 Signatures to Place Issue on 2018 Ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than 360,000 signatures Monday today calling for its marijuana legalization initiative to be placed on Michigan's November 2018 ballot. The initiative needs 252,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. The campaign says it has already vetted many of its signatures, so it should qualify by a comfortable margin, but stay tuned.

Wyoming Moves to Crack Down on Marijuana Edibles, Infused Liquids. Seeking to address a lacuna in the state's marijuana laws, the legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee voted last Thursday to advance two bills that would specifically criminalize marijuana edibles and products infused with marijuana. State courts have declared themselves unable to prosecute people for possessing edibles or infused products because current law does not specifically address them.

Medical Marijuana

Guam Medical Marijuana Regulations Being Drafted. Hearings have been set for the legislature's Rules Committee early next month in a bid to get medical marijuana regulations in final form before Christmas. A public hearing is set for December 5, with the final draft to be marked up in committee on December 14.

Foreign Policy

US Launches Airstrikes in First Operation Targeting Afghan Opium. The US launched its first counternarcotics military offensive of the Trump era this past weekend with air strikes aimed at "Taliban narcotics production facilities" in restive Helmand province. "We hit the labs where they turn poppy into heroin. We hit their storage facilities where they keep their final product, where they stockpile their money and their command and control. Our estimates indicate that more than $200 million from this illegal economy was going into the pockets of the Taliban," General John Nicholson, commander of US troops and NATO's Resolute Support military mission, said at a Monday news conference in Kabul. Afghanistan accounts for about 90% of global opium production and produced a record crop this year.

International

Peru President Signs Medical Marijuana Bill into Law. President Pedro Kuczynski has signed into law a bill legalizing marijuana and its derivatives, such as CBD cannabis oil, to be used in the treatment of specified diseases, including Parkinson's Disease, cancer, and epilepsy. Peru now joins Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico in having medical marijuana laws, while Uruguay has legalized it for any adults.

Marijuana Policy

GOP Senator's Bill Would Let DC Legalize Marijuana Sales. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has authored a District of Columbia appropriations bill that does not contain a budget rider barring the city from spending its own money to set up a system to tax and regulate marijuana sales. Although DC voters approved legalization in 2014, they did not legalize sales because DC law does not allow initiatives to address tax and funding issues. The DC council was expected to enact laws allowing for sales, but has been blocked by congressional riders in DC appropriations bills. But the House has already passed an appropriations bill that contains the rider, so even if the Senate bill passes, it will have to be sorted out in conference committee.

Kampia Out as Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director, Will Take Up Fundraising Role. MPP cofounder and long-time executive director Rob Kampia is leaving that role, but will remain with the organization as director of strategic development. He is being replaced on an interim basis by Matthew Schweich, who joined the group as director of state campaigns in 2015, while the MPP and MPP Foundation boards seek a permanent replacement. "This transition has been considered carefully by Rob and the board. We desired to shift Rob's workload one year ago after his intense work on the Nevada and Arizona campaigns," said Troy Dayton, who sits on the boards of directors for MPP and MPP Foundation. "Shortly after Election Day, Rob quickly shifted gears in December to start the Michigan 2018 legalization campaign. With the Michigan signature drive now complete, it is the right time to shift Rob's focus to new and bigger projects."

New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus Chair Skeptical on Legalization, Will Hold Hearings on "Negative Consequences." State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), head of the Legislative Black Caucus, announced Monday that he will hold hearings on the negative consequences of marijuana legalization in states that have already legalized it. "We know there are negative factors that we will need to safeguard against, from children's access to marijuana-infused edibles to motor vehicle accidents caused by impaired driving to the effect of marijuana on babies and the impact of legalization on communities of color," he said in a statement. "As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, I plan to convene hearings at various locations around the state to make sure that we really delve into the details of this issue," Rice said. Incoming Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has said he supports legalization, and a bill to do that is alive in the legislature.

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MPP chief bows out, Ohio’s dispensary application glut & MassRoots’ internal war

November 24, 2017

Rob Kampia steps down as executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Ohio is inundated with MMJ dispensary applications, and MassRoots and its ousted CEO do battle.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Changing of the guard

Marijuana Policy Project’s announcement that Rob Kampia will be moving from executive director into a more supporting role with the organization is another sign that 2017 likely will be the year a new generation of cannabis legalization activists take the baton from those who began the modern movement.

Earlier this year, Ethan Nadelmann announced his retirement as executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“This is certainly going to be seen as the year where the guard changed,” said Kris Krane, managing partner of Boston-based 4Front Ventures. “If you had to look at who were the two most influential people in the movement over the last 20 years, it’s probably Rob and Ethan.”

While Krane said he wasn’t surprised to hear Kampia is relinquishing his leadership position at MPP, he also wasn’t expecting it.

But, Krane added, it’s worth noting the changing dynamics between the burgeoning cannabis industry and the activist-driven legalization movement.

“Twenty-two years ago, we hadn’t won anything. We didn’t even have any medical marijuana laws on the books, and now we have a massive industry,” Krane said.

“And Ethan has talked publicly about his struggles with how do you effectively fundraise with the industry, how close should these organizations be getting to the industry? These are very valid questions, and I think Rob had similar sort of issues.”

Kampia was much more willing “to play give-and-take” with business interests than was Nadelmann, Krane noted, and that was one of the things that made him such an effective fundraiser for legalization campaigns.

But that trait also helped build Kampia’s reputation as being hard to work with, Krane added.

That held true especially where state-level activists were concerned, Krane said, because such advocates often don’t want to make concessions on policy to for-profit companies that may be willing to fund campaigns depending on how proposed laws are written.

“At this point, to give these organizations an opportunity to bring in folks who can view these questions with a fresh set of eyes is, I think, not necessarily a bad thing,” Krane said.

What the changing of the guard means for the future of the legalization movement, however, very much remains to be seen.

Ohio’s flood of applications

It looks as if Ohio regulators will have their hands full with nearly 400 dispensary applications to process.

But will that be too many for them to handle and cause a delay in the market’s rollout?

“I would say no,” said Bret Kravitz, a Columbus-based attorney with Green Thumb Industries, an MMJ company.

“Based on the number of applications that were submitted for dispensary licenses in Pennsylvania,” he added, “I don’t think it’s a surprise that we saw as much competition in Ohio.”

Pennsylvania received more than 500 applications for cultivation and dispensary licenses but seems well on track to meet its deadlines.

“I would like to think (Ohio’s) regulators anticipated the number of applications,” Kravitz said. “At this point in the game in the industry, this is what everybody anticipates on a state-by-state basis.”

He added that he has “100%” faith the regulators will get the job done – and on time.

“They took enough time to go through the regulations and do their due diligence and travel to different states to understand what’s going on,” Kravitz said.

Dietrich in deep?

Most marijuana industry observers likely are wondering what’s next in the MassRoots drama.

After ousting Isaac Dietrich as CEO, the company filed a lawsuit against Dietrich, who then filed legal paperwork calling for a new shareholder vote that could lead to the ouster of the board members who fired him.

Details of the situation are sparse, but MassRoots’ civil suit charges that Dietrich stole more than $250,000 in company funds.

What’s important is what it all could lead to, said David Axelrod, a former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney who’s now a partner at Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr.

If MassRoots officials are “serious” about the charge, he said, “there’s a good chance they’ve contacted the local (district attorney’s) office or the local police, and so there’s a decent chance that there’s going to be a criminal investigation of some type.”

Though Axelrod said “there’s not a lot of specifics about the theft in the lawsuit,” he called the theft allegations against Dietrich a “pretty straightforward situation of embezzlement, not that dissimilar from small companies where corporate officers have a lot of control.”

“But if this is something where the FBI gets involved,” Axelrod added, Dietrich “could be looking at a prison sentence.”

The situation also could change if Dietrich is successful in retaking control of MassRoots with a new shareholder vote and is able to dodge the lawsuit.

But if law enforcement has begun an investigation into Dietrich’s alleged malfeasance, the boat may have sailed on his opportunity to get out of such a legal scrape without some major legal wrangling.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

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Medical cannabis firm sues Florida over licensing delays

Published 22 hours ago




A lawsuit has been filed in Florida alleging state officials are “unconstitutionally dragging their feet” on issuing more medical marijuana business permits for the highly competitive program.

A nursery that lost out in an early round of MMJ license applications and an epilepsy patient filed the suit in Miami-Dade County, arguing that the state health department is breaking the law by not yet having issued a total of 10 new MMJ licenses, the News Service of Florida reported.

The law, passed in June by the legislature, ordered the health department to issue 10 MMJ licenses by Oct. 3 on top of seven it had already awarded.

So far, however, the department has issued only an additional six – meaning a total of 13 have been permitted – with four still up for grabs.

A health department official told state lawmakers last month the agency hasn’t moved on the permits because of a separate lawsuit, which is challenging the entire licensing process.

The new lawsuit is using that spokesman’s testimony as justification for its own challenge, which contends that stalling on the permitting “violates the constitutional and statutory rights of Florida citizens and businesses” and “directly affects the ability of patients to treat their ailments,” according to the News Service of Florida.

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CA state senator leads charge against large-scale marijuana grows

November 24, 2017




In an effort to protect smaller-scale cannabis growers that are worried about being forced out of the regulated market by commercial cultivators that will be producing at scale, California state Sen. Scott Wiener has vowed to push regulators to amend industry rules that were updated last week.

“By not limiting the amount of land that can be cultivated by one operation, we are basically inviting mega industrial-scale operations into the state,” Wiener told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It will squeeze out the small farmers that have been at the forefront of the industry for many, many years.”

Wiener told the Chronicle he hopes the rules will be changed by the legislature next year.

However, it appears the scale of cannabis production could turn into a political football, with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – who is now running for governor of California – telling the Chronicle that, unlike Wiener, he’s not opposed to large-scale grows.

The regulations and legalization overall, Newsom said, will need “constant re-evaluation,” as it’s a “process unfolding over many years,” the Chronicle reported.

“I’m watching closely to ensure that the rules are being applied with tough anti-monopoly standards that create favorable market conditions for small legal businesses,” he added.

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Massachusetts aims to release recreational cannabis draft rules in December

November 24, 2017




A Massachusetts commission is planning to make significant headway next month in crafting regulations for the state’s upcoming recreational marijuana industry, with draft rules expected before the end of the year.

The Cannabis Control Commission will hold public meetings on the draft regulations the week of Dec. 11, State House News Service reported, along with private stakeholder meetings and another public meeting the following week.

The commission is hoping to finalize the adult-use rules by March 9, since by law the regulations must be finished by March 15.

The commission has already begun work on the regulations, but there’s still a lot of ground to be covered.

Topics the commission still must address in its rulemaking include:

Forms for MJ business license applications

Licensing fees

Qualifications for licensure

Recordkeeping requirements

Inventory tracking mandates

Security and insurance standards

Health and safety standards

Agricultural standards

Social consumption

Rules relating to edibles, such as prohibiting packaging that’s appealing to children

Rules regarding disposal of excess cannabis

Shipping methods for retailers located in towns not connected to the mainland by road

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Pot Newsss 11-15-17

Credit Union Sues Federal Reserve Over Right to Serve Pro-Cannabis Groups

The war between Fourth Corner Credit Union and the feds has been raging since 2014.

10/20/2017 by Chris Moore




A Colorado credit union has taken the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City to court over the right to handle the finances of cannabis advocacy groups. The Federal Reserve Bank refused the Fourth Corner Credit Union a master account because federal law prevents banks from handling funds associated with a federally-prohibited drug. The credit union sued over this decision, arguing that they only wished to serve cannabis advocacy groups, who were not directly handling funds associated with cannabis production or sales.

Fourth Corner has been fighting for its right to serve pro-cannabis organizations since November of 2014, when it received a state charter to serve state-legal recreational canna-businesses in Colorado. The business was denied a master account by the Federal Reserve over its decision to serve the cannabis industry. This master account is necessary for any bank in the country, as it gives the bank access to the nation's banking system.

The credit union changed its business plan, announcing that it would only serve cannabis advocacy groups, and therefore would not be illegally handling funds directly related to the plant. Regardless, the Federal Reserve still refused to grant the master account. Fourth Corner sued for their right to the account, and after years of legal wrangling, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June that the bank should be granted the account. Fourth Corner still does not have their master account, though.

At the end of September, the credit union filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court in Denver, arguing that federal law "unambiguously creates a non-discretionary statutory obligation" that requires the Federal Reserve to issue a master account to all depository institutions. The suit alleges that the Federal Reserve Bank "invoked an illegal discriminatory procedure" by requesting information from them that they were not entitled to ask for. The complaint asks the judge to render a declaratory judgment against the Federal Reserve Bank and grant an injunction that would force the institution to grant the master account immediately.

Meanwhile, Hawaii is making progress in canna-banking by becoming the first state to allow cash-free cannabis transactions. All eight of the state's licensed dispensaries are now using a mobile payment app called CanPay, which is also available in Colorado and five other states. The Hawaiian dispensaries have set up accounts with the Safe Harbor Private Banking credit union, one of the first such institutions to support canna-businesses. These dispensaries are also working towards creating prepaid cards for those who don't have smartphones or checking accounts.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Scores $300,000 in Medical Marijuana Taxes. The state collected medical marijuana taxes at the rate of $100,000 a month for the three months ending in September, the Department of Revenue reported. The proceeds are coming from a 4% tax on provider's gross revenue. The tax went into effect on July 1.





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Canopy increases global reach into Jamaican medical cannabis market

October 26, 2017

Canopy Growth signed a strategic partnership with Grow House JA to expand its medical marijuana scope into Jamaica, where construction of a new production facility is already under way.

Canopy, traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED, holds a 49% stake in the Jamaican enterprise, which will operate as Tweed Limited JA.

Canopy didn’t immediately respond to queries from Marijuana Business Daily on the anticipated timeline, output or financial details of the new facility in Jamaica.

The Jamaican legislature amended the nation’s cannabis laws in 2015, leading to the introduction of the Cannabis Licensing Authority. Since then, the government has been developing a framework for the cultivation and sale of medical cannabis.

Canopy has been expanding its reach overseas in recent months.

In September, the company signed a strategic partnership to expand into Denmark and inked a contract to supply medical marijuana seeds to the Spanish pharmaceutical company Alcaliber.

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Constellation’s purchase of Canopy stake is ‘transformative,’ portends further investments

October 30, 2017




By Matt Lamers

In buying a chunk of the world’s largest medical cannabis company, global alcohol giant Constellation Brands substantiated the marijuana industry as both a threat and opportunity for alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, analysts and executives said.

In short, the development signals that more deals could be on the horizon – particularly in Canada.

New York-based Constellation Brands – which owns, distributes and markets 100 beer, wine and spirits brands, including Corona and Robert Mondavi – will acquire 9.9% of Smiths Falls, Ontario-based Canopy Growth for 245 million Canadian dollars ($190 million), plus options to raise its stake to just under 20%.

It’s the first time a major alcohol maker has formally entered the cannabis industry in a significant way, portending further cross-industry investments and consolidation among licensed producers in Canada, analysts and executives told Marijuana Business Daily.

“We view this international investment as a game-changer for the sector,” Toronto-based Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian wrote in a research note. “In our view, it highlights the value of scale and brand recognition – and validates our thesis that Big Alcohol, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are going to look to acquire leading companies in the sector.”

Ajamian told Marijuana Business Daily that the Constellation-Canopy deal “is definitely going to motivate others to finalize a dance partner here (in Canada). Those plans go into a much higher gear today. As medical cannabis continues to gain mainstream adoption, it could impact pharma companies to get involved.”

The Constellation-Canopy deal also comes a year after Constellation CEO Rob Sands acknowledged that the giant beverage company  was mulling entering the cannabis industry via MJ-laced libations.

In an interview with Bloomberg last November, Sands said his company was “looking at” the marijuana industry. “There are going to be alcoholic beverages that will also contain cannabis,” he added.

Alcohol producers brace for impact

Industry sources say Canadian marijuana producers in particular could become investment or acquisition targets for alcohol companies looking to mitigate the likelihood that legal cannabis will eat into their bottom lines.

Some research has been done to quantify what analysts call “product cannibalization.”

The New York consulting firm Anderson Economic Group estimates the legalization of marijuana could sap CA$160 million out of Canada’s CA$22 billion alcohol sector — and that’s just the start.

The risk to the alcohol industry is far greater in the United States, where eight states have legalized recreational marijuana ahead of Canada and 30 have legalized medical cannabis.

Anderson estimates alcohol sales in the U.S. could decline up to $336 million as a result of consumers being able to purchase cannabis products legally.

Some alcohol companies, including Constellation, have been upfront about the risk that legalized cannabis poses.

In its annual 10-K filing published earlier this year, Constellation warned that a decline in the consumption of its alcohol products could occur as a result of consumers substituting legalized marijuana in lieu of its products.

Constellation isn’t alone.

The Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams and traded on the New York Stock Exchange as SAM, has warned its shareholders of risks stemming from the budding marijuana industry.

In its 10-K filing, the company said it’s “possible that legal marijuana usage could adversely impact the demand” for its products.

Jack Daniel’s-maker Brown-Forman also identifies legal marijuana in its 10-K filings as a risk factor that could negatively affect its business results.

Meanwhile, the CEO of one of the world’s top alcohol makers, Stewart Glendinning of Molson Coors International, told reporters last year that “cannabis is something we are thinking very carefully about, not only as a business but also as an industry.”

Opening the floodgates?

In a research note, Daniel Pearlstein, principal of Cannabis & Healthcare Research at Toronto-based Eight Capital, said the Canopy-Constellation deal could lead the way for large licensed producers in Canada to buy smaller ones.

He also said it could help tobacco or beverage alcohol companies acquire their way into the marijuana sector.

The Canopy-Constellation deal “validates the cannabis industry as both a threat and opportunity for larger established companies in beverage alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food manufacturing and technology,” he wrote.

Analyst Vivien Azer, of New York-based research firm Cowen and Company, noted the substitution effect between alcohol and cannabis consumption, and the former’s inexperience in marijuana could lead to more deals between the industries.

“This is a key risk factor for the alcoholic beverage sector, and given that they don’t have any expertise in cannabis, certainly I would expect to see more activity,” she told Marijuana Business Daily. “For Constellation, it’s a clean way from a regulatory perspective to gain exposure into the legal cannabis market. While Canopy really stands to benefit from Constellation’s expertise.”

Makes themselves targets

Some of Canada’s 69 licensed producers are deliberately setting themselves up to be investment targets for international companies, which they say would give them immediate access to international branding expertise, technology and a large pool of capital.

One of those companies is Victoria, British Columbia-based Emerald Health Therapeutics (TSXV: EMH).

“We expect both types of consolidation, where licensed producers merge with each other, and then we do see entities with large amounts of money like tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries making their foray into the marketplace and transforming companies,” said Emerald Health Therapeutics Executive Chairman Avtar Dhillon.

Dhillon said he expects more cross-border deals to take place, and Emerald is developing products and building infrastructure in the hopes of making itself an attractive investment target.

“A Fortune 500 company going across the border is validation for the entire Canadian industry, and it will pave the way for more U.S. companies to follow suit,” he said.

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Hemp farmers mulling a move into marijuana must know different rules, growing techniques

October 25, 2017

By Margaret Jackson

Farmers growing hemp are increasingly contemplating a move into marijuana, given the similarities between the plants and the meteoric rise in demand for medical and recreational cannabis across the country.

The transition isn’t as easy as it might appear, though.

If a farmer is growing hemp for CBD – versus fiber or seed – there’s not as steep a learning curve to begin growing marijuana. But there are still differences in what it takes to grow a successful crop, and regulations governing hemp and marijuana are vastly different and vary significantly by state.

“They’re two different components and are treated differently under the law,” said Michael Bronstein, co-founder of the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp. “You can’t just move one license over to another. There are legal barriers in certain states. Many states have industrial hemp pilot programs. Some have MMJ laws and others do not.”

Navigating the rules

More than 30 states allow hemp cultivation under provisions spelled out in the federal 2014 Farm Bill. The law authorized production for research purposes and select pilot programs.

A handful of states allow farmers to grow both hemp and marijuana, including California, Washington and Maine.

Different state agencies regulate cannabis and hemp. In Colorado, for example, the state’s Department of Agriculture regulates hemp while the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division oversees cannabis.

The laws and regulations for growing cannabis also vary greatly by state – and even municipality. Some towns, for example, may ban recreational or medical cannabis in a state where the hemp plant is legal.

“Follow the regulatory guidelines that have been published,” Bronstein said. “Follow the application guidelines, and get yourself familiar with the licensing process in general.”

Similarly, be aware that some areas have regulations that cross over between cannabis and hemp.

In Oregon, for example, hemp and marijuana can be grown on the same property as long as there are separate licenses. But in Pueblo County, in southern Colorado, a hemp crop must be at least 5 miles from a farm that grows marijuana for its THC content, given concerns that the two plants may cross-pollinate.

“Hemp farms grow males,” said Michael “Caddy” Cadwell, former director of sales for Los Sueños Farms, a Pueblo County cultivator. “The pollen gets in the air and saturates the female plants. You don’t want males around females. They don’t mix very well.”

Getting started

The ease of transitioning from growing hemp to marijuana depends largely on what a cultivator’s legacy hemp crop is being produced for.

If a cultivator is growing hemp for CBD, the crops are virtually identical – and should be nurtured in the same way, said Kyle Wagner, co-founder of Queen Bee Bliss, a Sherwood, Oregon-based hemp farm.

Wagner, who relocated from Colorado to Oregon to start the business, studied and trained in Colorado to go into the recreational marijuana industry. But she ultimately opted to become a hemp farmer. Still, Wagner is also growing several medical marijuana plants; she battled cancer twice and has an MMJ card.

Given the similarity between marijuana and hemp grown for CBD, Wagner is frustrated by the misinformation that surrounds the latter.

For example, it’s widely believed that all hemp plants are male and marijuana plants are female. But Wagner spends a lot of time pulling any male plants she finds out of her hemp crop so they can’t pollinate the females.

“With marijuana, it’s possible to find far more feminized seeds than it is with hemp, and thus with hemp we have to sex out the males once they start the pre-flower phase,” she said.

Soil and planting

As with hemp grown for CBD, high-quality soil is critical to ensure a healthy marijuana crop, Wagner said.

Good soil is dark brown in color, compacts when it’s squeezed and easily breaks apart again with a small amount of pressure. The soil should be rich in organic matter with a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 to 7.

Cannabis likes a slightly acidic environment at the roots, which is what makes it thrive outdoors. Soil also should be well-drained because waterlogged cannabis can lead to bud rot.

Wagner augments her soil with kelp, blood meal and garden-grade lime before dropping the transplants into the ground – the same technique that can applied to cannabis.

Before transplanting her hemp crop, she picks her favorite plants and put them in the greenhouse so she can clone the mothers for future crops – again, the same can be done for marijuana.

In addition to such similarities, Wagner said a benefit of growing marijuana is the plant effectively telegraphs its condition. So it’s easier to nurture the plants.

“The great thing about cannabis is that it tells you what it needs,” she said. “What kind of bugs, whether it’s dehydrated – it shows itself amazingly readily.”

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Damian Marley marijuana company to add hemp-derived CBD line

October 25, 2017

The youngest son of late reggae star Bob Marley is the latest marijuana entrepreneur to launch a line of CBD products derived from hemp.

Damian Marley’s marijuana company, California-based Stony Hill Corp., is selling CBD tinctures, gummies and topical creams under the name Stony Hill CBD, according to a news release.

The products will be sold on the Stony Hill website and in “select locations” in the United States that the company did not identify.

Stony Hill executives said they’re getting into hemp-derived products for similar reasons as other marijuana companies because the products are nonintoxicating and legal in more states.

“Hemp-derived CBDs provide an attractive alternative for people looking to reap the medical benefits of cannabis, but who cannot obtain cannabis due to legality issues, or simply do not want to experience the psychoactive effects of THC,” JJ Southard, Stony Hill’s vice president of products, said in the release.

More and more marijuana producers are adding CBD products made from hemp. The hemp-derived CBD market is expected to hit $291 million this year and balloon to $1.65 billion by 2021, according to cannabis-industry analyst Brightfield Group.

BotanicaSeattle, Wana Brands and Dixie Brands are just a few of the edibles makers to start CBD linesin recent months.

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Colorado biotech firm hires UC Davis to research hemp

October 26, 2017

A Colorado agricultural biotech that specializes in marijuana is paying a major California agricultural research university at least $150,000 to study the hemp genome in an effort to reduce the need for using pesticides and fertilizers on the plant.

Lafayette-based Front Range Biosciences said in a news release it reached an agreement with the University of California, Davis, “to advance understanding of cannabis for medical and nutraceutical uses.”

The research will examine the hemp genome.

“Decoding its genome will allow us to gain new insight into the genetic bases of complex pathways of secondary metabolism in plants,” Dario Cantu, biologist in the college’s Department of Viticulture and Enology, said in the release.

Front Range Biosciences said it is giving the university $150,000 to begin research, with more payments planned. Full terms of the grant were not disclosed.

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Tribe sues DEA, California county for removal of 26-acre hemp crop

October 31, 2017

A Native American tribe based in Nevada is suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration over the seizure of a 26-acre hemp crop growing in California.

The Winnemucca Indian Colony of Nevada – a federally recognized tribe of Western Shoshone and Northern Paiute Indians in northwestern Nevada – is also suing officials in San Joaquin County, California, where the grow was located, according to TV station KCRA.

The tribe wants a temporary restraining order, return of the plants and a declaration that a San Joaquin County ordinance banning the grow is unlawful, the Sacramento-based station reported.

The Winnemucca tribe rented the property in Stockton and contracted a California marijuana producer, SG Farms, to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.

San Joaquin County told the tribe in August that its research claim was not enough to establish its ability to grow hemp in the county. California allows hemp growing, but only under the auspices of a state-approved university research program.

On Oct. 10, the DEA and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office seized the plants.

The California hemp case is the latest example of ongoing legal uncertainty facing Indian tribes and hemp.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in 2014 that it would not prosecute federal laws regulating the growing or selling of marijuana on tribal lands, even in states where cannabis is illegal.

But tribes experimenting with hemp and marijuana have been periodically raided by federal drug authorities, with their legal challenges rebuffed. Other tribes, however, have found success growing hemp in conjunction with state hemp programs.

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TWO NYPD COPS CHARGED WITH RAPING TEEN AFTER BUSTING HER FOR

A New York City grand jury indicted two Brooklyn narcotics officers late last week on charges they raped an 18-year-old woman after arresting her for smoking marijuana. The alleged victim says she was assaulted while handcuffed in the back of a police van in the parking lot of a Chipotle restaurant in September.

The two narcotics officers, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, now face charges of first degree rape. The alleged victim, who posts on social media under the name Anna Chambers, including posts about the case, says that both narcs forced her to perform oral sex on them, and that one of them raped her. She alleges that she and two young men were pulled over by Martins and Hall for smoking pot, and that they targeted her after finding prescription drugs in the car. The narcs told her companions to leave before ordering her to undress so they could "search for drugs."

They didn't find any drugs on her, but handcuffed the teen anyway before coercing her into sex, her attorney, Michael David, told the New York Post.

"You'll spend three hours in the precinct," they allegedly told her. They also allegedly said: "This is what you're going to do for us, and we'll let you go," David said.

"There was zero consent," David said. "The cops were over 6 feet tall. She's very petite, like 5-2 and maybe 100 pounds. There's nothing she could do."

The grand jury issued the indictments October 26 after hearing a week of testimony, including testimony on the stand from Chambers herself. The narcs were not arrested upon indictment, but are expected to turn themselves in this week. They have been placed on modified duty and stripped of their guns and badges and are now suspended without pay. They're looking at between three and 25 years in prison if convicted.

The detectives, from NYPD's Brooklyn South narcotics squad, have not denied that they engaged in sex acts with the alleged victim, but claimed they were consensual. They also spent the past week trying to discredit and impugn their accuser.

In a letter to prosecutors, lawyers for the narcs pointed out that she had filed a $50 million claim against the city in October and that she had posted "provocative" selfies on her Instagram and Twitter accounts after the assault. The lawyers called on prosecutors "to further investigate Chambers' dubious claim before you ask the grand jury to return an indictment against Martins and Hall."

Chambers furiously rejects the narcs' claim that the sex was consensual, her lawyer said.

"She was shocked that the [cops] would say it was consensual after everything that was done to her. She wanted to get the word out," David explained. 'She just wants everybody to know it's an absolute lie that this was consensual. She was raped. She was viciously, brutally raped in handcuffs. It's the truth," he said.

"She's embarrassed," David continued. "She's very depressed over this. Her whole life had changed after this experience. She's afraid of the police, and she really wants justice to be served here."

After the attack, Chambers did what victims are supposed to do: She sought help at NYU Langone Hospital, which performed a rape kit on her that found the cops' DNA. She reported a sexual assault to police. She confided to friends after it happened. And she filed a civil lawsuit. And now, the criminal justice system swings into action against the perpetrators.

One of the reasons the war on drugs is so loathed is that it provides the opportunity for crooked cops to abuse their power in ways that have been alleged in this case. One wonders how many similarly abused women have not come forward.

National

Last Thursday,lawmakers called on the VA to research medical marijuana for veterans. A group of lawmakers who sit on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin urging him to use his agency to research medical marijuana. The VA "is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments," the lawmakers wrote. Shulkin has yet to respond.

Arkansas

Last Thursday, rejected medical marijuana business applicants sued over their rejected bids. A group of applicants seeking to open some of the first medical marijuana businesses in the state filed lawsuits last week charging that the state Medical Marijuana Commission erred in its initial assessment of applications, where it rejected several applicants for failing to meet minimum requirements. The lawsuits seek a temporary restraining order to force the commission to include the plaintiffs' applications during a final scoring review.

New Jersey

On Monday, the state recognized five new qualifying conditions. The state's Medical Marijuana Review Panel has officially approved five new qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. They are anxiety, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, migraines, chronic pain of visceral origin, and Tourette's Syndrome. The panel rejected adding chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma as qualifying conditions.

Utah

Last Wednesday, another new poll showed continuing strong support for a medical marijuana initiative. A new Salt Lake Tribune/University of Utah Hinckley School of Politics poll has support for a 2018 medical marijuana initiative at 75%. That result mirrors a July poll that had 77% support.

In Palm Beach, Florida, a Palm Beach deputy was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole pills and other items from the home of a man who died during Hurricane Irma. Deputy Jason Cooke went down after the son of the dead man delivered in-home surveillance footage of him making off with pain pills, muscle relaxers, and anti-psychotic medications from the home of the 85-year-old man after discovering him dead in the house. He is charged with burglary and grand theft.

In Key West, Florida, a Monroe County sheriff's correctional officer was arrested Tuesday on charges she stole drugs from a family friend. Officer Ashlie Nicole Hernandez allegedly took the pills while babysitting, and the victim reported he to authorities. She is charged two counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and one count of theft of a controlled substance.

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, a state trooper was sentenced last Wednesday to three years' probation for using one of his informants as his personal cocaine dealer. Jose Israel Lebron went down after the informant snitched him out, telling police he had been buying cocaine for and using it with Lebron for months before cops rolled up Lebron in April 2016. He pleaded guilty to a single count of purchase of a controlled substance by an unauthorized person in commerce. That conviction means he will not be able to be certified as a law enforcement officer in the state again.





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White House rejects medical marijuana as opioid alternative

November 3, 2017

In a move that brought scathing condemnation from a Florida Republican congressman, the White House’s commission on the opioid epidemic has rejected calls to support medical marijuana as an alternative for pain patients.

The commission “specifically declined to endorse the use of marijuana for pain,” The Washington Post reported.

In addition, the commission’s chair, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, drew parallels between the opioid epidemic and the growing popularity of medical cannabis, a statement that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, called “outrageous.”

Positive endorsements likely would have led to increased interest in medical marijuana and, possibly, sales around the nation.

According to The Cannabist, Gaetz harshly condemned the MMJ views of the notoriously anti-marijuana Christie, saying, “it is shortsighted, it is inaccurate, and it is indefensible to suggest that the proliferation of medical cannabis – that is saving lives and improving the quality of life for people – somehow is analogous to the plague of the opioid crisis.”

Gaetz also said that “the federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about cannabis in asserting that it has no medical value.”

He was speaking at an event put on by the American Legion, which is a major supporter of medical cannabis and of increasing access to MMJ for military veterans.

Gaetz’s comments are noteworthy in that marijuana reform for years has been more of an issue championed by Democrats, but Republicans are increasingly joining the cause.

First Texas CBD crop set to be planted

November 2, 2017

One of just three licensed growers of a high-CBD medical marijuana strain in Texas announced it plans to begin cultivation operations this week.

Compassionate Cultivation, which was awarded one of the licenses in May, said in a news release it has received its license “and will immediately start cultivating its first crop” at its facility in Austin.

CBD oil made from the crop could be available for sale as soon as January, the company said.

The company is also working hand-in-hand with operations partner MJardin, which runs 30 medical cannabis cultivation facilities in 13 states.

Another licensee, Cansortium Texas, was given final approval by the state in September to begin operations. The company announced last month it plans to begin CBD sales in December.

But the third licensee, Surterra Texas, is still waiting on its permit, the Houston Press reported.

Under Texas’ restrictive CBD law, only patients with intractable epilepsy qualify to purchase and use the cannabis-derived CBD oil that the three licensed companies will produce.

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Nevada rule extension allows rec cannabis sales to continue

November 2, 2017

The Nevada Tax Commission has extended the emergency regulations that allow recreational marijuana sales to continue another 120 days. The rules were scheduled to expire Nov. 1.

The emergency rules were originally enacted to enable an “early rollout” of the rec program – beginning July 1 – while the legislature finalized regulations for a full adult-use industry. The rules must still be approval by lawmakers, the Nevada Appeal reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Legislative Counsel Bureau plans to provide the taxation department with permanent adult-use regulations in a couple of weeks, signaling the start of the legislative approval process.

Legislation that voters passed in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana gave liquor distributors exclusive rights to cannabis distribution for the first year and a half of adult-use sales.

Thirty-one distributors were licensed as of September.

The Nevada tax director told the commission that wholesale recreational cannabis currently is valued at $2,145 a pound, or $134 an ounce. The figure is used to determine the wholesale and retail taxes imposed on adult-use cannabis.

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Ohio awards 11 medical marijuana cultivation licenses

November 3, 2017

Ohio handed out its first 11 cultivation licenses for the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program, but it could be months before the first crops are planted.

All the licenses awarded Friday were so-called Level II permits given to smaller growers who are allowed to cultivate up to 3,000 square feet. That’s a small portion of the anticipated total cultivation space in the state.

Before any cultivation can begin, however, growers have to get their businesses up and running and a state team must make facility visits.

Up to a dozen larger growers for sites up to 25,000 square feet are expected to be announced later this month.

The Level II licensees, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, are:

Fire Rock, with sites in Columbus, Canton and Akron (score: 178.92 points)

FN Group Holdings, Ravenna (176.76)

Mother Grows Best, Canton (172)

OhiGrow, Toledo (168.76)

Ancient Roots, Wilmington (168.76)

Ohio Clean Leaf, Dayton and Carroll (160.56)

Ascension BioMedical, Oberlin (157.08)

Agri-Med Ohio, Langsville (156.60)

Paragon Development Group, Huber Heights (154.56)

Hemma, Monroe (151.28)

Galenas, Akron (148.92)

Each license is for one site only, and companies that applied for multiple sites have 10 business days to pick the location for their  license, the newspaper reported.

Regulators received 76 applications for Level II licenses and 109 applications for Level 1 licenses.

The application process for cannabis producer and MMJ dispensary licenses will open in the next couple of months, according to the Plain Dealer.

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California cities may tax destroyed cannabis crops

November 7, 2017




Municipal governments across California are moving to tax marijuana cultivation facilities based on square footage, not on actual crop production.

Such an approach could mean cultivators will potentially have to pay taxes on crops that fail to generate revenue because they were destroyed by weather or other causes – such as the recent wildfires – The Union reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

Cannabis growers in Northern California are still reeling from wildfires that destroyed more than 30 cultivation facilities in October.

Officials in Nevada City, California, have proposed annual taxes on cultivators of $4 a year per square foot of canopy if the grow uses artificial lights; $3 per square foot if a cultivator uses both natural and artificial lighting; and $1 per square foot for all natural grows. Voters still must approve the proposal.

The city said it followed the lead of other municipalities across the state when it drafted its tax structure.

A member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance’s executive committee attempted to convince Nevada City to base marijuana cultivation taxes on sales. But the city council said there was too little time to finalize the rules and get them on a ballot.

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Hemp wins unanimous approval in Wisconsin Senate

November 8, 2017

Hemp is cruising through the Wisconsin state legislature, where the Senate voted 33-0 to approve cultivation of the new crop.

The Wisconsin bill hemp bill now heads to the Assembly, which scheduled a hemp hearing Wednesday.

The final Assembly vote on hemp could come Thursday, according to WHBL-TV, possibly sending the bill to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for final approval.

But it’s not clear if Walker would support the hemp bill, which is similar to hemp laws in other states in that it defines hemp as cannabis below 0.3 percent THC and requiring background checks of potential growers.

Last month, Walker told WEAU-TV that he’ll consider hemp, though he has “a concern in anything that would lead to (marijuana) legalization.”

Walker did approve a law earlier this year to allow the possession of marijuana-derived CBD oil and to expand the medical conditions for which it can be used beyond “seizure disorders.”

Walker’s approval would make Wisconsin the 35th state to put a hemp law on the books since production was legalized in 2014. However, some states have hemp laws but no hemp production because rules are still being worked out.

The Chippewa tribe in northern Wisconsin voted last summer to authorize hemp production.

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Recreational cannabis legalization strong possibility in New Jersey + wins in Detroit

November 7, 2017 | By John Schroyer




New Jersey is poised to legalize recreational marijuana after a pro-cannabis candidate won the state’s gubernatorial race Tuesday night, giving the MJ industry a potentially huge win in what could be a lucrative new market for businesses.

Come January, the notoriously anti-marijuana Gov. Chris Christie will be out of office and Democrat Phil Murphy will be in.

If Murphy makes good on a campaign pledge to legalize adult-use marijuana – possibly as soon as his first 100 days in office – New Jersey could become the biggest recreational market on the East Coast and easily generate hundreds of millions of dollars in retail cannabis sales annually.

Also on Tuesday, voters in Detroit approved two marijuana-related measures that could benefit both existing and future MMJ businesses.

Here’s more on the results of the 2017 November elections:

Big news in NJ

The election of a strong MJ supporter as New Jersey’s next governor is “a massive deal,” said Evan Nison, a longtime cannabis industry insider and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform committee member.

“I’ve said for a little while now that I think it’s possible that northern New Jersey could be the largest cannabis industry per capita in the world, at least while New York and Pennsylvania take their time to legalize,” Nison continued.

“Because we’re so close to Pennsylvania, because we’re so close to New York and because we’re such a densely populated state, I think it’s going to have a huge impact on the industry from a numbers standpoint.”

Murphy’s victory could be significant for another reason.

If the Democrat-controlled New Jersey Legislature can deliver a rec legalization bill to Murphy’s desk not long after he takes office in January, the state will become the first in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis via lawmakers as opposed to the ballot box.

“The governor was the only thing stopping legalization up until this point, and we’ve said since Christie was elected that we’re been waiting for him to leave,” Nison said.

The New Jersey CannaBusiness Association also celebrated Murphy’s victory.

The group’s president, Scott Rudder, said in a news release that having Murphy in office is “an opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs and provide a much-needed boost to our ailing economy” with “common sense cannabis laws.”

Bill in the works

The legislature already has a rec legalization bill teed up – S3195, which state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced in May – but Nison said there likely will be further negotiations before a measure is passed by lawmakers.

“I’m not sure what the final legislation will look like,” Nison said when asked if he thinks New Jersey would take a more free-market approach with no business license caps, or if lawmakers would be more inclined to limit the number of recreational cannabis permits.

“The specific provisions are still unknown,” he added. “We have a few indications based on (S3195), but we’re still unsure.”

For instance, Scutari’s bill includes a provision calling for “at least one marijuana retail store per county,” but it’s unclear under the legislation whether all businesses that qualify will be licensed.

The bill also outlines different types of business licenses:

Cultivator

Producer (i.e. infused products maker)

Wholesaler

Retailer

Transporter

Testing lab

Nison believes the legislature will be more inclined to open up the market instead of allowing, say, only the six licensed medical cannabis producers in the state to sell adult-use marijuana.

He also cautioned that it’s not a given that New Jersey will legalize adult use, though he put solid odds on Murphy signing off on a landmark rec bill.

“I think it is 50-50 on if it’s the first 100 days. I’d say 85%-90% likely it happens this session,” Nison added.

What is certain, though, is that marijuana will be a hot topic when the New Jersey Legislature reconvenes after Murphy formally takes office.

Detroit dispensaries get a break

Marijuana entrepreneurs got another win Tuesday in Detroit, where voters gave the green light to expand the number of locations available for medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to WDIV, Proposals A and B – municipal ballot questions to opt Detroit into the state’s MMJ regulatory scheme and to loosen city dispensary zoning – passed handily.

The measures will roll back a restrictive ordinance established last year by the city council that forced most Detroit dispensaries out of business.

After the ordinance took effect in March 2016, the city shuttered 186 of 283 dispensaries, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Those closures came about largely because dispensaries were prohibited from locating within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, day-care centers, parks, libraries, public housing projects and other dispensaries, leaving few areas in the city where dispensaries could legally set up shop.

Currently, nine dispensaries are licensed by the city and are operational, according to Detroit city data. Another 65 are operating while awaiting permits and 90 more are undergoing the licensing process.

New York rejects convention

New York voters appeared on the verge of rejecting a proposed constitutional convention that could have opened the door for a statewide ballot measure in 2019 on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

As of early Wednesday morning – with roughly 83% of the state’s precincts reporting – Proposal 1 was losing by a huge margin, with only about 16% of voters supporting the measure.

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Medical marijuana patient counts surging in Florida

November 6, 2017 | By Eli McVey




Despite a shaky rollout, Florida’s full-fledged medical marijuana industry is off to an explosive start.

More than 30,000 patients have enrolled in the MMJ program since June – a 183% increase – and total patient counts will soon eclipse 50,000.

Here’s what you need to know about the situation:

Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 last November, a ballot initiative authorizing a full-fledged MMJ program in the state. It builds on a previous program that was mainly limited to CBD-based medicine.

After struggling to reach a deal regarding rules to govern the new MMJ program, lawmakers ultimately came to an agreement in June. The new MMJ law overrides the previous CBD law and expands the list of qualifying conditions, with doctors given a high degree of flexibility in determining whether a patient qualifies for MMJ. The new agreement also got rid of the 90-day waiting for patients before physicians can order MMJ as treatment.

Patient counts have exploded since the new law went into effect, though more physicians are needed if the program is to continue growing at such a rapid rate. Just over 1,000 physicians are currently qualified by the state to recommend medical marijuana. That total will likely increase soon, as a law reducing both the cost and number of hours for physician certification recently went into effect.

Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use – which issues patient ID cards – hasn’t been sufficiently staffed to handle the number of patients seeking access to MMJ. Officials report a backlog of up to 6,000 patients at any given time. Despite the hiccups, Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, expects patient counts to reach 100,000 by March or April 2018.

Patient counts will continue to grow as access to MMJ expands. Currently, just 19 dispensaries are open throughout Florida. The law allows for 17 vertically integrated medical cannabis producers, and each is allowed to open 25 dispensaries. For every additional 100,000 patients who register in the MMJ program, four more licenses will be issued and existing licensees will be allowed to open another four dispensaries.

To date, 12 MMJ licenses have been issued, as regulators have missed their deadline to award the last five business licenses. A lawsuit challenging the licensing process, Hurricane Irma and insufficient resources were cited by officials as reasons for the delay.

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CBD products are usually mislabeled, study finds

November 8, 2017

Most CBD products sold online don’t contain the promised amount of CBD, a potential red flag for regulators deciding whether to crack down on a product commonly used for medical reasons.

A study published Tuesday in a leading medical publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that less than a third of CBD products bought by researchers were correctly labeled.

