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Philadelphia mall fight could affect state marijuana laws

A fight over a Philadelphia mall’s deed restrictions belongs in federal court because it could end up affecting the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

PharmaCann Penn LLC is challenging a deed restriction that prevents it from using the mall space it bought for any “activity or use which is unlawful.” The company has a state license and city zoning approval to operate a dispensary.

Simon Property Group Inc., the mall owner, contends the deed restriction prevents PharmaCann from opening the dispensary because dispensing marijuana is a federal crime.

 

Read the full article HERE

 

City Council Committee Reveals Employment Risks For Medical Marijuana Users

By Pat Loeb

 

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania has made medical marijuana legal, but it can’t completely shield people who take it from consequences. A city council committee hearing last week highlighted potential problems for patients.

Pennsylvania law says a person can’t lose their job because they’re certified to use medical marijuana, but attorney George Voegele told the panel it also doesn’t require an employer to accommodate marijuana use.

“Zero tolerance policies are still okay,” Voegele said. “You can discipline or terminate an employee for failing a drug test and, of course, you can still discipline an employee who’s under the influence.”

Veogele says that may change if challenged in court, but some jobs, such as truck drivers, regulated by federal law, would still not be protected and the state sets aside a number of jobs users can’t do.

“No one wants someone using medical marijuana driving their children’s school bus,” he said, “or up in a cherry picker working on power lines.”

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker was distressed to learn of the employment risks.

“The notion that someone suffering from PTSD or cancer could lose their job because they are a medical marijuana patient was devastating,” Parker said.

She hopes for a public awareness campaign for employers and workers.

 

Read the full article HERE

PA medical cannabis shops low on product; state OKs more licenses

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensary owners are experiencing a common occurrence among new markets: a supply shortage.

Only two weeks after the state launched sales, some dispensaries have run out of product because of limited supply and unexpected demand, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

That news coincides with an announcement that the state has approved two more dispensaries to open their doors.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Because of supply issues, TerraVida Holistic Center is operating on modified hours and the Keystone Shop was forced to close. Both are in the Philadelphia area.
  • Roughly 21,000 people have begun the process to receive their medical marijuana cards, and more than 2,000 have purchased medical marijuana from a dispensary.
  • Only one producer, Cresco Yeltrah, is currently providing MMJ products to six open dispensaries.
  • Other states, including Maryland and Hawaii, have gone through similar supply problems in the early days of sales.
  • In addition to the two dispensaries, Pennsylvania regulators have approved a grower-processor to start operations, bringing the total of approved growers to 12, according to Pennlive.com.

 

Read the full article HERE

Philadelphia District Attorney Says His Office Will Not Prosecute Minor Cannabis Crimes

by Zach Harris

The City of Brotherly Love’s new top prosecutor has made concrete steps towards local cannabis reform while also waging war on pharmaceutical companies for influencing the opioid epidemic.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will enact a new form of localized cannabis reform under District Attorney Larry Krasner, dropping any minor cannabis charges turned over from local police.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Krasner, a social justice-focused Democrat elected to the DA’s office in late 2017, announced last week that his office had dismissed over 50 existing cannabis possession charges and would do the same for any future small-time weed cases.

Cannabis has been decriminalized in the city of Philadelphia since 2014, and Pennsylvania’s newly-legal medical cannabis sales began this week, but the City of Brotherly Love is still home to prohibitionist cops and the same racist policing tactics as many American police forces. As a result, minor pot arrests have persisted, with about 10% of all possession incidents still ending in handcuffs.

“What we’re talking about is the 10 percent or so that are charged, as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court,” Krasner told reporters from local public radio station WHYY. “We are going to tell them to drop any cases that are simply marijuana possession — not selling, not possession with the intent to deliver.”

Krasner, who took office just last month, is explicitly seeking to imprison fewer Philadelphians than his predecessors while also going after the city’s real criminals. Keeping true to his campaign promises, Krasner has already announced a lawsuit against 10 pharmaceutical companies that he says were most responsible for creating the opioid epidemic across the country and in Philadelphia, specifically.

“The city of Philadelphia has been hurt more than any other city in the nation by the scourge of opioids,” Krasner said. “The time for us to act was yesterday, and it is now.”

“Make no mistake, it isn’t just going to be the kids on the corner,” Krasner continued. “It’s going to be Big Pharma, it’s going to be doctors, it’s going to be pain centers, it’s going to be pharmacies, and to the extent we have an opportunity, it’s going to be distributors who think that money is more important than lives.”

Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program.

“It means there’s going to be safe and effective access to a new medicine that can help (patients) in a wide variety of ways,” said Victor Guadagnino, the company’s co-founder and chief of business development. He said the company sees the drug as a way patients can take a more active role in their own health care.

 

Nine entities have been approved to grow and process medical marijuana, and their products are expected to be available to patients in the coming four months.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the approval is good news for patients and their caregivers.

“We are one step closer to providing medical marijuana to patients with serious medical conditions who desperately need this medication,” the Democratic governor said.

Guadagnino, who lives in New York City, said the dispensary in Bethlehem will open this month for educational workshops and registration assistance, but he does not expect to have the product available until mid-February.

The Bethlehem dispensary, which Guadagnino said is part of their multimillion-dollar medical marijuana investment in the region, will start with four or five employees and grow based on patient demand. The company also plans to eventually open two other dispensaries in the Lehigh Valley.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said officials expect more dispensaries to open in the coming weeks.

The announcement of the first dispensary came as the U.S. Justice Department said federal prosecutors are being given more latitude to pursue criminal charges involving marijuana. In response, Wolf vowed to do whatever he can “to protect Pennsylvania patients.”

