20ish Questions with Jared Polis: Colorado Congressman and Gubernatorial CandidateRead More
by Matthew Van Deventer
Outspokenly cannabis-friendly U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder County has officially thrown his hat into the crowded race to replace Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who is facing his term limit. Because of the state’s strict limits on fundraising, Polis, the internet-entrepreneur turned politician with an estimated worth of $140 million to $468 million, may already have a top spot.
Polis’ top campaign promises include powering Colorado with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, providing parents with access to free preschool and kindergarten, and pushing companies to provide employees with stock options.
As for cannabis, Polis says he doesn’t want to move cautiously, but instead make sure regulations work for businesses and consumers, and he wants to keep Colorado competitive as other states look to legalize it.
He took time out of his busy congressional voting schedule and running for governor to speak with THC.
THC: Last we spoke you had recently formed the Cannabis Caucus to educate your colleagues and introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. How have those been received?
Jared Polis: I think we are gaining support every day for marijuana reform in Congress. I think we have support today if we could get an amendment to the floor that would prevent the Department of Justice from [prosecuting] marijuana related offenses where it’s legal under state law. But the challenge is getting it to the floor. . . I think we need to get to a federal framework that’s consistent with how we look at alcohol and tobacco and address legitimate concerns around safety and smuggling, but create a framework that allows for states to fully implement legalized marijuana and their own regulatory systems.
THC: And what about the Cannabis Caucus?
JP: We had a great [Marijuana Thinkers Talk and Expo on the Hill] and we featured a number of folks who are [from] across the country. It’s great to have that bipartisan imprint of Democrats and Republicans as we seek to educate my colleagues about cannabis reform.
THC: How long have you been thinking about running for governor and what made you decide to go for it?
JP: I am honored to serve at any level just as I really enjoyed starting businesses and creating hundreds of jobs. I enjoyed starting a school for new immigrants and homeless youth. I’m really excited to give back, and I think [there are] a lot of opportunities to give back, whether it’s moving towards a renewable energy economy, establishing universal preschool and kindergarten or just making sure our economic success works for everybody, not just a few—the action will be at the state level.
THC: What’s that transition from representative to gubernatorial candidate going to look like for you?
JP: I have executive experience in the business sector. I also have executive experience at the state level having chaired the State Board of Education. And frankly, I welcome the opportunity and the responsibility of that kind of position. I think that for us to move forward as a state we’re going to need strong leadership and bold leadership at the state level and that’s one of the reasons I decided to run.
THC: How will your pro-cannabis stance translate to a governorship?
JP: I don’t think we need to be cautious about it. We need to make cannabis regulations work for our state, for businesses, for consumers and I’m excited to tackle that. I think Colorado’s leadership role in the cannabis industry will be challenged by states like California and Washington, and we need to make sure that we keep a lot of those good jobs right here in Colorado.
THC: Voters in Denver recently passed a social consumption pilot program. Many people in the industry think its limited scope will knock us down on the competitive totem pole. Do you have any plans for how you will help keep Colorado competitive in that way?
JP: A lot of those decisions should be made at the local level, and they are made at the local level. Different communities decide whether they want to have dispensaries, how many they have, how they want to regulate social consumption . . . these are all dealt with locally and they’re very important issues as people select their mayors and city council candidates.
THC: What’s your strategy look like headed into such a crowd governor’s race and how do you feel about your place in the arena?
JP: I’m working hard to earn every vote and taking no votes for granted. So I think it’s a wide open field to continue the legacy of Governor Hickenlooper of growing our economy and creating jobs. And I’m excited to offer a vision for an economy that works for everybody, and creating tens of thousands of green jobs that can’t be outsourced, and improving our schools to make sure we have a first-class education system in place for next generation Coloradans.
THC: How did energy, free access to preschool and kindergarten, and employee stock options become your focus?
JP: There’s a lot more, obviously, than that, but I think the fundamental question that we need to answer as Americans and Coloradans is how can economic growth work for everybody not just investors and executives. And I think a big part of the answer is encouraging employee ownership in all of its forms and that means stock options. It means formalized profit sharing. It means ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans). It means co-ops. All the different forms that it can take, we want to make sure that those who work hard every day to create the value have their incentives aligned with the investors and management and also to see their share of the profits from the sale or from profitabilities.
THC: What about renewable energy and free access to preschool and kindergarten?
JP: There’s so many reasons to move to 100 percent renewable energy. I have a plan at polisforcolorado.com to do it by 2040. It’s for clean air. It’s to do our part on climate. It creates green jobs that can’t be outsourced and it creates an economy that’s energy independent and gives us an advantage over other states and countries that will rely on the price variability of fossil fuels that are subject to global markets and global forces that they don’t control.
Education is where I’ve done much of my professional work. I served six years on the state board of education. I’ve started two schools; I’ve served as superintendent of one. And I’ve served on the Education and Workforce Committee in Washington. The most important and impactful thing we can do to improve opportunity for success is have universal preschool and kindergarten in our state. So we’re going to build a coalition with Republicans and Democrats and the business community to get it done.
THC: What else tops your list?
JP: I would say another challenge facing the state is transportation and infrastructure. We’ve had a lot of growth. We have a lot of traffic. We need smart planning, transit-oriented communities that are bus and rail systems in our metro area. We need to get ahead of the curve with regard to traffic and growth rather than always playing catch-up.
THC: How do you plan on bringing Colorado Democrats and Republicans together?
JP: I have a proven record of doing that work in my experience. I’m a member of the “no labels group” where we bring Democrats and Republicans together around solving problems. I think the challenges that Colorado faces are not partisan challenges. Republicans and Democrats want quality preschool and kindergarten for their kids. Republicans and Democrats want clean air. Republicans and Democrats want to make sure that the economy works for everybody. So we should focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us.
THC: What sort of relationship do you envision having with the Trump Administration?