The researchers bought 84 CBD products online and had them tested in Colorado labs. The findings:

About 43% contained more CBD than the label claimed.

About 26% contained less CBD than promised.

About 31% were within 10 percentage points of the promise.

Also alarming to researchers was that about one in five of the CBD products contained THC, even though CBD products commonly tout their lack of the psychoactive ingredient.

The study drops just as international drug regulators are considering how to regulate CBD.

The World Health Organization, a United Nations health agency, heard testimony this week about whether CBD should come under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings last week to four CBD manufacturers about making health claims. The FDA believes that CBD has not undergone adequate scientific review for use as a drug therapy, though CBD sales are booming amid ongoing legal uncertainty about the product’s legal status.

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Failed deal, red ink, dwindling sales put MassRoots on the ropes

November 9, 2017 | By John Schroyer




At one point, MassRoots was flying high, raising millions of dollarsfrom investors and attempting to become the first cannabis company listed on the Nasdaq.

Over the course of 2017, however, the marijuana-centric social media network has nosedived and now finds itself in a precarious position.

Consider the following recent developments:

Last month, the company’s board of directors abruptly fired CEO and founder Isaac Dietrich for undisclosed reasons.

A much-heralded $12 million stock deal to acquire the tech firm CannaRegs was scrapped just after Dietrich’s ouster.

MassRoots saw its net loss for the first six months of the year skyrocket nearly fivefold from the same period a year earlier to hit $19.1 million, with much of that tied to a massive increase in stock-based compensation. Its revenues also tumbled by more than 50% during the first half of the year, coming in at $277,614.

MassRoots’ stock, which trades on the over-the-counter markets under the ticker symbol MSRT, is down 80% this year.

The company has downsized its staff by at least two-thirds, with only a handful of full-time employees left.

It has burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash this year. MassRoots had just $31,247 in cash as of June 30, down from $374,490 at the end of 2016, according to the last financial statement MassRoots filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

MassRoots has acknowledged it needs to scrape together additional money. In May, the company disclosed in its quarterly financial filing that it had to raise $5 million “to continue to fund operations.” It’s unclear if MassRoots has been able to reach that target.

All of that and more are now in the lap of Scott Kveton, who took over as MassRoots’ CEO last month.

“(Kveton has) got his work cut out for him, because he has to look at how he’s going to improve operations as well as figure out ways to find other sources of funding,” said Matt Karnes, the founder of New York-based GreenWave Advisors.

“What they have to do is go back to their existing investors and maybe ask them to double down on their investments,” he added. “I don’t know how well that would be received. And how difficult it’s going to be, with all this going on, to attract a new investor pool.”

Karnes offered this conclusion: “It’s like being on the Titanic and not being sure what leak to plug first.”

Stock dropping

The company’s shares closed Wednesday at a 52-week low of 21 cents, a drop of 4% for the day. Its stock was $1.03 at the end of 2016.

In an interview, Kveton acknowledged the company “has definitely trimmed down.”

“We’ve definitely had a contraction from earlier this year,” he told Marijuana Business Daily. “It was ultimately just right-sizing the business. That’s been going on since long before I joined the company (in July).”

Looking ahead, he added: “Ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re focused on building the company.”

However, he declined to discuss the company’s financial situation, and in the eyes of some close observers, MassRoots appears to be in serious trouble.

“Personally, I’m afraid for MassRoots,” said Dustin Carter, a former sales executive at the company who left to work at Denver-based CannaRegs after Dietrich’s ouster.

Carter said four other former MassRoots employees have also found a home at CannaRegs, which provides services that help marijuana companies stay on top of ever-changing industry regulations.

While CannaRegs has been on an apparent hiring spree, there’s been no announcement of MassRoots bringing on new employees since the change in company leadership.

Carter said that before leaving MassRoots last month he had an “amicable” conversation with Kveton.

“He said to me, ‘You’ve been a kick-ass employee … but there’s nothing to sell at MassRoots currently,'” Carter said. “There wasn’t much for everyone to do. There wasn’t much to build. There wasn’t much to sell.”

In an interview Wednesday, former CEO Dietrich – who’s also on the four-member board of the directors and still holds that position today – said the planned acquisition of CannaRegs was instrumental to the future of MassRoots and would have provided a significant boost to the firm’s revenues.

He claims that his fellow board members helped sink the acquisition, though CannaRegs’ CEO Amanda Ostrowitz previously said she was the one pulled the plug on the deal shortly after Dietrich was forced out.

“Had that acquisition gone through, it would have been extremely beneficial … for MassRoots’ shareholders and given us significant exposure to the California market,” Dietrich said.

He also said that MassRoots raised $2 million in the third quarter of 2017 while he was still CEO, but he’s still concerned about the company’s future.

MassRoots declined to comment on Dietrich’s claims. However, some observers were critical of the CannaRegs deal, saying the purchase price was grossly inflated.

Dwindling head count

Carter, who said he visited the MassRoots office Wednesday, put the company’s current full-time employee head count at four, including Kveton.

Kveton declined to specify the number of full-time employees. He did estimate that MassRoots now has around 10 employees.

That’s down from at least 31, according to Yahoo Finance.

Dietrich said the company had 35 full-time employees at its peak but was down to 12 in October before his ouster.

“We had been reducing our employee count throughout the year to reduce the amount of money we were spending,” Dietrich said.

“We were spending a considerable amount of money scaling our platform and developing new features. It was operational costs.”

MassRoots also appears to have scaled back on expenses such as business conferences.

At a cannabis event in London last month, for instance, the company had a booth, but it appeared no one actually attended the conference to staff it.

More trouble looming?

Next week may shed some more light on MassRoots’ financial situation.

Kveton wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that the company’s third-quarter financial filing – with details of the company’s finances – is due to the SEC at that point.

Dietrich indicated to Marijuana Business Daily last week that more turmoil is in store for the company.

He said he’s planning to call a shareholder vote “in the very near future” to try to remove the other three board members, who fired him as CEO.

“I don’t know exactly what the next steps are, but I do know that the board’s days are limited,” Dietrich said.

“And quite frankly, they have stolen this company from the shareholders, and that is a very dangerous position for the board to be in.”

MassRoots officials didn’t comment on Dietrich’s plans.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

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Weed for Warriors Carries on the Good Fight for Veterans' Health

As cannabis becomes more commercialized, this non-profit for military vets is stepping up its game.

Friday 11/10/2017 by Randy Robinson




When U.S. soldiers return home from war, they often find themselves on the frontlines of a new battle: finding medical relief within a system that only offers FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. Things aren’t always so democratic or sensible back home in the states, despite the sacrifices these troops made when fighting for our country abroad.

Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area by a Marine Corps veteran, the Weed for Warriors Project brings together veterans who find solace in cannabis and need like-minded peers to share their experiences with. In the past, Weed for Warriors has used its network to connect veterans to affordable or free cannabis products. However, with Prop 64 – the law that regulates commercial sales of adult-use cannabis in California – launching in January 2018, giving away cannabis products for free is no longer an option.

Aside from the obvious profit motive for the cannabis industry, the state government has atax revenue motive as well. By forcing all cannabis products to be tracked, logged, and taxed at sale (as high as 45 percent including local taxes), veterans and other impoverished patients, who often scrape by on disability checks, have few options left to procure affordable cannabis medications.

Sean Kiernan, 45, is the current president of Weed for Warriors. From 1989 to 1993, he served in the U.S. Army as airborne infantry in Latin America. After leaving the Army, he worked as a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. Everything went relatively smoothly until 2006, when the mental and emotional trauma from his combat experiences finally started to catch up to him.

Veterans Affairs (VA), the federal department that handles medical cases for U.S. soldiers once they’re discharged from service, prescribed Kiernan – as it has thousands of others veterans – a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals. In 2011, Kiernan attempted suicide, which prompted some of his friends to recommend cannabis to him over the VA’s drugs.

Cannabis took a while to begin working for Kiernan, as it usually does for most patients. Although it helped to control his symptoms, he discovered that the added benefit of having a network of fellow veterans to talk to helped just as much as weed. “You have a bunch of vets coming together to help one another,” he says, “because the system is failing them.”

However, cannabis is still a crucial therapy for many veterans like Kiernan – it can control and manage pain, nausea, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and insomnia – without the nasty side effects that come from conventional pharmaceuticals.

To keep up with California’s new regulated cannabis sales system, Kiernan spoke with MERRY JANE to discuss the organization’s new direction, and how they plan to overcome not only the obstacles erected by prohibition, but the new obstacles erected by commercialized cannabis, too.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MERRY JANE: Let’s start at the beginning. In your experience, how does cannabis help with PTSD?

Sean Kiernan: If you look at the medicines the VA gives to you, what’re they giving you? First, let’s take pain. You’re getting some type of opioid or narcotic. What’re the side effects of that? You can see addiction to synthetic heroin, basically. Beyond that? Overdose.

What else do they give you? Mood stabilizers. Lithium. SSRIs, the anti-anxiety meds, Xanax and so forth. The anti-convulsants. The anti-psychotics. The anti-depressants. And the ADD meds, because those others all make you fall asleep. Then they throw in Viagra because now you’re sexually dysfunctional, too. My point being, cannabis is a substitute for all of that – for many of us. I know triple-amputees who were on 30 pills today. Now, they take none. They use cannabis heavily.

The pills pile up because the VA keeps prescribing new ones to relieve the side effects from the initial prescriptions.

When I look at the risk profiles of a lot of the medicines [I’m] no longer taking, a lot of the objectionable points of view with regards to cannabis become moot. Because you’re concerned about cannabis’s danger relative to what? Relative to the narcotics I’m taking? The anti-depressants? The SSRIs? All of these have side effects like what? Oh, suicidal inclination. Addiction. Overdose.

We’re losing not only 41 vets a day – if you include drug overdoses along with suicide – we’re now losing over 120,000 Americans to both overdosing and suicide this year. That’s 330 Americans a day. When you have an alternative to the chief culprit in our suicide and overdose epidemics – the opioids – and the anti-psychotics and other medicines that have suicidal inclinations, it’s because they’re using these drugs to a high degree.

You ask what cannabis does? It’s a substitute for the meds that Western medicine wants us on. I think that’s the biggest issue as to why prohibition is going to be so hard to overcome.

This is a common story I hear from veterans, that they replaced their VA meds with just cannabis, just one plant.

It does so much more than just numb the pain. What cannabis also does is distracts. It’s this combination, this wonder drug. We talk about whole-plant therapy, and why it’s so important. It’s the entourage effect: CBN can put you to sleep, THC can give you euphoria, CBD is anti-inflammatory. With the entourage effect, it can replace 28 to 30 pills. There’s so many subparts to the plant. It’s nature’s medicine, used in so many cultures, and our government can’t seem to acknowledge it.

Weed for Warriors is wrapping up a documentary. Can you tell us a little about that?

We’re in discussions right now with some major groups concerning a docu-series. The film that they shot is just a camera crew following us throughout 2015. It covers who we are and how we started, and ultimately where we’re at today.

Where we’re at today, basically: under Prop 64, the old model no longer works. We used to be able to go to farms and just cut down 5, 10, 50 pounds for the vets. Then we’d have two or three chapter meetings, we’d have ounces, and we’d start giving them out. But under Prop 64, that goes away. We can’t give away free meds anymore.

The other problem we’re having is funding. And we’re not alone there; a lot of people are having that problem right now. How do we pay for this? We’re a bunch of volunteer vets, and a bunch of my vets are on disability. They don’t need that hourly wage. Unfortunately, since we don’t have money, we don’t have access to the political system. If we had money, we could amplify the voice we already have.

But we’ve accomplished a lot with no money. The problem when you have money is sponsors come in and say, “We want to control your medicine.” That’s corporate cannabis, and that’s contrary to what we’re about. We want to be about something true, and be honest, and stand up for something.

What do I mean by that? We’re going out, and we’re selling flower, apparel, merchandise. We’re also filming a docu-series or a documentary. All of these things, if successful, will bring in funding. In return, we’re starting a foundation; we’ve got to be more formalized under Prop 64. Through our foundation, we’ll provide transparency for the monitors and regulators.

What’s the funding for, exactly?

We’re going to use the money for research and access. The sad reality is — whether people want to admit it or not, veterans on disability or [not] on disability or working-class — they can’t afford to buy medicine from a dispensary. So, they get stuck on the black market.

How do we create something that increases access? Our discussions with the industry were what does this model look like? Is it a card? Is it just purchasing bulk?

We’re taking the funds from our products and investing it into lobbying, investing it into grows. This formulization is a pain in the ass. It’s way easier to do this without the rigorous regulations, and [the state government is] asking a bunch of vets with PTSD to follow this business model – it’s difficult.

But we’ve partnered with people in the industry – Legacy Brands, a cannabis branding agency out of Los Angeles, who is helping us bring our medical product line to market nationwide, and a number of amazing licensed growers, one being King’s Garden. They’ve invested in us. Now, we have a team on board to manage this and amplify the veterans’ voices.

When does it start?

We’re planning to launch November 11. We’re going to start selling product in California, but we’re doing our chapter resupply missions first. People who are going into business with us: we’re identifying veteran-owned businesses and working with them, and they’re donating medicine to our chapters. We’re getting veterans to act as sales reps. Giving out this medicine for free is kind of a thank-you to our vets.

The foundation is called Meds for Vets. We’re looking at industry programs, partners, and white labels. We’re trying to bring whoever wants to into helping vets, into something that is credible. They can identify what the funds are going to, and we’re not being exclusive; there’s other veterans’ groups we’re going to work with.

We didn’t land on the profit motive, the profit motive landed on us. Sorry, I’m from Berkeley; I’m paraphrasing Malcolm X to be funny, but it’s true.

Is Weed for Warriors currently growing?

Take a look at our social media. We help a lot of people. We are real. And we’re amplifying the message because no one else is filling that void. We’re resonating with people. More people are following us [online]. We’re getting a lot of traction. More and more people are showing up to our meetings.

We’re doing something right, so how do we stay true to that and go bigger? Most people sell out and make profit. We’re saying, let’s not do that. We have a brand, a brand just like any brand, and it stands for something. If we can monetize that, then use that money to advance the cause and fight for social justice, that’s going to make the brand that much more valuable.

Affordability of cannabis has been an issue in every state that’s gotten a recreational program. The more it’s regulated, the higher the costs. Governments argue the tax structures are needed to enforce the regulations.

That’s the propaganda. We hear it all the time out here in California. I’m just sitting here laughing because the grows that are going into places like Salinas, and places with a lot of agriculture, they can’t pass the [lab] testing. They have all the contaminants from the lettuce fields, yet the government is complaining about the environment [being contaminated] from the marijuana fields. It’s laughable.

I hear the same thing in Colorado.

It’s funny, because they say that, but the model they’ve created has exacerbated the black market. They’re causing that problem. They’re causing that issue. With the taxes at 45 percent, you can legalize the possession side of it – right? You’re not getting busted for smoking it or having it, but that’s it, right? You’re criminalizing the growing side of it. They’ve made it so inaccessible because of the huge profit margin for those people who want to follow the law.

Ironically, because cannabis is still illegal federally – even illegal in neighboring states – that’s what nurtures the black market. If someone can buy a few ounces then flip it at two or three times the price across state lines, there’s always incentive.

Prohibition has created these economies. And these economies exist, whether they’re the DEA budgets, and the civil asset forfeitures that flood the police budgets around the country so they can afford all this cool shit – the fun stuff that voters love. But it’s also the private prisons, it’s the pharmaceutical companies, it’s the addiction industry. A lot of that addiction industry is mandated by [rehab] classes. That all needs to change; it doesn’t make anything better. The reason cannabis was originally outlawed is no longer the reason prohibition can’t be undone. It can’t be undone because of the economies fueled by prohibition reaching into the trillions of dollars.

The pharmaceutical industry put $295 million into lobbying. The gun lobby put in $10 million. There’s no one who comes close to the pharmaceutical industry.

Is Weed for Warriors evolving into a collective?

No, not at all.

So you’re basically creating a hub for conscious businesses to work with veterans and low-income patients, then?

We have a problem, and we’re trying to solve the problem. We’re staying relevant. If we don’t adapt to Prop 64, we can’t do anything. I’m basically weaponizing the brand to fund the fight for what we’ve already been doing. Which is not only getting meds to vets, creating a safety net for them in the chapter location, but also advocating for them at a state and national level by highlighting the issues by how we see them.

We’re looking at this, and we’re seeing we need a lot more money. Then, we can help a lot more people. With Prop 64, now everyone’s looking for brands. What if I can take a brand that stands for something? That’s “compassionate capitalism” they’re teaching in MBA programs right now. Can you do what Paul Newman’s brand can, where they donate a percentage to the foundation? Or can you do what Ben & Jerry’s does, which is brand a product, but attach a social consciousness to what you do?

I believe Weed for Warriors is much more than just a cannabis brand. To me, as president, it’s social justice. It has to be about social justice. Cannabis is the unity part. It’s the love part. It’s this homeostasis reset button that so many people and so many cultures use, so it’s more than just a simple plant. But you can’t leave the social justice portion of this behind. At the end of the day, the veteran’s issue is that it comes from poverty.

Most of these vets are taken out of poverty. We have this system, the volunteer army, that incentivizes people to join who have the least economic options. When they get out [of service], not much changes.

The Weed for Warriors stands for something much more. This is an attempt to fill a void that we’re seeing out there. Most of the narrative is controlled by corporate cannabis that only cares about profit. They have carefully crafted messages and marketing, and everything looks great, but where’s the substance?

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California Treasurer Offers Banking Recommendations for Legal Weed, But Do They Go Far Enough?

John Chiang proposes armored trucks and a study exploring a public bank to protect the state’s legal pot payday, but cannabis businesses are skeptical over whether it can work and who will fund it.

11/8/2017 by Madison Margolin




On Tuesday, California State Treasurer (and 2018 gubernatorial candidate) John Chiang presented a report on cannabis banking. He began with an anecdote: Humboldt County, California's weed growing capital, has one of the highest rates of reported missing persons in the state. At a public hearing there, when asked if a gun had ever been pointed at them, most of audience raised their hands. Violence within the cannabis space is symptomatic of the industry's widespread inability to use banks.

"Wherever there's cash, there's risk in terms of some type of criminal activity to seize the cash. I know a lot of people who have been robbed," says Andrew DeAngelo, director of operations at Harborside Health Center in Oakland. "We retailers have a lot at risk, we have the greatest concentration of cash in the supply chain."

Because cannabis is a federally prohibited Schedule I substance, federally insured banks are reticent to do business with anyone whose money comes from weed. To navigate around this issue, Chiang has convened the Cannabis Banking Working Group, comprised of representatives from law enforcement, bans, taxing authorities, regulators, local government, and the cannabis industry.

Come 2018 when California's adult use market launches, the industry is poised to generate more than $7 billion in sales and $1 billion in tax revenue, annually. Chiang says it's an unfair public safety risk "to require a legal industry to haul duffle bags of cash to pay taxes, employees, and utilities bills." So during Tuesday's presentation, the working group released four main recommendations:

That state and local agencies contract with armored courier services to collect taxes and licensing fees paid in cash, count that cash, and transport it to the Federal Reserve or a commercial bank that's willing to take it from the hands of the state (the state or local taxing agencies' bank accounts would be credited)

The creation of an online portal to collect data from local governments and state regulatory agencies in order to help banks fulfill the federal obligation to "know their customers" before they accept deposits

A feasibility study looking into the creation of a state-owned bank for the cannabis industry; the study would investigate costs, benefits, risks, and legal or regulatory issues like capitalization, deposit insurance, and access to interbank transfer systems

The creation of a multi-state consortium, including representatives from cannabis-legal states, local governments, the cannabis industry, and the financial services industry, who would all educate the public and lobby federal politicians

"Just the fact that California's treasurer is looking for ways to help banking in the cannabis industry says a lot," says Daniel Yi, director of communications at MedMen. "It underscores how much the industry has evolved."

Only a few cannabis businesses like MedMen, where you can purchase weed with a credit card, have relationships with pioneering financial institutions. But even so, it's difficult for MedMen to work with brands that don't have their own bank accounts and can't cash checks, Yi explains.

Banks aren't technically barred from doing business with the cannabis industry. In fact, both the the Department of Justice’s Cole Memo and the Treasury Department's FinCEN guidance, respectively, told the feds to lay off state-compliant cannabis businesses, and advised banks on how to work with them.  

"Because banks are incredibly risk averse and because the FinCEN guidance doesn't say it's a safe harbor, then [banks] advise their boards this way: We could do this, but technically the feds could come after us," explains Nicole Howell-Neubert, an attorney at Clark Neubert LLP and member of Chiang's working group.

If the recommendations become reality, likely only private financial institutions and credit unions will participate. "Whether this regulatory system works in California hinges on local governments stepping up, agreeing to actually regulate and licence these businesses," she adds. "We need state licenses for banks to be comfortable banking these businesses, but to have a state license you need a local permit. So while this is reported as a statewide issue, it is ultimately a local one."

DeAngelo, however, says he'd like to see the recommendations go further. Just as California is challenging the federal government over immigration and climate change, he says he wants the same thing to happen with cannabis.

Still, a lingering question asks how these recommendations will be funded. Both DeAngelo and Josh Drayton, communications and outreach director for the California Cannabis Industry Association, suggest that cannabis tax funds go toward a program for armored vehicles to collect taxes, or the execution of a feasibility study.

"The burden of cost could end up on the cannabis stakeholder," says Drayton. "It's getting very expensive heading into the regulated market, and we want to make sure all these folks can survive and come into compliance without further extreme financial burdens." That's not to mention the time expense, as well. "When you have to line up your employees every couple of weeks and pay them in cash, that takes a full day," he says. Or worse, try counting $500,000 in cash to pay your taxes.

"My real take away is that we need action at the federal level," says Drayton. "There are going to be band-aid solutions to get us through this time period, but until we see cannabis descheduled or rescheduled from Schedule I, permanent solutions seem to be far off."

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Leading US marijuana retailer LivWell takes ‘significant’ ownership stake in Canadian producer

November 8, 2017 | By Matt Lamers




One of the largest marijuana retailers in the United States has acquired a “significant” equity stake in an Alberta cannabis producer, a move that could pave the way for other U.S. companies to enter the Canadian market.

Denver-based LivWell Enlightened Health purchased the undisclosed stake in Lethbridge, Alberta-based 51st Parallel, Marijuana Business Daily has learned.

The deal essentially makes the Canadian company a LivWell affiliate.

Executives from the two privately held companies confirmed the transaction but declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.

The move comes on the heels of U.S. alcohol giant Constellation Brands’ landmark purchase last month of a 9.9% stake in Canada’s Canopy Growth, the world’s largest medical marijuana company.

LivWell is a medical and recreational marijuana retailer that operates 14 stores across Colorado and plans to open another in Oregon. The company also operates its own cultivation facilities and employs about 600 hundred people.

51st Parallel is awaiting approval from the Canadian government to become a licensed marijuana producer. It plans to begin building new cultivation facilities early next year in Alberta.

LivWell’s deal is believed to be first time an American cannabis company has made a strategic move into Canada with the possibility of establishing an integrated business that offers both production and retail operations.

Khurram Malik – a partner with Jacob Capital Management – anticipates more such deals could be in the pipeline, particularly for strategic value plays involving a Canadian producer that has yet to be licensed. A prospective licensee typically carries a much lower price tag than a fully licensed producer.

“If they buy cheap and build aggressively, they could be a significant player in 18 months without playing 10 times the price for it,” Malik said. “None of the big players who have been in the medical market for a while have sold recreational product yet, so for someone to come in with capital, means and distribution know-how is not that far behind.”

Malik – a co-founder of Toronto-based Catalyst Group, a cannabis cultivation platform for late-stage LP applicants – added: “I anticipate quite a bit more acquisitions as we go along.”

The deal

Under the deal, which was in the works for more than a year, LivWell will become a third-party operator of 51st’s cultivation facility for five years. Also, 51st has a license to LivWell’s operational intellectual property in perpetuity.

LivWell is providing everything from consulting on facility design to quality control once production commences.

The two companies also have an agreement to negotiate retail branding and retail operational intellectual properties if Alberta, or any other province, opens the door to privately owned marijuana dispensaries.

The deal involves LivWell being paid partly in equity for the services it agreed to render.

Dean Heizer, LivWell’s executive director, said Canada’s predictable and reasonable government regulations make it an attractive market.

“It’s a market that will be rationally regulated on the adult-use side, and it’s a market that will treat marijuana businesses from a tax and regulatory standpoint like other legitimate businesses in Canada,” he said.

“Unlike the way the United States treats marijuana businesses as felons from a tax perspective.”

With help from LivWell, 51st will break ground on its 80,000-square-foot greenhouse in Lethbridge, Alberta, in February.

It aims to get its cultivation license as soon as possible, subject to Health Canada’s approval process. 51st is currently in the review stage.

The company anticipates 4,000 kilograms of marijuana production annually and is going only after the rec market.

“It represents a gigantic step in the growth of our business and will quickly move us along the learning curve relative to all of our peers,” said Jason Kujath, co-founder and president of 51st.

“We see it as being very significant. (The deal with LivWell) is going provide us many years of experience in operational capacity.”

Just the beginning

Analysts say Constellation’s 245 million Canadian dollars ($190 million) investment in Canopy opened the door to significant American investments in the Canadian marijuana space.

Such acquisitions reflect growing competition to lock up assets ahead of Canada’s legalization of adult-use cannabis next year.

Investors also are attracted to Canada’s more predictable regulatory climate.

Neil Maruoka and Matt Bottomley, analysts with Canaccord Genuity in Toronto, see more deals over the horizon involving companies both big and small.

They said large beer, tobacco or pharmaceutical companies trying to get into the cannabis space will probably have to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to make any purchase worth their while.

There are only a handful of companies in Canada, however, that are big enough to absorb that kind of investment and maintain managerial control.

On the other hand, for companies looking to get access to the Canadian market, smaller targets could be an attractive option.

“The idea of getting a toehold in the Canadian market, where you could invest afterwards and grow that capacity, could be attractive to some of these smaller players — guys who just want to get access,” they said.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com

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For a long time there was something laughable about the idea that pot was “stronger now than it used to be.”

But as anyone who’s smoked weed from a legal market or stuck around to see the industry grow can attest, licit pot is often very much unlike the way that it “used to be.” THC content is increasing across the legal and illegal markets both while CBD levels fall. These shifts in cannabinoid levels explain why inexperienced people like Maureen Dowd have been getting into situations where they bug out from eating an edible. And as much schadenfreude as these occasions can offer (really, the Dowd story will never stop being funny), these reactions do end up causing a number of overzealous hospitalizations of panicked people. Colorado alone has jumped from having 803 marijuana exposure visits per 100,000 hospitalizations to 2,413 post-legalization—a costly price to pay for panic.

And while for most smokers these higher levels of THC might just mean a freakout, people who are relying on marijuana for medicine, especially for chronic pain or mental illnesseslike anxiety, might not have access to the types of high-CBD strains that would benefit them most.

For all of the dispensaries that understand the differences between medical and recreational marijuana, some only represent the side of the culture that stresses higher and higher levels of THC. Last time I tried to get a midi at the neighborhood shop I was looked at strangely and given the suggestion that I pay $5 more for top shelf.

But you wouldn’t, for example, have a liquor store clerk trying to sell you Everclear. Some days you might want wine, some days you might want beer, and some days you might be making a bowl of terrifying, grain alcohol-based fruit punch for a party—regardless, there’s always some variation in the alcohol content of each drink so that you have a choice about how messed up you get.




Some of the mental effects of high-THC strains




False-colour nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) image of a mid-sagittal section through a human head, showing structures of a normal brain, airways & facial tissues. The heavily-folded cerebral cortex (the grey matter), which forms the outer part of the cerebrum, appears green, yellow & red. Beneath it at right appears the feathery outline of the cerebellum. Immediately to the left of the cerebellum in red are the structures of the brainstem, an enlarged extension of the spinal cord. The uppermost bones of the neck are seen to the left of the spinal cord. The airway of the throat & cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain & spinal cord appears dark blue.

It’s not only the type of high that gets affected by THC levels: as with any chemical vice, the brain is put into an altered state that can have lingering effects on mental systems.

THC undoubtedly messes around with the brain’s supply of dopamine. Dopamine is responsible not only for mood regulation but also for the moderation of addictivebehaviors. It certainly plays a part in marijuana withdrawal. Endocannabinoids, which are naturally made by the body, are usually what regulate the management of dopamine and adding additional cannabinoids into the mix can unsettle its homeostasis or even imbalance it further in cases of mental illness.

Tetrahydrocannabinol also affects the release and uptake of the amino acid GABA, the central nervous system’s most abundant neurotransmitter. GABA is particularly concentrated in the cerebral cortex, the ever-crucial site of higher-order brain operations like “sensation, perception, memory, association, thought, and voluntary physical action.” Unlike other neurotransmitters, GABA blocks nerve impulses from firing off and helps to manage conditions like anxiety, muscle tension, insomnia, short temper, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, mood, allergies, seizures, and—crucially—addiction. THC, as a GABA agonist and inhibitor, not only keeps the neurotransmitter from being released, it also blocks the GABA that exists from locking into its receptor.

CBD, on the other hand, actually increases the release of GABA while also giving it an easier time when it comes to binding to the receptor, which suggests a mechanism for how CBD prevents seizures. The way that cannabidiol interacts with GABA is similar to benzodiazepines, anxiolytics like Xanax and Klonopin, likely pinpointing CBD’s anti-anxiety qualities as well.




What responsibility do dispensaries have?




The Netherlands’ liberal policy towards so-called soft drugs could change as the government considers a ban on the sale of Dutch-grown cannabis know as Nederwiet, Dutch media reported 06 April 2004. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst are reportedly looking into the possibilities for banning the sale of Nederwiet in ‘coffee shops’ or cannabis cafes because they fear the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the active substance in weed and hash– is so high that cannabis could be classed as a hard drug.

The more research that is released about THC versus other cannabinoids like CBD, the more it seems that there needs to be some sort of a greater cannabinoid balance in the industry. Also important is the spreading of knowledge among consumers so that the demand for higher-CBD products isn’t just a niche thing. It’s not uncommon for dispensaries to not buy CBD products, to be semi-permanently “out” of their high-CBD strains, or to simply have no range of product available between high-THC strains and Charlotte’s Web. Even in Los Angeles, which is technically still only a medical market, CBD is seen as a specialty product for a slim number of patients when in reality it is a crucial—possibly even neuroprotective—component of cannabis.

It’s not even just a medical matter: when CBD and THC interact they both engage in a “synergistic chemical effect,” the entourage effect, which purportedly leads the cannabinoids to highlight one another and act more effectively. Certain specialty concentrates play around with this theory, making products like 1:1 THC to CBD vapes, but they’re hard to find.

Perhaps as an entire industry, we need to re-evaluate our goals in the medical and recreational markets both—it’s time to really focus on the whole cannabis plant and not just its psychoactive qualities. It’s not that THC should be eliminated or these high-level strains restricted; rather, the whole stock of available strains with various THC: CBD ratios should be expanded. Largely there needs to be wider education offered at the budtender level to people like novices, certain medical patients, or just those who are looking to smoke weed at a non-overwhelming level. Instead of being salespeople, budtenders need to be knowledgeable about what physical effects THC really has to help guide patients and recreational smokers towards a strain that will work for them.

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Canada awaits hemp boom, with companies pivoting to capitalize on CBD

November 9, 2017 | By Kristen Nichols




Excitement about hemp’s market potential is white-hot in Canada, where hemp production already overwhelms the United States and changing regulations could unleash a huge new market for CBD products.

Company after company in Canada is gambling that the government will soon dramatically expand how the nation’s 120,000 acres of hemp can be used.

In particular, marijuana businesses, food companies, pharmaceutical firms, investors and entrepreneurs expect the Canadian government in coming months will make it easier for growers and processors to extract CBD from hemp leaves and flower.

“People are excited,” said Jan Slaski, a hemp researcher for InnoTech Alberta, an engineering research firm in Edmonton. “We have so much hemp here already. And farmers are gearing up for more.”

Currently, Canadian hemp can be used only for seed and fiber, with the leaves and flower unusable for CBD extraction without a special license from the national health agency.

Only a handful of those exceptions are thought to exist, though numbers aren’t publicly available.

Because only trace amounts of cannabidiol are found in hemp stalks and seeds, much of the value of Canada’s hemp crop currently goes in the trash.

So even though Canada grew more than 10 times the amount of hemp cultivated in the United States last year, Canada has yet to unlock the most profitable part of the plant.

Possible change in the law

But hemp growers and processors expect Canada’s Parliament to amend the country’s 1998 hemp law to allow more companies to extract CBD from leaves and flower.

The change would come by Parliament removing hemp-derived CBD from the list of controlled substances, an action that could happen separately from expected regulations authorizing recreational marijuana.

The expected change is leading companies to gamble that changed hemp regulations could allow Canada to dominate the CBD market just as it dominates industrial hemp. (Canada is believed to be the world’s No. 2 hemp producer behind China, though global acreage estimates are dicey.)

“We believe hemp-derived CBD oil will be the first to be deregulated. We’re building our business entirely focused on that event,” said Patrick Frankham, CEO of Pivot Pharmaceuticals in Vancouver, British Columbia, which has signed a binding letter of intent to acquire a company making hemp-based foods.

Pivot plans to acquire Absorbent Concepts, or ACI Foods, based in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Pivot has applied for licenses to grow and distribute marijuana alongside its expansion into hemp foods and supplements.

Other companies also are planning Canadian hemp expansions:

Aurora Cannabis of Vancouver invested 3.2 million Canadian dollars ($2.5 million) in Hempco Food and Fiber last summer. Aurora has an option to raise its stake to majority ownership, a move aimed at acquiring market share in the rapidly growing health supplement market.

A few months later, Global Hemp Group of Vancouver spent the same amount, CA$3.2 million, for a 25% equity stake in a Colorado-based cannabidiol producer, Space Cowboys. Global Hemp said in the announcement it wanted a stake in the Colorado company because of its “extensive knowledge and experience” in growing and processing hemp for CBD.

Earlier this month, Future Farm Technologies of Vancouver acquired a 120-acre industrial hemp farm in Amity, Maine. Terms weren’t disclosed. Future Farm said it plans to devote the entire hemp farm to the production of CBD oil.

True Leaf Medicine, a company in Vernon, British Columbia, that makes hemp-oil treatments for animals under the name True Leaf Pet, tripled its production line in 2017 and plans to expand hemp offerings in the U.S. through pet-food stores.

Big changes for US?

Canada’s hemp enthusiasm means big changes could be coming to the hemp and CBD markets in the United States.

Currently, it’s not legal to import CBD into the United States, though other hemp products are commonly imported.

Legal challenges and a new 2018 Farm Bill in Congress could change the CBD landscape dramatically, however, possibly opening the door for CBD imports.

That would mean that U.S. hemp growers could face increased competition from their northern neighbors.

And even if Canada’s hemp CBD stays in Canada, the large scale of its hemp industry could drive prices down in a hurry.

“If everybody switched from food and fiber to CBD, the CBD market will be saturated in no time,” Slaski predicted. “Right now, there are outrageous prices for CBD and you can make a quick buck.

“But it’s not a matter of years before CBD prices stabilize. It’s going to be soon.”

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California and Colorado Team Up to Uncover the Genetics of Hemp

A new public-private partnership is mapping the genome of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin.

11/8/2017 by Randy Robinson

A research group at the University of California-Davis has joined forces with a Colorado-based biotech firm, Front Range Biosciences, to create a genomic map for industrial hemp.

The UC-Davis project, led by viticulturist and enologist Dario Cantu, will only sequence the genes for hemp, a variety of cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC (read: it won’t get anyone high).

“We are now excited to have the opportunity to study the genome of hemp,” said Cantu in an Oct. 26 press release. “Decoding its genome will allow us to gain new insight into the genetic bases of complex pathways of secondary metabolism in plants.”

Cantu’s lab is only handling the DNA sequencing and computational genetics portion of the project. Tissue culturing, DNA extraction, and funding for the project comes from Front Range Biosciences, which specializes in breeding cannabis and providing disease-free clones to licensed cannabis operations.

Both Front Range Biosciences and UC-Davis can conduct their research with little to no federal interference. This is partly due to the 2014 federal “Farm Bill,” which permits hemp cultivation for research purposes so long as it’s approved by a state’s agricultural department. Sending extracted DNA samples through the mail  isn’t a problem, either, since Front Range’s DNA samples don’t contain THC or any other cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.

“When DNA is isolated, it’s not really industrial hemp anymore,” Dan Flynn, a representative for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science at UC-Davis, told MERRY JANE during a phone call. “When our campus council looked at it, they didn’t see an issue.”

Front Range Biosciences currently studies both hemp and marijuana – cannabis with greater than 0.3 percent THC (read: the kind that gets people high). In collaborating with UC-Davis, the firm seeks to unlock hemp’s agricultural potential, which includes breeding cultivars that are disease, drought, and freeze-resistant. If hemp is grown for industrial purposes, growing it outdoors would be the most cost-effective approach, since huge quantities of plant material would be needed to produce hemp-based paper, construction materials, textiles, or food products. Vaught anticipates his company could create breeds of hemp with new structural properties, so crops grown on a mass scale are easier to harvest with combines. Designing hemp that can produce specific cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids is also in the works, but first the company needs to decipher the plant’s genetic code.

“Nobody really knows the genetics or the backgrounds of where some of these plants came from,” says Jonathan Vaught, the CEO of Front Range Biosciences. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. There’s been a lot of crossbreeding in the black market community over the last thirty to forty years, so it’s really difficult to know, a lot of times, what you actually have.”

The genomic map is also critical for breeding cannabis for medicinal, nutraceutical, or industrial purposes. With a map, cultivators can rely on traditional cross-breeding to generate new strains with specific, customized properties. In other words, there would be no need for genetic modification (GM) techniques like those used by Monsanto or AgBio, which have aroused concerns for some environmentalists and consumers. Traditional breeding has the added benefits of requiring less time and resources than invasive GM methods, too.

Although the UC-Davis team is one of the first to work on a genomic map for hemp, it’s not the first lab to map the genome for Cannabis sativa in general. In 2011, a Canadian team sequenced the DNA for Purple Kush. In 2014, a research group led by Nolan Kaneand Daniela Vergara at the University of Colorado-Boulder began mapping the genome for marijuana. Additionally, a private company in Oregon, Phylos Bioscience, is also mapping the cannabis genome, and Colorado State University-Pueblo is conducting its own research into the genetics of hemp, too.

Will Front Range Biosciences expand its project to include other universities’ genomic projects? It’s possible. “I do, potentially, see us funding some research here in Colorado,” says Vaught. Profit can come from the projects’ discoveries, such as patentable novel hemp strains or extraction products; hence the interest of firms like Vaught’s. He adds that he’s been in talks with Kane’s group at CU-Boulder, and he’s eyeing some of the projects at CSU-Pueblo, as well.

“It’s going to take a community to crack this nut,” Vaught continues. “It’s a brand new genome, it’s a brand new crop. The genetic pool is very mixed up at this point, and there’s just a lot of groundwork we need to do before we can do the really exciting things that people think about with crops.”

Vaught cites the corn genome as an example of the manpower required to create a reliable genomic map: it took $30 million and two dozen labs around the world to map the corn genome. Corn and cannabis contain roughly the same number of genes — around 30,000 — so it may require a comparably-sized army of scientists to produce a comprehensive genomic map for Cannabis sativa.

UC-Davis may serve as a hub for the next generation of weed scientists as the campus embraces cannabis as a legitimate subject for serious scientific study. Along with Cantu’s project, the school kicked off a “Physiology of Cannabis” course in the spring, designed to teach biology students about the plant’s inner workings and how its cannabinoids interact with the human body. It’s the first University of California course devoted entirely to weed.

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YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHICH MIDDLE EAST THEOCRAT HAS OKAYED PSYCHEDELICS TREATMENT

Grand Ayatollah Rohani's fatwa specified that such use should be undertaken under the direction and supervision of qualified experts, but it did not specify which psychoactive substances were meant to be included. The fatwa, however, was delivered after long discussions with petitioners about the effects of DMT, ayahuasca, haoma (or soma), LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, and marijuana.

Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar and psychedelic practitioner Wahid Azal explained what happened in an interview with Reality Sandwich. Another Shi'i scholar approached him about opening a dialog with the Shi'i religious establishment in an effort to get some sort of formal legal opinion about the approach to the therapeutic and spiritual use of entheogens:

To make a long story short, after well over a year and a half of back and forth discussions and correspondences between my friend (and one other individual) with the office of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Sadeq Hussaini Rohani in Qom, Iran; in mid-March 2014, via email, the Grand Ayatollah issued a formal legal ruling (that is, a fatwa) determining the use of entheogens and psychoactive substances to be licit and thus permissible (ḥalāl) for Shi'i Muslims provided it be under the direction and supervision of qualified experts (ahl al-ikhtiṣāṣ), and that, moreover, such plant substances as a rule do not impair the mind. In the final missive before the decision, the questioner specifically underscored the issue of the visionary component of these plants, where people have reported visions of paradise and hell, and Grand Ayatollah Rohani's fatwafinds no objections here either.

Rohani could have been open to mind-altering drugs because the psychedelics have a resemblance to Esfand, also known as Syrian rue (peganum harmala), which contains the psychoactive indole alkaloid harmaline, a central nervous system stimulant and MAO inhibitor used for thousands of years in the region. According to at least one Shi'i tradition, the Prophet Mohammed took esfand for 50 days.

Whatever the precise theological reasoning behind the Rohani's fatwa, with it, Iran could leapfrog Western nations when it comes to psychedelic research. Although psychedelics are seeing a research renaissance in the West, research here is limited by their criminalized legal status, as well as lack of funding. But the Islamic Republic has cleared the way.

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Last Thursday, an American Legion poll found strong support for medical marijuana among veterans. A poll from the American Legion found support for medical marijuana at a whopping 83% among veterans surveyed. Even more -- 92% -- support research into the clinical efficacy of medical marijuana. The American Legion passed a resolution at its national conference in August urging the federal government to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it is legal.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the state reversed itself on forcing dispensaries to close during the transition to a new regulatory regime. After ferocious blowback from patients concerned they could lose access to their medicine, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reversed an earlier decision forcing dispensaries to shut down while the licensing process for them under a new state law is completed. Now, the dispensaries will be able to stay open past December 15, the day they were supposed to have to shut down.

On Tuesday, Detroit voters approved medical marijuana ballot proposals. Voters in the Motor City approved two ordinances to loosen zoning restrictions and other rules around the city's medical marijuana industry. The ordinances are a popular response to tight zoning laws and rules passed by the city council last year. The marijuana facilities ordinance won with 60.15% of the vote and the marijuana zoning ordinance won with 58.85% of the vote.

North Dakota

On Monday, the Health Department said medical marijuana was still a year away. The state Health Department announced proposed administrative rules for such things as lab testing, security requirements, and transportation regulations, and added that the proposed rules will be open for public comment until December 26. The department also said it doesn't expect the drug to be available for sale to patients for another year -- two years after it was approved by voters.

Ohio

Last Friday, the state issued its first medical marijuana grower licenses. State officials announced they had issued 11 Level II medical marijuana licenses. The licenses will allow holders to begin medical marijuana growing operations.

Pennsylvania

Last Wednesday, the state started signing up patients. The state Health Department announced that it had launched its patient and caregiver registry, bringing patients one step closer to being able to legally access their medicine. Medical marijuana should be available for patients by May 1, the department said.

Last Thursday, patients showed they were interested. The state Health Department reported that more than a thousand people registered on the first day of open applications for the state's new Medical Marijuana Program. That includes both patients and caregivers.

South Dakota

On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative organizers handed in signatures. Sponsors of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana turned in 15,000 raw signatures Tuesday, the deadline day for initiatives to turn in signatures. The state requires 14,000 valid voter signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, and initiative campaigns typically have an invalid signature rate of between 10% and 30%, so it still looks like an uphill battle to get the measure before the voters. A marijuana legalization initiative failed to gather enough signatures to pass this first hurdle.

Tennessee

Last Thursday, state Democrats endorsed medical marijuana. The state Democratic Party's executive committee has passed a resolution calling for the legalization of medical marijuana. The state has seen repeated attempts to pass a medical marijuana bill, to no avail so far.

