By Steve Elliott
The author of Washington state's anemic marijuana legalization law I-502 is defending and even urging prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle.
Criminal defense attorney Alison Holcomb of the ACLU of Washington, who wrote Initiative 502, wrote a December 11 email to Seattle officials about their plans to create new rules for medical marijuana in the city, reports Heidi Groover at The Stranger.
“If escalation of sanctions were deemed appropriate, the city has authority to prosecute repeat license offenses as gross misdemeanors, initiate civil asset seizure and forfeiture, or even refer cases for felony prosecution,” Holcomb wrote in the email.
Seattle is looking for ways to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries; Holcomb's words were part of a chain of emails exchanged among city council members, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's staff, and others, including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who seems just as weirdly intent on eliminating dispensaries as is Holcomb.
Holcomb, like Holmes, purportedly opposes the dispensaries because they aren't regulated -- but she also opposes regulating them. She argued against a new licensing plan the mayor's office has floated for dispensaries, hoping to leave the coup de grace -- complete elimination of the shops -- to the Legislature in the upcoming session.
By Steve Elliott
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes was a big supporter of Washington state's marijuana legalization measure, Initiative 502, all along. Now it seems Holmes is so gung-ho on 502, he wants to extinguish current medical marijuana dispensaries, which existed for years before recreational legalization was approved in 2012, and force medicinal cannabis patients through the state's expensive recreational pot stores.
Holmes in a policy memo on Monday urged the Washington Legislature to fold medical marijuana into the state's recreational system, reports Evan Bush at The Seattle Times. He also pushed Seattle city officials to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries which he claims aren't following state law or city regulations.
"If you're a commercial (medical marijuana) operation lacking a 502 license, it's a felony operation. Period," Holmes said.
Holmes claimed some of the business aren't operating with proper permits, and that others have neglected to pay local business and occupation taxes. He said some of them opened after the Seattle City Council passed an intended moratorium on new dispensaries in the city.
The city attorney said he published the wide-ranging memo to clarify any confusion about medical marijuana laws. Holmes said he hopes his memo "reframes" the debate about medical marijuana.
Approximately three out of four voters think seriously ill people should have legal access to medical marijuana; more voters support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol than oppose it
A strong majority of state voters support reforming Virginia marijuana laws, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday.
Three out of five (60 percent) of respondents support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and designating it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail time. Under current Virginia law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
The Virginia Senate is expected to consider a proposal this year that would replace criminal penalties for personal possession of marijuana with a civil fine of $100.
“Most voters do not support laws that saddle people with criminal penalties just for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “These antiquated prohibition laws are causing far more problems than they solve.”
By Steve Elliott
Rhode Islanders use marijuana at the highest rates in the United States, according to a recently released annual survey.
The report originates from a national survey on drug use and health sponsored each year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reports Alison Bologna at NBC 10.
In Rhode Island, 14 percent of those 12 and older -- up from 13 percent the previous year -- report having used marijuana in the past month, the highest rate in the nation, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health, reports Richard Salit at the Providence Journal. Rhode Island also led the nation in those who reported having used marijuana in the past year, at 20 percent, up from 19 percent.
Rhode Island is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that now allow medical marijuana for authorized patients, and a coalition is forming in the state to make it the fifth to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes.
The survey "is probably an accurate portrayal, and one we've seen trending for a long time," said Rebecca Boss, deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. "The why is really hard to answer. I don't necessarily have the answers to why."
By Steve Elliott
A Montana judge on Friday permanently banned enforcement of key provisions of the state's restrictive medical marijuana law.
District Judge James Reynolds blocked several provisions, including a ban on advertising medical marijuana and the prohibition of commercial sales for profit to authorized patients, reports Charles S. Johnson at the Billings Gazette.
The prohibition on for-profit marijuana sales, passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature after Montana voters legalized medicinal cannabis, essentially meant that medical marijuana patients in Montana had to grow their own supply.
Judge Reynolds also struck down provisions that restrict medical marijuana providers from helping more than three authorized patients obtain marijuana -- again, remember, without them being able to be paid, under the old rules struck down by the judge on Friday.
The judge also struck down a part of the law that required the state to provide the Board of Medical Examiners with the names of any doctors who, within a one-year period, authorized more than 25 patients for medical marijuana. The law would have required the physician in question to pay for an automatic review of his practices by the Board of Medical Examiners.
Women are working together to stake a claim in the legal marijuana industry that is projected to generate $21 billion by 2020. The marijuana industry’s rapidly growing Women Grow has named Sara Gullickson as co-chair of its Phoenix Chapter, the second largest chapter of this new organization that connects, educates and empowers cannabis business leaders.
