Category Archives: INDIANA

Secretive investment group sought Indiana marijuana business


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Tony Cook , tony.cook@indystar.com 6:06 a.m. ET April 16, 2017

Some of Indiana’s best-known former legislators and lobbyists joined a secret investment company that several investors say was formed to cash in if marijuana was ever legalized in Indiana.

Some of Indiana’s most influential lobbyists and political operatives joined a secretive investment company that several partners say has worked for years to cash in on the potential legalization of marijuana in Indiana.

The company, Hoosier Emerging Technologies, was created in late 2012 and is registered to Jim Purucker, one of the state’s most prominent alcohol and gaming lobbyists. Two investors in the company told IndyStar the primary aim was to influence legislation that would enable it to secure a place in the lucrative marijuana market.

The people Purucker recruited to invest in the company are a veritable who’s-who of top Indiana powerbrokers — Democrats and Republicans — an IndyStar investigation has found.

Among them: Former Indiana House speakers, former state campaign chairmen for Barack Obama and Donald Trump, high-powered lobbyists and some of the state’s most prolific political fundraisers. However, not all of them said they were aware of the company’s marijuana ambitions.

It does not appear the company and its investors broke any laws. Still, government accountability advocates worry that such a secretive alliance of insiders with undisclosed financial interests in legislation could undermine an already cynical public’s faith in state government.

“It’s everything you don’t want in government,” said Zachary Baiel, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government.

He and other government watchdogs said the situation reinforces their calls for more transparency and disclosure in state government.

Legislative leaders also expressed concerns.

“It bothers me a great deal,” Senate leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in response to IndyStar’s findings. “It would appear that there were people trying to surreptitiously insert language to help create a monopoly. … It bothers me that people might be trying to manipulate the law for their own financial benefit.”

Purucker declined to comment for this story.

Three investors and another source familiar with the company told IndyStar that Purucker’s pitch was simple: Buy at least a single $1,000 share and you could hit the jackpot if marijuana becomes legal.

Only one of those sources agreed to speak publicly about the company.

“It had to do with an opportunity to make money with this company if marijuana was ever legalized in this state,” said investor Kip Tew, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman who served as Obama’s campaign chairman in Indiana.

Tew and others said details about how the company would make money under such a scenario were vague.

“What was told to me was that the entity I invested in was going to invest in another entity that was going to provide some service to the distributors or retailers like in other states where it was legalized,” Tew said.

Three other investors told IndyStar they were unaware of the company’s marijuana ambitions.

The company was such a closely held secret that leaders of the General Assembly said they were unaware of its existence, even as some with an interest in the company advocated for language that found its way into bills and, in some cases, into law.

That legislation included the state’s controversial vaping law that took effect last year. It effectively made a single Indiana security company, Lafayette-based Mulhaupt’s Inc., the sole gatekeeper of the vaping industry. The regulatory framework established in the vaping law could eventually be used if marijuana was legalized in Indiana, according to two investors who requested anonymity

Tew and other investors said they did not know if Hoosier Emerging Technologies’ intent was to invest in Mulhaupt’s.

Mulhaupt’s owner Doug Mulhaupt did not return multiple messages left at his office, with his lobbyist and with a PR firm the company hired.

It is unclear exactly how many investors Purucker recruited, though several investors said there may have been dozens, including members from most large lobbying firms in Indianapolis.

The involvement of so many Statehouse influencers made it difficult for some opponents of the vaping legislation to find representation at the Statehouse, said Evan McMahon, whose group Hoosier Vapers fought against the legislation, but was unaware of Hoosier Emerging Technologies until recently.

“In 2015, when this first came up, we tried to find a lobbyist to represent our industry and every single person we talked to said they had a conflict,” he said.

At that time, McMahon said, he did not know there was what he described as “a shadow cabal working together for years.”

Dealing among friends

While some investors told IndyStar that HET’s focus was marijuana, another said vaping was key to the company’s plans.

“What I thought they were doing, as far as I know, is try to get a lock on the vapor thing,” said investor Rex Early, a former Indiana Republican Party Chairman who served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Indiana.

He said he bought a $1,000 share of the company, but emphasized that he didn’t know about any marijuana connection.