In Mountain City, Tennessee, a Mountain City police officer was arrested Monday on drug and weapons charges in a federal sting. Lt. Ronald Shupe went down after buying Oxycontin tablets from an informant working with the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. He is also accused of giving pain pills to another informant. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute and being an unlawful user of controlled substances in possession of a firearm. He is on administrative leave without pay.

In Hackensack, New Jersey, a former Hackensack narcotics unit commander resigned last Wednesdayin a deal that allows him to keep his benefits even though he is embroiled in an internal affairs investigation of warrantless drug searches that led to the dismissal of at least eight drug cases. Capt. Vincent Riotto resigned shortly before a scheduled disciplinary hearing where he and five officers he commanded were to face charges of mishandling evidence, illegally entering an apartment building, and conducting warrantless searches.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former Michigan state prison guard was found guilty October 26 of participating in a drug smuggling ring at the prison. James Kitchen had been arrested in a March drug bust that yielded kilos of cocaine, heroin, meth, and ecstasy. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to launder money. He is set to be sentenced on February 5.

In Hagatna, Guam, a Guamanian prison guard was sentenced October 26 to more than three years in federal prison for trying to sneak methamphetamine into the prison. Ronald Periera, 48, went down when he was searched upon arriving at work, and fellow officers found $951 in cash, meth hidden in a cigarette pack, and meth sealed in a clear plastic bag wrapped up in a rolled dollar bill. Officers found more contraband in his car in the prison parking lot. He had pleaded guilty to possession of meth with intent to distribute and providing contraband in prison.

In Westover, Maryland, a state prison guard was sentenced Monday to nearly four years in federal prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy operating inside the state prison in Westover. Xavier Holden, 28, is one of 80 prisoners, relatives, and guards charged in two racketeering indictments over a scheme to bribe guards to smuggle drugs, tobacco, and cell phones into the prison.

International

Belize Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession. Governor General Colville Young Thursday signed into law a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill "decriminalizes the possession of cannabis in amounts not exceeding 10 grams, provides for the imposition of monetary and non-recordable penalties for the possession of cannabis in such amounts occurring on school premises, in specified circumstances, and decriminalizes the smoking of cannabis on private premises."

Marijuana Policy

Maine House Fails to Override Veto of Marijuana Regulation Bill. The House voted Monday to sustain Gov. Paul LePage's (R) veto of a bill providing a legal regulatory framework for marijuana commerce. What happens next is unclear. A moratorium on recreational sales expires on February 1. The legislature reconvenes in January, but there is little indication political dynamics will change between now and then. If the moratorium is not extended and a new bill passed, the law as passed by voters in 2016 would go into effect. "I feel like we legalized gasoline, but not gas stations," Rep. Martin Grohman told the Portland Press-Herald.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Says Medical Marijuana Still a Year Away. The state Health Department Monday announced proposed administrative rules for such things as lab testing, security requirements, and transportation regulations, and added that the proposed rules will be open for public comment until December 26. The department also said it doesn't expect the drug to be available for sale to patients for another year -- two years after it was approved by voters.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Florida's Largest Insurer Stops Covering Oxycontin. The state's largest health insurance company will stop covering OxyContin, the brand name prescription opioid, beginning January 1, in a bid to reduce overdoses and opioid dependence. Instead, Florida Blue will start covering an alternative opioid that isn't crushable for injection or snorting, reducing its potential for abuse, the company said Monday. That other drug is Xtampza ER, which also contains oxycodone, but which is designed to deter abuse because the pills cannot be crushed for snorting or injection.

Psychedelics

California Magic Mushroom Legalization Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. An initiative that would legalize psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been approved for signature gathering by state officials. The California Psilocybin Legalization Initiative needs 365,880 valid voter signatures by April 30 to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

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Ontario unveils proposed law to regulate recreational marijuana

November 2, 2017

Ontario became the first province in Canada to introduce legislation to regulate the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana and, in doing so, promised to impose million-dollar fines on privately owned dispensaries that refuse to close their doors.

The province’s marijuana monopoly will be known as the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC), according to the proposed Cannabis Act legislation introduced Wednesday.

To help the OCRC corner the market for adult-use marijuana, the Cannabis Act legislation stiffens penalties for individuals and corporations convicted of illegal sales or distribution of cannabis.

Penalties include fines of up to $1 million for a corporation and $100,000 for individuals, plus jail time of up to two years less a day.

What you need to know about Ontario’s cannabis landscape:

It’s not law yet, and any of the proposed measures could change.

All dispensaries currently in operation will be shut down.

The legal age will be 19, the same as alcohol and tobacco.

Only 40 stores will be open by next summer – when rec marijuana is expected to begin – although that total will rise to 150 by 2021.

Ontario is set to become a multibillion-dollar legal marijuana hub for both consumers and producers.

Edibles won’t be allowed until the summer of 2019.

No vending machines will be allowed.

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Michigan rule change gives MMJ businesses new lease on life

November 2, 2017

In a business-buoying flip-flop, Michigan regulators said that existing medical marijuana dispensaries can stay open while seeking a state license as long as they have been operating with the approval of their communities.

State regulators had given dispensaries until Dec. 15 to close or risk being denied a license for defying the command to shut down. But that edict sparked a backlash from patients, shop owners and others.

The state intends to issue emergency rules later this month allowing certain dispensaries to remain open.

MMJ dispensaries that have been operating under local ordinances since before Dec. 15 must submit a prequalification application for licensure by Feb. 15 and a document – signed by an authorized clerk – affirming they had government approval to operate.

Businesses that don’t apply for a license must stop operating by Feb. 15. Dispensaries that do apply for a license but are denied one must stop operating by June 15.

State officials expect to begin issuing licenses by April.

– Associated Press

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Washington state cannabis businesses enter unknown territory with no official seed-to-sale system

November 2, 2017 | By Bart Schaneman




Washington state marijuana licensees are incurring added costs in man hours and paperwork now that they’re operating without a contracted state seed-to-sale system.

Nov. 1 marked the first day licensed Washington state marijuana businesses have operated without a traceability program, and it’s raising questions about the necessity of such systems.

BioTrackTHC, which had the contract with the state for three years, failed to reach an extension with Washington’s Liquor and Control Board (LCB), and the agreement ended at midnight Oct. 31.

The LCB selected MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data Systems as a replacement, but the system won’t be available until January at the earliest.

In the meantime, the LCB established a contingency planthat puts the responsibility on businesses to track data and then upload it onto Leaf Data Systems once it’s online.

BioTrackTHC also offered Washington state’s marijuana businesses another alternative: a so-called unified contingency plan that gathered a handful of third-party traceability software providers under one umbrella to help licensees coordinate functions and data. It’s essentially an automated version of the state system.

Depending on how the transition period plays out, some industry insiders are wondering if it will prove the industry doesn’t really need state systems after all.

“This is the beginning of a new model of traceability where states do not have contracts to maintain state databases, but instead rely on audits and enforcement to ensure compliance,” said Jeremy Moberg, president of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association (WSIA).

Up to Nov. 1, there had been discussion about contract extensions and other possible fixes, but Moberg said negotiations between Washington state and BioTrackTHC are now dead.

Retailers react

Jeremy Weikum – manager at Longview Freedom Market, a retail marijuana store – said that even though his company tried to be as prepared as possible, there was much uncertainty about what was going to happen until transition day arrived.

“We were flying by the seat of our pants,” he said.

When he went to work on transition day, he couldn’t adjust any inventory.

“It looks like, as far as the traceability, anything coming in or out is not working, and that could be a huge problem,” he said.

The company is using Google spreadsheet program Sheets to input inventory changes.

Longview tried to bolster its marijuana supply in October to weather any potential shortfalls.

“I don’t know if it’ll be a huge issue for us,” Weikum added. “But depending on how long it takes, we can only go so long on the inventory we have.”

At the Bakeree, a cannabis retail shop in Seattle, owner Jeremy Kaufman said the man hours required to remain compliant with the state’s requirements and process a “massive amount of paperwork” will cost him an additional $500-$700 a month.

He’s wondering how all this data will ever be compiled.

“I can’t even imagine an audit,” Kaufman said.

Oscar Velasco-Schmitz – co-owner of Dockside Cannabis, which has stores in Seattle and Shoreline – said his employees hadn’t reported any issues with inventory or transactions and he was getting manifests from the producer/processors.

“That’s a very positive sign,” said Velasco-Schmitz, who’s using BioTrackTHC’s unified contingency plan.

But he has incurred additional labor costs, particularly with his inventory personnel.

“This is going to be true across the board,” Velasco-Schmitz said, adding that anytime there’s a change in technology, there also will be an increase in resources expended.

Like many other retailers, Dockside purchased additional supply to get ahead of anticipated shortages. If that product doesn’t sell, the company will have to discount it to move it, costing his business more money.

“This isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a disruption,” he said.

Producer/processor piece

On the producer/processor side, Matt Sampson, owner of North Coast Growers in Anacortes, said there’s “not going to be too much hitch in our giddy-up.”

“It seems like it’s a lot of hype,” he added.

In fact, the slight panic among retailers has benefited his business in recent weeks. Worried owners have increased their purchases of plants in anticipation of a dip in supply, Sampson added.

He plans to report data to the LCB every week via BioTrackTHC’s software.

“It’s not going to be a major change for us,” he said.

Private-sector solution

BioTrackTHC recruited a number of third-party software companies to participate in its unified contingency plan, including Grow Flow, LeafLink and Mister Kraken, among others.

According to BioTrackTHC, the software is a private-sector, independent clone of the expired BioTrackTHC Traceability System.

The system allows all BioTrackTHC customers – as well as licensees that have agreed to participate in the unified contingency plan using other third-party software – to submit required compliance data the same way they did previously.

By midafternoon on transition day, BioTrackTHC CEO Patrick Vo said 1,397 licensees had signed on to the plan.

Velasco-Schmitz said he feels a high level of confidence in BioTrackTHC’s temporary solution.

But it raises the question whether a seed-to-sale program needs to be state-administered.

Consider that MJ Freeway’s seed-to-sale contract with Pennsylvania cost that state $10 million.

“How many teachers can you hire for that?” Velasco-Schmitz said. “How many peace officers can you put on the street? How many homes can you build for the homeless?”

WSIA president Moberg believes this might be the unraveling of the state seed-to-sale industry.

“This is the first step toward states not having contracted vendors to maintain traceability,” he added.

If Washington operates successfully during this transition, he said, it will raise the question if such state contracts are necessary.

“All the other states are going to say, ‘Why are we going through all this trouble?'” Moberg added.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com

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IBM suggests blockchain for tracking Canadian marijuana

November 8, 2017

Tech titan IBM is pitching blockchain technology as a supply-management tool for British Columbia’s recreational and medical cannabis industry, a possible sign that Big Blue is eyeing Canada as a way to enter the marijuana sector.

IBM submitted a paper to British Columbia after the government requested suggestions for its forthcoming marijuana legislation.

The Armonk, New York-based company argued that the digital ledger offered by blockchain technology would allow regulators to track MJ from seed to sale, Bloomberg reported.

The Canadian Press noted that IBM has invested a large sum in blockchain technology, which Atonomous Researchdescribes as “a database or ledger that maintains a continuously growing list of data records or transactions.”

IBM is not known to have any marijuana-related business interests.

The Canadian government is legalizing marijuana for recreational use starting next summer, and provinces are responsible for coming up with a regulatory framework involving taxation, distribution and retail.

Establishing and maintaining a national tracking system will be the responsibility the federal government.

IBM said: “Blockchain is an ideal mechanism in which BC can transparently capture the history of cannabis through the entire supply chain, ultimately ensuring consumer safety while exerting regulatory control – from seed to sale,” according to Bloomberg.

British Columbia’s government aims to pass legislation next spring regulating recreational marijuana.

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No beginning in sight for Maine’s recreational marijuana program

November 9, 2017 | By Omar Sacirbey




Marijuana businesses hoping to serve Maine’s recreational cannabis market will probably have to wait until 2019 and possibly longer depending on how the state’s gubernatorial race shakes out next year.

Standing in the way is Gov. Paul LePage, who has emerged as a one-man rec cannabis wrecking crew.

The Republican appears to have the will and the means to undermine the state’s adult-use marijuana program, which he demonstrated last month by vetoing a lawmaker-approved bill to implement recreational cannabis in the state.

Under that bill, sales likely would have started sometime next year.

The veto means officials must go back to the drawing board and create a new implementation and regulatory framework for Maine’s recreational marijuana industry.

And that will leave eager entrepreneurs in limbo and delay the start of a new industry that eventually could generate $250 million to $350 million in annual sales, according to Marijuana Business Daily estimates.

“Best-case scenario, (sales will start in) early 2019. Worst case, late 2019,” said David Boyer, who heads Marijuana Policy Project’s Maine office.

Rec program gauntlet

The now-dead implementation bill would have replaced the legalization initiative approved by voters in November 2016, changing initial regulations in various ways, including:

Placing a higher tax rate on sales.

Removing a cap on cultivation space in the state.

Adding a two-year residency requirement for business license owners.

In light of the governor’s veto, Maine law mandates that the state revert to the voter initiative and implement the regulations contained within it, Boyer said.

But lawmakers passed a moratorium in January on adult-use sales until Feb. 1, 2018, which they pitched as a way to give officials more time to craft new regulations. So everything appears to be on hold at least until then.

Once the moratorium expires, the state will have to start implementing the voter-passed initiative.

But Boyer said a group of lawmakers who want to further delay the launch of Maine’s recreational industry will seek a second moratorium.

He and other advocates also believe LePage will drag his feet and find other ways to prevent implementation of the initiative.

Good ‘bones’

It’s possible that opponents and proponents of the recently vetoed bill could hammer out new legislation when they return to session in January.

Most agree the initial legislation is good enough to build on, so there’s no need to throw it away and start from scratch.

“The (implementation) bill is dead; the framework isn’t, though,” Ken Fredette, the Republican Minority Leader in the Maine House of Representatives, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“When we get back in January, we’re going to work off that same framework but look at ways to improve the bill,” added Fredette, who opposed the bill and supported the moratorium.

Though the implementation bill wasn’t perfect, Boyer said, it was strong enough to win MPP’s support.

“The bones of the bill are pretty good,” he added. “We’re really splitting hairs on the last 10% of it.”

Although the bill nearly doubled the effective tax rate from 10% to 20%, the tariff was still lower than most other states with legal rec programs.

And while the voters’ initiative restricted the total amount of grow space in the state at 800,000 square feet, the bill had no such cap.

Fredette said most Maine Republicans didn’t support the bill because, in their view, it didn’t address:

Impaired driving

How to measure impaired driving

How to enforce impaired driving laws

He also said Republican lawmakers wanted to revisit how cannabis would be distributed, sold and taxed.

Governor is wild card

There’s a big question going forward:

Can lawmakers even craft a bill LePage will support, or is he determined to block legalization until his term expires at the end of 2018?

“That remains to be seen,” said Fredette, noting that LePage’s concerns about federal illegality suggest he might not be willing to sign off on a bill that bucks U.S. law. “I don’t know the answer … but a bill could be passed that is vetoed, then the veto is overridden.”

If LePage signs off on a bill next year, Boyer believes regulations could be drawn up quickly enough to allow the program to launch as early as January 2019.

But Boyer believes LePage will try to impede the bill by withholding funds from agencies to implement the program, or by commanding agencies to not act on what they need to do, such as create applications – even if he vetoes a bill and lawmakers overturn his decision.

If LePage is obstructionist, could he face legal action?

“We’re exploring every option,” Boyer said.

But, Boyer noted, with LePage set to leave office by the end of 2018, it may be more prudent to wait out his term and hope voters elect a governor who favors implementing a rec program.

If LePage blocks legislation and forces advocates to wait out his term, the earliest a program could go online would be late 2019 – but that’s only if a governor with a different mindset is elected.

“It could be even worse if a bad Republican gets elected,” Boyer said.

Moratorium, or no?

What Fredette – who is running for governor – and Boyer disagree on is the need to extend the moratorium.

“The most important thing is that we need to look at the moratorium,” Fredette said. “There’s no way we’re going to have a bill done and rules in place by Feb. 1, 2018. If there’s anything that you take away from this is that we need to pass a moratorium.

“I don’t know what the magic date is, but we’ll find one. And that will allow us time to do what need to do.”

If a second moratorium passes, it would also free the governor from having to implement the program.

If there is no new moratorium, Boyer said, LePage would have to decide between:

Obeying the law and implementing the program.

Refusing to implement the program and disobeying the law.

“We want to get a reasonable bill to him, put the ball in his court and make him act without being able to put blame on the legislature,” added Boyer, who noted that MPP will lobby against a second moratorium.

“It’s redundant,” he said, “because there is no way a store could open in a town without the town’s and state’s approval.”

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Maryland medical cannabis commission looking for new chief

Published November 9, 2017

The executive director of Maryland’s medical marijuana commission is stepping down for undisclosed reasons.

Patrick Jameson, who had been at the helm of the commission since April 2016, is resigning effective Nov. 30, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

His resignation comes only four months after the governor appointed 10 new members to the highly criticized commission.

The Medical Cannabis Commission has been in the spotlight for a variety of reasons, following the slow start of the state’s MMJ program.

A recent lawsuit, for example, alleges that the Medical Cannabis Commission broke program rules when it awarded cultivation business licenses earlier this year.

Here’s what you need to know about Jameson’s departure:

Brian Lopez, chairman of the commission, told the Business Journal he didn’t know why Jameson decided to quit.

The commission is already looking for a replacement, and Jameson will help with the transition.

The commission is in the middle of trying to approve licensees for cultivation, processing and dispensing.

Jameson’s resignation won’t cause a disruption to the program, Lopez said, because the commission has a compliance director and someone to oversee testing labs on staff.

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Oregon congressman starts pro-marijuana PAC

November 9, 2017

There’s a new political action committee dedicated to defeating members of Congress who cast votes against marijuana, a development that could aid MJ businesses through the passage of pro-cannabis legislation.

The new PAC is dubbed the Cannabis Fund, and it was founded by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the Statesman Journal reported.

The Democrat already has a “first target” in mind, according to the Salem, Oregon, newspaper: Texas Republican Pete Sessions, who helped put up roadblocks earlier this year when it came time to renew the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment.

Even though the Cannabis Fund had raised only $2,000 through June – a pittance in terms of political spending – Blumenauer told a cannabis business conference last month he intends to pay for billboards in Sessions’ district.

The signs will attack Sessions for anti-medical cannabis moves, including the Texan’s opposition to an amendment that would have allowed military vets to obtain MMJ through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I want to see even more pro-cannabis candidates elected to Congress and continue the wave of reforms happening at the state level,” Blumenauer told the Statesman Journal.

“And we want to make clear that there are consequences for those elected officials opposing what a majority of the public supports,”

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Alberta to hand marijuana sales to private sector

November 10, 2017

Alberta’s adult-use marijuana will be sold in private brick-and-mortar stores, according to the Calgary Herald, putting the province in a position to offer one of Canada’s hottest business opportunities for MJ entrepreneurs once cannabis sales begin next summer.

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce said the move would open unprecedented business opportunities, noting that “Alberta’s entrepreneurs are ready, willing and able to take on the risks and rewards associated with developing this new industry.”

Online sales will be handled by the government.

Alberta is the second province to carve out a space for the private sector to participate in recreational marijuana sales, after Manitoba unveiled its “hybrid” system earlier this week.

According to the Herald, Alberta’s proposed cannabis framework – which will be introduced in the legislature next week – leaves the door open to marijuana cafes and lounges down the road. That would provide additional opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The province’s move potentially breathes life into the Canadian Cannabis Co-op, a group of marijuana producers offering to bankroll a “turn-key” retail network in Alberta.

Unlike Ontario – whose taxpayers are on the hook for the hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to build a retail system from scratch – Alberta’s proposed system shifts all of the financial burden to the private sector.

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Wisconsin hemp law advances to governor’s desk

Published November 10, 2017

A bill authorizing hemp cultivation in Wisconsin awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Scott Walker after both chambers of the state legislature unanimously approved the measure.

But Walker isn’t saying whether he’ll sign it into law.

A spokesman told The Associated Press the governor would review the bill but did not commit to signing it.

The bill would make Wisconsin the 35th state to allow limited hemp production.

The measure:

Directs the University of Wisconsin to administer voluntary seed certification.

Allows the university to work on seed containing up to 1 percent THC, though it stipulates that growers and processors can use only plants that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, the general standard for nonintoxicating hemp.

Mandates that the state work on creating a “Wisconsin heritage seed” for hemp.

Requires Native American tribes to acquire licenses from the state Department of Agriculture before growing hemp. Earlier this year, the St. Croix Chippewa tribe in northern Wisconsin voted to start growing hemp in an old fish hatchery, though production has not begun.

A decision by Walker is expected by mid-December.

If he does not veto the bill, it would become law without his signature.

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International cannabis market will surpass $31 billion

November 10, 2017

The international legal marijuana market will reach $31.4 billion by 2021, according to a study by the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm.

It’s the second major international cannabis report released in the past two weeks.

In the first, London-based Prohibition Partners published its own research estimating that Europe’s medical and recreational markets could combine for close to $67 billion in a few years.

The Brightfield study estimates that the global market is currently worth $7.7 billion but will see a compound annual growth rate of 60% as more nations launch legalized medical and recreational programs, Forbes reported.

The United States is now responsible for 90% of global cannabis sales, but that market share will plummet by more than a third, to 57%, according to Brightfield’s report.

Most new international business will be driven by the Canadian recreational market, expected to launch next summer, and medical markets that are expected to come online in Europe and Latin America.

The U.S. market will continue to dominate because of its size, Brightfield research director Bethany Gomez told Forbes, and because most international medical markets are largely restricted to oils and face other constraints that hamper patient access and market development.

“Brand loyalty to an oil is not as strong as brand loyalty to an edible,” Gomez told the publication. “I don’t see the market being so static that … a change in federal regulations would prohibit (American companies) from being able to catch up.”

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Leafly layoffs, deceiving CBD labels & Detroit’s MMJ wins

November 10, 2017 | By MJBizDaily staff




By Bart Schaneman, Kristen Nichols and John Schroyer 

Leafly lays off employees amid new leadership, a study says most CBD products are improperly labeled, and Detroit voters approve pro-medical marijuana laws.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.


Leafly prunes workforce

Layoffs are unusual in the rapidly expanding marijuana industry.

That said, cannabis consumer website Leafly’s announcement that it laid off 15 employees is a sign the MJ industry is maturing, according to one industry insider.

“This is that grow-up moment,” said Nic Easley, CEO of Denver-based 3C Consulting.

The layoffs – about 13% of the company’s total workforce – indicate that Leafly is willing to make serious moves to trim parts of the business that are hindering the Seattle-based company, according to Easley.

“If something’s gangrene, sometimes you have to cut it off,” he noted.

Leafly now has about 100 employees.

It’s common for a business to get to 50 or 100 staffers and take a deep look under the hood to determine what’s working and what’s not, Easley said.

Instead of continuing with the status quo, the company could be preemptively saying it needs to make a change, he added.

The pruning is likely painful in the interim, but it could help Leafly achieve its long-term goals.

Easley doesn’t think the layoffs are indicative of a major problem within the industry or Leafly being concerned about competition.

“It’s more something normal that we see when companies are moving forward and start to approach that middle-market space,” Easley said.

He also believes the company’s decision to hire tech entrepreneur Chris Jeffery to succeed Drew Reynolds as CEO is par for the course.

Easley said it’s possible that Jeffery – who founded food service tech company OrderUp – is more attuned to running companies of a similar size and scope.

Leafly’s CEO choice also suggests the company is looking for a more seasoned leader than what it might find in the cannabis industry, Easley added.

“It’s not indicative of something majorly wrong with the company,” he said.

CBD labels exposed

A new study that shows most CBD labels don’t accurately reflect what’s in the product highlights the stark contrast between cannabidiol companies and their marijuana counterparts.

Marijuana skeptics seem to be real sticklers about ensuring cannabis products carry accurate THC labels that tell consumers exactly what they’re getting and, just for extra measure, contain warnings not to drive high.

So it’s especially interesting that CBD products – lauded by many marijuana foes for not containing psychoactive THC – don’t get the same scrutiny.

That’s the finding of a team of doctors who bought CBD products online and tested them to see what they contain.

The results? Less than a third of the CBD products were accurately labeled, and many bottles contained only the foggiest proximity of CBD promised on the label.

The study exposed a nagging problem in the cannabis industry:

The plants are intensely screened for THC and possible contaminants in many jurisdictions, and every Halloween the internet revs up with baseless rumors that THC is somehow being sneaked into candies and other consumer goods.

But there’s almost zero oversight of marijuana and hemp products touting high concentrations of valuable compounds.

Some in the hemp industry say the study should be a wake-up call to producers and drug regulators alike.

“This is what happens in the absence of government regulation, and consumer confidence is what’s going to suffer,” said Patrick Frankham, CEO of Pivot Pharmaceuticals in Vancouver, British Columbia, which plans to enter the CBD industry.

Big changes in Detroit

Two successful ballot measures in Detroit could eventually be huge for Motor City cannabis entrepreneurs who want to open a business.

But it probably won’t make that much of a difference for longstanding dispensaries that may have already been forced out of business by city officials.

That’s the word from attorney Matt Abel, a leading Michigan cannabis activist who has multiple clients attempting to get business licenses.

Specifically, he said, Proposal A forces the city to opt into Michigan’s medical cannabis regulatory system – which the city council had not formally done yet – and that will open the door for Detroit MMJ companies to obtain state permits.

But the bigger deal in terms of Detroit’s MMJ industry is that Proposal B rolls back a highly restrictive zoning ordinance that resulted in the closure of at least 186 dispensaries.

“They’ve already closed a good number of the ones that were in drug-free zones that may no longer be drug-free zones – places near parks and day cares and liquor stores,” Abel said. “So this removes the parks and liquor stores and day cares entirely, (and) it makes more places eligible.

“I imagine most of those that were already there had already closed. But it should open up a lot more of the city to (MMJ) development.”

The change could result in potentially hundreds more dispensaries ultimately being licensed in Detroit, Abel said.

He cautioned, however, that city officials are already discussing a possible zoning ordinance – to replace the one that was changed by the ballot measures – that would minimize how many MJ storefronts are ultimately allowed in Detroit.

So entrepreneurs hoping to open a dispensary should keep a close eye on what moves the city council may make in the near future.

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Most effective forms of advertising for cannabis businesses

November 13, 2017 | By Eli McVey




Many marijuana business owners identified word of mouth and social media as the most effective methods of marketing/advertising for their companies, according to data gathered for the Marijuana Business Factbook 2017.

Small marketing budgets, restrictions on certain forms of advertising and resistance from mainstream media platforms to accept cannabis-related ads mean marijuana businesses must find efficient, alternative ways to promote their companies.

And many companies have found success by letting their customers speak for them, both in-person and online.

Here’s some additional context:

Although social media is proving to be an effective form of marketing/advertising, marijuana companies are still struggling to figure out what kinds of ads are acceptable on major platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s not uncommon for a cannabis company’s social media page to be taken down, often with no explanation.

Given their lack of advertising options, many marijuana businesses have developed an internet presence, whether it be through a website or an app. Google does not allow marijuana-related advertisements on its network, though some companies have managed to avoid detection and run ads anyways. Approximately 20% of ancillary and plant-touching businesses identify the internet as their most effective method of marketing/advertising.

Within the “other” category, newspaper/magazine advertising was the most frequently cited form for ancillary and plant-touching companies to effectively spread their message. Declining ad revenue in traditional print media has led some publishers to embrace the marijuana industry, and niche publications targeting marijuana businesses or consumers have become more prevalent in the industry.

Just over 10% of plant-touching businesses don’t do any marketing, which is significantly higher than the 2.5% of ancillary businesses that don’t market their product or services. Plant-touching businesses that are not consumer facing – such as a cultivator that sells marijuana only to infused product manufacturers – may not see a need to invest in marketing/advertising efforts.

Eli McVey can be reached at elim@mjbizdaily.com

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PTSD now treatable with medical marijuana in NY

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that can legally be treated with medical marijuana in the state.

The move opens another sales avenue for MMJ businesses operating in a state that has been stymied by restrictive regulations.

The PTSD bill was part of a package of legislation that Cuomo signed to mark Veterans Day.

The Democratic governor said 19,000 New Yorkers with PTSD could be helped by medical marijuana, including veterans, police officers and survivors of domestic violence, crime and accidents.

New York’s medical marijuana law allows patients with illnesses including cancer, AIDS and Parkinson’s disease to consume nonsmokable forms of cannabis. 

New York’s MMJ program is still extremely limited, but the state earlier this year rolled out a plan to double the number of licensed businesses to 10 and saw an 183% increase in patient enrollment.

– Associated Press

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Manitoba gives private sector a retail role in recreational marijuana

November 7, 2017

Manitoba became the first province in Canada to carve out a space for the private sector to participate in recreational marijuana sales, unveiling a “hybrid” model that gives entrepreneurs and the public sector a role.

The ruling Progressive Conservative party resisted pressure from public-sector unions to hand marijuana sales exclusively to civil servants.

The Manitoba government will soon issue a request for proposals from applicants seeking to operate privately owned retail locations once adult-use sales begin next year.

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 22, with initial locations to open July 2. (The federal government plans to legalize adult-use cannabis July 1, which is a Sunday.)

Manitoba’s hybrid model will give the government’s Liquor and Gaming Authority an expanded mandate to regulate the entire sector.

The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation will oversee wholesale and distribution, leveraging economies of scale through bulk purchasing to undercut black-market pricing.

Here’s what you need to know about adult-use cannabis sales in Canada:

Manitoba’s proposed system puts the province’s only two licensed producers – Bonify and Delta 9 Cannabis – in a good position to capitalize.

Manitoba’s decision represents a sharp turn from plans by Ontario and New Brunswick to sell recreational marijuana through government-owned stores. Quebec also is expected to use a government-run approach.

Private businesses will be barred from selling marijuana to almost two-thirds of Canada’s population.

British Columbia and Alberta haven’t decided what their retail models will look like yet.

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Alberta to hand marijuana sales to private sector

November 10, 2017

Alberta’s adult-use marijuana will be sold in private brick-and-mortar stores, according to the Calgary Herald, putting the province in a position to offer one of Canada’s hottest business opportunities for MJ entrepreneurs once cannabis sales begin next summer.

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce said the move would open unprecedented business opportunities, noting that “Alberta’s entrepreneurs are ready, willing and able to take on the risks and rewards associated with developing this new industry.”

Online sales will be handled by the government.

Alberta is the second province to carve out a space for the private sector to participate in recreational marijuana sales, after Manitoba unveiled its “hybrid” system earlier this week.

According to the Herald, Alberta’s proposed cannabis framework – which will be introduced in the legislature next week – leaves the door open to marijuana cafes and lounges down the road. That would provide additional opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The province’s move potentially breathes life into the Canadian Cannabis Co-op, a group of marijuana producers offering to bankroll a “turn-key” retail network in Alberta.

Unlike Ontario – whose taxpayers are on the hook for the hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to build a retail system from scratch – Alberta’s proposed system shifts all of the financial burden to the private sector.

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Could Maryland medical cannabis sales begin soon?

November 13, 2017

The four-year wait in Maryland might be coming to a close.

Industry insiders in the state are predicting medical marijuana businesses could start selling product as soon as this month.

Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for Curio Wellness in Lutherville, Maryland, said she expects to see sales begin this month, then steadily progress into the next year.

Here’s what you need to know:

Businesses will sell cannabis in forms such as lotion, pills and transdermal patches.

Brian Lopez, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said he hopes to see 20-30 MMJ dispensaries open by the end of the year.

The commission still needs to iron out issues such as “how to regulate how dispensaries will serve out-of-state patients.”

The question of racial diversity in Maryland’s MMJ industry hasn’t yet been resolved. Lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation next session to award cannabis licenses to African-American business owners.

– Associated Press

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US hemp production doubled in ’17, report says

November 10, 2017

The U.S. hemp crop doubled this year, according to new survey data from a prominent hemp-advocacy group.

Vote Hemp counted a total of 23,346 acres growing hemp in 18 states.

That’s more than twice as much as hemp land as 2016, when the group counted 9,649 acres growing in 15 states.

State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 1,456 farmers this year, according to Vote Hemp, and a total of 34 states have hemp laws on the books, though not all have started their pilot programs yet.

The report also noted a slight increase in universities conducting hemp research, from 30 in 2016 to 32 this year.

Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra used the report to urge Congress to make hemp farming legal nationwide.

Steenstra pointed out that hemp farmers face obstacles that include seed access that could be alleviated by federal expansion of hemp.

A hemp bill has been introduced in the U.S. House, but it hasn’t been heard yet, making passage unlikely by the end of 2017.

Steenstra urged Congress to “grant farmers full federally legal rights to commercially cultivate hemp to supply the growing global market for hemp products.”

In neighboring Canada, where hemp production was legalized in 1998, an estimated 120,000 acres were devoted to hemp in 2017.

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Columbia Care delays its MMJ dispensary in Delaware

November 10, 2017

Pot program is experiencing another hold up.

Columbia Care, a multistate MMJ company headquartered in New York, has postponed by at least six months the opening of its facility in The First State.

Columbia Care’s facility was to be the third operating dispensary in Delaware, The News Journal reported.

Because of zoning, permitting and construction delays, however, Columbia Care now isn’t expected to begin sales in Delaware until spring 2018, a spokeswoman for the state’s health and social services department told the newspaper.

Besides its Delaware business, Columbia Care has operations in California, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

The MMJ program in Delaware has been beset by delays since its inception, according to The News Journal:

The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act was enacted in 2011, but its implementation was hampered for several years by the governor.

The state finally awarded its first MMJ license in 2014, to First State Compassion Center, but the launch was delayed a year because of legal and construction hurdles.

First State was then granted a second license in 2016, but more delays prevented that dispensary from opening until May 2017.

Besides the licenses belonging to First State Compassion Center’s two operating dispensaries and Columbia Care’s stalled business, a fourth permit was granted in August to New Jersey-based Compassionate Care Research Institute.

The dispensary plans to open next spring, according to The News Journal.

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MJ monopolies cut government revenue

November 10, 2017

A private system of retailing cannabis would open up “unprecedented business opportunities” and generate more revenue for Alberta’s government than a publicly owned monopoly, according to a local business group.

A private model based on the province’s liquor system – which is overseen by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) – avoids the expense of creating and maintaining a public retail system, according to a report by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

In a news release, the chamber compared Alberta’s private retail model for liquor to Ontario’s 650 government-owned retail outlets to answer two questions:

Which system is more efficient, public or private?

Which system generates more profit per liter?

For each bottle of liquor sold, without a single government-owned retail store, Alberta realizes 26% more revenue than Ontario does, the chamber contended.

A battle is being waged in Canada’s provinces over who should sell recreational marijuana – civil servants or private citizens – and so far, civil servants are coming out on top.

Alberta and Manitoba’s decision to allow private retail represents a sharp turn from plans by Ontarioand New Brunswick to sell recreational marijuana through government-owned stores.

Quebec also is expected to go with a government-run approach.

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State Police’s No. 2 retires amid report controversyE-MAIL

SharBy Andrea Estes GLOBE STAFF  NOVEMBER 15, 2017

The second in command at the Massachusetts State Police retired Tuesday, and the superintendent moved up his own retirement, in the latest fallout from a growing controversy into the handling of an arrest report about the daughter of a judge.

Deputy Superintendent Francis Hughes put in his retirement papers and Superintendent Richard McKeon, who was scheduled to retire next week, moved up his retirement date to Tuesday, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

Lieutenant Colonel Dermot Quinn is in command of the State Police temporarily, said David Procopio, spokesman for the State Police, who also confirmed that both men retired Tuesday.

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Procopio on Tuesday said Hughes retired because a new superintendent would want to choose his own deputy.

Bottom of Form

The union that represents troopers contends that McKeon and Hughes departed suddenly to avoid an Internal Affairs investigation.

Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said, under the department’s rules and regulations, a State Police trooper or official cannot retire if there is an investigation underway. The union filed a request for an Internal Affairs investigation into the arrest report on Monday.

McKeon had drawn widespread criticism for ordering Trooper Ryan Sceviour to alter the report he wrote after arresting Alli Bibaud in Worcester on charges of drunken driving and driving under the influence of drugs on Oct. 16. Her father, Timothy Bibaud, is the first justice of Dudley District Court and presides over the drug court there.

In its request for an internal investigation, the union alleged that the State Police command staff, including McKeon, Hughes, and others, “engaged in a conspiracy to violate the law by tampering with official court documents.’’

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McKeon, who announced his retirement last week amid mounting criticism, had acknowledged ordering Sceviour to alter his police report to remove embarrassing comments made by Bibaud.

“We keep being told nobody did anything wrong and now the second in command at the State Police has abruptly retired,” said Lenny Kesten, who has filed federal suits on behalf of Sceviour and a second trooper, Ali Rei, who alleges she was also ordered to change her report.

“I think his actions speak for themselves,” Kesten said.

Sceviour was issued a reprimand for including the comments in his report, as was the sergeant who signed off on the report, Jason Conant.

Judge Timothy Bibaud.

Hughes had not been named by Sceviour or his superiors as having been involved in ordering the trooper to change his report. But when the Globe asked who decided that Sceviour and Conant should get reprimands, Procopio, the police spokesman, said the command staff made the decision jointly.

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Procopio on Tuesday said the Hughes retirement would allow the new superintendent to name his own deputy.

“Traditionally, when a Colonel/Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police leaves his or her position, the Deputy Superintendent resigns as well to allow a new Colonel to select a second-in-command of his or her own choosing,” Procopio said in a statement Tuesday evening. “As such, Deputy Superintendent Francis Hughes today retired from the State Police after a 31-year career.”

In his lawsuit, Sceviour alleged he was reprimanded and forced to falsify official records to protect the judge’s daughter. He said he was ordered to remove Bibaud’s admission that she has traded sex for heroin as well as her rant that her father was a judge who would be furious about her arrest.

McKeon suggested that he was trying to treat a victim of opioid addiction with sensitivity and respect. He also said he has told troopers “more times than I can remember” to focus their reports only on the charges against the individual.

“In our law enforcement role, our first duty is to enforce the law and protect the public, but that doesn’t preclude us from being empathetic toward those in need,” he wrote in a separate resignation letter to Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett.

Hughes had served nearly 20 years in the Gang Unit and several years as a deputy commander in the Division of Investigative Services. He is a past recipient of the Trooper George L. Hanna Medal of Honor for Bravery and the Trooper of the Year Award, Procopio said.

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New U.S. recreational marijuana markets – one year later

November 14, 2017 | By Bart Schaneman




The recreational marijuana industry had a big year in 2016, when voters in four states – California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – approved sales of adult-use cannabis.

But one year later, what the voters approved and the reality of what’s happening look vastly different.

As has happened throughout the industry’s development, each state has written its own rules and regulations to begin rec sales.

Some states, such as Nevada, have given preference to existing medical marijuana businesses to kick off early sales.

Others, like Maine, have failed to pass an implementation bill to finalize regulations.

Here’s where the four new rec states stand today:

CALIFORNIA

The clock is ticking for California’s behemoth market to go online at the start of 2018.

Earlier this year, the governor’s office signed a bill that merged the medical and recreational programs into one. Once they were combined, the state began developing rules for both programs.

Now the state’s many agencies are approaching a final consensus on the regulations. It’s important to note, however, that while the state-level rulemaking is crucial, how California’s industry will play out depends mainly on what happens at the local level.

Key dates

According to Alex Traverso, chief of communications for California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, final regulations for the state’s program should be issued sometime in mid-November.

The state’s Cannabis Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday and is expected to release regulations shortly after.

“We’re on track,” Traverso said. “The timeline’s aggressive – as it’s always been – but we’re making it work.”

The state currently is testing its on-line licensing system internally to work out any bugs and is targeting the first week of December to begin accepting applications for temporary business licenses.

The program is expected to launch Jan.1 with the issuance of licenses, including temporary permits that expire after 120 days.

First legal sales

The state has asked local governments for updates on where each municipality and county stands in the process.

The results have varied, Traverso said, but some areas say they expect to be up and running and selling adult-use cannabis around Jan. 1.

California’s 58 counties and 480 cities appear to be in different stages of the process, he added.

Traverso expects Berkeley, Oakland, Sacramento and Desert Hot Springs to be some of the first cities to legalize adult-use sales.

Meanwhile, the state’s goal is to not disrupt the medical side of the industry, Traverso said, and the operating MMJ businesses should have “a much faster route to getting licensed.”

License info

There will be no state limits on licenses, but it’s expected local governments will create caps.

Licenses will be categorized as either medical or adult-use and separated in the traceability system.

On the cultivation side, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will issue 17 different types of licenses, ranging from a specialty cottage outdoor (25 plants) to a medium mixed-light (10,001-22,000 square feet of canopy.) The largest licenses won’t be awarded until Jan. 1, 2023.

MAINE

The state is back to the drawing board after Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a implementation bill that would have finalized rules for the recreational program.

Lawmakers couldn’t overturn the veto, so they’ll try to hammer out a new bill when the legislature reconvenes in January. But as long as LePage is in office, advocates aren’t hopeful the program will come to fruition without a fight.

Key dates

Lawmakers passed a moratorium on adult-use sales until Feb. 1, 2018, a move intended to give officials more time to craft new regulations. When the moratorium expires, the state will be forced to begin putting into motion the legalization initiative voters passed in 2016.

However, it’s expected that lawmakers who want to further delay the launch of the recreational market will seek a second moratorium.

First legal sales

Initial sales are not expected to happen until 2019 at the earliest.

License info

Under the legalization initiative voters passed in 2016, there are no license limits except for cultivators, which are capped at a total of 800,000 square feet for all cultivators. The implementation bill that LePage vetoed would have removed the cap.

The legalization initiative apportions 40% of that total 800,000 to operations with 3,000 square feet or less, and the remaining 60% to operations 3,000-30,000 square feet. No single cultivator license can exceed 30,000 square feet.

As it stands, entrepreneurs and business owners from both Maine and outside the state can apply for licenses once the applications are made public. The vetoed implementation bill would have added a two-year residency requirement for business license owners.

MASSACHUSETTS

The state’s recreational program looks to be on track for a July rollout and should create dozens of licensed businesses in the main cannabis sectors, including cultivation, retail and manufacturing.

Without a residency requirement, the program should offer investment and business opportunities for cannabis executives looking to make a foray into the East Coast market.

However, if the MMJ program is any indicator, it could take years for some businesses to get their licenses.

Industry watchers worry the state’s timeline and potential manpower issues could hinder the rollout. If adult-use businesses must obtain letters of support at the local level to operate, for example, the program could grind to a halt.

Medical marijuana businesses will get first crack at recreational sales, but so far only a dozen MMJ companies have licenses, so there’s ample room for development.

Some industry insiders are predicting a supply shortage similar to what we’ve seen in Nevada. But efforts by Massachusetts to fast-track MMJ license holders into the rec market could help counteract the shortage.

Key dates

Fully operating MMJ dispensaries and those that received provisional MMJ licenses by July 1, 2017, can apply for licenses in April 2018. All other businesses can start applying July 1, 2018.

First legal sales

The state’s 12 licensed MMJ companies will be able to sell recreational cannabis starting July 2018.

While more than 100 medical cannabis dispensaries were proposed around the state this year, attrition could cull those to about 75.

It’s not likely regulators will have the time to approve all those applications. Plus, not all businesses that win licenses will be open by July. Some estimate that roughly 25-30 stores will be open by that date.

License info

An unlimited number of licenses will be available.

After the first year, the Cannabis Control Commission could decide to impose a statewide licensing cap. Barring that, there would be no limit.

NEVADA

On Nov. 1, Nevada’s Tax Commission extended emergency rules that allowed early recreational marijuana sales in licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to continue another 120 days.

Rec sales weren’t supposed to start until 2018, but the emergency rules gave the industry a jump-start. And the early start has been a success.

Nevada’s adult-use market totaled over $27 million in sales in the first month – even after the state allowed alcohol wholesalers exclusive rights to distribute marijuana. That move slowed the supply chain and worried shop owners that they’d run out of cannabis.

