[Cannabis: Even without a lot of scientific evidence, cannabis has shown itself to be beneficial to all the service people who have PTSD or a variety of ills. There is evidence other than anecdotal, that cannabis can indeed relieve some of the indications surrounding PTSD and do it in a way that doesn’t harm the person. Cannabis stores are an important part of essential services that our former soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen need. Keep the stores OPEN!!!]
A congresswoman is raising concern that a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy prohibiting its doctors from recommending medical marijuana to patients means that military veterans could be especially impacted by her home state’s decision to shut down recreational cannabis shops amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) raised the issue in a tweet, linking to a story about a veterans advocacy group that is calling on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (D) to reopen adult-use shops so that veterans can continue to obtain marijuana products more readily and without fear of being penalized.
While medical cannabis dispensaries remain open in the state, the Veterans Cannabis Project said service members often resist registering as patients out of concern about losing federal benefits. Getting certified as medical cannabis patients can also take time and money that many veterans don’t have. In contrast, any adult over 21 years of age can walk into a recreational marijuana shop—or they could, before Baker ordered them closed as part of broader business shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although VA has an administrative policy that says veterans will not lose their federal benefits due to marijuana use, it is not widely known and could be changed at any time. Meanwhile, though VA has maintained that its physicians can discuss cannabis use with veterans, they’re barred from helping them obtain the substance—and that includes by issuing recommendations to certify them as medical cannabis patients under state laws.
“Under federal policy, [VA] health care providers may not recommend marijuana or assist veterans in obtaining it,” Clark said. “By closing down recreational dispensaries, our veterans who rely on these stores are left without care.”
The @DeptVetAffairs must change its policy and in the meantime, the state must find a way to serve our vets.
No one should be left behind in this national emergency.
Clark has championed other cannabis- and veterans- released issues in the past. Last year, the House approved an amendment the congresswoman sponsored that sought to end a VA policy that denies home loans to veterans simply because they work in the marijuana industry. The Senate did not follow suit, however, and the provision was not enacted into law.
A separate piece of legislation that would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), was approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month. That panel also voted in favor of a bill that would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana for conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, Blumenauer’s bill to allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis would have zero fiscal impact.
[Canniseur: This might look like a growing story, but it is most assuredly, not. This is a story about states and the mentality that’s taking the small cultivators out of the market for legal cannabis. MIsguided regulators, legislators, and lobbyists are killing the small grower. The lobbyists are hired by those with deep pockets and small growers don’t have deep pockets. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Something needs to be done about this.]
Nobody likes to hear “I told you so” ringing in their ears. But today, as California’s small cannabis farmers face increasing challenges in the legal industry, the sneering refrain practically echoes down the redwood canyons of the Emerald Triangle, its four cutting syllables carried in each morning with the fog.
For Casey O’Neill, who has one of the most public and outspoken advocates for a small-farm-friendly version of cannabis legalization since 2014, the “I told you so” carries a particular punch. He is a native son of Mendocino County, raised on a homestead north of Laytonville where he still lives, farming vegetables and cannabis on the land with his partner Amber and their family. He’s seen the harsh nature of the government. Law enforcement stormed his parents’ house before his third birthday over a few cannabis plants, and when he was older and working as a cannabis grower, he was swept up in a raid and served two months in county jail.
But by the time California started to seriously consider cannabis legalization in the 2010s, O’Neill believed it was a good idea. Legal pot, he thought, was a great way to support small farmers and California’s rural economies and keep people out of prison. He still trusts in this vision. Where he thinks he might have been wrong, in retrospect, is in judging the government’s ability to actually execute those policies.
“I went in with this possibly naïve idea that we were going to construct a regulatory paradigm that was built around small businesses — and we came f*cking close, that’s the devastating part,” O’Neill says. “I invested significant time, energy and faith in a governmental process and then had that faith shattered. And now, all of the old hippies are like, ‘I f*cking told you so. You f*cking thought they were going to play fair?’ It’s really disenchanting.”
