Kentucky Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana, Take Step to Nullify Federal Prohibition


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 13, 2016) – A Kentucky Senate bill slated for introduction in 2017 would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.

Pre-filed by Sen. Perry B. Clark (D-Louisville), BR409 would “protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their practitioners and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture, if such patients engage in the medical use of cannabis.” The bill will be considered by the Kentucky State Senate during the 2017 legislative session.

Patients would be able to qualify for medical marijuana if they suffered from one of the following ailments listed in BR409:

A terminal illness, peripheral neuropathy, anorexia, cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, substance use disorder, mood disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, sleep disorder, fibromyalgia, autism, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Tourette syndrome, anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or the treatment of these conditions

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to designate a caregiver under BR409, which would permit another individual the legal authority to grow the plant on behalf of the qualifying patient. Dispensaries, called “compassion centers” in BR409, would be permitted to operate as well provided that they comply with the tax and regulatory structure established under the legislation.

“Most of my life we have expended tax dollars pursuing a ban on a plant,” Sen. Clark said in a WKYT news report from earlier this year. “Wasted dollars, they were. We have exponentially increased the power and scope of our criminal justice system by strapping it with issues concerning a plant.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB409 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Kentucky sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

With passage of SB409, Kentucky would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis. California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts are set to join them after voters approved ballot initiatives in favor of legalization last November.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

BR409 will need to be formally introduced and pass its committee assignments before it can be considered by the full Senate. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates.

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A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.


 

 

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Blair Miller

DENVER – A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Schiavi Seeds LLC had three separate seed varieties certified as CDA Approved Certified Seeds under the new program, which aims to promote hemp agriculture in the state.

CDA has worked with CSGA and Colorado State University over the past several months to breed plants that produce seeds under the 0.3 percent THC content threshold to qualify as hemp and not psychoactive marijuana.

Varying seed types were grown and tested in trials in different parts of the state in order to find ideal conditions for hemp cultivation.

Colorado law requires industrial hemp seeds to contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Three trial seeds from Schiavi Seeds – Eletta Campana, Fibranova and Helena – passed trial tests and were accepted by the state Seed Growers Association’s review board.

CDA says seeds submitted by Fort Collins-based New West Genetics have also passed the THC trial, but still have to be accepted by the review board before they can also be labeled as a CDA Approved Certified Seed.

Congress approved hemp production in 2014, but a state certification like Colorado’s is necessary to raise the crop.

Colorado farmers will be able to start buying and growing the seeds next year.

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Congressional Republicans Vow To Block Marijuana Amendments


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By Tom Angell on December 5th, 2016 at 10:33 am

Don’t count on there being any marijuana votes in the U.S. House next year.

That’s the message that Republican leadership in Congress is sending after blocking a number of cannabis amendments from reaching the House floor earlier this year.

“The chairman has taken a stand against all amendments that are deemed poison pills and that would imperil passage of the final bill,” Caroline Boothe, spokeswoman for House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), told Marijuana.com in an email on Monday.

The Rules Committee is responsible for deciding which submitted amendments are allowed to be considered on the House floor.

In recent years, Congressional leadership has taken up spending bills under relatively open rules whereby almost any amendment could be debated and voted on as long as it was germane to the overall legislation. But due to unrelated disputes over gay rights, gun policy and the right of transgender people to access public bathrooms, House Republicans began locking down the amendment process earlier this year so that only certain approved amendments can come to the floor.

While marijuana law reformers have been able to pass amendments in recent years — such as a rider preventing the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws — the new approach has impeded efforts to demonstrate that there is majority support in Congress for scaling back prohibition.

Earlier this year, for example, the Rules Committee blocked House floor votes on amendments concerning marijuana businesses’ access to banking services and Washington, D.C.’s ability to spend its own money legalizing and regulating cannabis sales. The committee also prevented two measures to expand medical marijuana research from being considered.

But despite Boothe’s reference to “poison pills,” the House approved a version of the banking amendment in 2014 by a vote of 231 – 192, and the overall bill was later passed as well. Similarly, the measure to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference was approved with strong bipartisan House votes in 2014 and 2015, and the overall spending bills were also passed once the marijuana measures were attached.

Boothe did not respond to a request for clarification about her boss’s position on the broadly popular medical marijuana measure.

The restricted amendment rules put in place this year left marijuana law reformers much less confident about the ability to enact and extend their legislation, which must be approved each year because appropriations measures only apply to specific fiscal years.

But until now, it was not known that there is in effect a blanket ban on measures concerning cannabis policy.

The notion of an outright prohibition on any marijuana amendments was first reported Monday by Politico Magazine. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY), who has sponsored industrial hemp measures, told the magazine that the new operating procedure is “an affront to regular order” and “a travesty to our democracy.”

