Tag: California

Would a ‘Public Cannabis Bank’ Really Work in California?

Most cannabis business owners eventually confront the stresses of working in an all-cash environment. If you’re lucky, you’ve found one of the 368 reported banks or credit unions providing limited services to the industry under FinCEN guidelines. You might be experimenting with more exotic solutions like cryptocurrencies or pre-paid services like Tommy Chong’s Green Card. In the past few months, a bold new financial project has re-emerged from Occupy-inspired economic circles to captivate city councils, state treasurers and weary cannabis industry entrepreneurs: the public bank.

‘A multi-billion dollar cannabis industry could be the catalyst that propels public banking into becoming a reality.’

John Chiang, California State Treasurer

A public bank is a bank fully owned and operated by the state or municipal government within which it operates. Instead of depositing its money in a third-party bank owned by private interests and insured by the FDIC, the state or city deposits and insures the public bank’s money and builds up its own assets. A public bank can choose whether or not to engage with the Federal Reserve system, which means it could possibly provide a suitable home for the cannabis industry’s cash.

A lot of the action around public banking and cannabis right now is happening in California. The state’s Cannabis Banking Working Group, chaired by State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang, devoted an entire session to the public banking option on August 10th.

“The emergence of a multi-billion dollar cannabis industry could well be the catalyst that propels public banking into becoming a reality,” Chiang said to open that session. “We are here to test the idea and see if it’s truly workable.” His comments have been prefaced by similar considerations of the concept in San Francisco, Oakland, and most recently in Los Angeles.

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Public banks are nothing new, either in the United States or internationally. Beginning in rudimentary fashion with the rise of colonial “land banks,” public banks were developed within the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Vermont, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, and countries such as Argentina, Malaysia and China currently maintain their own state-run banks. However, the only US public bank currently in existence is the Bank of North Dakota.

Founded in 1919 as a populist alternative to national banks that had reduced their willingness to lend to local farmers, the Bank of North Dakota now controls over $7 billion in assets and $876 million in capital, returning 46% of its earnings to the state every year. It famously occupied the financial high ground during the 2008 meltdown, which kickstarted the current public bank revival.

The Bank of North Dakota refused comment on both the current resurgence of interest or its own relationship to North Dakota’s imminent medical marijuana program. Because the Bank of North Dakota maintains a master account with the Federal Reserve, it probably won’t accept cannabis deposits unless expressly mandated by the state of North Dakota.

Other states have studied the Bank of North Dakota model. Not all have come away impressed. At the Working Group session, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Banks David Cotney cited his state’s 2011 feasibility study, which determined that BND’s model was inapplicable for a state as large and economically and financially diverse as Massachusetts, to say nothing of a state the size of California, which contains the world’s sixth largest economy.

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What Would It Take?

Creating a public bank, even one that would be constructed to accept cannabis business deposits as well as provide merchant services, would be an extremely heavy lift. Banking experts have commented on the extraordinary levels of capitalization needed for such an effort. For the Los Angeles bank alone, initial capitalization costs are estimated between $125 million to $250 million for a bank with $1-2 billion in assets, for starters.

Before founding the cannabis legislation database CannaRegs, Amanda Ostrowski worked as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve, which informs her perspective on the road ahead. “The number of different things a bank has to pass through, it’s not just simple stress tests,” she said recently. “It’s safety and soundness exams, consumer lending compliance, there’s so many different factors that go in… There’s a reason why the federal reserve is still refining the systems and equations to this day and why these examiners go through at least two years of training before they’re certified examiners. And to put that kind of infrastructure into place from the ground up is going to be extremely costly.”

Using that logic, Ostrowski believes getting a cannabis bank up and running would take more time and effort than the industry can spare. As several speakers at the Working Group noted, absent a master account from the Federal Reserve and access to the fedwire, a cannabis bank would merely serve as a vault that couldn’t even complete intrastate transactions with other banks.

Adam Johnson, author of the investment newsletter Bullseye Brief, elaborates: “There are very few banks that are chartered solely within state lines, which means that they’re by definition unable to handle transactions across a state line where it would certainly become illegal transfer.”

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Harborside Is Interested

But some in the industry think well enough of the project to occupy a seat at the table, most notably Harborside Medical Center co-founder Dress Wedding. In addition to serving as Harborside’s Director of Holistic Services, he also volunteers at the advocacy group Friends of the Public Bank in Oakland.

Harborside has not officially endorsed the public bank initiative. But Wedding supports the social and economic justice elements of the public bank, and argues for a bank business plan that would apply for a master account and commingle municipal and cannabis funds.

He is seconded by Matt Stannard, Policy Director of Commonomics USA, who told the Working Group: “What a public bank can do is really  stare in the face of whatever existing guidelines, however ambiguous or however contingent those federal guidelines might be… and say, ‘We are going to do everything and beyond that these non-regulatory guidelines [such as the Cole Memo and the FinCEN guidelines] ask of us.’”

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The possibility that the Federal Reserve would grant an account to such an application is remote. But so was the idea of a legal cannabis industry 20 years ago. The current cannabis-based public banking initiatives are stuck in feasibility study mode, but Ostrowski feels that the acceptance of some potential variation of this perennial economic moonshot could be catalyzed out of necessity. Its impact could extend well beyond cannabis.

“There’s a lot of these things in history,” said Ostrowski. “They were built to solve one problem [and they] balloon and become the new way. If it works and it makes sense, then who knows? Maybe this is a model that goes all the way through, but we’ve got to look at the costs and the general impacts on society.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

California Is Still Arresting Too Many People of Color for Cannabis

California residents voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for all adults last November. Yet law enforcement’s approach towards the drug has yet to fully evolve along with public attitudes. That’s according to crime statistics from 2016 released by the California Department of Justice last week.

Marijuana felony arrests fell by nearly half from 2011 to 2016. But racial disparities remain.

That crime data confirms a disturbing trend seen in other cities and states: While arrests for cannabis are on the decline, the disparity between arrest rates for white people and people of color still persists. Non-white people are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana in California, despite having the same rate of consumption.

Overall, marijuana arrests in California have plummeted since 2011—from 21,860 that year, to 13,810 last year. Felony marijuana arrests fell 44%, from 14,092 in 2011 to 7,949 last year.

Felony marijuana arrests dropped 44% from 2011 to 2016.

But those drops did not happen because of legalization—at least not directly.

