MJ News for 08/24/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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Bid To Expand Medical Marijuana Business Faces Federal Hurdles

WRAY, Colo.- Behind a tall curtain of corn that hides their real cash crop from prying eyes, the Stanley family is undertaking an audacious effort to expand their medical marijuana business to national market.

For years, the five Stanley brothers, who sell nonintoxicating strain of cannabis that has gained national attention as a treatment for epilepsy, have grown medical marijuana in greenhouses, under tight state iand federal regulations. But this year, they are not only growing marijuana outdoors by the acre, they also plan to ship an oil extracted from their plants to other states.

The plan would seem to defy a federal prohibition on the sale of marijuana products across state lines. But the Stanleys have justified it with a simple semantic swap: They now call their crop industrial hemp, based on its low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot.

“The jump to industrial hemp means we can serve thousands of people instead of hundreds,” said Jared Stanley, 27, who wore muddy Carhartts and a rainbow friendship bracelet as he knelt down to prune his plants.

Penn Mattison moved to Colorado from Tennessee last winter to acquire oil extracted from the hemp plants by the Stanley brothers to treat the seizures of his daughter, Millie, 2. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Colorado, which has legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational and medical use, has accepted the new designation. But the real question is whether the federal government will go along. If it does, the impact would be significant, opening the door to interstate sales not just by the Stanleys, but possibly by scores of other medical cannabis growers across the country.

But if it does not, the Stanley brothers could be shut down by federal agents.

So far, the Drug Enforcement Administration is offering few clues, insisting in public statements that while it is willing to allow marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug, it might step in if growers try to sell beyond state borders.

“Any chemical that comes from the plant is still a controlled substance,” said Dawn Dearden, an agency spokeswoman. “When we get into hemp, it gets a little squishy, but it still is illegal.”

The Stanleys’ quest to ship their oil to other states highlights the fraught marijuana legal landscape where state and federal laws conflict and federal agencies can have divergent policies, leaving laws sometimes enforced, and sometimes not.

“This is the mode we will be in for some time,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who studies cannabis law. “As marijuana becomes more legal in more states for more purposes, the tension with the federal law will become more pronounced.”

The hazy legality of hemp can be seen in products like hemp granola and shampoo, which are allowed to fill health food store shelves even though they technically violate federal drug laws. All those products are made from imported hemp, which has generally been permitted into the country so long as it has less than 0.3 percent THC.

If the Stanleys ship their oil, industry watchers say, it will be the first time in decades anyone has tried to sell domestic hemp nationwide.

In recent years, hundreds of families with epileptic children have moved to Colorado to try oil made from the Stanleys’ shrubby strain, which they call Charlotte’s Web. The national Epilepsy Foundation has called for it to be available to all patients, though formal research into its effectiveness remains scant. There is a nationwide waiting list of more than 9,000, which the brothers hope to eliminate by expanding their crop from small greenhouses into vast hemp fields.

“We are hoping the enforcement agencies have bigger fish to fry and don’t want to take a bunch of medicine away from sick kids,” Mr. Stanley said. “But if they are going to do it, we’re all in. If you are going to be locked up, it’s a thing worth getting locked up for.”

The brothers, who had a Christian upbringing in conservative Colorado Springs, started a small medical marijuana business in 2008 after seeing the relief it brought to a relative sick with cancer. At first, they grew mostly marijuana high in THC that packed a serious psychoactive punch. On the side, they experimented with breeding plants low in THC but high in another cannabinoid known as cannabidiol, or CBD, which scientific studies suggested was a powerful anti-inflammatory that a handful of small studies showed might have potential as a treatment for certain neurological conditions, including seizures and Huntington’s disease.

For years, this variety languished unused in a corner of their greenhouse. “No one wanted it because it couldn’t get you high,” said Joel Stanley, 34, the oldest brother and head of the family business. They named the plant “Hippie’s Disappointment.”

