Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Sunday, January 10, 2016

What's Happening on MMJ in the Sucker State?


I didn't catch this when it first came out, but here's an interesting discussion on the situation in Illinois.  Click the image for the video.


January 10, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York MMJ Rollout is Slow. Really, Really Slow.

ABack in the 1820s it took can-do New Yorkers only 8 years to dig the Erie Canal.  That was an immense 363-mile waterway from Albany to Buffalo, dug with shovels, fitted with 36 ship locks, that tied the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and ensured that New York would become the commercial capital of the young nation.

With any luck, the rollout of New York's extremely modest medical marijuana program will take less time than that.  But given the events of this week, it's possible I'm wrong about that.  Here's a cringe-inducing story about the official non-opening of two Syracuse locations which were slated to open this week.  This is my favorite part :

Even if the two dispensaries here did open today, it's unlikely they would have many customers. That's because the drug will only be available to patients with 10 serious conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDs.  And patients cannot get the drug unless they are approved by a doctor registered with the state. The health department says about 150 doctors statewide have registered with the medical marijuana program, but it has not released their names.

Read the italicized part.  Really?  I mean, seriously, really?  After 18 months, a state with 20 million people and a $1 trillion economy has managed to authorize 150 doctors -- and you can't get their names without a FOIA request?

The CEO of one of the new dispensaries is putting a game face on.  "If there is a registered patient in Syracuse," she said, "we will be ready to serve them.

Sorry, I'm making fun of this because otherwise I'd be throwing stuff at the office wall.


January 10, 2016 in Business, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Kashruth Council: Medical Marijuana Need Not Be Kosher

AaCanada's largest kosher-certification organization has turned down a request for certify medical marijuana because doctor-prescribed medicine doesn't need to be kosher in the first place.  See this story from Canadian Press:

    The Kashruth Council of Canada met Thursday to discuss an application from MedReleaf, a licensed producer of medical pot. The meeting followed news in the U.S. that a New York company would soon offer certified kosher medical cannabis products.

    But after "a lot of interplay and exchange," the Kashruth council decided the Jewish faith doesn't require sick people to consume kosher medicine, said managing director Richard Rabkin.
    "Something that is medicine, that's prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn't need kosher certification," he said by phone after the meeting.

    "We don't really want to get into the business of providing kosher certification for something that is doctor-prescribed. We're not going to go down that path."

    Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish law, with strict guidelines on the types of foods that can be consumed and how they are prepared.

    Rabkin said there's a principle in Judaism that the preservation of human life overrides other religious concerns. If one must consume something non-kosher to survive — or, in the case of medical marijuana, to relieve pain or seizures — one can and should do so.

    He acknowledged that some medical cannabis users might prefer to consume kosher pot, but he said a conversation with a rabbi should alleviate their concerns.

    . . .

    In fact, not all kosher certification agencies agree with Kashruth on medical marijuana.

    Kosher Check, a global kosher certification agency headquartered in British Columbia, debated the issue two years ago and decided in favour of certifying edible medical pot products.

    Rabbi Mendy Feigelstock said while preservation of life does come before all else in Judaism, his organization decided it would be helpful to offer a kosher choice for those who want it.

    He said dried marijuana that is smoked is automatically considered kosher since it is a plant. However, edible products including oils, capsules, brownies and cookies would need to be certified.

    "There are people who are suffering and unfortunately sometimes the only medication left for them is marijuana, which could ease their symptoms, and to force a person to smoke it seems silly," he said.

January 9, 2016 in Edibles, Medical Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

No Trademark for “THC Tea” . . . Because It Does Not Contain THC

AIt’s well known that applicants have stuck out repeatedly with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in trying to register trademarks for cannabis products.  The PTO reasons that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, that same federal law shouldn't be use to protect band names in an illegal product.  (Think of it like getting an actual trademark on "Murder, Inc.")

But marijuana culture is cool and edgy, so what about applicants who sell legal products but want to capitalize on the coolness of marijuana?

Well, they lost a round last fall in front of the Trademark Trial & Appeals Board, in a case involving something called "THCTea." The product itself had no THC in it, and therefore didn’t run afoul of the rules prohibiting trademarks for illegal substance. But because (again) it had no THC in it, the product ran afoul of the rules banning deceptive trademarks. The net result seems to be that you can’t get a trademark for a cannabis product, and you also can’t get a trademark for a non-cannabis product that pretends to be one.

