Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Crossing the Canada–United States Border: Business Travelers Might Need Training on What Not to Say

AaaBusiness travelers crossing the Canada–United States border should be mindful of what they say to immigration authorities. Canada legalized recreational marijuana use and cultivation this month.

Under the Cannabis Act, adults are allowed to possess, carry and share with other adults up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. They will also be permitted a maximum of four homegrown marijuana plants per household in most provinces. However, the substance is still illegal under federal law in the United States. If an immigration authority suspects someone at the border of illegal activity, which includes possession of marijuana in the United States, the authority may stop the person and refuse entry.

Stefanie Di Francesco, a Canadian employment attorney at McMillan LLP, reports that companies that require employees to regularly cross United States-Canada border would benefit from specific training for those employees regarding how to handle port of entry questioning with immigration authorities.

Both Canadian and American immigration authorities at the ports of entry , she notes, must assess whether a traveler is admissible for entry, which includes assessing whether a traveller is criminally inadmissible. According to Di Francesco:

“Generally, a traveller is considered to be criminally inadmissible to Canada if the person was convicted of an offence in Canada, or was convicted of an offense outside of Canada that is considered a crime in Canada, or committed an act outside of Canada that is considered a crime in the country where it occurred and would be punishable under Canadian law.

A traveller is considered to be criminally inadmissible to the United States if the person violated any law or regulation of any state, the federal government, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, which includes cannabis and cannabis related products. As in Canada, an actual conviction for a crime is not required for a traveller to be found inadmissible. Admitting to the essential elements of an American crime will render a person criminally inadmissible to the United States even if that conduct is legal in Canada.”

As with any law enforcement matter, a traveler’s experience may vary depending on the officer. It should be noted that immigration authorities employed by the United States government are required to enforce federal law, especially with respect to illegal drugs. However, according to Di Francesco, “[U]nless there is directive from the federal government, travelers’ experiences may vary significantly depending on the particular officer responsible for reviewing their status at the port of entry.” In the case of business travelers, it is best not to take chances. Not only is a business traveler likely a valuable member of a company’s team, they also represent the company and affect the company's reputation even outside of normal work parameters. For this reason, it is advisable that such business travelers know how to handle any situation that could arise at the border due to new cannabis laws.

For example, an immigration authority could simply ask, “Have you ever used marijuana either prior to or following its legalization in Canada?” Given the agent’s broad latitude for decision-making at the border, if the traveler answers yes, the admission could be used as a basis to determine that they are inadmissible. Not surprisingly, there are risks for those employed in Canada’s cannabis industry. Authorities can question a business traveler about the purpose of their proposed entry, their employer’s business, and whether the traveler has aided in the production or sale of cannabis as part of their employment. The answers given could be viewed by an officer as providing a basis for a finding of inadmissibility.

Di Stefano advises employers whose businesses rely on cross border travel to draft clear employment policies to address requirements around cannabis use for employees who travel internationally on business; ensure employees are adequately prepared for port of entry questioning, which may include conducting training on best practices; and include contractual provisions in employment agreements concerning termination where international travel is required and the employee is found inadmissible to the United States (or another country).

--Kindal Wetuski

November 1, 2018 in International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Recreational Marijuana, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Q&A: Officer Jane Doe on Handling of Marijuana Possession

AaaI recently interviewed police officer Jane Doe to get her take on how her police department and the greater Dallas County area handles illegal marijuana usage.  Officer Doe thought it would be easier to be candid if should could speak without attribution.

Whether there are policies in place at the local level, whether there are “unwritten rules” on how to handle marijuana, if she has seen changes on how marijuana usage is handled throughout the years, her opinion on allocating police resources towards illegal marijuana usage, and her thoughts on the future of marijuana in the criminal sphere.  

Jane Doe has been working for the department for several years. She started off as an emergency dispatcher and transitioned into becoming a police officer. Due to her roles in the police department, she had the opportunity to see how other police officers handled marijuana related cases, see any changes made on a wide-spread level, and has practiced those regulations as an officer herself.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your background and what got you interested in becoming a police officer?

A: I have always wanted to be a police officer. I grew up in Pleasant Grove [a neighborhood in Dallas, Texas; an area with one of the highest crime rates in the country and full of drug dealers]. I saw how often people would slip through the cracks or just were not given a fair chance as well as bad people who wanted to cause harm so I wanted to do something on a local level to help. Becoming a police officer was a method to help keep the streets safe from actual bad people but also help those that just made a mistake and need a kick in the right direction. Too often the police officers working in high crime rate areas do not understand the issues people face and have difficulty building a relationship with the community.

Q: During your training to become a police officer was there any focus on dealing with marijuana users?

A: Minimal, the training focused on the difference of driving under influence and driving while intoxicated. Substances would be more subjective tests – eyes, smell, speak, stuff like that. When dealing with marijuana, the officer has more discretion on whether fines, arrests, or sobriety tests are performed. Dallas County has more lenient rules for marijuana.

Q: Was there anything different about your marijuana training compared to other crimes?

A: Not really; we mostly follow the same procedures for all possibilities. There are some different levels of caution, calling-in, discretion, and other procedures but there was not anything that stuck out about dealing with possible marijuana possession.

Q: Once on the job, did you find any differences in dealing with marijuana users compared to that in your training?

A: Not really, no. Of course with experience and field work all things change for the better but the training was definitely a good and accurate starting point on how to handle such calls. However, I did come in contact with a lot more marijuana possession instances than I thought I would. It is definitely not segregated to a certain class or type people as a lot of sources might make it seem. The interactions are daily; about two out of every five traffic stops, I can smell or tell that the person or someone in the car has been using marijuana or has it on them. On highway stops, it increases to about 90% of them are marijuana users; again ranged in all type of people.

Q: Do people caught with marijuana say anything or how do they address it?

A: Scared and worried; ignorance of the legal process – they do not know that just because it looks like they have been smoking weed, it still needs to be proven. Their response really has a lot to do with how officers deal with the person.

Q: How would you describe your interactions?

A: More of a personal interaction – like a friend. They react a lot more relaxed and straight forward.

Q: Any large differences on how other cops act with them, compared to yourself?

A: New officers, less experienced officers, or those sheltered growing up are awkward about their role and often it does not go as smoothly. Also seen other officers who are great in interacting with people and communicating with general public – makes the people feel comfortable.

Q: What happens when they admit to having MJ?

A: If it is a usable amount then it is an arrest but I explain to people what is going to happen (class B misdemeanor). I try to be very helpful as far as let them call their moms or spouses, whatever they need to alert someone of what is about to happen.

Q: From your experience on the job and from what you hear from other officers has the amount of marijuana users changed in the past few years?

A: People are a lot more comfortable smoking out in public or in their cars or everywhere whereas before they were trying to hide. Depends a lot on the officer – a lot of officer discretion. I always find myself asking why I should arrest someone over such a small amount when I could be arresting someone on meth or committing a violent crime.