“I never heard that,” he said. “I’m not a big marijuana guy. Do not put me in there as promoting marijuana.”

Former Indiana House Speaker Mike Phillips, now a lobbyist, acknowledged he and his son also put money into the company, but he also said marijuana was never discussed with him.

“We were of the mind it had to do with the high-tech development of the systems used in racetracks,” he said recently while sitting on a bench outside House Speaker Brian Bosma’s office.

Paul Mannweiler, another former House Speaker-turned-lobbyist who advocated for the vaping law, said neither vaping nor marijuana were discussed when he decided to put money into the company.

“I guess it could have included buying the USA TODAY, I don’t know,” he said, referring to the national news outlet owned by IndyStar’s parent company.

When asked how HET’s prospectus described the investment, he said he was “dealing among friends” and didn’t “remember reading anything.”

“I think Jim just said he was getting a group together,” he said. “I’ve worked with Jim on a number of issues. He’s a friend that I know to be a good person.”

Harmful side effects?

Two sources familiar with the company say many of its concepts were discussed informally over drinks at the Winner’s Circle, an off-track betting parlor in Downtown Indianapolis and a frequent hangout for lobbyists and lawmakers.

Purucker and his longtime client Rod Ratcliff were always at the center of the discussions, which typically took place in the betting parlor’s private Triple Crown Club, the sources said. Ratcliff is the chief executive of Centaur Gaming, which owns the Winner’s Circle and Indiana’s two horse track-casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.

The off-track betting facility was an appropriate place to plan what was essentially a long shot gamble on marijuana legalization in staunchly conservative Indiana. Long and Bosma have consistently opposed legalizing even medical marijuana.

Some people with a stake in the company made several unsuccessful legislative attempts to create a license to distribute marijuana in 2013 and 2014. After that, Purucker and several other lobbyists with ties to Ratcliff and his Centaur Gaming company launched a massive lobbying effort in favor of the 2015 and 2016 vaping legislation.

Ratcliff did not return several messages from IndyStar. But a Centaur spokeswoman sent IndyStar a statement: “Neither Centaur Holdings, LLC, nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, has an affiliation with the vaping industry. Centaur has neither sole nor partial ownership of any licensees or entity related to the manufacture, distribution or security of vaping products. Our sole focus remains to provide our guests with the best value in gaming, racing, dining and entertainment.”

None of the high-powered lobbyists pushing for the vaping law — Purucker, Mannweiler, Brian Burdick and Kenneth Cragen — listed Hoosier Emerging Technologies as a client or employer. They listed their efforts under Indiana Vapor Company. Burdick did not return messages from IndyStar. Cragen declined to discuss his role.

Their efforts culminated in the vaping law that took effect last year and gave Mulhaupt’s sole discretion over who could seek a license to manufacture e-liquid.

Mulhaupt’s chose to work with only six companies, many with past ties to Centaur or current ties to the liquor industry.

As a result, prices skyrocketed and scores of vapor shops and manufacturers were forced to close or leave the state. The unusual nature of the law also drew attention from the FBI, which opened an investigation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

The FBI has not commented on the status of the investigation or its targets.

IndyStar reported last month that the vaping law shared a common feature with draft legislation from 2013 that would have legalized medical marijuana. Both included security firm requirements that gave Mulhaupt’s a distinct advantage.

“It’s everything we always had a gut feeling about,” said Amy Lane, whose Indiana Smoke Free Alliance represents many small vapor shops and manufacturers that lost business because of the legislation. “This wasn’t for public health and safety. It was about lining somebody’s pockets. It’s disgusting, really. It’s disgusting that people are allowed to behave this way at the expense of small businesses.”

She said 60 vapor retail locations and 46 manufacturers have closed since the vaping law went into effect last summer. Wholesale prices for e-liquid have shot up 45 percent, she said.

A matter of disclosure

Lawmakers are now in the midst of overhauling that law. Senate Bill 1 would get rid of the security firm requirements and other portions of the law that a federal court found to be an unconstitutional barrier to interstate trade.

The House and Senate passed slightly different versions of the bill and must work out their differences before the 2017 legislative session ends Friday.

But fixing the vaping law is only the beginning of the work lawmakers need to do if they want to restore public faith in the General Assembly, said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, a government accountability group.

