Tag: laws

Anti-Cannabis Group Violated CA Campaign Finance Laws, Commission Finds

A leading anti-cannabis advocacy group has agreed to pay thousands of dollars in fines for violating California campaign finance laws as organizers fought Proposition 64, a November ballot measure that legalized adult-use cannabis in the state.

The committee allegedly failed to identify special interests that contributed more than $50,000.

SAM Action Inc., the political arm of anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has reportedly signed off on $6,000 in fines recommended by the enforcement staff of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The group told investigators that the violations were “inadvertent.”

The proposed penalty comes less than two weeks after SAM Action Inc. threatened to identify the financial ties of any congressional representative to support a measure by US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) aimed at protecting state-legal medical marijuana from federal intervention. “The representatives who sign on to this letter will be investigated, and any ties to the pot industry lobby will be exposed,” the group warned.

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According the FPPC, however SAM has struggled to expose even its own financial ties. As the Patrick Greevy of the Los Angeles Times reports, the group, founded by former Obama administration drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet, failed to disclose numerous campaign details to regulators as the group fought Prop 64:

The violations included not changing the campaign committee’s name to include its major donor, Juliet Schauer, a retired art professor and Pennsylvania activist who contributed $1.36 million to the group to cover expenses in California and other states considering marijuana legalization.

The committee also was late in disclosing five Schauer contributions, failed to accurately report the total amount of contributions and failed to file a list of its top 10 contributors, as required by the state Political Reform Act.

SAM maintains the violations were “inadvertent,” according to the FPPC report, and were caused by “inexperience with California campaign reporting requirements.”

The state commission will consider approving the recommended fines on April 20.

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FPPC enforcement staff have also proposed $3,500 in fines against a campaign committee dubbed Public and Mental Health Advocates Against 64, a group that was sponsored by and received major funding from SAM Action Inc. In advertisements opposing Prop 64, the campaign committee allegedly failed to identify the names of special interests that contributed more than $50,000.

“Special interests were not identified in the committee name until 15 days before the election,” West wrote in the report, “which was 107 days after the deadline to identify these economic or other special interests.”

Prop 64 passed in November with support from 57% of state voters.


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.

How to Change a State Cannabis Law

Are you passionate about changing your state cannabis laws (or introducing them, for that matter)?

Once you’ve found an issue that you strongly care about, such as cannabis legalization, it can be infuriating to watch your legislators discuss and reject the issue over and over again. However, enacting change at a state level as a citizen is not as daunting a task as it may seem.

If you’re not a born leader, it can be hard to step up to the plate and take the reins, but if you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and determination, you can enact positive policy change at a level you will directly benefit from.

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Follow these steps to make change happen:

1. Determine whether your state allows voter initiatives or referenda.

The simplest and most effective way to propose major changes to state law is to write a voter initiative. This will involve a bit of research on your part to determine whether your state allows voters to propose initiatives, state statutes, constitutional amendments, or referenda to alter current state law.

2. My state doesn’t allow voter initiatives. What now?

Some states do not allow voter-proposed initiatives or referenda, but you can still get involved! Go to your local government public hearings. When there are opportunities for public comment, speak up. You will have limited time, so come prepared with comments on why this issue is important and why your city council or representative should support the issue when it comes to a vote.

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3. My state allows voter initiatives and referenda. What now?

First, you’ll have to draft the initiative. Now is the time to do your homework! We recommend reading similarly written state statutes on similar topics to see what will be essential in drafting your initiative. What sort of definitions are needed? Does it require ballot title approval?

For this step, joining forces with a local advocacy group or politician can make a world of difference. Chances are a larger advocacy group has experience drafting legislation, and with the support of a state politician, you’ll gain an ally who can fight for your cause politically.

4. I have drafted a voter initiative that I want my state government to consider.

To move forward with a drafted proposal to change state law, you’ll need to gather signatures. This is where your leadership and organizational skills will be put to the test. The number of signatures required to make it onto the ballot vary from state to state, so check your state’s requirements. Generally, the number of required signatures is based on the total number of registered voters in the state, and usually lies somewhere between 3 and 10 percent of the number of votes cast for the governor in the previous election.

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5. I have gathered the required number of signatures for my initiative.

This step is one of the most crucial to ensure that your initiative has a fighting chance. Most groups who collect signatures try to gather significantly more than the required number. Once you’ve submitted your petition and signatures for review, the Secretary of State will need to validate the signatures. Some signatures may be deemed invalid for various reasons–if a voter changed addresses or registered twice, for example, their signature may no longer be valid. Submit your petition to your state election officials and proceed to play the waiting game.

6. My initiative was not approved. What now?

Often, initiatives may need to be revised before being approved for the ballot. A ballot title or description may be rejected for lacking a thorough description of the measure, and officials may ask for certain areas of the measure to be addressed. Don’t be discouraged if your petition doesn’t make it through the first time! Some measures may take countless revisions and a whole lot of support before being placed on a ballot for voters to decide on.

For example, the Arkansas Secretary of State rejected seven separate petitions for medical cannabis since taking office in 2014 due to slight discrepancies on the ballot title and description before finally approving a measure to be on the ballot in 2016.

