By Steve Elliott
A North Carolina jury took less than an hour on Thursday to find a man who openly ran a medical marijuana operation guilty of drug trafficking.
The jury of six men and six women found Todd Stimson, 44, guilty of two counts of marijuana trafficking in an emotional conclusion to the trial in Henderson County Superior Court, reports Sabian Warren at the Citizen-Times.
Judge Mark Powell sentenced a visibly shaken Stimson to a minimum of 25 months in federal prison, and a maximum of 39 months. Stimson was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Addressing the court in a final plea, his voice shaking as his daughter cried, Stimson said, "I'm sorry that I've taken up your time ... It's not meant to be this way," reports Emily Weaver at the Hendersonville Times-News.
"What I did this time was to stand out and try to be accepted by society and ... work with the state along with the police department, along with the Department of Revenue and everybody (to show the state) that we can work together and get along," Stimson said. "And that's all I set out to do.
"Even though the situation is bad for me, I've done exactly what I wanted to do to raise awareness to ... what happens to people in this situation," Stimson said.
By Steve Elliott
From time to time, a particular arrest serves to highlight the absurd nature of cannabis prohibition.
Such an arrest took place on Monday in North Carolina, where a 94-year-old man was charged with felony possession of marijuana, reports Elisabeth Arriero at The Charlotte Observer.
Douglas Floyd Ponischil, 94, was arrested at 6:36 a.m. on Monday by the Mecklenberg County Sheriff's Office, according to arrest records.
Ponischil -- a World War II veteran, according to Hempyreum -- doesn't appear to have much of a criminal history in the state; a background check revealed only minor traffic violations.
By Steve Elliott
The North Carolina Senate unanimously passed a CBD-only medical marijuana bill on Thursday; the bill had already cleared the House 112 to 1 last week, and now awaits the signature of Governor Pat McCrory, who said he plans to sign the bill into law.
"This law will help ease the suffering endured by children from whom no other treatments are effective against seizures," Gov. McCrory said, reports Matthew Burns at WRAL. "I want to congratulate the General Assembly for crafting a bill that not only improves the lives of many North Carolina children and their parents, but also provides common-sense regulation and facilitates clinical research at our major research universities."
"This is helpful to a lot of kids where nothing else seems to help," said state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson). "This will put North Carolina on the cutting edge of this type of epilepsy."
The "Hope 4 Haley and Friends" bill, named for six-year-old Haley Ward of Newport, who suffers from daily seizures, allows the medicinal use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil derived from the marijuana plant for the treatment of seizure disorders, particularly those afflicting children, reports Chad Silber at WFMY. Cannabidiol -- unlike THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis -- doesn't produce a "high."
By Steve Elliott
A group supporting medical marijuana is walking across North Carolina with the aim of convincing lawmakers to act on the issue.
The group, March Against Fear, has been walking across the state since June 6, reports Steve Sbraccia at WNCN News. They started in Asheville, highlighting their journey with clips on YouTube.
One of the members is shown carrying a plastic marijuana plant in the videos. The others carry signs and stop along the way to raise support for House Bill 1161, which would create a constitutional amendment to legalize the medical use of cannabis in North Carolina.
In the meantime, the North Carolina House last week passed another measure, HB 1220, which would allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, an extract of medical marijuana that's been known to quell epileptic seizures in children.
HB 1220 now moves to the North Carolina Senate. If it's approved there, it will go to the desk of Governor Pat McCrory, who can either sign the bill or veto it.
Some families have moved from North Carolina to Colorado, where CBD oil is already legal. But those families said they would move back home to North Carolina if the use of CBD oil is legalized there.
By Steve Elliott
A North Carolina Congressman has taken up the cause of parents who want medical marijuana legalized for children with uncontrollable seizures.
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones said parents of children with life-threatening illnesses have come to him with a "compelling argument that political leaders in North Carolina should consult with medical professionals to determine the efficacy of the use of medical marijuana in certain instances."
These parents have "exhausted all other available options to provide relief for their kids," said Rep. Jones.
"I believe this issue should certainly be studied at the state level, and I encourage our state elected officials to give this, and other potential treatment options, the attention that they deserve," Jones said, in what sounds like an endorsement of medical marijuana legislation in the North Carolina Legislature.
"The courage of some politicians to do the right thing can very literally save children's lives," said Annetta Saggese of Wilmington, an educator whose young daughter, Netta, has uncontrollable seizures due to epilepsy.
The strain typically given to epileptic children is low in THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), which has been shown to quell seizures, among other medicinal qualities.
By Steve Elliott
Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, thought it was a good idea to carry out an undercover marijuana sting in the parking lot of an elementary school. Now one teenager is dead, another wounded, and neighbors are upset about the cops' choice of location for the operation.