Trademarks in this area are confusing, but Chicago lawyer Scott Slavick of Brinks Gilson & Lione has a very nice piece in Inside Counsel (free registration required) on the nuances of the THCTea case and the problems of deception in this area.  Recommended.

January 9, 2016 in Advertising, Business, Commercial Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Push for Private Pot Club Legislation in Colorado

AColorado Springs Gazette: Colorado Springs lawmaker joins marijuana social clubs bill:

    Colorado lawmakers will bring bills next session to deal with unregulated social marijuana clubs where pot is both sold and consumed outside of the state's strict licensing regulations for recreational marijuana.

    Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, confirmed Thursday that he and Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, are working on a bill to address the proliferation of pot clubs. He said many ideas are in the works.

    "The first one is modeling something after what you saw with some of the dry towns, people paying an annual membership or a monthly membership to be part of a social club where they can safely consume cannabis," Singer said.

    . . .

    Singer said a bill that's in the works would likely allow consumption at clubs but ban sales. Singer said statewide guidelines are needed on such clubs, but local municipalities would have final say on the issue.

    He said he's also working to allow consumption on the premises of licensed recreational and medical retail stores. Singer said it'd be similar to alcohol tastings at a craft brewery or winery. He said consumption would have to comply with the clean indoor air act, so likely edibles or vaporizers would be used.

    "Everyone agrees there is a problem," Singer said of the conundrum of where to consume cannabis other than a private home. "Tourists come to Colorado, buy our marijuana, and we say 'by the way don't smoke it in the hotel, don't smoke it on the street, don't smoke it in bars ... and make sure you consume it before you leave the state."

    The 2016 session begins Wednesday. Lawmakers have spent time drafting bills, but none have been officially introduced to receive bill numbers and titles.

January 8, 2016 in Legislation, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Branding Bud is Big

The Cannabist:  Enter ‘Mad Men’ — Marijuana industry turns to branding

    Snoop Dogg has his own line of marijuana. So does Willie Nelson. Melissa Etheridge has a marijuana-infused wine.

    As the fast-growing marijuana industry emerges from the black market and starts looking like a mainstream industry, there’s a scramble to brand and trademark pot products.

    Celebrity endorsements are just the latest attempt to add cachet to a line of weed. Snoop Dogg calls his eight strains of weed “Dank From the Doggfather Himself.” Nelson’s yet-to-be-released line says his pot is “born of the awed memories of musicians who visited Willie’s bus after a show.”

    The pot industry’s makeshift branding efforts, from celebrity names on boxes of weed to the many weed-themed T-shirts and stickers common in towns with a legal marijuana market, show the industry taking halting steps toward the mainstream.

    Problem is, those weed brands aren’t much more substantial than the labels they’re printed on. Patents and trademarks are largely regulated by the federal government, which considers marijuana an illegal drug and therefore ineligible for any sort of legal protection.The result is a Wild West environment of marijuana entrepreneurs trying to stake claims and establish cross-state markets using a patchwork of state laws.

    Consumers have no way of knowing that celebrity-branded pot is any different from what they could get in a plastic baggie from a corner drug dealer.

    “You can’t go into federal court to get federal benefits if you’re a drug dealer,” said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who tracks marijuana law.

    That doesn’t mean that the pot business isn’t trying.

There's a lot more.

January 8, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marijuana Legalization On the Other Side of the Border(s)

ALegalization proponents often seem to forget that whether or not to permit cannabis sales isn't just a problem of national policy.  Cannabis is illegal very nearly everywhere in the world under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and any country that legalizes is in violation of its treaty obligations.  Mike Adams of High Times has this very nice piece on the potential treaty problems for Canada and Mexico if they want to pursue legalization.  The whole thing is worth a read.  Some highlights:

    Before Canada, Mexico or any other country can legalize marijuana across their respective nation, governments must first show the United Nations General Assembly later this year how they plan to make it happen while remaining in compliance with several international drug treaties.

    A briefing memo sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was obtained by The Canadian Press, suggests that the northern nation will have to divulge a plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana without violating three treaties, all of which make the possession and manufacture of the cannabis plant for recreational purposes illegal worldwide. 

    . . .

    International law expert, Errol Mendes, a professor at the University of Ottawa, says that while the Canadian government basically has to tell the tale of “why it feels it has to do it,” the outcome, even if the debate is highly successful, will still result in marijuana legalization taking “many years” before it sees the light of day.

