Cannabis Law Prof Blog

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

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 (0)

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)

Federally Approved Marijuana Research Lacking Despite Apparent Support from Attorney General Sessions

Sessions

Despite apparent support of federally approved medical marijuana research from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Wall Street Journal reports that none of the  26 applications for approval to grow marijuana for research has moved towards approval in the two years since the Justice Department began accepting the applications.   

Currently the only federally approved marijuana grow operation for research lies with the University of Mississippi which has been conducting research on marijuana since 1968.

According to the Journal, both Democrats and Republicans have penned letters urging Sessions to begin moving the applications through approval, but to no avail.  The Justice Department's failure to take any action on the 26 applications, it reports, has left both applicants and those hoping to benefit from research on the drug in a realm of uncertainty.  "'The federal government allows for multiple entities to produce controlled substances for scientific research all the time. Why should marijuana be any different?' said George Hodgin, a former Navy SEAL who started his own business, Biopharmaceutical Research Company, to conduct such research."

For now, researchers will have to wait patiently while the politics are sorted out. 

--Andrew Goodwyn

September 11, 2018 in Drug Policy, Federal Regulation, Law Enforcement, Medical Marijuana, News, Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

THC Breathalyzer Could Help Ensure Road Safety

AaaWith recreational marijuana use being legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, companies are now creating technology to aid in removing drivers impaired by THC from the roads. A California-based company, Hound Labs Inc., has designed a marijuana-breathalyzer capable of detecting THC potentially present on a driver's breath. USA Today has the full story:

When an individual blows into the breathalyzer, it can determine within a couple minutes whether there is alcohol, THC or both in the person's system. Since THC is only present in someone's breath during that peak two-hour window, the driver is considered impaired when it's detected.

The breathalyzer would then display "Warning" if THC is detected and "Pass" if it is not. 

The device "will help ensure safety on our roads and in the workplace while also promoting fairness to people who use marijuana legally and responsibly," said Louisa Ashord, marketing manager for Hound Labs in a statement. 

Implementation of these devices would provide officers with an objective standard to test drivers and detect recent marijuana use that may lead to impairment. 

--Gabrielle Rennie

 

September 5, 2018 in Business, Law Enforcement, News, Recreational Marijuana | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Critics question new Canadian marijuana saliva test

-- 

The Canadian government has approved a new saliva test for drugged driving.  Not everyone seems to be happy with it, especially because it doesn't seem to really work well below about 40 degrees F.  I understand there are parts of Canada where it sometimes gets colder than that . . . .

--Frank Snyder

 

September 4, 2018 in Drug Policy, International Regulation, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Massachusetts indicts teen for drugged driving homicide

AaaA teen driver who was under the influence of marijuana when his car hit an obstruction and became airborne is facing multiple felony counts related to the deaths of four passengers in the vehicle.  The Boston Herald reports:

The driver of the car that crashed — 18-year-old Naiquan D. Hamilton of Stoughton — has been indicted for “driving recklessly and under the influence of marijuana,” Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz announced yesterday.

The teen faces four counts each of motor vehicle homicide by operating under the influence and motor vehicle homicide by reckless driving. He also faces four counts of motor vehicle manslaughter.

Hamilton, who was 17 at the time of the crash, lost control of the car and slammed into a tree just after 4 p.m. on Route 106, the DA said.

All four passengers died. . . .

. . .

“This indictment should be a lesson for others,” said [a cousin of one of the victims].  “The more we can prevent this the better our world will be. We need stricter laws, and have them enforced, for driving while high.”

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan told the Herald yesterday the Cannabis Control Commission and the state police chiefs association are “strategizing best practices” for when weed is sold legally.

“We’re training up police officers to be drug recognition experts,” Ryan said. “This will be a challenge for law enforcement.”

But the veteran chief said winning in court would be nice, but getting stoned drivers off the road is a priority.

The article goes on to note statistics that marijuana-related traffic accidents have risen sharply in Washington state in recent years.

--Frank Snyder

  

September 3, 2018 in Law Enforcement, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

California Bill Would Require the State DOJ to Review 40 Years of Marijuana-related Convictions

AaaCalifornians who have marijuana convictions on their records may soon be getting some relief.  NPR reports that a California bill, AB-1793, has passed the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the coming week.

California legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016 when voters passed Proposition 64.  That proposition applied retroactively to convictions for many marijuana-related offenses that occurred before 2016. But it did not contain provisions to enable those eligible to have such convictions removed from their record or reduced to from felonies to misdemeanors. 

AB-1793 would mandate that eligible persons be given the chance to clean up their records. In fact, the Bill requires California State Department of Justice officials to determine which cases are eligible for review and send them to the District Attorneys' office by July 1, 2019.

While the bill has received pushback from those who believe people with marijuana-related convictions should not be given a free pass, the City of San Francisco has already begun the process of expunging or reducing convictions for possession and recreational use going back to 1975. aSince people were unfamiliar with the process, a mere 23 people in the city had started the process themselves. This is not surprising, as the expunction process can be expensive and those who were affected by these convictions likely do not have the resources to pay an attorney.

Brown has a history of pardoning people who were convicted on charges concerning controlled substances and drugs. It is likely difficult for many people with a criminal record to hire an attorney to discuss the mere possibility of expunction for charges filed up to forty years ago.  By putting most of the burden on the state, AB-1793 will relieve the stress of those whose past actions would be legal today in California. . "[The] role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, "not create unneeded obstacles, barriers and delay."

--Kindal Wetuski

August 28, 2018 in Decriminalization, Law Enforcement, Legislation, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A conversation with a Dallas Police Department Sergeant

Lary Nichols is currently a Sergeant of the Dallas Police Department. Nichols, like his father and grandfather before him, was born and has lived his entire life in Dallas, Texas. He attended Lake Highland high school and had a part-time job selling cars at his father’s used car lot. Marijuana blog police

After high school, he headed to boot camp to join the Marine Corps. Because his goal had always been to become a Dallas police officer, Nichols joined the Marine’s military police to gain the necessary experience. After four years of service, Nichols left the Marines to pursue his dream. But unlike today’s standards—where recruits need to either have earned a minimum of 45 hours of college credit or have 3 years of military experience—DPD strictly required the minimum college credit then. Thus, Nichols took the requisite courses at El Centro, Dallas’s County Community College, before being admitted into Dallas’s police academy in 1992.

Upon graduation, Nichols worked full-time patrolling Southeast Dallas, until he was promoted to Senior Corporal in 1997. There, he worked with Dallas’s K-9 Unit for three years until he returned back to patrol. After four years, Nichols was promoted to Sergeant in 2004. As Sergeant, Nichols was placed in charge of one Dallas SWAT unit and has played a pivotal role in organizing the city’s security measures for large events such as marathons and protests. Currently, DPD is considering promoting Sergeant Nichols again, this time to Lieutenant.

Sergeant Nichols has been married since 1988, and has two children. His son recently graduated from Dallas’s police academy this year, following in his father’s footsteps; his daughter graduated from Texas A&M and is currently attending nursing school in Dallas.   

Q: What training regarding marijuana detection and how to handle situations involving marijuana have you experienced?

A: In 1992, when I was in the academy, they had a narcotics officer come in and teach various things about the drugs we should expect to confront on the street. This included street names, what to look for; they also did something called a “controlled burn,” which is where they burned DEA-grade marijuana, so we could recognize the smell and be better equipped to testify about it in court if we made a traffic stop and we smelt marijuana. But I think that practice ended because now everyone knows what it smells like; plus, your trainer will say “Hey, that’s marijuana” while on the street. This was followed by update-training every few years. I’ve had some outside narcotics training, which consisted of either eight or forty-hour courses to improve narcotic detection and intervention. But most of my experience has come from making arrests and testifying in court.

Q: Do you believe that the methods currently used to detect whether someone is high on marijuana are effective?

A: I don’t think enough. Although there’s a lot of training to detect people high on marijuana, there probably isn’t enough to be adequate.

Q: Would you be open to police departments adopting a marijuana breathalyzer that would measure a person’s current level of THC?

A: Yes, I would. I think that would be a great tool. Especially as we move towards more states legalizing marijuana, law enforcement needs an effective method, similar to a BAC breathalyzer, to detect whether someone is operating a vehicle under the influence.

Q: What problems do you personally perceive regarding people using marijuana?