Nevada – Las Vegas in particular – gets tens of millions of visitors each year, but casinos and their hotels are forbidden by the federal gaming commission to allow cannabis consumption.

So business owners are pushing for public consumption lounges to allow tourists a place to imbibe marijuana.

Key dates

Permanent rules for the adult-use market are expected to be presented to the taxation department in the coming weeks, which should start the legislative approval process.

The rules must be approved by lawmakers and are intended to be finalized in January 2018.

First legal sales

Nevada recreational marijuana sales started strong out of the gate on July 1. The earliest someone not currently holding an MMJ license could open a retail shop will likely be two to three years.

License info

So far, 250 recreational marijuana businesses have been licensed – 53 are retail shops.

Proposed legislation limits the number of licenses based on a county’s population.

In Clark County, home of Las Vegas, up to 80 adult-use licenses for dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities will be allowed.

Washoe County – which includes Reno and 100,000-700,000 residents – is permitted to have up to 20 recreational cannabis licenses.

Counties with fewer than 55,000 people will be limited to two licenses.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at barts@mjbizdaily.com

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Hemp State Highlight: North Dakota growing lots of hemp, but market potential is limited

November 14, 2017 | By Kristen Nichols




Few states are growing more hemp than North Dakota.

With more than 3,000 acres in active production and an unparalleled system for getting viable, certified seeds to interested growers, North Dakota could one day be the leader in hemp – just as it is for other agricultural commodities from corn to flaxseed.

But North Dakota has natural enemies that limit hemp’s ability to thrive, as well as manmade issues that curb the plant’s potential uses.

A 2017 drought plagued hemp growers in western North Dakota, with four farmers losing hundreds of acres each.

The water woes could reduce interest in a crop for which production and seed costs are much higher than other row crops, according to state agriculture officials.

By way of manmade obstacles, the state limits hemp production to seed and fiber, meaning the plant can’t be grown for high-value CBD oil.

In addition, North Dakota has a dearth of processors: The sole processor presses the seeds into oil for food products.

By contrast, the state doesn’t have any processors handling hemp fiber, the plant’s largest product by volume.

That has prompted local hemp farmers to bale their stalks and store them away in hopes of a buyer in the future. Growers without spare storage are simply selling the seeds, then plowing the stalks under as mulch.

“I tell you, a lot of farmers are interested in working with hemp, but they’re not sure where to sell it,” said Roger Gussiaas, a farmer in Carrington and owner of Healthy Oilseeds, the lone North Dakota processor for hemp seeds. “We’re limited to seed and fiber, and there’s not much of a fiber market.”

North Dakota agriculture officials, meanwhile, say they’re not planning to seek legislative changes next year to change how hemp can be sold in the state.

But North Dakota’s official state motto is “Strength From The Soil,” and hemp activists here hope that better weather and more processors will help North Dakota take the lead when the fiber market ramps up.

Here’s what you need to know about North Dakota’s hemp market.

Industry snapshot 

North Dakota legalized hemp production in 1999, though the law didn’t lead to a hemp market because state authorities deferred to federal prohibitions on growing hemp. In response to the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, North Dakota licensed its first private hemp growers in 2016, when just five farmers grew the crop under limited circumstances.

The number of North Dakota hemp growers jumped to 35 in 2017. Unlike other hemp regulators, North Dakota’s Department of Agriculture has helped interested growers acquire certified seed from neighboring Canada.

“The state helped a lot, working with seed companies from Canada to get the appropriate cultivars,” said Clarence Laub, who grew 240 acres of hemp this year in Elgin, in southwest North Dakota. “We had no issues with seeds, unlike in other states.”

But weather wasn’t kind to the additional growers in 2017, with dry conditions in the western part of the state parching whole fields of hemp. The plants that survived saw lower yields.

“Some people have tried to promote hemp as a drought-proof crop that can handle anything, and that’s just not true,” said Doug Goehring, North Dakota’s Agriculture Commissioner. “It remains to be seen whether we’ll see as many hemp producers next year.”

As of 2017, North Dakota has:

35 licensed hemp growers

1 licensed hemp processor

3,100 outdoor acres licensed for cultivation

North Dakota allows hemp production for:

Seed or seed oil

Fiber

Applications are now open for 2018, with no acreage limits and no limits on how many farmers can grow hemp.

Market considerations

There is no official tracking of hemp commodity prices by any standard exchange. North Dakota hemp growers surveyed by Marijuana Business Daily report that the market is fetching:

50 cents per pound for seeds to be eaten as food products or pressed for seed oil.

No reliable price per pound for stalks to be turned into fiber, because no processors exist.

No reliable price per pound for flowers, because CBD extraction is illegal.

The market limitations are leading North Dakota’s few hemp growers to store most of what they’re growing and hope for change.

“If we had a market for hemp, it’d be a tremendous cash crop,” said Tyler Kirkeide, who grew 130 acres of hemp in 2017 alongside wheat, barley and pinto beans.

Kirkeide’s farm in Baker came through this year’s drought and saw a healthy hemp harvest – but Kirkeide was forced to roll the stalks into 205 bales because of a lack of buyers. That’s about 267,000 pounds of hemp stalks that Kirkeide is keeping in barns.

“You can’t store the grain for a very long time, cause it’ll turn rancid. But I’m keeping the straw until we get a market established,” Kirkeide said.

North Dakota’s hemp growers also face high per-acre licensing fees, totaling $150 a year plus $25 per acre to pay for state THC testing. Given that many hemp growers in North Dakota have more than 100 acres in hemp, that’s a sizable annual bill. In Colorado and Tennessee, by comparison, the per-acre fee is $5.

Despite the limitations, Kirkeide says the seeds alone make hemp worth growing, and he’s planning to raise hemp again in 2018. He’s hoping that looser hemp rules on the state and federal levels will make his investment worthwhile.

“I just want them to open up the market so we can get going,” Kirkeide said.

 Market changes

Until state regulators or lawmakers change how hemp can be sold, North Dakota’s market for the plant is unlikely to grow past a niche crop for food-grade seed products.

“It’s all going to depend on the processing,” said Goehring, meaning that North Dakota’s hemp future depends on getting processors for the plant’s fiber. He knew of no potential processors making plans to do so.

Moreover, Goehring cautioned that high seed prices, relative to other crops, along with weather uncertainty and limited options for pest management, could keep many North Dakota farmers from experimenting with hemp.

“We don’t know if we’re out of our drought, and hemp is expensive to plant and manage,” Goehring said. “We do see opportunity for farmers as we go forward, but we’re telling people they’re going to have to wait and see.”

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Washington state cannabis businesses get help with tracking system transition

November 13, 2017

The majority of license holders in Washington state have turned to BioTrackTHC’s Universal Cannabis System as a stopgap measure while the industry operates without a state-sanctioned seed-to-sale framework.

Florida-based BioTrackTHC’s seed-to-sale contract expired Oct. 31, and the state’s new provider – Denver-based MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data Systems – isn’t expected to go online until Jan. 2018 at the earliest.

In the meantime, BioTrackTHC developed a workaround that’s essentially a clone of the seed-to-sale system it previously provided to Washington state.

The move is raising the question among Washington state business owners whether the industry must rely on state-contracted seed-to-sale systems or possibly remain compliant by self-reporting in this manner.

According to a news release, BioTrackTHC’s clone system allows licensees who signed up for the program to forgo manually creating spreadsheets to report data to the state.

BioTrackTHC has also agreed to allow third-party software providers to submit data to the system on behalf of their customers.

Producer/processors and retailers can integrate their system with BioTrackTHC’s program if they use the following software:

WeedTraQR

GrowFlow

Mr. Kraken

TraceWeed

GreenBits

S2Solutions

DopePlow

In the release, BioTrackTHC said more than 1,600 of the 1,700 cannabis licensees in Washington state are using the stopgap system. The system is free for November but will cost users $50 a month after that.

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Michigan capital to start medical cannabis licensing Nov. 16

22 hours ago




Michigan’s capital city of Lansing will open a 30-day window to apply for a license to run a medical marijuana dispensary on Nov. 16.

The Lansing clerk’s office said 20 applicants will be conditionally approved to open for business after the Dec. 15 deadline.

However, the winners won’t be given licenses until they receive approval from the state.

Five more applicants will get conditional approval after a second window. Those dates have not been chosen.

Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance allows for 25 dispensaries or provisioning centers within the city limits.

Applications will be judged on several criteria, including the number of jobs created, location and business operating experience.

Applications will also be accepted for:

Safety compliance

Processor

Secure transporter

Grower facility

There is no limit on the number of licenses that can be approved in each category.

The state MMJ licensing process will begin Dec. 15.

To obtain a state permit, medical cannabis companies must first have local authorization, so business licenses from municipalities are quickly becoming a hot commodity.

– Associated Press

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San Diego County’s only licensed marijuana grower to double production

November 14, 2017

With an expected boost in demand on the horizon, San Diego County’s only licensed cannabis grower plans to increase his farm’s output from 1,000 pounds in 2017 to at least 2,000 pounds next year, if not more.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the company, OutCo, said it may produce as much as 5,000 pounds in 2018.

The company also has a pair of licensed grow facilities in Long Beach, which will  churn out another 1,000 pounds a month once they get up and running, an OutCo spokesperson told the newspaper.

The company plans to expand its distribution network outside San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, the newspaper reported, yet another indicator of how competitive the California market will likely become after recreational sales begin New Year’s Day.

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Adding tax to Canada’s MMJ draws ire of industry, patients

November 13, 2017

Licensed medical marijuana producers and patients groups are urging the Canadian government to reconsider its plan to impose an extra tax on MMJ.

Ottawa wants to levy an excise tax on both recreational and medical marijuana.

Groups such as Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana and Arthritis Society had been calling on the government to remove existing taxes on medical cannabis and give it the same treatment as other prescription medicines, such as opioids.

What you need to know:

Discontent with the new tax plan is spreading. An executive of one of Canada’s biggest LPs took to Twitter, calling for opponents to mobilize against against the tax.

Licensed producers, including Canopy, Tilray, MedReleaf and Aurora, have spoken out against taxing medical marijuana.

Bill Blair, the federal government’s point man on legalizing marijuana, said the taxes help prevent people from faking an illness to gain access to cheaper medical cannabis.





























Pot Newsss 11-8-17

The Olympic Committee Is Finally Removing CBD From The Banned Substances List

 

Miroslav Tomoski




Athletes will soon be able to breathe a skunky sigh of relief as The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) implements its new regulations which will loosen restrictions on cannabis. The regulations will go into effect as of January 1, 2018, and completely remove cannabidiol or CBD, one of the primary medicinal compounds in cannabis, from the list.

According to the American arm of the WADA, the organization makes its determinations on which substances to ban, “based on current scientific and medical knowledge,” suggesting that research is increasingly returning positive results and that the agency is slowly accepting the use of cannabis.

In 2013 the WADA loosened its policy on marijuana consumption raising the acceptable THC/blood level to 150ng/mL – ten times the previous threshold. Anything lower is not required to be reported by testers.

That announcement, which was made before the 2016 Rio Olympics was met with an outpouring of support and claims that ‘Olympians can now get high’. In reality, it allowed athletes to consume cannabis before and after, but not during the Olympics. These new regulations will go into effect just before the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

The Prohibited List is a relatively recent addition to the WADA’s work having only been compiled in 2004. Since then, cannabinoids have been prohibited under all three parameters including performance-enhancement, actual or potential health risk and violation of the spirit of sport.

According to the WADA, cannabis is a performance enhancer because it is known to impair physical activity. The agency does acknowledge that it can also decrease performance, but vaguely cites additional factors that could also give athletes a boost, namely its ability to relieve muscle pain post-workout. Its anxiety reducing potential is also cited as a performance enhancer.

In practice, the best case for its performance enhancement is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who set the record for most medals won in the modern Olympic Games while also being a regular smoker.

Usain Bolt wins a gold medal for the 200m on August 18, 2016. (Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images)

And Phelps is far from the only one, the long list of includes Usain Bolt, Jamie Anderson and many more.

Last year, former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams told Sports Illustratedthat 70 percent of professional football players smoke weed. In 2004, doping regulations cost Williams his spot with the team at the height of a promising career.

In a rather contradictory fashion, the WADA also cites cannabis as a potential health risk which is rooted in studies on its effects on the heart and mind. Its potential to raise heart rates, the WADA says, puts athletes at increased risk of heart attack while the infamous paranoia could negatively affect an athlete’s performance.

Yet perhaps the most bogus claim made by the WADA is that cannabis violates the spirit of sport. As much as couch-lock can violate the spirit of any physical activity, the reason given by the agency is that the substance is illegal and is therefore not in keeping with the moral values that ought to be held up by sports organizations.

The USADA cites a range of research to support their claims including one study from the Journal of Sports Medicine. Much of its research also seems to come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a largely anti-drug organization.

Previous decisions made by anti-doping officials imply that the stigma behind the substance plays a larger role in its banning. At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Japan, snowboarder Ross Rebagliati made history for what should have been the sport’s first gold medal win. Instead, the Canadian made history for being the first athlete to have his medal taken away after testing positive for marijuana. Luckily, Rebagliati’s medal was returned to him when Olympic officials discovered that marijuana was not on the list of banned substances. The Olympic Committee wouldn’t officially ban cannabis for another decade in 1999.

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October 30, 2017     

Canadian marijuana producers bolster inventories ahead of recreational cannabis legalization

By Eli McVey

With Canada’s recreational marijuana market set to launch next summer, the country’s licensed medical cannabis producers are shoring up their inventories in anticipation of an eventual supply shortage.

Growth in the amount of dried marijuana and cannabis oil in producers’ inventories rose sharply from April through June, marking the largest quarter-over-quarter increase in more than two years. Even if the pace keeps up, many observers still expect demand will far outpace supply once adult-use sales officially begin.

Here’s what you need to know about the situation:

Existing licensed medical cannabis producers will likely be the sole providers of recreational cannabis once the market gets off the ground. Currently, there are 64 licensed medical marijuana producers, though just over half have jumped through the necessary regulatory hurdles that allow them to sell MMJ to patients.

Industry estimates put current licensed annual production capacity in the range of 60,000-120,000 kilograms (132,000-264,000 pounds). However, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that Canadians will consume between 378,000 kilograms and 1.01 million kilograms of cannabis next year, with a midpoint estimate of 655,000 kilograms.

Licensed producers are rushing to construct new facilities and expand production capacity, with announcements for new funding deals and development plans arriving at a torrid pace. Most recently, Canopy Growth – Canada’s largest licensed medical marijuana producer – announced a joint venture to develop a 1.3-million-square-foot marijuana greenhouse in British Columbia. And Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis is spending 100 million Canadian dollars ($82 million) to build an 800,000-square foot-production facility beside Edmonton International Airport.

To sign up for our weekly Canada marijuana business newsletter, click here.

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October 30, 2017     

Alcohol giant buys $190M stake in Canadian cannabis company

One of the biggest alcohol businesses in the world is entering into a strategic relationship with one of the largest medical marijuana companies on the globe, a move that could usher in a new era of investments and partnerships between the industries.

New York-based Constellation Brands will acquire 9.9% of Smiths Falls, Ontario-based Canopy Growth for 245 million Canadian dollars ($190 million), The Wall Street Journal reported.

Constellation – which owns, distributes and markets 100 beer, wine and spirits brands, including Corona and Robert Mondavi – also will be granted warrants that would raise its stake to just under 20% if exercised, according to the newspaper.

The two companies will work together to develop and sell cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market, which is expected to legalize infused products in the summer of 2019 – one year after legalizing cannabis oil and dried leaf for recreational use in July 2018.

Constellation, traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol STZ, said it has no plans to sell any cannabis products in the United States.

But its CEO told the Journal that legalization of marijuana at a national level in the United States is “highly likely, given what’s happened at the state level.”

Canopy, traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED, said Constellation will provide broad support in consumer analytics, market trending, marketing and brand development.

Canopy said in a news release it will use most of the investment from Constellation to fund the expansion of its international growing platform and to support research and development.

In a research note, Toronto-based Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian said more alcohol companies – as well as pharmaceutical and tobacco businesses – could accelerate plans to enter the legal marijuana industry.

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October 30, 2017     

Montel Williams’ suit seeks to protect image vs. CBD scams

Television talk-show host and medical marijuana activist Montel Williams is suing several Arizona-based companies for wrongly using his name and image in alleged CBD scams.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that at least three companies were involved in an “elaborate online scheme” that involved misleadingly using the contents of a Forbes article about Williams and his MMJ-related activism. The suit also targets unidentified affiliates of the companies that operate as distributors for the defendants in the case.

Using content on “sham websites” that misappropriated Williams’ name and likeness, the defendants falsely claimed he endorsed their CBD products, according to a news release from Williams and his representatives.

The defendants include Arizona-based Advanceable Technology, Beauty Strong and Snowflake Marketing as well as Timothy Isaac, who allegedly is associated with the three companies.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants asked consumers to sign up for a “free trial.” But rather than receiving free products, consumers were locked into an “automatic monthly credit card billing scheme without clear options to cancel,” the suit alleges.

The suit also claims it’s “unclear whether any of the products marketed by the defendants were legitimate CBD oils.”

Williams is seeking “injunctive relief; damages, including exemplary and punitive damages,” according to the lawsuit, as well as public statement by the defendants that Williams has never been associated with the defendants.

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October 30, 2017     

MedMen seeks $250 million raise for marijuana private equity fund

Marijuana management firm MedMen is aiming to raise $250 million to invest in cannabis businesses in the California, Nevada and New York markets.

The fund, called MedMen Opportunity Fund II, is going to specifcially target plant-touching companies, including retailers and growers, Bloomberg reported.

The fund will also look particularly at tourist destinations, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City.

Those behind the fundraising push believe it’s a solid time to invest, in large part because “assets are cheaper because of the risk, and fewer investors are willing to get into the space,” Bloomberg reported.

The minimum buy-in for investors is $3 million, according to Bloomberg.

MedMen’s management group and pair of existing funds already own or run 11 MJ businesses, including eight dispensaries, two cultivation operations and a manufacturing facility.

The company also completed a $60 million fundraising investment round last year, though its stated goal last June was $100 million.

______________________________________




October 27, 2017     

Arizona recreational cannabis foe indicted in national opioid plot

The founder of a company that contributed $500,000 to help defeatrecreational marijuana legalization in Arizona last year now faces fraud and racketeering charges from federal authorities who accuse him of pushing prescriptions of powerful painkillers.

It follows indictments against the company’s former CEO and other executives and managers on allegations that they provided kickbacks to doctors to prescribe a potent opioid called Subsys.

In a new indictment, Kapoor and the other defendants are accused of offering bribes to doctors to write large numbers of prescriptions for the fentanyl-based pain medication that is meant only for cancer patients with severe pain.

Most of the people who received prescriptions did not have cancer.

U.S. prosecutors in Boston brought the case. Kapoor was arrested in Phoenix.

In addition to the criminal charges, Arizona and other states have been suing Insys over its marketing practices.

_________________________________

October 27, 2017     

New Jersey may add five more medical marijuana conditions

New Jersey’s proposed addition of five conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana could expand the program’s patient pool and, in turn, lead to increased sales for the handful of dispensaries in the state.

The state’s Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel gave final approval to the additional conditions this week, Patch.com reported, but that number fell far short of the 43 conditions the committee had recommended.

Here’s what you need to know:

The panel proposed adding anxiety, migraine, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic pain related to internal organs.

The state’s health commissioner – who was appointed by the notoriously anti-cannabis Gov. Chris Christie – has up to 180 days to decide whether to approve the extra conditions.

New Jersey’s MMJ program currently has 12,500-plus registered patients.

State law allows for only six licensed dispensaries – though only five are currently operational – but the health department reviews the program every two years to decide whether more should be approved.

_________________________________

The JFK assassination and ‘Barry & ‘the boys’

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · OCTOBER 26, 2017 




Two hours before John Kennedy was assassinated on Friday November 22 1963  at 12:30 p.m. Central Time,  the stripper headlining Jack Ruby’s Carousel nightclub in Dallas was in a panic to get out of  town.  

The National Archives and Records Administration today began releasing government documents never been disclosed on the Kennedy assassination, under a law passed in 1992 after Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” provoked widespread discontent about foot-dragging on disclosure. (Thanks, Oliver!)

There are a number of passages in ‘Barry & ‘the boys’  which reveal facets of the Kennedy Assassination never before known—or even suspected to exist—in the literature of the Kennedy assassination. Why? Is it because I’m the smartest, most fearless investigative journalist alive? 

However attractive as an explanation that might be, there’s another one that’s far more plausible: 

Among journalists whose living depends on knowing which stories to flog like a mule,  and which to leave strictly alone, reporting which exposes CIA drug trafficking operations—especially in anything like real time— remain verboten, taboo, and highly-discouraged.

See, for instance, Gary Webb.   

The story I want to tell today is about two women from the same family in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The first, “Aunt Jada,” was a stripper, exotic dancer extraordinaire, and savvy survivor who managed to play a  significant role pointing to Jack Ruby’s knowledge of the upcoming Kennedy Assassination. 

The second woman,  Jada’s niece Lena,  who exemplifies traditional American upward mobility,  even  in organized crime,  became an officer in a hundred million dollar corporation strongly suspected of being involved in the money laundering industry which sprang up around Barry Seal.  

Drug smuggling, money laundering, and covert ops leading to assassination plots  are hallmarks of the one U.S. governmental Agency, and its most famous operative, Barry Seal, that is most often accused of complicity in the death of John Kennedy. 

Drug pilots are glorified bus drivers with epaulets




How I got the story: At a certain point during a two-year investigation into Barry Seal n Louisiana,  I got ‘wised-up.’ 

Afterwards, romantic tales of drug pilots skimming the waves across the Gulf of Mexico  to avoid radar detection became uninteresting, as I realized that unless you’re an amateur free-lancer—and there are few of them— flying drugs into the United States is no more eventful than driving a school bus. 

If you did a line of coke during the 1980’s—in a club, at a bar, in a bathroom stall, anywhere—chances are pretty good it came through Barry Seal’s Transportation and Logistics Division. It was a huge undertaking, bigger than  Procter & Gamble’s massive operation to stock and re-stock pharmacy and supermarket shelves with toothpaste and Charmin.

And it was Barry Seal who kept the trains running on time in the drug trade in the U.S.  It is a $400 billion a year industry in the U.S. alone, creating a slush fund as big as the dead zone awash with plastic refuse in the Pacific. Big enough to buy a Presidential election. Or almost anything else.

I was left with just one big question:  Who gets to pass out all that fresh green?

Using Barry Seal’s own records I began trying to trace the money up the line, looking for the Big Boss, or the Old Man, as Seal called him.

Then I got a fateful tip.  “Take a look at ‘Trinity Energy,” advised a source. “Richard Ben-Veniste (Seal’s one-time attorney)(and a powerful Democratic player) incorporated a Trinity Oil or Trinity Energy to launder money for his client.”

 

Be careful what you wish for

The tip eventually allowed a glimpse into the “corporatization” of the drug trade.  But it was also a mixed blessing. Because before I had even finished investigating Barry Seal’s drug money laundering connections, I had been  sued, separately, by two men whose names surfaced in connection with what was apparently a touchy topic. 

The lawsuits were successful in keeping ‘Barry & ‘the boys’ out of  bookstores  for almost five years. I was eventually forced to settle, and remove both men’s names from my book.  (And no, Project Censored never called.)

Still, I was able to uncover evidence of a “close business associate” of Barry Seal who incorporated a company called ‘Trinity Energy’ that was sold for $22 million in 1995, ending up in the hands of a Delaware company, ICF Kaiser, then being run by Tony Coehlo, a former California congressman who went on to run Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign.  (No wonder he lost.)

That was shocking news. Then a second (but related) company called Trinity Energy yielded evidence which was even more interesting. 

This is that story.





A serious case of post-Mardi Gras blues

The sign on the front door of a steak house in New Orleans’ French Quarter said “closed,”  which enraged the restaurant’s proprietor, who entered, and angrily strode across the darkened main dining room. 

Accounts of what happened next agreed. When the smoke cleared, it was apparent he’d been shot three times at point blank range… by his wife.

At his wife’s trial for attempted murder, he testified, “I went inside and asked someone why the restaurant was closed. Then I looked at the bar, and Lena (his wife and business partner) was sitting on a stool. When I asked her why the restaurant was closed, she reached into the pocket of her sweater, and instantly I knew why it had been closed, and why all the workers had been sent home.”

“I threw my hands up and said, ‘uh, don’t Lena! Then I saw the blue flame from the gun.”

“I felt the bullet hit me in the jaw. I turned and tried to dive behind the bar. She shot me two more times, in the back. I fell to my knees and crawled toward the bar on my stomach.”

 “I was on the phone with Lena when she shot him,” a Houston restaurateur who was a longtime business associate of the couple told me. 

  I heard the shots and the commotion. When she picked the phone back up, I said, “Lena, did you  just shoot Dale?”

She said, “’Yeah, I shot the bastard. But it was a really little gun. He’ll live.’”





“All the way from Gulfport to New Orleans”

Lena had pumped three .25-caliber bullets from a derringer into her husband’s imposing 6-foot-2-inch, 240-pound bulk. Was it a fit of pique?

The answer was ‘no,’ according to the dozen witnesses who testified on Lena’s behalf, who characterized her husband as a “raging bull” and described numerous occasions on which he had physically abused his wife.  In his defense, he had told police he didn’t beat his wife “any more than any other husband.”

Their only child also spoke of a reign of terror. “Once on Father’s Day, my mom gave my Dad a pencil sharpener for a present,”he testified. “And he threw it at her in the car, called her a bitch and a whore, and was driving and hitting her all the way from Gulfport (Mississippi) to New Orleans.”

Days later a courtroom packed with supporters cheered the verdict of not guilty of attempted murder.

Why is this of interest to the story of Barry Seal?

In 1981, when drug traffickers were hauling in so much money they resorted to weighing it on pallets, incorporation papers filed in Louisiana listed both of these two ‘star-crossed lovers’ as officers in a company called Trinity Energy.





Aunt Jada’ Had a Secret

Lena had been married to one of Carlos Marcello’s minions, who, after a season on a “shrimp boat” in the late 1970’s became independently wealthy, and a hugely-successful restaurateur.

And Janet, or Jada, Conforto, or Conforte, was Lena’s aunt, the star headliner the weekend Kennedy was murdered.

“I noticed you’ve been sniffing around the New Orleans Conforte’s,” wrote someone who had been following our progress. “You might be interested in the fact that ‘Jada’ was the stage name of a stripper from New Orleans who was Jack Ruby’s girlfriend and whose real name was Janet Conforto.”




When Jack Ruby was arrested, authorities found hundreds of 8×10 glossies of Jada in the trunk of his car. Ruby had been handing them out to anyone who would take one.

Turns out, Aunt Jada had a secret. On the morning of the Kennedy assassination,  She was in such a panic to leave Dallas that she ran over a pedestrian.

Driving a white Cadillac convertible with Louisiana plates, Jada Conforto stopped just long enough to phone someone in Jack Ruby’s office to pick up the slightly-injured pedestrian,  and take him to a hospital.  To the traffic officer filling out the report,  she said, “Please just hurry up and call someone in Ruby’s office to fix things. I’m in a hurry to get to New Orleans.”

It is clear that there was something extremely urgent that Jada had to do.  She had to get out of town.

 

“By the way, about that Oswald thing”

She should have been getting ready to ‘open’ at the Carousel. Instead, Dallas police documents indicate, she suddenly became fiercely  intent on ‘getting the fuck out of Dodge.’ 

In a letter filled with coded references to the head of the Dallas Criminal Investigation Division, Dallas Asst. Chief of Police Charles Batchelor reported that a local man had been hit by a woman fleeing Dallas in a hurry at 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the assassination. Although Jada was a well-known top-billed stripper for Ruby,  the letter said “The woman gave the appearance of being in show business.”

Then, with studied indifference, the letter states “It is unknown if this has any significance in the Oswald case.”  

On the morning of the JFK assassination, Jack Ruby’s girlfriend was frantically fleeing Dallas.  According to the Dallas Police,  it had no significance to the Oswald case. And it didn’t even make the papers. 

Investigating Barry Seal’s links to drug money laundering—which ostensibly have nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination—turned up evidence that the FBI’s characterization of Jack Ruby as a small-time operator “never able to cultivate” friendships with important figures in organized crime left something to be desired.




An invite to the Marcello bash

There’s a coda:  I asked Lena if she’d put me in touch with ‘Aunt’ Jada’ for an interview.

She said, “Jada’s dead. She was killed in a motorcycle accident during the (House Select Committee) Kennedy assassination investigation.”

“My sister in Kenner told me a few years later that Jada had been murdered because she knew too much.”

I also asked where she and her mobbed-up hubby were on the day of the assassination.

She said, “We were on our way to a big party that night, the big post-acquittal bash Carlos Marcello held after being found “not guilty” of federal charges on the same day Kennedy died.”

“I was on a streetcar on Canal Street, shopping for a new dress to wear to the party when I heard the news. I turned around and went home, and didn’t have the heart to go to the party. But he (my husband) went.”

 And so it goes.

____________________________________

Trump Asserts First Amendment Rights in Lawsuit Alleging He Incited Violence

Posted by Bill Conroy - October 30, 2017 at 12:45 am

At the same time, he seeks to muzzle the free-speech rights of the press

President Donald Trump made headlines during his campaign for the presidency, and since taking office, by attacking and even threatening the media — and by extension the First Amendment protections afforded the press. Those attacks typically follow media stories that are critical of Trump or otherwise paint his administration in a bad light.

At the same time, however, Trump is currently using the First Amendment to shield himself in a pending federal lawsuit that alleges he used inflammatory rhetoric to incite violence at his campaign rallies.

As a candidate and now as president, Trump has been accused of abusing the First Amendment to the Constitution — which guarantees freedom of speech and the press — by attacking the press, which he has described as “an enemy of the American people.” Earlier this month, for example, in the wake of a story that was critical of him, Trump took to Twitter and threatened to terminate a major news network’s TV license.

On the campaign trail, and again while president, Trump has threatened to “open up libel laws” to make it easier to sue and silence the press, even though a longstanding U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the First Amendment requires public figures and politicians like Trump to demonstrate “actual malice” on the part of the press to win a lawsuit. (Actual malice is defined by the courts as publishing a defamatory statement knowing it is false, or doing so with reckless disregard for its truth.)

In addition, despite the courts having ruled that the First Amendment protects the press’ right to publish classified information so long as journalists don’t encourage or coerce sources to break the law, Trump allegedly urged former FBI Director James Comey to consider pursuing and jailing journalists who report classified information.

These attacks on the media and First Amendment were launched by Trump even as he is claiming First Amendment protections related to words he unleased at a campaign rally in Kentucky in March 2016 that, according to a pending federal lawsuit, led to an assault on three individuals. The plaintiffs in that court case attended a Trump campaign rally on March 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, that was held at a public venue ­— the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The plaintiffs, one of whom is African American, concede they were at the rally as protestors. After Trump told the crowd to “get ‘em out of here,” the plaintiffs allege they were assaulted by members of the audience — in particular by members of a white supremacist group called the Traditionalist Worker Party.

The plaintiffs’ pleadings continue:

Trump went on to state: “In the old days, which isn’t so long ago, when we were less politically correct, that kinda stuff wouldn’t have happened. Today we have to be so nice, so nice. We always have to be so nice.” Then Trump went into a discussion about waterboarding, and how it is “absolutely fine.”

Incitement to Violence

Following Trump’s threatening inventive at the Louisville campaign rally, the three protestors bringing the lawsuit contend they were subsequently attacked and forcibly ejected by members of Trump’s audience, with several individuals from the Traditionalist Worker Party allegedly playing a major role in shoving and pushing them out of the building and punching one of the plaintiffs in the stomach at one point.

A good portion of the assault on plaintiff Kashiya Nwanguma, an African American female and a student at the University of Louisville at the time of the assault, was captured on video. [Links to video clips here.]

Trump claims that his speech is protected by the First Amendment, and he also denies that his words at the Louisville campaign rally in any way incited the crowd to violence, and he also insists that he was directing his orders to remove protestors to security personnel and not the general audience. The attorneys for the three plaintiffs dispute those assertions.

More from the plaintiff’s pleadings in the case:

Prior to [the Louisville campaign rally], the media had reported extensively on the tense, violent atmosphere at Mr. Trump’s rallies that arose from his hostile and pugnacious reaction to protesters, his habit of singling out protesters and urging his supporters to “get ‘em out of here,” his complaints that people were “too nice,” his recollections of the “good old days” when protesters were “carried out on stretchers,” and his offer to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they committed a crime or violated someone’s civil rights in the course of forcibly removing a protester from a rally.

… Mr. Trump surely appreciated the imminence of unlawful conduct that would likely follow his directives given the violence his speech had triggered at rallies before Louisville; in any event, what Mr. Trump knew and when he knew it will be fair game in discovery.

There is no question that Mr. Trump both directed and ratified the … activities in which his supporters engaged while removing protesters from his rallies, including the one in Louisville. And there already exists evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump not only was aware that his words were likely to incite lawless conduct, but that he relished their effect.

The pleadings also point out that one of the defendants involved in assaulting the three plaintiffs, an individual named Matthew Heimbach, is the leader of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party. Heimbach, according to the lawsuit, later pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct in relation to his behavior at the rally “and then played a leadership role in the recent neo-Nazi/white supremacist march on Charlottesville, Virginia, that claimed the lives of a young female counter-protester and two police officers.”

Trump’s attorneys have filed an appeal in the case, describing the litigation as “politically motivated” and seeking to get a higher federal court to intercede in the lower-court proceedings to prevent further fact finding in the case (called discovery). The appeal also asks the higher court to rule on the question of whether Trump’s statement at the rally (“Get ‘em out of here!”) can be considered an incitement to riot.

The lower-court judge, who had ruled that the case should proceed prior to Trump’s “interlocutory appeal” to a higher court, points out in one of his rulings that whether a statement can be considered an incitement to riot “does not ‘turn on the objective meaning of the words at issue,’ as the Trump defendants contend [but] rather, that determination depends in part on the circumstances surrounding the statement.”

In other words, context matters. Yelling fire at a TV video game in the privacy of your home, for example, is not the same as yelling fire in a crowded theater.

More from the judge’s earlier ruling in the case:

Trump’s order unquestionably was “perceived as encouraging violence or lawlessness” by at least some members of his audience, including [defendants Alvin] Bamberger and Heimbach.  Bamberger’s cross-claim [states] that he acted in response to [Trump’s] “urging.” Heimbach’s answer [in the pleadings asserts] as a defense that he “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of [Trump] ….”

Despite the violence that ensured immediately following Trump’s command to the audience ordering them to “get” the three protestors “out of here,” Trump, in his still pending appeal on the question of whether his speech at the rally is protected, insists that he was only “exercising a core constitutional right when he reacted to the disruptive protestors by saying, ‘Get ’em out of here!’”

“His statements were nothing more than an ‘exercise [of his] free-speech rights and autonomy over the content of [his] own message’ at his own political campaign rally,” Trump asserts in his pleadings. “… Without a swift and assertive rebuke from this [appeals court], such politically motivated lawfare will continue to proliferate, and will become an increasingly common tool of political sabotage in future campaigns.

“Waiting for a final judgment [in the lower court] will make it impossible to address this problem, because by that time plaintiffs will have succeeded in their mission of using the legal system to burden the president and penalize [Trump] for exercising [his] First Amendment rights,” Trump further alleges in the litigation. “This [appeals] court should not allow that to happen. For the foregoing reasons, this [appeals] court should [order that] the claims [in the lower court] against [Trump] be dismissed.”

More from Trump’s pleadings:

… Without this [appeals] court’s intervention, this litigation will inflict irreparable harm on [Trump] by subjecting [him] to punitive litigation as the price of exercising [his] core First Amendment rights, and by imposing intrusive discovery — which already includes … requests for the president’s “tax returns” and the names “of all medical providers from whom Trump has sought or received any psychological” treatment. … Allowing plaintiffs’ meritless claims to go forward would effectively punish [Trump] by forcing [him] to undergo burdensome litigation, including intrusive discovery and depositions, as the price of exercising [his] First Amendment rights.”

Double Speak

So, it seems Trump has a double standard with respect to the First Amendment. When he is accused of using abusive speech that crosses the line into inciting a riot, he argues that the First Amendment affords him broad protections, and that such claims should be dismissed as a result.

Yet, when the press airs or publishes stories critical of him and his administration that he describes as “fake news” or otherwise dislikes, he argues that federal authority should be brought to bear to limit the media’s ability to publish or air such information, and he goes as far as to claim that members of the press are “the enemy of the American people.”

The federal appeals court has not yet issued a ruling on whether Trump’s words at the Louisville rally (“Get ‘em out of here!”) can be considered as a potential incitement to riot, or if those words are protected under the First Amendment, as Trump claims, or whether it will even accept Trump’s appeal. The appeals court’s answer will determine whether the litigation against Trump in the lower federal court in Kentucky will continue, and under what conditions.

Regardless of the outcome, Trump’s stance on free-speech protections does not seem at all dissimilar to the position held by various tyrants and dictators across the globe over the centuries: Freedom of speech is a right that applies only to the crown (Trump and his cronies in this case) and not to you or me, or the press, absent his approval. That seems to be the only way to explain Trump’s invoking of the First Amendment in the Louisville case as a defense for his speech even as he continues to attack and threaten to abridge the First Amendment free-speech rights of man.

_______________________________________________




Poll: State medical marijuana implementation effort gets mixed reviews

HEALTHCARETALK POLITICS

by Talk Business & Politics staff (staff2@talkbusiness.net)    




More Arkansans disapprove of the state’s effort to implement medical marijuana than approve of the effort to launch the industry in the Natural State. The question is: are these voters opponents who voted against the measure or supporters who want a faster pace?

Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment nearly one year ago to allow for medical cannabis under certain conditions. The state legislature passed a series of laws to institute the voter-approved measure and a regulatory commission has been developing guidelines and overseeing the application process to implement the law.







In the most recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 784 Arkansas voters, they were asked:

Q. Last fall, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Since the election, state officials have been working to implement regulations and licensing requirements for medical marijuana growers and dispensers across the state. Based on what you know, do you approve or disapprove of the state’s implementation of the medical marijuana program in Arkansas?

37% Approve
46.5% Disapprove
16.5% Don’t Know

“As Dr. Barth’s analysis asserts, it appears that those who voted for medical marijuana want a faster start to the program and those who voted against it are still opposed to its implementation,” said Roby Brock, TB&P Editor-in-Chief.

“We’ll likely see these numbers shift once the industry is in full swing a year from now. I’ll be most interested in voter attitudes on the subject once stories of usage make their way to the public,” he added.

ANALYSIS
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the poll results. He offered this analysis:

“The final issue about which we gauged Arkansans’ opinions was the process through which the medical marijuana program created by ballot measure last fall is being implemented.

“During this year, the commission implementing the program has promulgated a number of key regulations of the program and has collected hundreds of applications to serve as cultivators and dispensaries for the program. The large number of applicants ensures that the program will take longer than first expected to get fully off the ground.

“A plurality of the poll respondents did voice disapproval of the implementation process. The key question: Which groups of Arkansans are most concerned about this process is proceeding?

“An examination of the crosstabs indicates that it is mostly those groups that opposed the amendment in last year’s vote who are opposed to the implementation. Specifically, Republicans and those over 65 oppose implementation by rates of 59% and 52% respectively. This means that those who opposed the measure initially continue to hold on to their opposition.

“Comparatively, voters under 30, Democrats, and African-Americans —- three groups which supported medical marijuana based on our polling last year -— show plurality support for the implementation. While generally supportive, those groups’ enthusiasm is likely held down by the slowness of the program’s implementation. Thus, opponents continue to voice their concerns (notably, the overall rate of disapproval nearly matches the ‘no’ voting percentage last November 8th), while supporters have yet to see the fruits of their votes a year ago.”

METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted on Monday, October 23, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.5%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 784 Arkansas voters statewide. Age and gender were weighted.

Age (weighted)
12%   Under the age of 30
24%  Between the ages of 30 and 44
39%  Between the ages of 45 and 64
24%  65 or older

Ethnicity
9%  African-American
1%  Asian-American
2%  Latino
78%  Caucasian or White
10%  Other

Party Identification
31%  Democratic
36.5%  Republican
27.5%  Independent
5%  Other

Gender (weighted)
48%  Male
52%  Female

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net or Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.

______________________________

Entergy Arkansas reveals plans for state’s largest solar project in the Delta

BUSINESSENERGY

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com)   

Entergy Arkansas will expand its renewable energy portfolio with plans for a new solar project in the state’s Delta region that will be the largest sun-powered development in Arkansas, company officials told Talk Business & Politics.

According to the utility giant’s recent petition to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC), Entergy Arkansas is seeking a declaratory order and approval of a power purchase agreement for a new renewable solar resource and for recovery of an additional amount. Company spokeswoman Kerri Jackson said the company’s Oct. 17 petition is requesting approval of the Chicot Solar project, a planned 100 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic project near Lake Village.

“That’s enough power generation for roughly 16,000 homes,” Jackson said.

If approved by state regulatory officials, Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy Resources LLC would develop the solar facility and provide all the energy and environmental attributes, including all renewable energy credits available from the project. Entergy Arkansas would then purchase the power from NextEra, one of the country’s largest solar energy providers and owner of utility giant Florida Power & Light. Jackson said the project is structured similarly to the Stuttgart Solar project first approved by the PSC in September 2015.

Entergy Arkansas and NextEra officials held the groundbreaking ceremony Monday (Oct. 30) for that project located seven miles southeast of Stuttgart on 475 acres. Construction is expected to be complete in early 2018. Once complete, the facility will feature more than 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

South Arkansas community leaders and economic development officials said the project will create an economic boost for Arkansas County, creating up to 250 jobs during the construction phase. Over its operational life, the Stuttgart Solar Energy Center is expected to generate nearly $8 million in additional revenue for Arkansas County, with much of that funding going to help Arkansas County Public Schools.

For the Chicot project, Entergy Arkansas officials have requested the PSC enter a protective order of non-disclosure. Such an order would protect competitively sensitive negotiated contract prices and other protected proprietary and competitive and financial information that “would impair the public interest due to the effect that this disclosure would have on the company’s costs and future operations,” Entergy’s PSC petition states.

According to Arkansas Sierra Club Director Glen Hooks, Entergy’s new 100-megawatt project would be the largest solar project in the state, bypassing the Stuttgart field and Aeroject Rocketdyne’s 12-megawatt facility at the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden.

Little Rock-based Scenic Hill Solar is also developing a $10 million solar power facility in Clarksville that will generate 6.5 megawatts of power. That facility is expected to be on-line by mid-2018. Scenic Hill, owned by former Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, will build, own and operate the plant on land leased from Clarksville Light & Water Company. The city utility will then purchase the solar plant’s power based on the terms of a 30-year contract.

Following are other recent solar projects in Arkansas.
• Scenic Hill and L’Oréal USA also opened in April a solar panel project that will help power the North Little Rock manufacturing plant. The 3,528 solar panels were installed earlier this year and will provide 1.2 MW of renewable energy to the factory that is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 556 metric tons per year.

• Ouachita Electric Cooperative of Camden announced in February a partnership with Today’s Power to build a 1-megawatt solar facility on 10 acres in Holly Springs, Ark. Today’s Power, a subsidiary of Little Rock-based Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, distributes and installs TKS photovoltaic systems. The project is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017 and will include an array of 4,080 panels, encompassing 5.5 acres. The facility could provide enough electricity to power up to 250 homes. OEC members who purchase solar power generated by the facility can receive credit on their electric bills. OEC provides electric service to 9,400 meters across Ouachita, Calhoun, Dallas, Bradley and Nevada counties.

• Husqvarna Group is building its first solar power generating facility at its injection molding site in Nashville. Construction on the project, which is expected to have a generating capacity of 1.3 megawatts of solar power, is underway and projected to be operational by the end of the year. Company officials said the solar generating system has the potential to be expanded, and will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by approximately 1,000 tons in the first year of operation and approximately 25,000 tons over the expected 25-year life of the facility.

In a recent presentation at the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association’s (AAEA) annual meeting in Little Rock, officials with grid operators Southwest Power Pool and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) noted that Arkansas’ renewable energy generation is nearly 20% of the state’s power production capabilities.