As a result of the inability to take marijuana votes on the House floor, reformers must increasingly rely on the Senate to include cannabis language in its versions of appropriations bills. If efforts succeed there, it is left up to conference committees of members from both chambers to decide whether to include marijuana language in the final enacted versions of spending bills.

Current spending levels for the federal government — along with the state medical marijuana protections that are current law — expire this Friday. It is expected that Congress will pass a short-term measure before then extending funding and policy riders until next spring.

But Sessions, who has been selected to continue chairing the Rules Committee for the next Congress, seems poised to continue the policy of blocking marijuana amendments from coming to the House floor. That, combined with uncertainty about how the incoming Trump administration will handle marijuana, leaves advocates in a precarious position even at a time when a growing number of states are ending prohibition.

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Santa Rosa marijuana processing plant back in business


JULIE JOHNSON

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | December 14, 2016, 8:29PM

| Updated 38 minutes ago.

 

In a white-walled room deep inside a southwest Santa Rosa building once used to manufacture heart stents, 11 specialized machines to extract concentrated cannabis rumbled, hummed and popped in production for California’s largest legal marijuana manufacturing operation.

Five months ago, law enforcement officers hauled away extraction machines and other equipment worth about $3 million from the Circadian Way facility, halting production and forcing the company, CannaCraft, to address a series of code violations. One of its founders, Dennis Hunter, was briefly jailed.

Since then, California and the city of Santa Rosa have begun embracing cannabis manufacturing with new regulations that allow producers of medical marijuana-infused products to operate openly. And state voters legalized recreational use of marijuana, adding to the system of regulations advocates hope will bring marijuana businesses into the mainstream.

CannaCraft this week received a final level of approval from the city of Santa Rosa to run its multimillion-dollar enterprise, making it the first in the city — and among only a handful of companies statewide — to receive local authorization to manufacture marijuana-infused products for medicinal use. The Santa Rosa plant is the largest cannabis extraction and manufacturing facility in the state, said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, a Sacramento trade group.

“It’s a sign of how the times have changed when we have local governments in support of manufacturing,” Bradley said. “Santa Rosa is leading the way in the state.”

Operating under the name CannaCraft, the 150-employee organization is a group of companies founded by Hunter, Edward Fussell and others. One company, CBD Guild, handles manufacturing and packaging. Sonoma Lab Works provides testing services, such as tests that detect the presence of pesticides or fungus in cannabis. Critical Solutions builds extraction equipment. CannaCraft is the management, finance and regulatory compliance arm of the organizations.

The Supercritical CO2 Fluid Extraction machines each day produce about 30 to 35 pounds of raw concentrated cannabis, a yellow wax-like substance with a floral odor that when further refined is used to make oils and sprays marketed for a range of medicinal purposes.

On Wednesday, the company brought a group that included several Santa Rosa City Council members, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, and a representative from Assemblyman Jim Woods’ office among others to tour the facility.

“We want to be the company that helps tear down stigmas for cannabis,” Hunter said to the group during a catered lunch in which they announced plans to hire developmentally disabled adults in a special off-site facility that makes packaging for the company but doesn’t handle cannabis products.

The specter of prosecution still hangs over Hunter, a Rohnert Park resident who was arrested July 15 on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance, a felony. He was arrested on the morning the company’s facility was raided by a group of officers from Santa Rosa and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Law enforcement seized about $5 million worth of property, including the extraction machines, about $500,000 in cash for payroll and another $1.5 million in products, according to company spokesman Nick Caston.

Hunter was released within about 24 hours, and no charges have been filed.

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Marijuana can be covered in pesticides, fungi, and mold — even if it’s legal


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There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, which means it can’t kill you. But the stuff that gets sprayed or grows organically on pot buds can.

Studies show that marijuana sampled across the US carries unsafe levels of pesticides, mold, fungi, and bacteria. Earlier this year, Colorado recalled hundreds of batches that tested positive for banned pesticides.

It’s unclear how much cannabis, whether purchased legally in a dispensary or bought from a college roommate’s cousin’s friend, is at risk. But as the industry goes mainstream, experts suggest it’s time legal weed gets quality assurance.

Educating consumers on what they’re smoking might be the first step, according to scientists at Steep Hill Labs, a leading cannabis science and technology firm in Berkeley, California.

In 2016, Reggie Gaudino, vice president of scientific operations at Steep Hill, set out on a scientific experiment. He visited three brick-and-mortar dispensaries in the Bay Area and bought at least five samples of cannabis flower from each.

In order to decide which strains to buy, he asked cashiers, called “budtenders,” for their recommendations. He also chose the strains with the highest percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Many patients choose that option from the menu because they believe it will get them the most high, or give them “the most bang for their buck,” Gaudino explains.