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7. My ballot title was approved–huzzah!

Now things are heating up. You’ll need to team up with local advocacy groups and legislators to gain support. If you have a well-funded campaign, airing commercials in support of the issue on local channels will help raise awareness. Circulating signs and flyers and spreading the word through a grassroots campaign will give your ballot a boost.

One of the most important steps is to gain government allies. This can be your state representative or senator, governor or mayor, or city council member. These allies will represent you in Congress and their support will give your initiative a powerful boost stronger than a grassroots movement alone.

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Making a lasting change to a state law takes months, and often even years. It may seem fruitless to try, but it truly is the best way to learn how your state government works. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! The very first time cannabis legalization was proposed was in California in 1972. It took more than 40 years of hard work, persistence, and dogged determination on a national scale before legalization was finally approved in Colorado in 2012. Keep these efforts in mind as you take the necessary steps to effect change–your strength, patience, and persistence will pay off in the long run.


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.

How to Stay Legal at the Border and Beyond

Enjoy Cannabis? Travel Clean and Prepared

La Paloma, Texas, USA - September 22, 2015: A Border Patrol agent pilots a river patrol boat and monitors the Rio Grande River for illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. Such encounters are a daily experience in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Border Patrol operations.

This week Leafly has documented the increasing scrutiny that citizens and noncitizens face at US border crossings. Questions about past cannabis use seem to be an increasingly popular tool among border agents, in part because they offer an almost perfect trap. Nearly half of all Americans have, at some point in their lives, enjoyed cannabis. Beyond North America, one-time and regular use rates vary, nation to nation. Years ago border agents had little way to verify a traveler’s professed cannabis innocence. Today they can do an instant Google search—or demand a traveler’s mobile device to search text messages, email, photos, and social media accounts. Lying to a border agent constitutes grounds for entry refusal—or worse. So is the admission of cannabis use, state-legal or not, which in the eyes of Homeland Security officials is a federal crime.

We don’t advise lying to border officials, in any country. We’re not lawyers, either. But we do know there are actions every traveler can take to minimize any potential problems.

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An increasing number of organizations are posting guides to personal rights and data security at border crossings, from the New York Times to the ACLU. We found this guide posted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, updated in March 2017, to be most helpful. Here’s what the EFF says about the current situation:

At the U.S. border: Agents may ask travelers to unlock their devices, provide their device passwords, or disclose their social media information. This presents a no-win dilemma. If a traveler complies, then the agents can scrutinize and copy their sensitive digital information. If a traveler declines, then the agents can seize their devices, subject the traveler to additional questioning and detention, and otherwise escalate the encounter.

Border agents cannot deny a U.S. citizen admission to the country. However, if a foreign visitor declines, an agent may deny them entry. If a lawful permanent resident declines, agents may raise complicated questions about their continued status as a resident.

Your response to this dilemma may vary according to your risk assessment. However, all travelers should stay calm and respectful, should not lie to border agents or physically obstruct them, and should plan for this dilemma ahead of time. Try to document or politely ask for the names, badge numbers, and agencies of the government officers you interact with.

What Can You Do?

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2016 file photo, Haitians make their way towards the border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump will direct the Homeland Security Department to start building a wall at the Mexican border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)(Gregory Bull/AP)

There are a number of basic steps you can take if you’re concerned about border agents prying into your past or present cannabis consumption. Here are a few of them.

Travel Clean

No kidding, right? But if you live in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, or Alaska, carrying a little state-legal cannabis in a pocket or backpack may have become second nature to you. If you’re traveling, take a few minutes to search your clothing, jackets, bags, and backpacks (especially those smaller zip pockets) with the imagined eyes of a federal customs official. Think you’re fine because it’s medical and you’re carrying your doctor’s recommendation or state ID card? Think again. Federal border officials do not consider medical marijuana legal. Do you usually carry your state-legal cannabis home from the store in a favorite bag or backpack? Consider traveling with a different one. There are dogs at the border. They may not find any product, but they will signal their handler on the scent.

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Google Yourself

What pops up? Go a few pages deep. Any references to cannabis? If so, and those pages are under your control, take them down. Now Google your name and cannabis terms—weed, marijuana, pot, etc. What you see is what the border agent will see.

Leave Your Phone at Home

Consider purchasing a cheap smartphone and using it for travel, leaving your everyday device at home. Cannabis-related apps can be extremely useful—but you can download them after you arrive and delete them prior to your departure. Legally, citizens are not required to unlock their mobile devices or share their passwords with United States government officials—although if you refuse at the border, officials may impound your device. If you’re a citizen, though, you cannot be denied re-entry into the US. Noncitizens can also refuse to unlock their phones or share their passwords—but they can be denied entry.

Purchase a Travel Laptop

This is an option. But honestly, we’ve tried going this route. And if you’re used to the luxurious efficiency of a MacBook Pro, working on a cheap Chromebook can be maddening. (Welcome back to 1998!) So you can pursue this option, but consider yourself warned.

