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Is this the year state legislatures lead the charge to pass recreational marijuana laws?

By Omar Sacirbey

While not likely to be as historic as the legalization wave of 2016, this is expected to be a watershed year for the cannabis industry.

For the first time, from all indications, state legislatures are poised to pass recreational marijuana legalization laws, with the East Coast being the most fertile ground for such efforts.

Vermont appears to be leading the charge after state lawmakers Wednesday approved legislation permitting citizens to possess and home grow marijuana. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he will sign the legislation.

So far, the recreational cannabis laws that exist in eight states and Washington DC have been enacted by voters.

But some state legislatures are poised to lead the way, apparently brushing off the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rip up Obama-era protections for states with legal marijuana industries.

If those efforts are successful, it could provide the impetus for other states to follow.

“This would be a major development for the cannabis industry,” said Michael Bronstein, a marijuana industry advocate who’s involved in efforts to legalize recreational MJ in New Jersey, one of several states where lawmakers are working on adult-use bills.

“It would show lawmakers across the country that they can pass adult-use laws and the sky won’t fall,” he added.

“In fact, it would show that they are in lockstep with public sentiment, which overwhelmingly favors adult-use legalization.”

 

Read the full article HERE.

Who will DOJ target with new marijuana posture?

by Chris Goldstein

State employees tasked with regulating cannabis are just criminal conspirators in vast enterprises involving federally illegal drugs. That sounds absurd, but it’s technically true.

 Now,  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has changed the position of the Department of Justice regarding state marijuana legalization laws. By rescinding several memos that served as policy directives for federal prosecutors the existential legal possibilities of the past could come into sharper focus.

So, what happens next? To get a forecast on the upcoming weed storm, it’s important to understand why Sessions and his associates care about the Obama-era position at all.

 In 2011 the first Cole memo was released in answer to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie stubbornly peppering the DOJ for “clarification” on medical marijuana (and I got the scoop for my blog).

A former U.S. Attorney in the early 2000s who was appointed by President George W. Bush for being a champion GOP fundraiser, Gov. Christie used his legal expertise to play the weed conflict like a Texas Hold’em champ. At the time, Christie bluffed about being wracked with worry that DEA agents could swoop in to arrest his N.J. Department of Health workers.

The “concerned about state employees” was a common angle used by some prohibitionist Republicans to vote against or even veto compassionate use laws. That’s what led David Ogden and James Cole – two Deputy U.S. Attorneys General under Eric Holder — to write the three memos between 2009 and 2013 addressing the idea of federal authorities trying to, physically, get in the way.

The Ogden and Cole memos crafted a clear diplomatic policy on marijuana between the federal government and the States, almost along the lines of an international agreement. It was refined and summarized as “non-interference.”

That was enough cover for state legislatures to pass safe access laws and state employees to implement full legalization ballot initiatives. The cash-flush marijuana industry crawled under the umbrella too, even if uninvited.

But, President Obama and his administration failed to make a permanent policy. By the time Donald Trump came into office federal marijuana laws hadn’t actually changed one millimeter.

Non-interference is also at the core of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a federal budget rider that eliminates funding from any DOJ action that could interrupt state marijuana laws. In place since 2014, Rohrabacher-Blumenauer is set to expire on January 19 and Sessions has already asked Congress not to renew it.

In removing all these perceived barriers, the Trump administration is grooming a position from which to actively meddle. Speculation has focused on possible enforcement against those permitted to grow or sell the plant, but that seems unlikely.

On Jan. 4, 2018, the day Sessions rescinded the memos, David Freed, a US Attorney in Pennsylvania (and a Republican) immediately reassured the public that he won’t be shutting down any of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis facilities that are just sprouting seeds.

Freed’s sentiment was echoed across the country, and without the support of federal prosecutors, the DOJ is very limited indeed. A cornered Sessions may be forced to go further out on a legal limb, turning the old drug warriors’ concerns about health employees into a direct threat.

Chris Christie has also repeatedly used the phrase “blood money” to describe Colorado’s prolific cannabis tax revenue.  If the federal government begins to seriously view those taxes as illegal gains then perhaps Sessions’ other favorite and highly dubious criminal justice tactic will come into play: civil asset forfeiture.

Thankfully, the new DOJ posture towards America’s favorite flower brought instant condemnation from the public and all levels of elected officials, in both parties.

Cory Booker of New Jersey went to the floor of U.S. Senate to express the strong core of social justice that is driving the nation away from prohibition:

“The unequal application of marijuana laws has created a system where an outcome is more dependent on race and class than dependent on guilt or innocence.”

Senator Bob Casey was inspired to make his first major statement on cannabis policy, ever, while Gov. Tom Wolf showed his well-practiced resolve to the Trump administration. A cadre of state politicians in the region also chimed in. It was a moment of political maturity for marijuana legalization.