“We are at a point in time when the public is cynical, and things like this confirms their belief that there is a small group of insiders who inflict their will on the General Assembly and usually with a profit motive behind it,” she said. “This is another example of why we need sweeping reform.”

The secretive nature of the company was enabled in part because of what some open government experts say is a gap in Indiana’s ethics rules. Lobbyists in Indiana do not have to disclose which lawmakers they lobby or any of their communications with those lawmakers. In fact, they are only required to list the general topic of their lobbying, not the specific piece of legislation they are trying to influence.

At least 13 other states require lobbyists to disclose more specific information about their activities, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that advocates for transparency in government.

Lawmakers had an opportunity earlier this year to make interactions between lobbyists and lawmakers more transparent, but took a pass.

Senate Bill 289, authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would have required lobbyists to keep a log of all communication with lawmakers, making their emails, texts and social media correspondence a matter of public record. The bill also would have made it illegal for lawmakers to accept gifts from lobbyists.

The measure never got a hearing.

“If the public needed another reason to have access to their legislator’s e-mails, this would be one to add to the ever growing list,” said Baiel, president the Indiana Coalition for Open Government. “Public policy should be made in the light of day and on the record. For posterity. If we cannot reconstruct how bills are made, how can we trust the outcomes of the legislation?”

About Hoosier Emerging Technologies

Hoosier Emerging Technologies was created Dec. 11, 2012, and registered as a limited liability corporation with the Indiana secretary of state’s office.

Company president: Jim Purucker. He is a longtime casino and alcohol lobbyist. He pushed for Indiana’s vaping law. His clients include the Indiana Vapor Co., Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Indiana, Indiana Towing and Wrecker Association and the Indiana Motor Truck Association. He also represents New Centaur, the casino and horse-racing business led by Rod Ratcliff.

Purpose: Some investors said company’s goal was to establish a foothold in Indiana’s marijuana market when it became legal.  Others said the company aim was to make money off the vaping industry or develop horse-racing technology.

Among the investors

• Kip Tew, former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman who was President Barack Obama’s campaign chairman in Indiana, and is now a Statehouse lobbyist for Ice Miller. That law firm represents many of Indiana’s largest and most influential companies. Tew said making money off legalized marijuana was HET’s aim. 

• Two other investors, who requested anonymity, also said the company was planning to capitalize on the eventual legalization of marijuana.

• Rex Early, former Indiana Republican Party Chairman who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Indiana. He said he was not aware of any company effort on marijuana and thought it was focused on the vaping industry.

• Paul Mannweiler, former Republican Indiana House speaker who is now a lobbyist at Bose Public Affairs Group. He also lobbied on the vaping law. Bose’s clients also include some of the state’s largest and most influential corporations. Mannweiler said neither vaping nor marijuana were discussed when he decided to put money into Hoosier Emerging Technologies.

• Mike Phillips, former Democratic House speaker who is now a lobbyist at the Statehouse. His lobbying firm, Phillips & Phillips, represents clients such as tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. He also represents New Centaur, the casino and horse-racing business led by Rod Ratcliff. 

Another player

Rod Ratcliff, Centaur Gaming CEO. Two sources familiar with the company say he was involved with Hoosier Emerging Technologies. That involvement included, at the very least, discussions at the Winner’s Circle about Hoosier Emerging Technologies and possible marijuana-related legislation.

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(in) Legislature Considering Indiana’s First Medicinal Cannabis Laws


Submitted by Marijuana News on Tue, 03/21/2017 – 08:30

This legislative session, a record 11 proposals addressed the use of cannabis. Most of them never got a hearing, but two are still moving through the legislature and could become Indiana’s first medical cannabis laws.

Indiana is one of six states that have not passed any form of medical cannabis legislation, including CBD.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, also known as “hemp oil.” It is a non-psychoactive cannabis, with low tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – so it can’t get people high.

For the past seven years, senators have sought Dr. Trent Jones’ testimony on the topic. He spoke from California last January, via Skype.

“The longer you wait on these children with catastrophic seizures the more damage you do to their ability to develop,” says Jones. “This is the seventh time I’ve personally testified for it, for CBD and industrial hemp in general.”