JP: As a governor you have to work with whatever administration is in charge. But certainly we worry about their actions with regard to the legal cannabis industry. It’s too early to say, but we’re scared of some of the rhetoric from both the attorney general and others. As the governor, I would continue my efforts to push back against any and all federal efforts that interfere with our state laws.
THC: You’ve been back and forth with the oil and gas industry, what’s that relationship going to be like and how would you work with it?
JP: Well, look, with my plan for 100 percent renewable energy the goal is 2040, so that means that the grid will continue. That’s talking about the retirement of the last coal plant, the last natural gas burning facility and certainly I’ve been active in empowering communities to be able to successfully integrate — to have a planning process around integrating oil and gas extraction in their communities.
Among the other Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls are former State Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Intertech Plastics founder Noel Ginsburg, and businessman Erik Underwood.
On the Republican side, seven candidates have declared they’re running for governor including prosecuting attorney of the Aurora Theater shooting, George Brauchler; Mitt Romney’s nephew, Doug Robinson; the co-chair of President Donald Trump’s election campaign in Denver, Steve Barlock; and former State Rep. Victor Mitchell. ♦
Legal or Not: The Precarious Place of Hemp in North DakotaRead More
By Matthew Van Deventer
Outside Hettinger, North Dakota, a small town of about 1,200 residents in the state’s southwest corner, Lyle Freerksen was at work when he got a call from someone claiming to be from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. They needed to take samples of his hemp crop for a routine THC test. This was no surprise to him, and he had nothing to hide. Freerksen had given all of his contact information to local authorities and made himself available for any and all questions or concerns. More importantly, he had a valid license to grow hemp from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) and understood that at some point they would need to test his crop.
Later that day, Freerksen called the NDDA representative to offer his assistance and meet him at his house for the samples. However, they had already taken samples and needed to meet Freerksen to sign some papers.
“Which I though was kind of fishy, because I felt like I should be present for when they take their samples, because who knows where the samples are coming from,” says Freerksen. “But then again, I had no reason to suspect foul-play of any kind. I thought I was being open and honest with everything.”
When Freerksen got to the meeting location, there was a uniformed police officer and another man in plain clothes; nothing beyond what he would expect of a routine crop inspection. However, they arrested Freerksen and charged him with cultivation of a controlled substance and intent to distribute.
By then, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations had searched his house, confiscated his guns, cash, unused pipes and a bong, and burned down all 273 hemp plants he’d been cultivating.
Freerksen asked if they had tested his plants. They said they had, and Freerksen asked what the THC level was. They didn’t know.
“I gave it my test and my test said it’s marijuana,” Freerksen remembers the plain clothes officer saying. They threatened him with 20 years in jail. However, Freerksen was only in jail for about three days, and the charges were lowered to possession of paraphernalia.
He estimates his crop was worth about $140,000. Freerksen said once he got out of jail, he heard that every road leading up to his house was blocked off a half mile away, police were heavily armed and reinforcements had come from several surrounding towns. When he returned home, he found they had burned his hemp plants by circling them with his own firewood and cut every watering hoses about six inches from the spigot, burning those as well.
“What Mr. Freerksen had was a permit from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture for the growing of hemp. They were very clear in the letters they sent to him and in the permitting process that that does not, by itself, give him permission to grow hemp,” says State Attorney Aaron Roseland of Adams County, North Dakota, who was charged with reviewing the case.
Roseland says, the permit “opens the door” for Freerksen to apply to the state’s pilot program or work with a university, so that he can grow hemp under an entity licensed with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
While Freerksen denies getting any such communication from the NDDA saying he couldn’t grow hemp, he says they did warn him he wasn’t protected federally.
“I knew that growing cannabis would be illegal under federal law regardless of a state permit, yes. As is everyone else in the country currently growing hemp or marijuana under any state law that may exist in that state, medical or otherwise,” says Freerksen. To his knowledge, no DEA agents were involved in the raid.
So he reapplied for a permit on his own, went through all the necessary steps, including a background check and finger printing, and soon got a certified letter in the mail with his hemp license. After that, he heard nothing from the NDDA despite repeatedly trying to establish a connection with them and regularly inquiring about THC sampling.
According to the North Dakota Century Code, residents can grow industrial hemp so long as they have a license from the Department of Agriculture to do so.
“That’s why there was no case maintained against him and the charges are dropped. There are no criminal charges now pending against Freerksen.” Roseland continues to clarify, “Because upon review, I found there was not a factual basis to support the maintaining of a charge.”
“They gave him a license. They knew he was growing hemp. Now, if they had a question about it, why would they send out law enforcement with a search warrant—it was just completely uncalled for and heavy handed,” says Eric Steenstra, current president of Vote Hemp. “If they had a real question about it, they could have gone down there and talked to him. There had to be some confusion or major error. I have no idea what led to this, but clearly it was unfounded, because they dropped the charges.”
Steenstra was the Executive Director of Hemp Industries Association when he heard about Freerksen’s case. They offered to defend Freerksen, but he declined and took the plea. Steenstra did do some digging at the time, but North Dakota officials “weren’t forth coming about what really happened.”
For law enforcement to break down doors and burn down crops and ask questions later, only to find little prosecuting evidence is a rarity in the hemp industry. In fact, it’s the first time Steenstra has heard of something like this, and there was little to no media coverage about the case. Even the local press in a town of 1,200 hadn’t gotten wind of it.
“We were really disappointed about it. To be honest with you, I think there was some confusion there; that’s a relatively new program for them,” says Steenstra.
Today, Freerksen’s case is closed, and he has yet to see any test results from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who declined to comment for this story.
Freerksen says when the arresting officers returned his personal belongings he had a chance to ask them why he was arrested. One officer told him his license says he must be a part of the pilot program or a research university. THC reviewed the license and that is not the case. The other officer said the permit was illegal and that the state had no right to issue the permit, because he wasn’t a part of either of those programs, which also is untrue, according to North Dakota legislation.
To wrap it all up, Freerksen, who does not consume cannabis, got his paraphernalia back: “The last stickler, that I can’t figure out, is when I was talking to these cops about what had transpired, the cop hands me the bong in the middle of the street right in front of the courthouse. So the paraphernalia that I pled guilty to being in possession of, they handed it right back to me.”