[Canniseur: This story is disgusting on so many levels, it’s hard to imagine. I don’t normally like to publish stories like this, it’s not Canniseur’s wheelhouse, but this one shows these neferious “officers of the peace” cheating. I know that many cannabis and or drug arrests in many arrests made in many places are illegal plants. I have no idea (nor does anyone else really) why planting drugs on a ‘suspect’ has anything to do with serving and protecting. If there’s a lack of respect for law officers, it’s because of stupid shenanigans like this.]
A pair of New York City police officers are once again in hot water with the public after newly-released body camera footage shows the cops clearly planting cannabis in a car before making an arrest. The footage of illegal police malpractice — which was released this week, two years after the stop occurred — came just months after the exact same officers were caught on camera planting false cannabis evidence in a separate car.
The new video, which was obtained exclusively by The Intercept, shows Staten Island NYPD officers Kyle Erickson and Elmer Pastran stopping a car, telling the driver and passenger that they smelled weed, and demanding the two get out of the car so they can search it.
Immediately, the car passenger, Jason Serrano, informs the officers that he is returning from the hospital after surgery for a stab wound, and shows them his bandages and stitches. Officer Erickson can then be heard saying, “I don’t want to see that,” before forcing him out of the car and then quickly pushing him to the ground. Serrano would remain handcuffed, in visible pain, lying on the sidewalk for the rest of the incident before an ambulance had to come take him to the hospital.
Before Serrano could be treated for the damage to his wound, the cops rifled through every inch of the car, with their body cameras catching multiple muttered expletives as the officers failed to find any contraband. On a third trip into the front seats of the car, Officer Erickson’s body camera clearly shows him holding a small nug of what looks like cannabis, before he drops it in the center console, immediately picks it up, and then tells his partner that he found something. A few moments later, the same cop is seen fiddling with Serrano’s jacket — after it had already been thoroughly searched — before allegedly finding an empty plastic bag with drug residue in it.
As a result of Erickson’s false evidence accusation, Serrano sat for five days handcuffed to a hospital bed while his stab wound re-healed, and was charged with both possession of illegal drugs and resisting arrest. In an attempt to avoid jail time, Serrano took a plea deal. The video of the false arrest would not come out for another two years.
“They said I was resisting arrest, but I just didn’t want to hit the floor, the only thing I was thinking about was this,” Serrano told The Intercept, pointing to the scar on his stomach. “I still had staples in me… I couldn’t even stand up straight.”
And while Serrano’s case alone may seem like enough to keep Officers Erickson and Pastran off the street and put into jail cells of their own, the cops were actually caught planting cannabis as evidence during another traffic stop just two months before Serrano’s arrest. The victim in that instance, who was also detained for narcotics possession, has since filed a $1 million lawsuit against the NYPD. Despite clear video footage of the officers planting false evidence in at least two separate cases, both Erickson and Pastran are still on the force, patrolling the same Staten Island neighborhood.
New York legislators and citizen advocates have for years tried to tamp down the power of the NYPD, especially when it comes to minor, non-violent offenses like cannabis possession. But as the world continues to change dramatically in the face of the growing coronavirus crisis, departments across the country — including major east coast cities — have taken a hands-off approach to policing. The recent changes have been pitched as ways to protect officers, but with arrest stoppages for most misdemeanor and non-violent crimes in places like Philadelphia, the new cop directives will also protect thousands of citizens from the police. Similarly, newly detected calls of COVID-19 inside of America’s prison system have led to loud, encouraging calls for widespread prison reform in the interest of safety, including the release of all cannabis offenders.
[Canniseur: Medical cannabis in Alabama? YES!!! Alabama. The state of Jeff Sessions, the anti-marijuana advocate. The Alabama Senate has passed (by a pretty wide margin) a bill that has 15 health conditions. Now it needs the Alabama House to pass and that’s where the bill died last year. Come on Alabama House. Pass the bill!]
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A medical marijuana bill cleared its first floor vote Thursday in the Alabama Legislature as advocates hope to make headway after years of setbacks.
The Alabama Senate vote 22-10 for the bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson after five hours of debate. The legislation now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.
The proposal would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions – including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It also would allow them to purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.