    The three treaties that would need to be amended before Canada or any other nation could effectively end prohibition are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drug of 1961; The Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1971; The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

    The note implies that a number of other countries interested in reforming their drug laws will also be forced to plead their case.

    "At the meeting, several South American countries as well as Mexico wish to discuss what they perceive as more effective policy approaches to respond to the current realities of the drug problem, which could include decriminalization/legalization of illicit drugs, harm reduction, and/or a call to renegotiate the international drug control conventions."

January 8, 2016 in International Regulation, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vermont Governor Announces Support of Legislative Legalization

ADemocratic Governor Peter Shumlin has now decided to back legalization in the Green Mountain State.  In his State of the State message, Shumlin said he'll back legalization for the state, which decriminalized weed in 2013 but does not have a licensed market.  His "key requirements" for a bill from the legislature include:

have protections in place to keep adolescents from buying;

feature taxes modest enough to keep prices low, and hence put black-market sellers out of business;

provide tax revenue to expand addiction prevention programs;

strengthen existing DUI laws;

and finally, ban the sale of edible marijuana products that have proven vexing in Colorado and elsewhere, at least until the state can figure out how to regulate them properly.

Not a bad list, although the "modest" taxation thing runs counter to the "provide tax revenue" goal; any tax significant enough to raise a chunk of money is probably significant enough to keep the black market going.   There will probably be a lot of jockeying for special favors in whatever bill comes out of the legislature, but it will be interesting to see what emerges.

January 8, 2016 in News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Libertarian Prez Candidate Supports Legalization (Again)

AFormer New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who ran for president as a Libertarian in 2012, says he’s running again.  The Daily Caller is excited:

His entrance is undoubtedly a game-changer for the marijuana policy discussion, as he represents the most permissive approach to marijuana so far. Rather than simply opposing the drug war or maintaining that the federal government should not interfere with state legalization policies, Johnson is the only candidate to come out and say that marijuana should be legal on the federal level.

Actually, I’m kind puzzled why the Governor’s entry is a "game changer," since (a) he was the Libertarian nominee in 2012, and (b) haven't pretty much all Libertarian Presidential candidates been in favor of legalization since 1970 or so?

Still, this could potentially be a problem for Republicans trying to win this November, and also for the legalization movement. How? Well, if Rand Paul is the GOP nominee, Govenor Johnson could siphon enough of the pro-marijuana vote in swing states to throw the election to Hillary Clinton.

January 7, 2016 in Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Has First MMJ Dispensary; Patients Still to Come

AThe first medical marijuana dispensary in New York opened, as promised, with a ribbon-cutting this morning.  The Gothamist web site has the story, and a very nice photo essay on what the place looks like.  Check it out.

    New York City's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Manhattan today at 212 East 14th Street, though it's unclear when it will actually start serving patients, as none had an appointment today. Thus far there are 150 doctors registered to provide patient certification in the state's medical marijuana program, and 51 patients have been certified, according to the Department of Health. There's no word yet on how many of those doctors or patients are in the New York City area.

    A registry ID card is required to get past the entryway of Columbia Care, located just off Union Square, and spokespersons at the opening this morning could not speak to whether any patients have successfully made appointments.

    The dispensary is cash-only and does not take insurance, as no plan currently covers medical marijuana. According to Columbia Care reps, patients will pay between $100-$300 in cash each time they pick up a new monthly prescription of tinctures, oil for vaporizing, or capsules. Smokable and edible forms of marijuana are prohibited under New York's law.

    Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who attended the dispensary's ribbon cutting, said she hopes the state's dispensaries will eventually take insurance:

    “I’ve known many people who have been ill with HIV/AIDS, and over the years, they have — illegally at the time — have used marijuana that they purchased illegally. It solved their pain problems. I saw it with my own eyes, with very, very close friends.  We all look forward to having more dispensaries in the state, and insurance, because people have to pay now. But this is a very good beginning."

    There are security cameras in nearly every corner of the dispensary, as well as outside. The exterior security cameras are equipped with image-recognition and loudspeaker capabilities, meaning they can identify when someone standing outside the storefront is not an employee and ask them to stop loitering.

    But conducting any sort of heist would be quite a feat: Columbia Care is comprised of a series of rooms, each of which requires the presentation of a registry ID card to enter, and the THC products are locked up in staff-only restricted areas (and were not on view during the opening today).

