News

Judge invokes Rohrabacher-Farr in federal marijuana case

At a time when the Department of Justice is trying to get Congress to pull the plug on the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, a U.S. District Court recently used the marijuana safeguard in a federal cannabis case.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco told federal prosecutors they couldn’t continue proceedings against two cannabis cultivators in Humboldt County, California because the growers were protected by the state’s MMJ laws, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The judgment is the “first known ruling of its kind,” according to the newspaper.

The two Northern California growers were looking at three-year prison sentences after pleading guilty in 2014 to federal charges that they conspired to possess and cultivate cannabis, the Chronicle reported.

However, Seeborg ruled that federal prosecutors were forbidden to proceed under Rohrabacher-Farr, which is designed to protect state medical cannabis statutes from DOJ interference. The amendment was also invoked a year ago by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the DOJ can’t use federal funds to prosecute those compliant with state MMJ laws while Rohrabacher-Farr remains in place.

Read the full article HERE

Foes batter Philly marijuana dispensary plan

by Sam Wood

Prospects for a medical marijuana dispensary in Northwest Philadelphia seemed to dim Tuesday as a crowd of about 250 neighborhood residents, many from eight East Mount Airy churches, packed a city hearing room intent on having the business’ zoning permit revoked.

 In March, the TerraVida Holistic Center was granted a permit to operate a medical cannabis dispensary on the 8300 block of Stenton Avenue in East Mount Airy. In June, the state awarded TerraVida a highly coveted permit to sell cannabis-derived oils, tinctures and lotions in the former bank building and at additional sites in Abington and Sellersville.

No plant material will be grown or sold at any Pennsylvania dispensary. The Stenton Avenue site is only one of four slated to open in Philadelphia early next year.

 The neighbors are not against medical cannabis, said Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, who represents East Mount Airy. “We know medical marijuana will help many people in our community. But this is about land use. This is a bad location.”

Residents, many dressed in red in symbolic protest, punctuated the three-hour hearing with groans and shouts and intermittently waved placards and posters. “Good Stuff, Bad Location,” said one.

Many were emboldened when former Councilman Frank DiCicco, now chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, quipped about the stronger-than-expected opposition.

 

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Research pioneer Israel approves exporting medical marijuana

Israel has approved the export of medical marijuana, and some 500 growers have applied for licenses to ship MMJ to other countries.

In approving MMJ exports, a committee of representatives from the finance and health ministries estimated that Israel’s economic potential from medical cannabis exports could reach 1 billion shekels to 4 billion shekels a year ($279 million-$1.1 billion), The Jerusalem Post reported.

All common forms of medical cannabis will be eligible for export under the committee’s plan.

The Post reported that the committee recommended the following restrictions for Israel’s export program:

  • It will be carried out by the Health Ministry and be heavily monitored.
  • Products may be shipped only to countries that permit medical marijuana.
  • Only licensed cultivators may participate.

Israel is considered an international trailblazer in medical marijuana research, even though the country has only an estimated 23,000 registered patients.

 

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Marijuana industry may be tiring of playing the ‘strain name game’

By Omar Sacirbey

Many marijuana businesses sell goods based on strain names, but those days could be coming to an end.

More industry participants seemingly are starting to view strain names as unreliable indicators of a plant’s genetics and what types of cannabinoids are actually present in marijuana products.

According to industry observers, maturing marijuana businesses and more sophisticated consumers are seeking more exacting information than popular strain names.

Julianna Carella – CEO of Auntie Dolores edibles in Oakland, California – said she avoids strain names in deference to cannabinoid profiles.

“We tend to shy away from that (breed) approach because we don’t think it’s real solid,” Carella said. “The strain name game is on its way out.”

She gets no argument from Autumn Karcey, president of Cultivo, a Los Angeles cultivation consultancy.

“Plants – even within the same strain – don’t always come out the same. This is why the term ‘strain’ is a thorn in my side because it means absolutely nothing,” Karcey said.

“I can take Sour Diesel from four of my friends and I can take Mimosa or Clementine from multiple people, and if I genomically test it, it’s going to be drastically different from person to person unless they all have the same cut.”

Agricultural scientists like Sean Myles of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, are doing their best to show strain names out the door.

Myles and fellow scientists found a remarkably low level of accuracy in strain names last year while comparing hundreds of cannabis plants and their breeds.

The study found that in about one-third of the cases where they had two producers with the same strain name, the cannabis samples weren’t genetically identical – which one would expect if they were bred properly.

“There were lots of varieties of cannabis (in the study sample) that were claimed to be 100% sativa, but the next one in the collection claimed to be 100% indica,” Myles said. “We know that’s impossible and that was really common in the data set.”

 

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N.A. Poe ponders a life beyond being Philly’s marijuana decriminalization hype man

By: BRIAN HICKEY/PHILLYVOICE

Back in April, Richard Tamaccio Jr. found himself in maximum-security custody after a high-profile raid at a marijuana “Smoke Session” party in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood.

Many of the 22 people arrested have seen their cases fast-tracked and, to various extents, resolved.

However, Tamaccio and his girlfriend Rachael Friedman still await trial on charges related to drugs and “causing a catastrophe,” the latter stemming from the city deeming the location dangerous.

Represented by Chuck Peruto and Fortunato Perri Jr. respectively, their preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 10.

During a dreary Monday morning sitting on a deck in Ocean City, New Jersey, the activist and stand-up comedian also known as N.A. Poe wasn’t ruing the criminal charges that could land him behind bars, though.

Instead – after more than 100 days of radio silence from the oft-gregarious Tamaccio – he spoke with PhillyVoice about a spring and summer of reflection after a raid in which police confiscated some 50 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds of THC-infused edibles, $50,000 in cash and four handguns from attendees and vendors.

