Tag: laws

Breaking: White House Plans ‘Greater Enforcement’ Against Legal Cannabis

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sent a jolt through the cannabis world on Thursday, suggesting at a media briefing that the Trump administration could take actions to crack down on state-legal cannabis programs.

“I think you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, according to The Hill. He added that precisely what that means will be “a question for the Department of Justice.”

Spicer, answering questions from reporters, drew a distinction between medical and nonmedical cannabis programs, expressing some support for the very sick who find relief through cannabis.

Trump “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” he said, according to Politico, also noting previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “go[ing] after those folks.”

“The last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary

As for “recreational marijuana, that’s a very, very different subject,” Spicer said.

“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said.

Patients, consumers, business owners, and government officials in legal states have been parsing cannabis-related language out of the Trump camp since the presidential campaign. Today’s message from Spicer is the latest sign that the White House could take actions to stymie adult-use programs already up and running in a handful of states across the country.

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Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions to head the Department of Justice has also cast a cloud of uncertainty over state cannabis programs. In April of last year, Sessions famously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He was cagey in Senate confirmation hearings when asked about his how he’d handle cannabis as US attorney general, pledging to “review and evaluate” existing policies under which the DOJ has allowed state programs to operate.

“Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state, and the distribution of it, an illegal act,” he told senators. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”

Trump himself has stressed his frustration with the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis and has vowed to go after international drug cartels. Until now, however, he’s been mostly quiet on state-legal cannabis. He has expressed support for medical marijuana and states’ rights, but has also surrounded himself with numerous legalization opponents, from billionaire political donors to Cabinet-level officials. In addition to Sessions, Georgia Republican Tom Price, Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, has come out strongly against legalization.

This story is developing and will be updated as information is available.


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.

Australia Loosens Cannabis Import Rules to Speed Patient Access

Australian medical cannabis patients and advocates notched a big win this week as the federal government loosened strings on the country’s cannabis-importation laws. The changes will allow overseas suppliers of medicinal cannabis to import into Australia in bulk, store a surplus, and ship directly to patients as doctors prescribe.

Despite progress made in licensing and local cultivation—which became legal in October 2016—patients and doctors have nevertheless found it frustratingly difficult to get a hold of legal cannabis. This is mainly due to the fact that the only products that currently meet quality standards are made overseas and classified in Australia as “unapproved medicines.” In other  words, they have not yet completed rigorous pharmaceutical trials and been approved by government regultors. Instead, medicine must be obtained through complex regulatory pathways such as the Special Access Scheme, which requires individual approvals at both the state and federal levels.

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These pathways are not only convoluted from a regulatory perspective, they are expensive. Until now, under the Special Access Scheme, cannabis products were shipped directly from an overseas manufacturer to the patient on a case-by-case basis—a process that entails thousands of dollars in shipping costs alone. Under the changes announced Wednesday, patients will no longer have to have products shipped directly directly from overseas.

According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the new policy will ensure that there will be sufficient interim supply for “all of the medical demand” among approved patients.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam is only cautiously optimistic.

Many see the announcement as long overdue. On local radio last month, even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seemed to acknowledge supply issues when he urged doctors to apply for access to imported medicinal cannabis for seriously ill patients until Australia is in a position to cultivate enough of its own.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam, however, is only cautiously optimistic. Halsam, who lost her son to bowel cancer nearly two years ago, says it remains to be seen how quickly patients will be able to get the product in their hands, especially as the application for access can be difficult. Because qualified doctors aren’t allowed to advertise, even finding an authorized prescriber presents a challenge.

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For now, the immediate beneficiaries of the change include the existing three foreign suppliers to the Australian market, GW Pharma, Tilray, and Bedrocan, which will now be able to supply medicinal cannabis more efficiently by warehousing it in the country. Also likely to benefit are the existing companies involved in pharmaceutical logistics, stacking the odds even further against local start-ups trying to break into the nascent market. (Editor’s note: Tilray and Leafly are both owned by parent company Privateer Holdings.)

The Australian stock market welcomed the announcement, with Australian-listed cannabis companies such as AusCann (ASX:TWH), MMJ Phytotech (ASX:MMJ) and others posting double-digit gains despite the local businesses not having products currently available for import.


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.

State of the Leaf: South Africa Approves MMJ Production

US News Updates

National

US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime champion of cannabis reform, introduced a House resolution that would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect state cannabis programs and businesses that comply with state and local laws. House Resolution 975 has already gained 14 co-sponsors so far and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rohrabacher’s name is already attached to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, a Congressional spending measure that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana. That measure is set to expire in April, although US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently stepped forward as lead co-sponsor to renew the amendment. Both represantatives are founding members of the newly established Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a group of federal lawmakers dedicated to promoting sensible cannabis policy at the federal level.

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Colorado

Access to Colorado cannabis is poised to expand further thanks to a handful of developments:

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Georgia

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will be meeting this week to discuss House Bill 65, which would expand the number of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. The bill has already been discussed by the Medical Marijuana Working Group, where representatives heard testimony from advocates as well pediatricians both in favor and against the bill. Another medical marijuana measure, however, Senate Bill 16, would reduce the amount of THC allowed from five percent to three percent. SB 16 has already passed through the Senate and now heads to the House floor.