 

Read the full article HERE

Cable TV Scion Chase Lenfest Sued Over Marijuana Deal Gone Bad

by 

A California-based cannabis industry expert has accused the prominent philanthropist and two New York men of conspiracy, fraud, and other offenses.

Last June, Pennsylvania awarded medical marijuana licenses to 12 companies in the state, allowing them to cultivate and process cannabis for sale at as-yet-to-open dispensaries. And now one of those companies — the one involving Main Line millionaire Chase Lenfest — is embroiled in a legal battle in federal court.

California-based cannabis industry expert Harris Silver, owner of consulting firm EntityX, has filed a federal lawsuit against Lenfest and New York investors Kevin Murphy and Melvin Yellin, the three men behind medical marijuana licensee Prime Wellness.

In the suit, Silver alleges that the men participated in a “fraudulent scheme to dupe” Silver into helping them get their license and then “cheat” him out of the money he says they owe him. Through a representative, Lenfest told Philly Mag he had no comment on the suit. Contacted at his New York apartment, Yellin termed Silver a “disgruntled consultant.” Neither Murphy nor an attorney for Prime Wellness could be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Murphy and Yellin decided to get into the medical marijuana business in Pennsylvania, and they wanted Lenfest on their team because of his prominent family name (the Lenfests are some of the region’s most well-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists), his fat wallet (he laid out $7.7 million for a 46th-floor condo at Two Liberty Place in 2009, and then there’s his vast manse in Gladwyne across the street from the exclusive Philadelphia Country Club), and all of the connections that come with those things.

Silver claims that Murphy and Yellin tried but failed to get medical marijuana licenses in Connecticut and Illinois in previous years, so they brought in Silver, whose company claims a 100-percent success rate in obtaining marijuana licenses, to help convince Lenfest to join them and to ensure that the application was approved once he did.

 

Read the full article HERE

Trump administration to end policies that let legal marijuana flourish

by Sam Wood & Justine McDaniel

The Trump Administration is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will instead let federal prosecutors decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law in states where it is legal, according to a memo obtained Thursday by Politico.

The move adds to the confusion about whether it’s OK to grow, buy, or use marijuana in states where pot is legal since the long-standing federal law prohibits it.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), described the action as “unjust, backwards” and “wrong.”

“Jeff Sessions’ determination to revive the failed War on Drugs knows no bounds.” Booker said. “History has shown that our deeply broken drug laws disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color and cost us billions annually in enforcement, incarceration, and wasted human potential, without making us any safer. This unjust, backwards decision is wrong for America, and will prove to be on the wrong side of history.”

Session’s memo comes days after pot shops opened in California, launching what is expected to become the world’s largest market for legal recreational marijuana and, as polls show, a solid majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal.

New Jersey and Delaware have had medical marijuana programs for several years. Pennsylvania is set to make medicinal cannabis available in the coming months for patients suffering from any one of 17 serious health conditions. It was unclear Thursday morning how Session’s move will impact the state programs.

While Sessions has been carrying out an agenda that follows Trump’s top priorities on such issues as immigration and opioids, the changes to pot policy reflect his own concerns. Trump previously has stated decisions about marijuana should be left to the states, but the president is known to change his mind on a whim.

Reaction in the Philadelphia region to the Sessions announcement was swift.

“Will Sessions single-handedly crush a $7.2 billion industry spanning 30 states, generating millions in taxes, and providing tens of thousands of jobs?” said Steve Schain, an attorney with the Hoban Law Group, a national firm with dozens of marijuana business clients.

Lindy Snider, a cannabis-industry investor who is prominent in Libertarian circles, said rescinding the Obama-era policy “makes absolutely no sense.”

“I’m so angry about it,” Snider said. “The government is supposed to operate at the will of the governed. That’s just part of the American Constitution. This should not be about Jeff Session’s opinions. Over 50 percent of Americans say legalize this. He better have a damn good plan.”

Read the full article HERE

While feds say states can’t legalize marijuana anymore, Pa. will leave medical pot alone

January 4th began as a milestone day for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program,  but it quickly took a turn that left some wondering if that might be the last one.

Hours after Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the all-clear was given for the state’s first dispensary to open, an official announcement came down from President Donald Trump’s U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he was changing direction in how the federal law with regard to marijuana is enforced.

In it, Sessions, who has said he believes marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to addiction, gave the green light to federal prosecutors to enforce the 48-year-old federal law prohibiting marijuana cultivation, distribution, and possession as they see fit.

That immediately put a number of the medical marijuana supporters across Pennsylvania on edge.

Patients with 17 qualifying medical conditions have been waiting for years to be able to legally buy home-grown medical marijuana products in Pennsylvania. Now they are only four months away from being able to do that, and then this happens.

Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t waste time in sending out a warning shot that he will do everything in his power to protect the state’s medical marijuana program from what he calls a federal overreach.

 

Read the full article HERE

Parents Are Using Medical Marijuana To Treat Their Kids’ Autism, But Does It Really Help?

By 

 

Having a child with a disability or medical condition who doesn’t respond well to treatment can be frustrating and heartbreaking. Parents want their kids to be happy, healthy, and safe, but sometimes, it’s not that easy to find the answers. That’s why some parents are using medical marijuana to treat their kids’ autism, but does it work? Is it safe? And is it even legal? Unfortunately, right now, only one of those questions has a clear answer. Research is ongoing, though, so we might have more evidence on the efficacy and safety of such treatments soon.

Some researchers believe that autism might be caused by a gene mutation that blocks the natural production of endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that regulate a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, according to Mom.Me. The theory is that medical marijuana or hemp oil, which contain cannabinol (also known as CBD) and tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) might help patient’s brains to pick up the slack. But marijuana is still largely thought of as a recreational drug, first and foremost, and the stigma attached to that might understandably make some people uncomfortable with the idea of administering it to children. So is this legit, or just another snake-oil fad that preys on desperate parents who have already tried every medicine, therapy, and diet without successful results?

The internet is full of anecdotal evidence that it works for some kids, but anecdotes are stories, not science. “I made my autistic son cannabis cookies. They saved him,” reads the headline of one such account in the Washington Post. Marie Myung-Ok Lee describes being “desperate and frantic” to help her 9-year-old son, who was “consumed by violent rages” as often as 300 times per day since he was 18 months old. She was, as one would expect, apprehensive about medical marijuana, but heartened by the fact that it’s one of the few non-lethal substances on earth.

After experimenting with different strains, Lee wrote, her son’s outbursts “became less ferocious and less frequent.” Some had side affects most readers will be familiar with (red eyes, lethargy), but eventually, she found one that worked, and her son now receives his cannabis via an oil tincture several times a day. Therapy and traditional medicine didn’t help, but Lee believes that marijuana did. Still, she’s nervous about getting in trouble with the law or social services, because not everyone agrees that pot is a valid medicine.

 

Read the full article HERE.

Former NFL stars tout benefits of hemp, medical cannabis

BY DENISE ALLABAUGH

PLAINS TWP. — Hazleton native Nate Eachus, a former NFL player and state wrestling champion, has seen the benefits of hemp, a derivative of the cannabis plant.

His grandmother began taking the product after she was diagnosed with cancer and it helped her, he said.

“Doctors gave her a few months to live and now she’s been alive for three years,” he said.

Eachus, 27, a graduate of Colgate University and a former running back/fullback with the Kansas City Chiefs, is now a partner with a hemp farm in Colorado.

On Tuesday, he joined Wilkes-Barre native and former NFL All-Pro Ron Solt at Danko’s All American Fitness to promote a medical cannabis forum that will be held Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 600 Wildflower Drive, Plains Twp.

The forum is open to the public and health care practitioners.

They will be joined by Terrence Shenfield, a nurse and former education coordinator for University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Medical cannabis is now legal in Pennsylvania and Eachus said the forum is important for health care professionals to learn how the hemp plant can be used as a medicine.

Even though it comes from the hemp plant, Eachus said Cannabidiol (CBD) is a very medicinal oil.

Hemp is high in CBD and low in THC, which is responsible for the majority of the effects people get from marijuana that make them feel high, he said.

Products he displayed on Tuesday, including capsules and lotions, only had a trace of THC, he said.

“It’s about getting people not high, but healthy. You don’t get high from these products,” he said. “It makes you feel better.”

Eachus said he wants the products to be available in the area.

Larry Danko, owner of Danko’s, said he plans to attend the forum on Thursday and try the products and he may sell them at his fitness facility in the future.

State law gives people under a doctor’s care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

For someone who has something like back pain, however, they can’t get medical marijuana and Eachus said, “The next best thing is this.”

“We want to inform people that there are products to help people now,” Eachus said. “This is an all-natural thing that can help people who are on opioids. When people get prescribed an opioid at a doctor, 25 percent of those people abuse it.”

Solt, 55, a Coughlin High School graduate who played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles, spoke in favor of using the products for pain relief from injuries.

He said he has been operated on at least 13 times on everything from his wrists to his shoulders and knees.

After talking to Eachus’ father, former State Rep. Todd Eachus, Solt learned about CBD products derived from hemp extract.

He said he takes two capsules every day and feels better.

He also finds the products to be a better alternative than Vicodin and Oxycontin.

“You want to get high? Try taking some of that stuff doctors give you after surgery. That will get you high,” Solt said. “You’re not going to overdose on this.”

 

Read the full article HERE.