Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal?

[Canniseur: This is a conundrum. The real question is; “Is cannabis sativa really cannabis sativa”? The answer should be obvious, but it’s not. The federal government needs to pull its collective head out its collective nether region and figure out a way to either de-schedule cannabis entirely or move it to at least Schedule 3. It should just be removed. It’s starting to get silly and this article shows why. Attorneys will have a field day.]

When the federal Farm Bill passed last December, it’s doubtful that its crafters — like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — anticipated what we are now witnessing. In convenience stores, smoke shops and truck stops across the country, what is to all outward appearance marijuana bud is freely and openly for sale. To the eyes as well as the nose, this stuff is marijuana: fragrant flower-tops, sticky with resin. There’s only one real difference: it doesn’t get you high.

While it may be rich in the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD, it contains less than 0.3% THC — not nearly enough to feel high. This makes it “hemp” under the law — and, its purveyors insist, therefore perfectly legal.

And so far, the courts agree with them.

Read the rest of this story on Cannabis Now

Is ‘Smokable Hemp’ Legal? was posted on Cannabis Now.

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use

[Canniseur: The courts are finally starting to turn around on the question of workers rights within legal medical or adult-use cannabis. 15 States have made progress, while California, Michigan, Oregon, or Washington do not have protections in place.]

Advocates increasingly assert that cannabis legalization is not fully realized unless workers are guaranteed their right employment even if they partake of the herb off-hours. Some states are finally taking measures to rein in the use of urine test results as an excuse to fire or turn down job applicants.

If you use cannabis on your own time in a state where it is legal, should that be grounds for terminating your employment or rejecting your application for a job? Advocates are starting to say no, and demanding action to protest workers’ rights to use cannabis without the fear of the sack and unemployment.

Some states have already made progress in this direction. Yet California, which led the way toward opening legal space for cannabis with the Propositio 215 medical marijuana initiative in 1996, is not among them. Neither 215 nor the Prop 64 adult-use legalization initiative exactly 20 years later provided any such protections.

California Out of the Vanguard

California’s Supreme Court actually ruled on the question in 2008, finding that Prop 215 does not protect workers’ rights. The high court dismissed a suit brought by Gary Ross, an Air Force veteran who suffered from a back injury sustained during his military service. Ross sued under the state’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA), charging that he had been wrongfully denied employment by RagingWire Telecommunications after testing positive for cannabis use. The court found that 215 did not create a general right to use medical marijuana, but only protected patients from criminal prosecution.

Later that year, the State Legislature passed a law to correct this situation, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers in non-safety-sensitive jobs for using medical marijuana. However, it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has launched a campaign to instate employment protections for cannabis users.

Progress in 15 States 

Fortunately, things are looking a little better elsewhere in the United States. Fifteen states have passed laws making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against either an employee or job applicant who uses medical marijuana as permitted by state law. These states are Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

In June, Nevada became the first state to actually ban pre-employment cannabis testing altogether — for workers not in public safety positions, an inevitable exception. The law was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak and will take effect next year. 

In Maine, which voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in the same 2016 elections that California and Nevada did, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on cannabis use. This was written into the text of the Pine Tree State’s 2002 medical marijuana law. However, there are no laws that directly address drug testing. 

The New York City Council also passed a measure this April that bars employers from requiring job applicants to pass a cannabis screening test as a condition of employment. 

There is likewise a sense of the tide turning on the judicial front. After years of upholding employee firings for use of cannabis even under state medical marijuana programs, the courts are finally starting to turn around on the question. The rights of Massachusetts medical patients were upheld in state court last year, as were those of patients in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

In February of this year, another such victory was reported from Arizona — this time in the federal courts. Carol Whitmire, a former Arizona Walmart employee and card-holding medical marijuana patient who was fired after testing positive for cannabis, won a wrongful termination suit in the U.S. district court in Phoenix. 

A remedy from Capitol Hill may also be in the works. Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this year would protect the jobs of federal employees who use cannabis in states where their use is currently legal. The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would prohibit cannabis drug-testing “from being used as the sole factor to deny or terminate federal employment for civilian positions at executive branch agencies if the individual is in compliance with the marijuana laws in their state of residence.”