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Deactivate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Let’s say, theoretically, there are some colorful references to cannabis on your Facebook page. That may not be something you’re eager to share with a customs official. Fortunately, Facebook has an option to deactivate your account, which means your profile won’t be visible to others and can’t be searched. But you can then reactivate the account at a later time. Facebook has instructions on how to do that here. Note: Do not confuse deactivate with delete. If you delete your account, it’s gone for good. You can do the same thing with your Twitter account. Twitter will retain your user data for 30 days, and you can reactivate your account at any time within that window. Twitter has instructions on how to do that here. Same for Instagram; learn how here.

All Photos: To the Cloud!

You should already be uploading your photos to the cloud. They take up too much damn space. If you’ll be crossing an international border soon, this gives you an excuse to move all those selfies, some of which may or may not contain cannabis, to a secure second location. Use iCloud, Photobucket, Imgur, Dropbox, whatever. Just use it—and make sure it’s private.

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Scrub Your Email

We’re asking you to think like a customs agent. Pull up your Gmail account. Type “weed” and “bong” and “marijuana” and “dispensary” into the search function. See what comes up. One option: Select all, and delete. Then delete those emails from your trash folder.

Remove the Hard Drive From Your Laptop

Now we’re getting serious. This may or may not be an option for you, depending on how handy you are with computer hardware. If you’re comfortable doing this, you can purchase a separate laptop hard drive and install an operating system on it. Then, download your material from the cloud once you’re past customs. When you return home, re-install your original hard drive. Remember: Simply deleting data from your hard drive using normal deletion steps doesn’t mean the data is no longer recoverable.

Have you Traveled to Colorado?

This is a question you may be asked. Be prepared to answer it. A Chilean citizen visited Colorado and enjoyed state-legal cannabis during her trip. She returned home, then came back to the United States for another visit. At the US border, she was asked about her previous visit, divulged her Colorado stay, told the agent about her consumption in the Rocky Mountain State, and was denied entry. Draw your own conclusions.

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The Right to Remain Silent

Don’t volunteer your own past cannabis consumption. Under federal law, it doesn’t matter if cannabis use was for medical or recreational purposes, nor does it matter if it took place in a state where cannabis is legal. Acknowledging any cannabis consumption can put you at risk for deportation, denial of citizenship, or refusal of entry into the United States. At the same time, don’t lie to a federal officer. This in itself is a crime. Refusing to answer a customs officer’s questions, on the other hand, will likely earn you an invitation to a secure room for further questioning. You have the right to remain silent—and US Customs and Border Protection officers have the right to refuse you entry to the United States.

Why Can My Devices Be Searched at the Border?

Wide angle shot of the border between Mexico and USA with bush in the foreground and a clear blue sky at dusk

Here’s what the Electronic Freedom Foundation says about that:

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us against unreasonable government searches and seizures. This generally means the government has to show a court probable cause that a crime has been committed and get a warrant before it can search a location or item in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. But searches at places where people enter or leave the United States may be considered “reasonable” simply because they happen at the border or an international airport.

Several federal courts have considered whether the government needs any suspicion of criminal activity to search a traveler’s laptop at the U.S. border. Unfortunately, so far they have decided that the answer is no. Congress has also weighed several bills to protect travelers from suspicionless searches at the border, but none has yet passed.

For now, border agents have the legal authority to search your electronic devices at the border even if she has no reason to think that you’ve done anything wrong. The agents cannot compel you to provide your account names and passwords, but if you refuse to do so they can detain you for further investigation and provide you with a travel disruption, a missed flight connection, and a few hours of unpleasant waiting and questioning.

In short, border agents have a lot of latitude to search electronic devices at the border or take them elsewhere for further inspection for a short period of time, whether or not they suspect a traveler has done anything wrong.

How to Make Change

We’re talking about federal law and policy here—so the best place to start is with your congressional representatives. Some members of Congress have formed an advocacy group, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and have already introduced a raft of bills meant to ease the tension between states and the feds. Call your elected officials and encourage them to support these efforts. Even if cannabis is legal where you live, you can still be a target for federal enforcement—enforcement the Trump administration has promised to pursue.


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.

Under Trump, Legal Cannabis Is a Deportable Offense 

‘Sorry Buddy, We’re Canceling Your Visa’

(Gregory Bull/AP)(Gregory Bull/AP)

For the software entrepreneur from Hong Kong, the business trip to the US to meet with Silicon Valley investors was also a homecoming. He had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for years while studying computer science at San Jose State University. During that time, he’d adopted some California customs—including treating his back and neck trouble, which he’d developed during long hours hunched over a laptop, with occasional puffs of medical marijuana.

The trip ended before the entrepreneur could leave the airport. Arriving at customs on a business visa, he encountered immigration officials who asked him questions about cannabis, according to Zachary Nightingale, a San Francisco-based immigration attorney who later consulted on the man’s case. (At Nightingale’s request, Leafly News is not identifying the man by name.) As soon as he mentioned his legal medical marijuana use, he was deported—forever.

