Thursday, November 1, 2018
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).
I 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
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Most people view marijuana legalization as a floodgates moment where long-time black-market marijuana users can finally go to the corner
store to buy ultra-potent strains of the drug in large quantities, and spend their free time testing the hypothesis that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana.
This may be true, but according to a recent report by Deloitte, widespread marijuana legalization may also create a large market of first-time users trying legal marijuana products out of curiosity. According to the report, these consumers are expected to seek out a less potent, more socially acceptable method of ingesting the substance. Forbes.com has the story:
It seems the American CBD craze has invaded Canada. Now, more of those customers, presumably the ones with less experience with hard-hitting pot like GG#4, or these things called dabs are requesting products heavy in the non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant. These people are the focus of the latest market report that suggests new, legal users (typically older folks) are more intrigued these days by the stress relieving powers of the plant than they are in getting wrecked.
"CBD is becoming kind of an 'it' word in cannabis. We see a real trend there," Andrew Pollock, vice-president of marketing for The Green Organic Dutchman, told CBC News.
Due to the forecasted demand for low-THC pot products, dispensaries may want to consider advising customers on the advantages of micro-dosing. Some are already making this part of the plan. After all, this low-key method for consuming cannabis, which is geared toward the person wanting to maintain a functional high without drooling all over themselves and dreaming of tacos all day, is already catching on in parts of the United States.
"(They say) two milligrams or three milligrams just has a mild relaxing effect and doesn't interfere with you going about your day," said Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics in Colorado.
It's not totally surprising that this new consumer segment seems to be emerging. After all, the purpose of legalization is to make marijuana safer through regulation, and more accessible to the public. The Deloitte report describes current black-market marijuana users as young "risk takers" indicating that their use of marijuana is driven by a desire to "live life to the fullest", and that its illegal status does not curb that desire–if anything it amplifies it.
However, the report goes on to project that the marijuana consumer of the future will be more interested in a less frequent, more relaxing or therapeutic marijuana experience. In other words, once the drug is legalized it will no longer be a ritualistic and taboo exercise in hedonism, but instead will become more akin to the occasional glass of wine or scotch. Further, the report projects that marijuana users in the future will be willing to pay a premium for their products, and will place a high value on knowledgeable staff and diverse product selection. These insights further the parallel between marijuana and alcohol, as recent years have seen a growing demand for high-quality craft beers and locally distilled liquors sold by knowledgeable bartenders and similar connoisseurs.
Government regulators are sure to be happy to hear this information, as there have historically been some concerns that marijuana legalization would result in increased habitual drug use, leading to a host of other societal problems. At least for now, it sounds like cannabis consumers of the future will approach the drug with caution and treat it as an occasional indulgence, rather than instantly succumbing to the "Reefer Madness" that many used to fear.
October 31, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Edibles, Federal Regulation, International Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
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]
Sunday, October 21, 2018
There are typically two camps that exist when people argue for legalization. You have those who would want to set up a store and begin selling cannabis like the cash crop that it is, and those who couldn't care less what the strain is called as long as it stops their seizures, anxiety, opioid addiction, or whatever illness they have that is being treated by medical marijuana.
Does it matter what camp you're in? Is one more persuasive than the other? Medical marijuana seems to be the stronger camp when it comes to the act of actual legislation and implementation. That doesn't mean legislators aren't thinking about the profits, but it is easier to argue economics once you have a template thanks to medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana began its path to legalization in the 1990's when five states, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Maine put into place their own versions of laws that legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since then, medical marijuana has appeared to be the baby step before recreational legalization. It wasn't until 2012 that recreational marijuana became legal, and even then it was only Colorado and Washington.
Now, in 2018, we have 9 states and the District of Columbia with fully legal recreational marijuana and we seem to be on the path of increasing that number, but how?
One obvious argument for recreational legalization is the economic boom that comes with it. Colorado boasts a $506 million dollar profit from sales since recreational stores opened in 2014, according to CNN. In this current economic climate, that number should surely convince the public that marijuana is an incredibly profitable market and states should be running to legalize it. But why aren't they?