Jones is a Hoosier native and works now with the National Institute for Cannabis and Endocannabinoid Research or NICER. He strongly advised lawmakers to legalize a form of medical cannabis to treat epilepsy through Senate Bill 15.

This bill has support in the House and the Senate. A related bill defining CBD products as having no more than 0.03 THC also passed the House.

Bobbie Joe Young lobbies for cannabis legislation in Indiana, and is the co-founder of Higher Fellowship. While industrial hemp is legal for research, she says medicinal cannabis bills have never seen this much traction.

“The reason that politicians are concerned is, in our opinion, strictly wording,” says Young. “We’re breaking the stigma and saying hey ‘look at the education, look at the medical background, look at the research.’”

She and fellow lobbyist David Phipps say public opinion is changing and the stigma is fading.

“Bills similar to SB 15 have passed unanimously through the House,” says Phipps, “We expect the same thing to happen and the next obstacle will be the governor’s desk.”

But it may not be smooth sailing, Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he had no plans to expand legal drug use, especially in light of the state’s opioid epidemic.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 still classifies all forms of cannabis as Schedule 1 drugs. A recent study did not definitively prove the benefits of medicinal cannabis.

At the same hearing that took testimony from Dr. Trent Jones in January, Republican Sen. Aaron Freeman says he worries about the grey lines.

“I mean law enforcement has to have clear guidelines as to is this legal or not and I worry how is it they are going to know where it was grown,” says Freeman.

Sen. Karen Tallian has proposed cannabis related legislation for the past seven years and is a co-author on the CBD bill for epilepsy. She’d like to add a provision to the bill, in hopes to pave the way for more medical cannabis legislation.

“A study for the health committee during the summer, to look and see about other conditions that may benefit.” Tallian says.

As the debate continues, many are watching it closely. Bettyjo Bouchey lives in Fishers. She is a mother and a doctor, and says her friend from Colorado offered to buy her some CDB hemp oil after her son was diagnosed with primary generalized epilepsy two years ago.

“I fear I would go to jail for helping my son,” says Bouchey, “I mean can you imagine, going to jail for giving your child something that may help with their seizures?”

She says she’d like to know more about CBD it for her 12-year-old. She worries about him being on so many pharmaceuticals.

“If anything we just want the chance to see if it works. You know, let’s do some clinical trials, lets do some proof of concept, you know I’m a doctor I believe in evidence, I get it.” Bouchey says.

SB 15 would include a registry for approved patients. The proposal will be heard in the House in the coming weeks.

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Ind. Veteran Pushing For Legalization Of Medical Marijuana


By Barbara Brosher
Posted January 13, 2017

The American Legion of Indiana could consider a resolution this weekend that would encourage state lawmakers to develop a medical marijuana program.

The proposal comes from a Kokomo veteran who hopes medical marijuana could help veterans struggling with opioid addiction.

But, similar proposals have failed to gain traction at the statehouse.

Veteran Hopes Medical Marijuana Could Help Treat Physical, Emotional Pain

Veterans gather on a daily basis at the bar or around tables at the American Legion post in Martinsville to catch up with each other. The talk revolves around their families, politics and, lately, a proposal from another veteran to make medical marijuana legal in Indiana.

“People don’t know what kind of pain old men have. You can explain it to them, but nobody knows”

—James Ritter, Veteran

“If marijuana is medically available for older veterans that have a need for pain relief, yes, do it,” says Veteran James Ritter.

Ritter spent two decades with the Indiana National Guard. He says he supports any legislation that could help fellow veterans improve their health.

“[Legislators] need to go to the veteran’s home in Lafayette, they need to go to the nursing homes where the veterans are there that cannot do anything for themselves but just take pills that doctors prescribe,” Ritter says. “And they’re not getting any better. They need to go out and visit these people instead of just hear stories about it.”

The non-profit Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis released an ad throughout the state this month. Veteran Jeff Staker started the initiative to push for a medical marijuana program in Indiana.

He spoke during the legislature’s veteran’s affairs committee this week. Staker says he’s interested in how marijuana could help curb opioid addiction.

“We got veterans dying every 30 minutes of prescription pain overdose,” he says.

According to Veterans Affairs officials, about 60 percent of those returning from deployments in the Middle East suffer from chronic pain. Doctors often prescribe powerful opioid painkillers that can be highly addictive.