The Senate approval was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.
Melson said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances this legislative session.
“Things have changed. We learn as we go in life and people have realized there are benefits,” Melson said before the debate.
An anesthesiologist by training, Melson said he grew to support the idea of medicinal marijuana after hearing the stories of people who had been helped by it. Advocates packed an earlier public hearing on the bill to tell lawmakers their stories.
The legislation faced some opposition on the Senate floor.
Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician, said medical marijuana laws bypass the normal processes for drug approval. Sen. Arthur Orr, a Republican from Decatur, stayed at the Senate microphone for more than an hour, introducing amendments.
Republican Sen. Dan Roberts said he could support an expansion of Alabama’s existing law allowing the use of CBD oil, but not a full medical marijuana law.
“We have an FDA that has a process. … I just believe we are doing irreparable damage to the children of our state and to our state by doing what we are doing,” Roberts said.
The bill also faces opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. He sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
The bill faces an uncertain future as it heads to the House of Representatives. In prior sessions, a Senate-passed bill stalled in the House.
“We are just in a wait and see mode,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said.
[Canniseur: This is a very welcome piece of legislation and I would add that it’s about time! Minorities have been given short shrift in obtaining a license for anything because the regulators in all the states (almost all at any rate) have put the barriers to entry high…in other words, licenses have been very expensive almost everywhere. I’m happy to see that those most affected by prohibition are at least allowed affordable entry into the industry.]
Emerald State lawmakers will put nearly three dozen marijuana
business licenses into the hands of those most affected by prohibition.
Washington lawmakers passed a new bill welcoming longtime victims of America’s War on Drugs into the state’s cannabis market this week, in an attempt to begin reconciling a huge access gap in legal weed business licenses.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, the new law, approved by both houses of the state legislature, will guarantee that at least 34 previously-revoked cannabis business licenses are redistributed to qualifying equity applicants.
Despite trailblazing as one of the first states with a fully functioning adult-use cannabis industry, Washington has since struggled to spread the wealth, with large swaths of the local marketplace dominated by deep-pocketed investors.
“When we first started issuing those licenses, it was easy access for those who had a lot of resources and understood the process,” Rep. Eric Pettigrew, who sponsored the new bill, told MJBizDaily. “Not surprisingly, this made it difficult if not impossible for many would-be entrepreneurs in communities of color, especially African Americans and Latinos, to obtain licenses to grow and process marijuana, or to open retail shops. This gives us an opportunity to go back and offer more equal access to citizens throughout the state.”
Under the new bill, total licensing access for the 34 open slots will cost under $2,000, with additional support from a cannabis tax fund. After years of back and forth between equity applicants and Liquor Control Board regulators, Paula Sardinas, commissioner and lobbyist for the state’s Commission on African American Affairs, said that the guaranteed equity permits will hopefully build a new trust between the community and state officials.
“We will now have the most progressive social equity program in the country,” Sardinas said. “In order for that work to be successful, we must also address the lack of trust that exists between the community and the LCB.”
The new law, which is currently sitting on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk, where it is expected to be ratified soon, will also create a task force to oversee the distribution and successful use of the equity licenses. The task force is expected to have its first meeting this summer, July 1st, with plenty of new cultivation sites, manufacturing centers, and dispensaries opening shortly after.
“It’s a great start to allow for more opportunities for people of color to be a part of this growing industry, and to reap the benefits not only for their business community but for the entire community,” state Rep. Eric Pettigrew said.
[Canniseur: This will play out in a fascinating way, I believe. In the past, the U.S. government has not honored treaties with the individual tribes. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has never been fair to the tribes. This plays against state law in South Dakota and Federal Law. Technically, American Indian reservations are supposed to be ‘sovereign nations’, but in actual fact, they are not. This may be very interesting or it may just fizzle out. We’ll have to wait and see.]
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a referendum to legalize medical and recreational marijuana on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, according to preliminary results from the tribe’s election commission.
A proposal to allow alcohol in the tribe’s casino failed.