Fear. Marijuana is still a drug and drugs can be scary. Drugs lead to addiction, addiction leads to a downward spiral, and nobody wants their family or friends to go down that path. This argument comes in the form of driving while high. a recent Gallup pole shows that about 47% of the participants believe that driving will be less safe if there is legal marijuana. There hasn't been a scientifically proven way to determine if the driver themselves is high. We can test if there is THC present in the body but how long has it been there, is it enough to intoxicate this specific driver, and many more questions come in to play when assessing impaired driving.
Law enforcement in states with legalization have been trying to find a system that works together to maintain safety without assuming guilt. Certain states, like Colorado have implemented a legal limit of THC allowed to be present in the driver's system. Their officers have received special training, according to the state's website, that allow them to detect if a person is impaired due to drug use. This limit applies to MMJ and recreational users. The Washington Post compared two studies on the increase of auto accidents in states with legalization. The first was by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the second by The American Journal of Public Health. The American Journal found no increase in fatal car crashed but the Highway Safety found a 3% increase in auto accidents.
This is the part where people against legalization say that public safety and wellbeing is more important than money and the argument gets shut down. There is one thing that the states with recreational marijuana all have in common; they all had medical marijuana legalized before legalizing recreational use. This is how the state can test the waters for marijuana, the public reaction, the drawbacks, what the overhead costs really are, different methods that could be used in terms of patients picking up the marijuana. And when the fear of impaired driving comes out then advocates bring out a study done by the American Journal of Public Health that claimed there was a decrease in traffic fatality rates.
With what seems to be a movement towards legalization of marijuana across the United States, the best options for states that have not created medical marijuana laws, to do so before attempting to legalize recreational marijuana. It can placate certain fears of the general public, give the legislators a template, and it opens doors to those who really need it sooner rather than later.
--Loren D. Elkins
Saturday, October 20, 2018
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:
... 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.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
New research suggests that marijuana usage may damage sperm count, according to a story in the Daily Mail. Researcher Omer Raheem compared the findings of marijuana users, former marijuana users, and men who never used marijuana. His results found that,
[T]hose who had ever used the drug had poorer semen quality than those who hadn’t.
The team saw damage on all fronts – decreased volume, morphology (the shape), and total progressive motile count (how many sperm can actually move).
Men who had smoked marijuana also had higher risks of abnormally shaped sperm, which can hamper its attempts to enter an egg.
Cannabis use is booming both in recreational use and in medical use which is exciting but also reason to be skeptical. The drug is now legal in more than half of the United States for medical use, and nine for recreational use. And yet, science is still racing to catch up with legalization, and the true benefits and down sides are still coming to light.
Cannabis is understudied so a lot of the effects of long-term and heavy usage are unknown in the scientific community. Dr. Raheem think that doctors should use studies such as these to warn their patients about possible "negative' effects".
-Fernando Lira Gomez
Thursday, October 11, 2018
The 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
Saturday, September 29, 2018
On Friday, a small US territory made a big splash in the country’s marijuana legalization history. According to Forbes.com, the Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands signed a bill into law that provides
adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.
The article further points out that this is the first US jurisdiction “to go from having cannabis totally illegal to allowing recreational use without first having a medical marijuana program.” It was “unclear if the governor was going to sign or veto the legislation, as he had previously expressed concerns about the public safety implications of legalizing marijuana.”
Though the governor signed the recreational scheme into law, he also used his “line-item veto powers to cancel some provisions of the proposal, including one to allow a government entity to be licensed to grow cannabis, as well as a provision requiring recreational marijuana consumers to obtain $5 permits.”
Legalization advocates are hopeful about the effect this may have on other US Jurisdictions.
"This is the first legislatively enacted law in the U.S. that taxes and regulates marijuana for adults’ use, but it will be far from the last," Karen O'Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview. "New Jersey could follow suit within weeks, and as many as five more state legislatures could do so within the next year. Public support for legalizing marijuana is strong and growing, and elected officials are increasingly getting the message."
Other advocates are hopeful that the “building momentum will add pressure on the federal government to modernize its approach to cannabis.”
--Ashleigh Morgan Williams
Nevada is the latest state to feel the economic boom of legalized cannabis, and so far it is smooth sailing for state regulators. The state fully legalized the drug beginning in January 2017 and total industry sales soared over $500 million, $425 million of which came from recreational sales alone. These numbers drastically outperformed both state projections, and first year sales of other states. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has the story:
Including recreational and medical marijuana as well as marijuana-related goods and accessories, Nevada stores
eclipsed a half-billion dollars in sales, just under $530 million, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nevada Department of Taxation.