Originally published in the Spring 2017 National Issue of The Hemp Connoisseur
CBD Fights Back: Lawsuit Filed Against DEARead More
by DJ Reetz
A lawsuit filed on January 13, 2017 aims to push back against a recent DEA decision to create a separate tracking number for “marihuana extracts” under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively codifying all cannabinoids derived from marijuana or hemp as Schedule I controlled substances. The lawsuit was filed by the Hoban Law Group in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the same day the new ruling was set to take effect, and seeks judicial review of the decision, claiming that the DEA has overstepped their authority in adding this definition of “marihuana extract” to the controlled substance schedule without following proper procedures to do so as outlined in the CSA. Serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hemp Industries Association, Centura Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings.
The DEA’s announcement in the federal registry published on December 14, 2016 raised concerns amongst many in the cannabis industry that the DEA would begin to target producers and distributors of hemp-derived CBD, which would fall under the definition of “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” outlined in the DEA’s final ruling.
“This is an action beyond the DEA’s authority. This final rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the federal government," said Hoban Law Group Managing Partner Robert Hoban in a press release.
The DEA has claimed that the ruling presented in the recent federal register amounted to little more than a clerical decision carried out in order to make tracking cannabinoid extracts easier, but many in the hemp CBD industry saw it as the first step toward a federal crackdown on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has thus far operated nationally in somewhat of a legal gray area.
The true impact of the classification will likely be seen in the coming months and years.
The Black, White and Gray of Cannabis RegulationRead More
by David B. Bush
Talk about cannabis, especially in the realm of industrial hemp, invariably leads somebody to offer up the bromide that there are “gray areas” of the law. The law is vague and confusing, so it is said, which creates uncertainty about what is legal and what is illegal. But when I read the black letter of the law, I find little if anything that anyone would ever call gray. Federal drug laws may be a lot of things, including silly, counterproductive, and downright bad, but they are not vague or confusing. I find no shades of gray.
Make no mistake about it, cannabis plants, all cannabis plants, are classified under federal law as marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance. Not only that, but most parts of the cannabis plants are also considered marijuana; in particular, the leaves and flowers. Nor does the law stop there. “Every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation” of marijuana is also classified as marijuana.
All varieties of cannabis plants contain dozens or hundreds of chemical constituents. These include cannabinoids, nitrogenous compounds, amino acids, proteins, glycoproteins, enzymes, sugars, hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, simple acids, fatty acids, esters, lactones, steroids, terpenes, non-cannabinoid phenols, flavonoids, vitamins, and pigments. To the extent that any are derived from the leaves or flowers of cannabis, federal law classifies them as marijuana. One might challenge the wisdom of that definition all day long, I certainly do, but disagreement over what the law says does not make it any less clear.
Colorado is experiencing a boom in the market for cannabinoid products derived from cannabis. Most noteworthy perhaps is Δ-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the multisyllabic psychoactive goody that we have all come to know and love as THC, popularly consumed throughout the ages for its recreational and medical benefits. But there is a veritable alphabet soup of cannabinoids found in cannabis besides THC, dozens or hundreds of them. They include tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG) and a host of others. Every single cannabinoid meets the federal definition of marijuana, because they are all derived from the leaves and flowers of cannabis. Every single one of them is a Schedule I controlled substance, making their unauthorized manufacture, possession and distribution a federal crime.
There is a flawed popular perception that the key to illegality in the world of cannabis is THC. But THC appears nowhere in the federal definition of marijuana. Federal law does not care whether a cannabis plant is chock full of THC or has any measurable concentration of the substance at all. It simply does not matter whether the stuff made from cannabis could give one a buzz or not. It is all equally illegal in the eyes of the law.
Many wish to believe that industrial hemp is different. A number of states, including Colorado, define industrial hemp to mean cannabis with a below-threshold concentration of THC in the plant tissue, generally recognized as no more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. Other than the narrow exception for academic research and development articulated in the 2014 Farm Bill, no similar distinction exists in federal law. But low concentrations of THC in industrial hemp does not help the plant avoid the onus of federal prohibition. Cannabinoid products are all classified as marijuana, regardless of the variety of plant from which they were made and regardless how much or how little THC the plant or the product made from it might contain.
Manufacture of cannabinoid products in Colorado is booming. But they are not being regulated in a consistent manner. Cannabinoid products made from what the state has defined as marijuana are strictly controlled under complex and pervasive regulations promulgated and administered by the Marijuana Enforcement Division in the Department of Revenue. In contrast, the only aspect of state-defined industrial hemp that is subject to regulation is cultivation, by the Department of Agriculture. Processing and sale of cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp is not regulated at all. In fact, Colorado law actually accords statutory immunity to anyone who processes and sells products made from legally registered and cultivated industrial hemp. Section 108(2) of the hemp regulatory statutes provides as follows: “[A] person engaged in processing, selling, transporting, possessing, or otherwise distributing industrial hemp cultivated by a person registered under this article, or selling industrial hemp products produced therefrom, is not subject to any civil or criminal actions under Colorado law for engaging in such activities.”
The stark difference in Colorado between the regulation of marijuana and industrial hemp presents a particular challenge to federal drug enforcement. In a now-famous memorandum authored by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole on August 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice effectively gave the nod to states such as Colorado to experiment with regulated cannabis markets. Federal law enforcement policy since issuance of the Cole Memorandum generally has been to avoid prosecution in states where cannabis is legal, provided that actors play by state rules and avoid implicating certain federal law enforcement priorities. One of the enumerated law enforcement priorities is to prevent the diversion of marijuana from a state where it is legal to another state where it is not. Therein lies the problem in Colorado. Diversion of cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp is now occurring on a large scale.