    The dispensary is by appointment only, but will likely not be able to announce when it serves its first patient, due to privacy concerns. Columbia Care is currently the only medical marijuana dispensary in the city, but more are expected to open in Queens and the Bronx.

January 7, 2016 in Business, Medical Marijuana, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Shocker: Denver Weed Businesses Increasingly Foisted Onto Poor Areas

Marijuana businesses, with their associated smells, traffic, and crime, are not being located in affluent white residential areas. 
That's according to a piece this week in the Denver Post.  Rather, they're being zoned into commercial and industrial areas which is where poor people and minorities disproportionately reside.  The Post has an interactive map, a snapshot of which is above.

    The Denver Post used a city database of more than 600 marijuana business licenses to examine where industry growth has occurred and which neighborhoods faced the biggest transformations.

    Facilities that grow recreational pot have concentrated along the I-70 corridor to the north and the Santa Fe Drive and I-25 corridors to the south, in neighborhoods where residential and light industrial areas mix.

    Other marijuana-related businesses — medical dispensaries, retail outlets and marijuana-infused-product factories — have pocketed along thoroughfares such as Colfax Avenue, Federal Boulevard and Broadway, the analysis shows, and the neighborhoods that surround them.

    "Many low-income neighborhoods are next to industrial sites. That’s just the lay of the land," said Charlie Brown, a former Denver city councilman who led committees that studied and recommended rules on where the businesses could go. "To change the rules today is tricky."

    Neighborhood residents and business leaders say they’ve been concerned since the beginning that Colorado’s new marijuana industry would settle into their backyards and that communities of color and lower incomes would see a disproportionate share of those businesses.

    "You would think we’ve borne our fair share already," said Candi CdeBaca, a member of the Cross Community Coalition in Globeville and longtime resident there. Her home — in the family since her great-grandfather — faces a large marijuana grow operation.

So zoning drives unpleasant uses into poor neighborhoods and away from rich ones?  Who could have seen that coming?

January 7, 2016 in Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Judge Nixes Cannabis Credit Union Appeal

AA proposed cannabis credit union in Colorado lost another round this week.  U.S. District Judge Brooke Jackson threw out a lawsuit by Fourth Corner Credit Union challenging the Federal Reserve's refusal to issue a "routing number" to the FCCU.  Without a routing number, FCCU cannot access the federal check-clearing process and can't function as a credit union.  The Denver Post has details of the decision.

While I haven't seen the opinion, the ruling was hardly unexpected.  As Judge Jackson apparently noted, selling marijuana is a federal crime, handling marijuana deposits and using the banking system for marijuana profits is a separate crime ("money laundering"), and thus the Federal Reserve had no obligation to help further the NCCU's.

The decision leaves cannabis businesses in the banking limbo they've been in since quasi-legal marijuana sales began a decade ago.   But until the Obama Justice Department moves to reschedule marijuana, or Congress changes the law, it's hardly likely that the Federal Reserve (or the National Credit Union Administration, which FCCU is also suing) will change the rules to allow illegal businesses to use the banking system.




January 7, 2016 in Banking, Federal Regulation, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Details of Proposed Georgia MMJ Bill Announced

A A Georgia legislator has announced details of a new bill he plans to introduce Monday, when the new legislative session starts.  State Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) made the announcement on an Atlanta television station.

    On Monday, Peake will begin to introduce new legislation that builds on House Bill 1 which passed in 2015. "We're treating it like medicine which is the way it ought to be treated," said Peake. The representative is pushing for more patients to have access to medical cannabis, and to allow for highly regulated medical marijuana to be grown in the state.

    Currently only eight diseases and illnesses are on the list of approved conditions to qualify for medical cannabis in Georgia.

    In the new legislation, Peake aims to add Alzheimer's, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Aids, Tourette's syndrome, and intractable pain. Intractable pain will be the most controversial because it will allow the greatest number of patients to have access to cannabis.

    Currently, there are 465 patients on the medical marijuana registry in Georgia.

    As part of the legislation, Peake is also pushing for a limited number of licensed growers to provide the state's patients with medical cannabis. Peake foresees anywhere from two to six licenses being issued depending on a number of qualifying factors.

    According to the bill, marijuana would be grown and dispensed to patients in the same location to attempt to keep the product from ending up in the wrong hands."We'll have a seed to sale tracking system too on any plant from the moment it's put in the ground to the moment when it's dispensed, law enforcement will be able to track that product," said Peake.