Bill Anderson, executive director of the Tax Department, said that the industry “has not only exceeded revenue expectations, but proven to be a largely successful one from a regulatory standpoint.”
“We have not experienced any major hiccups or compliance issues,” he added. “As we move into fiscal year 2019, we expect to see continued growth in the industry by way of additional businesses opening up, and we expect revenues to continue to be strong.”
This stunning performance translated into $70 million in tax revenue for the state. To give some context to these metrics, state regulators projected $265 million in sales and $50 million in tax revenue, according to the Review-Journal. Furthermore, the states of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon–largely considered to be trailblazing states in the cannabis industry, and all with larger populations than Nevada by at least 1 million citizens–recorded first-year cannabis sales of $303 million, $259 million, and $241 million, respectively, putting them far behind Nevada's first year numbers. Perhaps most surprisingly, despite being home to Las Vegas, Nevada only collected $49 million in intoxicating beverage taxes from 2016-2017, signaling that marijuana may be a greater source of revenue for the state than alcohol moving forward.
Nevada's "sinful" tourist economy can likely be thanked for such astounding numbers, although the state's casinos have come out against marijuana use in their facilities, out of fear of losing their gaming licenses. Additionally, the state's marijuana law prohibits consumption anywhere but in private residences. State Senator Tick Segerblom told the Las Vegas Sun: “The numbers are kind of leveling off, and we need to reach the tourist market a little more. We need a venue where people can come and enjoy marijuana properly."
These results suggest a few things: first, that tourism economies can drive marijuana sales even in states with lower populations and where marijuana use is not widely supported by dominant businesses. Second, that as more states legalize cannabis they may take cues from states that have previously approved legalization in order to more efficiently bring the drug to market. Finally, that there is still much progress to be made with respect to laws surrounding marijuana consumption in states where it has been made legal. Perhaps as more states begin venturing into legalization, they will use Nevada as a model of how best to regulate, tax, and sell cannabis.
September 29, 2018 in Business, Commercial Law, Decriminalization, Drug Policy, Legislation, Medical Marijuana, News, Politics, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Taxation, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, September 28, 2018
Charlotte Gill, the owner Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, contemplated that very idea when thinking about how lobsters are cooked. It is fair to say that no reasonable person would want to be thrown into boiling water while still alive (or dead for that matter) so Charlotte, a self-proclaimed animal lover, decided to use the recently legalized recreational marijuana use for more than her own satisfaction.
She decided to get the lobsters high before cooking them in order to ease their pain and suffering. While, scientifically, questions still remain as to whether lobsters can even feel pain or get high, Charlotte contends that,
it is undeniable that the marijuana is having the intended effect. In a series of tests, restaurant employees put a lobster in a small container and added a few inches of water. They channeled marijuana smoke through a tube until the container was filled with it, and kept the lobster there for about three minutes.
Before the lobster went into the container, it would flap its tail and click and wave its claws. After being exposed to the smoke, the lobster was docile and serene.
It’s still a very alert lobster, but there’s no sign of agitation, no flailing of legs, no trying to pinch you. So calm, in fact, that you’re able to freely touch the lobster all over without them trying to strike at you or to be aggressive in any way.
This method is preferable, she said, to dropping a live crustacean into boiling water without the marijuana.
A more important question, to the Maine government at least, is whether getting lobsters high before cooking them leads to the consumer getting high; essentially, whether a high lobster turns into an edible post-cooking. Charlotte and her employees conducted their own experiments to find out those results,
staff members have tested their urine after eating the marijuana-treated lobsters, she said, and no trace of the drug has been found. In the latest experiment, Ms. Gill’s 82-year-old father has been eating copious amounts of marijuana-sedated lobster every day; he will soon take a blood test.
She said she hoped her tests could prove to the state that the lobsters were not absorbing the marijuana.
It is a unique and creative way of utilizing the legalization of marijuana, undoubtedly. While questions to remain as the effects on humans; whether lobsters feel pain; and whether lobsters can even get high; this use has garnered plenty of publicity for the restaurant -- yet another way marijuana legalization has helped boost business.
For now the Maine government is still skeptical as to whether this use should be allowed.
