Tag: laws

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.

California’s Great Cannabis Unbanning

By every estimate, California produces and consumes significantly more marijuana than any other state in America. But in much of the state, the multibillion-dollar industry still behaves as an underground enterprise, operating as if it were still illegal—because, for now at least, it still is.

While the right of medical cannabis patients and adults 21 and over to possess and grow cannabis is now enshrined in state law, cities and counties wield retain significant close power control to regulate over how marijuana businesses are regulated locally. It’s authority they haven’t been shy to use: So far, 17 counties—about a third of the state—have banned or severely restricted either commercial cannabis cultivation, retail sales, or both, according to data recently compiled by the California Cannabis Industry Association.

Bans are also in effect in 204 cities, or 42 percent of California’s incorporated communities. In a very few extreme cases, some cities have gone as far as to outlaw or otherwise curtail all marijuana growing, including the six plants all adults are supposed to be allowed to grow at home for personal use under Proposition 64, the state’s successful legalization initiative.

But with commercial adult-use sales set to begin as early as Jan. 1, this trend toward outlawing cannabis is now reversing itself—quickly.

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Bans are steadily giving way to regulations. In areas where marijuana businesses are already permitted and licensed, local governments are beginning to relax strict rules, trim permit fees, and lower taxes in an effort to be more competitive than their neighbors.

“In the last six weeks, we’ve seen movement in areas we wouldn’t have expected.”

Hezekiah Allen, executive director, California Growers Association

As for home cultivation, cities are reconsidering all-out bans. The threat of a lawsuit compelled one Northern California town to relent on a proposed ban and allow residents to grow for personal use—just as Prop 64 has always said they could. (Other cities are mulling “inspection” and “permit fees” for home grows, though have yet to collect a dime.)

A look at local cannabis policies reveals the state’s “well-known cultural divide” between progressive coastal cities, conservative inland valleys, and libertarian-leaning foothills, said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, a state-level cultivators’ lobby.

Coastal regions tend to be most permissive, with the flatlands and foothills most restrictive. “But in the last six weeks,” Allen told Leafly News, “we’ve seen movement in areas we wouldn’t have expected.”

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Rural, agricultural counties—where (unfounded) fears of organized crime and (more reasonable) worries of environmental degradation once fueled blanket bans—are now moving quickly to assist commercial cannabis businesses, outpacing even some traditionally marijuana-producing counties. In other conservative areas, of the type that used to default to bans, lawmakers are holding off on such severe restrictions and exploring ways to make marijuana work.

In perhaps the biggest victory for regulated marijuana to date, voters in Los Angeles, where, four years ago, medical marijuana dispensaries were essentially outlawed by popular vote, the electorate this month voted nearly 3-to-1 to license and regulate marijuana businesses of all kinds.

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Why the mass shift? For one thing, most small communities in California don’t write their own laws. That job is passed on to private law firms contracted by cities and counties to act as outside government counsel. Until recently, when the question of marijuana arose, the law firms would reply by sending back a “boilerplate ban” for part-time city councilmembers and rural county supervisors to vote into law. Early last year, the League of California Cities, a local government association, encouraged its members to ban cultivation outright. Many small communities, unsure of what to do, took what seemed like sage advice and banned.

The league has since updated its views, acknowledging a range of workable approaches.

“It’s not bans anymore,” said Nate Bradley, policy director for the California Cannabis Industry Association.  “Now they’re saying, ‘How can we make this work? Write us an ordinance that works.’”

The best explanation for this phenomenon is the simplest and most predictable: money.

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California may have an economy larger than France, India, and Brazil (and nearly twice that of Russia), but most of the wealth is concentrated in a few select areas, like Silicon Valley and Hollywood. The state, by some estimates, also boasts the nation’s highest poverty rate. In those flatlands and foothills, jobs can be hard to come by.

“We always knew that revenue and job creation would be the carrot on the stick that brought hesitant municipalities to the table.”

Mickey Martin, legalization advocate

After watching cities and counties in Washington and Colorado balance their budgets, repave their streets, and construct enviable civic works projects with marijuana tax revenue, knee-jerk bans are giving way to new efforts to welcome weed. Dreams of cannabis riches are compelling cities to turn abandoned prisons and tire plants into marijuana factories. In one case, a since-abandoned plan to convert a shuttered factory into a cannabis operation would have created a rural California county’s biggest employer.

“We always knew that revenue and job creation would be the carrot on the stick that brought hesitant municipalities to the table,” said marijuana business consultant and longtime legalization activist Mickey Martin, who’s seen clients win licenses in heretofore hostile areas. “While the entire process can often make hardworking and righteous cannabis businesses feel like a cheap whore, at the end of the day, if it results in cannabis becoming more widely accepted, and less people going to jail for producing and selling weed, I will consider it a win.”