And the Golden State, which has long been at the forefront of expanding freedom for cannabis users, may soon be catching up with Nevada, its supposedly more conservative neighbor to the east. California NORML asserts: “Employment drug testing has been shown in federal studies not to improve worker safety, but it’s a great way to discriminate against cannabis consumers. We hope to sponsor a bill that will truly make marijuana legal for all adults and educate unions and employers about the needlessness of drug testing.”

Advocates Push Workers’ Right to Cannabis Use was posted on Cannabis Now.

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

Original Post: Cannabis Now: South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp

[Canniseur: USDA is foot-dragging! It sure seems like all Federal departments are in chaos, which is a logical outcome from having a president that thrives on chaos and lies. Get it together, it’s hemp!]

One Native American tribe heads to court to demand the right to cultivate low-THC cannabis and to force the USDA to live up to its regulatory responsibilities under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The federal bureaucracy hasn’t yet caught up with the law where hemp cultivation and commerce are concerned — leaving a lot of would-be entrepreneurs and enterprises in the lurch.

Legislation is now pending on Capitol Hill that calls upon the Food & Drug Administration to finally regulate CBD products, addressing a dilemma that has been outstanding since hemp-derived CBD was legalized under last year’s Farm Bill. The failure of the FDA to create regulations for CBD as a food additive or drug means many such products actually remain illegal — despite the clear will of Congress.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also failed to bring its regulations into conformity with the Farm Bill. The USDA in late May issued a memo establishing protocols for interstate commerce in hemp. But it has still failed to provide any legal clarity on the question of hemp cultivation, including on Native American tribal lands. 

Given the unique jurisdictional status of such lands, it is the USDA that has the authority to permit and oversee such cultivation. Its failure to issue regulations on the matter is another legal hindrance to Native American cannabis cultivation.

Now the USDA is under pressure from litigation. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has launched suit in a South Dakota federal district court, seeking to force the USDA to approve its plan to regulate hemp production on tribal lands — or get out of the way. 

Bureaucracy Bottlenecks Tribal Sovereignty 

Under provisions of the Farm Bill, states must submit their plans for hemp cultivation to the USDA for approval before planting can begin. For South Dakota, this doesn’t really matter anyway, as Gov. Kristi Noem in March vetoed a bill that would have allowed hemp cultivation in the state. The good news is that since Indian reservations are considered sovereign entities under federal law (just like states), they may apply separately to cultivate even if the state they are situated in doesn’t allow it.

The bad news is that the USDA hasn’t issued its own regulations for approval of such plans, meaning everything is at a standstill.

According to the Farm Bill, both state and tribal hemp plans must be approved by USDA within 60 days of being submitted. The USDA received the Santee Sioux plan back on March 8, and the tribe made clear that it had already invested money in anticipation of planting a hemp crop in 2019. The tribe says the USDA’s inaction on the plan places it at jeopardy of losing a revenue source it counted on.

“A delay in approval of the tribal plan and unlawfully withholding tribal authority curtails receipt of the tribal revenue from hemp production at grave cost to tribal members, putting tribal members’ health, safety, and welfare at risk,” the lawsuit states, according to the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls. 

Instead of approval, the tribe received a letter dated April 24 from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, saying that no plans would be approved until the USDA established regulations to oversee hemp cultivation and that these regs are not expected to be completed until this fall.

On June 6, the case was dealt a setback when Judge Karen Schreier in Sioux Falls denied the tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed cultivation to commence. The Santee Sioux must now wait until the case is resolved or until the USDA approves the tribe’s production plan, Sioux Falls’ KSFY reported. 

The court concluded that the Farm Bill “provides exclusive authority to the Secretary to issue rules and regulations” relating to hemp. The court continued: “A harmonious reading of the statute lends to the likelihood that the 60-day window to approve or deny a plan does not begin until regulations are promulgated by the USDA.”

The USDA on June 24 had a series of “summary descriptions” of pending regulations published in the Federal Register. Among these was “Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program.” It noted: “This action is required to implement provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill).” The timetable for this regulation indicated that an “Interim Final Rule” would be ready by August — too late in the year for the Santee Sioux to plant a hemp crop. 