-Fernando Lira Gomez
Saturday, September 22, 2018
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:
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.
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)
Friday, September 21, 2018
According to an article on Forbes.com, two studies reveal that Marijuana consumption is correlated with increased sexual frequency and an enhanced sexual experience.
The first study had a stated goal of “elucidat[ing] whether a relation between marijuana use and sexual frequency exists using a nationally representative sample of reproductive-age men and women.”
To get a representative sample for the study, researchers Dr. Michael Eisenberg and Dr. Andrew Sun of Stanford University studied the responses of 8,176 women and 22,943 men nationwide via a Center for Disease Control questionnaire. The study demonstrates that “marijuana is independently associated with increased sexual frequency.” The study further finds that daily smokers across all demographic groups report having 20% more sexual encounters than those who do no smoke marijuana.
A second study sought to “determine if marijuana use before sex affects the sexual experience, by how much, and which domains of sexual function are affected.” The study polled 289 adult women who reported using marijuana prior to intercourse. Among the 289 women, “65% [reported] it enhanced their sexual experience, 23% said it did not matter one way or the other, 9% had no significant feedback and 3% said it sabotaged their sexual experience.”
The two studies offer scientific backing to a common claim from the marijuana community of the drug’s effects on sexual experiences. For researchers like Dr. Eisenberg, the study results demonstrate that “doing more research in this area is important.”
--Ashleigh Williams (Morgan)
Canada’s budding cannabis industry is poised to create over 150,000 jobs over the next several years. However, the newly legalized industry has found a shortage of skilled workers, leaving companies there scrambling for help, according to a story in Newsweek magazine.
Max Simon, the founder and CEO of Green Flower, told Newsweek that marijuana legalization of marijuana in Canada has ushered in a new industry and with the new industry, jobs. Specifically, legalization has seen a boom in retail and procurement positions such as “retail needs managers, products specialists, purchasing managers, etc.”
But, with the jobs available, Simon continued, “finding skilled people in cannabis is an enormous problem for the industry right now, and it's affecting every sector.”
One of the biggest issues causing the shortage in skilled workers is the lack of knowledge regarding the industry. “Most people don't really know what actually happens in a legal cannabis business because it's all so new,” Simon told Newsweek. Adding an additional wrinkle is the fact that cannabis industry workers must also be knowledgeable about the many regulations that govern the business.
Companies are desperately looking to fill vacancies, but cannot find the right talent. In order to become the type of worker this industry is looking for Simon told Newsweek he recommends people “learn about the plant, the science, the products, the license types, and how people actually use cannabis today,” he said. “It sounds simple, yet most people don't actually have this fundamental knowledge.”
With the legalization of recreational use marijuana around the corner, Niagara College in southern Ontario is now offering a one-year certificate in commercial cannabis production. CBC News interviewed Professor Bill MacDonald, head of this new marijuana program, who outlines what students should expect:
Some of the classes take place in a facility MacDonald says is nicknamed "the cannabunker": a series of shipping containers linked together to form a high-tech, high-security production lab for growing marijuana.
Students will get intensive hands-on training in growing pot with classes that focus on topics like plant nutrition, climate control, pest control and plant selection.
There are also courses about the regulations governing cannabis in Canada. The program ends with a field placement for students at a cannabis producer in the region.
The CBC article goes on to describe the growing need for more workers in marijuana industry:
In the Niagara region of Ontario alone, there are currently more than 1.8 million square feet (nearly 550,000 square metres) of greenhouse space dedicated to producing marijuana. As that number grows, more and more skilled greenhouse workers will be needed.
"Every week, it's a new head count," says Michael Ravensdale, the vice president of quality and production at CannTrust, a local medical marijuana producer. "The last update I had, we had over 200 people in Niagara. We think we will be about 350 by the end of the year and that's just the second phase of expansion."
CannTrust has a perpetual harvest facility in Niagara, meaning plants are always in bloom and workers are always busy. The company has jobs in cultivation, processing, manufacturing, quality control and other areas, including product development and research. Ravensdale says the pot economy is evolving at a rapid pace.
CBC stated that the program only accepted 24 of their over 300 applicants, but with the rising need for skilled workers, this program is likely to expand.