Then, in 2012, a Colorado mother named Paige Figi came seeking CBD-rich marijuana oil for her 5-year-old daughter Charlotte, who has a genetic disorder called Dravet syndrome, which caused hundreds of seizures per week.

After a few doses of oil made from Hippie’s Disappointment, Charlotte’s seizures all but stopped, and two years later, daily drops of oil keep her nearly free of seizures, Ms. Figi says. The Stanleys renamed the plant Charlotte’s Web.

Charlotte’s story spread, and patients began moving to Colorado. About 200 families now use the oil, and many have seen significant reductions in seizures, according to Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Colorado physician who recently conducted a small survey of the patients. Though few have seen their seizures totally disappear, nearly 80 percent told Dr. Gedde that the oil was more effective than traditional pharmaceuticals, with fewer side effects.

People from around the world started contacting the brothers. “We didn’t have enough Charlotte’s Web,” Jared Stanley said. “Under medical marijuana laws, we could never have enough. And there were a lot of people who couldn’t just drop their lives to come to Colorado to get it.”

Colorado medical marijuana law restricted production by requiring limited plant counts, locked greenhouses with security cameras and costly “seed to sale” tracking for every plant. The law also required every milligram of Charlotte’s Web to remain in Colorado. But last year, Colorado voters passed a law legalizing industrial hemp — defined as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC — allowing farmers to grow it with few restrictions. Charlotte’s Web falls well below that level, the Stanleys say. Recreational marijuana typically has THC levels around 15 percent.

Because United States Customs and Border Protection has also used the 0.3 percent THC level for determining whether to allow imported hemp into the country, the Stanleys say they can legally ship their oil. But the D.E.A. maintains that the Controlled Substances Act holds that all cannabis, whether called marijuana or hemp, is illegal.

People in the hemp industry say it is hard to foresee the agency’s response. The Bush administration cracked down on all hemp in 2003, saying whether soap, cereal, vegetable burgers or hemp cheese, any product with a trace of THC could be seized. A federal appeals court blocked the action in 2004 before it took effect.

The Obama administration has generally deferred to states on the question of cannabis, allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and medical use in 21 additional states, and in the District of Columbia, provided sales followed certain criteria. But in the last four months, the D.E.A. has seized thousands of pounds of nonintoxicating industrial hemp seeds, including a shipment bound for a research project at the University of Kentucky.

Though the Stanleys maintain that shipping hemp oil is legal, they have hedged their bet by working with Representative Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, to introduce a bill in late July that would exempt Charlotte’s Web and other “therapeutic hemp” from the federal definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Amid the uncertainty, the brothers are pressing forward. They have moved oil production from a commercial kitchen to a sterile lab staffed by scientists from the pharmaceutical industry. Having planted 17 acres of hemp in Colorado this year, they plan to plant 200 next year.

They plan to start shipping their oil as soon as they fill their waiting list of orders in Colorado, which they expect to do this fall. They are also setting up a 1,000-acre hemp farm in Uruguay, which recently legalized both marijuana and hemp, to handle global sales. In five years, they hope to have 3,000 acres growing in different states and countries.

Many of their workers are parents or siblings of children who rely on the oil. Penn Mattison, who moved to Colorado from Tennessee last winter to treat the seizures of his 2-year-old daughter, Millie, is one.

Mr. Mattison said that after starting to use the oil in March, his daughter’s seizures dropped by 90 percent. Other children should have the same opportunity without having to move to Colorado, he said. “It’s something they are desperate for, and we know what being desperate is all about,” he said as he trimmed the leaves of some Charlotte’s Web. “We were there.”


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana Taxes Are Upheld, But Paying Them Could Incriminate You

Remember Lois Lerner? She’s the IRS Exempt Organizations Chief whose emails disappeared but whose texts revealed bias against conservative groups. She has refused to testify multiple times claiming protection under the Fifth Amendment. The right not to incriminate yourself runs deep in our Constitution.