It’s unclear if the dispensaries he visited test their products for contaminants at third-party labs — a practice that’s becoming more common as states with newly legalized cannabis roll out regulations.

When Gaudino took the samples back to the lab, he found that 70% of the samples tested positive for pesticide residues. One-third of samples would have failed pesticide regulations in the state of Oregon, which has the most sophisticated system for pesticide-testing of the seven states with fully legalized marijuana.

Fifty percent of the samples that tested positive for pesticides also contained Myclobutanil, a fungicide treatment commonly used on California grapes, almonds, and strawberries. When digested, it’s harmless. But when heated, the chemical turns into hydrogen cyanide, a gas that interferes with the body’s ability to use oxygen normally.

The central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and pulmonary system (lungs) start to fail when exposed to high concentration of the gas.

The news isn’t quite as alarming as it sounds. Donald Land, chief scientific consultant at Steep Hill, tells Business Insider that most people would not be susceptible to falling ill after inhaling a few spores.

However, someone whose immune system is weakened — like a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy or a person infected with HIV — is much more vulnerable to infection upon inhaling contaminated cannabis. Basically, the people who stand to benefit the most from medical marijuana are also the most vulnerable.

The results of Gaudino’s study have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, though Gaudino tells us a white paper is in the works. The lab plans to test an array of other marijuana products, like concentrates and oil cartridges for vaporizer pens, before publishing.

Land and Gaudino explain that, for the most part, the industry is doing the best it can to provide safe pot.

There is no framework on the federal level that dictates how cannabis should be tested or what threshold constitute a failing grade. Most growers and dispensaries in states with legalized marijuana have to hold themselves accountable for verifying the safety of their product.

Some pay third-party labs like Steep Hill to analyze their product for pesticides and contaminants, but most only want to know the THC content of a given strain, Land says. The more potent the weed, the more they can charge for it.

Fewer than 20 states offer some form of testing, according to estimate provided by Land. The states that offer the most widely available marijuana, including California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, have testing facilities — but they don’t all require testing, and regulations can vary on a local level.

More research is needed to understand the health concerns associated with cannabis. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, making it difficult for scientists to acquire the funding and samples needed for study.

In the meantime, Land suggests marijuana patients and recreational users take responsibility for their health by asking their budtender to see a lab report on the strain they wish to buy. They can compare the results with Oregon’s publicly available threshold levels for safe cannabis.

Even if you can’t make out what the report means, the dispensary’s ability to provide documentation is “absolutely better than nothing,” Land says.

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A record number of journalists are in jail, CPJ census finds


Turkey holds at least 81 journalists, fueling global high of 259

New York, December 13, 2016–Turkey’s unprecedented crackdown on media brought the total number of jailed journalists worldwide to the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

As of December 1, 2016, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world. Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ’s records, the highest number in any one country at a time–and every one of them faces anti-state charges. Dozens of other journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to the second spot with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are third, fourth and fifth worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Combined, the top five countries on CPJ’s census were responsible for jailing more than two-thirds of all journalists in prison worldwide.

“Journalists working to gather and share information are performing a public service and their rights are protected under international law. It is shocking therefore that so many governments are violating their international commitments by jailing journalists and suppressing critical speech,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Turkey is at the vanguard of this authoritarian trend. Every day that Turkey’s journalists languish in jail in violation of that country’s own laws, Turkey’s standing in the world is diminished.”

This year marks the first time since 2008 that Iran was not among the top five worst jailers, as many of those sentenced in the 2009 post-election crackdown have served their sentences and been released. The Americas region, which had no jailed journalists in 2015, appears on this year’s census with a total of four journalists in prison.

According to CPJ’s census, nearly three-quarters of the 259 journalists in jail globally face anti-state charges. About 20 percent of journalists in prison are freelancers–a percentage that has steadily declined since 2011. The vast majority of journalists in jail worked online and/or in print, while about 14 percent are broadcast journalists.

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups. (These cases–such as freelance British journalist John Cantlie, held by the militant group Islamic State–are classified as “missing” or “abducted.”) CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa.

The census catalogs journalists imprisoned as of midnight on December 1, 2016, and indicates the country where held, charge, and medium of work for each imprisoned journalist. It does not include the many journalists who were imprisoned during the year but released prior to December 1.

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CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Note to Editors:

The report will be available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.


Media contacts:

Kerry Paterson

Senior Advocacy & Communications Officer

kpaterson@cpj.org

212-300-9007

Mehdi Rahmati

Communications Associate

press@cpj.org

212-300-9032

 

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Turkey’s crackdown propels number of journalists in jail worldwide to record high