Iowa

An Iowa House subcommittee has approved a bill to legalize the use of cannabis-derived oil for medicinal purposes and create a state-run program for the cultivation and distribution of the oil to patients who would qualify. Those who suffer from epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis, and cancer would likely benefit from the program, expanding the conditions from the previously medical marijuana oil program, which was aimed solely at those who suffer from epilepsy. The Iowa Department of Public Health would be tasked with running and overseeing the program, as well as issuing registration cards for qualifying patients.

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Kentucky

A new bill from the Kentucky House of Representatives would allow medical cannabis use with a doctor’s recommendation. House Bill 411, introduced by Rep. John Sims Jr. (D-Frankfort), would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis without facing prosecution. Sims indicated that he introduced the bill after seeing studies that show cannabis can help patients in certain situations.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Legislature created the Committee on Marijuana Policy to help oversee and implement the state’s adult-use legalization law passed by voters last November. Two lawmakers have been tasked with rewriting the law to make “significant changes” before retail shops are scheduled to open in 2018. Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) were appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to complete a revised version of the law by June 2017, although the lawmakers have so far been mum on what changes might be in the works.

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Minnesota

A new bill in the Minnesota Legislature would legalize cannabis for personal use by adults 21 and older. Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-St. Paul) introduced S.F. 1392 a companion to H.F. 927, already introduced in the House. Both bills are aimed at legalizing and regulating the sales, possession, and use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21, but passage could be a long shot. Minnesota has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country, and so far not a single state Legislature across the country has legalized cannabis for adult use.

New Hampshire

A bill to legalize cannabis for adult use has been introduced for the first time in the New Hampshire Senate. Senate Bill 233, introduced by Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis sales, as well as establish a committee to study cannabis legalization. Woodburn, also the state Senate minority leader, said New Hampshire needs to be more progressive and open as the rest of New England moves toward legalization. “We do not want to become the Mississippi of the Northeast, where people have to worry about driving through the state.” Woodburn testified before the Judiciary Committee.

North Dakota

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve just over $1 million in funding to oversee the state’s new medical marijuana program over the next two years. Deputy State Officer Arvy Smith said North Dakota is not anticipating earning any revenue from the program during its first year, as the system gets off the ground. After that, user fees are expected to help fund the program. During the course of the coming two-year budget cycle between 2017 and 2019, the program is expected to cost a total of $2.9 million and raise about $1.3 million. The 81-page emergency measure to amend the bill will be considered this week by the Senate.

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Wyoming

An initiative to legalize medical marijuana won’t be on the 2018 ballot after failing to meet a key deadline. The petition was organized by NORML’s Wyoming chapter and had originally aimed to put a question on the 2016 ballot, but organizers failed to gather the 25,600 required signatures in time. Setting its sights on 2018, the group continued gathering signatures. Once again, however, it has failed to submit enough signatures to the Secretary of State’s office before a last week’s Feb. 14 deadline. A poll conducted in October 2016 found that support for the legalizing medical cannabis is at an all-time high, with 81 percent of Wyoming respondents in favor.

Texas

Houston is getting a newly revamped cannabis decriminalization policy. The city has suffered from a high crime rate for years, and state Attorney General Kim Ogg campaigned on a platform that promised to deprioritize low-level cannabis offenses in order to divert funds to fight violent crime in Harris County. The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, designed to spare offenders from criminal penalties, would allow those who are caught with two ounces of cannabis or less to take a four-hour educational class rather than face a misdemeanor charge. Ogg’s office believes such diversion programs could spare up to 12,000 people from jail time and save Harris County around $26 million per year in enforcement costs.

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Virginia

During the first gubernatorial primary debate, two of the four Republican candidates indicated support for relaxing criminal penalties around cannabis. Denver Riggleman, a populist candidate, described his brother’s struggle to reintegrate into normal life after spending nine months in jail on cannabis-related charges. Another candidate, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart joined Riggleman in calling for decriminalization, saying “It’s absolutely atrocious that we are jailing people simply because they are in possession of marijuana.” Front-runner Ed Gillespie has said he does not support decriminalization but instead wants a state commission to review whether the penalties for marijuana offenses are in line with the severity of the crime. Rounding out the GOP field, state Sen. Frank Wagner supports diverting drug offenders to therapy programs rather than jailing them. The two Democratic Party candidates, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former US Rep. Tom Perriello, have both come forward in favor of decriminalization.

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International News Updates

Australia

Health Minister Greg Hunt has officially given the go-ahead for the legal sales of medical cannabis products to begin. Companies will now be permitted to distribute cannabis oils and medications locally, establishing a legal cannabis trade within the country. Parliament passed laws last year allowing patients with chronic illnesses to qualify medicinal cannabis, but without a legal market, products were only available only via import or through the black market. The move is meant to ensure Australia is able to maintain a safe, secure, and reputable source of cannabis-based medicines. Domestic production will continue until the supply is enough to meet patient demand.

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South Africa

The Medical Control Council, in a long-awaited decision, announced it will for the first time publish guidelines on medical cannabis production. Member of Parliament Narend Singh, of the South African Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), hailed the announcement as the result of tireless work from former IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who fought for cannabis legalization and made a direct plea to South African President Jacob Zuma to decriminalize cannabis. Oriani-Ambrosini died of lung cancer in 2014, before the government made any policy changes, but the IFP has since called its approval of medicinal cannabis production a tribute to the late MP.


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.

