Weed Scams are Trending on Instagram—and People are Falling for Them

Weed Scams are Trending on Instagram—and People are Falling for Them

[Editor’s Note: Where there is money, scam artists follow. Be careful out there, and know your pot sources. Male sure you’re following a verified account.]

Ngaio Bealum (@ngaio420), writer, comedian, and resident cannaseur on the Netflix show Cooking on High, told High Times that he makes his connection to California’s legal pot industry obvious in his Instagram posts. Little did he know that by doing so, it made his social media identity vulnerable to imposters attempting to scam people.

“I got a lot of pictures of me, sitting out there holding giant bags of weed, or sitting on a farm or whatnot because that’s what I do,” Bealum says. “I love hanging out at the farm.”

But last week, a friend sent Bealum a screenshot of an Instagram profile that had an image of Bealum and a group of his friends as the main photo. The account had 12 of images lifted off of Bealum’s real account—and the bio offered pot for sale, with shipping available to any location.

“Whoever that person was had just stolen all those shots and posted them up like I was out here selling weed across state lines to all kind of people, which we cannot have,” Bealum says. “I don’t sell weed. I love marijuana, but I don’t sell it.”

Bealum is just one example of thousands, however. From A-list celebrities to popular figures in the cannabis industry, social media has become a means through which low-level identity theft and scams are regularly taking place. Particularly on Instagram, the faces of cannabis influencers are being used to facilitate scams. And the people often left suffering are the those just trying to score some weed.

Instagram

After being made aware of the imposter account, Bealum notified Instagram and posted a screenshot of the fake profile, asking his 57,000 followers to report it as well. Bealum believes that the added pressure spurred Instagram to act quickly—the bogus profile was removed from the platform within a couple of hours.

“Top Cali packs on deck,” the fake Instagram bio said. “We do discrete delivery within and out of state. Wikr for price and menu…”

(In this case, the way to determine the Instagram account is a scam is because they don’t use the right “discreet” in a sentence. But more on that later.)

Lynn Thomas (@greengoldfarms) of Green Gold Farms in San Diego has seen dozens of Instagram users purporting to be him and offering weed for sale. And what’s worse, he’s heard from people who have been scammed by them.

On several occasions, Thomas says he’s received Instagram direct messages from people who have wired money to one of the imposters for weed they never received. He hates having to be the one to let people know they’ve been scammed.

Thomas says the social media imposters have devised themselves a good racket: victims aren’t likely to seek a refund from a payment service or complain to the police. “I see how it works,” he says, “and there’s [almost] no way to get caught.”

There was one scam victim in particular who contacted Thomas after sending an imposter $2,600 for two pounds of pot that never arrived. Thomas said that even if the scammer is only successful a couple of times a month, at that rate, it’s not a bad take.

Like Bealum, when Thomas gets wind of imposter accounts he notifies Instagram immediately. He then shares a post calling out the scammer and asks his followers to spread the word and report the account. More than anything, Thomas says he doesn’t want more people to have their money stolen, and he also doesn’t want to run into anyone angry about being victimized.

“At the end of the day, they’re using my face to rip people off,” said Thomas.

Courtesy of Jerry Krecicki

Photographer Jerry Krecicki (@jerrykrecicki), whose work has graced the pages of High Times, is another cannabis influencer who’s been impersonated on Instagram and other social media platforms. “I grew up in Everglade City and Naples, Florida—the hub of where all the marijuana came into the country back in the ’80s,” he says. “I started taking pictures of cannabis and growing cannabis at 14-years-old.”

Krecicki said that he was first impersonated by a scammer on social media a couple of years ago.

“I got a message from a friend of mine, complaining to me that he couldn’t believe I was selling cannabis online. I asked him what he was talking about and he pulled the page up. The original page was using pictures of me and my family members for pushing cannabis. So I reported it to Instagram, and I got it deleted.”

He said that with decades in the industry, criminals find his identity attractive to assume. It happens continuously, and Krecicki believes that a repeat offender is to blame.

“I get an average of three to five a week,” Krecicki says. “They’re all from the same guy, normally, that’s doing them. Over the last two years, it’s been a chronic pattern of the same crew doing these fake pages.”

Jerry Krecicki

When contacted for this story, an Instagram spokesperson noted that claiming to be another person violates the platform’s Community Guidelines. The company uses automated tools to detect fake accounts and has more than 20,000 employees working on safety and security—twice as many as last year. Every day, millions of fake accounts are blocked at registration.

