By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Senate on Wednesday voted 29-1 for a harmful bill tightening regulations on medical marijuana cultivation, with the claimed intent of reining in diversions to the black market.
The measure, Senate Bill 964, has encountered spirited opposition among many medical marijuana patients and growers, reports Jeff Mapes at The Oregonian. But lawmakers -- echoing their northern neighbors in the Washington Legislature -- claimed the success of Oregon's new recreational cannabis market depends on clamping down on marijuana grown for patients.
Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), chair of a House-Senate joint committee on implementing the legalization initiative approved by voters last November, claimed the "large amount" of marijuana diverted to the black market makes it harder for licensed sellers to compete, and could result in federal action against the state.
Oregon now produces an estimated $1 billion a year of "largely black market medical marijuana that ends up all over the country, a problem which is far worse than I ever dreamed," Sen. Burdick dramatically claimed.
Compassionate Care Center of New York™ (CCCNY™), a biopharmaceutical company applying to become one of five registered organizations authorized in New York State to serve the condition-specific palliative needs of qualifying patients with safe and accessible pharmaceutical-grade therapeutics derived from the cannabis plant, has announced the formation of a leadership team.
The team consists of medical, regulatory and law enforcement experts, including gastroenterologist Dr. Larry I. Good; former executive vice president and vice chairman of CVS Corporation, Jerald Politzer; former New York State prosecutor Richard W. Lerner, Esq.; leading medical cannabis PTSD researcher Dr. Suzanne Sisley; regulatory affairs expert Dr. Bruce Burnett; former chief security officer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Joseph Dunne; and former NYPD Chief of Department Philip Banks III.
"CCCNY will serve as a vital resource for qualifying patients in New York in need of palliative care," said Dr. Good, CEO of CCCNY. "By assembling a world-class team of cultivators, medical experts and researchers, along with New York State's top two highest ranking police officers to retire in 2014, and the former executive vice president and vice chairman of CVS Corporation, we will be able to provide organic pharmaceutical-grade whole-plant extracts, with consistent cannabinoid profiles, at our Compassionate Care Centers throughout the State -- built to function like pharmacies, but equipped with the most state-of-the-art security available.
DigiPath Labs, the cannabis testing subsidiary of DigiPath, Inc., on Wednesday opened the doors of its Las Vegas marijuana analytical testing laboratory for business. Equipped with state of the art analytical instrumentation and operated under the direction of Cindy Orser, PhD, DigiPath Lab's flagship facility says it offers cannabis growers and marijuana-based product-makers fast and reliable results.
"This is a great day for the patients of Nevada who will benefit from medical marijuana," said DigiPath Labs president Todd Denkin. "Our analysis not only helps product producers and dispensaries screen out products with dangerous levels of contaminants, we also quantify the medicinal compounds present in samples, so patients and caregivers can choose products that have been shown to relieve their specific symptoms."
Surprisingly, compulsory cannabis testing is relatively new. The State of Colorado only began requiring product testing a year ago after a series of freakouts on edibles made the news. Washington State did not begin requiring testing for potency, contaminants, moisture and microbiology testing until 2013 when recreational cannabis became legal, even though the medicinal use of marijuana became legal in 1998.
The portfolio of cannabis testing services offered by DigiPath includes foreign matter inspection, moisture content analysis, solvent residue analysis, pesticide residue analysis, heavy metals screening, microbial screening, mycotoxin screening, and potency analysis.
By Steve Elliott
Las Vegas police and federal drug agents brought in dogs and a SWAT vehicle, occupied the roof, arrested 10 people and seized marijuana and psilocybin over the weekend at Hempcon, a marijuana education convention at the Cashman Center.
Attendees described seeing police dogs around the event, as well as officers on the roof of the building, apparently trying to find people smoking marijuana, reports Eric Hartley at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Event organizers were outraged by the heavy-handed arrests, and some attendees said patients were left frightened as Nevada's first legal medicinal cannabis dispensaries prepare to open.
"It's disheartening for our whole community," said Jennifer Solis of the Wellness Education Cannabis Advocates of Nevada (WECAN), who attended the event.
Officers shut down five booths from Friday to Sunday, arrested 10 people and cited three others on charges of drug possession, possession with intent to sell and transporting a controlled substance, according to Officer Laura Meltzer, a Las Vegas Metro Police Department spokeswoman. Meltzer claimed officers had seized marijuana, hashish, cannabis seeds, edible products containing THC, and even some psilocybin mushrooms.
Meltzer claimed Metro narcotics detectives had warned Hempcon organizers before the event that attendees had to "follow the law."
SIPP Industries, Inc., a conglomerate corporation that specializes in technology, import and export of commercial and consumer products, on Tuesday announced the initial sale of Sipp's Advanced Plasma Lighting (APL) to a strategic partner located in Colorado involved with the commercial development of cannabis grow operations.