In 2010, with a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that made possession of an ounce or less of cannabis a civil infraction, punishable only by a fine.

In 2014, following a voter-approved ballot proposition, most drug-related felonies became misdemeanors. Felony marijuana arrests promptly dropped by a third, as many of those offenses moved into the misdemeanor category. As cannabis arrests fell, overall misdemeanor drug offenses (including but not limited to marijuana) shot up from 92,469 in 2014 to 163,073 in 2015.

Possession of an ounce or less of cannabis became legal for adults 21 and over in California on Nov. 8, 2016, the day more than 57 percent of voters approved Proposition 64. Sale of marijuana remains illegal (except for medical sales) until the state opens up its regulated system in 2018.

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Voters in three other states—Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—approved marijuana legalization on Election Night, joining Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

In California, retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t begin until sometime after Jan. 1, 2018, by which time the state is supposed to issue business licenses to cultivate, transport, and sell the plant. Until then, the only legal method to purchase cannabis in California is with a medical marijuana recommendation.

But even as legalization loomed large in the state last year, marijuana still represented a significant portion of court caseloads in California.

Overall, drug arrests have increased significantly since 2011, although a larger percentage of those arrests are misdemeanors, not felonies. More than 220,000 people were arrested for drug crimes in California in 2016. Of those, 182,002 arrests were misdemeanors. In 2011, there were 192,248 drug arrests all told, with 76,916 misdemeanor arrests.

California trend: More misdemeanor arrests, fewer felonies.

While possession of an ounce or less of cannabis is now legal in California, it’s still illegal to cultivate the drug for sale or sell it without a permit, as multiple large law enforcement raids this summer of what police say are illegal grows have demonstrated.

And legalization’s seeming inevitability has yet to solve the drug war’s glaring racial bias.

Before and after legalization, nonwhite people were still arrested for marijuana-related crime at a rate greater than that for whites despite similar rates of use, with the disproportionate policing falling most heavily on black people.

More than 70 percent of people arrested for marijuana in 2016 were nonwhite, according to the California DOJ’s annual Crime in California report.

Black people comprised 20 percent of the state’s felony marijuana arrests, despite making up 6.5 percent of the population.

2016 felonies: Black people make up 6.5% of California’s population, but 20% of felony marijuana arrests.

Of the 7,949 people arrested for marijuana-related felonies, 3,066 were Latino, 1,215 were classified as “other” (a catch-all category including Asians), and 1,592 were black.

Overall, of the 13,810 people arrested for marijuana in 2016, 4,051 were whites, 2,201 were black, 5,994 were Latino, and 1564 were classified as “other.”

California is 37.7 percent white, 38.9 percent Hispanic, 14.8 Asian and 6.5 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Gavin Newsom Racking Up Cannabis $$$ in California Governors Race

Campaign donations from the cannabis industry are starting to pop up in campaign disclosure forms in California, as the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 heats up. One candidate continues to separate himself, as current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has received over $320,000 in campaign donations from people associated with the cannabis industry.

Newsom has raised more than $320,000 from cannabis industry sources.

Cannabis industry campaign donations only make up a fraction of Newsom’s donation total; the LA Times reports he has around $16 million in campaign donations so far. But the Lieutenant Governor has made it a campaign priority to hear out folks from the soon-to-be flourishing cannabis industry in California.

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In an interview with the LA Times, political insiders told the paper that the industry’s political donations show how an industry that was once underground is now becoming a part of the establishment.

“In other industries, there’s an expectation that you’re at the table before legislation is passed,” Elizabeth Ashford, a former aide to Gov. Brown and California Sen. Kamala Harris, told the Times. “These businesses have evolved to that point.”

Though Newsom has said he’s never consumed cannabis, he was one of the first statewide officeholders to publicly support Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for adult consumption this past year.

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Scrolling through the list of Newsom’s donors also turns up several key advocates and mega donors for Prop. 64, including PayPal cofounder and Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel, and philanthropist and legalization advocate George Soros. Both have donated more than $100,000 combined to Newsom’s campaign.

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Other noteworthy Newsom campaign donors include entertainer Bill Maher, NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, and the widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs.

The LA Times reports that some in the industry see Newsom as a candidate who listens to their concerns and will stick up for them.

It should be noted though, that Newsom isn’t the only gubernatorial candidate to support cannabis legalization efforts. State Treasurer John Chiang, who’s also running to succeed Gov. Brown, has been leading efforts to reform the cannabis banking system. Currently, he is working with a group that is debating reforms that could give cannabis companies full access to banks.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Marijuana Becomes a Player in California Politics and It’s Putting Its Money on Gavin Newsom

Marijuana is already a multi-billion dollar a year business in California, and with recreational sales to adults coming online next year, it’s about to get even bigger.

Now, the legal pot industry is beginning to throw its weight around in state office-level politics, and it’s doing it the old-fashioned way: with a checkbook.

Fund-raising for the 2018 gubernatorial campaign is already well underway, and according to a recent Los Angeles Times analysis of campaign contributions, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is running away with the cannabis cash.

Pot growers, retailers, and others in the industry have donated more than $300,000, swamping industry contributions to his Democratic competitors, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ($5,000) and Treasurer John Chiang ($100).

That means that Newsom has hoovered up around 98% of pot industry contributions in the Democratic race for the nomination so far. There’s a reason for that—actually a couple of them.

First, the charismatic former San Francisco mayor has been a key player in the state’s path toward full legalization, just as he was an early supporter of gay marriage.

One of the first state-level officials to come out for freeing the weed, he has used his largely ceremonial position as lieutenant governor to champion the cause, creating a blue ribbon commission and holding public hearings to develop policy to support what would ultimately become Prop 64, the legalization initiative approved by voters last fall. He’s earned some political goodwill from the pot people.

Second, he’s actively courting the industry. The Times reports that Newsom has held four industry fundraisers so far, including this one in March, hosted by the Indus Holding Company, maker of such marijuana-infused treats as Toasted Rooster and Crispy Kraken chocolate bars:

The fundraising dinner for Gavin Newsom in Salinas was in most ways a typical night for a political candidate. Local business leaders paid up to $5,000 for a chance to talk with the man aiming to be California’s next governor over cauliflower bisque, strip steak and Meyer lemon pudding cake.