____________________________

October 31, 2017     

Public banks offer hope for marijuana businesses, but will they arrive in time?

By Omar Sacirbey

With most private institutions and credit unions still avoiding the legal cannabis industry, many marijuana businesses remain without bank accounts.

But one idea is gaining acceptance among MJ entrepreneurs and a growing number of cities and states: the formation of public banks to serve the cannabis industry.

The problem? It’ll be a while before any open their doors.

Cities that are looking into creating such financial institutions include Los Angeles, Oakland and Santa Rosa in California; Philadelphia, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The states of Arizona and Maryland are also entertaining the idea.

“It’s important for local jurisdictions to do what they can to facilitate a successful cannabis industry,” said Dan Kalb, an Oakland City Council member who’s supporting his city’s efforts to study the feasibility of a public bank.

“It’s important for local governments to help their success, and the lack of banking services is a gap that no other industry faces. So, it’s important for local governments and elected leaders to step up and try and solve that problem.”

Appeal of a public bank

There currently is only one public bank in the United States – the state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND).

The Bismarck-based bank was founded in 1919 to serve farmers and small businesses in North Dakota who felt they weren’t getting fair treatment from commercial banks, and it remains popular today in a solidly conservative state.

The state, not the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., insures BND’s deposits, and the North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions, not federal bank examiners, has oversight of the bank.

North Dakota’s medical marijuana program is due to go online in 2018, and a BND spokeswoman declined to discuss whether the bank would work with the state’s new MMJ companies. So banking could also soon be an issue for North Dakota’s MMJ businesses.

For state-compliant marijuana businesses – which are still considered illegal under federal law – the ability to bank at institutions that are regulated by local governments, rather than federal agencies, would be quite welcome.

Those financial institutions wouldn’t have to worry about losing a federal license or incurring some other punishment for banking businesses that violate federal law, and therefore would be more likely to accept marijuana plant-touching clients.

Backers of public banks are supportive of the concept because they would support small, local businesses and community projects – but they have also made no secret of their desire for these banks to serve local marijuana businesses.

“We have to figure out a way to make this industry work,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, who recently explained to the council why he supports a public bank in his city.

Both Wesson and Kalb have said they’ve been in contact with marijuana businesses that support the idea of local government-owned banks.

Efforts to explore such institutions are in various stages of progress:

Santa Fe paid for a feasibility study that showed support for a municipally owned public bank, then established a Public Banking Task Force whose mission is to decide whether the city should apply for a state banking license.

The Northern California cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond as well as Alameda County are jointly exploring the merits of establishing a public bank to serve their communities. The municipalities have chipped in $130,000 for a feasibility study.

Researchers at Commonomics USA, a California organization that supports public banks, are drafting a template for how the state – which is responsible for issuing commercial bank licenses – could also issue public bank licenses. The goal is to get lawmakers to turn that template into a bill that could be considered as early as next year, said Marc Armstrong, a Commonomics official working on the draft. “If such a license exists, then a lot of governance problems go away,” he added.

Stumbling block

While public banks can operate independent of some federal agencies, they still need to obtain a so-called master account from one of the nation’s 12 federal reserve banks. Financial institutions need master accounts to open accounts, process checks and interact with the rest of the nation’s financial system.

That issue has prevented Colorado’s canna-centric Fourth Corner Credit Union from opening. Although Fourth Corner possesses a Colorado state banking charter, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has turned down the institution’s application for a master account.

Proponents acknowledge that federal reserve banks can withhold master accounts from financial institutions that serve marijuana businesses. But that’s far less likely to happen if the public bank intends to serve many industries, not just marijuana.

“The reason Fourth Corner didn’t get (a master account) is because they were too concentrated in one industry, and the risk associated with that went way up,” Armstrong said.

Late to the party?

Marijuana businesses should temper their hopes about public banking because it could take at least two or three years before such an institution jumps through the necessary bureaucratic hoops and accumulates enough capital to open.

And by then, industry observers said, it may be too late. A growing number of commercial banks are becoming open to accepting marijuana businesses as clients, so in a few years, public banks will face much more competition for cannabis cash than exists now.

“Public banks are a good idea, but by the time anyone gets around to opening one, you’re going to have – as far as California goes – more financial institutions for marijuana businesses to choose from,” said Lance Ott, CEO of Guardian Date Systems, a canna-centric financial services company in the Golden State.

“(Public banking) process could take years. By the time they launch it, they’re going to be too far behind to make a large impact unless they offer some very attractive incentives to potential customers to come on board.”

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October 30, 2017     

High marijuana taxes could give California’s black market new life

A report from a credit rating agency suggests that California’s high tax rates on marijuana – which could reach 45% depending on local taxes – may result in an ongoing or even thriving black market for cannabis.

According to Fitch Ratings – the agency that compiled the report – “the existing black market for cannabis may prove a formidable competitor to legal markets if new taxes lead to higher prices than available from illicit sources,” The Washington Post reported.

Although consumers will pay only a 15% state excise tax and a cultivation tax, local governments can impose even more sales and business taxes, which could be “anywhere from 1 to 20%” on gross receipts, according to the newspaper.

If those taxes add up to make legal cannabis more expensive than black-market product, that could easily be enough to drive consumers to illegal dealers instead of spending their money at licensed retailers.

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October 30, 2017     

Constellation’s purchase of Canopy stake is ‘transformative,’ portends further investments

By Matt Lamers

In buying a chunk of the world’s largest medical cannabis company, global alcohol giant Constellation Brands substantiated the marijuana industry as both a threat and opportunity for alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, analysts and executives said.

In short, the development signals that more deals could be on the horizon – particularly in Canada.

New York-based Constellation Brands – which owns, distributes and markets 100 beer, wine and spirits brands, including Corona and Robert Mondavi – will acquire 9.9% of Smiths Falls, Ontario-based Canopy Growth for 245 million Canadian dollars ($190 million), plus options to raise its stake to just under 20%.

It’s the first time a major alcohol maker has formally entered the cannabis industry in a significant way, portending further cross-industry investments and consolidation among licensed producers in Canada, analysts and executives told Marijuana Business Daily.

“We view this international investment as a game-changer for the sector,” Toronto-based Beacon Securities analyst Vahan Ajamian wrote in a research note. “In our view, it highlights the value of scale and brand recognition – and validates our thesis that Big Alcohol, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are going to look to acquire leading companies in the sector.”

Ajamian told Marijuana Business Daily that the Constellation-Canopy deal “is definitely going to motivate others to finalize a dance partner here (in Canada). Those plans go into a much higher gear today. As medical cannabis continues to gain mainstream adoption, it could impact pharma companies to get involved.”

The Constellation-Canopy deal also comes a year after Constellation CEO Rob Sands acknowledged that the giant beverage company  was mulling entering the cannabis industry via MJ-laced libations.

In an interview with Bloomberg last November, Sands said his company was “looking at” the marijuana industry. “There are going to be alcoholic beverages that will also contain cannabis,” he added.

Alcohol producers brace for impact

Industry sources say Canadian marijuana producers in particular could become investment or acquisition targets for alcohol companies looking to mitigate the likelihood that legal cannabis will eat into their bottom lines.

Some research has been done to quantify what analysts call “product cannibalization.”

The New York consulting firm Anderson Economic Group estimates the legalization of marijuana could sap CA$160 million out of Canada’s CA$22 billion alcohol sector — and that’s just the start.

The risk to the alcohol industry is far greater in the United States, where eight states have legalized recreational marijuana ahead of Canada and 30 have legalized medical cannabis.

Anderson estimates alcohol sales in the U.S. could decline up to $336 million as a result of consumers being able to purchase cannabis products legally.

Some alcohol companies, including Constellation, have been upfront about the risk that legalized cannabis poses.

In its annual 10-K filing published earlier this year, Constellation warned that a decline in the consumption of its alcohol products could occur as a result of consumers substituting legalized marijuana in lieu of its products.

Constellation isn’t alone.

The Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams and traded on the New York Stock Exchange as SAM, has warned its shareholders of risks stemming from the budding marijuana industry.

In its 10-K filing, the company said it’s “possible that legal marijuana usage could adversely impact the demand” for its products.

Jack Daniel’s-maker Brown-Forman also identifies legal marijuana in its 10-K filings as a risk factor that could negatively affect its business results.

Meanwhile, the CEO of one of the world’s top alcohol makers, Stewart Glendinning of Molson Coors International, told reporters last year that “cannabis is something we are thinking very carefully about, not only as a business but also as an industry.”

Opening the floodgates?

In a research note, Daniel Pearlstein, principal of Cannabis & Healthcare Research at Toronto-based Eight Capital, said the Canopy-Constellation deal could lead the way for large licensed producers in Canada to buy smaller ones.

He also said it could help tobacco or beverage alcohol companies acquire their way into the marijuana sector.

The Canopy-Constellation deal “validates the cannabis industry as both a threat and opportunity for larger established companies in beverage alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food manufacturing and technology,” he wrote.

Analyst Vivien Azer, of New York-based research firm Cowen and Company, noted the substitution effect between alcohol and cannabis consumption, and the former’s inexperience in marijuana could lead to more deals between the industries.

“This is a key risk factor for the alcoholic beverage sector, and given that they don’t have any expertise in cannabis, certainly I would expect to see more activity,” she told Marijuana Business Daily. “For Constellation, it’s a clean way from a regulatory perspective to gain exposure into the legal cannabis market. While Canopy really stands to benefit from Constellation’s expertise.”

Makes themselves targets

Some of Canada’s 69 licensed producers are deliberately setting themselves up to be investment targets for international companies, which they say would give them immediate access to international branding expertise, technology and a large pool of capital.

One of those companies is Victoria, British Columbia-based Emerald Health Therapeutics (TSXV: EMH).

“We expect both types of consolidation, where licensed producers merge with each other, and then we do see entities with large amounts of money like tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries making their foray into the marketplace and transforming companies,” said Emerald Health Therapeutics Executive Chairman Avtar Dhillon.

Dhillon said he expects more cross-border deals to take place, and Emerald is developing products and building infrastructure in the hopes of making itself an attractive investment target.

“A Fortune 500 company going across the border is validation for the entire Canadian industry, and it will pave the way for more U.S. companies to follow suit,” he said.

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October 31, 2017     

Lawsuits challenge Arkansas’ medical cannabis licensing process

Some medical marijuana business license applicants in Arkansas have filed anonymous lawsuits charging that regulators wrongly rejected their applications and are seeking a temporary restraining order to force the state to keep their bids in the scoring pool.

Such a TRO, if granted, would force the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission (AMMC) – the agency tasked with rejecting and approving applications – to “shut down” its work, an AMMC spokesman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The suits – which are currently under seal because of the anonymous filings – allege that the commission notified the plaintiffs 10 days after the application deadline that their paperwork was missing certain required documents such as proof of residency and therefore didn’t give the applicants time to submit the required documents. The number of plaintiffs is unknown.

According to the newspaper, the commission has agreed to refund thousands of dollars in fees to applicants who were disqualified.

Records provided by the state Department of Finance and Administration – under which the Arkansas commission operates – show that “16 applications were flagged as inadequate for reasons similar to those described by the complaints,” the Democrat-Gazette reported.

The state received a total of 322 applications for both cultivation centers and dispensaries.

The commission said earlier this month it likely will have to delay the rollout of Arkansas’ medical marijuana program because of the time it will need to conduct FBI background checks on the applicants.

The state had expected to award business licenses by the end of the year and launch sales in March 2018.

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October 31, 2017     

Quebec’s Hydropothecary inks agreement to raise CA$60M

Hydropothecary Corp. reached a deal to raise at least 60 million Canadian dollars ($50 million) that it plans to put toward working capital and general corporate purposes.

Under the so-called bought deal transaction, a group of underwriters has agreed to purchase 60,000 units of Hydropothecary convertible debentures. The convertible debentures can be converted into stock.

Hydropothecary — a medical marijuana producer based in Gatineau, Quebec, and traded as APH on the TSX Venture Exchange — said in a news release that the underwriters have an option to increase the financing to as much as CA$69 million.

The CA$60 million funding, announced Monday, represents a CA$10 million increase from an initial bought deal transaction that Hydropothecary had announced the same day.

Here’s what you need to know about Hydropothecary:

Hydropothecary is the only licensed producer in Quebec with a license to grow and sell medical cannabis.

The Quebec government will establish a nonprofit public company to manage the distribution and sale of recreational cannabis within the province, according to a report in a French-language newspaper.

The public company is likely going to sign supply agreements with producers for recreational cannabis, following in the footsteps of New Brunswick, and Hydropothecary is well positioned to get one of them.

Hydropothecary broke ground on its fully funded, 250,000-square-foot greenhouse in mid-October.





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October 31, 2017     

Oregon agency to get first cannabis business representative

The state agency that regulates Oregon’s cannabis sector could have its first representative with experience in the marijuana industry.

According to Willamette Week, Gov. Kate Brown appointed Matt Maletis to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. His selection is contingent on Senate approval next month.

Here’s what you need to know about Maletis:

Earlier this year he opened Oregon Hub, a five-acre cannabis campus designed for research and cultivation. Oregon Hub is home to, among other companies, Phylos Bioscience, a cannabis seed technology research firm founded by Mowgli Holmes.

He has served on three cannabis advisory panels for the OLCC, which has regulated recreational marijuana in the state since 2014.

His family has a decades-long history of alcohol distribution in Oregon.

If approved, Maletis will replace longtime commission member Bob Rice.

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October 30, 2017     

North Dakota is looking for more hemp farmers

North Dakota’s Agriculture Department is seeking participants for the third year of the state’s industrial hemp research program.

The goal of the program is to determine whether hemp can be a successful crop in North Dakota, and which varieties work best in the state’s climate.

Five North Dakota producers planted 70-plus acres of hemp in 2016, and those numbers grew to 35 cultivators and over 3,000 acres this year.

North Dakota is one of the original 10 states authorized to grow hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill. The number of states producing hemp has grown to 33.

Prospective hemp farmers in North Dakota must submit proposals for the 2018 program by 5 p.m. Dec. 29.

The proposals will be ranked by a committee appointed by Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who will make the final choices.

– Associated Press

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November 1, 2017     

Focus on marijuana’s future, not the future of your cannabis company





By Kristen Nichols

The marijuana business has a lot to learn from Tesla.

Ever heard of Tesla? Of course you have, though you’ve never seen a TV commercial for its electric cars or seen a promotion from a local dealer.

That’s because Tesla used innovative showroom experiences to get people talking about its cars.

By focusing on showroom experiences and building personal connections with question-filled shoppers, the fledgling automaker became a household name with a years-long waitlist.

Tesla can thank George Blankenship, a retired marketing maven who led the carmaker’s retail strategy after creating the Apple Store concept and running retail strategy for Gap Inc.

Blankenship, who will keynote MJBizCon in Las Vegas Nov. 15-17, recently spoke with Marijuana Business Daily about his views on the cannabis industry and how brands can succeed without traditional marketing tools.

What is the marijuana industry doing well from a business standpoint, and where do you think it’s falling short?

I think the marijuana industry has a bit of an image issue, given the various ways the business could be pursued.

A lot of people have long-standing perceptions of the industry, going back to the Summer of Love 50 years ago.

The marijuana industry has this perception issue and an education shortfall, as to what marijuana could actually be used for.

How can the industry overcome that education shortfall?

There’s a nomenclature issue. How do you describe what it is you’re doing?

When I worked at various companies, I did real estate. I would tell people, “I’m going out to Hawaii to work this week, looking at real estate.” But people were like, “Oh, yeah, right, you’re ‘working.’”

The reality was, I’d go over there and be working from dawn to dusk, but they thought it was a vacation and I had an ulterior motive.

And the same thing here (with marijuana). If you say, “I’ve got arthritis and I’m using marijuana to treat it,” people go, “Yeah, right.” It’s like reading Playboy for the articles.

A lot of people do not think of (marijuana) as a serious medical treatment for a lot of common ailments. Someone is going to figure out how to do that, and when they do, that is going to be a very viable business.

How would you brand marijuana as a serious medical treatment?

There has to be some demonstration of credibility.

If you’re walking around a neighborhood and you see green flags waving and doctors inviting you to come on in to get marijuana, that is not demonstrating credibility.

There’s a professionalism that has to surround it, and you have to communicate without sounding like you have an ulterior motive to sell something. And have a serious way of going about that.

You just have to step back and demonstrate some professionalism and credibility and have a serious way of going about that.

You have to genuinely want to educate people if you’re going for a medical focus.

You once said that when you worked at Tesla, you “came to work every day knowing that there was probably an 80% chance the company was going to fail.” Marijuana entrepreneurs can certainly relate to that. What kept you going?

We were fortunate to have employees with the mindset that everything is possible, nothing is impossible. And we set a vision.

So people thought about the vision of the company, that we’re not just selling electric cars, but we’re selling a future that looks different than this one.

When you set a vision, employees are less focused on what could happen tomorrow that could be a disaster for the company.

Instead, they are focused on, “How can we help get the world to where we want to go?”

At Tesla, everybody bet against us. Everybody.

But we had this incredible group of people who were inspired to do more than just build a car. And those people carried us where no one thought we could go. They all became involved in helping the company succeed.

How do you build a customer relationship without traditional marketing?

The key is, you don’t have a selling motion.

You don’t tell people what you want them to know about a car so that they buy a car. You don’t tell them what you want them to know about technology so they buy a computer.

You let them discover what it is they want to know, and that is different than trying to close a sale.

They’re getting information and getting to know the company and not feeling out of place.

So if you create that kind of environment – where people gain information at their pace – it will work. You don’t need to get their email to put on a mailing list. Customers will seek you out.

Online retailing has majorly disrupted traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Marijuana retailers face online competition, too, from legal marijuana delivery services to black-market dealers advertising on Craigslist. Should the cannabis industry prepare for a future when marijuana is legally sold online?

At some point in time, someone’s going to be able to say, “Alexa, bring me a dime bag,” and marijuana is going to show up at their door.

Somebody’s going to figure it out. Their whole focus is going to be on this issue: delivery of marijuana and how you do it.

Who knows what the process will be? Be the one who figures it out.

Figure out where the supply is going to come from, how it can be as consistent as possible – that what you order on Tuesday is the same as what you get on Friday.

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October 31, 2017     

Weedmaps’ marijuana billboards under fire in Arizona

An anti-marijuana organization in Arizona has asked the state’s attorney general to investigate cannabis tech company Weedmaps for false advertising.

According to Phoenix New Times, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP) is questioning the validity of claims on billboard ads paid for by Weedmaps that youth marijuana usage in Colorado and Washington hasn’t changed since those states legalized cannabis in 2012.

Here’s what you need to know:

ARDP has issued a “call to action,” asking its supporters to write the AG’s office of consumer complaints.

The group also takes issue with Weedmaps’ claim that marijuana can be used to fight the opioid crisis.

ARDP says the billboards violate a state law that prohibits deceptive and false advertising.

Weedmaps’ billboards cite state surveys for the youth usage claim and a highly touted 2014 survey on death rates stemming from opioid use.

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November 1, 2017     

NJ court: Marijuana’s Schedule 1 status must be reviewed

In a move that could have important implications for the legalized marijuana industry, a New Jersey appeals court has ruled that the state should review marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it illegal under federal law.

Schedule 1 denotes substances that have no accepted medical use and are easy to abuse. The classification includes heroin.

Because marijuana is being used to treat health ailments, New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs must reevaluate the Schedule 1 classification under the appellate court’s ruling, NJ.com reported.

The medical benefits of marijuana are “abundant and glaringly apparent now” but weren’t known in 1971 when New Jersey adopted the federal classification, the court ruling said.

Judge Michael Guadagno wrote the ruling. The judge is married to the state’s Republican candidate for governor, Kim Guadagno, who currently is New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, NJ.com reported.

The attorney general’s office plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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November 1, 2017     

Oregon positioned for national dominance with tested products

By Kristen Nichols

When it comes to hemp, Oregon is no little brother to its more populous neighbors to the north and south.

Washington state bans hemp production for high-value CBD products, and California is headed toward a patchwork of local hemp regulations. Meanwhile, Oregon is poised to become a national hemp leader.

Oregon has a well-established network of hemp growers and processors, plus a sweeping new testing regime.

The new testing law requires hemp producers to give their products the same testing as marijuana, meaning Oregon hemp products will be food-grade quality and tested for pesticides and contaminants. The new testing law took effect Oct. 6.  

It could position Oregon hemp products for national dominance, a prospect that isn’t lost on farmers in and out of the marijuana business.

“We’re bringing more farmers in every day,” said Courtney Moran, a Portland attorney who represents hemp growers and serves on the Oregon Industrial Hemp Rules Advisory Committee.

Here’s what you need to know about Oregon’s hemp market.

Industry snapshot

Oregon has authorized hemp cultivation since 2009. But the state’s Department of Agriculture didn’t license the first hemp grower until 2015, after Congress expressly authorized states to allow hemp.

The Oregon hemp industry has grown exponentially in just two years. As of 2017, Oregon has:

233 licensed hemp growers

170 licensed hemp processors, called “handlers”

119 licensed producers of viable hemp seed

3,500 outdoor acres licensed for cultivation

The state requires separate licenses for growing and processing hemp, though some businesses hold both. Each license costs $1,300 a year.

Oregon also issues a license for producing viable hemp seed. Those permits cost $120 a year and must be held in conjunction with a growing or processing license.

The state has no background check requirements for hemp growers or processors. But hemp producers are subject to the nation’s most exhaustive testing requirements, with 100% of registered hemp fields tested for THC content.

Oregon allows hemp production for:

CBD extraction

Seed or seed oil

Fiber

Even though Oregon allows seed and fiber production, nearly all the hemp growers are raising plants for CBD extraction. The state has a limited number of hemp growers pursuing seed production, and no known processors for fiber.

“I don’t even know where you’d sell fiber,” said Jerry Norton, head of the Oregon Hemp Growers Association and a Salem-based hemp grower.

Market considerations

There is no official tracking of hemp commodity prices by any standard exchange. Oregon hemp growers surveyed by Marijuana Business Dailyreport that the market is fetching:

$100 or more per pound of dried flowers or buds for use in CBD extraction. As in other states, prices vary widely based on CBD content. One large processor pays $10 per pound per CBD percentage, meaning that flower product at 13% CBD would fetch $130.

Less than 50 cents per pound for seeds to be eaten as food products or pressed for seed oil.

No reliable price per pound for stalks to be turned into fiber, because the market is so limited. In 2016, the state studied the prospect of using hemp stalks and other hemp products in animal feed, but the Department of Agriculture decided it was too risky, making that use off-limits for Oregon hemp producers.

Market changes

A new hemp-testing law in Oregon could change the market significantly.

The law requires hemp-derived products destined for human consumption to undergo the same strict product-testing requirements as commercial marijuana. That means no pesticides and no significant contaminants.

“Our food products are not tested as critically as our hemp,” said Sarah Bennett, director of Odyssey Hemp, a Portland hemp sales and distribution company.

Hemp-derived CBD products sold in Oregon will also have to carry labels guaranteeing their CBD content, similar to how marijuana products carry THC content labels.

The changes are huge, representing the first statewide requirements of their kind in the nation. And the Oregon hemp industry supported them.

“We saw issues with products coming from other states, other countries, that were loaded with pesticides,” Moran said. “We want to make sure that nothing like that is coming out of Oregon.”

Oregon’s new testing requirements took effect in October, and the state has not estimated how the changes could affect prices. A fiscal analysisprepared for state lawmakers projected the change would cost the Oregon Department of Agriculture about $50,000, which “may result in an increase in fees.”

Producers aren’t sure what that means for consumers, though some warn that fee hikes will be passed on to consumers.

Potential CBD price hikes are “a concern when at the end of the day most people are consuming CBD for its medicinal value” and are sick, Bennett said.

Still, Oregon hemp growers are betting that their state is positioning itself for strong nationwide growth as other states expand hemp and marijuana law and consumers seek assurances the products they’re buying are safe.

“The Oregon name really means something, and that’s only going to be more and more valuable moving forward,” Norton said.

Oregon could also find itself serving as a template for other hemp states, Bennett said.

“In California and Washington, that evolution is going to occur, and they’ll be looking to Oregon,” she said.

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November 1, 2017     

Ontario renews vow to close privately owned MJ dispensaries

As Ontario prepares to roll out its marijuana legislation Wednesday, the province doesn’t appear to be backing away from its pledge to block private enterprises from selling recreational cannabis.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters that the province’s forthcoming cannabis legislation should “shut down” privately owned dispensaries operating illegally, according to the Toronto Star.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is set to introduce a bill Wednesday that will lay out Ontario’s rules for recreational marijuana when the federal government legalizes adult-use cannabis, which is slated to occur next summer.

Here’s what you need to know about Ontario’s retail plan:

Ontario’s proposed regulatory framework calls for a state-run monopoly to sell adult-use cannabis online and in stores.

The government hopes to have 40 cannabis outlets by July 2018 and 150 up and running by 2020.

Taxpayers are going to be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars to establish the outlets.

The cannabis industry has been urging the province to reconsider the plan.

The province left the door open — ever so slightly — for the eventual licensing of cannabis-consumption lounges.

Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are probably going to take Ontario’s lead in monopolizing marijuana sales.

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November 1, 2017     

Cleveland nixes 95% of real estate for medical cannabis businesses

Only about 5% of land in Cleveland would be eligible for medical cannabis businesses to set up shop under a new and highly restrictive ordinance approved by the city council this week.

The ordinance – approved on a 15-1 vote by the council – leaves precious little space in one of Ohio’s biggest cities for MMJ dispensaries, grow operations, infused product makers and testing labs, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The ordinance prohibits MMJ companies from locating within 500 feet of schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds or public parks.

It also permits MMJ businesses only on properties that are zoned as “a general retail district or one of three industrial property designations,” according to the newspaper. And any property zoned for local retail businesses or as residential can’t be used by medical cannabis businesses.

However, a first draft of the ordinance would have made the 500-foot rule into a 1,000-foot rule, essentially banning MMJ in Cleveland.

So perhaps local MMJ companies should be grateful they’ll be able to get any space at all in the city.

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November 1, 2017     

Aurora gets medical marijuana cultivation license for Quebec site

Aurora Cannabis received a cultivation license from Health Canada for its 40,000-square-foot indoor facility in Pointe-Claire, making it only the second company to have a medical marijuana production license in Quebec.

An executive told Marijuana Business Daily that production from the facility – called “Aurora Vie” – will be used to meet local and global MMJ demand, starting with Germany and the European Union.

“We have soaring demand in Germany right now and additional EU medical cannabis markets coming online,” said Cam Battley, executive vice president of Aurora, which is based in Alberta and traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as ACB.

Here’s what you need to know about Aurora Vie:

The facility has a projected cultivation capacity of approximately 4,000 kilograms of cannabis per year.

The company anticipates its first harvest in early 2018.

The medical cannabis will be distributed in Germany through Pedanios, its wholly owned subsidiary.

 Aurora purchased the facility in April for 7 million Canadian dollars ($5.4 million). Since then, Aurora has put another CA$3 million into the facility to meet EU manufacturing standards.

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October 31, 2017     

Poseidon aims to raise up to $150M for new cannabis fund

Poseidon Asset Management – a San Francisco-based investment company focused on the cannabis industry – has launched a second fund with the goal of raising $100 million to $150 million from investors.

If Poseidon achieves that goal, the investment fund would be one of the largest in the marijuana industry. The company did not detail the types of businesses it will invest in.

According to a company news release, Poseidon has made two new hires connected to the new fund:

Tad Henderson, who takes the role of managing director

Andrew Roche, who will be an investment analyst

Henderson most recently worked as chief operating officer of Calstar, an air ambulance operator in Sacramento, and has also worked as a debt transaction specialist in New York and San Francisco.

He will be responsible for capital raising and management of portfolio companies and – working with firm principals Emily and Morgan Paxhia – will also help select investments for the new fund.

Roche, a CPA, joins Poseidon from Deloitte, where he was an auditor. As an investment analyst, Roche will perform due diligence on investment opportunities and help build out Poseidon’s proprietary investment data platform.

Poseidon launched its first fund in 2013.

According to its website, Poseidon has invested in 103 cannabis companies, including growers, dispensaries, technology firms and hemp businesses. The firm did not disclose the value of those investments.

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(Yo, ya gotta know that I love the Clinton’s, supported them in office – BUTTT I gotta give ya all the news, not just what I like. So here is the next great Democratic Candidate for President and her thoughts on the last election.)

Warren says the 2016 primary was rigged in Clinton’s favor

By Jaclyn Reiss  NOVEMBER 02, 2017

Senator Elizabeth Warren said twice Thursday in separate interviews that she believed the 2016 Democratic primary was rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favor.

Warren’s comments came after Donna Brazile, who served as the interim Democratic National Committee chairman in 2016, published excerpts of her book in Politico in which she detailed an “unethical” financial deal between the party and Clinton’s campaign.

In the excerpt, Brazile said she told US Senator Bernie Sanders that Clinton “had exerted this control of the party long before she became its nominee.”

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Warren, a liberal firebrand from Massachusetts with a national following, did not endorse Clinton until the end of the primary. Warren also campaigned with Clinton, a former US secretary of state, during the general election.

But since President Trump took office, Warren has ramped up public appearances with Sanders, who shares many of her progressive policies. She joined Sanders as he unveiled his proposal for a single-payer health care system in September. And on Thursday, the pair released a video in which the senators sat side-by-side, showering criticism on the GOP’s new tax plan.




In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Thursday, Judy Woodruff asked Warren about Brazile’s excerpts and what they meant for the Democratic Party.

“Do you think that what we’re learning from Donna Brazile’s book suggests that the campaign, that what the Democratic National Committee did, meant this election was rigged?”

“Yeah, I think it was,” Warren said.

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“That’s a pretty powerful charge,” Woodruff followed up.

“What we have to focus on now as Democrats is we recognize the process was rigged, and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process — a process that really works and works for everyone,” the senator said.

Warren also said that going forward, the Democratic Party needed to have “confidence” that “Democrats, as they run a primary, are going to let the people speak, and that we’re going to have a candidate who’s the candidate chosen by the people.”

In a separate interview Thursday with CNN, Jake Tapper asked Warren, “Do you agree with the notion that it was rigged?”

“Yes,” Warren said.

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She also said in the interview that she told current DNC chairman Tom Perez that he has to “put together a Democratic Party in which everybody can have confidence that the party is working for Democrats, rather than Democrats working for the party.”

“Either he [Perez] is going to succeed by bringing Bernie Sanders and Bernie Sanders’ representatives into this process and they’re going to say it’s fair, it works, we all believe it — or he’s going to fail,” Warren said.

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This time it’s LBJ Woody Harrelson’s way

Richard Jenkins (left) and Woody Harrelson in “LBJ.”

By Ty Burr NOVEMBER 02, 2017

In “LBJ,” Woody Harrelson gives as good a performance as you can expect from an actor who appears to have someone else’s buttocks attached to his chin.

The movie, a historical biopic, concerns the ascendancy of Lyndon Baines Johnson to first the vice presidency and then the presidency of the United States. It’s an entertaining piece of Hollywood waxworks if you don’t set your expectations very high and it’s probably the best movie Rob Reiner has directed in more than a decade. (This only sounds like a compliment.)

In their efforts to make over the strapping Harrelson into the aging plug-ugly Texas politician, though, the make-up technicians have buried the actor under a bushel of prosthetics, wattles, and liver-spots. It’s very nearly a freak-show, or would be for a performer of less swagger.

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Luckily, Harrelson dominates the movie as Johnson dominated every room he walked into. Ornery, foul-mouthed, and funny, he alone saves “LBJ” from seeming as dull as Marc Shaiman’s ersatz-Copland score. The script, by first-time screenwriter Joey Hartstone, uses the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, as a dramatic pivot point, flashing back a few years to the start of the 1960 presidential race and then forging ahead into the early days of LBJ’s administration.

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The overarching theme is a good one: a born politician, canny pragmatist, and Senate majority leader — a man whose career was naturally leading to the White House — is forced to accept a position of supreme powerlessness as vice president. Ironically, he only ascends to the presidency through the death of the handsome, idealistic JFK, knowing he’ll never be as loved or admired even if he’s better suited to the job.

And Harrelson is alive to the drama of a backroom powerhouse neutered in the public square. Once his Johnson accepts the offer to be JFK’s running mate, the man who made fellow senators quail when called finds himself overseeing minor committees and unable to break through Bobby Kennedy’s protective cordon to reach the president. The star’s eyes burn with frustration and, knowing past Harrelson performances as we do, we wait for the explosion to come.

Instead, we get tragedy and the sight of a man stepping into another person’s shoes with regret. Jeffrey Donovan is surprisingly convincing as JFK and Michael Stahl-David makes RFK into a terrier-like rival to Johnson, sure that the wily Texas Democrat will torpedo the civil rights bill as soon as he gets the chance. The interactions between Johnson and the untested Kennedy circle, and between Johnson and members of the racist Southern caucus like Senator Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins, oozing folksy venom), are ripe with strategizing and horse-trading. As potted history goes, “LBJ” is an easy watch, but the 2016 HBO film “All the Way,” with Bryan Cranston re-creating his Tony-winning Broadway performance as Johnson, remains the better movie.

In fact, the subject might still make a terrific TV series if someone can ever get the rights to Robert Caro’s monumental biography of the 36th president (and if Caro ever finishes writing it). An LBJ biopic needs to be as big as the man himself, but the tight 98-minute running time of “LBJ” does no favors to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s underused Lady Bird Johnson, and it ultimately whittles a fascinating and flawed public figure down into a simplified hero of history.

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At its best, “LBJ” is a reminder of what competence in governance looks like, and there are plenty worse reasons to recommend it right now. But you can imagine what Johnson himself might say about this movie, and you certainly can’t print it.

★★

LBJ

Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Joey Hartstone. Starring Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Richard Jenkins. At Boston Common, Fenway, Kendall Square, West Newton, suburbs. 98 minutes. R (language that would burn a dug-in tick off a back-porch hound dog).

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Woody Harrelson Had To Smoke A Joint To Endure The Stress Of Dinner With Trump

 

Zack Kotzer 02 November, 2017

We’ve might’ve smoked a forest’s worth of trees to make it through 2017, but you have to hand it to Woody Harrelson. He’s had more direct exposure. In a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, the Oscar-nominated actor confessed that when he met currently sitting President Trump back in 2002, he needed to hit the stash just to survive the night.

“It was brutal,” said Harrelson. “I’ve never met a more narcissistic man.”

While it was over a decade ago, the surreal nature of the evening sounds just about right. Harrelson says he was invited over to the dinner by the ex-Minnesota governor and ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura, who was being courted by Donald Trump to become his running mate for the 2004 Democratic ticket. Trump obviously did not get very far in that election, and the candidacy went to John Kerry, as America loves thinking about Herman Munster.

In another consistent sounding anecdote, Harrelson said that Trump rambled endlessly about himself and his own achievements. Woody Harrelson then excused himself to smoke a joint so that his brain wouldn’t explode.

“I had to walk out halfway through to smoke a joint just to, like, steel myself for the rest of it,” said Harrelson.

“Is that what you told yourself?” responded Maher, riffing on the fact that Harrelson not smoking a joint probably would have been a bigger news story.

The subject came up because of Harrelson’s current turn as Lyndon B. Johnson in the new Rob Reiner film LBJ. The Kennedy successor had his own vulgarity streak. Harrelson said the two presidents’ rudeness isn’t comparable.
After decades of being one of Hollywood’s favorite potheads, Harrelson recently decided to take a hiatus from weed. Earlier this year Harrelson revealed he had quit in 2016, a curious decision for a man about to hang around a Star Wars movie set. Not trying to tempt him back to the green, Maher started cycling through photos of their Hawaiian trip this year, with a sober, neutral looking Woody, and the year before, mouth agape and a joint the size of a pepperoni stick.

“I’m just concerned about your happiness,” said Maher. “That’s a strong case,” replied Harrelson, “I’m about ready to fire up a hooter.”

I’m sure Trump will deny this account of the dinner or that Woody Harrelson ever existed shortly.

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11-6-17

‘Now is the time’ to set internal policy on med marijuana

BUSINESS

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com)  14 hours ago 93 views 




Arkansas employers are running out of prep time before medical marijuana becomes available, so it’s crucial to begin now defining internal policies and procedures, said Little Rock attorney J. Bruce Cross of Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus.

In an address to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce at the group’s First Friday Breakfast event on Friday (Nov. 3), Cross urged businesses and organizations to get familiar with four terms as they are defined by the recent Act 593 amendment passed earlier this year: employer, employee, “under the influence,” and “safety-sensitive positions.”

For the law’s purpose, employers are defined by the same standards of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, which means they employ nine or more employees in-state “for 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or proceeding calendar year,” Cross said, adding that employees follow the same ACRA standards and do not include independent contractors, employees who work for their immediate family, individuals participating in a specialized employment training program conducted by a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility, or individuals employed outside of Arkansas.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE, DEFINED
The trickier territory is in defining “under the influence” and “safety-sensitive positions,” Cross said. The former means symptoms of current use of marijuana that may negatively impact the performance of the job duties or constitute a threat to health or safety. This could include symptoms of the applicant’s or employee’s speech, walking, standing, physical dexterity, agility, and coordination, “or other irrational or unusual behavior inconsistent with the usual conduct of an applicant or employee,” Cross said.

It could also include negligence or carelessness in operating equipment, machinery, or production/manufacturing processes as well as a disregard for safety or involvement in an accident resulting in property damages, disruption to a production or manufacturing process, or injury.

Reasonable suspicious signs and symptoms, as the amendment defines them, might be in the employee’s inability to accurately gauge lengths of time and distance. Cross also advised employers to watch for hearing and vision impairment, visual/auditory hallucinations, inability to cope with sudden changes and/or emergencies, loss of balance, short-term memory loss, and unconcerned attitudes.

Other signs that might help employers make a “good faith” determination of marijuana-induced impairment might include decreased cognitive reasoning and motor coordination; inability to concentrate; and increased drowsiness, fatigue, and lethargy.

Cross warned employers not to move without appropriate documentation, advising that to document signs and symptoms and “have another manager witness and sign. Then, keep it in the employee’s records,” Cross said.

Employers under the law will still be allowed to have drug testing policies, “but to take adverse action against a qualifying patient, an employer must have a good faith belief that the employee was under the influence of marijuana at work, not just a positive drug test.”

According to Cross, good faith belief may be based on the following:
• observed conduct, behavior, or appearance;
• information reported by a person believed to be reliable;
• written, electronic, or verbal statements;
• lawful video surveillance;
• records of government agencies, law enforcement agencies, or courts;
• a warning label, usage standard, or other printed material that accompany instructions for usable marijuana;
• info from a physician, medical review officer, or dispensary; and
• and info from reputable reference sources in print or on the Internet.

A positive drug test result is perhaps the most obvious indicator, Cross said, but it is “not enough to take action for a non-safety sensitive position.” However, it is completely actionable for safety-sensitive positions, and that’s part of why employers should be defining those roles now if they haven’t already.

SAFETY-SENSITIVE POSITIONS, LIABILITIES
Safety-sensitive positions are defined in two ways, Cross said: by state/federal law and as designated in writing by an employer “in which a person performing the position while under the influence of marijuana may constitute a threat to health or safety.”

This could mean an employee authorized to carry a firearm, perform a life-threatening procedure, or work with confidential information or documents pertaining to criminal investigations. It also would apply to individuals working with hazardous or flammable materials, controlled substances, foods, or medicines, or any position in which a lapse of attention could result in injury, illness, or death, “including without limitation a position that includes the operating, repairing, maintaining, or monitoring of heavy equipment, machinery, aircraft, motorized watercraft, or motor vehicles as part of the job.”

He said the statute of limitations for employees to sue over termination is one year and Act 593 also capped employer liability based on size. For companies between 9 and 15 employees, the limit is $15,000. That increases to $50,000 for employers with up to 100 workers, and it tops out at $300,000 for the largest employers with at least 501 employees.

Employers who are deemed a “drug free workplace” to get the worker’s compensation discount or some other federal program are exempt from prosecution on workplace discrimination claims.

Cross also suggests employers use a medical review board to conduct their drug testing and consider adopting a fitness-for duty-policy.

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A state trooper was ordered to alter the arrest report of a judge’s daughter. Now he’s suing.

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By Andrea Estes NOVEMBER 07, 2017

Alli Bibaud had just crashed her car on Route I-190 in Worcester on the evening of Oct. 16. She reeked of alcohol and had what state Trooper Ryan Sceviour described as a “heroin kit,” including a dozen needles and a spoon. She admitted performing sex acts on men to support her heroin addiction, according to Sceviour’s official report, and offered him sex as well in return for leniency.

And she started ranting that her father was a judge.

“He’s going to kill me,” screamed Bibaud, the trooper reported.

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Two days later, Sceviour was awakened by a state trooper at the door of his home, who ordered Sceviour to drive 90 miles to the State Police barracks in Holden. There, he said he was disciplined and told to remove Bibaud’s references to sex and her father, Judge Timothy Bibaud,who is first justice of Dudley District Court and presides over its drug court.

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Now, Sceviour is suing top commanders of the State Police, including Colonel Richard D. McKeon, charging that they punished him and forced him to falsify records to avoid embarrassing the judge and his daughter, who faces several charges, including driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

“We expect the State Police administration to enforce the law, not break it,” said Sceviour’s lawyer, Lenny Kesten. “What they did to Trooper Sceviour is shameful.”

A State Police spokesman admitted that the order to change the report came directly from McKeon, commander of the 2,200-member State Police. However, the spokesman, David Procopio, said it’s perfectly acceptable for a supervisor to edit a police report. He also said that Sceviour was wrong to include comments in his report that were not relevant to Bibaud’s arrest.

“The revision consisted of removal of what the Colonel and senior commanders felt was a sensationalistic and inflammatory directly-quoted statement that made no contribution to proving the elements of the crimes with which she was charged,” Procopio explained in a statement.

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Procopio declined to say how McKeon learned about the contents of Bibaud’s police report. He also said Sceviour’s punishment was not technically discipline, but “an observation report for corrective action.”

Judge Bibaud declined to comment for this story, but the controversy has been brewing since a blog called Turtle Boy Sports alleged that Bibaud’s arrest report had been altered. In a statement to Worcester Magazine, which reported on the blog post, he denied any involvement in changing his daughter’s arrest report.

“I absolutely, vehemently deny making any contact with anybody” about the report, according to the magazine. He admitted that his daughter is sick and needs treatment. The lawsuit does not say the judge requested special treatment for his daughter.

Bibaud’s arrest report has become a flash point between State Police leadership and the union that represents troopers. Sergeant Jason Conant, who approved Sceviour’s initial report, also was reprimanded for not editing the report sufficiently himself, according to the lawsuit. In addition, troopers shredded notes about Bibaud made by a third trooper, Ali Rei, who administered drug tests to Bibaud and wrote that Bibaud admitted to performing oral sex to pay for drugs, according to the lawsuit.

“I am deeply troubled by the serious breach of ethics perpetrated by the colonel and his leadership team,” Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said in a written statement. “For State Police leadership to demand falsification of official police reports and deletion of the daily administrative record is criminal.”

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The Bibaud incident seemed routine to Sceviour when he first responded to a call for a car accident at 7:35 p.m. on Oct. 16. When he arrived, he found a heavily damaged 2000 Toyota Corolla and a 30-year-old woman outside the car.

She appeared “lethargic and groggy” and her eyes were “nearly completely closed,” according to the police report. She emitted an “immensely strong odor of alcohol,” the report said, and she failed several field sobriety tests.

Sceviour checked her criminal record: she had an open case for possession of heroin.

“Bibaud then began hysterically crying and screaming that she was ‘sick’ and ‘a heroin addict,’ ” the police report said.

As he drove her to the Holden police barracks, she said her father was a judge and that he was going to be furious. “Sceviour did not believe her,” according to Sceviour’s lawsuit, which is scheduled to be filed today in federal court in Boston.

At the station, Bibaud registered nearly three times the legal blood-alcohol limit in two breathalyzer tests.

“I was unable to take Bibaud’s fingerprints as she was in and out of consciousness, trying not to vomit, and making lewd comments throughout booking,” Sceviour wrote in the police report.

