MJ News 07/29/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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Texas marijuana bust could yield 100,000 plants

Police in Texas are clearing thousands of marijuana plants today. The crop is part of sophisticated operation that could end up being the largest bust of its kind in state history, CBS News' Tim Wetzel reports.

The grow was discovered in Goodrich, about 70 miles northeast of Houston.

When officials were alerted to the presence of marijuana in Goodrich, an isolated part of Texas wilderness, they stumbled onto an operation so advanced it had avoided detection for months.

Inmates from the Polk County jail joined over 70 officers from up to 12 different agencies. They uprooted nearly every marijuana plant discovered on the massive grow operation, and found an elaborate hydration system that made use of a nearby creek.

"They had pumps that were set inside the creek banks and a hosing system that ran back to the fields to where they just turned the pumps on. The pumps would run through the hoses and subsequently through the fields," said Polk County Chief Deputy Byron Lyons.

A deer hunter scouting the area discovered the plants over the weekend and immediately called police. Nearby, a makeshift campground was found littered with food, clothing, and equipment. Officials say the growers had likely been living there for at least five months, avoiding detection by land owners and law enforcement.

"They'll go inside the overgrown area and they'll clean out a spot inside of it, to where unless you're actually right inside the plant area, you won't even know it that they're there," Lyons said.

Operations like this are a growing problem in east Texas, where dealers have set up shop to avoid heightened security along the U.S.-Mexican border.

In 2012, 30,000 marijuana plants were discovered on an 800-acre property near Ollie, Texas.

So far, more than 44,000 plants have been cleared away, but an aerial search revealed the existence of up to 16 additional fields.

Once finished, the total haul could top 100,000 plants, making it one of the largest busts in Texas history.

One person has been taken into custody in connection with the operation, and police are now running forensic tests to help identify additional suspects. They say more arrests could be made in the coming days.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Florida) Poll shows unwavering support for medical marijuana

Florida's attempt to become the 24th state to completely legalize medical marijuana is beginning to look inevitable – with a new poll showing support from 88 percent of likely voters.

The level of support is the same as Quinnipiac University Polling Institute's previous poll on the subject, which came out in May. This time, the highest support (95 percent) came from people ages 18 to 29; the lowest (80 percent) came from Republicans.

Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state, needs 60 percent of the vote to pass this November.

The new numbers are significant because two well-funded opposition groups have formed since the May poll -- Don't Let Florida Go to Pot, a campaign from the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Drug Free America Foundation, and Vote No on 2, a project of Drug Free Florida.

While months of campaigning by both sides so far has not appeared to change support, the battle will likely continue heavily until November.

"When we talk to people about what Amendment 2 would really bring to Florida," said Calvina Fay, the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, "they're completely appalled by it."

Fay and other opponents say Amendment 2 would result in an explosion of marijuana dispensaries, de facto legalization for recreational use as shady doctors justify it for any perceived ailment, and would allow minors access to a ready supply of pot.

"When we talk to people about what Amendment 2 would really bring to Florida," said Calvina Fay, the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, "they're completely appalled by it."

Fay and other opponents say Amendment 2 would result in an explosion of marijuana dispensaries, de facto legalization for recreational use as shady doctors justify it for any perceived ailment, and would allow minors access to a ready supply of pot.

Photos: 75 life hacks you need to try immediately

But supporters say the amendment is specific about ailments that can be treated with marijuana. Additionally, the state would regulate dispensaries and while the amendment does offer the possibility of minors getting access to pot, there are already state laws in place requiring doctors to gain parental consent before any nonemergency medical treatment.

The latest Quinnipiac poll results "really speaks to the fact that this is not a controversial issue for Floridians," said Ben Pollara, spokesman of United for Care, which got the state constitutional amendment on the ballot.

While the state Legislature recently legalized certain strains of marijuana for very specific uses, Amendment 2 would open the door to all medical marijuana and would include many more ailments and disabilities.

It specifically references cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig's disease, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or "other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient."

However, even Pollara concedes support for Amendment 2 may be considerably lower than the 88 percent cited in the poll because of the way the question was phrased.

Quinnipiac asked: "Do you support or oppose allowing adults in Florida to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it?"

The problem, Pollara said, is "they ask about adults, and that's one of the things that [opposition groups are] using against us."

But those opposed to Amendment 2 cited more than just the "adult" aspect of Quinnipiac's question.