A study published earlier this year found when states legalize medical marijuana, the number of painkillers prescribed drops significantly. Staker says he’s hopeful a medical marijuana program could help veterans with other health problems, too.

“As veterans we’re looking at it as a way to treat veterans from things from PTSD to chronic pain,” he says.

Staker drafted a resolution calling on legislators to develop a medical marijuana program and the American Legion of Indiana could vote on the proposal Saturday.

Va committee

Photo: Barbara Brosher

Previous medical marijuana bills proposed at the statehouse failed to gain any traction.

Previous Attempts To Pass Medical Marijuana Legislation Unsuccessful

A small number of legislators are also calling on the state to adopt such a program. Senator Karen Tallian, D-Portage,  filed a bill this year – and for the past several years –  to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

She wants the state to develop a program of its own. More than half of the states in the country have medical marijuana programs, including neighboring states Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

“I setup a Department Of Marijuana Enforcement, we’re going to call it DOME,” Tallian says. “And this department would then put together a more comprehensive, specific program and then bring it back to the legislature.”

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Another push for medical pot in Indiana not likely to work


Odds against Indiana legislators backing medical marijuana

Posted: Sunday, January 3, 2016 5:00 am | Updated: 5:14 pm, Sun Jan 3, 2016.

By Jeff Parrott South Bend Tribune

Posted on Jan 3, 2016

The husband and father was near death from Crohn’s Disease in 2009….

Over a three-month period, his weight dropped from about 175 pounds to 117 pounds. He had his large intestine, colon and rectum removed, and he was largely confined to his bed or a chair.

He had no appetite and was surviving largely on IV fluid. He was so worried about accidentally jarring the stapled incision in his abdomen that his muscles ached from the constant tension.

Marijuana had just been legalized for medical use that year. At his wife’s suggestion, he tried smoking some, first illegally because he wanted to see whether it helped him before he went through the process of applying for a legal permit.

“It was amazing,” recalled the man, who lives in Michigan, just a few miles from the Indiana line. “Instantaneous. I could feel my shoulders drop and my body relax. In less than 10 minutes, I was feeling the urge in my stomach to eat. I started feeling better. I ate more. Started gaining more weight.”

It’s stories like his that have prompted two Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes and Rep. Sue Errington of Muncie, to sponsor medical marijuana bills in the Indiana General Assembly session that starts Monday. Indiana would join 23 other states in legalizing marijuana and become part of a national debate over the medical merits.

The odds of success for the legislators, however, are not great. Bills they introduced in the 2015 session died in committee for lack of a hearing. With Republicans in firm control of both houses, Tallian isn’t overly optimistic 2016 will be any different.

Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, echoes the sentiments of many in his party. He stops short of disputing that marijuana can provide relief for some medical problems, but he thinks that would be overshadowed by a corresponding increase in recreational use and abuse.

"I would listen to the arguments as to its medical use," Zakas said. "I just haven’t heard a convincing argument on that yet. I want to hear the evidence from solid sources that it’s a viable medical tool."

Tallian, a criminal defense attorney who thinks it’s wasteful to jail people for smoking pot when recreational use is now legal in four states, had for the past three years introduced bills to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. It would still be illegal but possessing small amounts would be treated as an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. Her bills have never received a hearing.

In 2015, Tallian changed tack, authoring a bill to legalize medical marijuana by creating an Indiana Department of Marijuana Enforcement that would regulate it much like pharmaceuticals, in a pilot program for people suffering a specific list of ailments.

Her bill also would have allowed Indiana universities and pharmaceutical companies to conduct research on medicinal use. Errington introduced a companion measure in the House.

In the coming session, Tallian and Errington said they’ll introduce bills for both decriminalization and medical use. Tallian said she would be willing to drop the decriminalization component if it meant finally getting a hearing for medical use.

“We move by inches down there, so I’d take every inch I could get,” she said. “I have a lot of votes over there on the Republican side if I could just get a hearing.”

Last session, her bill was assigned to the Health and Provider Services Committee, where chair Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, declined to give it a hearing. Miller was unavailable for comment.

“Pat Miller kept saying, ‘We don’t have enough proof yet” that marijuana offers medicinal benefits, Tallian said. “That’s because we haven’t had the opportunity to do research.”