The results of Tuesday’s vote will be certified by the end of the month. In the tally from all precincts announced on Wednesday morning, both medical and recreational marijuana passed by wide margins, with 82% of voters approving medical marijuana and 74% approving recreational pot. The alcohol proposal failed by 12 percentage points.
The Oglala Sioux will become the only Native American tribe to set up a cannabis market in a state where it’s otherwise illegal. The tribal council is next supposed to enact laws for how marijuana will be legalized and regulated. According to initial plans, the tribe will not take ownership of cannabis production or retail, but license individuals and put a retail tax on pot. The Tribal Council will take up the issue on March 31.
Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesperson for the tribe’s president, Julian Bear Runner, said the vote reflected the difference in how many tribal members perceive alcohol and marijuana. He called alcohol a “poison” that was forced on the tribe; whereas he described marijuana as a “healing plant” that presented a path out of poverty and historical trauma.
Iron Eyes said that though traditional Lakota society still eschews both alcohol and pot, people were swayed by the medicinal and economic potential in cannabis.
Tribal leaders have pitched setting up a marijuana resort near the tribe’s casino in order to attract tourists visiting the Black Hills. They envision a small eco-tourism industry developing from the increase in visitors.
Rick Gray Grass, who is part of the tribe’s executive leadership and pushed the marijuana proposal, said he hopes to have dispensaries open by August or September. He is still formulating the regulations that will be presented to the tribal council. He expected the council to limit people to purchasing an ounce of pot and enact security measures to prevent people from taking it off tribal land.
Still, the proposal sets up a potential conflict with federal and state authorities. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in the eastern part of the state attempted to grow and sell marijuana in 2015, but ended up burning its cannabis plants after conflicts with federal and state governments.
Gray Grass argued that the tribe’s treaty with the federal government allows them to act as a sovereign nation. “I think we have a stronger stand on Pine Ridge,” he said.
Tribal leaders said they want to cooperate with authorities in setting up a marijuana market and have discussed their plans with the U.S. attorney’s office for the state. Federal and state law enforcement has not commented on the issue.
The tribe is also looking for ways to get people prescriptions for medical marijuana. Indian Health Services, which provides most of the healthcare on the reservation, will not prescribe marijuana because it is a federal agency. The tribe’s current plans do not have special provisions for people with prescriptions.
South Dakota voters will also decide on medical and recreational marijuana legalization in a referendum on ballots in November.
If voters decide to legalize marijuana in the state, it could mean a boom for the tribe’s marijuana market. They would have a head start in growing and selling pot, making tribal members the only retailers in the state for a period.
Trent Hancock, a marijuana producer from Oregon who has helped the tribe formulate its pot plans, hoped that tribal members could sell $100 million of the product in a year under that scenario.
[Canniseur: This is a welcome development for Vets. And it has now passed committee. But…the former representative from North Carolina who is now the president’s chief of staff, is completely anti-cannabis. His views are, sadly, old and completely racist. Let’s hope congress gets it together in a bi-partisan manner and can override the coming veto…if any of this legislation passes at all. I’m hoping it does. Veterans deserve better than they’ve been getting.]
Two medical marijuana bills focused on military veterans are scheduled for votes in a congressional committee on Thursday.
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will mark up the pieces of legislation, which focus on increasing legal access to medical cannabis under state laws and expanding research on its therapeutic effects. This comes one year after the panel held a hearing on these and other cannabis bills, though a previously scheduled vote was later cancelled.
This time around, advocates are hopeful that the committee will approve the bipartisan bills, titled the Veterans Equal Access Act and the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act.
The first bill, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical cannabis recommendations to their patients in states where it’s legal.
“Now that veterans are finally being given their day, it’s critically important that the committee and the full House expeditiously pass the bill,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Veterans must no longer be discriminated against in states where medical cannabis is a legal alternative.”
The House and Senate have both previously approved annual spending bills containing riders blocking VA from punishing doctors for writing medical marijuana recommendations, but no such measure has yet been enacted into law.
The other bill scheduled for a vote on Thursday, from Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the medical potential of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
“I am very happy to learn that my bill—the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act—will have its day before the House Veterans Affairs Committee,” Correa told Marijuana Moment. “Our nation’s veterans are calling out for alternatives to opioids. Cannabis has the potential to be that alternative.”