Q: Has legalization of adult use of marijuana in other states had any impact in Texas?

A: Feel like Texas is doing its own thing regardless of other states; don’t see it changing anytime soon.

Q: Has legalization of adult use of marijuana in other states impacted how people defend their marijuana use?

A: Absolutely, for people, a lot of people do not know the laws so for example people order stuff online and don’t know it is a felony. Higher charge than a bag of weed. THC pens and gummies and all sorts of things. The FedEx security unit calls the cops if they see anything or smell anything regarding marijuana usage. We do not arrest the buyer or seller, the item is just put under a “found property report” and then people call in, mad that their item never arrived. We only arrest if the item is found on the person.

Q: Have there been any changes in orders from the chief of police on how to deal with marijuana users?

A: No, there has been no comment on it from chief of police. Our department is a lot smaller however so maybe the chief for Dallas has said something about it.

Q: Compared to other drug related offenses, how prevalent is marijuana?

A: Marijuana comes across a lot more often but partly because of smell but it is just as much of an issue as other substances. People under the influence of marijuana are a lot more relaxed and chill, easier to explain, easier to deal with because of nature of substance. Cocaine, alcohol, and crack and other substances make them a lot harder to handle because of nature of the substance. There is also the chance that whatever they used might be mixed with something else.

Q: For other substances, is there also officer discretion?

A: Yes, different because it is a lot easier to test, bigger charge, marijuana alone is its own safety code under the Health and Safety Code - a definite arrest.

Q: Do you come across a large amount of dealers?

A: No, “big time” dealers just some dude with scales and wad of money. They vary from nerdy looking kid to guy who resisted and fought officers. It’s a never know.

Q: Do you see any changes coming to how your department or police departments in general handle marijuana related crimes in the next five to ten years?

A: Probably not; I think things stay about the same in Texas. No drastic changes coming anytime soon.

 --Fernando Lira Gomez

November 1, 2018 in Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Q&A: The "Dopest" Lawyer in Town (Part 1 of 2)

Every U.S. state that shares a border with Texas has passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana -- so what does that mean for the Lone Star State?

I recently had a chance to talk to one of the lawyers on the front lines of that issue, Daniel Mehler, of Dallas's Roper & Mehler. Mehler, a former Coloradan, decided to become a lawyer when Colorado began moving towards legalizing medical marijuana. He planned to help companies start up in the industry. At graduation, Mehler found that the Colorado legal market had plenty of big names focusing on marijuana. So, not wanting to work long hours for little pay with one of those law offices, he moved to Texas, a business-friendly state, and here he waits, gaining cannabis expertise, ready for the day that Texas jumps on to the legal marijuana train trudging through the country.

Here, the self-proclaimed "dopest lawyer in town" talks about his front-row seat to what's happening.

Ashley Goldman:  Have the numbers of citations and arrests for possession of marijuana increased as the bordering states have legalized medical marijuana?

Daniel Mehler: I'll tell you, in the Panhandle, there's been an absolute explosion of felonies, penalty group two felonies, involving THC concentrates and edibles. Those have just rapidly multiplied. While down in Austin, and obviously you’ve seen it in Dallas, as well San Antonio and Houston, they've moved in the complete opposite direction with small cannabis offenses–decriminalization.  A Houston district attorney ran on a legalization platform and got elected. They don't even prosecute misdemeanor pot anymore.

AG: So, it is more the state-border cities that are having problems?

DM: You see it in West Texas. I wouldn't say they're having a problem. I think cannabis has always been there, there's just a massive flood of concentrates moving in through all of the [state] border towns. The border counties–those poor, rural districts–and those out in West Texas jump all over it as a profit center. They see an opportunity to arrest people for a felony and get them on several years of probation or to charge them a steep fine for an alternative offer, some $5,000–7000 for a pre-trial diversion program. And people are scared to go into the penitentiary. I'm sure you know from your class, but lots of people don’t realize that 4 to 400 grams is a second-degree felony, so all of a sudden, those gummy bears are really serious crimes.

AG: So, Colorado’s legalization of recreational correlates to additional arrests here in Texas, versus other border states that require a medical card or other identification?

DM: Absolutely. It'd be purely speculative, but I would say that with Oklahoma’s move into the medical marijuana space, the arrests will continue to rise. Oklahoma will have one of the most wide-open medical policies in the country, a very unregulated market. They've granted 1100 business licenses and I would expect that the amount of felonies in the DFW area is about skyrocket. I think that you're going to see massive federal prosecutors in the Metroplex. You know, they’re 45 minutes from the border. People will be able to buy that shit easily. I would expect that you'll see people that have been involved and moving cannabis into Texas relocating just across the border in Oklahoma and Oklahoma become a massive source whenever it's in the game.

AG: You mentioned decriminalization of marijuana in most of the major urban areas in Texas. Do you think that with the other two border states’ [Oklahoma and Louisiana] medical markets opening up in the next few months that the decriminalization might shift a little and they may not be as lenient, especially in the DFW area?

DM: No. I think everyone recognizes that with flower, nobody gives a shit in 2018. It’s become increasingly difficult to seat the jury anywhere in the state and actually convict people on simple pot charges. In December 2016, in a San Antonio, Bexar County court, we got the first low-THC cannabis jury instruction for a Texas case. We got a not guilty in about five minutes, and not because it was about low-THC cannabis, but the jury just didn’t care. We gave them a way to acquit and they did. So, I don't think we're going to see any shift.  Where the problem is, is that people don't realize that a cookie is a second-degree felony; that vape pen is a state jail felony. These aren’t simple possession charges. People don't understand that cannabis products are treated differently than cannabis flower.

AG: Maybe you could explain that a little further, it is because the charge is based on the weight of the product?

DM: When THC is separate from the flower, it’s a charge under a separate code section. It starts as a penalty group two controlled substance. So as a result, adulterant dilutants, that is, the cookie, the entire weight of the cookie, not just the cannabis, get weighed for the charge. The actual gummy bears become the entire weight, not just the amount of the THC. Where it's really bad actually is in the cannabis-infused drinks. That 12-ounce soda only has 30 milligrams of cannabinoids, but the person ends up getting charged for 12 ounces of THC concentrate–that gets you to 400+ grams, so a first-degree felony.

AG: So that's definitely something that people who are wanting to risk it and bring it across the border need to keep in mind.

DM: It's something they need to keep in mind, but let's not kid ourselves, I don’t how attuned you are to the black market in Dallas, but that’s the risk premium. That makes that $8 gram of shatter (aka wax, dabs) in Denver worth $50.00 on the street in Dallas.

AG: So, there is a large black market for some of the other products, besides the flower?