Her bill has yet to be assigned a committee for the 2016 session.

‘A buzz or a high’

Asked to identify a supportive Republican, Tallian mentioned Sen. Jim Tomes of Poseyville, a small, rural town outside Evansville. Tomes this year introduced a bill to legalize the growing of hemp, a form of marijuana that lacks THC, the drug that gives marijuana smokers a high.

In addition to a variety of industrial textile uses, hemp can produce cannabis oil, which has a well-documented record of alleviating seizures in children with epilepsy.

Tomes said parents of children with epilepsy have increasingly turned to him for their cause.

“This is extremely different than what Sen. Tallian is trying to do,” said Tomes, who doesn’t support legalizing medical marijuana.

“I understand there are certain applications and I’m not taking that away from anyone,” he added. “But it also has the ability to give people a buzz or a high. That’s a factor I just cannot support.”

The concept has found more traction in other states. Illinois recently launched a Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, allowing 13 licensed dispensaries to open around the state. Sales began in November to about 3,900 licensed patients.

Kentucky last year became one of 18 states that allows use or research of cannabis oil for seizure treatment.

Ohio voters last month overwhelming rejected a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use, but observers have attributed that more to the fact that the right to produce and distribute marijuana would have been concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy producers.

In the coming year, recreational marijuana may be on the ballot in 11 states, including Michigan, according to Ballotpedia, a website that tracks ballots issues nationwide. Another five states might consider medical pot initiatives.

Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, said he isn’t ready to commit to supporting medical marijuana, but he hopes it will at least receive a committee hearing in the coming session.

“For me, it’s very important that it be very narrowly tailored so it does address medical issues, it’s administered by the health care community or by a doctor,” Broden said. “I’m certainly open to hearing about it.”

Conducting committee hearings would allow testimony from officials in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, such as law enforcement officials in Michigan.

“If these other states have had positive experiences or at least not had negative experiences … that would be critical for me,” he said.

When asked whether she knew of any doctors who wish they could legally prescribe marijuana, Errington pointed to Dr. Bruce Ippel, a 66-year-old family practice physician near Muncie. Over his 40 years as a doctor, Ippel said, many of his patients have reported using marijuana for relief from ailments such as headaches and migraines, as well as appetite stimulation for people with cancer and chronic intestinal illness from diabetes.

He isn’t sure if medical marijuana will become legal in Indiana in his lifetime. But while admitting he’s cynical, Ippel thinks Indiana lawmakers eventually will legalize marijuana so that they can tax it and grow state revenue. Colorado collected almost $70 million in marijuana taxes last fiscal year, nearly double the $42 million collected from alcohol taxes, according to Time magazine.

Ippel noted that even in Indiana, society has grown more tolerant of pot.

"The landscape has changed," he said. "Twenty years ago, anyone using marijuana was at high risk of being locked up. Indiana law enforcement agencies have largely backed off common users. I think that’s a change in the last six to eight years that’s been a benefit."

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Nearly 3,000 Indiana corn farmers claim in a lawsuit that the Swiss company Syngenta prematurely released a genetically modified seed to market, costing them millions in losses from plummeting corn prices and a Chinese import ban.


© Brent Smith

According to Keith Orebaugh, lead plaintiff who is seeking class-action status in the lawsuit, the price of corn has plummeted over the last two years since Syngenta introduced a genetically modified corn seed called Agrisure Viptera. Farmers claim the company sold the seed to US farmers and corporations without gaining approval from China, a key importer of US corn. The problems began when China banned US corn after it detected shipments containing the unapproved GMO trait, MIR 162.

Orebaugh claimed because of the ban he suffered financial losses. He said he used to be able to sell a hundred bushels of corn for up to $700 in 2013. By late 2014, the same number of bushels was fetching about half the price. He doesn’t use Syngenta seed but, like thousands of farmers around the country, he blames Syngenta for the ban.

These cases concern the Syngenta defendants’ decision to commercialize corn seeds containing a genetically modified trait, known as ‘MIR 162,’ that reportedly controls certain insects. Corn with this trait has entered U.S. corn stocks but has not been approved for import by the Chinese government, which has imposed a complete ban on US corn with this trait,” according to the complaint. Plaintiffs are identified as “corn growers and a grain exporter who suffered economic losses resulting from China’s refusal to accept MIR162 corn.”