“This was a legitimate businessman,” Nightingale said. “He thought he was doing everything by the book. They were like, ‘Sorry, buddy—we’re canceling your visa, and you can never come back to the United States.’”

It was hardly an isolated incident. Another man, who was employed at a major Silicon Valley tech firm on an H1-B visa, fared slightly better. After his airport interview turned up a medical cannabis recommendation, he was admitted into the country—but only for a week. Customs officials gave him just long enough to clean out his apartment before he, too, was deported, Nightingale said, with no chance of future re-entry.

Under the Trump administration, experts are advising immigrants to:
– Refrain from all cannabis use, including for state-legal medical purposes
– Not seek employment in the cannabis industry
– Remain silent when asked about past cannabis use
– Scrub mobile phones and social media accounts of any mention of cannabis

Medical cannabis is legal in California and nearly 30 other states, and adults 21 and over can legally possess and consume marijuana in eight states and the District of Columbia. But at the federal level—where decisions are made about who can come into the country, who can become a citizen, and who can’t—marijuana remains illegal. And under federal law, any connection to cannabis—including legal past use, whether in the US or abroad—is grounds for denial for entry into the country.

Legal cannabis consumption has been used to justify the cancellation of tourist and business visas, and the denial of citizenship and green-card applications, for years, according to immigration attorneys and drug policy advocates interviewed for this story.

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If a customs official at the Canadian border spots a marijuana-leaf sticker on a car or discovers a medical marijuana recommendation in a wallet at the airport—and if and marijuana use is admitted in a subsequent interview—the traveler will be sent home. This was true when Barack Obama was president.

Experts are advising immigrants to scrub any mention of cannabis—including photos—from their mobile phones and social media.

But since Donald Trump’s election, zealous immigration and border officials have compelled legal experts to warn individuals against admitting any connection to cannabis. According to an advisory issued earlier this month by the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center, “More and more, immigration officers are asking citizens and noncitizens alike if they have ever used marijuana—especially in states that have legalized marijuana.”

Those who admit to any cannabis use, at any time, anywhere, have been refused entry into the United States—or deported if they’re already here.

That’s true not only for individuals who entered the country illegally, but also for green card holders (legal permanent residents), who have been warned to refrain from all cannabis use. Experts are also advising them not to seek employment in the cannabis industry, and to scrub any mention of cannabis—including photos—from their mobile phones and social media accounts.

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In states where recreational use is legal, federal officials are asking more citizenship hopefuls cannabis-related questions. “As more and more states legalize, [officials] get more and more irritated,” said Kathy Brady, senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “They go to the states where’s it’s legalized and entrap people by having them admit to something that’s legal under state law.”

“It’s happening very intensely in Washington state,” she said. She’s expecting to see a similar uptick in cannabis-related questions during naturalization interviews in California following the passage of Prop 64, she said, “although we haven’t seen it yet.”

As States Legalize, Feds Double Down on the Border

The clash of new-generation cannabis legalization in states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon—and soon in California—is clashing directly with old-school border laws that treat anyone who’s ever touched a joint as a world-class drug smuggler. Add in the incriminating email and social media trails that most people now lay down, and you get a situation that’s injecting fear into thousands of legal border crossers. The Canadian government is expected to soon introduce legislation that would legalize cannabis for all adults 18 and older. But that law probably won’t become effective until July 2018–and it’s hard to say exactly how it will impact the questions asked of travelers at border crossings.

“What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords.”

John Kelly, US Homeland Security Secretary

Since Trump administration came to power, laptop and mobile device searches by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have gone from rare occurrences to common demands. In 2009 and 2010, CBP officers nationwide conducted an average of 302 and 383 electronic device searches, respectively, per month. According to a recent NBC News report, that number grew to nearly 2,100 per month in 2016. Department of Homeland Security officials told CNBC that 5,000 devices were searched at the border in February 2017 alone.

This graphic captures the spike in electronic device searches at the US border by Customs and Border Protection officers:

“What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords.”

At a congressional Homeland Security Committee hearing on Feb. 7, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that’s what he wanted foreign visitors to hear before they’re allowed to enter the United States. “And if they don’t want to give us that information, then they don’t come,” Kelly said.

It appears Kelly’s wish has become official policy on America’s borders. And once a CBP officer has a traveler’s phone or laptop (and passwords), it may only take a five-second Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter search for “marijuana,” “weed,” “pot,” or other cannabis-related terms to turn up enough evidence to refuse that person entry.

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Cannabis use, and especially a cannabis arrest, can be used to deny entry or deport an otherwise legal entrant or resident. As Leafly contributor Stephen Paulsen will show in tomorrow’s series installment, even a minor, decade-old cannabis conviction is now considered grounds for deportation.

The Fallout Here at Home

Trump’s election, and the subsequent deportation fears, has even canceled out some of the anticipated benefits of Prop 64, California’s adult-use legalization initiative. The measure was expected to help noncitizens in the form of post-conviction relief— reducing felonies to misdemeanors—and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry, according to a September analysis from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

The warning applies to green card holders and undocumented workers alike.