A: I actually think the use of marijuana is less problematic than alcohol. People don’t smoke weed and go beat their wives, but they do that with alcohol. But some problems associated with marijuana are long-term. The health effects are probably worse for you than smoking cigarettes; obviously there are cancer concerns. Also, marijuana tends to dull people’s initiative and motivation. From my high school experience, there were those stoner friends who smoked a lot of weed; they weren’t go-getters. Especially if people smoke too much. Overall, I believe the health effects and dulling of people’s initiative and ambition are the biggest problems. Also, people think they can smoke and then drive, but they can’t. Their reaction times are slow; their judgement is impaired. So that’s another large issue.

Q: Do you believe marijuana is a “gateway drug?”

A: I do; especially for younger people. It’s a way for them to start using illegal drugs. They feel like “Oh, I can smoke marijuana and go to school and then wake up the next day and feel fine? Well, maybe I can do this cocaine and pills too.” Adults though have a little more maturity. Similar to having a drinking age of 21, once people are more mature they realize “Yeah, I can smoke weed, but I’m not going to jump to heroin.” But I do believe it is a gateway drug for the more vulnerable population and younger people to lead them to more addictive drugs.

Q: Do you believe marijuana should be legal in any form? Explain.

A: We spend a lot of resources and a lot of money in the criminal justice system and law enforcement on enforcing marijuana laws. But I think that money could be spent better elsewhere. I think alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana. So personally, I’m not opposed to legalizing it. But the problem I have is kids getting a hold of it. I know that’s a big problem in states that have already done so. Similar to getting older people to buy you beer here. I think marijuana is extremely detrimental to the young population. I’ve seen studies where it affects their mental and physical development. So, if it is legalized, it needs to be strictly controlled. I’m not opposed to it, and I think it will be legalized eventually because it doesn’t make sense all the time, effort, and money being spent putting people in jail. We are slowly reducing the penalties and enforcement of it. We should stop beating around the bush and just legalize, regulate, and tax it. We always talk about personal freedoms, well people should be free to do what they want. You can have an abortion and kill a baby, but you can’t smoke a joint in your own house. I think it’s kind of hypocritical; it’s similar to prohibition in the 1920s, which didn’t work at all.

Q: Do you believe your job would be easier if marijuana was legal for adults 21 and older?

A: There’s a catch 22 about that. Law enforcement would spend less time bringing people to jail for marijuana offenses, but there would be more people under the influence causing problems, so I don’t know if it would make our job that much easier. We would still have people driving impaired and stealing to get more marijuana. Especially initially after legalization, I believe there would be a lot more people using it, because believe it or not, there are people who refrain from smoking because it is illegal.

Q: In a given week, how many of your on-duty calls had some relation to marijuana?

A: I’m not in patrol right now, but back in the 1990s in Southeast Dallas, I would say probably 60-70% of what I did there involved some aspect of marijuana. Whether it was present, they were using it, or they were under the influence. So, it was consistently prevalent throughout my time patrolling.

Q: Do you believe marijuana enforcement has disproportionately impacted African Americans?

A: It probably does in a way, but ultimately, I believe it disproportionately impacts lower socioeconomic groups. Poorer people don’t tend to have private places to smoke, so they drive around or smoke in public place like the streets or in parks. This leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught by us. Whereas, someone with means and wealth will have a house or other place they can smoke where law enforcement won’t be able to catch them. Unfortunately, this is true for law enforcement in a lot of regards, not just marijuana.

Q: Which do you believe is more dangerous: marijuana or alcohol consumption?

A: In my experience, it’s clearly alcohol. If you look at traffic accidents, domestic violence, or other violent crimes, a lot of them involve alcohol abuse. Alcohol, especially in the short term, is worse. I don’t know if we have sufficiently studied the health effects of marijuana for the long term. I’ve heard there are things in marijuana that cause cancer, worse than in cigarettes.

Q: How do you think your job will be affected if marijuana is nationally legalized?

A: I think it will be a mixed bag. There will be some things that will be easier, some harder. Obviously, we will have more people using it, initially at least. But hopefully there will be more people using it responsibly. I think it will be a learning curve; I’m interested to learn from law enforcement in the legalized states on how they are dealing with these issues.

November 9, 2017 in Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)