Farmers also blame Syngenta for misleading them about when the GMO corn could be sold in China. Syngenta made the request to sell GMO corn to China in March 2010, and told farmers and grain handlers that approval was on schedule by spring 2012. Incomplete filing by the corporation delayed the approval process, and Chinese approval for the corn did not come until December 2014.

"Syngenta, however, chose not to inform growers and the grain industry of the growing danger. Instead, it crafted a plan to mislead grain handlers and growers to believe that Syngenta would have import approval from China by the time Viptera was harvested despite all indications to the contrary," the complaint says. "The purpose of this plan was to sell more Viptera."

Syngenta’s legal counsel has denied the allegations, arguing the price of corn had dropped before China’s ban, and that the ban was introduced when China had its own record harvest. Lawyers for the Swiss company also say the corporation shared updates about the approval process with farmers and grain holders.

In Indiana alone, losses were estimated to be in the millions of dollars, Steve Wagner of Wagner Reese LLP told The Indianapolis Star. The state is the fifth largest producer of corn in the US.

The National Grain and Feed Association said “nationwide the loss is estimated to be nearly $3 billion.”

The Indiana farmers join other lawsuits filed against Syngenta by farmers and grain exporters in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, in both federal and state courts starting two years ago.

Indiana farmer Orebaugh is seeking a class-action status in the lawsuit as a tactic to extend the state’s statute of limitations by several months, to give farmers more time to file individual claims. The state has a two-year limit on civil cases, which expired on November 19.

The federal class-action lawsuits have been consolidated in federal court in Kansas City. Some of the claims were dismissed in September, but a federal judge allowed the rest to move forward. State lawsuits are being consolidated in a Minnesota state court, where the seed corporation has a subsidiary.

Syngenta said it was Cargill and ADM’s fault for not keeping the MIR 162 corn separate from approved strains. The company says it told Cargill in January 2013 that China’s approval for the GMO strain was not available, but Cargill “nonetheless doubled down on its gamble” by entering into contracts from February to July 2013 to ship more than 2 million metric tons of corn to China, according to Reuters.

“Cargill and ADM decided that it was in their economic interest to try to ship corn containing Viptera to China anyway” to profit from high corn prices, the lawsuit said.

In a related story, both Monsanto Co. and China National Chemical Corp have shown interest in acquiring Syngenta. The state-owned ChemChina offered $42 billion for the company this month, which would have transformed the Chinese state-owned company into a direct competitor with Monsanto. The bid was rejected.

Syngenta has one of the broadest portfolios of seeds in the industry, with 6,800 varieties of its own proprietary genetics, according to Bloomberg.

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(Evansville police department) EPD wants U.S. Supreme Court to review SWAT raid ruling


Posted: Nov 04, 2015 12:52 PM CST

Updated: Nov 04, 2015 1:58 PM CST

Posted by Audra Levy,

Digital Content Director

SWAT team raids Louise Milan's Evansville home, June 2012

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) – Attorneys for the Evansville Police Department are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling regarding a lawsuit over a SWAT raid.

In August, a federal appeals court said Evansville Police can’t be shielded from liability because they made "too many mistakes."

A lawsuit was filed against the department after the EPD SWAT team tossed flash grenades into Louise Milan’s home on Powell Avenue in June 2012. Officers were responding to a threat against police, but later found out the threat came from the cell phone of a man using an IP address inside Milan’s home.

[WATCH: SWAT raid video at center of EPD lawsuit released]

Attorneys for EPD filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court on Thursday. It means that the department wants the high court to take a look at the appeals court ruling. Specifically, as summarized on page 3 of the Petition:

The Seventh Circuit held that the Officers’ use of force was not reasonable as a matter of law because the EPD’s investigation was premature. The Officers believe the Seventh Circuit committed clear error by failing to consider the factors informing 4th Amendment analysis and second guessing the Officer’s actions to ensure their safety in executing a lawful warrant under potentially dangerous and uncertain circumstances. The Officers also believe the Seventh Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity on the basis that the use of the flash bangs violated a constitutional right that was clearly established. The Seventh Circuit’s two sentence analysis applied a mechanical bright line test which mandated that the Officers’ use of force was unreasonable because they failed to carry a fire extinguisher into a situation which they believed was dangerous and potentially involved a gun fight. As set forth below, Petitioners contend the Seventh Circuit committed clear error in its qualified immunity analysis.