Transporting cannabinoid products made from industrial hemp across state lines places them in the stream of interstate commerce, where federal law, not Colorado law, controls. And federal law is clear: any product made from the leaves or flowers of any cannabis plant is marijuana. Interstate sales of cannabinoid products cannot be characterized as anything other than trafficking in a Schedule I controlled substance. Such activities not only break federal law, but they implicate at least one of the law enforcement priorities set forth in the Cole Memorandum, against diverting marijuana out of state.
So far, the federal government has been remarkably tolerant of interstate sales of cannabinoid products, other than for those rich in THC. Relatively few attempts have been made to impede their transport outside of Colorado. But that does not reflect any change in the law, only a relatively lax attitude by the current administration in Washington. That could change dramatically with the next administration, or for that matter, at any time. The current situation cannot continue. It exposes the regulated cannabis market in Colorado to the risk of significant intervention by federal law enforcement.
Recent calls have been made in some circles in Colorado for implementation of regulations that would apply to all cannabinoid products, without regard to the source material from which they were made. Such regulations would include licensing, standards for quality and content, labeling, and prohibitions against export out of state, as long as the products remained federally illegal. Not surprisingly, some in the industrial hemp sector have reacted with vehement indignation to such proposals. The very thought of having their industry lumped in with marijuana offends their self-image of moral superiority and entitlement to special protection. But the reality is otherwise. There is but one plant, cannabis. There is but one body of federal law against it. Cannabis has but one future. We must all sink or swim from the same boat.
Federal drug laws are bad and need to be changed. Prohibitions against cannabis, all cannabis, both marijuana and industrial hemp, should be abolished. But until that day comes, the State of Colorado must rationalize its current regulatory system to avoid implicating federal law enforcement priorities set forth in the Cole Memorandum.
As an industrial hemp attorney, I support regulation of the processing and sale of cannabinoid products, including those made from industrial hemp. I have little doubt that it is coming. Resistance to regulation might delay the day of reckoning, but cannot forestall the inevitable. The industrial hemp sector can choose to be part of the problem, by denying that there is one. Or it can be part of the solution, by working to create a sound, reasonable and fair system of regulation. I would respectfully counsel the latter.
David B. Bush is the managing member of David B. Bush, L.L.C. dba David’sLaw, a business law practice dedicated to furthering the successful development of industrial hemp in Colorado and throughout the United States. His web page is www.davidlawcolorado.com and he may be reached at [email protected].
November 2015 - A Letter to Our ReadersRead More
“To succeed in life in today’s world, you must have the will and tenacity to finish the job.”
- Chin-Ning Chu
I’m a big football fan. One of the strategies I have always hated in football is the prevent defense. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, the prevent defense is a scheme that can be used when your team is ahead. What you do is you give the opposing offense a little cushion. You do this to keep the offense from making a big play at the same time that you try to keep them from going out of bounds to stop the clock. While this strategy can be effective, it can also come back and bite you in the ass. You may be intending to only give up a short yardage play but anything can happen on the field and something can go wrong. Many fourth quarter comebacks have happened because the leading team sat back and played prevent.
In the last few years we have legalized the most useful plant on the planet in more than one state. The progress we are making in cannabis legalization is growing exponentially. Based on the most recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalization. The truth is setting cannabis free. We are in the lead, but it feels a little like we are beginning to sit back and just play prevent.
It is at times like these that it can be easy to take our eye off the prize. It is easy to say that because it is legal here there is nothing else we need to do. Meanwhile, the powers that be seem to be chipping away at our medical program instead of finding ways to improve upon it. It seems that now that the money in recreational has started flooding into the state they seem less and less inclined to continue a robust medical cannabis program. And part of me feels like the industry is begrudgingly letting it happen.
Are we going to sit back and let people with no knowledge or love for the plant continue to decide how it should be treated? We as citizens of this country now have the consensus to force the hand of our government and end the drug war in the manner in which we want it. We just have to keep the pedal to the metal so to speak. It feels sometimes like we have been taking our collective foot off the gas. Industry professionals are constantly distracted by evolving regulations and expansions and many of our beloved activists are trying to find their place in the private sector because, let’s be honest, it is time for them to get paid. In the meantime there are unfair regulations being thrust on edible manufacturers. They are trying to make it as unsavory as possible to be a doctor who recommends cannabis as a medicine and PTSD is still not considered a medical condition that can be treated with cannabis in Colorado.
I think the big question is no longer if, but when and how will federal legalization look? It is states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon that are being looked at as potential models for federal legalization. With all eyes upon us let us show them how to do it right. Let’s show them that we won’t be satisfied with “lip service legalization.” Let’s show them that we will finish strong.
November 2015 - Cannabis News Across the GlobeRead More
by DJ Reetz
Dispensaries Caught Selling to Underage Customers in String
Several Denver dispensaries were caught serving underage clientele in a sting carried out by Denver police. The sting targeted 30 dispensaries around the city, of which only seven were found serving under age customers. The operation resulted in seven people being ticketed and charged with a misdemeanor for selling cannabis to a person under the age of 21. Police claimed that all underage operators in the sting used the vertical IDs given to Colorado residents under the age of 21, and that they were not allowed to lie about their age if asked.
A similar sting operation carried out in 2014 found that 100 percent of stores tested were operating in compliance with the law, and the recent enforcement efforts lowers the rate of compliance to 91 percent, about in line with that of the liquor industry according to Denver’s 9News. The stores caught selling to those under 21 years of age risk losing their licenses or worse, as state investigators have begun investigating these businesses for potential misconduct.
Canada May Legalize Soon
A sweeping victory by Canada’s Liberal Party has many anticipating that cannabis will soon become legal in the country. The recent election gave the Liberal Party an absolute majority in the Canadian parliament and ousted incumbent Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the position he has held since 2006. The Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, has vowed to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to that seen in Colorado. According to the party’s official website the Liberals “will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana,” and impose heavy penalties on those who provide cannabis to minors, operate vehicles while under its influence, or otherwise circumvent the regulatory framework.
Recently, Canadian officials have been working to regulate the country’s medical marijuana program.