Even so, a Colorado tax on marijuana has been upheld by a federal court despite claims that paying it amounts to self-incrimination violating the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs want the taxes on recreational pot outlawed, reasoning that they require businesses and consumers to implicate themselves in federal crimes. The plaintiffs lost on getting an injunction at this point, but that doesn’t mean the lawsuit is over.

Indeed, the lawsuit challenging the taxes will continue, and the stakes are high. In Colorado, there’s a 2.9% sales tax plus a 10% marijuana sales tax. Plus, there is a 15% excise tax on the average market rate of retail marijuana. If you add that up, it’s 27.9%. Medical marijuana only pays the 2.9% sales tax.

The argument is pretty clever: making you pay these taxes is making you admit to the government that you are violating federal law. Even getting witnesses is tough, said one of the lawyers involved. After all, just being a witness would mean incriminating oneself!

Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal and a controlled substance, even for medical use. And the gulf between federal law and recreational marijuana seems even bigger. Of course, this isn’t the only context raising the conflicting federal and state laws over marijuana. The tax problems of the industry remain a major impediment.

Section 280E of the tax code denies even legal dispensaries tax deductions.

The IRS says it has no choice but to enforce the tax code passed by Congress. “The federal tax situation is the biggest threat to businesses and could push the entire industry underground,” the leading trade publication for the marijuana industry reported. One answer is for dispensaries to deduct expenses from other businesses distinct from dispensing marijuana.

If a dispensary sells marijuana and is in the separate business of care-giving, the care-giving expenses are deductible. If only 10% of the premises are used to dispense marijuana, most of the rent is deductible. In allocating expenses between businesses, good record-keeping is essential.

But there is only so far one can go. Some marijuana sellers operate as nonprofit social welfare organizations so Section 280E shouldn’t apply. Some claim dispensaries should be organized as cooperatives or collectives.

The proposed Marijuana Tax Equity Act would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. That way growers, sellers and users would not fear of violating federal law. The bill would also impose an excise tax on cannabis sales and an annual occupational tax on workers in the growing field of legal marijuana.

Colorado’s tax law is bringing in considerable revenue, and that may influence attempts to derail the tax. Early reports suggested that the taxes might be attacked as unconstitutionally high. But the Fifth Amendment assertions are more sophisticated. Not only that, they jab at the already sensitive issue of the conflict between state and federal law. As medical marijuana has gained widespread acceptance and now recreational marijuana is taking hold, the federal v. state conflict grows deeper.


Jul 25, 2008
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Atlantic City Casino Hosting a Grow-Your-Own Marijuana Seminar

As many as 100 people are expected to attend a grow-your-own marijuana seminar at an Atlantic City casino starting today.

While medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey, growing your own is not.

The $1,000, four-day course will be offered by a California-based marijuana school at Bally's Casino this weekend, starting Saturday.

Oaksterdam University executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones tells NBC10.com that basil and rosemary will be used in demonstrations.

Discussions will also include the business and legal aspect of the marijuana industry. Students who earn high scores will receive certifications that could lead to jobs.

“We have an opportunity to change the law and have safer communities if we choose to control tax and regulate cannabis," she said.

The school anticipates that about 100 cannabis devotees, patients, entrepreneurs and even regulators from around the Northeast will attend the class, which is open to people 18 and older.

"More than 50 percent of the students at Oaksterdam come from outside California," Jones said. "So we thought that rather than making you guys come to us, let's find a great town and bring it to the East."

Medical marijuana has gotten off to a slow start in New Jersey. It took nearly three years from the time medical marijuana was legalized in 2010 until the first dispensary opened.

There were delays in getting regulations in place and struggles finding communities willing to host the centers. Some people have complained about the state's restrictions of the potency of cannabis that can be sold legally and the short list of qualifying medical conditions.

The president and CEO of one of New Jersey's three medical marijuana dispensaries quit in June.

Despite the medical allowance for the drug, Gov. Chris Christie says there's no way he's going to let the plant be used for recreational purposes.

"I don't care about the tax money," he said on NJ 101.5. “It’s not inevitable here. I’m not going to permit it, never as long as I’m governor."