    Dosage and actual administration will be controlled by an on-site pharmacist.

    Currently, patients in Georgia on the approved medical marijuana registry have to buy their cannabis oil in other states where in state cultivation is legal.

    The medical cannabis currently allowed in Georgia can only be of the low THC variety. Peake would like to strip away the THC limits and allow doctors and pharmacists to prescribe medicine based on need.The bill would also allow patients to administer the product through vaporization."This is the logical next step for our citizens. We brought our medical refugees home let's keep them here and let's keep providing an option for hurting citizens as well too," added Peake.



January 7, 2016 in Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Should we expect any major federal marijuana reform developments in 2016?

ADoug Berman asks that question over at Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform.  My answer is the same as his.  No.  Here's his quick take:

But while 2016 could prove historic for marijuana reform on the state level, I am inclined to predict that this year could well be a huge nothingburger on the federal front.  Absent some unexpected developments, I would be shocked if an essentially lame-duck President Obama or his Department of Justice will see any reason to significantly alter its present Cole-memo, leave-the-states-mostly-alone prosecutorial policies.  And though there are lots of marijuana reform proposals and bills kicking around Capitol Hill, I have no reason to believe or expect any leaders in either the House of the Senate have any real interest in moving any marijuana bills forward (or even having hearings on the topic).  

He's hoping he's "missing something" in that assessment, but I don't believe he is.  I don't see anybody at the federal level moving to do anything this year.

The Administration?  President Obama has had seven years to start the process of rescheduling cannabis, and has shown absolutely no interest in doing it.   Given that he's spending his last year doing a victory lap of world capitals and top golf courses (and spending whatever political capital he has left on making it harder for people other than drug lords and gangbangers to get guns), it's hard to see him suddenly get interested.  Attorney General Lynch is an old-line drug warrior whose troops are still busy denying that Rohrabacher-Farr amendment limits them from prosecuting medical marijuana growers.  Think she'll suddenly see the light?

Congress?  It's an election year, which means that despite lots of promises to various constituent groups, virtually nothing will get done.

The presidential candidates?  On the Democratic side, Hillary is an old drug warrior who had eight years as First Lady, eight in the Senate, and four as Secretary of State to do something about it, and has never made the slightest attempt to do anything.  Sure, for enough money she'd come out in favor of it, but compared to investment banks and Silicon Valley, the marijuana industry is small potatoes.  As for Bernie, he'd probably support it as President, but he doesn't seem capable of even talking about any issue that isn't out of Class Warfare 101.

On the GOP side, many of the candidates are conservative drug warriors who are philosophically opposed to legalization.  Of the others, I suspect that they took note of the huge boost that coming out for legalization did not give to Rand Paul.  The number of Republic primary voters whose choice will depend on the candidate's position on marijuana is probably somewhere between "almost none" and "zero."  And in the general election, issues like immigration, the Islamic State, Obamacare, North Korean hydrogen bombs, and Hillary's record will trump (no pun intended) minor stuff like marijuana.  Again, enough campaign cash could change that, but it's hard to see how the industry could come up with enough to make it worthwhile. 

So I'm even less optimistic than Doug.  Of course, if Rand Paul does win the Republican nomination, and a brokered Democratic convention gives us Rocky de la Fuente, things might change.

January 6, 2016 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Legislation, News, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marijuana and the Rise of "Executive Federalism"

AOne of the legacies of the Obama Administration is likely to be the degree to which Congress gets increasingly excluded from national policy making. The marijuana legalization situation is an obvious example, where a statute overwhelmingly passed by Congress has been seriously undercut by Administration policy makers without any serious attempt to get the law amended.

In a forthcoming paper in the Virginia Law Review, Executive Federalism Comes to America, author Jessica Bulman-Pozen (Columbia Law) uses the Administration’s changes in federal marijuana policy as an example of a broader trend that involves a wide range of fields, including health care, environmental law, and education. According to Bulman-Pozen, presidents today find it more difficult to get Congress to enact legislation that they favor, and thus have an irresistible urge to bypass legislation in favor of executive action in cooperation with like-minded states. "[I]ntead of Congress shaping national policy and state-federal relations," she writes, "state and federal executives craft national policy, looking to state sources of authority." In the field of marijuana, for example:

Without an amendment of federal law, then, executive federalism has transformed national drug policy. States have taken the initiative, by adopting new state laws and establishing novel regulatory apparatuses, but negotiations between state and federal officials over the enforcement of state and federal law have ultimately determined the contours of today’s drug law. Such executive federalism has allowed for differences among the states even in the context of the federal Controlled Substances Act: as a matter of federal as well as state law, marijuana today is effectively legal for recreational purposes in four states, legal for medicinal purposes in nineteen additional states, and illegal in the remaining states.