"This initial order will be evaluated by our partner in the Colorado market to determine potential and feasibility for larger scale deployment in excess of 100 Sipp lights over the next 6-12 months," said Sipp CEO Syman Vong. "It is our mission to be the leader in consulting large scale commercial grow operations seeking higher efficiency lighting solutions with a focus on key recreational markets such as Colorado.
"Advanced Plasma Lighting is still in its infancy and we are taking a consultative approach to larger scale engagements that wish to test Sipp APL technology for proof of concept and beyond," Vong said.
In comparison to other grow lighting systems plasma can save up to 50 percent in energy consumption while significantly decreasing or eliminating the need for costly ventilation systems. More importantly, plasma lighting is the only technology that provides the fullest spectrum available which enhances the quality of the grow operation from vegetation to flowering stages compared with HID, HPS, and LED lighting systems, according to Sipp Industries.
A United Kingdom charity dedicated to raising awareness of the risks from "legal highs" on Wednesday welcomed government plans to legislate against their sale.
The charity, Angelus, has led the call for a strong legal response to the easy availability of these legal substances and has long campaigned for fundamental measures to disrupt the supply of these legal drugs. Angelus described the need to combine the legislation with better public awareness of these harmful substances as "vital."
The legal change, announced in Wednesday's Queen's Speech, should effectively shut down the high street trade in "legal highs," according to Angelus. Angelus surveys have shown 13.6 percent of 14-18 year old school students and 19 percent of University Freshers had tried one.
Angelus advocates a greater commitment from central and local government, schools and universities, to giving the education which young people need to stay safe from these substances.
"Angelus has been campaigning long and loud for some regulation on the open sale of 'legal highs,'" said Jan King, chief executive of Angelus. "It has been like the Wild West until now, with young people able to access these dangerous products virtually without restriction.
"So, naturally, we are pleased the new Government has made this issue an early priority," King said. "Our Founder, Maryon Stewart, deserves enormous credit for being the driving force behind Angelus and in getting this issue into the national conversation.
By Steve Elliott
Apparently not content to wait for the scheduled extinction date of medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington -- set for July 1, 2016 -- Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday proposed legislation that could shut down dozens of dispensaries in the city.
Mayor Murray's plan would create a new business license specifically for medical marijuana dispensaries and create enforcement priorities for unlicensed shops, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times.
The plan follows the Washington Legislature's attempts to "fold" medical marijuana into the state's recreational cannabis system established under I-502 and SB 5052. The latter law, approved last month, calls for the Washington State Liquor Control Board (which will be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Board) to "assess the merit" of medical marijuana dispensaries are license those which qualify by July 2016.
The LCB still hasn't come up with the rules for grading medical marijuana dispensaries, and many observers believe the ultimate goal isn't to license the businesses anyway, but rather to shut almost all of them down. It's not yet clear how many additional licenses Seattle might get, or which businesses could get those licenses.
By Steve Elliott
A South Dakota medical marijuana activist said she hopes to begin gathering signatures within a month to put a medical marijuana proposal on the 2016 ballot.
Melissa Mentele, 38, said on Tuesday that her ballot measure language is currently under review at the South Dakota Attorney General's office, reports James Nord at the Associated Press.
People with conditions such as cancer could be helped by cannabis, according to medical marijuana proponents. Mentele herself suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
Mentele said she's taking the ballot proposal route because state legislators haven't been willing to enact a medical marijuana program. Her proposal would allow patients with a doctor's authorization to buy or grow cannabis, and to possess up to three dried ounces.
"We're trying to bring compassionate access onto the ballot, because that's what we need in South Dakota," Mentele said. "If somebody doesn't fight to change the law, it's going to stay a bad law."
Two previous attempts to legalize medical marijuana have fallen short in South Dakota. A 2006 effort got 47.7 percent of the vote, but a 2010 attempt got just 36.7 percent.
Other organizers are sponsoring 2016 ballot initiatives that would prohibit the sale and transfer of alcohol and tobacco in South Dakota. It's "about consistency" in the law, according to marijuana activist Bob Newland, 67.
By Steve Elliott
The organizers behind a marijuana legalization drive in Michigan on Tuesday withdrew their petition, saying they plan to submit new language later.
The Michigan Cannabis Coalition told the Michigan Board of State Canvassers of the move on Tuesday, reports the Associated Press. The group had been expected to have its petition approved by the board.
The legislation would require 252,000 valid voter signatures before going to the GOP-led Michigan Legislature. If lawmakers took no action or rejected the bill, it would go before the voters in November 2016.
Several anonymous people from the agricultural, real estate, insurance and education sectors are backing the bill through the Michigan Cannabis Coalition. The state could add jobs and tax revenue by legalizing and regulating cannabis for recreational purposes, according to the group.
Michigan already allows marijuana for medicinal purposes.