Some media outlets weren't too keen on the seminar either. Jones said a radio station and newspaper pulled ads promoting this weekend's event.

“Apparently the owners or the lawyers at the companies freaked out and just cancelled our advertising at the last minute. So it’s been quite challenging, letting people know we’re even here," she said.


Jul 25, 2008
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DEA warns about potent marijuana-based ‘wax’ substance in central Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A highly potent marijuana-based product is becoming the new drug of choice for teens and young adults. It’s called wax and loaded with THC, the mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana. Wax has much more THC than you’d find in a joint. That’s why the DEA is sending out an alert here in Indiana, because the substance is showing up here.

Police found wax in a big drug bust in Bloomington earlier this week, part of a joint investigation with IMPD. The DEA said Friday wax has also been spotted in Marion County. It has the consistency of lip balm and can even be stored in those little containers.

“We’re starting to see it. It’s predominantly found on the west coast, but it sure seems to be coming this way,” said Dennis Wichern, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wichern said wax labs present the most danger. Those that make it soak marijuana leaves in solvent and reduce them down to an oil. They dry the substance out to get the waxy consistency and smoke it or ingest it.

“The danger is really the volatility. Many of them have exploded because the solvents are extremely flammable. Many people are trying to make it in their own house, who get burned from it,” he said.

The wax gives the user an extreme high, but it isn’t cheap, at least four times more expensive than regular marijuana, according to the DEA. The agency is still trying to determine how it’s priced.

“All the drugs have evolved,” said Wichern.

The new war on wax comes as the Feds are fighting synthetic drugs, which have rapidly emerged, targeted toward young people. There are more than 200 varieties of synthetic substances out there now. A Johnson County teen, 16-year-old Samuel Motsay, died in May after taking the synthetic substance N-bome.

“We have to get the information out that anything you put in your body that you don’t really know what it’s made of, where it came from, it can often be deadly, in the case of Samuel Motsay and the N-Bome,” said Wichern.

Wichern said that’s why knowledge is key, especially for parents, as the drugs that are hot just keep on changing.

For information on how to talk to your child about drug use, you can find a tool kit here provided by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.


Jul 25, 2008
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(UK) Give Cannabis Drug To MS Patients, NHS Urged

Multiple sclerosis patients in many parts of England are urging health bosses to make a cannabis-based medication available on prescription.

The NHS in Wales recently agreed to fund the drug, Sativex.

But the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which advises the NHS on the cost effectiveness of treatments, is not recommending it in England.

Jacquie Langham, from Norfolk, has been using the drug to ease the pain and spasms which are common symptoms of MS.

Jacquie Langham says the drug has helped with symptoms
She says she is lucky to have a friend who pays for the treatment privately, as she could not afford it herself.

"I can't believe it's not available," she told Sky News.

"MS sufferers have no medication that really does them a whole lot of good and this is the first.

"I'm just so frustrated as are many others - and for the younger people in particular."

Tony Wiggins, who lives in Cardiff, will get the drug on prescription.

After taking part in a trial, the benefits were so great that he even broke the law, buying cannabis from dealers in order to alleviate his symptoms.

The MS Society in Wales now wants NICE to recommend Sativex so it is prescribed to patients in the rest of the UK.

At the moment, a handful of English health authorities do make Sativex available on prescription.

But even they may withdraw the funding if NICE's final report, due in October, suggests that they do.

In a statement, a NICE spokesperson said: "A detailed analysis of the evidence of costs and benefits of the drug led us to conclude that Sativex should not be recommended by NICE, as the drug does not currently represent cost effectiveness for the NHS."

The only hope for English MS patients like Jacquie is that fresh evidence can be found to make NICE alter its stance before publishing its final recommendations.


Jul 25, 2008
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Cannabist Q&A: THC in blood, Denver Cannabis Cup 2015, pot pricing

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to [email protected].