The hosts that March evening were in the agriculture business, in a region known for its lettuce, grapes and strawberries. But they left their signature dish off the menu: candy infused with marijuana…. Dinner gave way to a roundtable discussion among the 20 or so guests, who raised with Newsom some of the issues affecting their nascent businesses, according to interviews with multiple attendees.

Banking was a major topic that night, they said. Currently, the vast majority of banks and credit unions will not work with cannabis companies, because the federal government considers their revenue illegal. Some operate on an all-cash basis, and most lack the ability to find traditional financing.

There is a lot at stake for the marijuana industry. Regulatory and tax policies for the new legalization regime are being developed now. As both wielder of the veto pen over legislation and head of the executive branch that will implement legalization, whoever the next governor is, he or she will be a critical player making decisions that will help decide who makes a fortune and who doesn’t.

And that worries Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, which represents small growers in Northern California’s traditional pot-growing Emerald Triangle.

He told the Times the money to Newsom is coming from large enterprises and wealthy individuals seeking to cut out the ma-and-pa growers who paved the way.

“There are fierce and cutthroat business practices coming,” he said. “We’re pushing to keep craft growers in business.”

The $300,000 raised so far by the pot industry is only a small part of Newsom’s $14 million campaign war chest, but it’s more than raised by any agricultural sector in the state, and it’s a clear sign of pot’s increasing political clout.

But with legalization already won—at least on the state level—that clout is going to be focused on who benefits and how.


This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Meet the Woman Throwing the Coolest Cannabis Parties in California

Katie Partlow’s cannabis parties have been called the best in California—and with California home to the deepest-seated cannabis culture in the world, these just may be the best cannabis events on Earth.

Through her events company LITTLE FACE, Partlow focuses on full, curated immersion of all five senses and a true search for exactly what makes us tick when we’re high. Forget the sorts of activities you’d enjoy at a cocktail party or a festival—we want entirely different experiences with cannabinoids in our system.

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Partlow has been obsessed with throwing themed parties since she was young—in fact, she once sold cannabis to her school’s basketball team to raise money to throw a birthday party. Bit by bit, cannabis and events have comingled to form the incredibly cool career path she’s following today. Yet few people could have gone from throwing their first public cannabis event at the beginning of 2016 to being one of the best cannabis party planners in the world a year and a half later. I chatted with Partlow to learn how she got her start, exactly what inspires her, what’s still problematic about cannabis parties, and what hot-ticket events she’s working on next.

Leafly: Rolling Stone called your last event the best pot party in California. What got you started throwing events?

Meet Katie Partlow, the Girl Throwing the Coolest Marijuana Parties in California | LeaflyAn art installation in progress is seen in the Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, CA Sunday, August 13, 2017. The Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art show opens on the 19th. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

KP: I started taking event planning seriously while I was in college. Throwing cannabis-infused events is something I had always dreamt of doing. When I moved to LA to throw events, I immersed myself in the cannabis industry, working as a budtender, trimmer, joint roller, and cultivator.

What I found in the cannabis event scene in LA really disappointed me: Unaffordable events made for out-of-touch wealthy people, or events centered around bro culture with younger male audiences bent on over-consuming dabs and trading “bud porn.” … Two years ago, I started Little Face as a way to make [my] dream come to life.

Tell me about the upcoming Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art exhibition and event series hitting LA on August 19th, and which events you’ll be involved in.

Meet Katie Partlow, the Girl Throwing the Coolest Marijuana Parties in California | LeaflyArtist Ash Santos paints the names of all the artists in the Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art show on the wall of the Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, CA Sunday, August 14, 2017. The show opens on the 19th and features various interactive installations. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ is ‘a month of art and events about Los Angeles, and all the stereotypes that come from it – especially the true ones. It’s a reflection on classic Best Coast culture from the ’84 Olympics to the Kings/Lakers rivalry, the period when we grew up with our city, and all the great and terrible things that happened in between.’ It opens August 19th and runs ‘til September 23rd. I am hosting or co-hosting three shows:

Brunchies (August 20th; 11 a.m.–3 p.m.): After the madness of [DSWC’s] opening night, many of us will want to wake and bake with the homies. So we asked West Coast legends Roscoe’s Chicken + Waffles to hook it up. They’re taking over our secret diner for a one-day-only event focusing on West Coast hip-hop, lowbrow art, and chicken and waffles [complete with] weed mimosas [and] prerolls.

Comedy, Cake + Cannabis (August 22; 7–10 p.m.): Taste California’s best edibles, elixirs, and extracts while laughing out loud to hilarious stand-up comedians. Come early, stay late, enjoy the art gallery before the show, and stick around for cake afterwards in the 50s diner!

Cannabis Cabaret (September 1; 9 p.m.–1 a.m.): An immersive performance cannabis speakeasy, co-produced with Higher Beauty. Pairing Los Angeles’ most explosive performers including the best in burlesque, drag, puppetry and more. I grew up a dance performer—ballet, Latin, and burlesque—and I always thought it would be great to host a Prohibition-themed burlesque show, with cannabis being served.

I want everyone to attend all of my events and feel like, ‘Wow, I have never experienced this before, but I’ve always wanted to.’

At all my events, the focus is around art and community. I am excited to bring the cannabis community into a space filled with artwork, and for the artists and community to get to know all the new cannabis products. I focus on the things I know and love best—food, performance, and laughing.

You told me that your cannabis cabaret event will be the largest you’ve ever done. How long does it take to put something like that together?

Meet Katie Partlow, the Girl Throwing the Coolest Marijuana Parties in California | LeaflyThe Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art show opens on August 19th and features various interactive installations. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

I feel like I have been planning my whole life for Cannabis Cabaret! It has been floating around my mind for years. At first, venues and dispensaries wouldn’t quite understand what I meant by “curated weed event” and they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. Can you blame them? It takes some explaining, but once you build trust with venues, they keep calling you back. Now that I have a solid network and team of folks behind me, it usually takes just a few weeks for full planning, marketing, and execution. It takes community support to really make all this happen … and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with the dream team again.

What’s different about throwing cannabis parties as opposed to, say, a cocktail party?

Meet Katie Partlow, the Girl Throwing the Coolest Marijuana Parties in California | LeaflyAn in-progress, DMV themed room at the Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art show in the Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, CA Sunday, August 13, 2017. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

I consider it a huge privilege and responsibility to introduce people to cannabis products. This is an exciting time, there is weed in every single thing you can think of, so I vet out the brands, see who takes the time to get their flowers lab tested, etc. I curate the brands, food, and entertainment solely on whether or not I would consume it and like it.