The author finds some merit in this approach, which she notes reflects the current approach used in the European Union, in which policy is set by negotiation among states rather than by an elected assembly. This has, she notes, the advantages of less transparency and more room to horse trade rather than attempt to reach "grand" solutions in Congress.

I suspect that the appeal of this approach will differ depending on how much one likes the current president's agenda -- President Obama's precedents could be a blueprint for later inhabitants of the White House.  Trump or Cruz, anyone?


January 6, 2016 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colorado Cops Still Running Marijuana Sting Operations

ADespite the legal market, Colorado law enforcement is still keeping busy arresting marijuana offenders.  CBS-TV Channel 4 in Denver reports that police are using social media advertisements for illegal weed in sting operations targeting buyers:

    The Internet social media websites have become a high-tech marketplace for drugs. On Instagram one post reads, “Place your order today, gets shipped out before 8 a.m.”

    It was Facebook where Denver police say 26-year-old Sean Edelson responded to a picture placed by them in a well-planned sting. It was a photo of a marijuana grow with the words, “Getting close to peak!! Taking orders now!!”

    The reply, police claim, from Edelson was, ‘I’m the type of person that will take everything, every time.”

    A meeting was then arranged at a Denver restaurant. Court documents allege $64,000 in cash was shown by Edelson to an officer as payment for 36 pounds of pot. Edelson was promptly arrested.

    . . .

    He now faces charges in a case which highlights how law enforcement is using social media to crack down on e-commerce in drugs.

    Gordon Coombes is a former Larimer County Sheriff’s Office drug investigator who would go undercover on the Internet to bust drug dealers.

    “If they wanted to know who I was they could search social media that would confirm my character,” Coombes told CBS4.

    On Craigslist CBS4 has shown there are plenty of ads for marijuana sales on the black market. But what those responding to the ads now don’t know is if they have been placed by police.

The defendants will likely argue entrapment, but that's going to be a hard sell given current law. 

The story is a good reminder that legalizing marijuana does not mean that law enforcement won't be arresting people for marijuana.  It just means the arrests will be for cheating the state of out marijuana taxes instead of for merely possessing it.


January 6, 2016 in Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Medical Marijuana Hits Big Apple Thursday

It only took 18 months, but New York's first medical marijuana dispensary is slated to open Thursday.   That's according to an email sent out yesterday by a New York Health Department spokesman.

Columbia Care,  a big nationwide MMJ provider apparently plans to open its Union Square facility at 14th Street and Third Avenue in NYC.  From the company's web site:

Columbia Care Logo    “No joints, no cookies, no brownies — nothing of that sort,” said Ari Hoffnung of Vireo Health of New York.

    The marijuana will be distributed in the form of capsules, liquid cannabis, and vaporizers — using oil to replace rolled joints. That is the law, according to Hoffnung, whose company is preparing to open a business in Queens and in White Plains.

    “People are not going to be served by bud-tenders like in Denver, Colorado, but by licensed pharmacists,” Hoffnung said.

    The first business in the city to open would be here on 14th Street and Third Avenue just east of Union Square — possibly as early as Thursday. Its chief executive officer touted the benefits of the product.

    “Medical marijuana has been shown to be more effective treating a myriad of illnesses in comparison to standard pharmaceuticals,” said Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care.

    The development has caught the attention of people in the area.

    “Oh, we don’t need that,” one passerby said.

    “There’ll probably be lines around the block, don’t you think?” another said.

    Of the four medical marijuana businesses planned for New York City, two will be in Manhattan, one in Queens, and one in the Bronx.

    Under the New York State law, medical marijuana is to be used to treat 10 serious diseases – including, but not limited to, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and some spinal cord injuries.

    Interestingly, the business in Queens — owned and operated by Hoffnung’s Vireo Health, will be providing cannabis products that are kosher. They will be certified by the Orthodox Union and their rabbinic inspectors, Hoffnung said.

    “No gelatin. We only use natural oils like coconut oils,” Hoffnung said. “We are fully natural and kosher, and proud of it.”