DEA Raids Native American Cannabis Grow
Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a large cannabis grow operation belonging to the Menominee Indian tribe in Wisconsin. The raid was the result of an undercover operation carried out by the DEA, which claimed to have discovered that people other than tribal members were working on the mostly outdoor farm. The DEA claims to have seized as many as 30,000 marijuana plants during the operation, after acquiring a warrant from a federal judge in Green Bay.
Tribal members however claim that the raid actually netted only industrial hemp plants, which the tribe voted to legalize in May. The tribe is claiming the hemp farm is legal under the 2014 Farm Bill, which has paved the way for legal hemp industries across the country. No mention has been made of the Wilkinson Memo released by the US Justice Department in October 2014, which extended the same legal leeway on cannabis legalization to sovereign tribes as the Cole Memo did to states in 2013.
As of this writing, no arrests had been made, but the DEA has stated that the investigation is still ongoing. Menominee representatives claim to have attempted to address problems with the crop in the past, but that, “These offers by the Tribe were rejected in favor of the aggressive unilateral action we saw [the day of the raid],” according to a statement obtained by ABC News.
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Lawful MMJ Business
A federal judge in northern California has ordered that an injunction against one of the state’s — and therefore the country’s — oldest medical marijuana dispensaries be lifted. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled in favor of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, California, finding that the dispensary and its owner were protected from prosecution under the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment, which bars the spending of federal money on the prosecution of state-legal medical marijuana operators.
The Rohrbacher-Farr amendment passed as part of a spending bill in 2014, and was reauthorized this year with bipartisan support. The ruling offers some precedence of protection for lawful cannabis businesses and assurance that the intentions of the amendment are being met.
As part of his ruling, Judge Breyer stated, “The mayor of the Town of Fairfax [stated] MAMM was operating as a model business in careful compliance with its local use permit in a ‘cooperative and collaborative relationship’ with the community,” according to SFGate.
Farmer Shows Low Risk of Hemp/Marijuana Cross Pollination
An Oregon farmer has successfully demonstrated that there is a low risk of hemp cross-pollinating marijuana and vice versa by growing the two crops together. Hemp farmer Jerry Norton experimented by growing male hemp plants in a greenhouse alongside female marijuana plants. The resulting marijuana plants had minimal amounts of seeds, indicating that they had not cross-bread with the hemp, according to the Capital Press.
In states such as Oregon and Colorado that allow for both the cultivation of hemp and marijuana, the issue has lingered on both sides, with hemp producers concerned that high-THC marijuana could render their crop legally unusable and marijuana producers concerned that nearby hemp fields would decrease the potency of their plants and cause them to seed. Norton’s experiment gives hope that the two varieties of cannabis can coexist. While the results are by no means scientific, the experiment highlights the vast difference between the crops that has resulted from years of selective breeding, mostly preventing them from pollinating each other.
Domestic Medical Marijuana Coming to Australia
Australians who have been in the precarious situation of relying on imported medical marijuana may soon have access to locally cultivated medicine. Recently drafted amendments to the country’s Narcotic Drug Act will allow for the domestic cultivation of medicinal cannabis in Australia, paving the way for broader access and clinical trials. Previously, Australia has allowed for the use of medical cannabis, but not production, leaving patients in need reliant on the incredibly difficult process of importation.
“Allowing the cultivation of legal medicinal cannabis crops in Australia under strict controls strikes the right balance between patient access, community protection and our international obligations,” said Australian Health Minister Sussan Ley, according to Reuters.
Retail Medical Marijuana can Begin in Illinois
Medical cannabis is moving closer to fruition in Illinois after a lab at the University of Illinois in Chicago has received authorization from the state to begin testing cannabis. The lab will test for potency as well as potentially dangerous contaminants such as microbial life, pesticides and solvents.
The medical marijuana program in the state is set to begin operation this month, with nine cultivators licensed by the state already in operation and at least two already beginning harvest.
“Sales will begin after cultivation centers are given the opportunity to test medical cannabis products with a lab approved by the Department of Agriculture,” Joseph Wright, director of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program, according to the Associated Press.
New York Rolls Out Hemp Regulations
Regulators in New York have proposed rules pertaining to hemp farming that would allow colleges and universities around the state to grow the crop for research purposes. As proposed, the rules cover growth, transportation and storage of the plant, as well as commercial production and advertising. New York passed legislation allowing for hemp farming shortly after the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, but farming had been on hold until guidelines could be created. So far, Cornell is the only university in the state that has expressed interest in conducting the research, which requires only a $500 fee.
“Industrial hemp is an excellent candidate from a biomass standpoint, with high yield as well as multiple potential value-added uses,” said Cornell agriculture professor Jerry Cherney, according to the Daily Freeman.
Croatia Now Allows Cannabis Medicine
October saw the beginning of legal THC-based medicine in Croatia. The Balkan country now allows doctors to prescribe up to 750 milligrams of THC per month to patients suffering from epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and related conditions. Currently, there are no medicines containing THC registered in the country, and growing cannabis remains illegal. What effect this development will have remains to be seen.
Notable Alaska Cannabis Advocate Indicted
Charlo Greene, the woman who made headlines when she famously quit her job as a TV news anchor live on the air with the line, “Fuck it, I quit,” while covering the emerging cannabis industry, has been indicted on charges of illegally selling and distributing marijuana by a grand jury in Alaska. Greene, whose real name is Charlene Egbe, has been the subject of media attention since the on-air episode went viral and the subsequently raid on her business, the Alaska Cannabis Club in Anchorage, by local authorities in February. Greene was indicted alongside two other business
owners, Michael Crites of the Absolutely Chronic Delivery Company and Rocky Burns with Discreet Deliveries.
Although cannabis is once again legal in Alaska, regulated sale of the plant has not yet begun, leaving businesses such as Greene’s operating in the gray area of the law.
Hemp Farming May Be Coming to Pennsylvania
A bill that would legalize the cultivation of hemp in Pennsylvania has passed committee and is on its way to a full vote in front of the state House of Representatives. House Bill 967 easily made it through the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, and is now awaiting approval on the House floor. The bill would create a pilot program in the state in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill, allowing universities and other bodies administered by the state’s department of agriculture to begin growing test crops.