It was a time that left him contemplating the future of the movement in a Pennsylvania preparing for its medical-marijuana age, what his role would be in it, and the essence of life when you know your freedom could soon disappear for years.

“For someone that’s used to moving 5,000 miles an hour and essentially having the emergency brake pulled on me, it’s been an interesting experience,” he said.

“Freedom is the thing that I value above all things. You don’t necessarily ever know that until that freedom isn’t there,” he continued of a realization that manifested itself as “not being able to be involved in the community, and the community being set back because of that to a certain extent.”

“Do I wish that there was a young N.A. Poe who rose up to be able to carry the movement? Sure. But there’s a lot of reasons people don’t want to do that. A lot of times when you stand up like that, you end up in handcuffs. I don’t necessarily think a lot of people are willing to fight for anything to that point.”

If that sounds like a slight of others, it isn’t.

He readily admitted that “at this point, I don’t even know how much I want to do it” anymore as a 37-year-old “with family, close friends. I don’t want to be put into a jail cell for standing up for other people’s rights. It’s kind of hardened me to a certain extent.”

In many ways, it represents a personal evolution beyond the movement’s “Robin Hood” vibe into a pursuit of new directions to make a difference.

 

Read the full article HERE

Panel: Feds unlikely to crack down on legal marijuana

Legal marijuana businesses shouldn’t be worried about a federal crackdown, a panel of experts from the legal, political and policy realms said.

According to The Boston Globe, the panelists reasoned that the federal government won’t go after marijuana businesses because it lacks the funding to execute an “effective” crackdown.

They also said most U.S. attorneys appointed by President Trump and other officials in enforcement positions would see participating in such crackdowns as politically unpopular and potentially hurtful to their professional careers, the newspaper reported.

Cannabis industry officials are wary about federal interference after recent actions and continued anti-marijuana statements by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The panelists shared their opinions at a National Conference of State Legislatures gathering in Boston. The panelists:

  • Robert Mikos, Vanderbilt University law professor.
  • Roger Goodman, a member of the Washington state House of Representatives.
  • John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC.

Read the full post HERE.

Task force tells AG Sessions to keep status quo for legal cannabis

– Associated Press

task force assembled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is giving him no ammunition to go after the legal marijuana industry, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety has offered no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views.

The group’s report largely reiterates the current Department of Justice’s policy on marijuana.

The task force encourages officials to keep studying whether to change or rescind the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to enforcement – a stance that’s allowed the nation’s experiment with legal cannabis to flourish.

The report was not slated to be released publicly, but portions were obtained by the AP.

The tepid nature of the recommendations signals just how difficult it would be for the DOJ to change course on cannabis.

Rather than urging federal agents to shut down dispensaries and make mass arrests, the task force puts forth a more familiar approach.

Read the full article Here

Judge allows case with ex-execs at marijuana firm Vireo to proceed

A Minnesota judge has given the green light green light for an interstate marijuana smuggling case to move forward.

Judge Kathleen Mottl denied legal motions filed on behalf of two former employees of Vireo Health – a multi-state medical marijuana producer – seeking the dismissal of criminal charges in the illegal cannabis transportation case, The Journal News of New York reported.

The case could be groundbreaking, as it involves one of the largest state-licensed marijuana companies in the nation and comes at a time when federal cannabis policy is in flux.

The judge wrote that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal trial against defendants Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, both former Vireo executives, who are charged with illegally smuggling $500,000 of cannabis oil from Minnesota to New York, according to the newspaper.

In ruling that the case could proceed, the judge noted that Vireo – which has operations in Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania – isn’t suspected of any wrongdoing and that Bultman and Owens were “working on their own behalf and not as agents” of the company or any of its state affiliates.

 

Read the full article HERE

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker Introduces Bill to Make Marijuana Legal at Federal Level

The Marijuana Justice Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, retroactively expunge marijuana convictions for non-violent offenders and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities negatively impacted by the drug war

 

As the opioid crisis continues to plague communities throughout the country, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, introduced legislation Tuesday to end “the failed war on drugs” by legalizing cannabis at the federal level.

The Marijuana Justice Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes and incentivize states through federal funds to change their cannabis laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals or people of color.

It would also allow people currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession to petition for resentencing.

Booker announced the legislation via Facebook Live.

“Tragically, in this country, if you’re African-American, you’re going to be arrested for using drugs almost four times more than someone who is white,” Booker said.

“Having grown up in a town that was privileged compared to Newark, you don’t see kids coming home from frat parties being stopped and frisked. You hear people bragging about using pot. If you go to poor communities, clearly this is not a laughing matter.”

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to reschedule marijuana. It is currently considered a Schedule I drug, as is heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Opioids, including the deadly fentanyl, are listed under Schedule II.

Lawmakers in New Jersey have slowly been chipping away at the state’s cumbersome medical marijuana legislation since then. In May, State Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill to make adult-use recreational cannabis legal, citing the program’s costly fees and restrictive measures. Earlier this year, residents at a Trenton townhall hearing accused Gov. Chris Christie of wanting the program to fail.

But with Christie leaving office at the end of the year, gubernatorial Democratic front-runner Phil Murphy said he supports legalization. And Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said she backs decriminalization.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania Begins Registering Doctors For Medical Pot Program

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Physicians who want to be registered to prescribe medical marijuana in Pennsylvania can now sign up through the state Health Department.

Officials say the first step for doctors is to complete a practitioner registry, an online process available on the health department’s website.

There’s a requirement that doctors complete four hours of training.

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is expected to be up and running sometime next year.

 It’s open to state residents under a doctor’s care who suffer from a list of medical conditions.

Read the full article HERE