It’s important to me, whether it’s someone’s first bite or million-and-first bite of a pot brownie, that everyone has a great experience.

I am extremely mindful of the space and environment, whether or not it’s a good space for someone who is ‘medicated.’ Would it be a place I would like to be if I was stoned? If the answer is yes, I proceed.

You can overdo it with weed, so I like to encourage folks to microdose. You can always take more, you can’t take less. I don’t want anyone to feel awkward. I want to create a community where people feel safe and like they can be themselves. No judgment if you are new at this, this is what the place is for.

What’s your relationship to cannabis? Do you have a favorite means of consumption?

Meet Katie Partlow, the Girl Throwing the Coolest Marijuana Parties in California | LeaflyKatie Partlow, Director of Social Experiments at Little Face events, pauses for a portrait in the 420 Lounge while preparing for the opening of the Drinkin’ Smokin’ & West Coastin’ art show at the Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, CA Sunday, August 13, 2017. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

My relationship to cannabis? We are in a committed relationship. I really enjoy it all. When I want to be social, I usually stick to joints or make infused drinks. If I’m at a movie, I will usually take a small bite of a gummy candy to relax my body. I use topicals for sore muscles. For strains, I usually follow with my nose – I tend to like citrus-smelling sativas and sweet, pungent indicas.

Obviously the ability to throw cannabis parties is a privilege, and many others don’t have the same privilege. How do you hope to address this type of inequality through your events?

I left Washington, DC with many friends (myself included) who had been arrested for simple possession of marijuana and who suffered from the war on drugs. Either legal fees, probation, or jail time. When I arrived in LA, smoking outdoors felt funny at first.

California feels like a bubble, where people are forgetting about all the other people in other states who are still getting arrested, losing their jobs, losing their livelihoods due to the criminalization of cannabis. [I] remind people not to forget about those that were or still are in jail for marijuana. It’s hard for me to really “celebrate legalization” until the War on Weed is officially, federally over.

At my events, I welcome organizations and groups who are fighting for drug reform and racial justice—to join Little Face in celebration, but to raise awareness and funds to continue to support those who are and who have been negatively impacted by the War on Weed. One of the great things about the cannabis community is that it is truly diverse. All ages, races, colors, and creeds use cannabis so I think if we can all stick together, we can really smoke this legalization thing over the top!

Little Face is committed to building an inclusive space within the cannabis community, to education and research making us all better consumers, and to promoting likeminded artists and activists to grow the future we dream of. If you are interested in getting involved, performing, or attending, please connect with me: katie@littleface.events.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

At This LA Rehab Center, Cannabis Is an ‘Exit’ Drug

The experience of detoxing from a drug like heroin mirrors chemotherapy in a lot of ways, Schrank explained. Among other symptoms, both cause bone pain, insomnia, and nausea. Cannabis has been effective in dramatically alleviating those symptoms, Schrank said. With the pain and discomfort of withdrawal being one of the largest deterrents to recovery, cannabis could help entice more patients to start down—and stay on—the road to recovery.

Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance, which makes it extremely difficult for researchers to get approval to use it in a clinical study. But the emerging patterns are promising: According to a report released in January by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, cannabis has been demonstrated to help treat chronic pain, and certain oral cannabinoids have been effective in preventing and treating adults with “chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.” And the National Institutes of Health recently awarded a five-year, $3.8 million grant to researchers for the first long-term investigation to see if medical marijuana reduces opioid use among adults with chronic pain.

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There’s less hard science around marijuana’s effects on addiction. The National Academy report “found no evidence to support or refute the conclusion that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for achieving abstinence in the use of addictive substances,” Dr. Marie McCormick, chairwoman of the report committee, told the New York Times.

Nevertheless, a large body of observational research has emerged around cannabis, said Leo Beletsky, a drug policy expert and professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University. That means scientists have observed real-world data and then formed hypotheses as a result, he explained. “Most of the research that we have on the impact of cannabis in the pain and chronic pain world is from these kinds of observational research.”

This is what High Sobriety’s formula is based on.

Vince Sercia, middle, and Leland Kulok, right, help their surf instructor Dano bring surfboards out to the beach before a surf lesson in Santa Monica on Friday, July 28, 2017. High Sobriety includes an exercise component, and Dano gives surf lessons specifically to people in treatment. His sessions also include a meditation component. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

What the findings have shown, Beletsky said, is that cannabis, like opioids, behaves as a “broad spectrum drug” and that both not only have a “euphoric effect” but have been successful in relieving pain, emotional distress, and depression. To the extent cannabis can address the same needs as other, more dangerous drugs a patient may be using, he said, it could function as a less-risky replacement, he said. “You’re going to be drastically reducing people’s risk of addiction and overdose.”

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Amanda Reiman, a former manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance who acts as an unpaid advisor to High Sobriety, said the program has the chance to reinforce existing evidence of cannabis for treatment.

People have been using cannabis as an “under the radar” harm reduction tool for years, and as a replacement drug for opioids for even longer, she said. “This is not something new. I think that High Sobriety is an opportunity to formalize it.”

As far back as the late 1800s, hemp was denoted as a cure for opium sickness, she said. And in recent years, the role of cannabis has become so prevalent some that marijuana dispensaries have begun hosting AA meetings, she said, so people using cannabis in their recovery can convene outside the abstinence-only confines of a 12-step program.

Research on the function of cannabis as a painkiller also continues to evolve. A 2011 study out of the University of California, San Francisco, concluded that patients with chronic pain may see more relief when doctors add cannabinoids to an opiates-only treatment. This combined therapy may also allow for lower opiate dosages, according to the same study. In 2014, a report from JAMA Internal Medicine found that states with legal medical marijuana saw a 25% reduction in opioid-overdose deaths.

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“Cannabis really fits into this arsenal of what can we give someone when they don’t want to go back to opioids, but they aren’t able to function the way they want in complete sobriety,” Reiman said.

Amid the nation’s overdose epidemic, US spending on addiction treatment will surpass $42 billion by 2020, according estimates from the National Institutes for Health. And like most recovery facilities, High Sobriety isn’t cheap. One of the biggest hurdles for the organization, Schrank said, is that unable to accept insurance, so treatment is open only to patients wealthy enough to afford it.

An alcoholic man with a propensity for scotch has replaced his booze with pre-rolled joints. A woman with a dependence on Valium and wine now uses edibles for anxiety.