Houston is Getting a New Cannabis Decriminalization Policy

A new marijuana policy from Harris County could set the tone for Texas to pass more widespread decriminalization at a state level.

Newly elected District Attorney Kim Ogg ran on a campaign platform of reducing penalties for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, and she is sticking to her word. She announced the new policy during a press conference Thursday with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Policer Chief Art Acevedo, and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

“Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Kim Ogg, Harris County district attorney

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program takes effect on March 1, 2017, and will mean that anyone caught with up to four ounces of cannabis will no longer face criminal or civil charges. Instead, offenders will be diverted from the court system if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class. Repeat offenders could continue to take the class, regardless of any past criminal history.

If the suspect does not agree to take the class, officials will file charges and issue an arrest warrant, which means an offender could face up to a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail if convicted of the Class A misdemeanor.

Ogg has faced criticism for the new policy, most notably from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon who accused the new DA of trying to legalize cannabis.

“Despite a rise in violent crime rates in Harris County, Ms. Ogg chooses to focus her attention on the issue of legalization of marijuana,” Ligon stated in a press release.

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It’s true that there has been a rise in violent crime in Houston over the past year, and, in fact, the violent crime rate over the last five years has consistently been more than twice the national average. Ogg acknowledged these statistics during her campaign as playing a large part in the reason for her newly revamped marijuana policy.

“Gangs and organized crime are running rampant in Harris County, and I want law enforcement to have the time and money necessary to dismantle those operations,” Ogg said in a statement on her campaign site. “Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Cannabis prosecution in Texas is costly, time-consuming, and offers almost no return on investment.

Harris County by the numbers

  • The county spent $13,187,000 incarcerating cannabis offenders
    • Offenders spent an average of six days in jail
  • $4,780,000 was spent by the district attorney’s office to prosecute these offenses
    • There were approximately 10,000 cannabis-related cases
  • $2,970,000 in total court costs
  • $2,552,00 was spent on defendant’s lawyer fees
  • $1,790,000 was spent by state crime labs testing cannabis
  • $1,384,000 was spent on law enforcement costs

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It’s not the first time a marijuana diversion program has been enacted in Harris County.

Former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the First Chance Intervention Program on October 1, 2014, but it had a rocky start. It was not until January 1, 2016 that it became mandatory for law enforcement to offer suspects the option of community service rather than jail time.

The two programs differ notably, but carry the same end-goal: lower cannabis arrests and law enforcement costs.

The First Chance program required that offenders have no criminal history, no outstanding warrants, or be out on bond or on probation, and they must complete eight hours of community service or attend an eight-hour class. Offenders must also stay out of trouble for the next 60 to 90 days and pay a $100 fee.

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Program, on the other hand, allows repeat offenders the option of taking a four-hour class, but also requires that offenders not be out on bond or on probation. Offenders must pay a $150 fee for the class, but this fee may be waived if they are unable to afford it.

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The First Chance program was fairly successful, sparing 2,270 participants from potential jail time and the rate of reoffenders was low, between six and seven percent.

Under the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, the county could save millions of dollars and prevent up to 12,000 people from facing jail time. Ogg estimated that the county has spent an average of $25 million per year for the last decade prosecuting cannabis cases.

“We have spent in excess of $250 million, over a quarter-billion dollars, prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety,” said Ogg. “We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from greater job, housing and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation.”


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.

Calif. Bill Would Make Underage Sale Violations Sting

As California gears up to open retail cannabis stores next year, one state lawmaker is proposing a stiff penalty for a business caught selling cannabis to underage buyers: the loss of its state license.

Assembly Bill 729, introduced this week by Assembly Member Adam Gray (D-Merced), would establish penalties and practices designed to limit access to nonmedical cannabis for people under 21. While sales to minors are already prohibited under Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for adult use last year, AB 729 would require authorities to suspend an operator’s license after three such offenses within a three-year window.

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The bill would also require licensees to post signage that reads “No Person Under 21 Allowed” and allow for authorized undercover investigations using underage buyers (read: sting operations). It would bar the use of vending machines or other automated devices to sell cannabis; prohibit cannabis businesses near playgrounds, hospitals, and churches; and allow staff to seize fake IDs.

“With the legalization of recreational use marijuana under Proposition 64, it is more important than ever that safeguards are put in place to ensure marijuana stays out of the hands of children,” Gray said in a statement.

The changes would align California with other established adult-use states, such as Washington and Oregon, which have similar rules on the books. In Washington, licensees face an all-out cancellation of their license after three violations within a three-year window. In Oregon, a license suspension can occur after either two or three violations within a two-year window, depending on whether the sales are deemed intentional.

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Preventing underage access to cannabis is a key priority for state regulators in large part due to the Department of Justice’s Cole memo, a nonbinding document that provides a list of enforcement priorities states are expected to follow to avoid federal intervention in medical marijuana programs. On the very top of that list: preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors.

Despite early studies showing that cannabis use among minors has remained steady or even fallen in legal states, one of the biggest concerns about legalization is whether it gives children easier access to cannabis. It came up frequently last election season, as eight states weighed measures to legalize for medical or adult use.

So far, though, despite regulators in legal states making ID checks a top priority, repeat violations appear to be few and far between. “So far this fiscal year we have conducted 569 compliance checks (underage purchase operations) and have had 49 sales,” a Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman, Mikhail Carpenter, said in an email. “No one has received a third violation.”