DM: There’s a massive black market. It would it be purely speculative, but I would say hundreds of millions of dollars just in DFW alone in the concentrate market. I mean you can get an ounce in Colorado recreationally for about $300, take it to Dallas, and sell it for $1,400 if you sell it as 28 individual grams. With that profit gradient, you’re never going to stop people from doing that. And the reality of it is, an ounce of concentrate is small and relatively easy to conceal.

AG: Is Texas fighting a losing battle in trying to keep “legal” marijuana out?

DM: Absolutely. The reality of it is, the cannabis is already here but the Texas money is going out of state. Unfortunately, it's going out of state for black market channels. Texas consumers statistically consume more weed than anybody else and that's not going to change. What we see is quality continues to increase. South Texas used to be dominated by imported Mexican brick schwag weed [i.e., low-quality marijuana usually dry and brown]; it effectively doesn't even exist anymore. As prices have plummeted in Colorado, you see commensurate price declines in Texas on the flower side. With the concentrates, because of the risk premium with the felony prosecution, those prices have really stayed pretty steady. But as prices of flower have plummeted to where you can buy it at $90.00 an ounce in Denver, where it used to be $350.00 an ounce for good flower in Dallas, you can now pay for airfare and go buy your own for that price. Now prices have plummeted and Texas is awash with California, Colorado, and Oregon grown cannabis.

AG: What about DWI or DUI Charges? Are you seeing increased prosecution for individuals accused of driving high? Is there any difference based on region? 

DM: There are pockets in the state with increased prosecutions, like up in Wise County. They seem to ask everybody that they arrest with marijuana coming down [Highway] 287 when the last time they smoked was. We're seeing a spike in prosecutions for DWI for marijuana.  The problem with DWI on marijuana is there's no science to back any of it up, whereas, there's actually validated science that alcohol impacts everybody the same way. Everybody will exhibit the same physical manifestations of intoxication at a given level of alcohol in their system. Marijuana doesn't work the same. A casual smoker, consuming the same amount of THC, will get a lot more intoxicated than an everyday smoker, smoking the exact same product. Also, when you get into measuring intoxication there is a problem in that physical manifestations are different based level of metabolites. The only thing we can test in the blood to get an actual [measurement of cannabinoids in someone’s system] are metabolites that are pharmacologically inactive. The science of THC shows that peak intoxication happens literally just minutes after your last hit if you're smoking it.

AG: So, before it does get metabolized and stored in fat cells or whatever else?

DM: Yeah. In Colorado, they have started studying the link between metabolites and impairment, for instance, a five nanogram per liter of blood per se limit. Well, the vast majority of your medical cannabis users in Colorado are already above that when they wake up in the morning before they even spark their first flame.

AG: That seems like one of the major downfalls of trying to have any enforcement, but a really good opportunity for scientists to get in there and figure out a way to measure it.

DM: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has already funded studies. You're seeing a move in that direction. They want to validate [the science] so they can prosecute. But then, there's actually a study that said marijuana smokers are less of a threat than alcohol users because marijuana smokers are actually cognizant of their impairment and take compensatory measures. As a result. Generally, stoners don't get emboldened by being stoned.

 Continued at [link to part 2]

October 30, 2018 in Business, Edibles, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Adult Use Marijuana Legalization Leads to Increased Auto Accidents?

DrivinghighMarijuana is so much safer than alcohol . . . ... or is it?

Despite the common argument presented by advocates of marijuana, the U.S. News & World Report recently published an article describing a study that outlined statistics of auto accidents in legal marijuana states versus their neighboring prohibition states. Researchers found an increase in auto accidents in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use:

An analysis of insurance crash claims show that accidents are up by as much as 6 percent in in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared to neighboring states where recreational marijuana is not legal. Another analysis of police accident reports in Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw a 5.2 percent spike in accidents in those states, again compared with neighboring states.

As the 2018 midterm elections approach, and hot on the tail of Canada's marijuana market kickoff, author Claire Hansen warns that states considering marijuana legalization should consider the correlation between auto accidents and marijuana legalization. While Hansen acknowledges that there is no direct link between marijuana use and auto accidents, she seems to agree that the correlation is concerning, to say the least. 

An analysis of insurance crash claims show that accidents are up by as much as 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared to neighboring states where recreational marijuana is not legal. Another analysis of police accident reports in Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw a 5.2 percent spike in accidents in those states, again compared with neighboring states.

The studies were conducted by the Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. President of theHighway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute, David Harkey, urges that allocation of tax revenues should account for the potential increase in auto accidents post marijuana legalization.

"If you're considering this in your state, if you're a legislator, you need to pay attention to what may be on the horizon in terms of road safety," Harkey says.

The studies highlight the challenge of measuring and enforcing marijuana impairment, Harkey says. Researchers controlled for differences in driver population, weather, unemployment and the mix of urban and rural roads. But while alcohol impairment is easily measured through a driver's blood alcohol concentration and limits are codified into law, there's no equivalent for marijuana use. And though alcohol impairment is generally prevalent at night, roadside survey work found drivers impaired by marijuana at all times of day. 

All of the results point to a need for proactive intervention and awareness from both legislators and the public, Harkey says, adding that something else to consider is how the tax revenue from marijuana sales will be used. Given the studies' results, it's smart to allocate some of the funds to enforcement and intervention efforts, he says.

As Republicans plan to push for medical marijuana reform after the midterm elections, an eye toward motor vehicle safety will likely benefit states that could soon be subjected to an influx of drivers under the influence of marijuana. 

 --Ashley Goldman

October 30, 2018 in Commercial Law, Law Enforcement, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

ANALYSIS: Marijuana Justice Act (S. 1689, H.R. 4815)

AnalysisSpearheaded by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and California Rep. Barbara Lee, the Marijuana Justice Act is attempting to set the foundation, on a congressional level, for what equitable and progressive marijuana legalization should look like. 

The Senate Bill, S. 1689, was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on August 1, 2017, during the 1st Session of the 115th United States Congress. In January of this year, an identical bill was presented to the House of Representatives during the 2d Session, titled H.R. 4815, by California Representative Barbara Lee. Although the proposals have not yet garnered traction within Congress, the bills mark a progressive attitude towards legalization.

Senate Bill 1689 and House Bill 4815, both named the "Marijuana Justice Act", are a pair of identical Congressional bills that center marijuana legalization around criminal justice reform, accountability, and community reinvestment, and they represent the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Objectives

The Marijuana Justice Act, if enacted, would:

  • Remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis;
  • Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests by:
  1.  Cutting federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses and;
  2. Allowing entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses;
  • Provide a process for expungement of federal convictions specific to marijuana possession;
  • Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations the right to petition the court for resentencing;
  • Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

The Text

A Bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes.

The stated purpose of the Act is to de-schedule marijuana, apportion funds, and create a “Community Reinvestment Fund”.

Section 1. Short Title

Both bills began with their titles, with the Senate bill stating: This Act may be cited as the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. The House bill has identical language, with the only amendment being the change of the date from 2017 to 2018 when the House bill was introduced.  