Gullickson, executive director of the DispensaryPermits.com division of MariMed Advisors (a subsidiary of Worlds Online), brings four years of experience as a leader in the medical marijuana (MMJ) industry and nearly a decade of experience strategizing and executing online and traditional marketing campaigns for the health, beauty, medical, dental, fitness and spa industries. She has assisted clients in seven states through the medical marijuana license application process, laying out every aspect of their business strategy from identifying locations all the way through developing product and tracking customer results.
Her work has helped clients earn MMJ cultivation and/or dispensary licenses across the country. In addition, Gullickson launched a free weekly CannaBusiness Webinar series that is a source of information to both novice and experienced MMJ entrepreneurs.
By Steve Elliott
Almost a year after the first medical marijuana bill -- and a rather mild one, at that -- failed in Georgia, suffering patients and those fighting to relieve their pain hope that won't happen again.
As lawmakers prepare for the next General Assembly in January, a poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that 80 percent of Georgians support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, reports Anita Oh at WMAZ.
Since Congress just approved, and President Obama signed into law, a spending measure that eliminated funding for the Drug Enforcement Administration to conduct medical marijuana raids on complying businesses in states where medicinal cannabis is legal, those favoring a change of law at the state level have more rhetorical ammunition.
After testifying in September before a medical marijuana study committee led by Republican state Rep. Allen Peake, Katie Crosby, 26, started a Facebook group called Hope For Silent Sufferers. "Imagine, before you even have a thought in the morning, you wake up, just in agony," she said. "A living hell, a living nightmare to be honest."
The group, which advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia, has nearly 20,000 supporters. Through it, Crosby has connected with people like Pamela Skinner, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996.
By Steve Elliott
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he plans to file a bill in the upcoming General Assembly session to allow medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State, but he says its chances are slim.
Outright opposition to medicinal cannabis among lawmakers has softened, reports Gregory A. Hall at The Courier-Journal, but many lawmakers just haven't yet discovered the courage to vote for it.
"I think it's going to get some play this session; I don't know how much," said Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg).
The steady progress of medical marijuana legislation in other states is seen as increasing the likelihood for positive change in Kentucky. State residents expressed support for medical marijuana in Bluegrass Polls for the past two years.
Last session, timid lawmakers passed a no-risk "CBD-only" law that allows non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil to be used to control seizures. Two bills to allow broader medical marijuana use died, including one in the House that made it out of the Health and Welfare Committee before dying in the Judiciary Committee.
By Steve Elliott
The first executive director of the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission has been appointed, it was announced on Friday.
Hannah Byron has been named to the position, according to the panel, reports the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Byron was assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts of the Department of Economic and Business Development.
Byron's appointment takes effect on January 14.
“The Commission is thrilled that Hannah Byron, an extraordinarily effective public official, has agreed to be our first full-time executive director,” said Dr. Paul Davies, chair of the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission. “For more than 12 years, she has been a top administrator in the Department of Business and Economic Development. We are excited that she will bring her deep experience with the business community and her commitment to the citizens of Maryland to lead the Commission.”
“We face an urgent challenge to get medical marijuana to patients whose doctors have certified that they need it,” Byron said. “I look forward to working with the medical profession and patients, law enforcement, business and agricultural leaders, the Commissioners and others to implement this law. I am committed to getting this program operational as quickly as possible.”
By Steve Elliott
A medical marijuana delivery smartphone application based in Los Angeles had aimed at becoming the city's first such service was ordered to stop conducting business by a county judge on Thursday.
Judge Robert O'Brien of the Los Angeles County Superior Court said Nestdrop, a mobile phone app designed to connect legal medical marijuana patients with dispensaries, violated a voter-approved law called Proposition D that bans medical marijuana delivery, reports Time Magazine.
Nestdrop said they weren't violating the law because they only connect dispensaries with patients, and don't handle the cannabis themselves, reports Soumya Karlamangla at the Los Angeles Times.
"We're a technology company," said Nestdrop cofounder Michael Pycher. "We have every right to be an app."
According to Pycher, Nestdrop helps bring more "legitimacy and compliance" with the city's medical marijuana rules, because they can track everything through the app. "We thought this would be making the city happy," he said.
By Steve Elliott
Brazil will soon study the possibility of legalizing the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a marijuana derivative, to treat people suffering from severe seizures.
The country's Health Surveillance Agency, ANVISA, announced that the "reclassification" of the cannabinoid CBD -- which is illegal in Brazil -- will be discussed starting next month, reports the Associated Press.
The statement came on Friday, one day after about 40 people protested in the capital city of Brasilia to demand the legalization of CBD.
Some Brazilians resort to an underground network of illegal cannabis farmers in Rio de Janeiro that extract the CBD and donate it. That network supplies Margaret de Brito with the oil she gives her five-year-old daughter Sofia, who was born with a genetic mutation that causes seizures.
"They won't even let you pay the shipping," Brito said of the clandestine growers' group.