In Oregon, regulators are “shifting resources now to compliance and enforcement,” said Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The office plans to conduct more “minor decoy operations” to test whether shops sell to people under 21 or those without proper ID. As for whether any licensees have had repeat violations, Pettinger said, “I would say there’s no data at this point.”

A California Assembly subcommittee is scheduled to consider AB 729 on March 18.


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.

House Republicans Vote to Expand Drug Testing

The US House of Representative approved a resolution this week to expand drug testing for people who apply to receive unemployment benefits.

House Joint Resolution 42 would repeal a Labor Department rule that limits drug testing to two circumstances. Currently, benefits applicants can be tested if they were terminated from their previous job due to illegal use of a controlled substance or if the only available suitable work for an individual is in an occupation that requires drug testing.

As it currently stands, the new bill would mean that anyone who applies for unemployment benefits could face mandatory drug testing, with or without reasonable suspicion of use.

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Unemployment benefits are generally paid by state governments. Funding for those benefits, though, is provided in large part by state and federal payroll taxes levied against employers.

How would this affect residents of legalized states, and medical marijuana patients? It’s hard to say. Recent court rulings have generally favored employers over the rights of employees when it comes to medical or off-hours cannabis use.

Take the case of former Dish Network employee Brandon Coats. He’s a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient from Colorado. When he was fired for testing positive for cannabis on a random drug test (which he told his employer would happen, because of his medical condition), he took Dish to court. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in the favor of Dish Network. Under Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.

“The collection and testing of urine intrudes upon expectations of privacy that society has long recognized as reasonable.”

Judge Stanley Marcus, 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals

The topic of blanket drug-testing has been vigorously debated in Congress over the past few years, particularly when it comes to the question of drug testing welfare recipients. The cost to drug test every welfare recipient is prohibitively expensive, and American taxpayers foot the bill. It has proven to yield underwhelming results.

In 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act was signed into law by Congress to allow the drug testing of those who receive public assistance. Almost immediately, state legislators began crafting bills to drug test those who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), otherwise known as welfare.

At least 15 state legislatures enacted laws requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, but it’s worth noting that no legalized states enacted such laws. Also worth noting: If the current bill before Congress were to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President, it would still be up to each state legislature to enact laws requiring drug testing of unemployment recipients. (Last week the White House issued a statement in support of the resolution.)

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The cost of drug-testing unemployment applicants is another question to consider.

After hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on drug tests, the numbers of positive tests were miniscule. ThinkProgress found that $850,909.25 was spent on testing welfare applicants in 2015. Only 321 tests came back with positive results. Several states recorded zero positive tests.

Aside from the exorbitant costs, these laws raise Fourth Amendment questions about the legality of blanket drug testing without reasonable suspicion of drug use.

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In Florida, Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran, refused to submit to a test, arguing that it was unreasonable for him to be drug tested without any reason to suspect him of drug use. The ACLU of Florida filed suit on his behalf and a federal judge overturned Florida’s law in December 2013.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who initially signed House Bill 353 into law to require drug screening, appealed the motion. In December 2014, 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus wrote an appellate opinion upholding the ruling.

“By virtue of poverty, TANF recipients are not stripped of their legitimate expectations privacy,” Judge Marcus wrote for a three-judge panel. “And the collection and testing of urine intrudes upon expectations of privacy that society has long recognized as reasonable.”

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Since the Florida ruling, states that seek to drug test recipients of government assistance now rely on preliminary questionnaires to determine if the applicant meets the criteria for reasonable suspicion of drug use. The Department of Labor was ordered to create its current rule, establishing limits on drug tests applicants for government benefits.

Although the bill easily passed the House, opponents are attempting to block it in the Senate.

More than 50 civil rights, faith, and criminal justice organizations, including the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the NAACP have signed on to a letter opposing the measure and questioning its constitutionality.


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.

Leafly Investigation: California Has a Dirty Cannabis Problem

There’s no hard data available, but a survey of industry insiders contacted for this article suggests that fewer than half of California dispensaries and delivery services lab test the marijuana they sell. The actual figure could be even lower. After all, testing isn’t currently required under state law. In 2015, lawmakers passed a measure to require testing of medical cannabis, but that won’t be enforced until January 2018.

“Everything makes its way into the supply chain somehow.”

San Francisco dispensary operator

More troubling is what happens to cannabis that turns out to be contaminated. According to dispensary operators and other industry insiders interviewed for this article, cannabis rejected for mold, fungi, pesticide residue, or other contaminants often stays in the supply chain. It may end up on the black market, shipped out of state. It could be processed into concentrates or edibles. Or marijuana rejected by one dispensary may simply end up being sold across town by someone else. If your dispensary isn’t testing its products, you could be smoking some right now. It’s virtually impossible to know.

In a study published in October, Berkeley-based Steep Hill Labs claimed it found residual pesticides in 84 percent of cannabis tested over a 30-day period beginning in mid-September, the peak time in the state’s marijuana harvest.

All that cannabis would have failed safety standards in Oregon. In California, all of it can be sold.

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Why does testing matter?

The potential consequences of contaminated cannabis recently hit home with the release of an article in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

One of the article’s authors, Dr. Joseph Tuscano, an oncologist and researcher at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif., had been treating a young man in his 20s with leukemia. After a stem-cell transplant, the prognosis was very good. The leukemia was gone, and the man seemed likely to recover. Then, very suddenly, he developed a severe lung infection.