Section 2. De-Scheduling Marihuana

This section serves as the cornerstone for the legalization aspect of the Act.

For context, the Controlled Substances Act is the federal drug policy that places all regulated substances into one of five schedules based on the potential for abuse, current accepted medical use, and degree of physical or psychological dependence resulting from abuse of the drug. 

As quoted in the CSA, the finding for Schedule I drugs include that:

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Section 2 (a) of the Marijuana Justice Act is titled "Marijuana Removed from Schedule of Controlled Substances." The purpose of this section is to de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by striking the terms "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols", and re-designating subparagraphs within §202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812). 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (10) and 21 U.S.C. 812 (c) (17) force cannabis-related substances "marihuana" and "tetrahydrocannabinols," respectively, into schedule 1 regulated substances; therefore, by striking the terms as mentioned above, they would no longer be listed as schedule 1 substances under federal law.

Section 2 (b) of the Act, captioned “Removal of Prohibition on Import and Export”—§1010 (b) of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C 960) strikes the language that penalizes:

Any person who -

  • (1) …  knowingly or intentionally imports or exports a controlled substance,
  • (2) …  knowingly or intentionally brings or possesses on board a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle a controlled substance, or
  • (3) …  manufactures, possesses with intent to distribute, or distributes … a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana. 

Additionally, the Act would conform the following amendments to the Controlled Substances Act by striking variations of the term "marihuana" and restructuring the designations of paragraphs and subparagraphs within:

21 U.S.C. 802 (44) – Definitions

21 U.S.C. 841 (b) – Prohibited Acts, penalties

21 U.S.C. 842 (c) (2) (B) – Prohibited Acts, penalties with prior convictions

21 U.S.C. 843 (d) (1) – Prohibited Acts, penalties and terms of imprisonment

21 U.S.C. 859 (a) – Distribution to persons under age twenty-one, first offense

21 U.S.C. 860 (a) – Distribution or manufacturing in or near schools and colleges, penalties

21 U.S.C. 863 (d) – “Drug Paraphernalia” defined

21 U.S.C. 886 (d) – Payments and advances, Drug Pollution Fund

The last measure of de-scheduling marijuana would amend the National Forest System Drug Control Act of 1986 by striking the terms "marijuana and other" and "marihuana" from the act.

Section 3. Ineligibility for Certain Funds

Although this section is titled, “Ineligibility for Certain Funds” the section also provides guidelines for expungement and sentencing review.

Section 3 (a) provides definitions for terms such as “covered state,” “disproportionate arrest rate,” “low-income individual,” and several other terms cited throughout the section.

Section 3 (b) details the considerations for distributing Federal funding to states. Under the Act, if a state is determined to have a disproportionate arrest or incarceration rate for marijuana offenses, they will be deemed ineligible to receive federal funds to staff or construct a prison or jail. However, covered states will not be subject to more than a 10% reduction of funds that would otherwise go to law enforcement assistance programs, block grants, and justice assistance grant programs. Additionally, any funds not awarded to covered states will be deposited into the Community Reinvestment Fund.

Section 3 (c) requires that each Federal court issue an expunction for marijuana use or possession offenses that resulted in a conviction. Subsection (d) provides for sentencing review and states that individuals who have been sentenced and imprisoned have the right to motion the court to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lastly, subsection (e) allows individuals who have been aggrieved by the disproportionate arrest or incarcerations rate the right to bring a civil action in appropriate district courts.

Section 4. Community Reinvestment Fund

The final section of the Marijuana Justice Act establishes a "Community Reinvestment Fund" within the United States Treasury. According to the bill, deposits to the Fund will consist of funds not awarded to covered states, states that have not enacted a statute legalizing marijuana, because they have disproportionate arrest and/or incarceration rates for marijuana offenses in addition to amounts otherwise appropriated to the Fund.

Section 4 (c) outlines the uses for the funds; making them available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs by funding job training, re-entry services, community centers, and other programs and opportunities. The Act concludes by authorizing $500,000,000 to be appropriated to the Fund for each fiscal year from 2018 – 2040.

Implications

The Marijuana Justice Act is rooted in social justice and community development. While the objectives of the Act are noble and progressive, perhaps the Act is attempting to tackle too many issues at once. There has been vocalized support for federal legalization, making Section 2 of the Act the most accessible.

Additionally, expunction efforts for marijuana-related crimes have been a topic of discussion on both the West and East coasts. However, there is a likelihood that courts will get overloaded by individuals who desire to bring civil suits. In regards to the Community Reinvestment Fund, the introduction of the fund would be groundbreaking; however, it is important to realistically consider the logistics and operations of the fund, as there would need to be continuous data-collections and attention to the appropriations on a federal level. If the Act were to be passed in its entirety, it would be a victory for communities impacted by the war on drugs and individuals who have been negatively affected by the implicitly discriminatory enforcement of current marijuana laws. 

--Gianna Redeemer

October 21, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Canadian Marijuana Experiment

On October 17 Canada became the second country to legalize marijuana allowing Canadians to grow, possess, and consume marijuana recreationally. Canada expects the legalization of recreational marijuana to boost their economy, but the laws surrounding marijuana are left up to each province's experimentation. Inquirer.net reports: Canada experiment

... legalization is expected to boost the Canadian economy, generating $816 million to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter without taking into account the black market, which is expected to account for a quarter of all joints smoked in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

A $400 million tax revenue windfall is forecast as a result, with the provinces, municipalities and federal government all getting a slice.

In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis in legal dispensaries in 2018, about 15 percent of the population. 4.9 million already smoke.

Inquirer.net states that by legalizing marijuana, the Canadian federal government overturns the marijuana ban that had been in place since 1923. The federal government left the task of creating laws to regulate legal marijuana up to the individual provinces. Hence, the world gets to sit back and watch to see which province's experimental regulations work the best. The article further reports:

Several [provinces] have already said they will not fully implement the law.

For example, even though federal law will permit each household to grow up to four cannabis plants, central Manitoba and Quebec in the east say they will ban it and go all the way to the Supreme Court over the matter.

Like with alcohol and tobacco, the question of legal age also falls to the provinces. Nineteen seems to be the standard, but it is 18 in Alberta, while Quebec, whose new government will enter office the day after legalization, wants to raise the age to 21.

With regards to sales, some provinces such as Quebec will implement a public monopoly while others, including Ontario and Nova Scotia, have decided to trust the market to the private sector.

As for law enforcement, federal police will be ordered to abstain for 28 days before working, as will police in Toronto.

Officers in Montreal, however, are simply asked to not show up to work high.

Another issue for the provinces to mull over is open consumption, with Montreal deciding to impose the same rules as those for tobacco, while people in other provinces will have to light up at home.

Legalizing marijuana clearly leads to many new problems, but with each province able to conduct their own experiment concerning the laws surrounding legalization, perhaps these experiments will lead to a structure the rest of the world can implement when moving towards a greener future.