Hey, Cannabist!
How long does THC persist in the bloodstream above the legal 5 nanogram driving limit? Could THC in the bloodstream be above the legal limit a day or a few days later? –Dank Doobie Driver

Hey, Dank Doobie!
That’s a great question! I’m sure you’re asking because 5 nanograms is the established legal threshold for driving while impaired in Colorado. The standard for marijuana impairment is not simple to understand. The short answer is yes, it is possible to have elevated levels of THC in the blood days after consuming marijuana, if you are a frequent consumer.

According to medical marijuana physician Dr. Alan Shackelford: “In early, classic research studies involving recreational marijuana users, THC appears in the blood very soon after consumption, whether by inhalation or ingestion, and its blood levels peak relatively soon thereafter, declining and disappearing within a very few hours.” However, there’s a caveat: “If you are a regular and frequent consumer, you’ll have elevated levels of THC in the blood.”

Dr. Shackelford summarizes that the absorption and metabolism of THC is very different for high-dose or frequent cannabis users. “THC and its metabolites may be present and detectable in blood samples for many hours to many days after cannabis use. Furthermore, blood levels of THC do not correlate in any predictable way with any degree of impairment or with time after use, even in infrequent users, but especially in patients or others who use marijuana regularly.”

Research is needed; we simply don’t have enough data right now to know how long THC remains in the bloodstream compared with actual impairment levels. Earlier this year, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned a ruling on marijuana DUID charges, calling for proof of impairment, not just presence of THC in blood. At a Congressional hearing in July on drugged driving, U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, said: “We have no standard. We have no acceptable test. We have no way of telling if people are impaired.”

Colorado needs a public service guide like the blood-alcohol content calculator for estimating impairment. Federal and state grant funds used for state law enforcement training to spot stoned drivers and public education campaigns should also be used for this purpose in the future.

Law enforcement: More Colorado state troopers get special training to join cadre of Drug Recognition Experts

Opinion: Colorado road fatalities don’t match stoned driving panic

Hey, Cannabist!
When is the date for the next Cannabis Cup in 2015? –Globby Globe Get-together

Hey, Globby Globe!
Nowadays, High Times Cannabis Cups are happening year-round, all over the country in medical and recreational states.

“April 18-20 are the dates for the 2015 Denver Cup,” shares Cannabis Cup event designer Elise McDonough in a recent phone call.

A Seattle stop in early September and the original Amsterdam Cup in November wrap up the festivities for 2014.

The Cup calendar begins again in February at Los Angeles, followed by the largest of the Cannabis Cups — Denver for 4/20, then San Francisco in June, and Clio, Michigan in July. XO

Cannabis Cup: Coverage of the 2014 Denver event, including reviews of Cup-winning strains, recaps of Days One and Two, and analysis of the first 4/20 weekend in the era of legal weed sales.

Hey, Cannabist!
When Washington started recreational sales on July 8, starting top-shelf prices were at $25/gram. How much have Colorado’s rec prices dropped since January 1? Thanks. –Seattle Sensi Smoker

Hey, Seattle Sensi!
Well, prices haven’t gone down much in Colorado since Jan. 1, but for the most part, they are not as high as $25/gram for flowers, either! I talked to the owners of Northern Lights Cannabis Co. and 3D Cannabis Center, among the marijuana centers that were open for Colorado’s first recreational sales. Per-gram prices vary from about $10 to $15, pretax, depending on the amount purchased.

Eva Woolhiser of Northern Lights Cannabis Co. says her shop has added pricing tiers, including lower prices from the ones established at the first of the year. The following price breakdowns are all pretax: 3.5 grams (an eighth) of flowers goes for $48 or $54, for a per-gram price of $13.71 or $15.43. An ounce costs $300 to $350, bringing the per-gram price in the range of $10.71 to $12.50.

Toni Fox of 3D Cannabis Center says 3D’s prices have not changed since Jan. 1. An eighth of flowers costs $35 to $50; per-gram that’s $10 to $14.29. Packages of edibles containing 100 milligrams THC cost between $15 to $20.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Minnesota) Angela Brown Treats Son's Head Injury With Cannabis Oil: 'He Was In So Much Pain'

A mom desperate to ease the constant pain her son suffers because of a traumatic brain injury, faces criminal charges for treating him with medical cannabis oil.