An oncologist's article in this medical journal has opened questions about the safety of at-risk patients using untested cannabis. A UC Davis oncologist’s article in this medical journal has opened questions about the safety of at-risk patients using untested cannabis.

One consequence of cancer treatment is that patients’ immune systems become so compromised that even flowers and houseplants can pose a mortal risk. It’s common for bacteria and fungi that healthy people would never notice to cause sudden, severe, and sometimes fatal pneumonia in cancer patients. That’s what happened to Tuscano’s patient, who survived leukemia only to die of what turned out to be a rare fungal infection.

Then it happened again. Another young leukemia patient, another good prognosis, another sudden and severe lung infection caused by the same rare strain of fungus. This patient, however, recovered. When Tuscano asked him about his lifestyle, trying to identify a cause or any links between the two cases, he discovered the two men both used marijuana. The dead patient had vaporized a cannabis “mist” medicinally as part of his treatment; the survivor smoked recreationally prior to his leukemia diagnosis—which was when he developed the infection “instantly,” Tuscano told me.

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“When you have these rare infections, you wonder, ‘OK, how did this patient get exposed to this?’” he said. “We never suspected cannabis use … but after I interviewed the patient, one of the common links was the use of medicinal marijuana.”

It’s impossible to know for certain if the deadly fungus came from cannabis. Tuscano couldn’t test the cannabis the two men had used. It was gone. The next-best thing was to find out if the fungus was in marijuana generally.

Voluntary testing, poor results.

Unlike Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, there is currently no requirement in California for cannabis to be lab-tested before it is sold. Testing isn’t slated to begin until Jan. 1, 2018—and that’s assuming everything goes according to schedule. Some already worry the state’s adult-use rollout is destined for delay.

In the meantime, dispensaries, delivery services, and growers can voluntarily submit crops to testing labs to find contaminants and to determine their products’ THC content—a sought-after marketing metric, since the higher the number, the easier the cannabis is to sell.

This photo taken on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, shows a lab technician loading a tray of marijuana samples into a Chromograph at CannLabs in Denver. The Chromograph analyzes the samples and reports their chemical content and strength. From potency standards to labeling requirements and even regulations about pesticides and fungicides, marijuana production is largely unregulated, for now. That's why there are places like CannLabs in south Denver, where medical marijuana dispensaries and consumers can voluntarily have their marijuana and pot-infused edibles tested. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)A lab technician in Denver loads a tray of cannabis samples into a testing machine that analyzes the samples and reports their chemical content and strength. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

One of Tuscano’s colleagues at UC Davis, Dr. George Thompson, had a connection to Steep Hill Labs. The lab selected, at random, marijuana samples they’d received from 20 different Northern California dispensaries. Each was tested for rare and common fungi and bacteria. The result? Every single one of the 20 samples was contaminated with a variety of both. They contained E. coli, Aspergillus, various strains associated with pneumonia, pathogens known to cause common infections—as well as the rare fungus that killed Tuscano’s patient.

“All these organisms were in there, and so many other ones as well,” said Tuscano. “Before this, I never really suspected there was a link.”

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A false perception of safety

Since the marijuana his patients consumed wasn’t tested, Tuscano can’t know for certain that his patients’ fungal infections came from cannabis. Instead, he can draw only a very strong and suggestive connection.

We don’t know for sure if dirty cannabis led to infection. But researchers suspect a strong connection.

There’s also a few clear warnings. For starters, immunocompromised people should not smoke or vaporize marijuana, Tuscano and his co-authors of the letter say. Neither smoking nor vaping nor filtration through a water pipe destroys fungus. Cannabis ingested orally, for example through edibles or tinctures, is a safer option.

There’s a cultural phenomenon at work, too. Legalization and the widespread acceptance of physician-recommended medical marijuana—a proven political winner, even in red states—have created a “perception of safety,” the researchers wrote. Consumers and even regulators have “unknowingly ignored a product that can be contaminated with infectious agents and thus harbor potentially lethal risks

“People need to quit assuming what they get from the dispensary is safe,” Tuscano told me. “It needs to be tested.”

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Caveat emptor at the dispensary counter

The problem is, under state law, it isn’t. Outside some local jurisdictions with their own testing requirements, California cannabis consumers take a leap of faith with every hit.

This leaves it up to patients and consumers to determine when a product is safe. Often, that relies on assumptions: assuming a dispensary is sincere when it says it tests its medicine, and assuming that test results in fact determine whether a product is or isn’t sold.

“I think you can tell when the culture of the shop embraces testing,” says Nicholas Smilgys, a co-founder and former chief buyer at Flow Kana, a San Francisco-based outdoor farm-to-consumer delivery service. A customer can demand to see a product’s lab results before purchase, but in high-volume dispensaries where a customer’s time at the counter is measured in minutes, such discretion isn’t always encouraged.

Lab rejects can reach the market

Kevin Reed is founder and CEO of The Green Cross in San Francisco. The dispensary has operated for more than a decade in various iterations, first as a storefront, then a delivery service, and now a combination storefront and delivery service. The store, one of the first to apply for a city license, has a history of activism and engagement that has earned it a good reputation among consumers. Before anything is sold, Reed has it sent for testing to CW Analytical, an Oakland, Calif.-based competitor to Steep Hill.