“We care deeply about the quality of content on Instagram. And we take spam, inauthentic and other abusive behavior very seriously. When we find inauthentic activity, we work to counter and prevent it, including blocking accounts and removing violating content all at once. We review suspicious activity closely and take the time to understand how to help prevent similar activity in the future,” the spokesperson said via email.

So, how can you determine if a profile you’re following is the real deal? Jonathan Lepow, owner and co-founder of Top Tree (@toptree), a social media digital advertising agency, said that influencers can complete a verification process to assure their followers the profile is legitimate.

“Ultimately, being verified is a great way to know if the person that you’re talking to is legitimately that person,” Lepow says. “But not everybody can be verified,”

There are requirements to meet for an account to attain a verified status. And the existence of imposter profiles could expedite the process.

“When you show a need to Instagram to have your page verified because people are copying you, that can sometimes be a motivator to get an account verified,” said Lepow.

He added that it should be obvious that social media should not be considered a safe way to find your next pot connection.

“If you’re putting yourself in the position to where you’re purchasing cannabis online, you gotta be ready to be scammed,” Lepow said. “Paypal isn’t going to return your money because the drugs weren’t delivered.”

In Bealum’s case, the bio of the fake account had misspellings, which is sacrilege for a writer and a massive indicator that something’s off. Bealum did, however, offer a generous solution for anyone having a hard time finding weed: “People can follow me on Instagram,” he says, “and if they want weed from me, they just gotta come over and we can just smoke.”

Weed Scams are Trending on Instagram—and People are Falling for Them was posted on High Times.

Texas Representative Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

Texas Representative Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

Editor’s Note: Texas! We love it when States decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. Let Texans take the charge.

State Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat from El Paso, introduced a bill on Monday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in the Texas House of Representatives. The measure, House Bill 63, was submitted by Moody on the first day of the pre-filing period for the 2019 legislative session.

If passed, “a person who knowingly or intentionally possesses a usable quantity of marihuana [sic] in an amount that is one ounce or less does not commit an offense but is liable to the state for a civil penalty not to exceed $250,” according to the text of the bill.

It appears the bill might have a chance at success. Both Moody’s own Democratic Party and that of state Republicans call for cannabis reform. And in September, Gov. Greg Abbott, long an obstacle to marijuana reform, indicated that he was “open” to reducing the penalties for possession of small quantities of pot.

Texas Republicans Support Reform

In June, at the convention for the Republican Party of Texas, delegates approved a platform that included several planks in favor of cannabis reform.

“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” reads the official party stance on cannabis.

Another plank called for a change in marijuana regulation at the federal level.

“Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1.”

Heather Fazio, coalition coordinator for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said the party’s positions reflected the opinions of most Americans.

“Texas Republicans, like the majority of Americans, are ready to see more sensible marijuana policies enacted,” Fazio said. “Our state wastes valuable criminal justice resources arresting between 60,000-70,000 Texans annually. Delegates took a stand this week for a better approach.”

“While it would be preferable for cannabis to be de-scheduled entirely, this call by the Texas GOP signifies a very positive shift in opinion,” Fazio added. “Outright prohibition is not working and Texas Republicans want to see Congress take action to make cannabis more accessible.”

Will the Governor Be Onboard?

Since taking office as governor at the beginning of 2015, Abbott has been seen as an impediment to cannabis reform in Texas. And while his position hasn’t evolved as much as his party’s, in an election debate with challenger Lupe Valdez in September, he indicated that he would consider a bill that would reduce possession of less than two ounces of pot from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor.

“One thing I don’t want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Abbott said.

But even though Abbot said he believed that veterans and others lobbying for change made a “compelling” argument, he still did not support an expansion of the state’s restrictive medical marijuana program.

“I’m still not convinced yet,” he said.

Fazio said that Abbott indicating a willingness to consider reform is a major development, but the approach he favors doesn’t go far enough.

“Setting aside the details of what the governor said, the fact that he’s moving on this is itself huge,” said Fazio. “But that still wouldn’t remove all the collateral consequences for possessing a plant that many other states have decriminalized.”

Texas Representative Introduces Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana was posted on High Times.

Voters Make Michigan First Midwestern State to Legalize Adult Use Cannabis

Voters Make Michigan First Midwestern State to Legalize Adult Use Cannabis

Editor’s Note: The Democrats swept the top three State seats (Gov, Sec of State, & AG). Two of the three support the new law, with Whitmer considering forgiving cannabis crimes.

Voters in Michigan legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis in one of three statewide victories for marijuana policy reform in the midterm elections.  Medical marijuana initiatives in Missouri and Utah were also successful on Tuesday, while a measure to legalize recreational pot in North Dakota failed to pass.