"It asked people whether they would approve their doctor 'prescribing' marijuana," said Fay. "And no doctor can prescribe marijuana. They can only recommend it. And, there's no requirement that people get the marijuana from their doctor."


Jul 25, 2008
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The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests

America’s four-decade war on drugs is responsible for many casualties, but the criminalization of marijuana has been perhaps the most destructive part of that war. The toll can be measured in dollars — billions of which are thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws. It can be measured in years — whether wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless. And it can be measured in lives — those damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.

In October 2010, Bernard Noble, a 45-year-old trucker and father of seven with two previous nonviolent offenses, was stopped on a New Orleans street with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. His sentence: more than 13 years.

At least he will be released. Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man, was arrested in December 1993, for participating (unknowingly, he said) in the purchase of a five-pound brick of marijuana. Because he had two prior nonviolent marijuana convictions, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. These are disproportionately people of color, with marijuana criminalization hitting black communities the hardest.

Meanwhile, police departments that presumably have far more important things to do waste an enormous amount of time and taxpayer money chasing a drug that two states have already legalized and that a majority of Americans believe should be legal everywhere.

A Costly, Futile Strategy

The absurdity starts on the street, with a cop and a pair of handcuffs. As the war on drugs escalated through the 1980s and 1990s, so did the focus on common, low-level offenses — what became known as “broken windows” policing. In New York City, where the strategy was introduced and remains popular today, the police made fewer than 800 marijuana arrests in 1991. In 2010, they made more than 59,000.

Nationwide, the numbers are hardly better. From 2001 to 2010, the police made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes put together.

The costs of this national obsession, in both money and time, are astonishing. Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case. The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.

The strategy is also largely futile. After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage; about 30 million Americans use marijuana every year. Meanwhile, police forces across the country are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime. According to F.B.I. data, more than half of all violent crimes nationwide, and four in five property crimes, went unsolved in 2012.

The Racial Disparity

The sheer volume of law enforcement resources devoted to marijuana is bad enough. What makes the situation far worse is racial disparity. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.

In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed doors.

Only about 6 percent of marijuana cases lead to a felony conviction; the rest are often treated as misdemeanors resulting in fines or probation, if the charges aren’t dismissed completely. Even so, every arrest ends up on a person’s record, whether or not it leads to prosecution and conviction. Particularly in poorer minority neighborhoods, where young men are more likely to be outside and repeatedly targeted by law enforcement, these arrests accumulate. Before long a person can have an extensive “criminal history” that consists only of marijuana misdemeanors and dismissed cases. That criminal history can then influence the severity of punishment for a future offense, however insignificant.

While the number of people behind bars solely for possessing or selling marijuana seems relatively small — 20,000 to 30,000 by the most recent estimates, or roughly 1 percent of America’s 2.4 million inmates — that means nothing to people, like Jeff Mizanskey, who are serving breathtakingly long terms because their records contained minor previous offenses. Nor does it mean anything to the vast majority of these inmates who have no history of violence (about nine in 10, according to a 2006 study). And as with arrests, the racial disparity is vast: Blacks are more than 10 times as likely as whites to go to prison for drug offenses. For those on probation or parole for any offense, a failed drug test on its own can lead to prison time — which means, again, that people can be put behind bars for smoking marijuana.

Even if a person never goes to prison, the conviction itself is the tip of the iceberg. In a majority of states, marijuana convictions — including those resulting from guilty pleas — can have lifelong consequences for employment, education, immigration status and family life.

A misdemeanor conviction can lead to, among many other things, the revocation of a professional license; the suspension of a driver’s license; the inability to get insurance, a mortgage or other bank loans; the denial of access to public housing; and the loss of student financial aid.

In some states, a felony conviction can result in a lifetime ban on voting, jury service, or eligibility for public benefits like food stamps. People can be fired from their jobs because of a marijuana arrest. Even if a judge eventually throws the case out, the arrest record is often available online for a year, free for any employer to look up.

Correcting an Old Inequity

As recently as the mid-1970s, politicians and the public generally agreed that marijuana abuse was handled better by treatment than by prosecution and incarceration. Jimmy Carter ran for president and won while supporting decriminalization. But that view lost out as the war on drugs broadened and intensified, sweeping marijuana along with it.

In recent years, public acceptance of marijuana has grown significantly. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia now permit some form of medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington fully legalized it for recreational use in 2012. And yet even as “ganjapreneurs” scramble to take economic advantage, thousands of people remain behind bars, or burdened by countless collateral punishments that prevent them from full and active membership in society.