Based on Sceviour’s original report, Bibaud was charged with operating under the influence of narcotics, operating under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, and failure to have a valid inspection sticker. She was released and picked up by her father.

Two days later — and a day after Sceviour filed his report on Bibaud — a trooper came to his house to summon him to Holden, while a supervisor, Lieutenant James Fogarty, left two voicemails on his phone, according to the suit.

The first voicemail, reviewed by the Globe, indicated that Sceviour was to immediately report to the barracks as a result of an order directly from the colonel regarding the arrest of “a judge’s daughter.”

At the barracks, Fogarty told Sceviour and Conant, who were accompanied by their union representative, Jeffrey Gilbert, that he had been ordered to issue negative “supervisory observation reports” to the two troopers to reprimand them for including certain statements made by Bibaud.

Supervisory observation reports, both positive and negative, go into troopers’ personnel files and can be used, for example, if they are looking for an assignment to an elite unit.

But Fogarty made it clear he thought Sceviour had done nothing wrong and said he would have done the same thing, according to the suit.

Then Sceviour and Gilbert met with Major Susan Anderson. She, too, said she didn’t think Sceviour had done anything wrong, but it “was ordered by the colonel,” Sceviour quoted her as saying.

According to the suit, she produced a marked-up copy of Sceviour’s report, with the proposed deletions in ink, and ordered him to make these changes: remove her offer of sex for leniency as well as her claims to having performed sex acts for heroin. In addition, the marked-up report eliminated Bibaud’s quote: “My dad is a [expletive] judge, he’s going to kill me.”

“This is an order, Jeff, we all have bosses,” Anderson said, according to the lawsuit.

Sceviour told Anderson that he was uncomfortable making the changes and called the order “morally vacant,” according to the lawsuit. He said if this was “some random person and not a judge’s kid” this wouldn’t be happening. According to Sceviour, Anderson agreed.

Both Anderson and Fogarty declined to comment.

Sceviour said he felt he had no choice but to comply. He was instructed to deliver the edited report to the prosecutor while Anderson said she would give a copy to Bibaud’s defense lawyer.

The lawsuit alleges that State Police officials wanted to quietly replace the original report at the courthouse with the revised one without seeking formal court approval. But they scrapped the plan after they realized they would probably be discovered, the suit alleges.

Instead, Jeff Travers, a top lieutenant to the Worcester County assistant district attorney, made an oral motion to redact the original report — removing almost all of the sentences State Police officials wanted out. That motion was allowed. The new report also does not contain her mug shot.

The lawsuit also contends that it wasn’t until the police report was redacted that the case was transferred out of Worcester County, where Bibaud presides as first justice of the Dudley District Court and where he worked as a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office for many years. The case was ultimately moved to the Framingham District Court on Oct. 23, a week after the accident, by the chief justice of the district court system, Paul Dawley.

A spokesman for Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. couldn’t say why Early hadn’t requested the case be moved out of Worcester himself.

Judge Bibaud, in his remarks to Worcester Magazine, said his daughter was not being treated leniently.

“She’s going to taste her medicine like she deserves,” he said.

Bibaud herself didn’t appear for her arraignment in Framingham District Court last month. Court papers show that she was admitted on Oct.17 to a rehab facility in Worcester, where she was reported to be “participating in all the assigned groups, educational sessions, and individual counseling.”

“A discharge date is yet to be determined,” officials of the rehab facility wrote to the court.

Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.

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Citing Health Benefits, Norway Reduced The Punishment For LSD Possession To Community Service

Miroslav Tomoski  04 November, 2017

 

Under any other circumstances, the lesson of this story would be rather straightforward. Don’t leave the door to your apartment open while you’ve got a heap of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) laying around. Especially while the police have been tailing you for days. But this is Norway, and as it turns out, the days of unbridled paranoia are coming to a silent end at the hands of activist scientists and judges who put facts before fear.

For a computer programmer from Fredrikstad, Norway named Henrik Akselsen that fear was very real when police entered his apartment and found a few tabs of LSD left over from the 100 blotters he had smuggled into the country. Law enforcement would have preferred he serve a prison sentence, but the courts had other ideas.

In the absence of a criminal record, the court decided that Akselsen would be better off serving 45 hours of community service for what amounted to simple possession of LSD. The more significant factor was that this case had made it all the way to Norway’s Supreme Court, meaning that the decision has set a major precedent for future cases of drug possession.

When you consider where this progressive change of mind is coming from it comes as no surprise. Scandinavian countries are often praised by the international community for their forward-thinking policies on everything from healthcare to immigration.

Drugs, however, are a different story in which these Nordic countries have some of Europe’s strictest zero-tolerance policies. Sweden is so notoriously anti-drug that they’ve even refused to offer needle exchange programs for heroin addicts on the belief that it condones drug use. Norway, on the other hand, seems to have reluctantly accepted these programs as they were once considered the ‘drug overdose capital of Europe’ according to the New York Times. Yet as a result of scare tactics and anti-drug campaigns, the country has resorted to extremes which even limit the use of generic drugs like Aspirin.

It is tiny victories like swapping prison for community service in cases of possession are actually giant leaps forward. In the case of LSD, it’s worlds apart from what the rest of the world is doing – especially for such a rare substance.

According to national data on substance use from 2017, cannabis is the most widely used substance while LSD doesn’t even make the list. Norway outlawed LSD in the 70s at the same time the rest of the world was convinced to join in on the drug war. But in recent decades they have begun to loosen restrictions on substances in general.

Photo via Flickr/Antonio Roberts

Simple possession of cannabis for example usually results in a fine and a criminal record rather than jail time. But the Norwegian branch of NORML, a cannabis reform NGO that also operates in US and Canada, insists that current programs like the mandatory urinalysis tests imposed on youth are a massive invasion of privacy.

Still, Norway has made science-based advances that others in Europe and North America have yet to accept. As of 2013, the government has allowed for a level of nuance in scheduling that is not seen in many other countries. For example, in the United States, Cannabis, Heroin, and LSD are all listed under Schedule 1 despite their chemically distinct characteristics.

Much of the credit for evidence-based policy changes go to advocacy groups like EmmaSofia. That organization, which gets its name from the Norwegian word for Ecstasy and the Greek word for wisdom, is the brainchild of a husband and wife team of scientists; Pål Johansen and Teri Krebs. Their work, among others, was cited in Akselsen’s court case and has helped to slowly change the minds of policymakers.

“Though there is still is a great deal of apprehension towards the use of drugs other than alcohol and tobacco,” Secretary-General of EmmaSophia, Jørn Mjelva, told HERB via email, “our experience is that both politicians and the general population have a great deal of respect for scientific evidence.”

Over the years they’ve worked on studies like the 2012 propaganda buster they published in PLOS One which looked at 21,967 people who claimed to be long-term psychedelics consumers. They found that “There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics,” and mental health issues. Instead, they found that in some cases experiences with LSD resulted in an improvement of mental health.

“[Politicians’] commitment to evidence-based policy makes is hard for them to ignore the findings of research done in the recent years.” Says Mjelva, “Obviously there are risks…” He continues, “However, the scientific consensus is clear that psychedelics, used either recreationally or therapeutically, are among the safest drugs (both legal and illegal) we know of, and significantly safer than the opioids used both for medical or recreational purposes.”

That work has been backed up by other activists in the scientific community like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) which recently received the FDA’s “Breakthrough Therapy” designation for MDMA as a treatment for PTSD.

“We are encouraged by the decision of Norway’s Supreme Court to review the penalty level of LSD-related crimes and to sentence Henrik Akselsen to community service – instead of incarceration,” said Ismail Ali of MAPS in a statement to HERB, “Prohibitionist drug control schemes and punitive, criminal penalties for drug possession and use cause measurable harm to users and to society. We encourage other governments to, like Norway, consider compassionate, evidence-based policies.”

Though drug offenses on the books still demand strict penalties which can be as high as 21 years for trafficking, today the police and courts are largely given the leeway to deal with drug offenders as they see fit. It’s a recognition that a more reasoned and evidence-based approach is the way to go and with its activist scientists and judges Norway is leading that charge.

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Former NBA Commissioner Responsible For Strict Drug Rules Now Thinks Weed Should Be Allowed

 

Miroslav Tomoski

 

11

 

05 November, 2017

 

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David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA speaks at a press conference (Photo by Stephen Pond - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern made some pretty surprising statements in an interview with retired NBA player Al Harrington for an UNINTERRUPTED documentary called The Concept of Cannabis.

“I’m now at the point where personally I think [cannabis] probably should be removed from the banned list,” Stern told  Al Harrington at a meeting in New York.

Having retired in 2014, Stern was only the fourth man to be appointed a commissioner and had been at the post since 1984. He’s been widely criticized for playing favorites and changing rules on the fly with conspiracy theories dotting his entire career and still swirling around the internet. But what Stern is most well-known for among cannabis enthusiasts are the strict drug rules he implemented.

This change of heart has come as a shock to the army of critics he developed among basketball fans. He credited his decision to accept cannabis to a series by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Stern chalks his past opposition to weed up to the popular opinion at the time saying, “people accepted the generally held wisdom that marijuana was a gateway drug and that if you start smoking, you’re liable to go on to bigger and better stuff.”

Nonetheless, he admitted that cannabis consumption has been widespread throughout the league. Something which Harrington thinks is still the norm today. “We come from the whole ‘school of not snitching,” Harrington says, “but I would say there’s probably over seventy percent of athletes in all major sports that smoke marijuana.”

DENVER, CO – MARCH 23: Al Harrington #7 of the Denver Nuggets looks on as he awaits a free throw against the San Antonio Spurs at the Pepsi Center on March 23, 2011, in Denver, Colorado. Harrington had a game-high 27 points as the Nuggets defeated the Spurs 115-112. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Harrington entered the marijuana industry when a botched knee surgery forced him to retire after 17-years on the court. When a friend turned him on to CBD as a treatment, he replaced his pain meds with medical cannabis and has since invested over $3 million in the industry.

In their short interview on the subject, Stern said he thinks the reason there hasn’t been any pressure to pursue to enact marijuana reform is that the pharma companies haven’t figured out how to make money from it. While in the NBA, he believes that the issue came down to the lack of a “proper spokesperson.”

Though Harrington thinks there’s certainly many spokespeople in the NBA to choose from. “Not only the players,” He says, “I think the coaches consume; I think the owners consume.”

As for the current Commissioner Adam Silver, in a conversation with Redditor Ed Hamden, Silver allegedly said he was, “very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana,” and that the NBA should begin discussions about allowing it as a treatment.

That conversation was corroborated in August when the NBA sent Silver’s comments to Slam saying, “I would say it’s something we will look at. I’m very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana. My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it. Hopefully, there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it.”

Al Harrington #7 of the Denver Nuggets in action against Amar’e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks on January 21, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Nuggets defeated the Knicks 119-114. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

However, the NBA’s official line on cannabis is still far from a straight shot to acceptance. Their most recent response to Stern’s comments was more cautious than those made earlier by the current commissioner.

In a late October Tweet from sports reporter Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, he said, “While Commissioner Silver has said that we are interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, our position remains unchanged regarding the use by current NBA players of marijuana for recreational purposes.”




Despite that caution, Stern and Silver’s comments seem to be part of a larger pattern of acceptance toward cannabis in the world of professional sports. In addition to a number of athletes leaving their professional gaming careers behind to enter the industry, the leagues themselves have begun to move slowly toward reform.

In August, the NFL offered to co-operate with their player’s union in order to test the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Meanwhile, the World Anti-Doping Agency is set to remove CBD from its list of banned substances as of January 2018.

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We caught up with Gilbert Shelton, mastermind of the iconic comic series, about a new compilation that surveys a half-century of his cannabis-blasted cartoon characters.

11/1/2017by Mike McPadden




Exploding forth from the same psychedelic marijuana-smoke mushroom cloud that lit the world with the underground comic book visionaries on the order of Robert Crumb (Zap Comix), Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead), and Vaughn Bodé (Cheech Wizard), Gilbert Shelton created perhaps the most iconic cannabis-blasted cartoon characters of all: The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

For 50 years now, the titular trio — Freewheelin' Franklin Freek, Phineas Phreak, and Fat Freddy Freekowtski — have boogied and blasted their way through countless weed-wacked shenanigans that, no matter what the specific details, always come down to the Bros attempt to score schwag, charm the ladies, and outrun The Man… often with hilariously unsuccessful results.

Fifty Freakin' Years of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is a Golden Anniversary compendium loaded with fresh Freak material that includes Gilbert Shelton's musings on a half-century of high, heady cartooning and FFB parodies by Crumb, Hunt Emerson, and other eyeball-bending giants.

Gilbert Shelton took time to talk to MERRY JANE about 50 years of fabulous, furry, freakiness. Any stoner library that's missing this milestone book can only be considered, at best, half-baked.

MERRY JANE: Fifty Freakin' Years of the Fabulously Furry Freak Brothers — what do you think about when you think about that reality?
Gilbert Shelton: Fifty years! How old we are getting! And marijuana is still illegal in most places. But there is hope.

How did the Freak Brothers initially come to be? Who do you see as their comic forerunners?
The early Freak Brothers were published in the Austin, Texas, weekly underground newspaper, The Rag. I was in agreement with the (leftist) editorial stance of this paper, but I saw it as being visually uninteresting, so I proposed putting in comic strips in order to bring in more new readers, like mainstream newspapers traditionally did.

Then one night I watched a double feature movie bill at the Austin rock venue The Vulcan Gas Company — one film of the Marx Brothers and the other with The Three Stooges. I walked out thinking, "I could do something that good."

So with the help of a film student at the University of Texas, Renée Tooley, I made a five-minute film entitled, Texas Hippies March on the Capitol. The first Freak Brothers strip was done as an advertisement for the film. But everyone liked the comic strip better than the film, so I gave up my film-directing career and went with comix. The only copy of the film itself has been lost, so we will never know.

The Freak Brothers have been hugely influential in popular culture. What's an example of where you think they've made a direct impact?
The Cheech and Chong film Up in Smoke dealt with the same subject, but it perpetuated the myth of marijuana being a drug sold to naive American kids (Chong) by wily Mexican dealers (Cheech).

What's the difference between the "freaks" of 1967 and the "freaks" of 2017 — not just the Freak Brothers, but the fans who love them?
The same big questions remain unanswered. The Freak Brothers appeal to the anti-authoritarian readers, as always.

Marijuana has figured profoundly in your work. How has that changed over the course of 50 years — not just for you, but as you see it in society?
It hasn't changed for me, except that I can't smoke as much of the stuff as I could in my twenties. The weed has gotten better and stronger over the years, I hear, but I can't afford that really expensive grass. I would still be happy with the quality of that ten-dollars-an-ounce boo that we had in the '50s.

Tell us your all-time dream cast of actors, from any era, to play the Freak Brothers. 
Since the Freak Brothers are perpetually thirty years old, I am not familiar with any actors that age. All-time? John Belushi for Fat Freddy. Or Vic Morrow? Clint Eastwood for Freewheelin' Franklin?

My agent Manfred Mroczkowski in California is having ongoing discussions with film and television people. Manfred has sold the rights to the Freak Brothers seven or eight times, and each time nothing gets made and the rights revert to me. Maybe it's better that way — I don't have to worry about a bad movie being made.

Where do you, and the Brothers, go from here?
We're keeping on keeping on. As you will notice; none of the new stories in the Freak Brothers' fiftieth anniversary book have anything to do with marijuana. But the subject is far from over. Me, I'll be puttering in my garden in rural France.





















Pot Newwsws for 10-10-17

Mystery behind fatal plane crash dogs ‘American Made’

BY DANIEL HOPSICKER · OCTOBER 2, 2017

 

The word which best describes the new movie ‘American Made’ isn’t “boffo.” It’s “manslaughter.”




No one in the future will recall the opening numbers for ‘American Made, a movie that’s supposedly about Barry Seal.  A typical industry headline:”Tom Cruise’s ‘American Made’ Flying Low With $17M Bow.”

None of the interesting dish on the new Tom Cruise vehicle ‘American Made’ is about the movie itself, which turns out to be a pink cotton-candy confection featuring Tom Cruise, his sunglasses, and his ever-widening grin. All of this is accompanied by intense levels of frenetic activity designed to make the ingredients seem important.

Everything about the deadly plane crash during production of ‘AMERICAN MADE’ vibes hinky. The people involved in the deadly accident are not who they seem.

Instead of a “madcap 80’s romp, the logline for ‘American Made’ should be “Two men died making a frivolous movie.”

One week before ‘American Made’ opened, news broke that the estates of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl, were blaming, at least partially, Cruise and director Liman for the crash.

Asked whether he had a comment on the lawsuit, Doug Liman responded, “No. Just thatI’m a pilot and Tom Cruise is a pilot. I don’t know anything specific about the accident, because it didn’t happen during the filming. They were just moving one of the airplanes. I was just going to say that it’s just a reminder — something all pilots know — which is that flying is really dangerous. Not in commercial planes, by the way.”

They were just “plane movers.” Seems we’ve heard that one before.

Ankling out of harm’s way

Flying back to the production’s base in Medellin didn’t happen during filming? Because cameras weren’t rolling when the plane flew into a mountain? Liman, a highly-competent director, might have made an even better lawyer.  But the explanation is not likely to absolve the director from blame.

His star, Tom Cruise—who’s nowhere to be found—seems to have voted with his feet.

“Another big factor that has slowed American Made‘s turnstiles is that Cruise isn’t out there aggressively selling the movie in his standard globe-trotting style, “reported Deadline Hollywood.

“More specifically, there haven’t been any world premieres where Cruise is known to stroll the red carpet for two hours, speaking to fans and signing autographs.”

“Some industry journalists concluded Cruise is avoiding interviews due to the death of the two pilots during production, and the fact that their estates are suing the production.”

The deadly consequences of “Limania” 

‘American Made’ isn’t about Barry Seal. It merely uses his name for publicity value.   What the movie is really about is Tom Cruise, a happy-go-lucky adventurer with a big toothy grin.

His character should have been given a generic drug trafficker name, like “Bolivia Bob.”

Through the simple expedient of pretending Barry Seal’s drug trafficking career with the CIA never happened, Cruise and director Doug Liman concoct a weightless confection that adds nothing to American’s knowledge of government involvement in the blizzard of cocaine that defined the 1980’s.

It is a breathtakingly arrogant appropriation of American history.

Now that same arrogance—which film crews long ago dubbed “Limania”—has led to the loss of two lives. Working for him is the fact that, as he’s quick to mention, he’s got “ties” with the CIA.




The director is notorious for things like having made a tired film crew on ‘The Bourne Identity’ work overtime into the night to light a forest so he could play paintball.

A flurry of lawsuits

The crash has developed into a huge legal situation. The two insurance companies involved have each filed lawsuits. Both believe they can squirm out of liability for the crash. They claim that epic hanky-panky on the set— they leave the particulars vague—frees them from fiduciary responsibility.

One of the lawsuits  quotes startling emails written by one of the two dead pilots, Alan Purwin, who was, in effect, speaking from beyond the grave.  To an associate back in Hollywood, Purwin, one of Hollywood’s most accomplished helicopter stuntman, wrote “American Made was the most dangerous project I’ve ever encountered.”

“You can not imagine how difficult the air scenes with Tom Cruise and the whole air crew are,” he complained in another email. “Each time, it is only a very narrow ridge between one safe operation and an accident.”

“DL (Doug Liman) and TC (Tom Cruise) are adding entire scenes and aerial shots on the fly. Had to bring in Uni Safety to help wrangle them. In the last 48 hours, this has become the most insane s— I’ve ever dealt with,” the note said.  Purwin added that there was one instance that required tremendous skill to ensure ‘TC (Tom Cruise) Caesar and I wouldn’t be coming home in a box.’”

According to the lawsuit, Purwin also wrote, “You have no idea the exposure TC and the entire Aerial Team is realizing every time we get in the air. There’s a very ‘thin line’ between keeping all aerial activities safe and having an accident. Trust me on this!”

Families’ lawsuits blame Liman and Cruise

The lawsuits filed by the families of the two dead pilots accuse Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman of “negligence.”  In court records, the litigants accuse the production companies and other parties of behaving ‘unlawfully and carelessly.”

According to one local pilot, the weather conditions weren’t suitable for flying. He suggested that the pilots weren’t trained in how to fly in Colombia. I fly there regularly, and I would have stayed on the ground that day,” he said.  “You have to have experience to fly in Colombia. You cannot fly here like you fly in Miami, where there’s not a mountain anywhere. If you fly in South America, you have to be very trained in the conditions.”

An executive producer sent a complaint to the film’s insurance company before the accident, the lawsuits claim, directly criticizing Cruise and Liman’s on-set approach.

“Tom Cruise’s ‘insane’ and ‘dangerous’ demands caused death of pilot, family alleges” read a typical headline about the lawsuits filed by the estates of the deceased.

The lawsuits cite “Tom Cruise and Doug Liman’s “desire to film a high-risk, action-packed motion picture” as being partly responsible for the accident. Additional scenes were added on the fly, the suits charge. The pilots involved didn’t have proper training to handle the added scenes, some of which were shot in dangerous weather.

“The demands of filming in Colombia, together with Cruise’s and Liman’s enthusiasm for multiple takes of lavish flying sequences, added hours to every filming day and added days to the schedule,” the court papers said.

Mystery pilot Carlos Berl

Three people, all pilots, were aboard the doomed flight. But only two of them—Alan Purwin and Jimmy Garland—had a reason to be there.

The third pilot was Venezuelan (or Colombian, accounts differ) Carlos Berl, did not.

Carlos Berl had never before worked on a movie production. Carlos Berl had never before flown an unforgiving twin-engine Piper Aerostar 600.

The latest filings in his family’s lawsuit for negligence reveal some startling new information: Carlos Berl did not want to be there, and there are even indications that he may have been coerced.

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September 25, 2017     

British Columbia aims to pass recreational marijuana rules in ’18

British Columbia’s government plans to pass legislation next spring regulating recreational marijuana, a move that will have vast implications for dispensaries, lounges and other small businesses already operating in the province’s thriving gray market.

The province is also asking the public to share their views by Nov. 1 on where cannabis should be sold, consumed and grown for private use, according to CBC News.

The ruling New Democratic Party hasn’t announced specific plans yet.

But British Columbia isn’t expected to take Ontario’s lead in selling adult-use cannabis only at state-run outlets and limiting consumption to private homes, because the two provincial markets are fundamentally different.

Although MMJ storefront operations are illegal under federal law, Vancouver and Victoria have issued a limited number of business licenses to medical cannabis dispensaries and lounges in recent years, while authorities there have long struggled to get a handle on the local black market.

Earlier this month, Premier John Horgan said British Columbia will be ready when the federal government legalizes recreational cannabis next summer and signaled that private entrepreneurs may play a role in the province’s retail sector.

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September 29, 2017     

Canada could add 150,000 cannabis jobs – some with salaries nearing six digits





By Matt Lamers

Canada’s medical marijuana sector is continuing its blistering pace of growth, bringing with it more jobs and higher, more competitive salaries.

The industry could add another 150,000 jobs over the next couple of years, according to one estimate, and a recent survey showed that salaries are more mainstream than ever.

And while rising wages are helping some well-capitalized companies lure people from mature industries, the pace of hiring is expected to create growing pains for other businesses.

Hiring is picking up speed because Canada’s licensed producers are scaling up their operations to supply the medical cannabis market and prepare for the launch of next year’s recreational market.

“As an industry, we’re not only in a growth phase, but we’re also scaling up for legalization in the middle of next year,” said Cam Battley, executive vice president of Aurora Cannabis.

“I expect employment in this sector to increase extremely rapidly over the next 12 to 24 months.”

Aurora employed fewer than 10 people at the beginning of 2015. It now has over 300 employees in its fold, and that could more than double over the next 12 months.

The company’s market valuation recently surpassed 1 billion Canadian dollars ($822 million) on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Rising salaries

As employment rises, so do salaries.

“Leading companies in our sector like Aurora are no longer startups. We’re in a growth phase,” Battley said. “As a result, salaries for our companies are becoming competitive with other leading industries such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.”

A survey by Calgary, Alberta-based staffing firm Cannabis At Work demonstrates as much. It found that the average maximum base salary for five of the highest-paying jobs in the industry were:

Marketing manager (CA$110,000)

Senior accountant (CA$98,340)

Quality assurance person ($90,750)

Human resources manager (CA$87,057)

Cultivation manager (CA$87,050)

The survey involved companies that are worth a combined CA$3 billion and employ over 700 people.

It also found the average maximum base salaries for cultivation technicians, processing assistants and administrative assistants were CA$42,800, CA$46,000 and CA$51,000, respectively.

Industry executives say the salaries are an indication people are joining the medical marijuana sector from a range of mature industries.

“What surprised me the most was how mainstream the salaries seemed,” said Alison McMahon, Cannabis At Work’s founder and CEO. “The salaries are comparable to roles in other industries.”

McMahon expects the cannabis industry to add 150,000 jobs over the next couple of years.

In-demand jobs

Analysts see employment opportunities in every aspect of the industry, but they expect demand will be especially high for professional services such as marketing, accounting, branding and cultivation.

“A position we see a lot of demand for is quality assurance person,” McMahon said. “When you’re putting in an application to be an LP, you have to have your QAP on the file from Day One.

“The challenge with that is initially there’s not a lot of work to be done until the company gets its cultivation license (which takes two to four years). That’s a challenging role for companies and will continue to be that way.”

More jobs will also be available at companies in the ancillary market, particularly those supplying equipment and technology to licensed producers.

“We’re going to see a lot more growth in ancillary industry employment opportunities as we get more clarity from the government and as consumer trends develop,” McMahon said.

Anyone with marketing and branding experience in the tobacco industry could be highly sought after, suggested Hugo Alves, president of Toronto-based Cannabis Wheaton.

Other candidates who might command higher salaries are those with experience in a professional environment in a highly regulated industry.

“There’s going to be undersupply (for those roles),” Alves said. “The people who have that experience are going to be very highly sought after. It’s starting to happen.

“You also need the operational employees who make all of these new facilities work properly,” he added. “Growing cannabis in a regulated environment is not easy when you have to do it consistently and at scale. You need qualified people to run a facility efficiently and profitably.”

Growing pains

Giving a boost to job growth is soaring demand for marijuana, which could total roughly 150,000 kilograms (330,693 pounds) next year for medical and recreational cannabis.

Licenses are being issued to new producers faster than ever, and well-capitalized companies have used a funding windfall to undertake massive facility expansions.

“Licenses are being granted more frequently,” said Alves, “and companies with expansion plans, where they’re growing 10 times on their production capacity, are going to encounter operational issues unless they can also scale their skilled labor force.”

The rapid growth brings up a number of key questions for companies, he said. Namely:

Are you taking on people who are going to align with the company’s professional environment?

Is there going to be high employee turnover?

To what extent can your quality assurance people ensure that a large, new, workforce follows standard operating procedures?

“Onboarding a large number of people in a short period of time is always going to be a challenge for any rapidly growing sector,” Aurora’s Battley said. “In addition, we have a wide range of areas of expertise we need to fill out, from cultivation, to high-end scientific positions, to management roles.

“I don’t think that leading companies like Aurora are going to have any difficulty finding talent,” he added. “This is a very exciting industry right now and perhaps the fastest growing in Canada. It’s attracting the curious, the talented and the bold.”

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A New Religion That Lets You Smoke Weed In Church Is Now Accepting Believers

 

Tyler Fyfe  02 October, 2017




Inside a century-old church perched in a Denver suburb sits a congregation challenging tired definitions of religion. The church poses a few simple questions: why can’t a church burn candles and blunts? Why can’t a church have both an altar and a video game arcade? According to Lee Molloy, co-founder of The International Church of Cannabis, spirituality should never come with a set of terms and conditions.

A few years ago, Steve Berke and Lee Molloy found themselves in Colorado drawn by the prospect of becoming involved in the state’s steadily growing cannabis economy.  Steve Berke’s family had just acquired a 113-year-old church with the intention of converting it into condos or a novelty-mansion for a millionaire NFL player. After witnessing first hand Denver’s of-the-people cannabis culture, Molloy and Berke got an idea; what if they used the building for what it was originally intended? In April 2016, they opened the International Church of Cannabis.

From the outside, the red-bricked columns covered in creeping English ivy look no different than any other parish church found in a sleepy suburb across America.  Inside, though, it’s like if St. Peter’s Basilica had been painted during a Grateful Dead Concert. Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel designed the mural in just six days of freehand painting, creating a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and intricate patterns that conjure memories of summer nights on acid. The church also features an arcade, couches, a rec-room for potlucks and a stage with overhead lighting so that parishioners can listen to live music as they blow milky tokes during service.

DENVER, CO – APRIL 20: Alex Sievert of Denver, Colorado and his sister Molly Sievert of Los Angeles, California check out the artwork at the opening of the International Church of Cannabis in Denver, Co. on April 20, 2017. The opening coincides with 420 Day celebrations advocating for the legalization of cannabis nationwide.The artwork in the chapel was painted by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

But it’s not all entertainment. At its core, it’s philosophy. Elevationism is a new class of religion that forgoes idolism, restrictive dogma, and moral judgment. The belief goes something like this: dogma acts like a leash holding back people from spiritual exploration and self-discovery. The International Church of Cannabis believes that all religions are essentially saying the same thing—treat people and the earth with the same dignity you want for yourself.

According to Molloy, cannabis is more than a plant— it’s a tool that can help users transcend socially-ingrained notions of what spirituality is and the preconceptions of who we are as individuals. Molloy tells me “Cannabis can help give us access to the source code of our brain, it helps us to break down our delusions and elevate our reality.” He says one of those delusions is the inertia of prayer. Rather than craning their necks in silent incantation, Elevationists prefer to volunteer their time.

But the church hasn’t been sheltered from controversy. Restricted by Colorado’s lawful consumption laws, it was forced to act as a private entity. Their plans to host concerts have drawn accusations of business interests being disguised as religion. Rep. Dan Pabon went as far to say that the church is offensive to religions everywhere. Still, The International Church of Cannabis is well within its First Amendment rights and in compliance with Initiative 300, which bans anyone under the age of 21 from being present while weed smoke unfurls.

Molloy responds to suspicions mildly,  “I understand that people are afraid of change and things they do not understand, and it is true that Elevationism is a little out-of-the-box to those trapped in traditions. However, we have been trying to prove ourselves as good neighbors, and I believe that time will one day vindicate us.”

Molloy thinks that these types of negative reactions are the result of the couch-locked stoner branding that has misled people since Reefer Madness and that’s since been embraced by comedies like Half Baked and Harold and Kumar.

Molloy says “it is worth noting that this narrative has been self-inflicted by the likes of Cheech and Chong, along with other unimaginative, decades-old caricatures in the media.”




Far more diverse than the stoner label, Elevationists are mothers, fathers, doctors, 9/11 responders, digital media consultants and everything in between. As Denver marijuana attorney Christian Sederberg pointed out in a piece in The Cannabist, Elevationists smoking marijuana in a church is no more unusual than when Christians drink red wine.  If we are going to be completely honest with ourselves, when compared to a room full of people pretending they’re drinking the blood of Christ, the imagery of parishioners smoking a flower is a lot less creepy.

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October 2, 2017     

Tilray exports medical cannabis to New Zealand for national dispersal

Tilray has started supplying medical marijuana to the New Zealand market for nationwide distribution, filling the nation’s cannabis supply shortfall two weeks after its government lifted restrictions on cannabidiol.

British Columbia-based Tilray’s medical marijuana will be available in pharmacies across New Zealand, the company said in a news release.

The Ministry of Health’s liberalized rules on cannabidiol went into effect Sept. 6, allowing medical practitioners to prescribe CBD products to patients. Previously, the ministry had to sign off on all cannabidiol requests.

Canadian medical cannabis exports have surged this year, as licensed producers use overseas shipments as a way to establish local partnerships and gain a foothold in foreign markets.

In February, Tilray exported its first New Zealand-bound shipment of medical cannabis for the exclusive use of Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

Tilray continues to be a major player in the international medical cannabis. Deals so far this year include:

Building a medical marijuana production facility in Portugal to serve the European Union

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October 3, 2017     

Acquisitions to help Aurora gear up for Canada’s home grow MJ market

Aurora Cannabis has purchased two companies as part of its strategy to tap Canada’s rapidly growing market for patients who cultivate their own medical marijuana and ultimately for consumers who choose to grow their own cannabis after recreational legalization takes effect next summer.

Aurora, traded as ACB on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is shelling out 3.9 million Canadian dollars ($3.1 million) in cash to acquire BC Northern Lights Enterprises and Urban Cultivator, both based in British Columbia.

The transactions also involve CA$500,000 worth of Aurora common shares and warrants and potentially another CA$4 million, based on performance milestones for the two companies.

BC Northern Lights Enterprises and Urban Cultivator, leaders in self-contained indoor hydroponic grow systems, are on pace to collectively generate CA$5 million in revenue in the current fiscal year.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, the number of Canadians registered to grow their own medical cannabis or those designated as growers for others skyrocketed 242%, to 6,800.

The industry expects that growth to continue, with further home grow expansion anticipated after recreational cannabis is legalized June 1.

The federal government has proposed allowing up to four plants per household for recreational use. So far, Ontario has indicated it’s open to the idea, while Quebec might ban home cultivation.

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HC Tampons Are a Thing and They’re Ending Monthly Torture

 

Charlie Tetiyevsky 03 October, 2017

Back in the day, before I could get access to fancy CBD balms or THC oils, I used to curl up in bed and wait for my weed guy to bring me strong chocolate edibles. They helped to relieve my cramps—not necessarily because of the pain-relieving properties of magnesium or caffeine, but because a high dose of edible bud was all that seemed to ease otherwise sharp, nagging pain that kept me bedridden.

At the time I didn’t much care about the explanation, but it turns out there’s a science as to why THC tampons and topical period products have been spreading across the medical marijuana market to much fanfare. Though research specifically on periods and cannabisis generally unavailable—the result of bias against studying both menstruation and marijuana—a 2000 study by Joy J. Mack discusses the benefits of using weed to alleviate muscle spasticity. Her focus is specifically on those with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, but similar muscle spasticity is a symptom present in many individuals dealing with menstruation.

The key, Mack’s research explains, is that

Spasms are thought to originate in areas of the brain that control movement, including several sites with abundant cannabinoid receptors.

Small doses of cannabis were shown to increase animation among rodents who were feeling pain (though larger doses seemed to give them couch-lock). In an experiment on a 30-year-old with MS, a simple 5 mg dose of THC steadied his handwriting significantly.

The research done on MS patients cannot, of course, entirely be mapped onto the experiences of menstrual cramping in women, certain non-binary people, and a number of transgender men. But other similarities exist between the two circumstances: both the MS patients and people in the throes of PMS and menstruation experience nausea and anxiety, two symptoms that have been proven fixable by THC and CBD respectively.

Juhy13/E+/Getty Images

Inflammation is also a significant part of menstrual cramping, the reason why anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen can help, and it’s a symptom that CBD has been shown to relieve in arthritis patients. CBD passes into the bloodstream through the vaginal walls, eventually making its way past the blood-brain barrier and into brain receptors related to muscle relaxation. All of this makes the location of the suppository a prime spot for uterine pain relief.

And even without modern research on the explicit connection between marijuana and cramps, there are studies of the body’s endocannabinoid systems that support the hundreds of years of precedence for the use of marijuana-based pain relief.

Some cramp-relieving marijuana products make a point of taking into account that THC and CBD are both necessary to reduce symptoms. Foria Relief “tampons”—gooey, cocoa butter-based vaginal suppositories—include 10 mg of CBD along with THC.

Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

Plenty of people are singing the praises of the product: Whitney Bell wrote in KINDLANDthat it “slowly creeps up on you” like an edible to the point that she was “almost numb down there.” Stefanie Jesney explained to Harper’s Bazaar that she felt that her “abdominal muscles released and a calm akin to a very restorative yoga class washed over [her] body [with] no psychoactive effects.” For Broadly writer Mish Barber Way, her cramps “totally disappeared […] within 20 minutes.”

But because everyone’s body is different other users, like me, didn’t feel the relief that they were looking for. Suzannah Weiss wrote for Glamour that she felt “relaxed and tired” and “clear-headed” but not “numb down there like she [had expected].” Personal experience has shown that this amount of CBD might not necessarily be enough to do the work of a couple of Advil or a stronger painkiller. But for people with minor amounts of cramping or who prefer to keep their health treatments holistic, these suppositories and similar products might be a game changer when it comes to the otherwise limited range of available options for period pain.

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October 5, 2017     

Possible repeal of 280E for marijuana businesses: Q&A with Rep. Carlos Curbelo

By John Schroyer

The 280E section of the federal tax code has been the bane of law-abiding cannabis businesses for years because it typically results in plant-touching companies paying enormous tax bills to the IRS.

But that could change, perhaps even this year, if Congress passes the Small Business Tax Equity Act.

House Resolution 1810 – a bill being spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican – would exempt state-licensed marijuana companies from 280E, effectively repealing it for MJ businesses that are fully compliant with their states’ laws.

The bill has garnered 33 co-sponsors since its introduction earlier this year – including Curbelo and 11 other Republicans – which illustrates how far into mainstream politics cannabis reform has moved.

However, there’s been talk among cannabis advocates in Washington DC that Curbelo’s bill could be wrapped into a larger tax reform package by Republican leadership in Congress, giving the proposal a better chance of becoming law.

Marijuana Business Daily recently had an opportunity to ask Curbelo for an update on his bill’s status as well as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment.

Why did you introduce H.R. 1810 since you’re not known as a major proponent of cannabis reform?

When I got on the (House) Ways and Means Committee, I became very sensitive to all issues related to tax, and one of my big goals – and I think for most people in the Congress – is for the tax system to be fair across the board and treat every American and every American business fairly.

And (280E) stood out as a strange and unjustifiable inequity in the tax code. So I joined forces with (U.S. Rep.) Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) … and we decided to put forward this simple proposal.

What’s happening with the bill? Word is it might be included in the GOP tax reform package this year.

Our goal has been to grow the list of co-sponsors, and we’ve been successful. That tends to be a slow process usually.

But the stronger we make the legislation by adding co-sponsors, the more likely it is that it could be included in this package or less ambitious tax packages in the future.

I’ve heard speculation that something akin to HR 1810 could pass, with the trade-off for the loss of federal revenue being a new tax on marijuana product sales. Is that on the table?

All of these ideas have been circulating. It’s very early in the process of developing this massive tax reform package.

We know that once it gets filed, many will be introducing amendments to it. We know that once it moves out of the House, it’ll continue evolving in the Senate. So there are multiple stops at which provisions such as this one, and others, could be included.

Obviously, in the Senate, if this becomes a bipartisan exercise – which is a strong possibility – that improves the chances of this being included.

As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing I can do … (is) show there is significant bipartisan support for treating these small businesses operating legally and with licenses all over the country in a manner that’s fair and equitable.

Do you think H.R. 1810 has a better chance of passing as a standalone bill or as part of a larger tax reform package?

Most bills in the Congress have a better chance at passing as part of a broader package. There’s limited time in the Congress, and standalone bills always tend to face tougher odds.

So anytime you can include something in a broader package, that’s usually preferable.

Any way you could put some sort of odds on H.R. 1810 passing, either on its own or as part of a package?

It’s too early to tell, but there are people on both sides of the aisle in both chambers that strongly believe this is important legislation.

We have the support of outside organizations, like Americans for Tax Reform, which is the most influential tax organization in the country.

This is not marijuana legislation. This is tax legislation. And members on both sides of the aisle should support it.

What are the political and logistical obstacles to a bill like H.R. 1810 passing?

I think a lot of members of Congress don’t understand the (cannabis) industry, that it’s a sophisticated industry, with legitimate businesspeople trying to employ others and responsibly participate in this business activity.

I think a lot of members, when they think about cannabis, have a 1980s or 1990s mentality, and the fact is, all these businesses are highly regulated, they go to great lengths to control the substance and make sure that only those who are allowed to have access to it do and that they use it responsibly.

So I think the greatest challenge is the education that needs to take place, and those of us who are trying to advance this are doing a lot of one-on-one meetings and encouraging colleagues to meet with these small business owners, to visit them at their locations throughout the country so they can see for themselves.

This is the best chance we have at putting the criminal organizations and the gangs that operate in the black market out of business. And that’s another major goal here.

What about the extension of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment as part of the federal budget? Do you expect that will be renewed before it expires in December?

I’m very confident it will again be part of any spending package passed by Congress, likely in December. There’s strong bipartisan support in both chambers for it.

I thought the House Rules Committee made a major mistake by denying the House a vote on an amendment that has passed for several years now.

But given there is evidence that it has broad support in the House, I am confident the Senate version of the appropriations bill, (which) includes this language, will prevail.

Something that I’ve been telling people is that the best allies – unwitting allies – of the gangs and criminal organizations that depend on marijuana for revenue are those members of Congress who continue giving those same gangs and criminal organizations an advantage over the responsible, ethical, legal, licensed small business owners across this country who are trying to do the right thing.

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October 4, 2017     

California cannabis agency to host licensing workshops

California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control will hold three public workshopsto educate hopeful marijuana business licensees on how to obtain state permits.

The state’s departments of Public Health, Food and Agriculture, and Tax and Fee Administration also will have representatives at the workshops.

The seminars are scheduled for Oct. 12 in Los Angeles, Oct. 13 in Riverside and Oct. 17 in Sacramento, though the bureau hasn’t released exact sites for each workshop. Each seminar will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The bureau said in a news release that anyone seeking updates can subscribe to its newsletter.

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Silicon Valley Tech Workers Are Microdosing LSD At Work To Dramatically Boost Productivity

 

Charlie Tetiyevsky 05 October, 2017

 

Microdosing has been on everyone’s tongues for years. People are taking “subperceptual” doses of LSD or psilocybin mushrooms to achieve personal betterment, with proponents claiming everything from an increased sense of daily bliss to heightened productivity in the workplace.

San Francisco’s tech hub has picked up on the practice, with an increasing number of startup workers practicing a regimen of dosing every few days, so as not to experience diminishing psychoactive returns.  Rolling Stone describes the average experimenter as someone seeking an alternative to Adderall, an “Ubersmart twentysomething” curious to see whether microdosing will help him or her work through technical problems and become more innovative.





Microdosing is a solution for many sleep-deprived tech workers in highly-competitive workplace cultures. Some workers describe seemingly super-human cognitive strengths allowing them to explore new lines of thinking and solve problems more creatively. Microdosing is taking enough to heighten perception, but not enough to get trippy.

Paulo Torres, a 32-year-old artist/producer for Five Towers in Los Angeles, believes it’s hard to see the original psychonauts endorsing the practice for such ends. It’s nearly reminiscent of the days when overworked, nonunionized factory workers would grab a cocaine-infused bottle of Coca-Cola at the refreshment cart to get through long labor shifts. People in the tech industry are already working at least 60 hours a week. It’s not just the overachievers; at some companies, it is simply the standard for employment.

Torres explained to me that he’s been micro-dosing with psilocybin for the five years since he had an existential crisis. “I reached a point in my life where I began questioning my purpose, what the world was, and why I was here. I felt lost”. Then he discovered Timothy Leary, and that’s when he started microdosing. Unable to find mushrooms in LA, Torres decided to teach himself how to grow his own. He ended up with some different varieties, made the mushrooms into capsules and journaled what happened when he took different doses. His process included meditation and eventually transformed him into something of a medicine man, and can now “administer the right dose for the type of experience a person wants to have.”

Psychologist and LSD proponent Timothy Leary standing next to a mandala in 1966. By contemplation of mandalas, Leary said he was able to reach a higher level of consciousness.

Torres says that microdosing makes his thoughts move more freely. “Anywhere that my awareness, thoughts, or senses went became an immersive experience. In modern society, we develop a numbness to our surroundings. We are of the world, and the world is not naturally like this: billboards, TV, big cities, etc. Many people never get outside of their conditioned minds; microdosing helped me find my true power. I create the experience I want to have in this life, and that is both healthy and exciting,” says Torres.