As more states legalize adult marijuana use (recreational use), the medical marijuana industry may begin losing revenue. Iris Dorbian for Forbes reports that:
According to estimates by leading cannabis researchers ArcView Market Research in partnership with BDS Analytics, the latest revenue projections for the U.S. medical cannabis industry in 2018 is $4.3 billion versus $6.7 billion for adult use. Last year, medical racked up $5.9 billion while adult use snagged $2.6 billion.
Much of the steep drop in the medical market and surge in recreational use has to do with users gaining wider access to the substance, says Tom Adams, managing director of industry intelligence at BDS Analytics.
Adult use is currently legal in nine states and D.C., while medical use is legal in 30 states. While some analysts believe that the surge in adult use sales over medical sales is due in part to being in its “honeymoon stage” and predict that both markets should see double-digit compounded annual growth rates across the next seven years, others predict that the two systems (medical and recreational) will merge into one comprehensive system in the coming years. Dorbian quotes Diane Czarkowski, a founding partner of Canna Advisors in Colorado:
It is too burdensome for businesses--whether cultivation, processing, or dispensary--to maintain two separate business structures . . . [and] as long as medical programs specify which conditions are recognized, there will always be patients who are excluded from access.
The article also quotes Ryan Kocot, a cannabis lawyer/consultant from Sacramento, California, who offers another theory on the challenges for growing the medical marijuana industry and implications that big business investments have on the market:
Even if we hypothetically put aside the countless legal hurdles companies face due to cannabis’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug, it’s much more expensive to bring a medicinal product to market when it comes to clinical testing and dealing with the FDA--not to mention patents. . .
Bigger companies getting involved translates into more lobbying dollars being spent on federal legalization[.] When federal legalization inevitably occurs, the question becomes: Will larger companies be interested in targeting the medicinal market? One may also argue that the medical market could be the next frontier for Big Pharma, particularly since federal law changing will open the intellectual property floodgates, with patents, for example. Reasonable minds could certainly disagree, but my guess is that the recreational market will be the main target of big business.
It will be interesting to see which of these theories reign supreme as more states open the gates for adult use.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Marijuana 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.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Required package labeling on recreational marijuana may not be as helpful and accurate as it appears. Looking at the scene in Alaska, Lauren Andrews of the Anchorage Daily News reports that recreational consumers' love for "Top Shelf" marijuana (strains that boast a higher THC content than cheaper strains) spurred questions about the legitimacy of the package labeling Alaskan marijuana.
There is relatively little regulation of labels in the state. Andrews explains that although the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board director concluded in January that the only two testing labs in the state were coming up with different results on the same strains, "the public's interest in marijuana with 20 percent THC shows no sign of slowing down."
This is especially shocking, says Andrews, considering that the price difference between proposed "high" and "low" grade marijuana can be as much as $8 per gram, according to executive vice president of Great Northern Cannabis, Jordan Huss.
The article goes on to explains the ramifications of this "Top Shelf" phenomenon may include bankruptcy for suppliers that cannot afford to keep up with the large companies that create these purportedly extra-potent strains. "It's real nonsense, but it's driving the cost, and it's going to drive people out of business" according to Jessica Alexander, lab director at The New Frontier Research.
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.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
A Massachusetts psychology professor has come up with an app he says can inform users when they are too impaired to drive. Dr. Michael Milburn of UMass-Boston has come up with the DRUID ("Driving Under the Influence of Drugs") cellphone app which users, he says, can use to see if they can drive. The Georgia Straight reports how the app works:
The five-minute test is accessible from a phone or tablet and requires users to complete four tasks to determine a level of impairment.
The app has three modes: “practice”, “baseline”, and “test”. Although the software mimics a simple, but tough, video game, users can’t technically fail the levels, but do need to set a baseline sober score, first. Users are encouraged to play around with the practice mode a few times before taking a stab at a sober score, which is calculated from the most recent ten scores achieved on baseline mode.
Once a sober score has been calculated, users can whip out their phone post-blaze and test their stoned results against their standard baseline.
Sound simple enough? Not quite. Druid measures every move, from the shake and wobble of the device during a balancing level to the user’s ability to follow complicated instructions—all of which are meant to emulate the demands of operating a motor vehicle.
Until the driver scores within approximately five percent of their sober baseline, the app urges users to find another mode of transportation.
Also note that this app will cost you a few dollars and its test scores do not establish a legal defense to driving impaired.