--Wyatt Hinson

October 20, 2018 in Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Local Regulation, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Despite legalization, marijuana arrest rates continue to rise

AaaWith almost half of all U.S. states having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, one would think that marijuana-related arrest rates in the U.S. would be decreasing. Not so, according to new data released by the FBI last week. Forbes.com has the story:

There is now an average of one marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds, according to a new FBI report released on Monday. The increase in marijuana arrests—659,700 in 2017, compared to 653,249 in 2016—is driven by enforcement against people merely possessing the drug as opposed to selling or growing it, the data shows.

 

Last year, there were 599,282 marijuana possession arrests in the country, up from 587,516 in 2016. Meanwhile, busts for cannabis sales and manufacturing dropped, from 65,734 in 2016 to 60,418 in 2017.

 

"At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero," Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in an interview.

 

"Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality," added NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives."

 

Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.

Marijuana-related arrests rates have historically been a major topic of debate in U.S. marijuana policy. Advocates of legalization argue that the drug is harmless, citing the lack of reported overdoses normally associated with drug use, and that legalization would actually decrease the amount of illegal drug trade that can result in violence. They state that it is unfair to group persons in possession of marijuana together with violent offenders, and that it fills our prisons with non-violent offenders, effectively ruining lives over possession of a substance that has not been found to cause physical harm of any kind.

Meanwhile, supporters of the status quo cite the unknown–and possibly unknowable–health risks associated with marijuana, including possible damage to the hippocampus, which is responsible for short and long term memory. Additionally, supporters of marijuana's current criminal status argue that it is difficult to police marijuana intoxication and that more widespread use will result in more traffic fatalities. Finally, some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, and legalizing it will not only create new weed smokers, but will also create a morality vacuum in which young people may believe that other drugs are not as harmful as they have been made out to be and begin venturing into the world of casual drug use.

For the time being, these statistics suggest that marijuana use and possession are increasing, even in states where the drug has not yet been legalized. This inherently means that the illegal drug trade is still alive and well, possibly vindicating the position of those that are in favor of federal legalization or decriminalization. However, some data has shown that even in states where marijuana has been legalized, foreign cartels are still able to sell the drug to customers, indicating that even full legalization may not be a cure to illegal marijuana trafficking. Regardless, there is a sharp outcry against the current harsh penalties for marijuana possession, and these new FBI statistics indicate that the problem is only getting worse.

 -John Robinson

October 14, 2018 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 12, 2018

British Colombia's marijuana: Not ready for legalization?

BC FlagWith the fast approaching legalization of marijuana in Canada, a British Colombia public health advisor is suggesting that the provincial government's policies will need improvement.

As have various US states, BC is now faced with the dilemma of how to handle legalization of an industry that is still in its infancy. CBC has the story:

The B.C. government's expert on keeping people safe in the consumption of recreational cannabis says getting ready for legalization on Oct. 17 is still very much a work in progress.

"What we have been saying for the past eight months is that we are building the plane as we are flying it," said Gerald Thomas, the director of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and gambling prevention and policy for the Ministry of Health.

Thomas is an academic consultant on public health as it relates to consumption of those substances.

On Friday, he participated in a panel discussion at a cannabis conference at the University of British Columbia on issues concerning upcoming legalization.

. . .

Thomas did not take questions from media afterwards, but told around 150 people in attendance that the government doesn't "have it right," when it comes to its recreational cannabis policy.

Since the majority of marijuana legalization policy has not had to stand the test of time, there is not a tried and true basis for British Colombia to model their policies on. CBC goes on to report:

Despite the work done to date, there are still unknowns such as how people seeking to use marijuana for therapeutic uses will get reliable advice in the legal recreational system.

It's also unclear what will happen to producers of products, like edibles, which aren't currently part of the recreational plan, and how police forces will deal with impaired driving and marijuana.

"Having just spent the last eight months of my life consumed by the cannabis monster, I call it, I would suggest with most of folks here that we don't have it right," said Thomas.

"We have been pushed to the wall to try and make this happen in such a short time frame."

Still he told the audience though that people in the government who are working to be ready for legalization are doing their best to get it right.

The article lastly notes that Thomas hopes the government can get marijuana policies right before parties conform to the existing structure and make the policies difficult to modify.

--Wyatt Hinson

October 12, 2018 in Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Legislation, Local Regulation, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

OPINION: Marijuana Found in Murder Victim's Apartment is Irrelevant

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 9.17.34 AMThe tragic murder of Botham Jean in Dallas, Texas attracted media attention from all over the nation. However, according to theroot.com, Texas’s own Fox4 news station focused its coverage of the murder on the marijuana that was found in the victim’s apartment after the fact. The article reports that Fox4 tweeted the "clickbait" above when the station shared its article on Twitter:

Fox4’s coverage reflects a misguided and inappropriate selection of newsworthy material.  It reflects a common technique used by the media to portray black victims of tragic incidents as being flawed, or as somehow deserving the tragedy that occurred. Here, marijuana is used as an attempt to smear the image of the victim.

As an opinion piece in the Observer points out, this is not uncommon: “In the aftermath of many shootings involving black men, reactions have fallen along partisan lines. When Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile were killed, conservative media painted them as criminal and ‘thugs.’” In the light of the tragic events that occurred, it is disappointing that the station found that a small amount of marijuana in a murder victim’s apartment want “breaking news.”

What we know about what  happened on the tragic evening of September 6th can be summarized from a report from Vox:

Botham Shem Jean, a black man, was in his own apartment in Dallas [on September 6] when Amber Guyger, his downstairs neighbor and an off-duty police officer, shot him inside his own apartment.

. . .

Jean was not accused or suspected of any crime. Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, says the shooting was an accident — the tragic culmination of a series of missed warning signs that revolve around a mistaken belief that she was in her own apartment.

According to Guyger's account, when she arrived home to the South Side Flats apartments on September 6, she didn’t realize she had gotten out on the wrong floor of her building and that the apartment she was in was not, in fact, hers. Seeing a “large silhouette” in the dark apartment, she said she thought she was being burglarized. So she shot, hitting Jean in the chest. When she turned on the lights in the apartment, she realized her mistake.

However, there are varying accounts of the stories, as “Witness accounts, however, contradict that narrative: Neighbors say they heard Guyger knocking on Jean’s door and demanding to be let in before the shooting.” 

Amid the swirl of questions, I find it extremely problematic that Fox4 news chose to focus its attention on the small amount of marijuana in Jean’s apartment. Instead of using its investigatory resources on the flurry of issues in this case, the news station chose to post an article that focused primarily on the discovery of illicit drugs. As if that is relevant at all to the tragedy that occurred in the apartment, as if marijuana makes Jean a “criminal,” and as if his “criminality” lends credence to Guyger’s account of events. It doesn’t.