Despite the widespread support of the bill, supporters are finding that the plant is still misunderstood by many.
“There’s an enormous amount of confusion and misinformation around industrial hemp. It’s not marijuana and you can’t get high from it,” said Rep. Russ Diamond, the bill’s sponsor, according to local ABC affiliate channel 27.
North Carolina Hemp Bill Awaits Governor’s Approval
A bill awaiting approval from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory would legalize hemp cultivation in the state. Senate Bill 313 was widely supported in both the state House of Representatives and Senate with votes of 101 to 7 and 42 to 2 respectively. Once signed, the bill will create a state-run industrial hemp commission tasked with organizing a pilot program for researchers and commercial growers.
Given the widespread support of the bill in the state legislature, it seems almost assured that Gov. McCrory will sign the bill into law, but as of this writing that had not yet happened.
“Between thousands of acres of unused farmland and vacant textile mills in every county, this is a true, unrecognized economic opportunity for our region,” said hemp advocate Blake Butler, according to Mountain Xpress.
October 2015 - A Letter to Our ReadersRead More
“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”
- Louis D. Brandeis
Sometimes I spend a lot of time writing this letter over the preceding month. Sometimes I just free flow something that occurs to me after, shall we say, I commune with some sacred herb. But once in a while some news crosses my path at the last minute and I feel the need to change my plans in order to address it. For those of you who don’t know Ryan Loflin, he is a true pioneer of hemp agriculture and the movement as a whole in Colorado. Ryan was one of the very first hemp farmers to put seeds in the ground after the passing of Amendment 64. Today I saw an announcement on Loflin’s Facebook page that really pissed me off. Ryan stated that his hemp crop tested at 0.5 percent THC, a whopping 0.2 percent over the state’s legal limit. So with only one half of one percent of THC, the state considers his crop to be marijuana and thus they have to destroy it. RUFKM!?
Let’s put 0.2 percent into perspective for a moment. Destroying Loflin’s crop over 0.2 percent is like taking his car away for driving 55.11 miles per hour in a 55 mph speed zone.
This situation points out the absolute absurdity of our regulations regarding hemp. The fact is that any marijuana grower worth anything would be embarrassed to have a plant with 20 times the potency of Loflin’s hemp crop, unless it was a CBD strain. Let’s just accept the fact that Loflin’s crop cannot be used for consumption because it is just way too dangerous to have a crop with an extra 0.2 percent of THC, couldn’t it be designated to be used strictly for industrial purposes? Are they worried that someone may want to smoke a house made with hempcrete? No, that can’t be it; maybe if it was made into textiles, crazed hippies everywhere would spark up their T-shirts and just lose their minds. Oh wait, I know, a child might accidentally eat ten pounds of animal bedding made from Loflin’s hemp and catch a buzz.
What this issue boils down to for me is a complete waste. A waste of time on Loflin’s part for propagating the seeds, going through the legal process to grow hemp and most importantly, the time it takes to care for the crop. Then there is the waste of throwing away acres of hemp that has innumerable industrial uses. And last but not least the complete waste of taxpayer dollars being used to destroy his crop.
We spend too much time regulating and partitioning cannabis. There are so many uses for the plant that to create a regulatory framework in which we destroy cannabis because it doesn’t fit into the exact categories we have created for it is not moving us forward. The biggest culprit of this categorization comes from the Controlled Substances Act. Unless cannabis is completely removed from the CSA we will continue to have issues arise like this.
Imagine the landscape of regulation if it weren’t part of the CSA:
- -Hemp farmers would be able to have crop insurance. Right now they are growing at their own risk.
- -Hemp that goes over the legal definition of THC content like Loflin’s would have the ability to be used for something if not consumption.
- -Marijuana stalks may have a use for industrial purposes as opposed to being thrown out at harvest
- -Marijuana producers would immediately be taxed like every other business in the country as opposed to the 60-70 percent tax rate they are paying right now, which would create more jobs and help stimulate more commerce. It would also allow the industry more opportunities to give back to the community via charitable endeavors.
- -Banks could work with marijuana businesses making the entire industry safer for all.
- -Interstate commerce would boom, allowing one of the most useful plants in history to be available to all who need or want it.
In the past couple of years it has become absolutely clear that we have been spinning our wheels regarding the legislation of cannabis in this country. As long as we continue to nitpick the finer details of regulation on both hemp and marijuana, we are only treating the symptoms of prohibition and not the source of the problem. Every activist on both the hemp and marijuana side should be banding together for a full frontal assault on removing all forms of cannabis from the CSA. There are enough of us out there that if we put any petty differences aside we can make it happen.
De-scheduling of cannabis is the panacea that will clear up most of the largest issues we deal with in both industries today.
I am 99 percent sure that I am right on this. . . give or take 0.2 percent.
September 2015 - Cannabis News Across the GlobeRead More
by DJ Reetz
Denver Voters to Decide on Public Consumption
Voters in Denver will soon get to decide if consuming cannabis should be allowed in designated public places. The Campaign for Limited Social Use submitted over 10,000 signatures to the Denver city clerk, more than doubling the 4,726 needed to include the measure on the November 2015 ballot. The measure would allow establishments such as bars to permit cannabis combustion in areas already designated for smoking, while allowing other forms of consumption indoors, in compliance with existing smoking regulations. The measure would also allow cannabis clubs, giving the city the ability to issue permits and regulate hours.
The initiative is big news for cannabis consumers living in or visiting the city, as officials have previously taken all available measures to ensure that those purchasing legal cannabis have no place to consume it, outside of private residences.
Dispensaries Open in Las Vegas and Reno
Medical marijuana dispensaries are now servicing Nevada’s two most notable cities. August saw the opening of dispensaries in both Las Vegas and Reno, the first of their kind in each city following the opening of the state’s first dispensary in the city of Sparks on July 31. Euphoria Wellness in the Las Vegas area and Sierra Wellness Connection Reno are now serving medical patients in their respective cities.