In a March interview, Michelle Alexander, a law professor whose book, “The New Jim Crow,” articulated the drug war’s deeper costs to black men in particular, noted the cruel paradox at play in Colorado and Washington. She pointed to “40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed,” and said, “Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”

As pioneers in legalization, those two states should set a further example by providing relief to people convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes, including overturning convictions. A recent ruling by a Colorado appeals court overturned two 2011 convictions because of the changed law, and the state’s Legislature has enacted laws in the last two years to give courts more power to seal records of drug convictions and to make it easier for defendants to get jobs and housing after a conviction. These are both important steps into an uncharted future.


Jul 25, 2008
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U.S. Rep. Scott Perry announces bill for national legalization of medical marijuana oil for seizures

In a move that could political name state legislative actions in Pennsylvania and across the nation, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry is on Monday introducing a bill to nationally legalize a marijuana-based oil that has been shown to reduce seizures in children with debilitating epilepsy.

The conservative York County Republican made the announcement Monday morning at a press conference where he was joined by the president of the national Epilepsy Foundation and advocates that included the mother of Colorado girl Charlotte Figi, whose successful treatment with cannabidiol oil has inspired a national movement.

Joel Stanley, one of the creators of the "Charlotte's Web" strain of marijuana used to treat Figi, was also present for the introduction announcement of Perry's bill, the "Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014."

The bill would give children and adults with epilepsy and other seizure disorders access to the oil (called CBD) for treatment by removing CBD oil and therapeutic hemp from the federal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, Perry said.

The marijuana plant and its derivatives and extracts are currently banned for medical and recreational use at the federal level and in most states, including Pennsylvania.

The bill doesn't legalize all forms of marijuana, such as smoking, for medical use, Perry said.

'Therapeutic hemp' is that which has no more than .3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical which causes the 'high' from marijuana.

The plants used in the oil are grown to be high in CBD, which is credited for the reduction in seizures, but low in THC.

Perry said earlier this year he had been swayed to legalize the oil treatments after several meetings with district parents whose children have uncontrolled seizures for which traditional pharmaceuticals were either ineffective or caused life-threatening side effects.

Many of those parents became unlikely lobbyists for marijuana after seeing Charlotte Figi's story on a special report from CNN.

Among them are Matt and Angela Sharrer of Tyrone Township, Adams County, who attended Monday's press conference with their 10-year-old daughter, Annie Sharrer.

Despite their families' generations-long roots in the midstate, the couple said they had considered moving to Colorado so they could have legal CBD treatments for Annie, who suffers between five and 30 seizures per day and one more severe seizure about once per week, Angela Sharrer said Friday.

Only one of the numerous medications they tried actually managed the seizures, but the side effects were so severe she was hospitalized with an inflamed pancreas when she was only 8 years old, Sharrer said.

The cognitive gains that were made during the time of reduced seizures were mostly lost when Annie had to be taken off the medication and they returned, Sharrer said.

"I could see how (having fewer seizures) made her just a brighter and happier kid overall...she was learning and retaining information better," Sharrer said. "It's the little things, like going to the refrigerator and being able to sign for a drink. There was some communication, then the seizures returned. And that's very hard to see, because Annie has to work hard for everything she's able to do."

The story of Charlotte, who went from having 300 grand mal seizures a week to having only two or three per week, brought hope for a treatment that could actually give Annie's brain a break long enough for her learn and retain new skills and be a happier child, Angela Sharrer said.

Like numerous other families, the Sharrers began pushing legislators, attending forums, and showing up at the state Capitol for rallies.

Sharrer, speaking Friday before details of Perry's bill were announced, showed guarded optimism about the prospect of federal legalization.

She said parents who've fought for legalization have seen gains and setbacks, setting them on an emotional rollercoaster not unlike the one caused by the seizures.

A pilot program Gov. Tom Corbett promised as parents were preparing to stage a sit-in in his office hasn't progressed, she said.

And legislation is slow, she said, citing the crawl of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1182, a state legalization bill she and her husband support.

Perry's bill will be assigned to a committee, where a passing vote will be required before it can be forwarded for consideration by the entire House.

The Congressman reiterated his opposition to recreational marijuana, saying the bill is intended to address a specific need.

"...these children and individuals like them deserve a chance to lead a healthy and productive life and our government shouldn't stand in the way," he said.


Jul 25, 2008
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Vancouver's Main Street Marijuana pot store reopens

Prices haven’t dropped much since Main Street Marijuana shut its doors last week in protest of price gouging, but at least the quality is improving, said Ramsey Hamide, a manager.