As The Observer noted, many outraged Tweeters voiced their disappointment, so much so that the station changed its headline “to reflect that Jean’s family attorneys were outraged the marijuana search warrant became public. The offending tweet is still up, however.” 

To be fair, it could be said that the news station was just sharing publicly available information regarding a development in an ongoing murder investigation. That’s the job of a news station, right? While news stations have the duty to share information with the public, Fox4’s clickbait line goes too far. This was not simply sharing information with the public, it was sharing the information in a way that attempted to change the public perception of the victim. Taglines such as the one used by Fox4 distract us from the uncomfortable, but sad truth: an unarmed, black man was murdered in his own apartment by a police officer who perceived him as a threat. Did subsequently finding marijuana make him suddenly more threatening?

--Ashleigh Morgan Williams 

October 11, 2018 in Law Enforcement, Legal Ethics, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marijuana arrests increase despite legalization

Cannabis

There was a marijuana bust roughly every 48 seconds in 2017, according to data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR).

Tom Agnell, a cannabis movement veteran, analyzed the report and found that marijuana arrests continue to rise. He explains in Forbes that these arrests are due to continued enforcement on possession of cannabis. The UCR shows arrests for manufacturing and selling decreased over five thousand arrests in 2017. Law enforcement's focus on possession is apparent. Agnell's cannabis industry sources say this is a waste of resources: 

"At a time when more than 100 deaths per day are caused by opioid overdoses, it is foolish to focus our limited law enforcement resources on a drug that has caused literally zero," Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project said in an interview.

"Actions by law enforcement run counter to both public support and basic morality," added NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "In a day and age where twenty percent of the population lives in states which have legalized and nearly every state has some legal protections for medical cannabis or its extract, the time for lawmakers to end this senseless and cruel prohibition that ruins lives." 

Overall, marijuana arrests made up 40.4% of the nation's 1,632,921 drug arrests in 2017.

Mr. Agnell had similar findings from the 2016 UCR, with an increase in across-the-board drug arrests and marijuana specific arrests. The increase in marijuana arrests from 2015 to 2016 was under a cannabis tolerant Obama administration. With the current administration's opposition to cannabis reform, despite the increasing push to decriminalize on the Federal level, Agnell's data suggests this trend will continue. 

--Manda Mosley Maier

 

October 11, 2018 in Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

SEC Charges a Texas-based Investment Fund with Fraud, Warning About Marijuana-Related Investments

ShipchandlerRetail investors have officially been warned about marijuana-related securities offerings according to a press release recently issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). A Texas-based investment fund and its founder allegedly exploited investor interest in the marijuana industry by lying about high returns, and has been charged with "defrauding investors with false promises of massive returns in cannabis-related businesses."

Even though the investment fund was based in Texas, the fraudulent activity was widespread. In the complaint, the SEC alleges that, from August 2017 through at least March 2018, the investment fund and its founder "orchestrated an unregistered securities offering fraud that victimized more than 60 investors across 26 states." The founder promised massive returns, but actually misappropriated more than $3.3 million of investor funds for designer clothes, luxury cars, and payments to earlier investors to prolong the fraud scheme.

The press release quoted Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Director of the SEC's Fort Worth Regional Office, stating that "Investors must remain vigilant and not let the fear of missing out dupe them into making bad investment decisions." In an effort to warn potential scam victims, the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) and Retail Strategy Task Force (RSTF) issued an alert for investors earlier this month which stated that "[S]cam artists often exploit 'hot' industries to trick investors, including by making false promises of high returns with low risks. The OIEA and RSTF are warning investors about these kinds of investment schemes involving marijuana-related companies." The SEC's alert further provides:

"OIEA regularly receives complaints about marijuana-related investments, and the SEC continues to bring enforcement actions in this area. If you are thinking about investing in a marijuana-related company, you should beware of the risks of investment fraud and market manipulation. Fraudsters may try to use media coverage about the legalization of marijuana to promote an investment scam."

Although the victims may have believed in promises of high returns on their investments, in reality, the fund "had no track record and its sole investment of $400,000 was in a cannabis company that had yet to harvest a crop," according to the SEC press release. The complaint alleged that the investment fund and founder misrepresented that the fund "had a management team with a ten-year track record of profitably investing more than $100 million in cannabis-related businesses; (2) provided outsized returns to more than 200 investors; and (3) investors could expect a 24% annual return." 

Those who are interested in investing in a cannabis-related business should heed the SEC's advice to "ask questions and understand the risks involved. Carefully research the investment and read any recent reports that the company has filed with the SEC." Company reports can be found by searching the SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (also known as EDGAR).

--Kindal Wetuski

September 29, 2018 in Business, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Cannabis cafe coming soon to Oklahoma

With Oklahoma's changing view towards cannabis, Cannafe, a cafe in Norman, Oklahoma, plans to open soon with a line of food and beverages containing CBD. OU Daily has the story: Cannabis cafe

A new cafe will open on Campus Corner selling coffee, tea, brownies, cheesecake and other snacks  — all containing cannabis compounds.

Co-founders of Cannafe, Jim Castor and Joel Jacobs, envision the cafe as a place for students to study and relax. This will be aided by cannabidiol, known as CBD, and other molecules from the cannabis plant that can help reduce anxiety and improve focus, said Jacobs.

CBD is a cannabinoid, or a compound found in cannabis plants. However, unlike the mind-altering compound THC, also found in cannabis, CBD does not get people high and is non-psychoactive, according to Medical News Today.

...

“It doesn’t alter how you can function,” said Castor. “You can still do your job and go to work and go to school and study and relax, and it just kind of takes the edge off.”

...

The owners also want to provide a non-alcoholic space where students too young to go to bars can hang out during the daytime or between parties.

You may now be curious as to if the sale of products containing CBD is even legal in Oklahoma. Oklahoma established the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) to regulate medical marijuana (MMJ) in response to its legalization in June. However, the OMMA only regulates MMJ and does not speak to CBD products. Thus, without specific regulation against CBD products, Oklahoma tolerates the sale of these products, according to MarijuanaBreak.

--Wyatt Hinson

September 28, 2018 in Business, Edibles, Law Enforcement, Legal Education, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Amsterdam to begin experimenting with legal marijuana production

The legalization of marijuana production in Canada and a few U.S. states may soon be taking root across the Atlantic. The Dutch government will soon begin experimenting with legal marijuana production, according to CNBC.

PotAmsterdam has long been viewed as a model for the legalization of marijuana. In the 1970’s the Dutch government adopted a toleration policy for marijuana consumption. When visiting Amsterdam, it is common to see recreational use of marijuana in the many famous Dutch coffee shops that line the streets. Although tightly regulated, the Dutch government allows coffee shop customers to purchase up to 5 grams of marijuana for consumption.  

Though consumption of marijuana is allowed, producing and acquiring marijuana is not. It's illegal for coffee shops to purchase their supply of marijuana. Cannabis production is also forbidden. “This has led to an illicit market for cannabis in the Netherlands,” Stijn Hoorens, associate director at RAND Europe, told CNBC.