But since the election, the Los Angeles County Public Defender has put on hold efforts to expunge past marijuana convictions for undocumented immigrants over fears of alerting Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Eunisses Hernandez, a policy coordinator with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Moreover, all noncitizens are being urged to stay away from marijuana jobs—including the agricultural work that pays better and offers better working conditions than wineries and farms that traditionally rely on undocumented labor. The warning applies to green card holders and undocumented workers alike.

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“Policy-wise, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t see marijuana any differently than heroin, cocaine, or meth,” said Valerie Lopez, a Los Angeles-based immigration and criminal defense attorney. She advises any green card holder to refrain from working in a cannabis business for at least five years before applying for citizenship.

No hard data exists on how many times legal marijuana use has led to deportation, denial of citizenship, or cancellation of a visa. There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, according to the Pew Research Center. Since Trump took office in January, a miniscule proportion—slightly more than 35,000 people, according to an ICE official—have been removed from the country. But there are fears that that number could increase rapidly.

Last month, DHS published a memo outlining new priorities for immigration control. Instead of violent criminals, “If you display any kind of conduct that is indicative of some trait the government doesn’t like, you can be deported,” Lopez said. “And one of them is drug and alcohol abuse.”

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As it was before Trump took office, most deportations begin with a brush with law enforcement. Any offense that would lead to an arrest, booking, and subsequent fingerprinting can alert immigration officials, who may then intercept the undocumented person at jail or in court. The person is then sent to a detention center for a hearing before a federal immigration court.

For visa applicants, the process is much briefer: a summary denial and a return flight home.

Those seeking citizenship are subjected to a lengthy examination, given under oath. Either an admission of drug use or a denial later revealed to be untruthful—perjury—is enough to derail the application process and bar entry into the US.

With legal cannabis more popular and prevalent than ever before, Nightingale said, US customs officials asking about marijuana “is an increasing problem that we’re pretty sure, under Trump, is only going to get worse.”

This is the first in a three-part Leafly News series on the Trump administration’s recent cannabis policy changes and how they’re affecting travelers, immigrants, and legal residents who cross the US border. Coming tomorrow: The story of one legal immigrant caught up in the new zero-tolerance era. 


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.

Utah Group Begins Push to Legalize Medical Cannabis

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Medical marijuana advocates in Utah are planning to try to get an initiative on the November 2018 ballot that would allow the drug to be used for treatment.

Advocates say they’re done waiting for state lawmakers, who have rejected passing a broad medical cannabis law during the last three consecutive sessions. Medical marijuana advocate Christine Stenquist says the legislature’s decisions over the last few years have made it clear that lawmakers have no desire to move forward with legalizing the drug, so they’re going to do it themselves.

Here are things to know about the ballot initiative and the work over the last few years in Utah to get medical cannabis legalized:

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What Is the Ballot Initiative Process?

Medical marijuana advocates have already taken preliminary steps to get an initiative on next year’s ballot. Stenquist, who also leads a cannabis legalization group called Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, says she and other Utah residents have started meeting with donors and talking with signature gatherers. A ballot initiative requires thousands of signatures, a legal review and seven town hall meetings around the state. Stenquist says the entire process could cost as much as $800,000. The advocates want to legalize whole plant medical cannabis, but are still sorting out what the specific language of the initiative should look like.

What Did Lawmakers Pass in 2017?

Utah lawmakers have scaled back their push to expand the state’s very limited medical cannabis law during the recently completed legislative session. Republican Rep. Brad Daw introduced a bill that calls for additional research on the drug’s effects. It easily passed through the legislature and is now awaiting Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature. The other marijuana-related proposal would have outlined what rules the state would put in place to regulate the legalization of the drug if that ever happens in the future, but it never made it past the Senate.

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What Has the State Tried in the Past?

Utah already allows a marijuana extract, called cannabidiol, to be used by those with severe epilepsy, as long as they obtain it from other states. It has low levels of THC, the hallucinogenic chemical in marijuana. In 2015, lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have allowed those with chronic and debilitating diseases to consume marijuana-infused products such as brownies, candy and lozenges. Last year, lawmakers tried again, attempting to pass two competing proposals, but both died amid regulatory and budgetary concerns. One would have allowed those with certain debilitating conditions to use a cannabis extract with very low levels of the plant’s psychoactive components, while the more comprehensive bill would have made edibles and other marijuana products legal in Utah for those with chronic pain.

What Have Other States Done?

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but some states have started to allow its use, starting with California 20 years ago. Eight states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational cannabis and 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year, Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota were among some of the states that approved legislation legalizing medical marijuana.


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.

In This Alabama Church, Cannabis Is Part of a Spiritual Journey

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — With a stained-glass window behind them, a lineup of speakers stepped to the front of the church and talked about the potential health benefits of legalizing plants that are currently outlawed in Alabama.

“I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain,” said Janice Rushing, president of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama. “If I did not, I’d be on pain pills.”

Her husband, Christopher Rushing, chief executive officer of Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, says he also uses marijuana routinely.

The Rushings founded the Oklevueha Church in 2015 and claim that it has a legal exemption for its members to smoke marijuana and ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote cactus.