The store, 2314 Main St., closed Wednesday after getting an overpriced shipment of product with lots of stems and leaves, rather than the desired plant buds, from a grower that had promised high quality material.

After reopening on Monday, Hamide admitted the prices are still a bit excessive, but the shipments he got over the weekend from Monkey Grass Farms and Farmer J’s are at least far better quality, he said.

“We’re not going to go below a certain level on quality unless we can have a really good price point option,” Hamide said. “And we have some new contracts pending at lower prices that will allow us to get our per-gram price down by several dollars in a few weeks.”

Right now, prices are hovering between about $17 a gram for pre-rolled joints and $25 a gram for buds at the store.

Ideally, those prices would be about half of that, but with the statewide shortage it’s still going to take time for things to settle down, Hamide said.

So far, only about 100 growers have been licensed in the state out of about 2,500 applicants. Of those, only a few have plants that are mature enough to harvest, which is why there’s a significant supply shortage across the state.

“Around Aug. 10 we’re expecting a big shipment that’s several dollars cheaper, and hopefully that will bring all our prices down,” Hamide said.

Business brisk
And even with the high prices, business has been brisk at both Main Street Marijuana and New Vansterdam, 6515 E. Mill Plain Blvd., which had to close early on Friday after running out of product that store managers expected to last through the weekend.

Many customers, who once again lined around the block for Main Street’s 11 a.m. opening Monday, said they understand the pricing issues and are willing to be patient.

“The prices are a little high, but I respect what the owners are doing with the growers and holding them accountable,” said Jeff, a Vancouver resident who asked that his last name not be used. “The tax revenue, I’m in favor of that, but the growers have to bring these prices down.”

Like many people who have visited the store since it opened on July 9, Jeff said he still fears the stigma of the legal drug and what his employers or neighbors might say if they knew he bought it. That’s why he declined to give his last name, he said.

But that said, he added that he’s really impressed with the stores and he’s happy to see marijuana come out of the shadows.

“The quality, the inspection of the product, I really like that,” Jeff said. “People have different reasons for consuming it. My wife has a hard time sleeping and it helps her. A lot of people I see in here are older, baby boomer types, like me. They want to use it to help with medical things, not just to get wasted.”

The labels, which tell consumers the percentage of active components — such as THC, which creates the euphoric high sensation, or CBD, which some use for pain relief — as well as the harvest date, are also a big draw, he said.

“You know what you’re getting,” Jeff said. “Consumers today, we’re label readers. We love having that.”

Max Flint, who is visiting Oregon from New York with a friend, decided to come over to Vancouver to pick up some marijuana as a novelty Monday morning.

“We were trying to figure out if the store would be open, and it was,” Flint said.

He bought a 3-gram bag of three Farmer J’s Sour Kush pre-rolled joints for $50.

“I thought it was a halfway decent deal,” Flint said of the price. “It’s a little more expensive than I would have hoped, but it’s legal and I don’t have to worry about the cops.”

Embracing legality

Another customer, Mark, who — like Jeff — didn’t want his last name used for fear of stigma, said he also thought the prices were high. But that didn’t deter the Portland resident from picking up some product on Monday.

“I’m personally happy that it’s legal,” Mark said. “I won’t go to my local (underground) dealer. I’m a member of legitimate society and I don’t mind paying a higher dollar if it means I’m not risking my life or career and I’m buying a legal product.”

He said he also wants to make a statement about the biased enforcement of drug laws that have led to far more arrests of minorities than it has of white people.

“Part of the reason I’m willing to buy into this is the broad society issue of who ends up getting punished,” Mark said. “People who aren’t white like I am are more at risk. I think this is a first step in legitimizing something that should have been legitimate long ago.”

Krae Williams, who has a medical card but went to the shop Monday to take a look, bought some product but said he might not bother with recreational stores again until the prices go down. He said those prices are far more than what he can get at a medical dispensary.

For most consumers though, the draw of having a product that’s legal, regulated, tested and labeled outweighs the temporary high prices.

“I think it’s worth it because you know what you’re getting,” said Tanja, a Portland resident who also didn’t want her last name used. Tanja visited the store for the first time on Monday.

“It smells great in here,” she said, noting the strong marijuana plant odor inside. “I know the prices are high but I’ll probably come back again. I think the quality’s going to keep getting better, and just doing things the legal way? It’s worth it.”

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