First Crop Was Burned — And Not the Good Way

The Flandreau Santee Sioux voted to legalize cultivation and use of cannabis on their tribal lands in June 2015. Later that year, tribal leaders announced plans for the addition of a cannabis-themed resort to the reservation’s successful casino. Marijuana grown on the rez was to be available in a new nightclub and “smoking lounge.” Plans for “social consumption” of cannabis were being pioneered by the Santee Sioux before various states and municipalities around the country started pursuing the idea. “We want it to be an adult playground,” tribal president Anthony Reider told the Associated Press at the time.

But that November, the Tribal Council voted to temporarily suspend their marijuana operation. Immediately after the vote, the tribe’s first cannabis crop was burned in the fields. 

The decision was taken after South Dakota officials, including then-Attorney General Marty Jackley, warned that legalization on the reservation would only be seen as applying to tribal members. Therefore, non-tribal members using cannabis on the reservation risked prosecution under state law. Rather than risk a confrontation with state authorities, the tribe agreed to suspend the project. 

However, the move was explicitly seen as a tactical retreat. Tribal attorney Seth C. Pearman said in a statement, published by Indian Country Today: “After government-to-government consultation with the United States, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities. This suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture… The Tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state governments and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana. The Tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and Tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep.”

After this setback, hopes were revived for reservation hemp cultivation after the passage of the Farm Bill last December — only to be met with frustration yet again, this time by USDA foot-dragging. 

The Santee Sioux are certainly owed a little bit of long-delayed justice from Uncle Sam. Their history is the all-too-familiar one of expropriation of their traditional lands, followed by forced relocation.

The Santee Sioux briefly made news in December 2012, when tribal members made a horseback pilgrimage to Mankato, Minnesota. The cross-country ride was made to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 mass public hanging there of 38 Dakota Sioux men, for crimes allegedly committed in that year’s U.S.-Dakota War, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The execution order was personally signed by President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, the Dakota were pushed west from their Minnesota homeland and became known as the Santee Sioux. They settled at Flandreau, and a second Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska.

TELL US, who do you think should be in charge of regulating hemp production? 

The post South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp appeared first on Cannabis Now.

South Dakota Tribe Sues USDA Over Right to Grow Hemp was posted on Cannabis Now.

Inside the Free Speech Battle Over Vancouver’s 420 Festivities

Inside the Free Speech Battle Over Vancouver’s 420 Festivities

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Inside the Free Speech Battle Over Vancouver’s 420 Festivities

[Canniseur: Civil disobedience & Canada – 2 phrases one doesn’t hear too often in the same sentence. It’s fascinating to see how legalized cannabis in Canada is getting played out. There will be lessons learned for Countries following their path to legal cannabis.]

Vancouver’s first 420 event of the post-legalization era in Canada is, paradoxically, turning into a fight over free speech. City authorities claim the event has gotten out of control and must come to an end — or at least be significantly reined in. Organizers, in turn, are asserting their right to hold the event without a permit, just as they always have. 

This year’s Vancouver 420 will be the 25th time the festival has been held since the event began as a pro-legalization rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Since 2016, the event has been held at Sunset Beach, a waterfront park, where it attracts tens of thousands of revelers, with some 40,000 attendees congregating during the peak at 4:20 p.m. and up to 100,000 over the course of the eight-hour bacchanalia.

But the Vancouver Park Board is saying the unpermitted fun must come to an end and has thrown up a multitude of bureaucratic obstacles. In the most recent development, at an April 15 meeting, Park Board commissioner John Coupar raised a motion to ask event organizers to cancel the planned performance by hip hop giants Cypress Hill. That motion passed, and the organizers are now on notice. 

“Cancel Cypress Hill, because that’s a big escalation,” Coupar warned organizers, speaking to Vancouver’s CityNews. “It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘OK, you think it was big last year? We’re going to really make it bigger and there’s nothing you can do about it.’”

‘Largest Act of Civil Disobedience in Canadian History’

David Malmo-Levine, longtime Vancouver cannabis activist and one of the event organizers, struck a defiant tone when reached by Cannabis Now — and he was particularly enthused about Cypress Hill.

“It’s the first time we have a major act performing,” he says. “It’s on a Saturday, so we expect a massive turnout. The parks board is the right wing of Vancouver politics and they’re losing their sh*t over the fact that they can’t shut us down and we refuse to pay for policing.”