The first month at the center costs $42,500, which includes housing, food, doctor and therapist visits, clinical services, and recreational activities. When clients first enter the facility and enter the detox period, they are monitored 24/7 and are under constant supervision of a doctor, Schrank said. Afterward, patients transition to a schedule that typically includes three to five individual therapy sessions per week, community meetings, doctors appointments, and an exercise component. Clients receive medical and dental treatment if needed, said Schrank, and often receive trauma therapy, legal or marital counseling, or other services. Most guests end up staying longer than a month, and costs decrease as they need less individual care, Schrank said.

How does that price tag compare? Inpatient rehab facilities vary significantly in cost depending on location and luxury level. Some estimates range from $10,000 to $20,000 per month on the low end to up to more than $100,000 at luxury facilities. At Promises—the rehab clinic to the stars, in Malibu—a 31-day program costs around $60,000 to $90,000, depending on requests.

High Sobriety currently hosts five residential clients and has about 10 former residents who still frequent the center for meetings and regular check-ins, Schrank said. In an attempt to avoid making patients feel imprisoned at the facility, there are gates but no imposing fences, patients are allowed to keep their phones, and they’re even permitted to leave the facility and venture into neighboring Culver City (although they are randomly breathalyzed and subjected to urine testing).

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“It keeps me responsible and accountable but I still have the freedom of being a human,” says Mac Kirk, the musician who counts High Sobriety as his most treatment facility of dozens. “I want to be able to make this an investment and make it my last fucking treatment center.”

Vince Sercia, Leland Kulok, and their surf instructor on their way to meditate and surf in Santa Monica. Patients at High Sobriety attend surfing lessons and also do cycling workouts to focus on physical health. (Justin L. Stewart for Leafly)

For many of High Sobriety’s success stories, cannabis remains an integral part of their life well past treatment. Schrank cites one in particular—an alcoholic with a propensity for scotch—who has replaced his booze with pre-rolled joints. Another woman, who entered the program with a dependence on Valium and wine, now uses edibles for anxiety and a cannabis spray under the tongue for sleep.

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There have been some relapses, he acknowledges, which isn’t unusual in the addiction community. Other patients are conflicted about whether to continue cannabis use in the long run.

Leland Kulok, 26, has been at High Sobriety for just over two weeks, part of his effort to end nearly eight years of heavy opioid use. He had already cycled through a handful of rehab programs when his parents discovered Schrank online. At the time Kulok was living in New York, he recalls, smoking heroin nearly every day and never leaving his apartment.

Now in treatment at High Sobriety, Kulok said that while cannabis helped his initial transition in recovery, it actually makes him paranoid. He’d eventually like to stop using it completely.

“A lot of 12-steppers and a lot of the recovery community sees marijuana as a gateway drug or as something that should be avoided,” he says, “but I think it can also be helpful to people who’ve been using for a long time and are sort of on the path to full abstinence.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

The VA Can’t Provide Cannabis to Veterans With PTSD, so This Group Gives It Out for Free

Once a month, staff members at the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance (SCVA) fill more than 100 brown paper bags with high-quality medical cannabis and pass them out for free at a local community center. For the military veterans who receive it—many of whom struggle with PSTD—the medical cannabis acts as a lifeline to health.

The SCVA, which operates out of an old office in a Santa Cruz neighborhood, has been serving local men and women since 2011, when the organization was founded by military veterans Aaron Newsom and Jason Sweatt.

After six years of service, though, SCVA’s mission now faces challenges due to an ironic new development: the legalization of cannabis in California. New regulations due to take effect in early 2018 don’t allow the SCVA to continue operating as they do today.

“We’ve tried to create this environment of peace through cultivation and cannabis with a purpose.”

Aaron Newsom, SCVA Co-Founder

“With the new law, if we’re not at the end of the chain of custody, we are not allowed to give away anything for free,” Newsom told me during a recent interview in his office in Santa Cruz. “We have to get a storefront where we can retail our product and determine whether we sell it for $50 or $1.00–or provide it in a volunteer-return basis.”

Newsom, 35, is clean-cut and bright-eyed. He served in the marine corps before co-founding the SCVA. Sweatt, 41, is a 10-year Army vet and director of the SCVA. He offered a quieter hello behind black-framed glasses.

As we spoke earlier this summer, workers were busy carrying out construction projects needed to turn the space into a retail cannabis store. California’s Prop 64, which will soon regulate what was once a loose, laissez faire medical cannabis market, requires that the SCVA obtain state licensing and operate a storefront in order to continue carrying out its mission.

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That mission includes growing their own medicine.

In the SCVA’s garden, hundreds of cannabis plants are cultivated by a staff of volunteers and a few paid staff.

Rows upon rows of cannabis plants vegetated in silent darkness, lit only by a dim green light. Fans hummed quietly, creating a pleasant breeze in the branches. The grow rooms feel peaceful, surrounding curious visitors among the slow growth of life.

“We’ve tried to create this environment of peace through cultivation and cannabis with a purpose,” Newsom said. “It’s horticultural therapy.”

Buds of Kosher Kush.

Another room was brightly lit and populated with flowering plants that filled the room with their sweet, fragrant aromas. Kosher Kush, White Fire OG, and a Tangie hybrid were among the stock that sat glittering with trichomes. Though Jason and Aaron started the garden years ago as a twosome, a few other veterans now help tend the plants.

“A lot of these guys were over there [in war] kicking in doors and taking lives,” Newsom explained. “They’re able to come back to slow growth and cultivating life, and then [they’re able] to bring back life in [other] patients.”

When we returned to the office, SCVA staff members had begun packing freshly cured cannabis into brown bags for their veteran brothers and sisters. Music danced in the air, dogs flopped on the floor, and between busy hands, cannabis was shared. Aaron excitedly and emphatically rallied everyone between puffs, and in that moment where it seemed everyone was smiling in unison, it was hard to imagine what each of them had been through.

● ● ●

Veterans gather for the monthly SCVA meeting, where medical cannabis is distributed.

For many of those who live with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is no cure–only temporary relief. It’s a condition that lives in the basement of your mind. Now and then, a trigger kicks in the door leading down to the dark, ushering in fear and anxiety. The dormant trauma, living and breathing below the surface, snaps awake by flashbacks, nightmares, or subtle reminders in daily life. Like a scab on the psyche, it gets torn open again and again.