Michigan’s Proposal 1 passed by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, state election officials reported on Wednesday morning. The measure allows adults 21 and older to use, possess, buy, and grow recreational marijuana and establishes a regulatory framework for commercial sales.

Josh Hovey of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group that spearheaded Proposal 1, said that voters were able to see beyond the propaganda against legal pot.

“The Proposal 1 campaign boiled down into one of fact versus fear,” said Hovey. “The data from the nine other states to have legalized marijuana made clear that regulation and taxation are a better solution. Legalization of marijuana will end the unnecessary waste of law enforcement resources used to enforce the failed policy of prohibition while generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Michigan’s most important needs.”

National Trend Continues

The approval of Proposal 1 makes Michigan the tenth state to legalize recreational pot. Steve Hawkins, the executive director of the reform group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said in a press release on Tuesday night that the approval of Proposal 1 is a milestone in the effort to legalize cannabis in the United States.

“This is yet another historic election for the movement to end marijuana prohibition. Voters have once again sent a message loud and clear that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana. The victory in Michigan highlights just how widespread support is for marijuana policy reform. This issue does not only enjoy strong support on the coasts, but also in the Midwest and all throughout the country,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins also said that it was time for lawmakers in Washington to follow suit.

“Marijuana has now been legalized for adult use in one out of every five states, so I think it’s safe to say federal laws are in need of an update. We hope the results of this election will inspire Congress to finally start addressing the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws in our nation,” he said.

Matthew Schweich, deputy director of MPP, led the campaign to pass Proposal 1. He noted that Michigan is the first Midwestern state to approve recreational pot.

“The passage of Proposal 1 is a major milestone for marijuana policy reform in the U.S. Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated for adult use,” Schweich said. “Adults will no longer be punished for consuming a substance less harmful than alcohol, and rather than having to resort to the illegal market, they will be able to access it safely and legally from licensed businesses.

Schweich said that a regulated recreational cannabis market will provide additional resources for the state.

“In addition to the public health and safety benefits associated with regulating marijuana, the state will have a significant new stream of tax revenue. Michigan is going to demonstrate that regulating marijuana works, and it will set a strong example for other states in the region and around the country.”

More Reform Needed?

While welcoming the passage of Proposal 1, some cannabis policy reform advocates believe that the initiative does not go far enough. Matthew Abel, an attorney with the Cannabis Counsel in Detroit, said that criminal records should be cleared of convictions for acts that are no longer against the law.

“We need to go back and add expungement for marijuana offenses; there’s nothing automatic about it,” Abel said.

State Senator Coleman Young II agreed.

“Now I’m very hopeful that we can now work on getting these brothers and sisters out of jail and getting them into jobs, and that’s what I’m all about,” Young said.

Voters Make Michigan First Midwestern State to Legalize Adult Use Cannabis was posted on High Times.

Weed the People Gives Children of Medical Cannabis the Spotlight

Weed the People Gives Children of Medical Cannabis the Spotlight

Editor’s Note: This looks like a great movie on medical marijuana. More of this please. Check to see if there is a showing at a theater near you.

The medicinal use of cannabis by sick children is the topic of a new documentary that’s now showing in limited engagements at theaters nationwide. The documentary, Weed the People, by executive producer Ricki Lake and director Abby Epstein, follows terminally ill children and their families desperate to find a medicine that works.

Lake challenged skeptics of medical marijuana in a television interview with CBS News.

“We’ve been brainwashed to think that this plant doesn’t have medicinal value as a Schedule 1 drug, but yet the government holds a patent on it,” Lake said. “There is now an FDA approved drug for epilepsy. So it’s this hypocrisy.  I think it’s about really informing the public to understand the history. And how this was a medicine for thousands and thousands of years and only hasn’t been a medicine for 80 years.”

Lake explained that the project began through her experience with a young fan and her late husband, who used cannabis to treat chronic pain, anxiety, and ADD. When Lake told Epstein that she was going to accompany a 7-year-old girl, who had contacted her while competing on Dancing with the Stars, on a visit to a medical marijuana doctor, the idea for the film was born.

“Wait, I think this is our next movie,” Epstein said.

Challenging Stigma

Epstein said that they decided to focus on sick children and their families in an effort to preemptively mute any argument that medical marijuana is really just about getting high.

“These are babies – literally babies – in the film going through chemo and you see how much this medicine – in some cases, their parents are crediting it for saving their lives. It’s pretty dramatic,” Epstein said.