Her daughter's seizures have decreased dramatically since starting the treatment more than a year ago, and she's been able to stop taking another medication that made her drowsy, Brito said.
The Federal Medical Council, which regulates the medical profession in Brazil, earlier this month authorized neurologists and psychiatrists to prescribe CBD to treat epileptic children and teenagers who don't respond to conventional pharmaceuticals. (You'd think a non-toxic alternative would be the first line of treatment, not the last resort!)
By Steve Elliott
Dab-haters be damned -- "concentrated cannabis" qualifies as medical marijuana, a California appellate court in Sacramento has ruled.
The unanimous decision by a three-justice panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal last week disagreed with an earlier ruling by El Dorado Superior Court Judge James R. Wagoner, reversing that judge's ruling that a medical marijuana patient violated probation by possessing concentrated cannabis, reports Denny Walsh at The Sacramento Bee.
Sean Patrick Mulcrevy was charged in 2013 with unlawful possession of a concentrated cannabis, a misdemeanor, and was accused of violating his probation because of his failure "to obey all laws."
Judge Wagoner had reviewed the existing legal language indicating that cannabis concentrates are covered by California's Compassionate Use Act (CUA), the 1996 voter initiative that made the state the first to legalize medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor's authorization. But Wagoner rejected the authority as "unsound" and ruled that "the (CUA) does not apply to concentrated cannabis" because the act doesn't define "marijuana," refer to concentrates or incorporate statutory definitions of either term.
Concentrated cannabis is, according to the California Health & Safety Code, "the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from marijuana."
By Steve Elliott
More than 100 medical marijuana farmers who cultivate cannabis in the southern part of Oregon -- the epicenter of the state's growing community -- met on Thursday to voice concerns about how they'll fit into a newly regulated industry.
The meeting, organized by the Oregon Sungrown Growers Guild, was held at a grange hall in Josephine County, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The group was established last spring to represent the interests of southern Oregon's outdoor marijuana farmers.
Thursday's meeting featured a short talk by state Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), who strongly supports medical and recreational cannabis. Growers told Sen. Prozanski they don't want any changes to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, and they're worried about zoning restrictions that could squeeze them out of both the medical and recreational marijuana programs.
They're also worried about deep-pocketed out-of-state investors swooping into their small communities and establishing price-gouging marijuana facilities.
"My goal is not to allow the medical program to be folded into the (recreational) program," Sen. Prozanski said, addressing concerns from the growers that they could meet a similar fate as their counterparts in Washington state, where the Legislature seems intent on doing exactly that. "My goal is not to impact the small farmer."
Friday: One Week After Death of Eight Year Old Donella Nocero, Patients and Caregivers Rally Outside Governor Cuomo’s NYC Office to Demand Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana
Critically Ill Patients and Their Families Ask Cuomo to Grant Their Holiday Wish -- Access to Lifesaving Medication Before More Children Die
The NY Department of Health on Thursday released the draft regulations for the medical marijuana program. While full analysis of the regulations is still underway, an initial review suggests New York will be one of the more restrictive programs in the country, which could inhibit patients from obtaining the relief they need.
For instance, the draft regulations restrict the number of brands of medical marijuana to five initially without any clear rationale. There are dozens of therapeutic strains of medical cannabis, each having benefits for particular conditions.
Had such a restriction been in place in a state like Colorado, it very well may have prevented the development of marijuana strains beneficial to some children with epilepsy. Such a provision could prove to be a deterrent to industry groups. Patients and doctors deserve the flexibility to find which medicine works best.
Absent from the draft regulations is any provision for emergency access to marijuana for those patients who cannot wait for the system to come online in January 2016. Patients, family members and activists will gather outside Governor Cuomo’s New York City Office tomorrow to urge the Governor to establish an emergency access program for medical marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
Medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco want illegal guns off the street, and they're willing to put their money where their mouths are.
A gun buyback in South of Market last weekend, on the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Connecticut, was underwritten by three dispensaries and a marijuana attorney, reports Chris Roberts at the SF Examiner.
South of Market dispensaries The Green Door and Barbary Coast, Tenderloin-area dispensary Grassroots, and the legal firm Hallinan & Hallinan gave $35,000 to provide the funds to buy back illegal firearms, according to attorney Brendan Hallinan.
"It's giving back a little bit to law enforcement, contributing to public safety," Hallinan said. "And pot clubs are often accused of creating crime, of causing robberies. ... We wanted to counter that a little bit."
Anyone who turned in a handgun got $100; assault weapons fetched $200. All guns were accepted, no questions asked, by law enforcement.
It's believed this is the first time marijuana businesses have funded a gun buyback.
"We want to participate in society, we want to contribute," said Mike Nolin, The Green Door's founder and CEO of medical cannabis consulting firm Boss Enterprises.
Photo: Oakland Police Department