Therapy and mood-stabilizing drugs have helped many patients strip the “disorder” aspect of their PTSD so that it’s possible to live without the constant looming shadow of memory. But for others, conventional treatments don’t work.

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Some patients with this type of chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD have found that cannabis helps bridle PTSD symptoms. It calms an overactive mind, slowing it down to a sustainable pace where peace can be found. Cannabis can also reduce a patient’s reliance on heavier pharmaceuticals, medications with side effects that can devastate a person’s quality of life.

● ● ●

Members of the SCVA tuning in to announcements before cannabis is given out.

Later that day, an SCVA staff member showed me some footage he’d taken during his own combat tour.

On a laptop screen, I watched as a shaky camera moved through a dusty stone corridor. It followed a group of soldiers, guns in hand. The sound of footfalls and muffled movement carried on for just seconds before a blast overwhelmed the senses, blackening sight and deafening ears. When the dust cleared, a soldier was on the ground, surrounded by shouts. A medic leaned over the wounded soldier, repeating words of reassurance.

The soldier who’d captured the footage of the detonated IED (improvised explosive device) was standing behind me, alongside other SCVA staff members. They stood watching with fixed eyes and folded arms, eyebrows folded slightly inward.

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Knowing that PTSD manifests differently for everyone, I asked Newsom, Sweatt, and other members of the SCVA what the condition looked like for them.

For Sweatt, the many convoys he did in Iraq left him unable to drive for two years. “I experienced a lot of heightened alert, my head was on a swivel,” he admitted. “When I drove, I was really hypervigilant, looking around, constantly checking my surroundings.”

Sweatt had difficulty reintegrating into civilian life. He moved to California and lived in a van for six months. The re-entry difficulty and social isolation seemed to be common among many of the veterans I spoke to.

“I saw patients whose lives were destroyed by the ravages of drugs and alcohol, but never anyone who was sick from cannabis.”

Dr. Jordan Tishler, Former VA physician

“We’ve got homeless veterans, and many who [struggle to gain] employment and education,” Newsom said. “Returning to civilian life, everyone is out on their own.”

Due to the Schedule I status of cannabis, VA doctors are legally unable to recommend it to veterans. Instead, they are left to prescribe a cocktail of antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, opioids, and sleeping medications.

“The VA tends to group us into two categories,” Newsom explained. “You’re either the PTSD depressed category and you get these three sets of pills, or you’re the angry type and you get these three sets of pills. It’s like a conveyer belt.”

These pharmaceuticals can sometimes create more problems than they correct. Most of the veterans I spoke to noted that cannabis helped them reduce their reliance on opioids, benzos, and other prescription pharmaceuticals. But there’s a catch. The pharmaceutical costs are covered by the VA. Cannabis is not.

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And yet it seems to work. I heard a lot of comments like these from veterans working with SCVA:

  • “Cannabis helps me stay in the present.”
  • “It helps tone down the hypervigilance.”
  • “It helps me sleep.”
  • “It helps me stay calm.”

Lucy, a soft-spoken marine veteran and SCVA member, sat and talked with me for a while. “A lot of therapists who don’t understand veterans, they’re quick to prescribe the same pills I was trying to get away from,” she lamented. With cannabis, however, Lucy found relief.

“I thought it might mellow me out,” she smiled. “It worked.”

● ● ●

Clones growing in SCVA’s cannabis garden.

To find out why cannabis could be helpful to a mind plagued by trauma, I contacted Dr. Jordan Tishler in Boston.

A Harvard medical graduate who worked for 15 years as a VA physician, Tishler went on to establish a private practice, Inhale MD Medical Care, so he could advise patients on medical cannabis.

“Time and time again I saw patients whose lives were destroyed by the ravages of drugs and alcohol,” he told me in a recent phone interview. “It occurred to me that I had seen all these harmed individuals, but never anyone who was sick from cannabis.”

Tishler saw firsthand the therapeutic potential of cannabis for the treatment of both pain and PTSD, so he dove into the research to learn more. He came up with a theory about how cannabis helps calm the mind of a PTSD patient.

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“THC and CBD tend to work as a retrograde postsynaptic shut-off valve,” he said. “Their job is to decrease the level of stimulation in systems that tend to be excitatory. These are important systems in our brain that can get revved up and overly triggered [by PTSD or anxiety]. Cannabis tends to dampen those systems.”

Another theory, first posited by neurologist Ethan Russo, proposes that conditions like PTSD can result in a deficiency of endogenous molecules (called “endocannabinoids”) that serve to balance the signals Tisher described. The molecules in cannabis, like THC and CBD, function like these endocannabinoids and can help to restore that balance of signals. And that, in theory, is why PTSD and anxiety patients feel calmer under the effects of cannabis.

For his PTSD patients, Tishler generally recommends a small dose of cannabis at night just before going to bed, noting, “The anti-anxiety effect will last that next day even though the intoxication has worn off.”

For people with PTSD, sleepless nights often open the door to other symptoms and setbacks. Addressing insomnia and nightmares is a common first step. But it’s important, Tishler cautioned, to consider starting at a low dose.

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“Cannabis is a complex actor,” he acknowledged. “It can be very good for anxiety at low dose and very bad for anxiety at high dose.”

Most doctors aren’t as well-equipped as Tishler to explain the benefits and risks of medical cannabis. Some haven’t educated themselves on cannabis. Others are gagged by ties to the federal government.

As a result, many patients are using medical cannabis with no professional guidance whatsoever. Others have no safe access to it, period. The continued absence of compassionate cannabis laws across the nation is astounding to doctors and patients who have experienced an improved quality of life firsthand.

● ● ●

SCVA members line up to receive their monthly cannabis donation.

Back in Santa Cruz, upwards of 100 military veterans poured into a local community hall for the monthly SCVA meeting. Old metal folding chairs screeched against the wood floors as veterans took their seats and caught up with old friends.

At the front of the room, the SCVA staff prepared to pass out brown paper bags full of cannabis grown by their small team. A staff member tossed out silicone accessories for cannabis concentrates, cracking jokes amid booming laughter.

After a few short announcements, the veterans signed in, as if at a dispensary, and accepted the brown bags with smiles and handshakes. Many stuck around long after the meeting ended to catch up with other members. The sense of connection between them contrasted sharply with the isolation and social withdrawal many of them experienced after returning from service.