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The trend began in earnest last year, when desolate desert towns such as Desert Hot Springs turned to marijuana as a source of income.

“I can only imagine what we can do with the tax revenue,” Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re in need of parks, our roads are dilapidated. All around — our sidewalks, curbs, gutters.”

Even with sky-high taxes and fees—$25 a square foot for grow houses, for example—cannabis companies jumped on board.

Desert Hot Springs was able to propose such high tax rates because few other cities were so welcoming. Now, unless it adjusts, it may find itself moribund again, as marijuana companies flee to friendlier climes.

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Just like with any other business, “cities will have to compete,” said Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition, an industry advocacy group.

How far things have come and—how much is still at stake—is evident in Calaveras County, a rural, sparsely populated stretch of foothills and giant Sequoias in Gold Country best known (if at all) for being the setting of a famous Mark Twain short story.

The foothills are Donald Trump territory; Calaveras, where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, is one link in a north-south chain of seven counties where conservative views rule. Voters here rejected Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis, while also rejecting a gun control measure and a proposed ban on the death penalty.

At the same time, Calaveras voters approved slapping a tax on marijuana cultivation. That tax could raise $10 million a year, a princely sum in a county where the median income is one-third below the state average. Given the chance to ban commercial marijuana cultivation marijuana in January, county supervisors balked at the very last second. The question will now be decided by voters in a special election in May.

“All we are asking for is good government,” said former Calaveras County Supervisor Thomas Tryon.

Tryon is a Libertarian who believes former President Barack Obama is a Marxist. Tryon also has designs on becoming a commercial cannabis farmer.

“Frankly,” he said, “a ban is not good governance at all.”


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.

Sessions Calls Cole Memo ‘Valid,’ Says Fed Resources Are Limited

Jeff Sessions might hate cannabis, but he sure seems to like talking about it.

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad, that it will destroy your life.”

Jeff Sessions, US attorney general

At three separate events on Wednesday, the US attorney general almost gleefully attacked cannabis—demeaning research that shows its potential to reduce opioid deaths, casting doubt on the drug’s medical benefits, and encouraging a return to the drug war’s dogmatic “Just say no!” mantra. At the same time, Sessions acknowledged the validity of the Cole memo, which allows states to proceed with adult-use cannabis regulation, and recognized that the Department of Justice doesn’t have the resources to initiate nationwide cannabis raids.

“We’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” he said at a press conference Wednesday:

The Cole memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid. I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that, but essentially we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that the police and sheriffs have been doing for decades.

But at the same event, he opined that “medical marijuana has been hyped.”

I think medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much. It’s possible that some dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial … but if you ever just smoke marijuana for example where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting it’s probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount.

Sessions also reiterated his personal zero-tolerance position. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,” he told a law enforcement audience, “that it will destroy your life.”

“We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no! Don’t do it!’”

Jeff Sessions, US attorney general

At a second event, speaking to law enforcement, Sessions was expected to claim that cannabis is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. He cut that claim—heroin has killed tens of thousands of Americans in recent years; cannabis overdoses have killed zero—but instead name-dropped Nancy Reagan, seeming to advocate a return to the war on drugs:

“I think we have too much of a tolerance for drug use—psychologically, politically, morally,” he said. “We need to say, as Nancy Reagan said, ‘Just say no! Don’t do it!’ There’s no excuse for this, it’s not recreational. It can be destructive and it consistently is destructive.”

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One of his most controversial claims at that event was that cannabis as a means to reduce opioid use is a farce:

I’m astonished to hear people suggest we can solve our heroin crisis—have you heard this?—by having more marijuana. I mean, how stupid is that! Give me a break! So we’re going to have to stand up and confront that, tell the truth here. And our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad, that it will destroy your life.

If Sessions is really interested in the truth, he should pay attention to the growing scientific evidence that suggests he’s flat-out wrong. (Read my colleague Bailey Rahn’s in-depth piece on the issue here.)

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Sessions professed a desire to save lives, but he appears deaf to the growing calls for evidence-based approaches. Instead he fell back on the ideology that a drug is a drug—and that all drugs are bad:

Lives are at stake and we’re not going to worry about being fashionable in my view at this point in time. We’re going to see and we’re already seeing the death and destruction that results from the prevalence of drugs in America and the argument’s not going to be too hard to win in the months to come—people will see too many of the people they know losing their lives.