“My bill puts our veterans first by ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs takes cannabis seriously and conducts vital medical research into its effectiveness in treating PTSD and chronic pain,” he said. “Our veterans are depending on us. We owe it to every veteran to never stop looking for ways to treat their scars.”
Thursday’s markup comes amid growing pressure from advocates who’ve implored Congress to take legislative action to ensure that veterans can lawfully access products that may serve as alternative to dangerous pharmaceuticals.
[Canniseur: Oops. Texas legislature, what did you just do? There are so many more important things that our legislatures should be doing rather than worrying about whether it’s hemp or wacky tabaccy. The legislature just passed a regulation for hemp production that effectively stops paying for state testing for misdemeanor possession crimes, which most are. Since there isn’t money to test small quantities of cannabis, it’s effectively decriminalized. So the ball is back in the city and county courts. If they want to pay the $1000 or so to test a few scraps of cannabis, it’s their own business. It comes out of the city’s pocketbook.]
While Texas does have a very limited medical cannabis program, efforts to expand that beyond CBD oil or legalize recreational weed outright have failed, meaning possession of 4 ounces or less or sales of 7 grams or less are still misdemeanor crimes. But so what? Misdemeanor bad laws still on the books are no longer enforceable, because the state crime lab is now refusing to waste its time testing tiny scraps of suspected weed for THC.
In late January, lawmakers in Austin, the city’s most liberal city, announced small-scale marijuana arrests were off after the Department of Public Safety state crime lab told prosecutors it would take up to a year to see if there was THC in any weed scraps that cops found lying around.
Why does it take so long to find out if weed is weed? Outside of testing by private labs, a luxury most governments appear unwilling to indulge, DPS appears to be the only agency able to perform more sophisticated drug tests necessary for low-level busts now that Texas legalized possession of hemp — a legal plant that happens to look and smell exactly like cannabis.
The idea was that these petty busts could resume as soon as DPS perfected its new test and started working through a backlog of cases, some of which date from the middle of last year. But on Feb. 18, agency Director Steven McCraw told the state’s law enforcement agencies that it would probably start testing on felony cases sometime in May or June, but in felonies only. Misdemeanor cases, like simple possession, are something the DPS lab simply does not have time for, McCraw wrote.
“DPS laboratories analyze more than 50,000 felony drug cases per year and we do not accept misdemeanor cases,” he wrote, noting that while the state Legislature did give DPS some cash to update its cannabis-testing protocol, lawmakers did not give DPS nearly enough money to run everyone’s pocket stash through the routine.
With more than 80,000 misdemeanor pot busts a year in Texas, “DPS will not have the capacity to accept those misdemeanor cases,” McCraw wrote. What’s more, he added, is that DPS’s testing protocol is good for plant material only — not for oils, edibles, or anything else, at least not for right now.
Exactly what this means, again, depends on where in Texas you find yourself. As The Texas Tribune reported, most big cities have their own labs to do the requisite testing, but as the experience in Austin demonstrated, not everybody — and even those that do aren’t guaranteed to have the equipment and techniques DPS is finalizing to tell weed from hemp.
Law enforcement officers told the Tribune that the shift is most likely to affect misdemeanor cases in rural counties that rely on the DPS lab for testing. In some of these, police and prosecutors are still ringing people up on pot busts using circumstantial evidence, but there’s always the risk that a judge or a jury will look askance at this and such practice will lead to a string of acquittals. That in turn would most likely lead to cops asking themselves, “Why bother?” and quitting the game entirely.
There is the chance that DPS will either find itself suddenly flush with cash thanks to a remorseful Legislature which found out that all but ending misdemeanor pot busts in Texas was not something that it set out to do. More likely, given public attitudes on the issue even in Texas, is that this accidental step towards decriminalization will be the first in a series of moves towards more realistic cannabis laws in the Lone Star State. If it had to happen thanks to a combination of federal hemp statutes and bureaucratic haggling over money, reform advocates will take it.