Torres believes using hallucinogens and psychedelics for egotistical ends can result in personal consequences. His philosophy resembles Leary and Ram Dass’ Harvard experiments with LSD and their ensuing writings, which don’t encourage using LSD to increase productivity for productivity’s sake but rather for dealing with what holds us back from realizing our full potential.

Perhaps we should not be questioning the validity of micro-dosing, but rather the intentions of those who try it.

_____________________

October 5, 2017     

Arizona real estate firm plans third medical marijuana business park

An Arizona real estate company that already operates a pair of medical cannabis business parks says a third is in the works.

Scottsdale-based Zoned Properties has announced plans to build a 47.6-acre business park in Chino Valley, roughly 100 miles north of Phoenix.

The operation will include at least 25 acres dedicated to cultivation and processing, according to a Zoned Properties news release. The other 22.6 acres will be taken up by solar panels and a vineyard, a spokesman wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

So far, 35,000 square feet are already operational and have been leased to a licensed Arizona MMJ business, the spokesman said.

The park will increase to 250,000 square feet of cultivation and processing space over the coming months as the project build-out continues, and Zoned Properties is planning to lease space to three licensed MMJ growers.

The Chino Valley operation is in addition to a separate 60,000-square-foot MMJ business park in Tempe – which Zoned Properties said in another news release is “more than 50% leased” – and a 35-acre MMJ business park in Parachute, Colorado.

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October 5, 2017     

Michigan raids lead to closure of 8 medical marijuana dispensaries

A whopping eight medical cannabis dispensaries were raided and forced to close in northern Michigan.

All eight were located in Grand Traverse County and were raided by the Traverse City Police, Traverse Narcotics Team and Michigan State Police, UpNorthLive.com reported.

The raids were executed simultaneously after a monthlong investigation involving undercover officers who bought MMJ at the dispensaries despite not having “a patient-caregiver relationship,” Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien told the news outlet.

Though no arrests were made, law enforcement agents seized cash, MMJ, cannabis plants, edibles and wax.

The county prosecutor’s office may still file criminal charges over the raids, since dispensaries are technically still illegal under state law, which allows only for an MMJ caregiver system.

Michigan lawmakers last year finally approved a statewide regulatory system for MMJ businesses, but it has yet to be implemented, leaving existing dispensaries and other cannabis companies at the mercy of local authorities until a state-level permitting system is established.

Dispensaries specifically may be allowed to continue operating uninterrupted if one of two bills aiming to streamline the transition to a regulated market is passed by state lawmakers.

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October 5, 2017     

Canada’s rec cannabis tax formula emerging: 10% excise + 5% GST

Canada’s federal government floated a possible recreational marijuana taxation plan this week, pitching a 10% excise tax on top of the 5% GST levy that’s applied to most goods and services sold in the country.

Provinces haven’t weighed in with their own sales tax, but once those are included (a near certainty) recreational cannabis could be taxed at between 20%-25%.

In a meeting with premiers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed the excise tax of 1 Canadian dollar (80 cents) per gram for cannabis sales up to CA$10, rising to 10% thereafter, the Straight and The Globe and Mail reported.

The country’s largest producers – who have been focusing on slashing production costs in a race to become “low-cost producers” – say they’re comfortable with the 10% excise tax, according to CBC News.

However Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechettr warned that any excise tax on top of provincial and federal sales taxes could push the price of legal marijuana above black-market prices.

Ontario’s provincial government has proposed selling recreational cannabis at CA$10 per gram starting next summer, but it didn’t say whether that was inclusive of taxes.

Black-market prices are currently about CA$8 per gram in Ontario, according to PriceOfWeed.com.

_________________________________

In New Orleans, a DEA agent and a Hammond police officer were arrested Sunday on charges related to the DEA task force led by Agent Chad Scott. Task force members are accused of stealing property and thousands of dollars in drug investigations, as well as a raft of related offenses. Scott and Hammond Police Officer Rodney Gemar are accused of participating in a seven-year conspiracy to not report drug, cash, and property seizures and instead keep them for their own profit. Scott faces ten counts, including falsifying government records, obstruction of justice, perjury, conspiracy, and seeking and receiving illegal gratuities. Gemar faces six counts, including stealing evidence and conspiracy. Gemar is out on bail, but Scott was still being held after appearing in court Monday.

 

In Orlando, Florida, a Department of Homeland Security officer was arrested last Monday for allegedly taking bribes to help a Colombian cocaine trafficker avoid criminal charges. Special Agent Christopher Ciccione was the case agent for an organized crime and drug trafficking task force that obtained indictments for a number of Cali Cartel cocaine traffickers, but Ciccione is accused of taking a $20,000 bribe to get the indictment dismissed, then altering records and lying to federal prosecutors. He is charged with conspiracy, corruption, and obstruction of justice.

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International

Quebec Premier Sets Legal Pot Age at 18, Orders State Monopoly on Sales. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard decided Thursday that the legal age for marijuana consumption in the province would be 18 and that the distribution and sale of marijuana will be under the control of the state. The province will create a crown corporation relying on the expertise of its alcohol regulators, the Société des alcools, to set up and run the system. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, has also opted for government monopoly pot shops, much to the dismay of entrepreneurs and some consumers.

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Asset Forfeiture

6th Circuit Slaps Down DEA Cleveland Airport Cash Seizure. Even when it looks like they have the perfect case, the DEA and the courts can't cut corners in their efforts to seize suspected drug money, the court held in a case decided late last month. Agents had seized $41,000 in cash from two men with previous drug convictions who had purchased tickets to -- gasp! -- California, and their drug dog told them the money was tainted. The men appealed the seizure, saying the cash was legally obtained, but the DEA moved to strike their claim, saying they had provided no proof, and a lower court agreed. But the DEA and the lower court erred, the appeals court ruled, by shifting the burden of proof to the claimants at that early stage of the proceedings: "Finally, we note our concern that the government's approach would turn the burden of proof in forfeiture actions on its head. Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), the government bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the subject of a civil forfeiture action is, in fact, forfeitable," the opinion concluded. "Requiring a forfeiture claimant to explain the nature of his ownership at the pleading stage would be asking the claimant to satisfy the government's burden of proof, or at least go a long way toward doing so."

Drug Policy

Trump Could Name Racial Profiling Apologist to Head DEA. The Washington Post has reported that President Trump will name New Jersey State Police Superintendent Joseph Fuentes to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 2000, Fuentes, then a state police trooper, wrote a paper defending "suspect profiling" as the state was embroiled in controversy over "driving while black" and police tactics like asking hotel clerk to report guests who were "suspicious" because they had dreadlocks or spoke Spanish. "Because of the disproportionate involvement of minorities in these... arrests, civil rights groups have branded the whole process of highway drug enforcement as racist," he wrote. But when pressed during his nomination to head the state police, Fuentes disavowed that position and denied being an apologist for racial profiling.

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Massachusetts Regulators Urged to Avoid "Walmart of Weed" Situation. State pot grower advocates urged regulators Monday to institute a tiered licensing system for marijuana cultivation to avoid out-of-state corporate control of the state's legal pot crops. Peter Bernard, president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, said a 1 million square foot grow facility being funded by "Colorado money" makes his "New England blood boil" because it could signal that locals will be shut out in the nascent industry. Instead of a "Walmart of Weed" approach, Bernard said, the state should encourage craft cooperatives. "Craft cooperative grows will provide that top shelf product that commands a top shelf price, much like a fine bottle of wine commands a higher price than box wine. Only the tourists and occasional tokers will waste their money on Walmart Weed," he said in testimony reported by MassLive.

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Hemp

Farm Bureau Endorses Federal Hemp Bill. The American Farm Bureau Federation has formally endorsed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, House Resolution 3530, which would exclude industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act definition of marijuana.

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Massachusetts Advocates Say Towns With Pot Bans Shouldn't Enjoy Pot Tax Revenues. Pro-legalization advocates are working on a bill that would prevent towns that ban commercial marijuana operations from collecting a share of marijuana tax revenues. The Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council is talking to legislators about the proposal, which comes as more than a hundred municipalities in the state have enacted bans, moratoria, or other tough restrictions on pot businesses. "Any sensible person would agree, why should you get tax money if you don't have it in your town, it just doesn't make any sense," council vice-president Kamani Jefferson said in remarks reported by the Daily Free Press. "I think it will catch on even to the people who may not be in love with marijuana. If you don't put any work in, you shouldn't get any benefits is what we're really proposing to the Commonwealth."

Washington Regulators Get Earful at Hearing on Allowing Personal Cultivation. A three-member panel of the state Liquor and Cannabis Board held a hearing Wednesday on allowing home grows in the only legalization state that doesn't allow them. Most of the three dozen people who testified support home cultivation, but not the options being studied because they have too many restrictions and allow localities to ban personal grows even if legalized in the state. The panel must issue a report with recommendations to the legislature by December 1.

International

Canada Legalization Bill Sheds Language Restricting Plant Height. The Commons Health Committee on Tuesday scrapped a clause in the bill that would have made growing a plant taller than one meter a criminal offense. The provision had been criticized as arbitrary and difficult to enforce, with even the Ontario police and corrections ministry noting that "people could be criminalized for small amounts of overproduction." Others pointed out that someone could have a legal plant, go on vacation for a couple of weeks, and come back to an illegal plant. The limit of four plants per household remains intact, though.




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October 5, 2017     

Alberta’s rec cannabis blueprint leaves door open to private retailers, MJ clubs and lounges

By Matt Lamers

Alberta’s proposed framework to regulate marijuana leaves open the possibility private companies could sell adult-use products, a move that would be a boon for businesses wanting to participate in the province’s retail sector.

The provincial government also signaled it is open to marijuana cafes and lounges, which would provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs.

But the regulations governing such venues – as well as those for online sales – probably won’t be ready by the time adult-use legalization is scheduled to take effect July 1.

Giving private businesses a crack at adult-use sales would set Alberta apart from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

All three provinces have unveiled plans to use government-owned corporations to operate the retail side of the rec business.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley this week unveiled the government’s proposed model for legal cannabis, which allows for indoor personal cultivation and sets the legal age for consumption at 18.

The government is still considering two options for retail:

A government-run monopoly, which would involve significant upfront costs for taxpayers.

Licensed private outlets, which would be separate from alcohol stores.

Aaron Salz – founder and CEO of Stoic Advisory, a cannabis consultancy firm in Toronto – said Alberta’s proposed model is the most inclusive put forward by a province so far.

“Doors are open to private retail and public consumption places, both major positives for small business and aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs,” he said. “There’s still work to do, of course, but it should give people comfort that business plans can start to be built and potentially even investments made ahead of next summer.”

Licensed producers based in Alberta welcomed the clarity the framework brings to the provincial industry.

“We hope the province takes the right innovative approach on distribution, retail and production,” said Stan Swiatek, CEO of Sundial Growers in Airdrie. “There’s economic potential here, not just on sales themselves, but from producers’ level for job creation.”

The Alberta Liquor Store Association, meanwhile, remains hopeful the government sticks with the private sector for retail.

Association president Ivonne Martinez wants the province’s 1,400 private liquor stores to have the opportunity to sell legal cannabis in a separate location.

“It’s saving the government taxpayers’ dollars, while delivering the same safe and responsible retailing you would see in every other province,” she said.

Ancillary opportunities

The framework leaves open the possibility there could be ancillary businesses opportunities serving home growers, because cultivation would be allowed indoors but not outside.

That could be good news for a company like Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis. It recently purchased two companies that specialize in self-contained indoor hydroponic grow systems as part of a strategy to tap Canada’s rapidly growing home-grow marijuana market.

“This will reduce the need for consumers in more remote and rural areas to purchase cannabis from the illicit market because they are not near a retail location,” Alberta’s Justice Ministry said in a report detailing the province’s plan.

Lounges

Cannabis cafes and lounges may not be part of the system on Day One, but the government will consider such establishments in the future.

If lounges are allowed, consumption would likely take the form of ediblesand other infused products, because the province plans to restrict the consumption of leaf cannabis in public to spaces where tobacco smoking is also already allowed.

“Although many Albertans said they supported having cannabis cafes or lounges, Alberta will not initially have any venues specific to consuming cannabis,” the provincial government said in its report.

The city of Edmonton, meanwhile, is considering allowing the establishment of cannabis lounges.

According to the province’s legalization blueprint:

Regulatory costs and taxes will be kept low enough to allow legal businesses to compete with the black market.

Sales will be limited to a maximum of 30 grams per purchase.

Adults will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants per household.

The consumption of leaf cannabis in public would be limited to spaces where tobacco smoking is also allowed.

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October 5, 2017     

Canada moves to allow recreational marijuana edibles, opening major new market for businesses

By Matt Lamers

Edible marijuana products in Canada will be brought into the mix within a year after the country officially launches its recreational industry next summer, giving cannabis businesses an opportunity to enter a new market totaling perhaps 15 million people.

A parliamentary committee this week amended legislation legalizing recreational cannabis to allow edibles one year after the new law takes effect.

The amended rec legislation provides welcome clarity for marijuana businesses interested in entering the legal infused products business. It does not cover medical cannabis.

“It’s a good sign for the industry,” said Vahan Ajamian, analyst at Beacon Securities in Toronto.

“Companies can plan now,” he added. “We still have to see how the final rules look. But every day, every week, we’re moving one incremental step forward.”

Allowing edibles is expected to be a boon for licensed producers – some of which have positioned themselves for the eventual inclusion of edibles – as well as extraction businesses, makers of concentrates and, potentially, owners of cannabis consumption lounges.

Previously, the government had said adult-use edibles would be allowed without providing a specific timeframe. That raised concerns that the black market involving extracts and infused products would grow unchecked after adult-use marijuana is legalized.

Parliament must still approve the adult-use legislation, and a host of regulations need to be worked out. Legalization is expected to kick in next July.

Paul Pedersen, CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Nextleaf Solutions – which leases extraction technology to other marijuana businesses – said regulating edibles is key to competing with the black market.

“If you don’t give consumers the ability to buy these products legally, they might buy them through the black and gray market,” he said. “Edibles are something that Canada needed to figure out.”

Other than private homes, marijuana lounges would be among the venues where consumers could partake in edibles. Both Alberta and Ontario are considering regulating lounges at some point after legalization on July 1.

An appetite for edibles

The potential edibles market is vast: 93% of Canadians who support legalization would purchase marijuana-infused food products, according to data from Dalhousie University professors Sylvain Charlebois and Simon Somogyi.

That points to a potential market of 15 million consumers.

Charlebois and Somogyi’s survey also found that few Canadians know how to use cannabis to cook at home, meaning those who want to try edibles will look to manufacturers.

Greg Engel – CEO of Moncton, New Brunswick-based Organigram – expects that extracts will play a big role in the legalized market.

“We absolutely think that it’s going to become a significant part of the cannabis industry in Canada,” he said. “Edibles will be a big deal, and when you extend into vaporizable oil, from what we’ve seen in U.S. states where those products exist, it can be upwards of 50% of the market.”

Early movers

A number of Canadian companies have positioned themselves to capitalize on the edibles market once it joins the legal fold.

Smiths Falls-based Canopy Growth, which is headquartered in a former chocolate factory, is one of them.

“Having edibles come out of this place would be historic and special for the company,” said Jordan Sinclair, spokesperson for Canopy.

Canopy, traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED, signed a licensing agreement with California-based Isodiol International to manufacture and distribute marijuana-infused, single-serve K-Cup products in Canada and internationally.

Sinclair said extracts, including edibles, are “a massive part of the market” in places like Colorado, and that bodes well for the market in Canada. “Just the oils and capsules themselves have proven to be incredibly popular products from our platform,” he said.

“It’s good to see the progress (by the government), because it allows us to keep planning,” he said.

Organigram, traded on the TSX Venture Exchange as OGI, is another. It has the exclusive rights to sell Colorado-based TGS International’s line of cannabis extract and derivative products.

“This direction allows us to be able to continue the planning process,” Engel said. “Getting a specific timeline allows us to act in confidence and make the investments we need to make.”

Other companies that have positioned themselves to market edibles include:

Ottawa-based CannaRoyalty, which has an exclusive licensing agreement for California-based Stokes Confections’ edibles in Canada, Washington state, Oregon and Arizona. CannaRoyalty also owns edibles maker California-based Soul Sugar Kitchen and has a licensing agreement with Care by Design, a medical cannabis company offering edibles in California.

Ontario-based Aphria, which owns a chunk of CannaRoyalty and is a licensee of some of its products.

_________________________________

October 5, 2017     

San Diego finalizes marijuana grow and manufacturing rules

San Diego has decided to allow indoor cultivation and manufacturing, making the city among the first in California to establish regulations for the entire marijuana supply chain.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, new rules passed by the City Council include two key changes:

Marijuana production businesses must have “odor-absorbing ventilation and exhaust systems.”

Testing labs are now permitted in the city.

Council members approved the supply chain with the belief it “will eliminate the need to truck marijuana in from elsewhere and prevent a local ‘black market’ of unregulated cultivators and manufacturers that would emerge if the city outlawed those activities,” the newspaper reported.

San Diego’s mayor could veto the legislation, but there appear to be enough votes – the measure passed 6-3 – to override any such attempt, the Union-Tribune reported.

The creation of the supply chain comes on the heels of the Council passing rules earlier this year allowing medical marijuana dispensaries that have operated legally since 2014 to expand into recreational cannabis sales in January 2018, when California’s adult-use program goes online.

City regulators have approved 17 retailers, and 11 are open, according to the newspaper.

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October 5, 2017     

Canada moves to allow recreational marijuana edibles, opening major new market for businesses

By Matt Lamers

Edible marijuana products in Canada will be brought into the mix within a year after the country officially launches its recreational industry next summer, giving cannabis businesses an opportunity to enter a new market totaling perhaps 15 million people.

A parliamentary committee this week amended legislation legalizing recreational cannabis to allow edibles one year after the new law takes effect.

The amended rec legislation provides welcome clarity for marijuana businesses interested in entering the legal infused products business. It does not cover medical cannabis.

“It’s a good sign for the industry,” said Vahan Ajamian, analyst at Beacon Securities in Toronto.

“Companies can plan now,” he added. “We still have to see how the final rules look. But every day, every week, we’re moving one incremental step forward.”

Allowing edibles is expected to be a boon for licensed producers – some of which have positioned themselves for the eventual inclusion of edibles – as well as extraction businesses, makers of concentrates and, potentially, owners of cannabis consumption lounges.

Previously, the government had said adult-use edibles would be allowed without providing a specific timeframe. That raised concerns that the black market involving extracts and infused products would grow unchecked after adult-use marijuana is legalized.

Parliament must still approve the adult-use legislation, and a host of regulations need to be worked out. Legalization is expected to kick in next July.

Paul Pedersen, CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Nextleaf Solutions – which leases extraction technology to other marijuana businesses – said regulating edibles is key to competing with the black market.

“If you don’t give consumers the ability to buy these products legally, they might buy them through the black and gray market,” he said. “Edibles are something that Canada needed to figure out.”

Other than private homes, marijuana lounges would be among the venues where consumers could partake in edibles. Both Alberta and Ontario are considering regulating lounges at some point after legalization on July 1.

An appetite for edibles

The potential edibles market is vast: 93% of Canadians who support legalization would purchase marijuana-infused food products, according to data from Dalhousie University professors Sylvain Charlebois and Simon Somogyi.

That points to a potential market of 15 million consumers.

Charlebois and Somogyi’s survey also found that few Canadians know how to use cannabis to cook at home, meaning those who want to try edibles will look to manufacturers.

Greg Engel – CEO of Moncton, New Brunswick-based Organigram – expects that extracts will play a big role in the legalized market.

“We absolutely think that it’s going to become a significant part of the cannabis industry in Canada,” he said. “Edibles will be a big deal, and when you extend into vaporizable oil, from what we’ve seen in U.S. states where those products exist, it can be upwards of 50% of the market.”

Early movers

A number of Canadian companies have positioned themselves to capitalize on the edibles market once it joins the legal fold.

Smiths Falls-based Canopy Growth, which is headquartered in a former chocolate factory, is one of them.

“Having edibles come out of this place would be historic and special for the company,” said Jordan Sinclair, spokesperson for Canopy.

Canopy, traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED, signed a licensing agreement with California-based Isodiol International to manufacture and distribute marijuana-infused, single-serve K-Cup products in Canada and internationally.

Sinclair said extracts, including edibles, are “a massive part of the market” in places like Colorado, and that bodes well for the market in Canada. “Just the oils and capsules themselves have proven to be incredibly popular products from our platform,” he said.

“It’s good to see the progress (by the government), because it allows us to keep planning,” he said.

Organigram, traded on the TSX Venture Exchange as OGI, is another. It has the exclusive rights to sell Colorado-based TGS International’s line of cannabis extract and derivative products.

“This direction allows us to be able to continue the planning process,” Engel said. “Getting a specific timeline allows us to act in confidence and make the investments we need to make.”

Other companies that have positioned themselves to market edibles include:

Ottawa-based CannaRoyalty, which has an exclusive licensing agreement for California-based Stokes Confections’ edibles in Canada, Washington state, Oregon and Arizona. CannaRoyalty also owns edibles maker California-based Soul Sugar Kitchen and has a licensing agreement with Care by Design, a medical cannabis company offering edibles in California.

Ontario-based Aphria, which owns a chunk of CannaRoyalty and is a licensee of some of its products.

______________________________

October 5, 2017     

Pennsylvania medical cannabis grower drops suit but not the battle

A medical marijuana company that failed to win a Pennsylvania cultivation license has dropped a lawsuit against the state’s health department demanding the agency revoke a license awarded to another grower.

Scranton-based BrightStar Biomedics charged in a lawsuit filed last month that Pennsylvania Medical Solutions didn’t disclose on its application that it was under criminal investigation, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

BrightStar officials didn’t say why they dropped the lawsuit. But a spokesman said the company intends to find out through a state appeals process why Pennsylvania Medical won a license over Brightstar, according to the newspaper.

In the lawsuit, BrightStar asked state regulators to rescind an MMJ license awarded to Pennsylvania Medical because its parent company, Vireo Health, is the subject of a criminal investigation in Minnesota.

Such a revelation could have damaged or killed Pennsylvania Medical’s application. It also could’ve increased the chances for BrightStar, which fell just three points short of landing one of the 12 initial grow licenses, the newspaper reported.

“BrightStar continues to believe strongly in the merits of its position and looks forward to getting to the truth of what happened here,” spokesman Dan Fee told The Inquirer.

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October 6, 2017     

Home cultivation of recreational cannabis debated in WA

Recreational marijuana home grows are still a hot button issue among Washington state residents, and regulators were not given an easy path forward after a hearing Wednesday on whether to legalize them.

Although registered medical cannabis patients are already permitted to grow up to six plants at home, personal cultivation for adult use remains prohibited, but the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) is pondering a repeal of the ban.

The board, however, received roughly 500 written comments from residents who wanted to weigh in, along with three dozen people who showed up in person to lobby the panel, which must submit recommendations to the state legislature by Dec. 1, the Everett Herald reported.

Positions ran the gamut, from those worried about easier access to MJ for minors to cannabis business owners who think it’s absurd that they’re legally allowed to grow at work but not at home.

Another possibility, raised by a spokeswoman from a credit union that works with MJ businesses, is that allowing rec home grow could invite federal intervention by the Department of Justice if it’s seen as a violation of the Cole Memo.

The panel is weighing three options:

Rec home grows legalized with a permit and required use of the state’s inventory tracking system.

Rec home grows legalized without mandatory inventory tracking, but also allows further local regulations.

Continued rec home grow ban.

Any of those three could have a significant impact on sales figures for MJ businesses in Washington.

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October 6, 2017     

CBD is no longer taboo, says global anti-doping regulator

CBD will take another big step toward the mainstream next year when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removes hemp-based products from a list of banned substances.

WADA’s 2018 listing will show that “cannabidiol is no longer prohibited,” though the agency didn’t explain why CBD was removed.

WADA – whose mission is to combat illicit drugs in sports on an international basis – reiterated, however, that THC and its synthetic analogs remain off-limits, The Washington Post reported.

The Canada-based agency oversees the World Anti-Doping Code, which is used by more than 600 sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

Many CBD products are marketed as natural treatments for athletic injury and pain, and athletes have long debated whether hemp-derived products have been wrongly lumped in with other performance-enhancing drugs.

Former NFL athletes and international cycling stars have touted CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, even as their sports’ regulators considered CBD forbidden.

The World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, is currently reviewing CBD’s therapeutic potential in a revision that may redefine how CBD is regarded and controlled internationally.

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October 6, 2017     

Canadian marijuana producers form co-op to sell rec products

A dozen of Canada’s largest marijuana producers have come together to form the Canadian Cannabis Co-op and are offering to bankroll a “turn-key” retail network in Alberta to sell adult-use products alongside private retailers and government-run outlets.

The group, which unveiled its plans in a news release, hopes to extend the initiative to other provinces.

In their news release, the companies said Alberta could benefit from the direct investment of tens of millions of dollars to set up the infrastructure to sell recreational marijuana starting next summer.

The group said it would create more than 500 “near-term” jobs and provide over 30 million Canadian dollars ($24 million) in annual wages.

Alberta released its regulatory framework Wednesday, leaving open the door to private retailers. The province is weighing two retail options:

A government-run monopoly, which would involve significant up-front costs for taxpayers.

Licensed private outlets, which would be separate from alcohol stores.

By contrast, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have unveiled plans to use government-owned corporations to operate the retail side of the rec business.

In their news release, the businesses said their co-op model requires no taxpayer dollars, generates a revenue stream for government above direct taxation, and can be put in place by next July 1.

The Canadian Cannabis Co-op includes ABCann, Aphria, Bonify, CannTrust, Cronos Group, Emblem, Emerald, Hydropothecary, MedReleaf, Newstrike (Parent Company of Up Cannabis), Organigram and Tilray.

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October 6, 2017     

New York’s black market, new Maryland cannabis licensees & Michigan cultivation rule

By Omar Sacirbey, Bart Schaneman and John Schroyer




Potential medical marijuana patients in New York are turning to the black market, Maryland awards eight more MMJ business licenses, and a new Michigan law could increase cannabis cultivators’ production.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week. 

Flower power in New York

A New York industry insider was “not surprised to see” a report that the state’s legal medical marijuana businesses are losing potential patientsto the black market.

Reasons given were the high cost of legal medical products, inconvenient bureaucracy and patients’ preference for cannabis flower, which the legal medical program doesn’t allow.

Despite the disheartening news for New York’s program, PharmaCann COO Jeremy Unruh sees some positives down the road.

For instance, state regulators are considering new draft regulations with changes that could attract more patients, Unruh said. Through Oct. 3, New York has so far registered 31,860 MMJ patients, out of nearly 20 million residents.

Though Unruh believes the draft rules could take effect in two to four weeks, he cautioned that it’s far from certain the changes will be enough to help licensed MMJ businesses take patients away from the illicit market.

Especially when one of the New York program’s biggest drawbacks is its prohibition on dried cannabis flower.

Perhaps acknowledging that problem, the draft regulations would allow “metered ground plant preparation.”

What does that mean?

“I don’t think anybody knows,” Unruh said.

He speculated it could be some sort of pellet or capsule with cannabis flower that could be vaporized.

It’s a step in the right direction, Unruh added, but he’s uncertain if it would be as successful as removing the flower ban to attract patients.

“It’s not the same as having the option to vaporize or smoke flower,” he said.

Champing at the bit

Maryland’s medical marijuana program has been plagued by delays, but the issuance of eight new licenses might mean the program is finally finding its feet.

Bill Askinazi – principal of Potomac Holistics in Rockville, one of Maryland’s newly licensed dispensaries – says it’s been a long time coming.

Along with Potomac Holistics, Maryland regulators this week licensed another dispensary, two more labs, three processors and one cultivator/processor.

Although a workable MMJ program was passed by lawmakers in Maryland in 2014, Askinazi’s company began the planning process five years ago.

“It was a long haul, but it was well worth it,” Askinazi said. “We’ve seen the regulations change. We’ve seen lawsuits in Maryland. The commission’s changed.

“And the public’s acceptance level has grown stronger.”

Askinazi estimates about 18,000 patients and 600 physicians are currently registered in Maryland’s medical cannabis program, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see those totals increase to 100,000 and 1,200, respectively, in the next two years.

He expects a rise in participating physicians because, unlike in some other states, doctors don’t have to pay a fee or undergo mandatory training to recommend medical marijuana.

“It’s probably one of easiest regulatory bars in the industry,” Askinazi added.

Two other rules also work in favor of Maryland’s MMJ program:

The state already allows MMJ recommendations for chronic pain treatment.

Any doctor or resident may petition the MMJ commission to add conditions to the qualifying list.

“The Code of Marijuana Regulation gives very, very liberal and wide conditions for physicians to (recommend MMJ for patients),” he added.

The main concern for Maryland’s industry is to get MMJ to the people who need it in a fair and responsible way, Askinazi said.

With medical marijuana already grown and awaiting testing at Maryland’s one approved lab, MMJ sales could begin in as soon as two weeks, Askinazi said.

“We’re ready to go.”

Big savings in Michigan

“Millions of dollars.”

That’s how much money Michigan’s licensed medical cannabis businesses could save thanks to a new rule from the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), according to the head of a Lansing dispensary.

The rule in question will allow companies to utilize multiple Class C cultivation permits at a single location, and each permit will allow for up to 1,500 cannabis plants.

“The way (the rule is) published currently, it could reduce our capital expenditures by three or four times,” estimated Michael Mayes, the CEO of Greenwave Naturals in Lansing.

The reason is simple, he said.

Once Michigan’s new regulations are in place, a licensed MMJ company that desires a large-scale commercial grow will be able to do so at a single location instead of multiple ones, Mayes said.

“For large commercial facilities, you want to get them into the 30,000- or 40,000- or 100,000-square-foot buildings, (but) that would require 15 or so licenses in the same building,” Mayes said.

“This way, in one building … you can do all of the mechanics, like HVAC, in one centralized system. Whereas, if you had 15 separate entities in 15 separate locations, you’d have to pay to have all of those mechanics in each location.”

That could mean startup costs that may have run $30 million could be reduced to $6 million, he estimated.

Mayes said the takeaway is that state regulators are “doing a decent job” listening to Michigan’s MMJ executives who are lobbying LARA for business-friendly regulations that will allow companies to produce at volume without unnecessary roadblocks. Another example: LARA will also allow for vertically integrated MMJ operations.

“Comparative to other states and how their programs have come up,” Mayes said, “it’s definitely headed in the right direction.”

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October 6, 2017     

Hemp State Highlight: North Carolina puts out big welcome mat for hemp industry

By Kristen Nichols

Dozens of states are slowly experimenting with industrial hemp cultivation and processing, authorizing limited tests through land-grant universities. Not North Carolina.

North Carolina has gone all in on hemp, which state officials see as a natural fit for an economy once dominated by tobacco farming and textile manufacturing.

North Carolina is finishing its first hemp-growing season with more hemp growers, more acres in hemp and more hemp processors than any other state in its first year of hemp production.

“We’re just getting geared up,” said David Schmitt, chief operating officer for Industrial Hemp Manufacturing, which produces CBD oil and processes hemp fiber in Spring Hope, N.C.

North Carolina’s hemp enthusiasm makes the state a natural launching point for a closer examination by Marijuana Business Daily, which is bolstering news and analysis of the burgeoning hemp and CBD markets.

Here’s what you need to know about North Carolina’s hemp market.

Industry snapshot 

As of this year, North Carolina has:

97 licensed hemp growers

1,930 outdoor acres under cultivation

159,000 square feet of indoor greenhouse cultivation

19 licensed processors, mostly producing CBD oil

With a flexible no-deadline application process, no acreage minimum or maximum, and a regulatory scheme that allows hemp growers to pursue any end product for their crops, North Carolina has seen strong interest from farmers wanting to grow the plant and entrepreneurs interested in processing it.

North Carolina allows hemp to be used for:

CBD extraction

Seed or seed oil

Fiber

As in other hemp states, the initial value for growers in North Carolina seems to be in CBD oil extraction.

Market considerations

Though prices vary by state and there is no official tracking of hemp commodity prices by any standard exchange, North Carolina hemp growers report the market is fetching:

About $20-$30 per pound of dried flowers or buds for use in CBD extraction, more if the plant CBD content is high. Yields are highly variable, but a healthy hemp plant can yield about a pound of such material.

Less than $1 per pound for seeds to be eaten as food products.

About 10 cents a pound for stalks to be turned into fiber

About 10 cents a pound for seeds intended to be pressed for seed oil.

“The strongest market right now is for hemp floral material. Realistically right now there’s no market for fiber,” said Scott Propheter, CEO of Criticality, a hemp processor in northeastern North Carolina.

Growing pains

North Carolina’s first year wasn’t without any glitches – some natural and some manmade.

“We lost some acres due to heavy rains,” said Burt Eure, who is working on developing hemp seeds at his White Hat Seed Farm in Hartford, in northeastern North Carolina. “The jury’s still out trying to find the variety that’s going to work for us.”

Some growers were also plagued by “weed control issues and pest issues,” damaging their entire first hemp crop, said Sandy Stewart, Research Stations Director for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and vice chairman of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission.

In addition, North Carolina saw isolated thefts from hemp fields, likely from folks who confused hemp with marijuana. Sheriff’s officers in Edgecombe County stepped up patrols of area hemp farms after they arrested five people in September on charges of trespassing or theft.

Looking ahead

North Carolina is likely to modify how it regulates hemp in coming years, Stewart said.

He told growers, for example, to prepare for possible application deadlines. Last year the program got started too late to give growers a deadline, but that will likely change, he said.

Stewart and others agreed that hemp participation in North Carolina is going to increase next year, maybe even double.

“I think you’re going to see some big growth,” Propheter said.

What that means for prices is too soon to say. As long as prices don’t plummet, North Carolina could surpass hemp leaders Kentucky and Colorado by 2020, operators say.

“Within two or three years, North Carolina will lead the nation in industrial hemp, no question,” Schmitt said.

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This Is How Elizabeth Warren Is Fighting For Your Right To Get High

It seems like a strange irony that a 7 billion dollar industry is unable to gain access to the banking system in the United States. Especially when the businesses trying to open a checking account are perfectly legal within their state. This is the reality of the legal cannabis industry, where business is conducted in cash while heaps of it are sent to the IRS every year. If that seems like a strange set of circumstances, that’s because it is and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts thinks so too.

Warren’s home state voted to legalize recreational use in November becoming one of 28 states that have legalized either medical or recreational use. But the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. As a result, federal regulations which govern banking have made financial institutions wary of the money that their regulators still consider dirty.

This legal grey area has left those in the cannabis industry on a virtual banking blacklist, unable to do business without the use of cash or private vetting services like Hypur, a background checking service which acts as a middleman between businesses and banks.

As a member of the Senate’s Banking Committee, Warren and nine other senators sent a letter to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in December of 2016.

The letter points out that it’s more than just growers and dispensaries that are affected. Chemists, security guards, and even lawyers have been denied bank account and credit card applications because of their association with the industry.

The letter goes on to say that preventing these legitimate businesses from accessing the country’s banking system, “serves no one’s interest” pointing out that such a policy invites more criminal activity rather than preventing it.

Considering that many of these businesses are forced to hold massive amounts of cash, they are exposed to robberies while also being expected to report their income to tax collectors that consider them an illegal industry.

“It’s just a plain old safety issue.” Warren has said, “You don’t want people walking in with guns and masks and saying, ‘Give me all your cash.’”

As the result of changes made by the Treasury Department under former President Barrack Obama, the number of banks that have opened their doors to the cannabis industry rose from 51 to 301 in just two years. However, the current administration with it’s tough on drugs policy seems unlikely to help Warren and her colleagues to increase that number.

In addition to the opposition, she may face from the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions,  a long-time opponent of legalization; Warren also faces debate in the Senate. Among those opponents is Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) who tweeted in criticism of Warren’s letter claiming it was the reason Democrats have lost recent elections.

8:05 PM - Jan 2, 2017

Despite the criticism from Republicans, Warren gained some serious cred among her own party when she became a vocal critic of President Trump both before and after the election.  name is even being thrown around as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.

Warren’s name is even being thrown around as a potential presidential candidate in 2020. For now, she’s fighting for the rights of canna-businesses with the know-how of someone who spent 20 years as a professor at Harvard Law School.

Under the current administration, it seems unlikely that Warren’s efforts will result in any major policy changes. With both the House and Senate under Republican control, the best bet for the senator and her allies is the coming 2018 election. That contest will be an opportunity for pro-cannabis candidates to take control of the lawmaking arm of government and ensure some real changes take place.

Still, for anyone who has seen Senator Warren in action, it has to be encouraging to have someone on your side of critical cannabis access. The cannabis industry still has a long way to go regarding winning over Washington (even though it’s legal in the District) and Senator Warren is bringing us all that much closer.

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Uruguay Pharmacies Are Now Selling Weed For a Mind-blowing $1.30 Per Gram

07 October, 2017

 Since it became the first country to legalize recreational marijuana in 2013, one astounding feature of Uruguay’s new legal regime has caught the attention of cannabis enthusiasts around the world—its price.

As one of South America’s most progressive countries, Uruguay has made a lot of headway in the liberal policy department under its former President José Alberto Mujica who gained international fame for being the most humble president in the world. He had forgone the pomp and frills of presidential life to live in a modest cottage outside the capital with a beat-up old Volkswagen Beetle and a three-legged dog. In his time in office, he brought about several reforms which won him the praise of the international community. Not least among them was the legalization of recreational marijuana.

As part of that new legal system, the Uruguayan government was given the right to regulate prices – as it does with many other industries like banking and healthcare.

The price Uruguay chose for its newly legal plant is the jaw-dropping equivalent of $1.30 per gram. Of that revenue, ninety cents goes to the two businesses which have been licensed to grow the government’s weed. The remaining sum goes to programs which are aimed at preventing drug abuse.

Photo by: Jimmy Baikovicius via Flickr

That low price has less to do with moving product than it does with combatting the black market where the average cost of a gram is $3 —a price that still might send Americans scrambling to book a flight to Montevideo. For Uruguayans with a median annual income of just over USD $2,000 that price drops about as many jaws as a $10 gram in Canada. But before you start booking your next vacation, it should be noted that only citizens of Uruguay can purchase cannabis, and that’s no accident.

When the country first legalized in 2013, the government came up against some serious opposition. Among their main concerns was that the country’s international reputation would be tarnished or that they might become the Latin America’s Amsterdam. In addition to these concerns Uruguay’s neighbors, who have a long and storied history with cartels, were also taken into consideration.

As a result, the country’s citizens are the only ones allowed to purchase marijuana legally, and even that can only be done in a pharmacy or by joining a licensed cannabis club. Consumers at the receive an identification number which records each purchase and only allows for 40 grams a month per person.

Those who register to grow at home are granted a permit and are only allowed a maximum of six plants, while those who want to form a club must meet a 45 member requirement and are allowed up to 99 plants. Despite the larger amount of plants allowed, members of clubs are still only allowed to consume 40 grams a month.

According to the most recent data from the country’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis 13,555 have registered for personal consumption, 7,106 are self-cultivators, and 64 clubs have now been opened.

These extreme measures have been implemented to ensure that consumption is not encouraged while also attempting to eliminate the black market.

Other countries that have expressed a willingness to legalize have taken similar measures. Among them is Canada where a 2016 report from the Canadian Government’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation suggested that “Taxes should be high enough to limit the growth of consumption, but low enough to compete effectively with the illicit market.”

Whether these precautions can co-exist remains to be seen. After all, as law enforcement has figured out over 50 years of prohibition, it’s difficult to regulate something that sprouts from the ground.
( That’s $35 an ounce, seems about right with taxes and all.)

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Sorry Mom, According to Harvard, Smoking Weed Improves Brain Function

07 October, 2017

It seems that the more science gets its hands on bud, the more it shatters all preconceived notions of what it means to get high. With research stacking up in support of the so-called stoner, marijuana prohibitionists aren’t getting any favors.

According to new pilot study out of Harvard University, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, medical marijuana use can increase patient’s brain function.

The study, titled Splendor in the Grass? A Pilot Study Assessing the Impact of Medical Marijuana on Executive Function is the first of its kind, and its early results have proven to be quite promising.

The researchers note that despite the vast availability of cannabis in recent years, their trials are the first to use what they call a “pre- vs. post-design model” in which the subjects’ executive brain functions are tested both before and after long-term administration of medical cannabis.

The study notes that the history of prohibition has been counterintuitive based on the results of multiple studies that have shown its usefulness as a medicine. They also note that while cannabis has demonstrated to have adverse effects on the brain development of children and adolescents, most medical cannabis users are adults and are well past the stage of cognitive development where marijuana can have a negative effect on the brain.

According to a study that was overseen by Ph.D. Staci Gruber of McLean Hospital, marijuana heightens the performance of cognitive tasks mediated by the frontal cortex. Callista Images/ Getty Images

  As a result, they decided to test whether medical marijuana could have the opposite effect of increasing brain function rather than inhibiting it. The Harvard researchers chose medical cannabis in particular because of its unique chemical makeup. In other words, where recreational weed often contains higher levels of THC, the active chemical that offers a buzz, the medical alternatives make use of higher concentrations of non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

Among these, some chemical compounds like cannabigerol and tetrahydrocannabivarin are believed to be neurogenic or neuroprotective meaning that they are involved in either restoring the brain’s lost cells or preventing their degeneration.

Harvard researchers conducted the study over a length of 12 months in which 32 participants would go through regular testing after three, six and finally 12 months with an initial trial period before medical cannabis was administered.

To qualify for the study, the participants had to have either never taken medical marijuana or have gone ten years since they last consumed cannabis. They must also have had all the proper licenses and have sought out help for conditions ranging from anxiety to depression to insomnia.

Subjects were expected to take a series of tests including something known as the Stroop Color Word Test, in which they are shown a word such as Red, but expected to name a different color assigned to the letters

After just three months of medical marijuana treatment, the participants showed an increase in their ability to complete all tests regarding accuracy or speed, suggesting that the treatments over time increased brain function.

Researchers acknowledged that the sample size of 32 was rather small and that the nature of the study’s design prevented them from making use of placebos since patients acquired their own medicine from different doctors. That being said, this study is the first of its kind. 

According to Staci Gruber, PhD, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital, “As a clinical researcher, I’m not interested in exploring only the good or the bad, I’m only interested in the truth. That’s what our patients and our recreational users have a right to know and a right to expect from us. People are going to use it. It’s up to us to figure out the very best and safest ways in which they can do that.”

The results are encouraging, and the study’s researchers will be further exploring the effects of marijuana on cognition and mood to confirm the initial findings. 

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https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2016.00355/full

A Pilot Study Assessing the Impact of Marijuana on Executive Function

Staci A. Gruber1,2*, Kelly A. Sagar1,2, Mary K. Dahlgren1,3, Megan T. Racine1, Rosemary T. Smith1 and Scott E. Lukas2,4

Currently, 25 states and Washington DC have enacted full medical marijuana (MMJ) programs while 18 states allow limited access to MMJ products. Limited access states permit low (or zero) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat specified conditions such as uncontrolled epilepsy. Although MMJ products are derived from the same plant species as recreational MJ, they are often selected for their unique cannabinoid constituents and ratios, not typically sought by recreational users, which may impact neurocognitive outcomes. To date, few studies have investigated the potential impact of MMJ use on cognitive performance, despite a well-documented association between recreational marijuana (MJ) use and executive dysfunction. The current study assessed the impact of 3 months of MMJ treatment on executive function, exploring whether MMJ patients would experience improvement in cognitive functioning, perhaps related to primary symptom alleviation. As part of a larger longitudinal study, 24 patients certified for MMJ use completed baseline executive function assessments and 11 of these so far have returned for their first follow-up visit 3 months after initiating treatment. Results suggest that in general, MMJ patients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy. On self-report questionnaires, patients also indicated moderate improvements in clinical state, including reduced sleep disturbance, decreased symptoms of depression, attenuated impulsivity, and positive changes in some aspects of quality of life. Additionally, patients reported a notable decrease in their use of conventional pharmaceutical agents from baseline, with opiate use declining more than 42%. While intriguing, these findings are preliminary and warrant further investigation at additional time points and in larger sample sizes. Given the likelihood of increased MMJ use across the country, it is imperative to determine the potential impact of short- and long-term treatment on cognitive performance as well as the efficacy of MMJ treatment itself.