The prohibition on production is largely overlooked by authorities, however, it poses many difficulties for the coffee shops who must procure marijuana illegally. "The most difficult thing about having a coffee shop in the Netherlands is that it's allowed to sell it, but it's not allowed to buy it," Joachim Helms, co-owner of Green House Coffeeshops in Amsterdam and chairman of the Dutch Cannabis Retailers Association, told CNBC.

Now, as Canada and several U.S. states have legalized various schemes of marijuana production and distribution, the Dutch government has taken notice. According to CNBC, the Dutch government is planning an experiment with legal marijuana production in a handful of municipalities. But it's a small step in an increasingly growing legal weed market.

With the Dutch government actively experimenting with the legalization of production, many coffee shop owners are optimistic that the legal quagmire they continually face could soon be a thing of the past. Like Canada, they hope that Dutch companies will be allowed to produce marijuana. "To walk around in those companies and facilities for us is really a dream come true because it's growing weed in a 100 percent legal way," Helms told CNBC.

 

--Colin Heinrich

September 27, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Canada's New Cannabis Laws Create a New Border Problem?

With Canada legalizing adult-use marijuana, effective October 17, 2018, it is expected that Canadian citizens will partake in this new industry, either through consumption or investment means. While the substance may be legal in Canada, and a few U.S. states that border Canada, crossing the border could become difficult. 

CC

In an interview with The Star Vancouver, Len Sanders, a Washington based immigration attorney, explained how the federally controlled U.S.-Canada border has begun to classify those in the marijuana industry as "drug traffickers." He went on to say that this enforcement applies to people involved with the actual plant, such as growers, users, and dispensary owners, to people who have either directly invested or their investment will be used in the cannabis industry. He mentions how the CEO and two employees of Keirton Inc. (a large agriculture equipment manufacturer)  were stopped at the border and moved to a secondary location only to be told that they were banned for life from entering the United States. Keirton Inc. was not the only group to face this punishment. In an interview with the Financial Post, Sam Zneimar was banned for life simply for investing in U.S. based marijuana companies. 

 In this current administration, U.S. citizens have seen a big push for more enforcement at our Southern border and a new wave of keeping America "safe". But will the same hold true on the other side of the country? In both interviews the offending party expressed sympathy for the poor border patrol agent that was made to enforce this law. These articles both mention a civil interaction between a "drug trafficker" and a border patrol agent and an unfortunate outcome. The U.S. has yet to tweet about the "drug traffickers" that are attempting to get into the U.S. through Northern points of Entry. 

 --Loren D. Elkins

 

With the legalization efforts coming out of Mexico, it should be interesting to see how those investors will be greeted at the border.                         

September 27, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Massachusetts Cannabis Cash Finds a Home at Federal Credit Union

It's no secret that recreational marijuana is a cash cow, but until recently, retailers have had no piggy bank in which to deposit all their earnings. However, thanks to the efforts of Gardner Federal Credit Union, marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts may have found a home for their earnings. The Boston Business Journal has the story:

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The bank said Friday afternoon that it would begin banking for the industry, working with Safe Harbor Services, a
wholly-owned affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union that is the leader in compliance-based cannabis banking services.

 

“As a credit union committed to helping people and serving the underserved, we found in Safe Harbor a partner who offered a viable and proven compliant-based cannabis banking option and a way to keep our communities safe. Our board of directors recognizes the need to provide banking services for the safety of our citizens in reducing the ‘cash on the streets’ and I applaud them for their vision and commitment to providing public safety," said GFA Federal Credit Union’s CEO, Tina Sbrega.

Banking has long been a thorn in the side of recreational marijuana retailers. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, if a bank were to accept funds derived from marijuana sales, that would constitute money laundering. The resulting friction between state legalization and federal drug policy has created an business ecosystem where cash is king. Colorado marijuana entrepreneur Babak Behzadzadeh told The New York Times: "If we had bank accounts, it'd be much easier."

Safe Harbor Services began helping local banks and credit unions in Colorado accept marijuana money in 2014, serving a vital–and very profitable–role in the cannabis industry. The company has expanded its reach outside of Colorado, now offering its services to credit unions like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts. The company is able to help its customers deposit their cannabis profits "legally" by ensuring that none of the money is derived from activities specifically prohibited by the Cole memorandum, and that the banks who accepted cannabis cash were careful about what they did with it–specifically ensuring that it did not migrate outside of states in which marijuana was legal. However, with the recent rescission of the Cole memorandum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is not clear that Safe Harbor will be able to continue offering their services to financial institutions. 

Polls show that the majority of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, and 30 states have legalized the drug in some form. With this increasing momentum in favor of legalization, states have expressed an interest in allowing banks to accept money derived from marijuana sales in order to quell threats of violence and robbery to marijuana businesses, who generally carry large amounts of cash on hand. Whether the current administration will crack down on organizations like Safe Harbor and their partners like Gardner Credit Union in Massachusetts remains to be seen, but something will have to be done with all of the cash currently being generated by the marijuana industry.

 -John Robinson

September 22, 2018 in Banking, Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Finance, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Utah may soon legalize medical marijuana

Utah FlagA public event supporting legal medical marijuana organized by the Utah Patient Coalition has attracted hundreds of supporters. The bill being considered, Proposition 2, would allow patients with doctor recommendations to legally obtain medical marijuana from privately owned dispensaries. 

According to an article by Kathy Stephenson of the Salt Lake Tribune, the event included music, food trucks, bounce houses, T-shirts and lawn signs. 

Not all Utahns are in favor of the bill in its current form, though. The article explains that despite empathy for suffering children, some groups don't support Proposition 2 due to a perceived lack of sufficient procedural safeguards. 

A Dan Jones and Associates poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com, found 64 percent of likely voters to be “somewhat” or “strongly” in support of the measure.

However, several groups, including the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Drug Safe Utah Coalition — made up of medical experts, clergy, law enforcement, educators and business leaders — are opposed and say the initiative as written lacks procedural safeguards.

“We are aware of many in our neighborhoods who seek relief from pain and suffering and are moved with empathy by stories of children who endure debilitating seizures and other medical conditions," said Marty Stephens, the church’s director of community and government relations. “The church supports medicinal use of marijuana, so long as proper controls and safeguards are in place.

“In the spirit of compromise,” he added, "we urge a timely, safe and compassionate approach to providing medical marijuana for those in need without the harmful effects that will come if Proposition 2 becomes law.”

The upcoming elections in November will show whether events like this are enough to sway the voters of Utah to become the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana. 

--Alex Bennett

September 22, 2018 in Decriminalization, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Canadian pot investors face potential US entry problems

AaaMarijuana will soon be legal in Canada, but is still illegal in the United States.  This means that those who are involved in cannabis businesses in the Great White North may find themselves running into trouble at the U.S. border as they attempt to enter the country.