That demand from the city, for event organizers to pick up the tab for policing, has also placed them at odds with authorities. The city additionally wants a halt to illicit-market sales of cannabis products on the site. Some 300 unpermitted cannabis-product vendors are expected at the event — and the park board has threatened to shut them all down.

But Malmo-Levine believes authorities will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. “They like to pretend that cops can shut it down,” he says. “There aren’t enough cops and jails and paddy wagons in Western Canada to shut it down. Realistically, this could be the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, and possibly a demonstration of the strength of the black market to assert its right to exist.”

Another Parks Board commissioner, Tricia Barker, is openly saying that this year’s 420 event will be the last to be held in a city park. And ironically, she is pointing to cannabis legalization as one of the reasons why. Both city police and British Columbia’s Community Safety Unit are gearing up to wipe out the illicit market.

“Everyone is getting used to the new laws; with another year under their belt they just won’t be allowing all the illegal sales that happen” at 420, she told the Vancouver Sun. “By next year they will be ready and there will be no permitted seller of cannabis at this event.”

Protest or Festival?

Much of the controversy hinges on whether 420 is a “protest” or a “festival,” with the event’s website splitting it down the middle by calling it a “protest festival.” 

Organizers say that as a protest, the event is not on the hook for covering the costs of its own policing. But the parks board says the event is no longer a “protest,” even if it began as one way back in 1995.

Barker said plans to bring in Cypress Hill are actually working against the event. “It’s gone now from being a protest to a festival, and I think they were foolish to do this because it makes our point stronger, that it’s not a protest,” Barker told the Sun

She also asserted that the fact it is no longer illegal to smoke cannabis in Canada weakens the event’s claim to be a protest, protected under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “The bottom line is it’s legal now and you can’t smoke in a park. They’ve run out of arguments.”

British Columbia’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth weighed in on the side of the Park Board. He told Vancouver’s CityNews: “This is an annual thing and we’ve seen it the last number of year and my expectation is, you know what, it really should change to meet the times. The fact [is] that we now have legalization in this country.”

The Park Board last year billed organizers $64,870 for the clean-up and other costs related to the event — and despite having signed no permit, they paid up most of it (minus a retroactive permit fee and some other contested items). However, organizers refused to pay an additional $170,796 the city has demanded to cover the costs of policing the event.

Organizers are likely to be hit with similar sums after this year’s 420 — to similar results. “Protests do not pay for policing costs,” organizer Dana Larsen told Canada’s Global News. “The idea that you can’t hold a protest in Vancouver unless you give a huge amount of money to the police kind of goes against the idea of a democracy.”

Even some outside the bureaucracy aren’t buying 420 Vancouver’s argument. “Protests don’t have booths,” Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told Global News. “They don’t have commerce tents, they don’t sell t-shirts, they don’t have cookies for sale. This is a festival, and it should be treated as a festival, and by that I mean taxpayers should not be footing the bill for this.”

Between the costs controversy and the pledged illicit-market crackdown, the Park Board is adamant that this year’s 420 will be the last to be held in a Vancouver park. “We do not allow smoking in parks [and] we will never, ever permit this event,” commissioner Barker told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

But Malmo-Levine, for one, says the event remains a protest despite Canada’s legalization of cannabis. “It is still quite illegal for the young to use and the poor to grow and deal,” he says. “They only legalized half our community. Until it’s as legal as coffee beans, it’s a protest.”

TELL US, have you ever been to a cannabis protest?

The post Inside the Free Speech Battle Over Vancouver’s 420 Festivities appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Inside the Free Speech Battle Over Vancouver’s 420 Festivities was posted on Cannabis Now.

Buffalo, NY Turns to Cannabis for Post-Industrial Renaissance

Buffalo, NY Turns to Cannabis for Post-Industrial Renaissance

Original Post: Cannabis Now: Buffalo, NY Turns to Cannabis for Post-Industrial Renaissance

[Canniseur: Hopefully NY passes legal cannabis and the Federal government passes the STATES Act by year’s end. A lot of companies are banking on cannabis decriminalization and Flora Buffalo is one them with this ambitious project.]

A deal with a California-based cannabis company sounds almost too good to be true — and thanks to a budgeting fumble, it just might be.

New York state’s second city of Buffalo has long been a national symbol of rust-belt economic and infrastructural decay. A century ago, Western New York’s Buffalo was the seat of booming industry, but the city suffered a long slide downhill after World War II.