“A whole lot of shenanigans happen at the buying point.”

To this day, a “multitude of small and large scale commercial growers … attempt to sell” products that Reed’s testing discovers to be contaminated by pathogens or pesticides, he told me. The Green Cross rejects that medicine and sends the supplier on his or her way, Reed said, but “unfortunately, with the current [California] model, we cannot ensure that once a product is removed from our supply chain that it does not get sold to other dispensaries,” he said.

A lot comes down to a dispensary’s buyer, explained one San Francisco-based dispensary operator who spoke on condition of anonymity. “A whole lot of shenanigans happen at the buying point.”

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How dirty product gets sold

The operator offered a hypothetical situation as an example: A new dispensary opens up. The owner is a marijuana neophyte, maybe a newcomer from law or tech or real estate. Unfamiliar with the goods on the market, the owner hands over purchasing power to someone with cannabis-industry experience. Now, suppose that buyer has a budget of $1,400 a pound and is approached by a grower with lower-end cannabis for sale. Neither party is interested in the time and expense of a lab test.

“The seller says, ‘It’s got some issues, but I’ll give it to you for $800.’ So he gives it to him for $800, and the buyer keeps the extra $600,” the operator said. “That happens a ton in the industry.”

A grower with lab-rejected cannabis is faced with a choice: Discard the harvest and eat the loss or shop it at a discount until it sells.

“Or let’s say I’m a grower and I have a hundred pounds of OG Kush,” the dispensary operator added. Only a few grams are required “for testing, [so] I’m only going to send in my best stuff. Does that represent my entire crop?”

If a lab finds pesticides in a batch of cannabis and a dispensary rejects it, the grower is faced with a choice: Discard the harvest—and with it months of work and investment—or shop the bud around until it sells. Unless there is something catastrophically wrong, such as rampant pest damage or mold so out of control it’s visible to the naked eye, “it makes its way to a buyer somewhere,” the operator said. “And if it doesn’t make its way as a flower product, it’ll make its way to someone who will extract it” into vape-pen cartridges, extracts for dabbing, or oil to be used in edibles.

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One might think that’s a safe and acceptable fate, assuming the extraction process somehow kills off pests and eliminates contaminants. It does not, say lab scientists, who explained that when cannabinoids and terpenes are concentrated in extracts, certain fungi and pesticides are concentrated as well—sometimes disproportionately compared to the sought-after cannabinoids and terpenes.

But the point, the operator told me, is this: Very little marijuana is voluntarily discarded. “Everything,” he said, “makes its way into the supply chain somehow.”


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.

State of the Leaf: Peruvian President Wants to Legalize MMJ

U.S. News Updates

National

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) has introduced a resolution that would acknowledge the devastating effects the war on drugs has had on the black community and determine which private corporations benefited from the nation’s mass incarceration crisis. House Resolution 1055 is aimed at remedying some of the those historical harms. Black Americans are four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes, despite offense rates equal to those among whites. If passed, the law would create a the Commission to Study Family Reconstruction Proposals for African-Americans Unjustly Impacted by the War on Drugs, members of which would be appointed by the president and appropriated $10 million to conduct the study over the course of a year. Rush introduced a similar proposal during the last legislative session, but the measure fell short.

Arkansas

Two bills passed the House with little opposition, while a third measure was soundly rejected by the Senate. House Bill 1392, which would ban edibles, and House Bill 1400, which would prohibit the smoking of marijuana, both passed through committee. The Senate rejected SB 254, which would have amended the number of plants a dispensary is allowed to grow.

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California

San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy asked the city attorney to draft legislation that would create an independent department of marijuana to regulate the cultivation, distribution, and sale of cannabis in the city. The city is anticipating challenges in overseeing sales and distribution when legalization comes into effect in January 2018. The tentatively named Department of Cannabis would issue permits to grow, distribute, and sell marijuana in the city, and would play a role in enforcing compliance with state law.

Colorado

The Colorado Senate approved a bill that directs the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study the feasibility of using hemp as livestock feed. Senate Bill 17-109 would create a group to study the possibility of using hemp products in animal feed, with a report due by December 31, 2017. This measure is similar to a bill passed in Washington in 2015 to study whether hemp products should be allowed in commercial animal feed.

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Florida

A Broward County ordinance dealing with zoning, security, and other measures in light of the passage of Amendment 2 will get a public hearing on March 14. However, the proposed ordinance may become moot due to legislation being considered in the state Senate that would keep the number of cannabis cultivators limited to the seven producers already licensed to grow low-THC cannabis. Activists and potential patients have resisted these changes, with nearly 1,300 residents showing up to voice their opinions are public hearings held recently across the state.

Indiana

The Indiana Senate voted to approve a measure that would legalize the use of CBD oil for the treatment of children with epilepsy. Senate Bill 15 creates a state registry for physicians, nurses, caregivers, and patients to treat intractable epilepsy and would allow pharmacies to dispense it. The measure cleared the state Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration. Gov. Eric Holcomb has been reluctant to consider outright legalization, but has said he is open to the idea of medical cannabis.