The shooting involved a marijuana deal between an undercover officer, an informant and two teenage suspects, reports Brigida Mack at WBTV. Police claim Jaquaz Walker, 17, shot the informant in the shoulder after trying to rob him, and that's why they opened fire.
Residents of the Hidden Valley neighborhood of Charlotte said they want to know why Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers chose their neighborhood, reports Trish Williford at WSOC.
"It bothers me because I live right across from the school, and it is bad that it was on the school grounds," said Wilmer Bourne, who lives steps away from the location of the shootout. "That is what bothers me so much."
Walker, 17, was wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet at the time of his death, according to Police Chief Rodney Monroe. He faced breaking and entering charges, which is why he was on the electronic monitor, according to WBTV.
Walker's aunt lashed out at the police for the way her nephew died. "He was a normal kid," she said. "But he got gunned down."
By Steve Elliott
Republicans in the North Caroline Senate on Monday pushed through a bill that would take away food stamps and job training for people who fail a drug test. At the same time, they rejected an amendment offered by Democratic Senator Gladys Robinson which would have drug tested the governor, cabinet secretaries and the lawmakers themselves.
In a 35-15 vote almost completely along party lines, the senators passed SB 594. One lone Democrat voted for the bill, and no Republicans voted against it, reports David Edwards at The Raw Story.
The bill requires Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to pay for their own suspicionless drug tests. Those who test negative would be eligible to have the cost of the tests reimbursed.
The policy could cost the state more than $2.1 million.
"We receive state funds, we represent the law, we institute policy," Sen. Robinson told the other senators on Monday night. "So, it should not be above any of us to submit to drug screening."
Republican Sen. Jim Davis claimed he didn't mind being tested, but said that he would vote against the amendment because it had no mechanism to reimburse him for the $100 test. He didn't seem overly concerned that welfare applicants -- who have far less money than Senator Davis -- will face the same problem.
HB 637 would replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket
By Steve Elliott
A bill introduced by State Rep. Kelly Alexander, Jr. (D-Mecklenburg) to downgrade the penalty for simple possession of marijuana in North Carolina, passed first reading on Wednesday and was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.
HB 637 is being co-sponsored by Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Beverly Earle (D-Mecklenburg), Rep. Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe), Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-Brunswick, New Hanover), Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Rodney Moore (D- Mecklenburg), and Rep. Bobbie Richardson (D-Franklin).
The bill would replace criminal penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana with a civil infraction similar to a traffic ticket. Simple marijuana possession is currently classified as a Class 3 criminal misdemeanor and is punishable by a suspended sentence and a $200 fine.
A majority (56 percent) of North Carolina voters believe the penalty for marijuana possession should entail only a fine, according to a Public Policy Polling survey of 611 voters released in March.
"We applaud Rep. Alexander and his House colleagues for championing a more sensible marijuana policy for the Tar Heel State," said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
By RICHARD DEVAYNE, NBC Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A recent poll says the majority of North Carolina residents support the legalization of medical marijuana. The study by Public Policy Polling reports that 58 percent of people in the Tarheel state agree that using marijuana for medical reasons should be legal.
One such person is Perry Parks, who is a 29-year veteran of the United States Army. Parks said he suffered a back injury more than a decade ago, which left him in constant and severe pain.
Now he said that he breaks the law everyday because after years of taking other medications, the only relief he gets is from cannabis.
Parks said he supports a bill that state Representative Kelly Alexander, Jr. (D-Meck) will introduce Wednesday in the house to legalize marijuana.
Written by Colby Dunn, Smoky Mountain News
If someone said the word "hemp," the first thing to spring to mind probably wouldn't be home construction. But if you're looking for a strong, green, energy-efficient building material that's resistant to pretty much everything, hemp might be your best choice.
This is the concept being pitched by Greg Flavall and David Madera, owners of an Asheville-based business called Hemp Technologies. They're some of the first to build with the material in the United States, where industrial hemp hasn't seen the rise in popularity it enjoys in other countries, thanks to a federal ban on U.S. production.
Its recognition is slowly ramping up, though, due in part to its benefits over standard concrete. The third house in the country to be built with the technology is going up now, in the mountains above Lake Junaluska.
Roger Teuscher, the homeowner, said he was turned on to the idea by his first architect, who suggested the plant as a cleaner, greener alternative to standard homebuilding supplies. Tuescher, who lives most of the year in Florida, said he was drawn not only to the cost savings gained by increased insulation, but by the product’s recyclability.
By USA Today Staff
Hemp is turning a new leaf. The plant fiber, used to make the sails that took Christopher Columbus' ships to the New World, is now a building material.
In Asheville, N.C., a home built with thick hemp walls was completed this summer and two more are in the works.