New Law Would Be Important Step Toward Reducing Louisiana’s Notoriously Overcrowded Prisons and Jails
Bill Now Heads to the House
Louisiana’s Senate on Monday took an important step toward reforming their state’s harsh marijuana possession law when they approved bill SB 241 by a vote of 27-12. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's. One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.
With marijuana legal in more and more states, one issue that arises repeatedly is child safety.
Stashlogix wants to help keep marijuana where it belongs — in the hands of responsible adults.
With an integrated combination lock and strong odor barriers, Stashlogix says its container prevents kids from stumbling across a cannabis-infused hard candy that Dad uses to ease his back pain, or to stop a teenager from not only finding the stash of Maui Waui, but smoking it.
This simple solution to a serious problem pulls it off in style, too. These are not bags emblazoned with pot leaves and Rastafarian colors. Instead, Stashlogix line of three containers look more like cases for high-end camera equipment, or smartphone accessories.
“As a family man, I hunted for a container that could hold cannabis products discretely, and that would stop my kids from ever gaining access to it,” said Stashlogix founder Skip Stone. “But I could not find anything that was lightweight, lockable and portable.
"Most of the products were heavy boxes," Stone said. "The others were gaudy with nods and winks to stoner culture. Neither of these options appealed to me. So I designed Stashlogix.”
By Steve Elliott
A mother in South Carolina is manufacturing cannabis oil, legally. The oil is high in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive but medicinal component of marijuana that is now legal in the state under S. 839, which allows for consumable hemp products with less than .3 percent of THC.
"I'm building my company here," said Janel Ralph, reports Molly Grantham at WISTV.com. "I think it'll be up and running in maybe six months. But I'm an optimist. I guess I can't say exactly on the timeline."
Janel's company, Palmetto Synergistic Research, will specialize in CBD oil.
Because of the controversy surrounding marijuana, Ralph is keeping her location secret.
"There will be people who would intentionally try to steal it not knowing that it's hemp," she said. "Criminals could hear I'm manufacturing medical marijuana and think they could take it.
"They wouldn't understand that what I'm making has such a low THC, that even if they took they plants they couldn't smoke it or sell it as marijuana," she said. "You can't get high on what I'm making."
Ralph started it all last year because of her five-year-old daughter, Harmony, who has a genetic condition called lissencephaly. Harmony's brain is missing one of her chromosomes, and she has lots of seizures. Multiple pharmaceuticals didn't work.
By Steve Elliott
Twenty-two years after being arrested for marijuana -- and 19 years after being sentenced to life in prison for it -- Jeff Mizanskey on Friday had his sentenced commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
Mizanskey, 62, was the only man in Missouri prisons serving life for pot, report Kevin S. Held and Anthony Kiekow at Fox 2 Now. He was arrested during an undercover drug operation in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1993, and was sentenced in 1996 under the state's Prior and Persistent Drug Offender Law, which is a three-strike, habitual offender system.
"The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness," Nixon said in a press release announcing the commutation of Mizanskey's sentence, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times. Nixon also pardoned five other nonviolent offenders.
"It's wonderful," said Michael Mizanskey, Jeff's brother. "Thank Jay Nixon for doing that, for finally looking at his case and doing the right thing.
"I'm very emotional," Michael said. "I've overjoyed he has a chance. In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that's not a model prisoner."
By Steve Elliott
Michigan state Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) on Wednesday said he supports legalizing and taxing marijuana, and using the proceeds for state road repairs and other funding issues.
Dillon said legalization will not only benefit the state by bringing in more funds, but will also give law enforcement more time to concentrate their efforts on violence and property crime, reports Fox 17 News.
In states like Colorado, where cannabis is already legalized, violent crime has fallen 6.9 percent, according to Dillon. He also pointed to several cities across Michigan, including his hometown of Grand Rapids, which have recently voted to decriminalize pot.
"We know that attitudes are quickly changing," Dillon wrote in a May 19 guest editorial on MLive.com. "Recent surveys show that more than half of Michigan residents are in favor of legalizing, regulating and taxing the adult use of marijuana."
While legalization won't be a panacea for all of Michigan's challenges, "However, taking marijuana off the black market will generate much needed revenue, allow us to redeploy law enforcement resources to focus on violent and property crime, and ease the tax burden on the middle class," Dillon wrote.
"Our current marijuana laws are broken," Dillon wrote. "It is time to fix them."
Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland calls on state lawmakers to override veto of SB 517, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced late Friday afternoon that he has vetoed a widely supported bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including potential jail time.
SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates. The measure would also have designated public marijuana consumption a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine.
Maryland adopted a law last year that decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia. That leaves the state in the unusual position of having decriminalized marijuana itself, but marijuana paraphernalia is still a crime.
Gov. Hogan’s letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announcing the veto and explaining his reasoning is available at http://bit.ly/1ellF1e.