A 2016 state law legalized medical marijuana for people suffering from one of 17 qualifying conditions, including AIDS, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

 

Read the full article HERE.

Can medical marijuana users have firearms? Police say no

As Pennsylvania prepares to issue medical marijuana cards by year’s end, patients will find firearms out of their reach, state and federal law enforcement authorities say.

At issue is the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug— one with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the same as heroin and LSD and other hallucinogens, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes,” said Special Agent Joshua E. Jackson, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Washington, D.C.

Pennsylvania attorneys specializing in medical marijuana law told lehighvalleylive.com they were surprised firearms ownership is an issue at all with patients. Steve Schain, whose Hoban Law Group is “100 percent devoted to cannabis and hemp law,” said the program was created by state law, and there is no mention of firearms.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to bring it up,” said Andrew Sacks, managing partner at Sacks Weston Diamond LLC in Philadelphia.

The trouble is, it’s an automatic “no” when a legitimate medical marijuana user applies for a background check to purchase or transfer a firearm or ammunition, or to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm, according to the ATF and Pennsylvania State Police.

The federal background check form was amended in the past year to explicitly point out the no-exceptions federal prohibition, said Major Scott C. Price, state police director of the Bureau of Records and Identification.

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?” questions 11e reads on the ATF Form 4473. “Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

The ATF sent a letter saying as much to firearms sellers in 2011, Price noted. Answer “yes” on the form, and the retailer won’t even run the background check, which will look at the database of medical marijuana cardholders, he said.

“So, in fact, an individual who is issued a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania who is a user of medical marijuana, that individual would be prohibited from purchasing or technically possession of a firearm under federal law,” Price said Tuesday.

This firearms prohibition is gaining recognition in Pennsylvania as the state prepares to issue prescription cards. As of Nov. 16, more than 6,000 patients registered to receive cannabis for the treatment of symptoms of any of 17 approved conditions, according to the state Department of Health.

Holders of the $50 state medical marijuana ID card are expected to be able to purchase cannabis products from approved dispensaries beginning in 2018. The prohibition on purchasing firearms does not apply to medical marijuana caregivers, who can obtain cannabis products for up to five patients.

How legal marijuana in N.J. will disrupt Pa.’s medical program: A Q&A with Duane Morris lawyers

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer  @samwoodiii  samwood@phillynews.com

New Jersey is almost certain to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use within a year, and that’s sure to have major repercussions on Pennsylvania’s nascent medical cannabis industry.

 Gov.-elect Phil Murphy ran on a platform calling for full legalization of all forms of marijuana for anyone over 21. Industry analysts say the Garden State cannabis market could be worth $1 billion a year and generate an annual $300 million for the state’s tax coffers.

“It could be massive,” said Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, addressing the MJBizCon cannabis convention, which drew 18,000 people this month in Las Vegas.

 Bills are pending in both houses of the Legislature, and though a few lawmakers have expressed reservations, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D; Gloucester) also considers legalization “a priority.”

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, set to launch in the first quarter of 2018 and offering only oil-based products, may find itself outmaneuvered. Already, some entrepreneurs envision the equivalent of “Total Weed” shops just across the bridges. If Jersey marijuana is less expensive, legal for all adults, and sold in forms not available in Pennsylvania (buds and edibles, primarily), expected profits for the Keystone State’s growers and dispensers could take a serious hit, especially in the southeastern part of the state. That could prompt legislators in Harrisburg to consider full legalization sooner than later.

The Inquirer spoke with two Duane Morris LLP lawyers who represent marijuana clients on both sides of the river. Seth A. Goldberg, based in Philadelphia, heads the firm’s cannabis practice. Paul P. Josephson, based in Cherry Hill, served as counsel to Murphy’s gubernatorial campaign and is an adviser to the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association. The questions and answers have been edited for concision.

How soon will we see New Jersey move to legalize cannabis for all adults?

Josephson:  It’s likely we’ll see legislative action by June. In the interim, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another call for license applications and the governor or Legislature looks to broaden the number of qualifying medical conditions.

What will it look like if New Jersey approves full recreational use?

Josephson: I would expect that Gov.-elect Murphy will appoint a commission or panel to provide guidance. The legislation that is out there right now doesn’t define the number of licenses. It creates a new Division of Marijuana Enforcement inside the Attorney General’s Office, similar to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The legislation leaves it to the director and AG to determine the number of licenses on a town-by-town basis.

Will towns be able to opt out and declare themselves “dry”?

Josephson: Yes. Currently, they would have one year to opt out of the system. Every five years they could reconsider whether they want to allow cannabis-related operations.

What will legalized recreational use in Jersey do to the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program?

Goldberg: It’s not unreasonable to imagine people going to New Jersey to buy cannabis and, as a result, the Pennsylvania program would not be as profitable as originally anticipated. The assumption seems to be that Pennsylvania is not likely to become a recreational-use state anytime soon. If and when New Jersey goes rec, the loss of revenue to New Jersey would seem to be a reason for the Pennsylvania legislature to consider going recreational.

Josephson: To the extent New Jersey is projecting that 10 percent of marijuana revenues might come from Pennsylvanians, I think it’s obvious the N.J. program could have a negative impact on Pennsylvania revenues.

Goldberg: Delaware is also considering going recreational. … Given that there appears to be only one dispensary that will open in Philadelphia, it seems reasonable to expect people will consider going to South Jersey and Delaware for recreational cannabis.

 

Read the full article HERE.