Angela Brown, 38, of Madison, Minnesota, has been charged with possession of a controlled illegal substance and child endangerment. A conviction on both counts could result in up to two years in prison and a $6,000 fine.

Authorities say Brown was administering cannabis oil to her 15-year-old son, Trey Brown. The teenager suffers from an injury he sustained in April 2011, when he was struck in the head with a line drive while playing baseball.

Contacted by The Huffington Post on Friday, Angela Brown did not deny giving her son cannabis oil.

"He was in so much pain that he didn't want to live," a tearful Brown told HuffPost.

According to Brown, her son suffers from constant head pain, muscle spasms and seizures.

"No parent can understand it until they have to sit in their child's bed and hold them down so they don't hurt themselves or they have to sit beside them because they hurt so much that they can't handle your touch," Brown said.

The distraught mother said her son has seen dozens of doctors over the past three years and has been on a cocktail of prescription medications.

"At one point my medicine cabinet looked like a pharmacy," she said.

Conventional treatments, Brown said, were ineffective and did nothing to ease her son's pain or the severity of his seizures.

"He would cry himself to sleep," she said. "Nothing we did worked. I was begging doctors for help and then, during one emergency room visit, we had a doctor suggest medicinal cannabis. We started researching it and went to Boulder, Colorado, in March, where we were given an actual medicinal oil -- a 1 to 1 ratio."

Brown said within an hour of giving her son his first dose, the difference in his condition was like night and day.

"Once it hit his system, Trey said the pressure in his brain was relieved," she said. "You could literally see the muscle spasms stopping. He felt amazing."

For the next month, Trey Brown kept taking the cannabis oil.

The teen was unavailable for comment Friday, but in a Wednesday interview with Minneapolis' WCCO News, the teen said he "felt better, the pain went away."

Everything was great, Angela Brown said, until April, when someone called the police.

"I stupidly opened my mouth to the wrong people and I got turned in," she said. "When people ask me questions, I'm an open book. It got me in trouble. The only thing I did wrong was open my mouth."

While Minnesota legislatures recently approved a medical marijuana bill, the new law does not take effect until July 2015. The bill also does not address the particular medical cannabis oil Trey Brown was administered, according to his mom.

Lac qui Parle County investigators seized the oil from Brown and filed the two charges she now faces. Authorities also contacted Child Protection Services.

"[Child Protective Services] questioned my child and asked him how much I was making him smoke and how high I was making him get," said Angela Brown. "Trey said, 'I'm taking an oil. I don't get high.' They then asked him why he was doing that. He said, 'I take it because when I do, I don't have any more pain.'"

After speaking with the teen, Child Protective Services closed their investigation.

"They dropped it," Angela Brown said. "I think they are great and just did their job."

However, the criminal charges against Angela Brown remained.

Lac qui Parle County Attorney Richard Stulz has declined to discuss the case with the media.

The criminal charges is only one problem the Browns are facing. Trey Brown, according to his mom, is once again suffering.

"He has been off the oil since mid-April and the horrible migraine headaches and body pains are back," she said. "He can't be a normal 15-year-old."

Brown and her husband, David Brown, plan to fight the charges against her. The family of three also plans to move to Colorado, where they can legally treat their son with medical cannabis oil.

"We don't want to move because we have family here, but people have to do what they have to for their kids," she said.

Brown added, "There are some people that are saying really shitty stuff about me as a mother, but they don't know. They either don't have children or maybe their children are perfectly healthy -- yea for them -- but I'm not a bad mom. I'm actually a really good mom. I've already raised one child to adulthood. He's in the military and he's one damn fine kid, so I know I'm a good mom. I was just a desperate mom who wanted to take her child's pain away. What mother wouldn't do what I did to give their child relief?"

If you would like to help the Brown family with legal and medical expenses, you can click here to make a donation via Gofundme.com.