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At a January forum with an audience of about 30 gathered at Unity Church in Birmingham, which allowed the use of its facilities, speakers discussed the potential benefits of marijuana and other substances for medicinal purposes.

“I had an ungodly facial rash,” said Sherrie Saunders, a former U.S. Army medic who is now a member of Oklevueha Native American Church in Alabama.

“We made a cream that completely got rid of that rash,” Mrs. Rushing said.

Someone in the audience discussed a heart problem and sleep apnea.

“That could be something that cannabis could help,” Saunders said.

She also said marijuana can ease manic bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

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“The medical establishment took away cannabis so they could sell us pills,” Saunders said.

Before marijuana was stigmatized as an illegal drug, Native Americans valued it as a natural herbal treatment for more than 90 percent of sicknesses, she said. “A woman in Nicaragua showed me how to cure cancer with cannabis,” Saunders said.

The woman had a son who was cured, she said. “I know why,” Saunders said. “God and cannabis.”

The National Cancer Institute, in its overview of cannabis in treatment of cancer, makes no claims for curative powers, but acknowledges that cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and that it “may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.”

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Chris Rushing stood in the pulpit and preached a sermon that mixed theology and a belief in natural, hallucinogenic plants. “That is God’s way of turning our brain on,” Rushing said.

“These entheogens work like tools to open up spaces and pathways of the mind,” Rushing said. “Yet it’s illegal. We all walk around producing natural chemicals that do the same.”

Rushing said it does not make sense that pharmaceutical companies make large profits on harmful synthetic and dangerous drugs, while plant and herbal medicines are illegal.

Rushing said the health benefits of marijuana, mushrooms and cacti are enormous. They can combat depression and cure people of addictions, he said.

The Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Warrior has been licensed as a federally registered branch of the Oklevueha Lakota Sioux Nation Native American Church, Rushing said.

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The church has a religious exemption to use psylocibin mushrooms and peyote cactus, both of which have properties that augment traditional Native American spiritual beliefs and experiences, Rushing said. He calls their use in religious ceremonies a sacrament.

All 120 members in the Alabama church carry photo identification, similar to a driver’s license, that identifies them as members of a church that has a federal religious exemption to use natural drugs that are otherwise prohibited by law, he said.

He believes all natural plants should be legal for medicinal use, including marijuana, peyote cactus and psylocibin mushrooms.

Rushing carries around with him documentation of court rulings such as a unanimous ruling in United States v. Robert Boyll in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that a non-Native American who was arrested for possession and intent to distribute peyote had the same constitutional protections as Native American members of the church.

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Rushing said he was licensed in the church by James Warren “Flaming Eagle” Mooney of Utah, who won a court battle with the state of Utah. The Utah Supreme Court ruled in Mooney’s favor in 2004, in State of Utah vs. Mooney’s and Oklevueha Native American Church. The state had argued that Mooney was engaged in a criminal enterprise for distributing peyote and tried to seize the church property. The Supreme Court ruled that the Native American Church was entitled to the religious exemption.

After the Jan. 21 forum at Unity Church, some in attendance expressed hope Alabama might soon follow in the footsteps of other states that have legalized marijuana. More than half of the states have decriminalized marijuana for medical uses and eight states have decriminalized marijuana for recreational uses.

Some of them say the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama is helping raise awareness.

“I think Chris’ work is vital,” said Jonah Tobin, founder of the Alabama Mother Earth Sustenance Alliance, or MESA. “People like him are part of that movement.”


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.

Oregon Senate Approves Plan to Shield Cannabis Consumer Info From Feds

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A proposal to shield the names, birthdates, driver’s license numbers or any other identifying information of potentially thousands of recreational cannabis customers cleared its first major hurdle at the Oregon Legislature this week amid worries over a federal marijuana crackdown.

Senate Bill 863 — a proposal from the 10-member bipartisan committee that crafts Oregon’s marijuana policies— cleared the Senate on Tuesday and heads to the House for consideration.

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The bill’s bipartisan sponsors want to put a stop to what’s become a common practice within Oregon’s budding cannabis industry, where legal retailers often stockpile the names, birthdates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and other private information of each recreational customer that walks through their doors. Such activity is either prohibited or discouraged in Alaska, Colorado and Washington state.

“The loss of this information could be damaging for many different reasons.”

Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), Senate minority leader

Should the proposal become law, cannabis retailers would have 30 days to destroy their recreational customers’ data— derived from the driver’s licenses, passports or military IDs that are used to verify patrons are at least 21— and would be banned from such record-keeping moving forward. Medical marijuana cardholders’ data would be excluded from the provisions.

Cannabis businesses say the data is used mostly for marketing purposes, such as email lists for promoting products with special deals and birthday discounts, which the bill would still allow in some instances if the customer voluntarily shares their name and email.

Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Republican minority leader and one of the bill’s sponsors, says it’s a major privacy concern for not only Oregon residents, but potentially federal employees, concealed-weapon permit holders and out-of-state visitors.