“We’re not therapists, and we’re not doctors,” Aaron Newsom demurred. “We just understand each other. That in itself is a healing tool.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Who’s Sabotaging This Cannabis Company’s Instagram Account?

On Saturday, online trolls who’d been quietly running a fake Instagram account in the name of the California-based cannabis company Kiva Confections suddenly began abusing people in comments and direct messages.

People were offended by the messages, ‘and rightfully so,’ said Kiva co-founder Kristi Knoblich.

“At least cancer doesn’t run in my family,” they wrote in one particularly offensive message, directed toward a user with a family member who died of cancer. They followed the note with a smiley face emoji.

These particular imposters were dedicated, setting up the ruse as a kind of sleeper cell. They kept the fake account private and spent months amassing followers. They cribbed copy and high-quality photos from Kiva’s website to make the account look official. As of last Saturday, when the harassment began, the fake account had more than 2,000 followers.

“It was just pretty dark and macabre,” Kiva co-founder Kristi Knoblich told Leafly in a phone interview yesterday. “It makes my blood boil to think about how somebody could, even under the cloak of acting as an imposter to try and hurt us, just be that insensitive to another human being. It just tears you up inside.”

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Fighting Back with Video

As the hateful comments and messages piled up, account followers became increasingly offended, and “rightfully so, because it was disgusting,” Knoblich said. It wasn’t long before another Instagram user, who happened to have over 90,000 followers, posted screenshots of the cancer-related taunt to their own page alongside a note condemning Kiva. That opened the floodgates to an onslaught of vitriol directed towards the company—and alerted Kiva officials to the existence of the fake account.

Kiva co-founder Knoblich: Help us shut down the troll.

As soon as she found out what was going on, Knoblich posted a video to the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages making it clear that the account was fake. She apologized for the troll’s hurtful comments, and asked users to help get the imposter account removed by reporting the abuse to Instagram. Following the release of the video, a number of people appeared to have unfollowed the imposter account.

As of Tuesday morning, though, the fake Kiva account was still up and running—which is especially ironic considering that Kiva’s actual Instagram account has been shut down by the social media site a total of eight times.

“I don’t have a good understanding of what the algorithms are and what they’re scanning for, so it could be that we’re just constantly getting hit by the same troll reporting our account,” Knoblich told Leafly. “But within a few months or even days of us starting a new page with the name Kiva in it, it’s flagged for removal and taken down.”

Knoblich says Kiva lost nearly 60,000 followers as a result, and that for more than a year they were unable to get more than a one-line email from Instagram saying Kiva had violated the site’s terms of service in response to inquiries about their account.

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The Mysterious Rules of Social Media

Strangely, Kiva hasn’t had the same sort of trouble on other social media sites like Twitter or Facebook (which bought Instagram in 2012)—though dozens of other legal cannabis companies have a history of seeing their Facebook accounts banned, too. Facebook’s community standards specifically prohibit content that promotes marijuana sales, even in states where it’s legal.

Fake. Fake. Fake.

Many legal cannabis business owners have complained that on both Facebook and Instagram, the rules are vague and seem to be enforced in a patchwork fashion, creating an uneven playing field among competitors in the same industry.

“What’s so interesting is that you’ll see posts from other companies or users and it’s naked women and paraphernalia and guns and cash,” Knoblich said. “But all the posts we had on our real page were about education. Things like how to keep edibles away from kids, how to store and lock your edibles, pointers and tips for how to use safely. The nature of what we were posting didn’t have anything to do with promoting sales, illegal use, shipping or distribution.”

Instagram Responds, Kind of

After trying for months to get in touch with an Instagram representative, Kiva finally recently received an email that included a more detailed policy around cannabis. The language doesn’t appear to be included in either Instagram’s official community guidelines or terms of service, so it seems the policy hasn’t been made public.

Here is that statement in full:

Instagram does not allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country. This is primarily because most federal laws, including those of the United States, treat marijuana as either an illegal substance or highly regulated good. Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts. We do however allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana provided that they do not also promote its sale or provide contact information to their store.

Now that those terms are more clearly laid out, Knoblich is tentatively hopeful that Kiva might eventually be able to get its original account back. She also hopes Instagram might find a way to crack down on imposter accounts like the one that drew ire from the community while posing as Kiva on Saturday.

Instagram’s official policy states that “It’s not currently possible to request or purchase a verified badge,” and that “right now, only some public figures, celebrities and brands have verified badges.” As a result, it’s incredibly easy to create convincing fake accounts—especially when a brand’s real account has been shut down.

“It would be really nice to see some sort of verification feature,” Knoblich says. “I don’t know what the solution is, but there’s got to be a better way than what’s currently happening.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Cannabis States Try to Curb Smuggling, Fend off Administration

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Well before Oregon legalized marijuana, its verdant, wet forests made it an ideal place for growing the drug, which often ended up being funneled out of the state for big money. Now, officials suspect cannabis grown legally in Oregon and other states is also being smuggled out, and the trafficking is putting America’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry at risk.

In response, pot-legal states are trying to clamp down on “diversion” even as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions presses for enforcement of federal laws against marijuana.

Tracking legal cannabis from the fields and greenhouses where it’s grown to the shops where it’s sold under names like Blueberry Kush and Chernobyl is their so far main protective measure.

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown recently signed into law a requirement that state regulators track from seed to store all marijuana grown for sale in Oregon’s legal market. So far, only recreational marijuana has been comprehensively tracked. Tina Kotek, speaker of the Oregon House, said lawmakers wanted to ensure “we’re protecting the new industry that we’re supporting here.”

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“There was a real recognition that things could be changing in D.C.,” she said.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board says it’s replacing its current tracking Nov. 1 with a “highly secure, reliable, scalable and flexible system.”

California voters approved using a tracking system run by Lakeland, Florida-based Franwell for its recreational cannabis market. Sales become legal Jan. 1.

Franwell also tracks marijuana, using bar-code and radio frequency identification labels on packaging and plants, in Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, Alaska and Michigan.

“The tracking system is the most important tool a state has,” said Michael Crabtree, who runs Denver-based Nationwide Compliance Specialists Inc., which helps tax collectors track elusive, cash-heavy industries like the marijuana business.

But the systems aren’t fool-proof. They rely on the users’ honesty, he said.

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“We have seen numerous examples of people ‘forgetting’ to tag plants,” Crabtree said. Colorado’s tracking also doesn’t apply to home-grown plants and many noncommercial marijuana caregivers.