Dozens of hemp homes have been built in Europe in the past two decades, but they're new to the United States, says David Madera, co-founder of Hemp Technologies, a company that supplied the mixture of ground-up hemp stalks, lime and water.
The industrial hemp is imported because it cannot be grown legally in this country — it comes from the same plant as marijuana.
Its new use reflects an increasing effort to make U.S. homes not only energy-efficient but also healthier. Madera and other proponents say hemp-filled walls are non-toxic, mildew-resistant, pest-free and flame-resistant.
"There is a growing interest in less toxic building materials, says Peter Ashley, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.
"The potential health benefits are significant," he says, citing a recent study of a Seattle public housing complex that saw residents' health improve after their homes got a green makeover.
UNCC researchers create a formula for recycling old bottles into new building materials
By Amber Veverka, Special Correspondent, Charlotte Observer
A UNC Charlotte researcher with a passion for sustainability is creating a new building material out of recycled plastic bottles and an ancient grass.
Dr. Na Lu, an assistant professor at UNCC's Department of Engineering Technology, has created a material she believes may outperform composite lumber and wood lumber in many uses, and which has potential to be used in the residential and light commercial building industry.
In her lab at UNCC, Luna, as she prefers to be called, holds a dog bone-shaped sample of her creation: a beige plastic woven with threads of what looks like horsehair. "Hemp," Luna says, and points to a fluffy pile of the fibers on the table.
Unlike much present-day composite lumber, Luna's product substitutes hemp fibers for more typical chipped wood often mixed with virgin plastic. And unlike pressure-treated wood, the hemp material contains no toxic heavy metals.
Wood fiber is structured like a bundle of straws, she said, but hemp's crystalline structure gives it greater mechanical strength. She demonstrates by holding out a handful of hemp fibers to pull.
"This (hemp composite) material performs up to 4,000 to 6,000 psi (pounds per square inch)," Luna said. "That's as strong as medium-strength concrete."
Larry Thomas, Furniture Today
HICKORY, N.C. — Veteran furniture executive Ken Fonville has launched a company based here that produces made-to-order, environmentally friendly leather and fabric upholstery.
The new company, EcoSelect Furniture, is selling its products exclusively online and will ship custom orders in four to six weeks, Fonville said.
"We can provide eco-friendly living room sofas and leather living room chairs at no premium cost to the consumer who wants to live good, while living well," said Fonville. "There is a need for a dedicated and committed furniture supplier to this consumer."
The EcoSelect line currently includes 12 seating groups, which are available in six leather colors and six correlating hemp fabric colors.
The company gets its leather from an ISO 14001 certified supplier who uses, among other things, recycled leather tanning materials. The fabric created from hemp uses significantly less herbicides, pesticides and water than cotton, Fonville said, while the factory uses recycled steel for springs, soy-based foam cushioning and certified lumber for frames.
Information is available on the company's Web site at www.EcoSelectfurniture.com
Fonville has more than 30 years experience in the furniture industry, most recently as vice president of merchandising at Fairmont Designs. He also was president of Pennsylvania House from 1996 to 2002.
Naturally Advanced Technologies Secures Hanesbrands Inc. Initial Purchase Order for 10,000LBs of Crailar
By Portland Business Journal staff
Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc. on Tuesday said apparel maker Hanesbrands Inc. has purchased its first batch of Crailar fiber in a significant step toward commercializing the technology.
Portland-based Naturally Advanced (OTCBB: NADVF) developed Crailar technology, which is designed to turn burlap-like hemp into a fabric as soft as cotton.
In August the company announced a joint development agreement with Winson-Salem, N.C.-based Hanesbrands to study how Crailar fiber can be worked into mainstream production.
Hanes ordered about 10,000 pounds of Crailar in the first quarter of 2010. Naturally Advanced didn’t release the price of the sale.
By John Boyle, Citizen Times
Photo by John Fletcher, Citizen Times
Leave it to Asheville to be the first place in the country to build not just one, but two houses largely out of hemp.
Well-established as a green building center, Asheville has two homes under construction - one in West Asheville, another off Town Mountain Road - that use hemp as a building material. The builders and Greg Flavall, the co-founder of Hemp Technologies, the Asheville company supplying the building material, maintain that they're the first permitted hemp homes in the country.
"This area is known to walk the talk of being green," Flavall said, adding that the Asheville area has by far the largest percentage of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, builders of anywhere in the country. Hemp is derived from the same plant that marijuana comes from. Although it contains very little of the active ingredient that gets people high and is completely impractical to smoke, it's still illegal to grow it domestically.
But builders can import industrial hemp products like Tradical Hemcrete, the material Hemp Technologies sells. When mixed with water and lime, it makes remarkably strong, resilient walls. Some builders generically refer to the walls as hempcrete.