Over at MarketWatch, reporter Jeremy C. Owens runs down some of the issues:

Todd Owen — a senior officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, overseeing border operations — told Politico in an interview published Thursday that border agents would still seek to permanently ban any foreign visitor who admits to working or investing in the cannabis industry, or admits to have taken the drug, even after recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.

MarketWatch confirmed that stance in an email exchange with a CBP spokeswoman, who said investors could face a permanent ban from entering the U.S.

“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law,” spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said in a statement.

In a follow-up exchange, Malin confirmed that investing in publicly traded marijuana companies, including those traded legally on U.S. exchanges, is considered “facilitation” of illicit drug trade under CBP policy.

“That’s the first [time] I’ve actually heard them say a Canadian-only enterprise is an illegal enterprise for U.S. entry purposes,” said Scott Railton, a lawyer at Cascadia Cross-Border Law in Bellingham, Wash.

. . .

Lawyers who spoke with MarketWatch said guards at the border have the freedom to ask any questions they deem fit.

”They have really absolute power, in a nutshell,” Preshaw said.

At least until the situation in the U.S. changes, those entering from Canada will have this issue.  But it would be incredibly dumb for such visitors to lie to U.S. border agents.  Investing in a marijuana business may prevent you from entering the U.S.  Lying about it will get you entry into the U.S., but as a resident of a federal corrections facility.

--Frank Snyder

 

September 15, 2018 in Federal Regulation, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Recreational Marijuana, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Crackdowns of black market operations in legalized territory are amping up

AaaOperating a dispensary without a license? Beware! Los Angeles and several other California cities are increasing efforts to stop cannabis operations that continue to operate without a license.

Officials initially issued warnings to the many perpetrators, but after many months of noncompliance, LA is now filing criminal charges against various retailers, growers, and delivery services. 

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that earlier this month, prosecutors there have charged 515 people for helping to run 105 illegal marijuana operations: 

“Our message is clear: If you are operating an illegal cannabis business you will be held accountable,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said.

It’s widely believed that Los Angeles has the world’s biggest marijuana market, and businesses have thrived for years under the state’s loose medical marijuana laws. But since the start of the year, new California laws have required all cannabis businesses to have both a state and city license to operate — licenses that can add costs to operations in the form of fees, testing requirements and hefty taxes.

The new laws also let cities regulate the marijuana industry, and many cities so far have opted against allowing such operations. Los Angeles, however, began licensing retail outlets in late January and most other types of marijuana businesses on Aug. 1. As of Friday, the city said 163 businesses have been given temporary licenses to operate.

But that represents just a fraction of the overall marijuana market, and for the past eight months, the City Attorney’s office coordinated with the Los Angeles Police Department to identify and investigate businesses that were operating without licenses. Most are retail shops, the City Attorney’s office said, but action also was also taken against marijuana growers, extraction labs and delivery services.

California and other legalized states, like Washington, and Colorado, continue to struggle with black market operations well after legalization has taken effect. In an effort to level the playing field, Los Angeles and other cannabis officials say they will take all measures necessary to crackdown on illegal operations. The 120 criminal cases recently filed in LA are intended as a loud and clear signal to all cannabis operators that they must follow the licensing regulations, or face the consequences. 

--Manda Mosley Maier

 

September 14, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Local Regulation, News, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Preventing youth access to weed: Canada's approach

Marijuana_plants_flickr

Canada's policy of allowing marijuana to be delivered legally has brought up several tough questions. According to Perrin Grauer, writing for The Star, the questions are mainly about how the government will prevent the drug from getting into the hands of minors.

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Board (BCLDB) says that a valid ID will still be required for verification purposes at the point of delivery before the cannabis is released into the customer's possession. 

The packages are also being sealed in odor-proof containers, with nondescript external packaging. The goal of these policies is to prevent recreational cannabis use from causing undue harm to children. Michael Bramwell, a Vancouver father working in law enforcement, suggested that legalization may ultimately make children safer in relation to cannabis use.

“If you’re restrictive, (kids) are gonna go behind your back,” Bramwell said in an interview in August. “Kids are still getting drunk at bush parties. Or when they do hit (legal) age, they’re going to go buck wild, and go too crazy.”

Bramwell emphasized that he does not feel as if there’s nothing to worry about. Rather, he hopes legalization will take some of the glamour of taboo out of cannabis use, and make safe, educated engagement with drugs an easier topic for families to broach.

“(The) prohibitive mindset is not the best way to handle parenting,” Bramwell said. “With anything. Including marijuana.”

Other countries considering legalization of marijuana and allowing its legal delivery may be able to look to Canada to determine whether they should use similar methods as well. 

--Alex Bennett

September 13, 2018 in Drug Policy, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

One border, two approaches

AaaThe traditional picture of the US-Mexico marijuana trade involves drug cartels bringing Mexican weed into the US.  But according to a piece from San Diego's KPBS, Mexico’s Demand For Potent California Marijuana Creates Southbound Smuggling, the flow increasingly is going the other way.

California’s cultivation of marijuana has created an unprecedented phenomenon: southbound smuggling of the drug across the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

Mexico’s demand for potent California strains is on the rise as Mexican drug cartels have mostly failed to make a competitive homegrown product.

 

“If you’re in Mexico, and you want the best marijuana out there, there’s only one place to get it,” said Matthew Shapiro, a San Diego-based attorney who specializes in marijuana. “There’s no such thing as high-quality Mexican weed.”

 

California’s initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use could further boost southbound smuggling, experts on both sides of the border told KPBS. It would make it easier for Tijuana residents with visas or dual citizenship to access California’s more potent strains — and bring it back to Mexico.

 

It’s illegal to move marijuana from the U.S. to Mexico, just as it’s illegal to move the drug from Mexico into the U.S. But it’s easier to smuggle southbound. At the San Ysidro Port of Entry, drivers can cross the border into Tijuana without ever stopping to speak with a Mexican official.

This shift in perception has become a motivating factor in the recent changes to Mexico's own drug laws, including a suggestion by a Mexican government official back in February that Mexico may consider legalization:

"Colorado, California and the other states that have legalized marijuana have in some ways put the U.S. in a really awkward position," said David Shirk, a Mexico security analyst and professor at the University of San Diego. "On one hand, we are telling our friends like Mexico we want you have to have a zero tolerance policy on illicit drugs while at the same time we have let the camel's nose under the tent when it comes to marijuana."

 

The U.S. and Mexico, both signatories of United Nations counternarcotics treaties, have cooperated in drug busts and marijuana eradication efforts for decades.

 

"There is a significant contradiction in current U.S. policy that Mexico and other countries will begin to use as a basis for modifying their own drug policies," Shirk said.

 --Loren D. Elkins

September 11, 2018 in Drug Policy, International Regulation, Law Enforcement, Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)