In California, implementing a “fully operational, legal market” could take years, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the “Emerald Triangle” region that’s estimated to produce 60 percent of America’s marijuana. But he’s confident tracking will help.

“In the first 24 months, we’re going to have a good idea who is in the regulated market and who is in black market,” McGuire said.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize personal possession, in 1973. It legalized medical marijuana in 1998, and recreational use in 2014.

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Before that, Anthony Taylor hid his large cannabis crop from aerial surveillance under a forest canopy east of Portland, and tended it when there was barely enough light to see.

“In those days, marijuana was REALLY illegal,” said Taylor, now a licensed marijuana processor and lobbyist. “If you got caught growing the amounts we were growing, you were going to go to prison for a number of years.”

Taylor believes it’s easier to grow illegally now because authorities lack the resources to sniff out every operation. And growers who sell outside the state can earn thousands of dollars per pound, he said.

Still, it’s hard to say if cannabis smuggling has gotten worse in Oregon, or how much of the marijuana leaving the state filters out from the legal side.

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Chris Gibson, executive director of the federally funded Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, said the distinction matters less than the fact that marijuana continues to leave Oregon on planes, trains and automobiles, and through the mail.

“None is supposed to leave, so it’s an issue,” Gibson told The Associated Press. “That should be a primary concern to state leadership.”

“Marijuana has left Oregon for decades. What’s different is that now we have better mechanisms to try to control it.”

US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

On a recent morning, Billy Williams, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, sat at his desk in his office overlooking downtown Portland, a draft Oregon State Police report in front of him. Oregon produces between 132 tons (120 metric tons) and 900 tons (816 metric tons) more marijuana than what Oregonians can conceivably consume, the report said, using statistics from the legal industry and estimates of illicit grows. It identified Oregon as an “epicenter of cannabis production” and quoted an academic as saying three to five times the amount of cannabis that’s consumed in Oregon leaves the state.

Sessions himself cited the report in a July 24 letter to Oregon’s governor. In it, Sessions asked Brown to explain how Oregon would address the report’s “serious findings.”

Pete Gendron, a licensed marijuana grower who advised state regulators on compliance and enforcement, said the reports’ numbers are guesswork, and furthermore are outdated because they don’t take into account the marijuana now being sold in Oregon’s legal recreational market.

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A U.S. Justice Department task force recently said the Cole Memorandum , which restricts federal marijuana law enforcement in states where marijuana is legal, should be reevaluated to see if it should be changed.

The governors of Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska — where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal — wrote to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in April, warning altering the memorandum “would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

But less than a month later, Sessions wrote to congressional leaders criticizing the federal government’s hands-off approach to medical marijuana, and citing a Colorado case in which a medical marijuana licensee shipped cannabis out of state.

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In his letter, Sessions opposed an amendment by Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that prevents the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana. Congress is weighing renewing the amendment for the next fiscal year.

In a phone interview from Washington, Blumenauer said the attorney general is “out of step” with most members of Congress, who have become more supportive “of ending the failed prohibition on marijuana.”

“Marijuana has left Oregon for decades,” Blumenauer said. “What’s different is that now we have better mechanisms to try to control it.”

Taylor believes cannabis smuggling will continue because of the profit incentive, which will end only if the drug is legalized across America. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced a bill in Congress on Aug. 1 to do just that.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Judge Halts Feds’ Cannabis Case, Citing Rohrabacher-Blumenauer

Still need a reason to care about that obscure federal spending provision known as the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment? Here’s one: The congressional measure, currently set to expire next month, may be the only thing keeping a pair of California cannabis growers out of prison.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the growers, Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore, after raiding their Humboldt County property in 2012. But during the evidentiary process, the two argued that their operation followed California law and thus should be protected from federal prosecution under Rohrabacher–Blumenauer.

A quick refresher: Formerly known as Rohrabacher–Farr, Rohrabacher–Blumenauer is an amendment to a federal appropriations bill that bars the Justice Department from using resources to prosecute state-legal cannabis. In August 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals—which includes cannabis-legal states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, Montana, and Hawaii—ruled that the provision also protects individual businesses that comply with state law.

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“If DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions,” the court wrote in the 9th Circuit case, US v. McIntosh, “Appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law.”

Which brings us back to the Humboldt growers. Following an evidentiary hearing, US District Judge Richard Seeborg determined that Pisarski and Moore were indeed compliant with state law. “Their conduct strictly complied with all conditions imposed by California law on the use, distribution, possession and cultivation of marijuana,” Seeborg wrote. Earlier this week, he halted the federal government’s case against the growers, citing McIntosh.

The defense attorney for the pair, Beverly Hills-based Ronald Richards, told the LA Weekly that the decision was unusual—and may help other cannabis entities going forward. “This is the first time in my 23-year career I’ve had a case stopped because of an appropriations rider,” he said. “It opens the door for people not to get scared.

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Tamar Todd, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of legal affairs, told the Weekly that the court’s stay of the case “shows that you can prevail—defendants in federal court could have their prosecutions halted.”

“It’s very encouraging,” she added. “It gives a lot of teeth to Rohrabacher–Farr.”

But while the case is closed for now, the government could seek to reopen it. Judge Seeborg’s stay of the case could be undone if Congress fails to renew Rohrabacher–Blumenauer next month.

US Attorney Jeff Sessions, a strict anti-drug advocate, asked lawmakers in May to end the protection, calling it “unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.” But in late July a Senate Committee OK’d the amendment, adopting it as part of an appropriations bill set for discussion next month.

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Crucially, Rohrabacher–Blumenauer in its current form protects only medical cannabis programs—it offers no protection for adult-use cannabis. A nonbinding Justice Department memo issued under the Obama administration says prosecutors won’t interfere with state cannabis systems, but Sessions has said his office is reviewing that guidance.

Sessions also recently sent letters to state officials in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon in what appears to be an effort to show those states’ systems are failing to adequately regulate cannabis markets. Some state officials have since pushed back, accusing the statistics of having been cherry-picked in a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“Honestly it’s hard to take him seriously if he relies on such outdated information,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson told the Seattle Times.

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One Colorado state senator went further.

“Jeff Sessions needs to keep his reefer madness paranoia in Washington DC and let us handle a decision we’ve made,” Sen. Michael Merrifield told a local ABC affiliate. “I think these numbers are exaggerated or pulled out of somebody’s hat.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.