Though medical marijuana has been legal in Nevada since 2001, it wasn’t until 2013 that voters approved dispensaries. Prior to the opening of dispensaries this year, medical patients had been relying on home growing, caregivers, and legally dubious delivery services. Nevada is one of a handful of medical marijuana states that allows for reciprocity, meaning that out-of-state visitors with a recognized medical marijuana card should theoretically be able to purchase from the newly opened dispensaries.
Troubled Ohio Legalization Measure Seeks Voter Approval
After much controversy, backers of a measure to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational uses in Ohio have collected 305,591 signatures, earning a spot on the November ballot, provided the signatures are validated and the language of the measure is approved. The measure, proposed by the group Responsible Ohio, has been divisive amongst the pro-cannabis crowd, as it limits growing of commercial marijuana to ten licensed producers, seemingly creating a monopoly. The measure would allow residents 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four plants at home, which many see as a victory for cannabis reform, despite the limitation on commercial competition. State lawmakers have proposed an anti-monopoly measure seemingly aimed at annulling Responsible Ohio’s initiative.
Scientists Conduct Ground-Breaking Genetic Research on Cannabis
A recent study carried out by researchers in Canada and published in the scientific journal PLOS One is providing a clearer understanding of the genetic variations of cannabis. The study examined the genotype of 81 marijuana samples and 43 hemp samples, looking at the differences in the DNA of the plants.
Researchers concluded that the labeling of cannabis as indica, sativa, or ruderalis was often inaccurate. The study also showed a large degree of genetic variation between hemp and marijuana plants, despite the fact that hemp is of the Cannabis sativa species, likely due to generations of breeding for different purposes.
“Cannabis breeders and growers often indicate the percentage of sativa or indica in a cannabis strain, but they are not very accurate,” said University of British Columbia botanist and study co-author Jonathan Page, according to phys.org.
Oregon Puts a Hold on Issuing Hemp Licenses
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has temporarily stopped issuing licenses to grow industrial hemp in the state, citing regulatory complications.
The state moved to allow the cultivation of hemp in 2009, but last year saw the state’s first crop. Among the reasons for the halt was the changing duration of the licenses, which were initially issued for three years but have been reduced to one. ‘Farmers growing the crop for the purpose of CBD extraction’ was also cited as a reason for suspending the program. Regulators are hopeful that any issues can be resolved in time for next year’s crop, and are currently seeking clarity from the legislators.
“We just didn’t feel it was prudent to continue issuing new, three-year licenses when so much might change,” said Lindsay Eng, who oversees Oregon’s hemp program, according to oregonlive.com.
Alcohol Distributors Backing Legalization In Nevada
Nevada seems poised to be the next state to legalize cannabis. With a proposal aimed at legalization to appear on the state’s 2016 ballot and recently minted medical dispensaries, Nevada has earned the number two spot on a recent list of states likely to legalize in 2016 compiled by 24/7 Wall Street, no surprise for a state that is known for legalized gambling and prostitution.
But support is coming from a seemingly unlikely source, alcohol distributors. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada liquor distributors have given a combined $87,500 to support the state’s cannabis legalization measure. While on the surface this would seem contrary to the industry’s interest, the move actually makes sense, as the measure proposed for the 2016 ballot would give liquor distributors the exclusive right to distribute adult-use cannabis for the first 18 months of sales.
New York Times Editorial Board Calls Out Obama on Cannabis
In an August editorial, The New York Times called on President Obama and Congress to push forward reform of failing cannabis laws. The editorial chastised what it called “absurd” cannabis laws, the languishing of the CARERS Act in the Senate and called for the de-scheduling of cannabis.
“Direct democracy can sometimes produce good results. But it would be far better for Congress and the President to repeal failed laws and enact sensible drug policies,” concluded the editorial.
Most Lactation Professionals Encourage Breastfeeding by Cannabis Users
In a short video published on the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, researcher Cecilia Bergeria of the University of Vermont shared findings from her recent study titled “Surveying Lactation Professionals Regarding Breastfeeding and Marijuana Use.”
According to Bergeria, 80 percent of lactation professionals surveyed recommended that mothers continue to breast feed infants even if they were using cannabis, while only 15 percent discouraged it.
“There’s a large discrepancy between what professional organizations are recommending and what lactation professionals are recommending on a day-to-day basis. So it kind of highlights the need for research and evidence to more clearly guide clinical practice in this area,” said Bergeria in the video.
Inspections of Tennessee Hemp Farms Begin
Last month, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture began inspections of the state’s 53 hemp farms. Inspections have been slow after a delay in the delivery of seeds, according to NBC affiliate WBIR, but inspectors are now taking GPS coordinates to help differentiate legal crops from potentially illegal cannabis grows and taking measurements to ensure that the hemp crops are measuring below the standard 0.3 percent THC content.
“We want it close to harvest time... because that’s when the plant is at its maximum maturity and we can get the best sense of what its makeup is,” said Corinne Gould, Director of Communications for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, according to WBIR.
DEA Chief Admits Heroin More Dangerous Than Cannabis
Drug Enforcement Administration head Chuck Rosenberg told reporters last month that “heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana,” according to the Huffington Post. The statement clarifies an earlier comment form Rosenberg, who had previously stated that cannabis was “probably not” as dangerous as the highly addictive drug that killed over 8,000 people in 2013, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
While the acknowledgment seems to be common sense, Rosenberg’s predecessor, Michelle Leonhart, refused to recognize that cannabis was safer than heroin. However, Rosenberg maintains the DEA stance that cannabis is “harmful and dangerous,” even if not as much so as heroin.
Top Cop in UK Says Cannabis Isn’t a Primary Concern
The Chair of the National Police Chiefs Council in the United Kingdom seems to be letting slip that British police won’t be going after low-level cannabis offenses such as small-scale grows. The comments follow sentiments from other top law enforcement officials in the country that similarly indicate a shift in priorities. Chair Sara Thornton stated that complaints about residential grows would likely be recorded but not investigated, and that those caught consuming cannabis or growing it for personal use would likely be let off with a warning rather than an arrest.