“I don’t have to tell you of the frequency of hacking incidents or inadvertent releases of data … the loss of this information could be damaging for many different reasons,” Ferrioli said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “We’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about the (White House) administration’s approach to cannabis.”

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The mixed signals from Washington D.C. began late last month with White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who suggested a boost in enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws could be on the horizon, but only for recreational.

But last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cast doubt on the medical market by commenting that “medical marijuana has been hyped, perhaps too much.” Sessions also has said that his agency is reviewing an Obama-era memo giving states flexibility in passing marijuana laws.

Either way, any heightened enforcement of the federal marijuana prohibition would be complicated in Oregon, where most cannabis shops are licensed to serve both recreational and medical customers under one roof.

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The proposal underway in Salem was amended last week to exclude medical cannabis customers, whose buying activities are closely monitored for tax purposes, product quality and consistency of the state’s tracking program, said Jonathan Lockwood, spokesman for the Senate GOP caucus.

“When you’re a medical cardholder, you opt-in to your records being kept because you have a qualifying condition that requires higher limits and potencies and certain products … So, the bill went as far as it reasonably could to protect privacy,” Lockwood said.


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.

Ohioans Seek Residency Requirement for Cannabis Cultivation

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (AP) — Some Ohioans wanting to start a medical marijuana business are urging regulators to add a residency requirement, at least initially, for businesses getting the state’s few lucrative cultivator licenses.

The Ohio Department of Commerce currently plans to award up to 12 large grow licenses and 12 small grow licenses statewide based on criteria including a company’s business plan, security measures and experience. The rules now don’t require that growers be Ohio residents, although proof that a company is headquartered in Ohio, owned by Ohioans and plans to hire in-state workers is part of the review.

Many Ohioans speaking at a public hearing this week in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg on the proposed medical cannabis growing rules urged state regulators to add a residency requirement for grower licensing.

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“We’re the ones who fought for this,” said Kelly Mottola, owner of Hydro Innovations in Hilliard. “Allowing people from outside the state is not benefiting Ohio or Ohioans or our unemployment.”

Kevin Schmidt, of the Marijuana Policy Project, believes it could prove difficult for Ohio entrepreneurs to compete for licenses with more experienced out-of-state companies. But Jason Kabbes, a cannabis cultivator based in Oregon, said there are likely other native Ohioans living out of state who would want to work in the industry back home.

“When you say these other folks in the industry are outsiders, they care about cannabis just as much as anybody and may care as much about Ohio as much as you guys,” Kabbes said.

Residency requirements have been included in several other states’ medical and recreational marijuana programs.

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A panel of state lawmakers will review the rules, which must be finalized by May 6.

Other proposed rules discussed at the hearing would require large cultivators to pay a $20,000 application fee, $180,000 license fee and $200,000 annual renewal fee. Small growers would have to pay a $2,000 application fee, $18,000 first-year licensing fee and $20,000 annual renewal fee.

Ohio’s medical marijuana law permits residents with one of the state’s pre-approved medical conditions and diseases to buy and use cannabis only if such treatment is recommended by a physician.


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.

Advocates to MA Lawmakers: Don’t Amend Cannabis Law Just Yet

BOSTON (AP) — Backers of legalized recreational marijuana urged Massachusetts legislators Monday to hold off, at least for now, on making any significant changes to a law voters approved in November.

The appeal came during the first public hearing held by a special legislative committee formed to review the law, which passed by a 240,000 vote margin and made Massachusetts one of eight states that allow adults to use recreational cannabis.

“They’re trying to change everything. It’s not right.”

Paul Connors, Holbrook resident

House and Senate leaders have promised to respect the will of the electorate. Yet lawmakers also have angered many legalization advocates by making clear their willingness to consider a higher tax rate on legal marijuana sales and address other issues, including the ability of local officials to keep retail shops out of their communities; limits on the potency of cannabis-infused edibles; and further restrictions on homegrown cannabis, now capped at a dozen cannabis plants per household.

The group that led the ballot initiative, Yes on 4, said the Legislature should take a hands-off approach until a state regulatory board is in place and has a chance to formulate recommendations for lawmakers.

That board, known as the Cannabis Control Commission, has yet to be appointed.

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“In no way are we trying to curtail any of your legislative duties,” insisted Jim Borghesani, spokesman for Yes on 4, when asked pointedly by the committee’s House chairman, Democratic Rep. Mark Cusack, why the panel should defer to regulators.

The Legislature already has moved to delay the opening of retail marijuana stores until mid-2018 at the soonest. Among dozens of other cannabis-related bills filed are proposals ranging from minor tweaks to the law to its outright repeal — the latter an extremely unlikely scenario.

The law imposes a 3.75 percent excise tax on top of Massachusetts’ normal 6.25 sales tax and an optional 2 percent local tax, adding up to a 12 percent maximum tax.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office is overseeing implementation of the law, called the relatively low excise tax “an area of immediate concern.”

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“It stands in stark contrast to the excise rates applied in other states, such as Washington at 37 percent tax rate, Colorado at 29 percent and Oregon and Alaska at 25 percent,” Goldberg said.