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New Mexico

A bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program was cleared by the state Senate in a 29–11 vote. Introduced by Sen. Cisco McSorley, who also helped pass the state’s initial medical marijuana bill in 2007, Senate Bill 177 would allow producers to increase the number of plants they can grow when the number of patients in the program increases. It would also add 14 new qualifying medical marijuana conditions to the program, including substance abuse disorder.

New York

The New York State Assembly voted in support of A. 2142, a bill that would seal the criminal records of those who have been arrested and convicted for simple possession of cannabis in public. This is in line with the changes made by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last year to no longer arrest those who possess cannabis in public. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also hinted that he may clarify the state’s marijuana decriminalization law to help lower arrest rates, which initially decreased with de Blasio’s policy change, but lately have been on the rise.

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International News Updates

Guam

A poll conducted by the advanced placement students at Simon Sanchez High School found that 60 percent of Guam’s adults oppose legalizing marijuana for adult use. The student polled 1,048 adults over the age of 21, of whom 632 had serious objections to legalizing cannabis. The Guam Gov. Eddie Balza Calvo recently introduced Bill 8-34 to legalize and tax cannabis, with revenue going towards supporting the medical marijuana program and other important government services, such as public hospitals.

Peru

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is planning to introduce legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis for the treatment of serious and terminal illnesses. The president was inspired to introduce the legislation after police raided the home of a family in Lima where parents were cultivating cannabis in order to treat children suffering from epilepsy and other illnesses. The cultivation site comprised more than 80 members whose sick children have been quietly benefiting from the illicit use of cannabis.


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.

Colorado Governor Talks Cannabis Challenges in California Capitol

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told California state senators Tuesday to set standards for edible marijuana goods and driving under the influence of cannabis as soon as possible to avoid repeating mistakes his state made when it legalized recreational cannabis.

The senators heard from Hickenlooper as the Legislature prepares to regulate sales of the drug. California voters legalized recreational cannabis in November through Proposition 64.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and faced a host of challenges implementing the new policy, from taxing dispensaries to keeping edible products away from children.

“We made an awful lot of mistakes as we were trying to wrestle with some of these issues,” Hickenlooper said.

California faces a similar challenges implementing Proposition 64. Cannabis sales under the law are scheduled begin in 2018.

“We are in a sprint between now and Jan. 1 to be able to implement the mountain of rules and regulations associated with Prop 64,” state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said during the committee hearing where Hickenlooper spoke.

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Colorado saw a rise in child hospitalization because of kids ingesting edible cannabis products in non-child-proof containers, Hickenlooper told the committee. The state now requires edibles to be sold in child-proof containers and has stricter regulations on labeling such products.

California faces challenges determining how to enforce laws prohibiting driving under the influence of cannabis, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said.

“There is no real quantifiable, definitive impairment level as there is with our alcohol,” Hill said. “That’s been the criticism or the challenge that we’ve been faced with here in terms of defining what impairment would be.”

Colorado struggled to quickly pass laws to regulate impaired driving for that reason, Hickenlooper said. He recommended California lawmakers start to address that issue quickly because it will likely take time to resolve.

Marijuana dispensaries generally are forced to pay taxes in cash because federal law prohibits banks from taking their money, which can present a challenge for the state and local governments collecting taxes from the businesses, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said. State analysts estimate the California legal cannabis industry could generate more than $1 billion in tax revenue each year.

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Other speakers at the hearing, including local and state officials charged with overseeing the marijuana industry, also spoke about challenges implementing regulations so sales can begin next year.

“We are flying the plane while we are building it,” said Amy Tong, director of the California Department of Technology.

Mark Malone, executive director of the Denver-based Cannabis Business Alliance, cheered the interstate cooperation but also questioned the evidence of some of Hickenlooper’s claims.

“We encourage newly legalized states to visit Colorado and speak to representatives and those with established cannabis businesses so that they can form better and more efficient rules and regulations around a very successful industry; there is no reason to recreate the wheel,” Malone said in a statement Wednesday. 

He added: “The CBA does take exception to the statement that ‘Colorado saw a rise in child hospitalization because of kids ingesting edible marijuana products in non-child proof containers.’ This is false. The industry did not receive any data that there were any issues with accidental ingestion prior to Colorado changing its edible rules and regulations. It is something the industry requested multiple times but to no avail.”

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Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Recently confirmed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he opposes marijuana legalization but has not announced specific plans to target marijuana industries in states that have legalized the drug.

Colorado has worked with federal authorities to crack down on black market cannabis sales, which Hickenlooper highlighted as critical to the success of the legal marijuana industry in the state. Hickenlooper said he is optimistic President Donald Trump will not crack down on Colorado’s legal marijuana industry, pointing to comments the Republican made during his campaign indicating he was open to letting states that have legalized marijuana continue to do so.

“We’re optimistic that he’s going to let the experiment continue,” Hickenlooper said. “But they’re going to closely watch it, I’m sure.”

Editors’ Note: This article was originally published by the Associated Press. Leafly staff added additional comment from the Cannabis Business Alliance.


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.

Our Top Canna-Crushes of 2017

As we celebrate this Valentine’s Day, it’s once again time to fan ourselves and send a little love to our favorite canna-cuties. These men and women are swoon-worthy advocates who have proven time and again that they’re willing to take a stand for cannabis, no matter the consequences. This year’s batch of canna-crushes are more than just easy on the eyes – they’re strong advocates with knowledge to boot. Don’t underestimate this group – they just might be the future of legalization.