January 5, 2016 in Medical Marijuana, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Police Officer Caught Exporting Weed to Pennsylvania

ABlack markets always breed official corruption, example 7,251:

    A deputy sheriff who works for an anti-narcotics task force in Northern California found himself swept up in a $2 million marijuana arrest in Pennsylvania last week. The authorities are now trying to determine if any of the cases he worked on have been tainted.

    According to a criminal complaint, Christopher M. Heath [pictured left], the deputy, and another man, Tyler Long, 31, drove across the country to deliver more than 122 packages of marijuana to a person in West Manheim Township, Pa.

    But investigators had been tipped off, and they stopped the car at around midnight on Dec. 28. The pair were arrested, along with a third man in another vehicle, identified as Ryan J. Falsone, 27.

    In addition to the marijuana and $11,000 in cash, the authorities found Deputy Heath’s badge and his duty firearm, David Sunday, the York County chief deputy prosecutor, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

    The Pennsylvania officers did not know before the arrest that Deputy Heath, 37, worked in law enforcement, he said

January 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weed prices kept on droppin' 'til it was like we were gettin' robbed . . .

Marijuana FarmIn the long run, a commodity crop cannot regularly sell for much more than what it costs to grow.  Basic economics is now catching up to both the legal and illegal marijuana markets.  Two stories this week show things getting better for users and worse for drug cartels.

First, in Washington state a glut of marijuana has prices falling faster than gasoline at the Texas pump.  (Which is $1.56 this morning in Johnson County.)  The Longview (Wash.) Daily News reports they’ve fallen so far, in fact, that legal weed is now no more expensive than the illegal street variety—down to just a third of the price last July and as low as $7 a gram. And with another 200 licensed dispensaries due to open in the months to come, prices may drop even farther.

Meanwhile, wholesale prices South of the Border are also crashing to the point that some growers are thinking about giving up cannabis horticulture.   According to a recent Los Angeles Times piece, Mexican marijuana farmers in Sinaloa are seeing profits tumble from $100/kg to $30/kg over the past four years.

Today's prices, though, are still probably much higher than they'll be once big corporate farms under contract to Cargill or Archer-Daniels-Midland are able to get involved, and after retailers like Wal-Mart start hammering producers on prices.

Post title courtesy of Bruce Springsteen.

January 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida MMJ Licenses Raise "Serious Questions" of Improper Influence and Self-Dealing

 by John Montgomery

Last November, five Florida nurseries were selected to cultivate and distribute legal marijuana.  This allows the sale of the non-euphoric strains to treat patients with seizure disorders and cancer.  Sales of medical marijuana by these nurseries will begin around June of 2016.

Florida FlagThe five approved nurseries were selected based on their geographical location in the state: Costa Nursery Farms (Miami), Alpha Foliage (Homestead), Knox Nursery (Winter Garden), Hackney Nursery (Tallahassee), and Chestnut Hill Tree Farm (Alachua).

The favored nurseries were chosen from a pool of 28 applicants by a panel of three state reviewers, based on rules created by a panel that included five growers.  It turns out, however, that four of the growers who set the rules — Costa, Hackney, Chestnut Hill, and Knox — managed to get selected as winning applicants. 

And that's a problem.  Taylor Patrick Biehl, whose consulting firm represented three applicants, stated that the awards to the insider firms raise “serious questions about improper influence and self-dealing.” 

He's right.  States need to go about regulating the cultivation of marijuana in an open and transparent manner that shows people that the process is fair and not tainted by self-dealing.  The situation in Florida is akin to the crony capitalism that Ohio voters rejected with its No vote to legalize marijuana.  The people, while supporting legalization, voted against the back room dealing and the greedy special interests who wanted to set up an insider marijuana oligarchy.  Florida should have taken note from the outcome in Ohio.  Florida's approach in picking winners and losers is pandering to the big corporate nurseries, and disregarding smaller, independent growers.

A better option would be for Florida to open its own marijuana nurseries, and cultivate the plant itself until the free market takes over the task.  This way the state, for the time being, can have total control of the medical marijuana production.  After the state has had adequate time to figure out and perfect the process of growing marijuana, distributing the product, and formulating policies regulating the growing of medical marijuana, then the free markets should take over.  This government-controlled to free market-controlled transition would be less corrupt than having the state pick and choose its economic winners and losers in a smoke filled room.

John Montgomery is a 3L at the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth.

January 5, 2016 in Drug Policy, Medical Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)