It’s not yet clear how Sessions’ views on cannabis will affect Department of Justice policy. In  fact, Sessions himself may not yet have decided. Later on Wednesday, speaking to radio host Laura Ingraham—whose show’s tagline is “Your healthy radio addiction”—he laid out a fuzzy “fair plan” for cannabis enforcement, one that apparently has yet to be developed:

Federal law remains in effect and it makes it unlawful to distribute or possess marijuana in any state even though the state might legalize it. So within those states we’re going to develop plans that have a good, sound basis to it and we’re not going to stop prosecuting marijuana in those states. We just don’t have the personnel to walk the streets like the local police… It still remains against federal law to possess and distribute marijuana and we’re going to develop a fair plan for that.


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

Feds Still Jail More People for Cannabis Than Heroin

According to data released this week by the US Sentencing Commission, the number of people sentenced for federal cannabis-related crimes has dropped for the fifth year in a row. Federal prosecutors are still jailing more people for cannabis-related crimes than heroin-related ones, however, despite radical disparities in harm caused by the two substances.

Heroin-related overdose deaths in the United States have more than quadrupled since 2010. 2014 was especially deadly: The number of heroin-related deaths was the highest number of drug overdose deaths on record, climbing to nearly 50,000 in just a single year.

The number of deaths directly attributed to cannabis remains at zero.

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According to the sentencing report, 3,534 people were sentenced in federal courts for cannabis crimes. That fell behind sentencing numbers for only two other substances: methamphetamine, with more than 6,000 people sentenced, and powder cocaine, with 3,891.

The report included five specifically identified substances and one “other” category.

On the upside, the data show a sharp decline in federal cannabis crimes, which set in shortly after Colorado and Washington voted to end prohibition, in 2012. In 2011, there were around 7,000 federal arrests related to cannabis. After legalization went through in those two states, the annual number fell to 4,942. It now sits at 3,534.

Over at the Washington Post, they’ve captured the federal data in this at-a-glance graph:

drugsimage


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 House Approves 16-Plant Homegrow Limit, End to Co-Ops

DENVER (AP) — The nation’s most generous grow-your-own laws are closer to being curbed in Colorado, where the state House advanced a pair of bills Monday aimed at cracking down on people who grow cannabis outside the commercial, taxed system.

One bill would set a statewide limit of 16 marijuana plants per house, down from a current limit of 99 plants before registering.

The bill passed 65-10 after sponsors argued that Colorado’s generous home-grown cannabis laws make it impossible to tell whether someone is growing plants legally, or whether the plants are destined for the black market.

The other bill makes is a crime to grow recreational cannabis for someone else, an end to Colorado’s marijuana co-ops.

That bill cleared the House on an unrecorded voice vote, with one more vote required.

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Colorado regulators have tried for years to stop people from growing large amounts of cannabis without state taxation or oversight. But because Colorado’s constitution gives people the right to grow as much as their doctors recommend, the state has had a hard time making that happen.

“We need to close this loophole,” said Rep. KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat and sponsor of the bill.

This year’s effort would say that marijuana patients can’t have more than 16 plants in a residential property. The change would force those patients to either move to an industrial or agricultural area, or shop at a dispensary.

Of the 28 states with legal medical marijuana, none but Colorado currently allows more than 16 plants per home.

Many Colorado jurisdictions including Denver already have per-home plant limits, usually at 12. But the lack of a statewide limit makes it difficult for police to distinguish between legitimate patients and fronts for black-market marijuana, bill supporters argued Friday.

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“The time has come for us … to give law enforcement the guidance they need,” said Rep. Cole Wist, a Centennial Republican and another bill sponsor.

Marijuana patients have been flooding lawmakers with complaints about the bill, which was introduced just last week. The first hearing on the measure lasted until near midnight.

Lawmakers softened the bill by raising its original limit from 12 plants to 16 plants, and by saying that patients caught with too much cannabis in the house would face a petty offense, and felony charges only later.

But those changes weren’t enough for some Democrats, who argued in vain that it shouldn’t be a felony until the third offense to have too much cannabis in the home. They argued that the limits won’t hurt criminal drug operations, which could simply grow their plants in areas that aren’t zoned residential.

“A lot of patients are on fixed incomes. They’re ill,” said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce City. “Cartels have the money to go rent warehouses.”

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The resistance effort even brought one lawmaker to tears. Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, held a stack of patient letters and said the change would hurt people who can’t afford to shop in dispensaries.

“We’re throwing patients in jail!” Lebsock cried.

But Republicans sided with other Democrats to prevail on an unrecorded voice vote. The bill faces one more formal vote next week before heading to the Senate, where its prospects are strong.

A companion bill — to give law enforcement more money to sniff out illegal growers — is awaiting a House vote Monday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper backs the plant crackdown and has called on lawmakers to send him a statewide limit.


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.