The treasurer and other state officials have questioned whether the current tax would generate enough revenue to cover the costs of regulating recreational marijuana.

Backers of the law counter that keeping the tax rate relative low — at least initially — would encourage consumers to visit legal cannabis establishments and help put illegal dealers out of business.

State revenue officials estimated the current tax would generate $64 million in the first year and $132 million in the second year, adding that it’s difficult to accurately project marijuana sales.

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In a letter to the committee on Monday, the Massachusetts Municipal Association complained that local elected officials are being shut out of the cannabis licensing process. Under the law, cannabis shops can only be barred from a community through a voter referendum. The association urged a change that would allow local governing bodies, such as city councils or boards of selectmen, to decide those questions without a referendum.

Among those attending the standing-room only hearing were Paul and Dorothy Connors, a Holbrook couple who said they support recreational marijuana law and believe lawmakers should respect voters by leaving the law alone.

“Now they’re trying to change everything,” said Paul Connors. “It’s not right.”


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.

SC Prosecutor Contender at Odds With Feds on Medical Cannabis

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The man widely regarded as the front-runner for South Carolina’s top federal prosecutor job is a Republican state representative who gave early support to Donald Trump’s campaign in this early voting state.

But Rep. Peter McCoy — whose name frequently circulates in legal circles as a likely top contender for the job, in part because of his Trump support — has introduced comprehensive medicinal cannabis legislation here, which appears to contradict his would-be boss’ statements on drug policy. U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions has made no secret of his plans to take a hard line on drugs, reminding reporters just weeks after being sworn in that marijuana distribution remains a federal crime, regardless of what states may do to legalize it.

In the weeks since, Sessions has said he’s reviewing Obama-era policies giving states flexibility in passing marijuana laws.

That stance, in contrast with Trump’s campaign trail comments that were softer on marijuana in particular, is going to be tested as the new administration begins to place federal prosecutors throughout the country, including some in states that have taken various steps toward legalizing the drug, either for medicinal purposes or recreational use.

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It’s ultimately up to Trump to nominate U.S. attorneys, with input from the state’s U.S. senators. South Carolina’s top job has been filled by Beth Drake, a career federal prosecutor, since Obama appointee Bill Nettles left the post last summer to return to private practice.

Here’s a look at McCoy, as well as some of the others whose names have been mentioned as possible contenders for the top job in South Carolina:

Peter McCoy

(Twitter: @petermccoyforsc)(Twitter: @petermccoyforsc)

McCoy, 38, has both prosecutorial and political credentials for the appointed position. As a Charleston-area prosecutor, McCoy says he took on hundreds of drug cases, ultimately leaving that post to pursue private practice – and elected office. He also backed Trump in his bid for South Carolina’s primary election, appearing at campaign events in the state’s coastal Lowcountry.

But McCoy, in his fourth term representing Charleston, is also a sponsor of a bill to legalize marijuana in South Carolina for medical use. When his infant daughter began suffering seizures known as infantile spasms, McCoy researched possible ways to relieve her discomfort and was led to research on medical cannabis.

That pursuit led to McCoy’s support of a 2014 bill to legalize cannabis oil, which can be used to treat severe epilepsy and other ailments.

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None of that personal or policy relationship, McCoy says, would tint his service if tapped as South Carolina’s top federal prosecutor, particularly working under a boss who has been vocal in his doubts about any marijuana legalization.

“I have been consistent as a lawmaker and prosecutor being against the recreational use and/or abuse of any illegal substance,” McCoy told the AP, when asked both about the possibility of his nomination and his stance toward marijuana.

“I believe my position has been consistent with the president and his administration in regards to allowing states to decide treatment for medicinal purposes. If I am fortunate enough to be nominated and appointed United States Attorney, I will continue to uphold, follow, and enforce all state and federal laws.”

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use.

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Bryan Stirling

Stirling, 47, is a longtime public servant, an attorney who now serves as director of South Carolina’s Department of Corrections. He previously worked in former Gov. Nikki Haley’s office and was a top deputy when Gov. Henry McMaster was the state’s attorney general.

Asked about the prosecutor position, Stirling told the AP he was focused on running the prisons agency.

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Robert Bolchoz

Bolchoz, 53, is currently chief deputy under state Attorney General Alan Wilson and previously worked as a prosecutor in Charleston County. He vied with Wilson for the 2010 GOP nomination for the top prosecutor job and also previously sought a position on Columbia’s City Council.

“I really enjoy public service and am flattered to be under consideration for such an opportunity,” Bolchoz told the AP.

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Sherri Lydon

Lydon, 55, is a former prosecutor at the state and federal levels now private practice. As an assistant U.S. attorney, Lydon was among the lead prosecutors in Operation Lost Trust, a corruption probe that resulted in numerous convictions against South Carolina lawmakers and lobbyists. As an assistant attorney general, Lydon was chief of the State Grand Jury and also led the prosecution of executives from Carolina Investors and Home Gold, South Carolina’s largest securities fraud case.

If appointed, Lydon would be South Carolina’s first woman to serve as permanent U.S. attorney. She told the AP she was honored to be considered.


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.