The closing of the Bethlehem Steel plant in 1982, with some 20,000 jobs lost, left the city groping for a new economic future. Development in the financial and medical sectors has helped, but the quest for a post-industrial recovery is ongoing. Now Buffalo’s boosters are banking on a new boom: legal cannabis.

Urban planners have approved a massive cannabis facility backed by California capital for the city’s long-inactive waterfront — and Buffalo’s boosters say the project could turn the Great Lakes region into a leading global hub of cannabis output.

The Greening of the Waterfront

The firm Flora Buffalo is now preparing to open its “high-tech campus” on the city’s Lake Erie waterfront. Local website Buffalo Rising, a kind of semi-official organ of the urban recovery effort, says the sprawling new cannabis cultivation facility “will assuredly position this city as a driving force in the industry, not just statewide, but worldwide.”  

Flora Buffalo, a project of San Diego-based Flora California Prime Inc, has won approval to acquire 72 acres of waterfront in a zone re-designated for such uses by the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC). The BUDC, an agency created to buy up abandoned properties and sell them off to new economic interests, voted up the project unanimously in January. As the Buffalo News reported, the purchase price was $1.9 million. That comes to $42,500 per usable acre, as the property includes wetlands.

The $200 million project foresees hiring up to 1,000 employees for a facility that will eventually cover 1.2 million square feet, including greenhouses, an extraction laboratory and corporate offices. The site mostly covers what the BUDC has dubbed the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, but it will extend into the Union Ship Canal area, designated a “brownfield,” by New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Much of the money for the project is coming from Zephyr Investors, a San Diego real estate development company led by Buffalo native Brad Termini, who also sits on the board of Flora. 

Flora plans to conduct medical research in cooperation with Buffalo’s Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute and SUNY Erie Community College

An account on Buffalo Rising enthuses: “With the addition of the facility, the Great Lakes region, including southern Ontario, will become the largest producing region of cannabis in the world. Across the lake in Ontario there are [six] publicly traded companies with valuations in excess of $1 billion that didn’t [exist] three years ago. This is an important milestone that Buffalo will be able to participate in this rapidly growing industry, creating jobs and economic impact for the region, and eventually cross border trade when the state and federal conflict eases.”  

The Political Equation

As that statement makes clear, the project is predicated on political changes — it takes for granted that cannabis legalization is coming to New York state, and anticipates that the federal government will eventually follow.  In fact, under terms of the deal, construction is not to begin and the BUDC’s sale of the property to Flora is not be finalized unless a legalization bill passes in Albany by year’s end.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is enthusiastically on board with the project and strikes confident tones about the political prospects. “The sale of this land positions the City of Buffalo to be on the leading edge of the potential passage of recreational marijuana in New York State,” Brown told the Buffalo News. “We don’t think it’s premature… We think it’s wise.”

Brown emphasized that Flora and Zephyr have agreed to a “community benefits” package, including a commitment that at least 25 percent of the contractors on the construction will be minority-owned. The same 25 percent of the construction workers are to from minority communities, and at least 5 percent will be women. Flora has also agreed to a target of 75 percent local workers, with a preference for city residents, and all are to receive a “living wage.” The project will also include an “incubator” space for Buffalo entrepreneurs and a vocational job-training center.

But at the end of March, the New York state budget was approved by lawmakers in Albany without the legalization measure that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to be included. “In concept, we have agreement,” Cuomo said upon passage of the budget bill. “But that is all about the devil is in the details. And that is going to take more time to work out.”

Some lawmakers — and many legalization advocates — felt that Cuomo’s measure was too conservative, and were pushing a more far-reaching bill, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). 

Negotiations are expected to resume later this month, but sticking points include how the state would apportion the tax revenue from cannabis sales, whether the governor or lawmakers would have more control over the licensing process and just how much cannabis would actually be legalized. Cuomo’s version would legalize up to an ounce — the same quantity already decriminalized in New York since 1977. Under MRTA, the threshold is to be two pounds. MRTA would also address the olfactory dilemma in law enforcement, prohibiting police from considering the scent of cannabis as reason to conduct a search.

Buffalo, NY Turns to Cannabis for Post-Industrial Renaissance was posted on Cannabis Now.

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