Erin Goodwin

(Erin Goodwin/Twitter)(Erin Goodwin/Twitter)

You might not know her name, but if you’re familiar with cannabis, and particularly with cannabis in Canada, you’ll surely recognize this lady from the now-iconic photo taken of a smiling Goodwin, holding up a peace sign, even in handcuffs. A co-owner of Cannabis Culture in Toronto, Goodwin was on staff when the first of many raids occurred on Queen Street.

Cannabis Culture is part of a franchise owned by Marc and Jodie Emery, known the Prince and Princess of Pot, who have committed to selling cannabis to anyone who is of legal age, regardless of whether or not they carry a medical cannabis authorization. Their commitment is in response to the Canadian administration’s declaration to legalize cannabis – eventually. Legalization is presumed to be on the horizon for this spring, but Cannabis Culture, along with Ms. Goodwin, will continue to defy the law in protest until the government changes its ways.

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Stephanie Heart Viskovich

(Stephanie Heart Viskovich/Facebook)(Stephanie Heart Viskovich/Facebook)

Stephanie Viskovich is relatively new to the congressional scene, having run as a Libertarian candidate for Washington’s District 46a, but this media darling has been on the Washington cannabis scene for years. She was the Senior Founding Director for the Cannabis Action Coalition, co-founder of the Association for Safe Access Points, and a member of MJBA and WA NORML. Not only that, but this state-savvy cannabis activist was also the campaign manager for Initiative 1372, a measure designed to protect medical cannabis patients in the state of Washington during the transition from medical to adult-use. This tireless champion will continue to pursue cannabis rights – right into our cannabis-loving hearts.

Rick Steves

(Elaine Thompson/AP)(Elaine Thompson/AP)

Everyone’s favorite travel guru has been a vehement supporter of cannabis legalization, even going so far as to contribute his own hard-earned cash to not only help his home state of Washington legalize, he forked over $100,000 to help the legalization campaign in Massachusetts. This handsome devil also set out on the road in Maine to spread the good word on cannabis, and he matched donations in the state dollar for dollar up to $50,000. As a dashing and debonair cannabis connoisseur, Mr. Steves has helped paved the way for legalization with class and grace.

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Amanda Reiman

(Amanda Reiman/Facebook)(Amanda Reiman/Facebook)

Amanda Reiman is a pillar of the cannabis community in the best possible way. She worked for the Drug Policy Alliance as the California Policy Manager, and served as Medical Cannabis Commission for the City of Berkeley.

Aside from being high on our list of canna-crushes, Ms. Reiman is an incredibly intelligent and accomplished lady. She has studied racial disparities in cannabis arrests, social benefits of legalized cannabis, controlled studies on the effects of medical marijuana, and her findings have been presented at conferences worldwide. Ms. Reiman is now on the education circuit, spreading her wealth of knowledge at UC Berkeley on Substance Abuse and LGBTQ Studies.

Earl Blumenauer

(Rick Bowmer/AP)(Rick Bowmer/AP)

The squeaky-clean, Mr. Rogers-inspired look might not do it for everyone, but there’s no denying that this legislator is a champion for the cannabis cause. He has introduced countless bills to help shape cannabis policy in his home state of Oregon, and it was his influence that led the state to legalization. Clad in a bowtie and a bicycle pin, Blumenthal’s good-natured and inspired approach to sensible cannabis policy reform is enough to make any cannabis activist weak in the knees.

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Wanda James

(Wanda James/Women Gro)(Wanda James/Women Gro)

Wanda James seems an unlikely cannabis advocate. She is a former Navy Lieutenant and she served on President Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee. And then, in 2009, she and her husband opened the first-ever black-owned dispensary in Colorado.

James’ journey was inspired by a deeply personal motivation – her younger brother. She didn’t meet her brother until she was 35 years old, but discovered that he had been arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the possession of 4.5 ounces of cannabis. He was just 17 years old, but he spent four long years picking cotton in Texas for the crime of cannabis possession. Ms. James was inspired to join the legalization fight and has already made history, and she’s definitely earned a place in our hearts.

George Zimmer

(Ben Margot/AP)(Ben Margot/AP)

George Zimmer is easily the most well-dressed canna-cutie on our list. He was the spokesmen for the Men’s Wearhouse for 40 years, and with a perfectly tailored suit, we listened to his gravelly, pitch-perfect voice as he guaranteed us that we’re gonna like the way we look.

After a split with the company, Zimmer came forward with the revelation that he has been a cannabis enthusiast since the 1960’s and that cannabis helped him beat his alcohol addiction. Now he has joined the legalization movement, speaking at cannabis conferences about his experiences and donating to help legalization initiatives. This is one dapper chap we’d love to chill with – we guarantee it.

Elizabeth Warren

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Elizabeth Warren has been all over the news lately, and while her political views might be far from your own, there’s no denying that she has been a true defender of cannabis. She maintains that cannabis could help end the opioid crisis in America, and has repeatedly urged Congress to reform federal banking laws to allow cannabis businesses access to banking services.

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With the new administration coming to town, Sen. Warren made it clear that she would not be backing down, asking tough questions of the new Head of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Her stance on cannabis legalization has evolved as well, from opposing outright legalization to recognizing the benefits and keeping an open mind. Considering this canna-crush may be a force to contend with in the coming years, it’s a good feeling having her on our side.


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.