Introduction

Over the last several decades, although marijuana (MJ) users in the US have historically sought out MJ for recreational purposes, a growing number are exploring MJ for medical purposes. In fact, it is estimated that over 1.2 million medical MJ (MMJ) consumers are currently registered in the US (Procon.org1). According to Procon.org, although the majority of states have mandatory MMJ registration (CO, MA) other states have voluntary registration (e.g., CA, ME) or do not require registration (WA). While the number of current US MMJ consumers is only an estimate, it is likely that the number of certified patients will continue to grow as the public becomes increasingly aware of and open to the potential therapeutic effects of MMJ. Legal marijuana is considered the fastest growing market in the United States, with a current estimated value of $6.7 billion, which could reach 21.8 billion by 2020 (ArcView Market Research, 2016). In 1996, California became the first state to fully legalize MMJ and since then, another 24 states, and the District of Columbia have followed suit with full legalization for medical purposes, while an additional 18 states have limited MMJ laws, allowing only the use of products containing a specific non-psychoactive cannabinoid (cannabidiol [CBD]). Four states and the District of Columbia have also approved recreational MJ use, with several additional states pending legislation. Recent national surveys (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015; Johnston et al., 2015) report that MJ is retaining its status as the most widely used illicit drug for recreational purposes in the world; nearly 22.2 million Americans report use within the past month (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015). Further, while more than a million Americans are registered MMJ patients, this estimate does not include the unknown number of consumers currently taking hemp-derived products, marketed as high CBD-containing compounds (tinctures, oils, topicals), which are widely available from a number of vendors who do not require MMJ certification. Despite the rapid changes in policy, many legislators, consumers, physicians, and the general public remain misinformed about MJ. Although used for centuries as medicine by varied cultures across the world, in the US, MMJ became part of mainstream medicine in 1850, when it was added to the US Pharmacopeia. Physicians prescribed the use of MJ broadly for a range of indications including (but not limited to) pain, emesis, migraine, insomnia, epilepsy, and opium withdrawal (Birch, 1889; Potter, 1917; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1997; Booth, 2003) and it remained widely available until 1937, when the marijuana tax law criminalized use of the substance. As anti-MJ sentiments grew across the country, it was removed from the pharmacopeia in 1942 and in 1970, the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) declared MJ a Schedule I substance and the cultivation, possession, and distribution of MJ became prohibited. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Schedule I drugs are those “with no currently accepted medical use, no demonstrated safety profile and a high potential for abuse…[they] are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” (dea.gov2; Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 19703). This classification deems MJ more dangerous than other substances including cocaine, methamphetamine, and opiate-based drugs, which ironically are responsible for approximately 30,000 deaths per year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). In fact, opioid overdoses are now considered a national epidemic; the rate of opioid overdose deaths, including those related to both prescription pain relievers and heroin, has nearly quadrupled since 1999 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Given its Schedule I classification, research studies exploring both potential risks and benefits of MMJ have faced numerous obstacles, forcing policy to outpace science in recent years. As the national climate warms toward MJ, research is slowly pushing forward. However, much is left to be explored before the gap between science and policy can begin to close.

A growing body of evidence suggests that recreational MJ use adversely impacts the brain, particularly during critical periods of neurodevelopment, including adolescence (For review: Crean et al., 2011; Jacobus and Tapert, 2014; Lisdahl et al., 2014). Numerous studies have shown that MJ users, particularly those who initiate use during adolescence, exhibit deficits across multiple cognitive domains. For example, MJ users who initiate use during adolescence exhibit deficits in attention (Ehrenreich et al., 1999; Cousijn et al., 2013; Becker et al., 2014) and processing speed (Fried et al., 2005; Medina et al., 2007; Lisdahl and Price, 2012; Jacobus et al., 2015). Furthermore, lower scores on measures of IQ (Pope et al., 2003; Meier et al., 2012; Crane et al., 2015) have been observed among adolescent MJ users, although recent work has questioned this finding (Jackson et al., 2016; Mokrysz et al., 2016), and a number of studies have reported poorer verbal memory among adolescent and adult MJ smokers (Tait et al., 2011; Auer et al., 2016; Shuster et al., 2016). Data also suggest that adolescent MJ use is strongly associated with poorer executive functioning (Fontes et al., 2011; Solowij et al., 2012; Crane et al., 2013; Dougherty et al., 2013; Tamm et al., 2013; Becker et al., 2014; Hanson et al., 2014; Winward et al., 2014; Jacobus et al., 2015; Sagar et al., 2015) even when deficits in other domains are not observed (Gruber et al., 2012a).

In contrast, although research is in its infancy, given what is currently known about MJ, it is possible that MMJ use may not lead to the same neurocognitive consequences that have been observed in recreational users. Although recreational and medical MJ are derived from the same plant species, there are inherent differences that exist between the two. As recreational users most frequently seek a mood altering, often “euphoric” or “mellow” state, they primarily utilize products with considerable amounts of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in MJ (Wachtel et al., 2002; Zeiger et al., 2010). Over the last two decades the potency of recreational marijuana has significantly increased from approximately 4 to 12% between 1995 and 2014 in response to consumer demand (ElSohly et al., 2016). In contrast, MMJ users primarily initiate MMJ use as a means of symptom alleviation (Nunberg et al., 2013), and as such are likely to seek products for their therapeutic potential rather than to experience the psychoactive effects. They may therefore use products differently and purchase products with a markedly different chemical composition from more common recreational products. These MMJ products are often (but not always) high in other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) which has been touted for its therapeutic potential, and which is not psychoactive. CBD has become best known in recent years for its potential to treat those with intractable seizure disorders, specifically children with Dravet Syndrome or Lennox Gastaux Syndrome, and preliminary data from both anecdotal reports and recent clinical trials are promising. In a recent open-label trial in patients aged 1–30 with severe, intractable, childhood-onset, treatment-resistant epilepsy, Devinsky et al. (2016) reported that the median monthly frequency of motor seizures decreased from 30 per month at baseline to 15.8 per month during the treatment period in patients treated with Epidolex, a 98% purified CBD compound created by GW Pharma. CBD has also demonstrated promise in treating other conditions including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis (Giacoppo et al., 2015), and Huntington's disease (Consroe et al., 1991) as well as psychiatric and behavioral health conditions including anxiety (for review: Blessing et al., 2015) and psychosis (Zuardi et al., 2009; Leweke et al., 2012). Interestingly, some work suggests that CBD may have a pharmacological profile similar to that of antipsychotic medications (Zuardi et al., 2012). In addition to CBD, a host of other cannabinoids, many of which are non-psychoactive, are also often present in MMJ products, and becoming increasingly popular. Other phytocannabinoids, including cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and tetrahydrocannabidivarin (THCV), have shown therapeutic potential and may also reduce some of the undesirable effects associated with THC. For example, cannabichromene (CBC), another abundant cannabinoid, has anti-inflammatory effects (Izzo et al., 2012) and has recently been shown to increase the viability of adult neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs), essential for brain plasticity and suggestive of neurogenesis (Shinjyo and Di Marzo, 2013). In addition, cannabigerol (CBG) inhibits GABA uptake, has anti-inflammatory properties, and has also been touted as being neurogenic (Borelli et al., 2013; Valdeolivas et al., 2015), while tetrahydrocannabidivarin (THCV) has been shown to inhibit some of the negative cognitive and physiologic effects of THC and may be neuroprotective (Englund et al., 2016).

Despite the majority of states with MMJ laws and more than a million registered patients, no studies to date have utilized a pre- vs. post-design model to examine the specific impact of MMJ on cognitive performance as a primary outcome variable. As noted above, cognitive deficits are demonstrated in chronic, heavy, recreational MJ users who begin MJ use during adolescence (for review: Crean et al., 2011; Jacobus and Tapert, 2014; Lisdahl et al., 2014), and while some clinical trials of MMJ (particularly CBD) have been initiated in children for treatment-resistant epilepsy (Devinsky et al., 2016), the majority of those utilizing MMJ products are adults, and beyond the most critical period of neurodevelopmental vulnerability. In addition, it is likely that if physical or psychological symptoms are addressed by MMJ use, cognitive function may improve. For example, studies have reported that anxiety often interferes with both attention and executive function (e.g., Vytal et al., 2013); if MMJ products act as an anxiolytic for at least some patients as reported, this may result in better concentration and enhanced cognitive performance. Chronic pain has also been noted to impair cognitive performance, notably tasks requiring attentional and executive function (for review see Moriarty et al., 2011). Accordingly, if patients experience a reduction in pain-related symptoms as a result of MMJ treatment, it is likely that cognitive performance will improve relative to a pre-treatment assessment.

In order to evaluate the impact of MMJ use on cognitive function and determine the efficacy of MMJ in a broad sample of MMJ patients, we designed a longitudinal study which assesses MMJ patients at baseline and after 3, 6, and 12 months of MMJ treatment. Importantly, baseline measurements were taken prior to the initiation of MMJ treatment in order to obtain an “MJ naïve” assessment. Given the differences between MMJ and recreational MJ use and the reported potential for symptom alleviation in MMJ users, we hypothesized that MMJ patients would demonstrate improved cognitive performance on tasks of executive functioning, as well as improved clinical state and quality of life following MMJ treatment. This study is currently ongoing, and in this paper, we report our preliminary cognitive findings in addition to information regarding general health and clinical state measures as well as medication use, after 3 months of MMJ treatment.

Materials and Methods

Participants

To date, 32 participants completed screening procedures, of which 24 MMJ users were successfully enrolled in the current study. Data from 11 patients' baseline and 3-month check-in visits (Visit 2) were available for preliminary analysis. In order to qualify for study entry, participants are required to either be MJ naïve or if they have a history of MJ use, they must report MJ abstinence for 10 or more years in an effort to ensure that recent MJ exposure does not impact results. Self-report MJ status was confirmed with urinalysis. Participants are also required to have a valid certification for MMJ, and may report seeking MMJ treatment for a variety of indications; the current sample (n = 11) reported MMJ certification for anxiety (n = 5), depression (n = 3), chronic pain (n = 7), sleep (n = 5), and other conditions (n = 6). Notably, 9 of 11 participants reported seeking out MMJ treatment for two or more conditions or symptoms.

Study Design

Prior to participation, study procedures were thoroughly explained, and all participants were required to read and sign an informed consent form. This document describes the procedures, risks, benefits, and voluntary nature of the study. All study procedures were approved by the Partners Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Prior to initiating MMJ treatment, all enrolled participants completed a neurocognitive battery as well as measures of clinical state, quality of life, sleep, and general health assessments. In addition, eligible patients completed neuroimaging sessions (i.e., functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging), which will be reported in subsequent publications. Following 3 months of regular MMJ treatment, participants returned for a check-in visit (Visit 2) and repeated all study measures. In addition, once patients began a regular MMJ use regimen, they were contacted by phone to complete monthly check-in visits, which assessed type, frequency and magnitude of MMJ use using a modified timeline follow-back procedure (TLFB; Sobell et al., 1998) and other queries. During check-in calls, patients were asked to provide qualitative information regarding product type and strain of MMJ products used as well as mode of use (i.e., joint, vaporizer, tincture, edibles, etc.) and quantitative information regarding frequency (episodes of MMJ use/week) and magnitude (doses/week) of use. These data were reviewed, clarified, and corroborated in person during Visit 2. Each participant also provided a sample of his/her most frequently used MMJ product, which was analyzed by an outside laboratory (ProVerde Laboratories, Inc.) in order to obtain cannabinoid constituent profiling for each product, providing information on THC and CBD levels as well as a number of other cannabinoids. These data will be examined in future investigations in order to determine the impact of constituent ratios on cognitive and clinical outcomes.

Cognitive and Clinical Assessments

All subjects completed the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI; Wechsler, 1999), which provides an estimate of overall cognitive functioning, to ensure an estimated IQ of 75 or higher. As a part of a larger neurocognitive battery, each individual completed several measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test, the Trail Making Test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), and Letter-Number Sequencing subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). The Stroop Color Word Test (MacLeod, 1991) assesses the ability to inhibit an automatic, overlearned response. While the first condition of the task (Color Naming) assesses rapid naming abilities, the second condition (Word Reading) requires that the individual read words printed in black ink which also serves as a primer for the third task (Interference) where they must inhibit the natural tendency to read the words aloud and instead must name the color of the ink words are printed in. During the Interference condition, each word is printed in a color incongruous to the actual word (i.e., red printed in green, or blue printed in red). The Trail Making Test (Lezak et al., 2004) is comprised of two timed conditions where participants must connect a series of dots. Trails A measures psychomotor function, visual scanning, and attention by asking participants to connected dots in numerical order. Trails B incorporates alternating set demands, requiring participants to alternate between numbers and letters (e.g., 1, A, 2, B, etc.), in order to measure cognitive flexibility and executive function. The WCST (Berg, 1948; Lezak et al., 2004) is a robust measure of executive functioning, which also assesses cognitive flexibility and set-shifting. All participants completed a computerized administration of the task in which they must match cards based on sorting rules and adjust to changing sorting rules based solely on feedback as to whether each match is either correct or incorrect. Finally, during the Letter-Number Sequencing task (Wechsler, 1997), participants are read increasingly longer strings of numbers and letters and are asked to repeat them, first citing the numbers in order, and then the letters in alphabetical order. Performance on this task is correlated with executive function and working memory abilities. Subjects completed all tasks at baseline and at the 3-month follow-up visit, with the exception of the WASI, which was administered only at baseline in order to obtain an IQ estimate.

In order to determine whether patients experienced any change in clinical symptoms or health-related measures which could potentially impact cognitive performance, each participant completed a battery of clinical state assessments, including the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS) as well as quality of life and general health questionnaires including the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Short-Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36). The POMS (Pollock et al., 1979) measures self-perceived mood, and generates subscores for feelings of vigor, confusion, tension, anger, depression, and fatigue, which combine to generate an overall measure of Total Mood Disturbance (TMD). The BDI (Beck et al., 1961) and BAI (Beck and Steer, 1990) are brief self-report measures that directly assess symptoms of depression and anxiety. The BIS (Patton et al., 1995) assesses self-reported impulsivity across three discrete domains (Attention, Motor, and Non-Planning), which together provide an overall composite score. The PSQI (Buysse et al., 1989) provides a measure of sleep quality over the past month. The SF-36 (Ware and Sherbourne, 1992) questionnaire is a multi-purpose, short-form health survey that yields an eight-scale profile of functional health and well-being scores for the following domains: physical functioning, physical role limitations, emotional role limitations, energy/fatigue, emotional well-being, social functioning, pain, and general health.

In addition, patients' use of conventional pharmaceutical medications was also tracked in order to determine whether MMJ use might be related to changes in other medication use. At baseline and during Visit 2, participants provided a list of medications used on at least a weekly basis. These medications were then coded into different classes, including opiates, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines, sedatives, and muscle relaxants. Percent change data based on number of doses taken per week was calculated for medication use from baseline to Visit 2.

Statistical Analyses

Descriptive statistics (e.g., mean and standard deviation) were calculated for demographic and MMJ use variables. Paired t-tests were used to assess within-subjects changes from baseline to Visit 2. Given our hypotheses that MMJ treatment would be associated with improved cognitive performance, clinical state, and general health ratings, one-tailed t-tests were utilized throughout.

Results

Demographics

As reported in Table 1, participants (6 males, 5 females) enrolled in current study were between the ages of 32 and 74, with an average age of 48.91. Generally, participants were well-educated, having all earned at least a high school diploma, and were of at least average intelligence, as noted on the WASI. All reported using MMJ at least weekly since the initiation of regular MMJ treatment (1–7 days per week; 4.95 days on average). Half of the sample reported typical use of MMJ products more than once per day; patients reported MMJ use 1.78 times per day on average, resulting in an average weekly total of 9.30 episodes per week. With regard to product type and mode of use, the majority of participants (8 of 11) reported using flower products in some form (smoked or vaporized). Reported use of concentrates and oils (3 of 11) and “medibles” (MMJ edible products; 3 of 11) by participants was less frequent. Other modes of administration (i.e., topicals) were not reported among the current sample.

Cognitive Performance

As shown in Table 2, following 3 months of MMJ treatment, participants completed Trails A significantly faster (p = 0.02) and also tended to complete Trails B (p = 0.06) faster relative to baseline. Further, this improvement was not at the expense of task accuracy, as no difference in number of errors was observed across visits for Trails A or Trails B. On the Stroop Color Word Test, participants also demonstrated faster completion times and some improvements in task accuracy following 3 months of treatment. As compared to baseline, performance on the Color Naming condition was significantly faster (p = 0.01), again with no decrement noted in percent accuracy. Performance was virtually unchanged across visits on the Word Reading subtest, which is primarily utilized to prime participants for the Interference condition. During the Interference condition, participants also demonstrated faster completion times relative to baseline (p = 0.01). Although no improvement was detected for accuracy on the Interference condition, participants maintained their high levels of performance from baseline to their 3-month check in visits. Overall on the WCST, no changes in performance were observed for categories completed, correct responses or perseverative errors, and although some improvements were noted from baseline to Visit 2, these did not reach statistical significance. On the Letter Number Sequencing task, while the total number correct increased slightly from baseline to Visit 2, this difference did not reach statistical significance.

Clinical Ratings and Pharmaceutical Medication Usage

As noted in Table 3, several discrete measures of clinical state and general health improved relative to baseline. Participants reported significantly lower levels of depression on the BDI (18.18 vs. 13.64, p = 0.04) as well as a trend for lower level of sleep disturbance (reflecting improved sleep) on the PSQI (9.63 vs. 7.25, p = 0.06). In addition, participants reported a moderate degree of decreased impulsivity on the BIS (Motor subscore: 22.91 vs. 21.46, p = 0.03). On the SF-36, participants also generally reported improved quality of life, including significant improvements on a scale measuring Energy/Fatigue (35.45 vs. 45.91, p = 0.02) as well a trend for fewer role limitations due to physical health (43.18 vs. 56.82, p = 0.07), which reflects how often patients “cut down the amount of time [they] spent on work or other activities,” “accomplished less than [they] would like,” “were limited in the kind of work or other activities,” or “had difficulty performing the work or other activities” as a result of physical health.




Following 3 months of MMJ treatment, participants also reported reductions in the use of conventional pharmaceutical products. As shown in Table 4, percentage change [(Visit 2-Visit 1)/Visit 1] data revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (−42.88%), antidepressants (−17.64%), mood stabilizers (−33.33%), and benzodiazepines (−38.89%). Interestingly, t-tests indicated trends for significant reductions in opiate (5.85 vs. 2.27, p = 0.08) and antidepressant (8.54 vs. 7.00, p = 0.09) use. Although sedative (−100.00%) and muscle relaxant (−100.00%) usage were notably decreased, these data were only based on one participant for each of these medication classes.

Discussion

Despite rapid changes in the law, many policy makers, consumers, physicians, and the general public remain misinformed about MJ. While a body of evidence has demonstrated alterations in brain structure and function secondary to recreational MJ use, particularly related to use during vulnerable developmental periods such as adolescence (For review: Crean et al., 2011; Jacobus and Tapert, 2014; Lisdahl et al., 2014), critical questions regarding the impact of MMJ use remain unanswered. To our knowledge, the current pilot study marks the first investigation to specifically examine cognitive performance and related measures in MMJ patients prior to initiation of treatment relative to performance following regular MMJ use. Preliminary results from this first phase of the study suggest that after 3 months of MMJ treatment, participants experienced some degree of improvement on tasks of executive functioning. In addition, no significant decrements in performance were noted across any measure of executive function completed by participants.

Further, results from the current study suggested some improvement in self-reported measures of clinical state and general health. MMJ participants reported significant improvement on measures of depression and impulsivity. Participants' ratings also indicated some improvement in sleep quality, which is likely related to ratings of significantly increased energy and decreased fatigue on self-report measures assessing quality of life. Study findings provide further evidence of improvements in medical and clinical symptoms secondary to MMJ use, consistent with other recent reports that have also demonstrated varying degrees of efficacy of cannabinoid-based therapies (Boychuk et al., 2015; Deshpande et al., 2015; Press et al., 2015; Whiting et al., 2015; Devinsky et al., 2016; Haroutounian et al., 2016; Wilkie et al., 2016).

In a survey study of California residents, Ryan-Ibarra et al. (2015) recently found that of the 5% of California who reported having ever used MMJ, 92% report that MMJ helped treat a serious medical condition, with pain being the most commonly reported indication for use. Notably, improvements observed in the current study occurred concomitantly with a reduction in reported use of pharmaceutical products (particularly opiates and antidepressants), which are used to treat many symptoms for which patients in this study initiated MMJ use. In a recent European study designed to assess the impact of MMJ on chronic pain, Haroutounian et al. (2016) also reported reductions in conventional pharmaceutical use among study patients, specifically with regard to opioid use. Similarly, a study examining physician records of 1655 patients seeking a physician certification at multiple MMJ evaluation clinics in California found that half of applicants reported using MJ as a substitute for a prescription medication (Nunberg et al., 2013). Given the current opioid crisis, it is critical to examine the potential role for cannabinoids, as many patients do not get full symptom relief from conventional opiate-based therapies and often complain about the myriad of associated side effects (Ballantyne and Shin, 2008; Rosenblum et al., 2008). In addition, it is important to consider a recent study which found that MJ users reported greater pain relief when MJ was used in combination with pharmaceutical opioids than when opioids were used alone (Degenhardt et al., 2015).

Several hypotheses may be considered for the observed improvements in the current pilot investigation. First, as postulated, participants experienced some amelioration of clinical symptoms. This reduction of symptomatology, in combination with reported improvements on other measures (improved sleep, less impulsivity), may result in the observed improvements in cognitive functioning. As previously noted, symptoms commonly reported in MMJ patients including anxiety and pain, have been associated with reduced cognitive performance (Moriarty et al., 2011; Vytal et al., 2013). Symptom improvement may therefore result in improved cognitive performance. Interestingly, two previous studies have noted a positive association between a history of MJ use and improved cognitive performance on measures of psychomotor speed, attention, working memory, executive functioning, and verbal learning in patients with bipolar disorder compared to patients without a history of marijuana use (Ringen et al., 2010; Braga et al., 2012). Further investigation is warranted, given the number of patients seeking MMJ treatment for symptoms known to interfere with cognitive function.

It is also possible that MMJ products themselves protect against the executive function deficits that have been widely reported in recreational MJ users (for review see Crean et al., 2011). Although results from the current study appear to be in stark contrast to those from some recreational MJ studies, the answer may lie in the inherent differences between MMJ and recreational MJ products and the differences between the two consumer groups. While THC potency is rising and CBD levels have decreased to barely perceptible levels in recreational MJ strains (ElSohly et al., 2016), some MMJ products contain higher amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids which may mitigate the adverse effects of THC on cognitive performance. Although research is limited in this area, Englund et al. (2013) found that administering CBD prior to intravenous administration of THC in healthy control participants resulted in better episodic memory relative to placebo. In another study of acute administration of CBD in recreational MJ users who smoked once a month for at least a year, Morgan et al. (2010) reported that those who smoked MJ strains low in CBD performed worse on a verbal memory task than those who smoked MJ strains high in CBD. Similarly, an extension of that study examined THC and CBD levels obtained via hair samples and found that higher levels of CBD were associated with better recognition memory relative to undetectable CBD levels (Morgan et al., 2012). While the majority of studies have investigated the impact of CBD on verbal memory, Borgwardt et al. (2008) utilized a Go/No Go Task, which measures inhibitory function, to examine the functional impact of CBD in healthy volunteers. Functional imaging results revealed that while THC reduced activation in the right inferior frontal and anterior cingulate gyrus, CBD deactivated the left temporal cortex and insula relative to placebo. The authors concluded that THC may attenuate the activity of brain regions that mediate response inhibition, while CBD altered function in regions not typically implicated in response inhibition. Bhattacharyya et al. (2010) also found that intravenous administration of THC and CBD had opposite effects on brain activation patterns across a number of brain regions during the completion of memory, inhibitory, visual, and affective measures. Taken together, these results further suggest that THC and CBD appear to affect the brain very differently, with CBD demonstrating potential for mitigating adverse cognitive consequences that have been widely observed in recreational MJ smokers. The current study included individuals using products high in CBD as well as those using products high in THC; future analyses which include quantified levels of THC, CBD and several other cannabinoids from participants' actual MMJ products are planned in order to examine the specific relationship between MJ constituents and cognitive performance and to determine if some cannabinoids prove beneficial to cognitive status.

In addition, it may be that some of the adverse consequences noted in recreational MJ users were not noted in the current study as all enrolled patients are considered beyond the age of neurodevelopmental vulnerability. Longitudinal studies have shown that the brain continues to develop throughout the late twenties (Giedd et al., 1999); however, all participants included in the current analysis were over 30 years of age. Numerous research studies have found that recreational MJ users with teenage onset experience the most pronounced cognitive deficits (Lisdahl et al., 2013,2014; Jacobus and Tapert, 2014), and those with later onset of use often perform more similarly to non-MJ smoking healthy control subjects (Gruber et al., 2012a; Sagar et al., 2015). Accordingly, our adult MJ onset sample may not be as vulnerable to the negative impact of MJ, specifically products high in THC, as those who use MJ during periods of developmental vulnerability.

Limitations and Future Directions

Although data from the current investigation have generated interesting preliminary findings, it is important to consider these results in light of several limitations. As a pilot study, we have thus far only investigated the impact of MMJ use on measures of executive functioning. Future studies should explore additional cognitive domains. In addition, the sample size is inherently modest in nature. However, additional subjects continue to be recruited and enrolled. With additional subjects and increased statistical power, future analyses can employ regression models in order to determine whether MMJ use patterns, product type, constituent ratios, indications for use, or other additional factors predict cognitive performance, mood, or symptom improvement. For example, while a number of patients smoke or vaporize MJ flower products, several also consistently used tinctures, oil, or edibles. In order to inform policy and guidelines for use, research is needed to determine whether certain modes of use have a differential impact on cognition, quality of life, and clinical and medical symptoms. Similarly, information gathered from laboratory analyses, which provide information about the cannabinoid profiles of each product, may provide critical data regarding the impact of individual constituents and eventually, the impact of specific ratios (i.e., THC: CBD) on cognitive and clinical measures. In the current observational study, patients are free to use products of their choice, and often “test out” a variety of products in order to determine what works best for them, especially in the early stages of treatment, which likely increases ecological validity. In addition, with only a handful of dispensaries available to those within the Greater Boston Area, patients in the current study have reported being limited to what products are currently available, and are sometimes forced to change products due to changes in availability. Without statewide or federal regulations to maintain quality control, products may also vary in potency and composition over time or across dispensaries. With larger sample sizes, we aim to explore these questions more fully. For example, we plan to conduct analyses which examine the possibility that high CBD-containing products may have contributed to the positive changes in clinical outcomes and perhaps mitigated some of the adverse cognitive consequences that have historically been observed in recreational MJ users.

Further, while this study employed a pre-post treatment design to assess within-subject changes, given its observational nature, a group of individuals taking placebo or receiving a “sham” treatment could not be utilized; participants in this investigation acquire MMJ products at their own discretion from local dispensaries and/or caregivers, and therefore a placebo arm is not possible. In subsequent work, we plan to utilize clinical trials with more robust double-blind procedures; however, thus far the Schedule I classification of MJ has impeded efforts to conduct these types of clinical trials.

As the current study design requires participants to complete repeated administrations of neurocognitive assessment, we cannot exclude the possibility of practice effects impacting study findings despite attempts to minimize this potential confound. While tasks completed at the baseline visit would be familiar to subjects at Visit 2, it is unlikely that practice effects would persist following a 3-month interval between study visits. For example, a study of practice effects in serial neuropsychological testing found no effects on the Letter Number Sequencing and Trail Making tasks even with weekly administration (Beglinger et al., 2005)—a much more frequent schedule of testing than utilized in the current study. Studies noting practice effects on the Stroop test have typically utilized a daily to weekly administration, also a significantly more frequent interval than 3 months (Gul and Humphreys, 2015). In addition, we utilized alternate versions of test measures at Visit 2, further reducing the risk of practice effects. For complex tasks like the WCST, where no alternate version exists, a computerized version of the task, which terminates upon the completion of a specific number of correct categories without any clarification of the rules, was used in order to reduce potential task learning.

In the past, we have had success in studies of recreational users using TLFB procedures to track MJ use (Gruber et al., 2012a,b, 2014; Sagar et al., 2015, 2016; Dahlgren et al., 2016). While MMJ patients appear to be truthful and accurate in providing data on frequency and magnitude of use, the accuracy of their self-reports cannot be confirmed. However, to address this challenge, reports of use during phone check-ins were verified and reviewed at patients' second in-person visit. In general, quantification of MJ use continues to be a challenge in all research studies, as unlike other substances, no standard measure of use is available. This is especially true when considering concentrated products, which often contain high levels of THC (i.e., greater than 60%) in a very small volume or weight. Although MMJ use information was collected and primary MMJ use variables are reported (i.e., days used per week, times used per day), future studies will explore the impact of MMJ use patterns (frequency, mode, constituent ratios, age of initiation, duration of use, mode of use, etc.) and MMJ product composition (i.e., THC vs. CBD), analyses which are planned once larger sample sizes are achieved. Clinical trials geared specifically toward assessing individual MMJ products are still needed to help address issues of confounding variables and to provide additional data regarding the myriad of questions, which only continue to grow as we learn more about MMJ.

Additionally, it will also be important to ascertain whether the improvements noted in the current study persist over longer periods of time. For this reason, the current study is designed to continue to track subjects' cognitive performance and clinical state over the course of 1 year of treatment. Future studies should also investigate whether specific clinical indications for MMJ use impact study results. While some studies have already begun to investigate the effects of cannabinoid-based treatments for specific illnesses or symptoms, such as pain (Eisenberg et al., 2014; Baron, 2015), multiple sclerosis (Flachenecker et al., 2014; Patti et al., 2016), and epilepsy (Press et al., 2015; Devinsky et al., 2016), it is critical to assess whether use of MMJ and related products differentially impact cognition within these populations. Finally, future investigations should aim to explore the mechanism of the improvement noted in the current study. For example, as results primarily indicate improvements in task completion times, more focused examinations of the effects of processing speed may be warranted.

Although our research has begun to address the potential impact of MMJ treatment on cognition, more questions than answers remain. Our findings underscore the need for additional, expanded investigation and exploration. With the nation in the midst of a “green rush” (Silver, 2016) it is imperative to clarify issues including the ways in which recreational and medical MJ use differ. Further, given previous studies assessing the impact of recreational MJ use in adolescents or emerging adults (Crean et al., 2011; Gruber et al., 2012a,b, 2014; Jacobus and Tapert, 2014; Lisdahl et al., 2014; Sagar et al., 2015, 2016; Dahlgren et al., 2016), it will be critical to determine if the same decrements are noted in adult consumers who use MMJ for short or long-term symptom alleviation. Questions regarding how MMJ use impacts quality of life, sleep, clinical state and other important measures remain and are critical areas for further longitudinal investigations.

Given the fact that more than 22 million Americans report current use of recreational MJ (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2015) and more than 1 million are certified for MMJ use (Procon.org4), it is in the public's best interest to develop a robust, evidence-based understanding of both the positive and negative effects of MMJ use on various aspects of functioning: cognition, quality of life, physical and emotional health. Despite attempts to conduct empirically sound clinical research, a number of barriers remain. Restrictions on MJ research and many MJ-related products, including those with little to no THC, stem exclusively from MJ's status as a Schedule I substance. Budding efforts have emerged to move the field forward, including both the introduction of the CARERS Act (Compassionate, Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act, 20155) and the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act (Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act, 2015). Both of these acts seek, among other agenda items, to exclude CBD as well as low THC/high CBD strains of MJ (in other words, non-psychoactive products) from the current definition of “marijuana” under the CSA in order to facilitate access to MMJ patients. Although both bills were introduced over a year ago, their status is still pending. As it currently stands, non-psychoactive (low to no THC) industrial hemp-derived products, which are widely available for sale, cannot be studied through clinical research trials given current restrictions. Accordingly, consumers can gain access to these products that cannot be assessed by clinical researchers with regard to efficacy and safety. In spite of these obstacles, some progress has recently provided hope to those who seek alternative treatments. As of April 2016, the DEA approved the first study of smoked MMJ for a clinical trial of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (Clinicaltrials.gov6). Although the DEA announced earlier this year that it was reconsidering the classification of MJ, a decision released in August 2016 revealed that MJ will remain a Schedule I substance (Department of Justice, 2016a). In an effort to promote clinical research studies of MJ, the DEA instead indicated that it will allow “entities” to apply for a DEA registration to grow their own MJ for research (Department of Justice, 2016b); this stands in contrast to the current protocol mandating that all whole plant-derived MJ products used for clinical trials be sourced from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA). While investigations of the purified extracts of individual cannabinoids are currently being studied, most notably the GW Pharma trials of Epidiolex, a purified CBD product for children with intractable seizure disorders, some have reported that products derived from whole plant botanicals provide greater symptom amelioration and relief (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1997; Joy et al., 1999), underscoring the need for additional sources of MJ products for clinical trials.

Conclusions

Data from the current investigation provide preliminary evidence that after 3 months of treatment, MMJ users did not experience executive functioning deficits, which are often observed in regular, recreational MJ users. In fact, MMJ patients evidenced improvement in certain aspects of performance on these measures, particularly with regard to time required to complete tasks. Further, patients reported some improvements on measures of clinical state and general health as well as a decrease in conventional pharmaceuticals, notably opiate use, which was reduced by 42% between the baseline and Visit 2 assessment. While future studies are needed to further examine the impact of MMJ, research is impeded by a number of federal and state restrictions. It is imperative, however, that sound research, including well-controlled clinical trials of MMJ products, many of which are already widely used by patients, are thoroughly examined. As the “green rush” pushes forward, gaining momentum as states continue to adopt less restrictive policies, we cannot afford for research to continue to lag behind.

Author Contributions

SG conceptualized and designed the current study in consultation with SL. KS and MD assisted SG in manuscript preparation. SG, KS, MR, and RS recruited patients, carried out study procedures, and administered neuropsychological and clinical assessments. MD also completed statistical analyses.

Funding

This project was funded by generous private donations to the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Program at McLean Hospital.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Korine Cabrera and Ashley Lambros for their assistance with the administration and scoring of neuropsychological and clinical assessments. In addition, the authors thank Integr8, Canna Care, and Dr. David Rideout at MMJ Physician Practice for their assistance in facilitating patient recruitment.

Footnotes

1. ^Medical Marijuana ProCon.org. (2016). Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/

Procon org (2016). Number of Legal Medical Marijuana Patients. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org. March 3).

2. ^Retrieved June 16, 2016, Available online at: http://www.dea.gov/index.shtml

3. ^Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-513, 84 Stat. 1236, 21 U.S.C. §812.

4. ^Medical Marijuana ProCon.org. (2016). Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/

5. ^Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act of 2015, S. 683, 114th Cong. (2015).

6. ^Clinicaltrials.gov. (2016). Retrieved August 29, 2016, from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02759185?term=%22sisley%22&rank=1

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October 9, 2017     

Record first month of recreational marijuana sales in Nevada

By Eli McVey

Nevada’s recreational marijuana industry is off to a blistering start, with early sales far surpassing the totals other adult-use markets posted their first few weeks.

The development highlights how different approaches to the rollout of recreational marijuana – as well as unique market dynamics – can greatly influence early sales.

Dispensaries in Nevada sold a whopping $27 million worth of recreational cannabis during the first month of sales in July. That’s nearly double the tally during the first month of sales in Colorado and more than seven times the amount Washington state recorded.

The figure also is almost double the $14 million Oregon posted in the first month of taxed rec sales (no data is available for the three-month period of sales before the tax took effect).

Nevada opted for an “early start” program that allows licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling adult-use cannabis while the state still works through the recreational licensing process.

Oregon followed a similar path, while Colorado and Washington state mandated that businesses obtain full recreational licenses first – meaning only a limited number of stores were actually open in each market the first few weeks of sales.

It’s clear that the early start program allows a market to get a big jump out of the gate.

Many dispensaries in Nevada opened their doors to adult-use customers at 12:01 am on July 1, and business has been booming ever since.

Chalk it up not only to the early start program but also the thriving tourism industry in Las Vegas, which is home to 36 of the 53 dispensaries throughout the state that are licensed to sell adult-use cannabis.

Larry Doyle, owner of Euphoria Wellness in Las Vegas, believes Nevada was generally well prepared to accommodate the influx of out-of-state customers – particularly when compared to the rollouts of rec programs in other adult-use markets.

“It certainly was well marketed nationally, so people coming here were aware that rec had begun in Nevada and that most people could walk into a dispensary,” Doyle said.

“Nevada had good regulations to begin with, and they certainly didn’t make them any more stringent,” he added. “If anything, they lessened some of the reporting requirements, some of the tracking requirements. So keeping the barriers low and the supply available, I think those two things really helped a lot.”

Nevada kept purchase limitations between out-of-state customers and Nevada residents the same – 1 ounce of flower at one time from a recreational dispensary – eliminating some of the confusion surrounding the launch of a new rec program.

At the start of rec sales in Colorado in January 2014, residents were allowed to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana per day, while visitors and tourists were limited to just a quarter ounce per day.

Similar to Nevada’s early start program, Oregon allowed MMJ dispensaries – in October 2015 – to start selling recreational cannabis before implementing its full adult-use licensing program. The state started releasing sales data in January 2016 when taxes on rec cannabis transactions kicked in.

It’s possible that Oregon’s true first month of sales, which were not taxed, surpassed the total in Nevada. The Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association previously estimated that rec revenues hit $11 million in the first six days of sales in October 2015, which would’ve put the state on pace for more than $50 million for the month.

Retail sales got off to a slow start in Washington state, as only a handful of stores were able to open at first. The state also grappled with supply issues and other challenges that limited growth.

While tourism has been providing Nevada’s cannabis industry with a big boost, strong sales among the local customer base signal a promising future for Nevada’s rec industry.

“I’m not seeing the spikes and valleys,” Doyle said. “If you’re doing it right you should be increasing sales each month by between 2%-5%, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

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October 6, 2017     

New York medical cannabis sales are up but remain slow

New York’s five medical marijuana businesses generated only $16.6 million in gross sales between April 2016 and August 2017, but sales and patient numbers are improving.

From April 2016 through March 2017, the companies generated sales of $8.4 million – about $700,000 per month – according to analyses by the USA Today Network.

Sales improved dramatically in the next five months – April-August 2017 – hitting $8.2 million in sales, or about $1.64 million per month, according to the report. But that still means each MMJ company brought in only $328,000 per month.

The authors of the analyses warned that the improvement in sales was no guarantee the state’s MMJ program had become sustainable.

For example, the USA Today Network study found that the companies combined for about $2 million in sales in August. If patients spent an average of $200 per month, that means there would have been about 10,000 active patients, which is less than a third of the 31,860 registered through Oct. 3.

New York’s original five businesses are each allowed to have four dispensaries. But the market will become more competitive once five new companies that have been awarded licenses – and are also allowed four dispensaries – go online.

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October 9, 2017     

Massachusetts MMJ dispensary launches billboard campaign

In what is perhaps a Massachusetts marijuana milestone, a medical cannabis dispensary unveiled a billboard advertising drive in Boston and other cities on Monday.

New England Treatment Access, which operates two dispensaries in the state, bought space on four billboards for the campaign, The Boston Globe reported.

Two of the billboards are in and just outside Boston – close to the company’s dispensary on the city’s border with the well-to-do town of Brookline. Another two are on the Massachusetts Turnpike about 20 miles from New England Treatment’s location in Northampton.

Using black and white letters on a bright green background, the billboards simply ask a question – “Why Wait For Better Health?” – over the tagline “Premier Medical Marijuana Dispensaries” and include the company’s two locations, website address and logo.

New England Treatment spokesman Norton Arbelaez told the Globe the billboards target potential patients who currently obtain marijuana through unregulated channels or those who are considering getting patient cards but haven’t yet, according to the Globe.

Through Aug. 31, roughly 40,000 patients were registered in Massachusetts, but Arbelaez believes there are as many 120,000 qualified patients, according to the newspaper.

The company’s billboard campaign follows recent successful attempts by U.S. marijuana businesses to utilize mainstream media platforms.
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October 9, 2017     

Julian Marley’s JuJu Royal plans to distribute in Canada, Europe

Just days after announcing his line of cannabis products would be distributed in Southern California, reggae musician Julian Marley revealed he’s struck a deal to have his products reach the international MJ market as well.

Marley is partnering with Maricann Group – which has a medical cannabis production facility in Ontario, Canada – to produce and distribute Marley’s JuJu Royal line of marijuana products in that country starting Jan. 1, according to a news release.

Maricann’s release also said the company will have first right of refusal for distribution in Europe.

Marley – one of the children of legendary musician Bob Marley – has also partnered with International Cannabrands to promote the licensing of his family name. That company helped broker the Maricann deal, according to the release.

The deal is for three years, under which Maricann will distribute Marley’s line in Canada.

The release didn’t identify any specific European countries where JuJu Royal would be distributed or when that venture may begin, but Maricann’s European headquarters is in Germany.

The JuJu Royal line is already available in California, Colorado, Washington state and Puerto Rico, and some of its CBD products are available in the United Kingdom. The company is also looking to expand into the Nevada market.

The news reinforces the increasingly global nature of the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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October 9, 2017     

Maine proposal shifts responsibility for rec MJ implementation

Maine lawmakers seem to be going in circles.

After residents voted to legalize adult-use marijuana last year, the legislature was tasked with passing a bill to implement a new recreational cannabis industry.

But a rewrite to the implementing legislation recently would forbid recreational marijuana businesses unless municipalities expressly approve them, basically returning the state to de facto prohibition.

That’s how attorney Amy Tchao of the Drummond Woodsum law firm explained the proposed rewrite to the Maine Municipal Association’s convention, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The original ballot measure that voters approved last fall gave municipalities the right to ban recreational marijuana businesses, but lawmakers put the program on hold while a legislative committee rewrote the law. The opt-in language was added on the last day of the committee’s work on the bill.

The final draft of the bill will be available Oct. 11.

Other states have seen marijuana programs develop that are much different than what was originally voted on.

For instance, in Massachusetts, lawmakers tinkered with what the voters approved, and in Florida, one major MMJ advocate is suing lawmakers for not allowing a key component: smokable flower.

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October 6, 2017     

Nevada AG to weigh in on cannabis consumption lounges

Nevada’s marijuana regulators have asked state Attorney General Adam Laxalt for a formal opinion on whether state law allows cannabis use in smoking lounges and at special events.

According to the Nevada Appeal, the state’s Department of Taxation made the request in the wake of a Legislative Counsel’s opinion that the voter-approved law allowing recreational marijuana use doesn’t specifically prohibit marijuana consumption and possession in places where the public isn’t allowed and where entry is restricted to people 21 and older.

The legislative panel also said local governments have the authority to license such businesses and consumption lounges, or the use of marijuana at special events – just as those governments license other businesses.

Gov. Brian Sandoval noted when that opinion was issued last month it doesn’t legally carry the weight of an official opinion from the attorney general.

Commissioners in Clark County, which is home to Las Vegas, recently said they would table discussions about cannabis consumption lounges until they see how Denver handles the matter.

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October 6, 2017     

Pennsylvania proposes $50 medical marijuana registration fee

Looking for signs that Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is nearing fruition?

State regulators are proposing a $50 annual fee for patients and caregivers who want to register for the nascent program, according to Lancaster Online.

Such details typically are a sign an MMJ program is in its final stages of preparation.

In fact, according to Lancaster Online, Pennsylvania’s top medical cannabis regulator said the registration fee is “one of the final pieces we need to have in place to launch the program.”

The state has been aiming to start the program sometime next year, and an industry insider recently told Marijuana Business Daily an “early 2018” launch isn’t out of the question.

Pennsylvania’s registration fee is relatively reasonable compared to some states. For example, Minnesota charges $200 annually and Arizona asks $150.

However, other states charge much less, such as Montana’s $5 fee.

Pennsylvania’s fee could be reduced or waived if a prospective patient can prove a financial hardship, according to Lancaster Online.

Applicants would have to prove that a registered doctor has certified the patient to be awarded an MMJ ID card.

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