Lake said that while she hoped to convey valuable information with the film, Weed the People is not about indoctrination.

“My whole sort of basis in all the movies we make together are about informed choice,” Lake said. “I’m really not about getting people to think how I think or do what I did, it’s really about expanding people’s knowledge of something and have them be able to make a judgment and decision that’s best for them and their bodies.”

Lake added that she believes the documentary could help further the conversation on the medicinal use of cannabis.

“I think our film really has an opportunity to kind of be the tipping point for really having the public understand what this plant is about, what it can do,” said Lake.

Lake and Epstein believe the documentary could lead to a better understanding of medical marijuana and its potential to help address serious public health issues including the opioid addiction crisis.

“We really hope this film is kind of a game-changer for people who are really skeptical or just didn’t understand what medical cannabis really looks like,” said Epstein.

Weed the People has screened in film festivals in locations including Los Angeles, New York, Tel Aviv, and Marin County, California. Screenings of the film are currently scheduled at theaters throughout the United States through February 2019.

Weed the People Gives Children of Medical Cannabis the Spotlight was posted on High Times.

Anti-Legalization Group in Michigan Warn Voters of Super Potent Cannabis

Anti-Legalization Group in Michigan Warn Voters of Super Potent Cannabis

Ed. Note: The bullsh*t about cannabis is starting to fly hard and fast as the election nears. Now the ‘anti’ group in Michigan is trying scare tactics, since nothing else is working. This is what the current POTUS does when he wants to scare white people about immigrants. If any of this story was based in fact, they might have a real case. This group is fine with alcohol being legal. How many deaths in Michigan last year from alcohol? About 88,000. How many deaths from cannabis? Zero. None. Zip. De nada. Cannabis does not kill. Alcohol does.

An anti-legalization group in Michigan is telling voters that today’s cannabis is too potent. Campaign workers with Healthy and Productive Michigan were recently calling voters in Detroit in an effort to get them to oppose Proposal 1, the recreational pot legalization initiative on the ballot next month. Reading from a script provided by the anti-pot political action committee, Wynona Moss of Warren, Michigan contacted voters via her cell phone.

“Did you know that today’s drug is much more potent than in the ‘80s? The THC level in highly potent marijuana edibles is not regulated,” she recited to a voter she reached.

The efforts against Proposal 1 by Healthy and Productive Michigan are being funded by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a cannabis opposition group led by anti-pot crusader Kevin Sabet. Luke Niforatos, the SAM chief of staff, said that the effects of cannabis products high in THC are unknown.

“This is limitless potency marijuana,” said Luke Niforatos. “What does it hurt to wait until we get the solid research on high potency THC?”

Despite Niforatos’ claim of unlimited potency, Michigan medical marijuana regulations currently in effect limit cannabis products to 50 milligrams of THC. Similar limits for recreational products would also likely be enacted if Proposal 1 is successful at the ballot box.

Sabet, the CEO of SAM, said during a visit to Michigan earlier this month that residents of the state should vote against the legalization initiative when they go to the polls next month.

“The pot industry has done a very good job of selling a product that they say is safe and benign,” Sabet said. “But we now have genetically bred products and very unprecedented levels of THC. We should reject Proposal 1.”

High THC ‘Not To Be Feared’

Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher studying the effects of cannabis for veterans with PTSD at the Scottsdale Research Institute Laboratory in Phoenix, agrees that THC levels found in marijuana have increased over the past several decades.

“There is selective breeding now. All these geneticists are developing breed traits that are desirable for both (medical) cannabis patients and on the adult recreational-use side,” said Sisley. “Certainly, people are looking for the high THC formulations.”

But Sisley also said that there are medical benefits to high-potency products and strains of marijuana high in cannabinoids.

“High THC levels should not be feared because it’s often the best option when it comes to treating pain and other illnesses,” Sisley said. “We need a system where patients can be educated on how to use the products.”

Angie Rouiller,  a team leader at GreenHouse, a licensed dispensary in Walled Lake, Michigan, said that highly potent products are necessary for some medical marijuana patients.

“It comes down to the individual person. For a person who hasn’t tried cannabis since Woodstock, it’s completely different,” Rouiller said. “I tell them to try 5 milligrams and be at home in a comfortable space and have a loved one present. But if you have someone who is trying to kick morphine, they’re not going to feel that 50-milligram concentrate. There is a place for those products.”

Anti-Legalization Group in Michigan Warn Voters of Super Potent Cannabis was posted on High Times.