The shifting priorities seems to indicate a sort of decriminalization on the part of law enforcement, though no such action has been enacted by lawmakers. Thornton cited a declining budget as reason for the shift, with police choosing to focus on organized crime, cyber crime, terrorism, and sexual offenses.
“It has never been a top priority to go looking for cannabis in people’s houses. It is, however, against the law. If somebody was caught they would be dealt with at the very lower end of the scale. What we are most concerned about is organized crime, those growing cannabis on an industrial scale,” said Thornton, according to the Daily Mail.
Study Finds Teen Marijuana Use Not Connected to Health, Mental Issues
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Rutgers University concluded that chronic marijuana use amongst teenage boys did not lead to issues such as depression, psychotic symptoms, lung cancer or asthma later in life. The study, published in Psychology of Addictive Behavior and reported on by Science Daily, followed 408 males from adolescence into their mid-30s, tracking their marijuana use while controlling for other factors such as tobacco use, the use of other illicit drugs, and access to health care.
The results of the study were unexpected, even to its authors. “What we found was a little surprising… There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured, regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence,” said lead researcher Jordan Bechtold, according to Science Daily.
Ronda Rousey Eats Hemp
Renowned female mixed martial artist “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey reportedly eats hemp seeds as part of her training diet. In an interview with ESPNW, and later noted by marijuanapolitics.com, the undefeated fighter stated that her breakfast consisted of two teaspoons of oat bran, two teaspoons of chia seeds and two teaspoons of hemp seeds while she prepares for fights.
Rousey recently defended her UFC Women’s Bantamweight title against the undefeated Bethe Correia with a 34 second knockout. Just what role the inclusion of protein-rich hemp seeds high in essential fatty acids in her diet played in the victory is unknown.
September 2015 - A Letter to Our ReadersRead More
“Never compromise your principles, even if it leads to difficulties in the short term.”
- Alan Casden
I have a confession to make. Okay so it is not really a confession if you have been reading my letters for any length of time. I am an idealist. For some reason the notion of an idealist has developed a somewhat negative stigma. It’s as if we shouldn’t be striving for the ideal, and instead just settle for “good enough.” This is something I see us all doing in the cannabis industry far too often. CBD only laws are where I see this occurrence the most but it doesn’t stop there.
Recently there has been a movement in Denver to allow consumption of cannabis in more than just the privacy of you home. I am, of course talking about The Denver Campaign for Limited Social Cannabis Use. Now we at THC have been criticizing Denver for not having anywhere for tourists to consume when they visit our beautiful state since legal adult-use sales have been in play. It is because of this that I support this campaign. But in the long run this is just a half measure for where we should be going on the cannabis freedom trail.
When you breakdown the Campaign for Limited Social Cannabis Use there are three things that stand out to me.
- It provides a space for a cannabis club to exist in Denver.
- Any business that serves alcohol may choose to allow consumption of cannabis as long as they do not violate the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act and the consumption of cannabis happens in a setting that is not visible to the public nor accessible to anyone under the age of 21.
- Any commerce related to the sale of cannabis on the premises is considered illegal.
Okay so let’s break down each of these three items.
First of all the cannabis club part; Finally we would have a place to congregate and consume with fellow cannabis enthusiasts. This has been too long in the making for Denver. At this time there are private clubs in various parts of the state that have been allowed to operate and yet in the largest city in Colorado, where most tourists come to first, we have not provided a safe sanctuary for our guests to enjoy the freedoms we provide. I am one hundred percent behind this!
Point two; Being a lover of freedom, I am absolutely behind this as well but with a major disclaimer. Before, my foray into the legal cannabis industry I was a bartender for over two decades. I have seen enough anecdotal evidence to recognize that when one drinks alcohol and then consumes cannabis there is a very high probability that they will get the spins and potentially sick. On top of that, one’s “beer muscles” don’t necessarily go away after consuming cannabis on an alcohol buzz. Meaning the poor decision making that coincides much more with alcohol usage than cannabis consumption will still be prevalent. Let me further paint a scenario for you. Joe Blow from Idaho comes to Denver during a cross-country road trip. He has a couple of beers at a bar and steps out onto the private patio for a cigarette. While he is there he meets a local who is enjoying a joint. While he hasn’t smoked cannabis since he was in college he decides to take a couple of tokes when his new friend offers. What could go wrong? He only had a couple of beers (at high elevation), what could a couple of tokes do to him? He then realizes that if he wants to get back on the road for an early start he better head back to the hotel and go to bed. That’s when the spins hit and he loses control of his car and drives into a pedestrian. Yes I created this scenario but it is an entirely probable one when you mix alcohol, cannabis and inexperience. For this part of the bill to be successful there needs to be a major campaign to coincide with it in which people are educated as to the effects of blending both substances. We have already seen the opposition skewing the statistics on DUI’s to argue against legalization in the last couple of years. Do we really need to give them more ammunition?
Which leads me to the final point and this is where the half measure comes into play. I understand this part of the campaign is to keep individuals from selling their cannabis to someone privately, but why no license for a “coffee shop” type business? If we do not allow businesses to sell cannabis on site and have consumption then we aren’t really moving towards true cannabis freedom. They of course should be regulated just like a bar would be (Regulating the herb like alcohol? Where have I heard that before?). In fact don’t allow them to grow their own cannabis. Instead make them purchase wholesale product from dispensaries. Have you ever felt that there are just too many dispensaries out there to take the time to try them all? Now imagine (in my cannabis utopia) a place where Colorado’s best selection of flower, concentrates and edibles are all in one place for you to sample. How glorious would that be?
Of course I’m just an idealist looking for an ideal bill to expand our freedoms. Who has ever been successful pushing for their ideal in this country?
Oh yeah, our forefathers.