The Plaintiff’s response to the Petition is due on December 2.

Click here to read the full petition.

If the Petition is granted, a hearing will take place before the Supreme Court. If denied, the District Court will hold a trial on the Plaintiff’s claim of excessive force and the Officers’ defense of qualified immunity.

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$7.5 million of marijuana seized in Southern Indiana


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By Hannah Alani

After a two-week investigation, police have seized an estimated street value of $7.5 million of marijuana in southern Indiana. “Operation Smoke Out,” a collaborative effort by the Indiana State Police, the Indiana National Guard and local law enforcement, lasted from Aug. 17 through Aug. 28, according to a state police press release.

Through federal grant programs funded through the Domestic Cannabis Eradication and Suppression Program, law enforcement was able to use aircraft support to make “Operation Smoke Out” a success, according to the release.

On Tuesday, as a result of the investigation, Dubois County Sheriff’s Department deputies and state police eradicated approximately 269 marijuana plants in southwestern Dubois County, according to a news article from the Dubois County Herald.

Even though the street value of the marijuana reached into the millions, Dubois County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Officer John Anderson said it was all for personal use, and not for sale.

“This was someone’s personal harvest,” Anderson said. “They were probably growing enough to last them through the winter.”

He noted that each plant is valued at around a thousand dollars each, so it doesn’t take much crop to have high estimated monetary value.

“What you have up at IU is probably a lot of medical grade coming in from Colorado,” he said, explaining that the drugs were likely not destined for Bloomington.

“Operation Smoke Out” was a proactive response to criminal intelligence of illegal drug trafficking operations growing marijuana on public property such as the Hoosier National Forest and other remote state and federally owned property, according to the release.

With the combined efforts and resource sharing, a large portion of southern Indiana was “scoured by aircraft surveillance.”

In making daily discoveries of illegal marijuana growth operations, a total of 4,898 plants were found across the 146 locations.

Sixteen people were arrested throughout the course of the operation, and officers seized more than four pounds of processed marijuana, six weapons, $3,000 and a methamphetamine lab. Officers said they hope information obtained during these two weeks will result in additional arrests, according to the release.

The Indiana State Police Marijuana Eradication Section is soliciting help from Indiana residents to combat illegal drug activity in Indiana.

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First Church of Cannabis sues over marijuana laws


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INDIANAPOLIS –  A pot-smoking church sued the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana on Wednesday, claiming laws against possession and use of marijuana infringe on its religious beliefs.

The First Church of Cannabis, formed as a test of Indiana’s new religious objections law, filed its lawsuit in Marion Circuit Court in Indianapolis, naming multiple defendants including Gov. Mike Pence and state and local law enforcement officers.

The lawsuit claims church members believe marijuana is a sacrament that "brings us closer to ourselves and others. It is our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression. We embrace it with our whole heart and spirit, individually and as a group."

The lawsuit says Indiana laws that make possession of marijuana or visiting a place where it is used a punishable offense place a burden on the church’s exercise of religion, violating the state and U.S. constitutions.

"We are taking legal action today to ensure love has no barriers in our land," church founder Bill Levin, 59, said at a news conference in front of the Statehouse. "Today we invite the state of Indiana and all its leaders to joyfully meet us in a court of law for clarifications on our core religious values. We look forward to engaging them on the high plane of dignity and discipline, with love and compassion in our hearts, to find a swift and sensible answer for our questions of religious equality."

There was no marijuana during the church’s first service July 1, which was attended by more than 100 people and observed by more than 20 police officers. Local officials had threatened arrests if marijuana was present. A second service was planned for Wednesday evening, and it was not clear whether marijuana would be present.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office issued a statement saying it would file its clients’ response to the lawsuit "at the appropriate time."

Levin founded the First Church of Cannabis on March 26, the day Pence signed Indiana’s religious objections measure into law. The IRS granted the church tax-exempt status in May.

Levin said the church has more than 1,000 members and is built "on the cornerstone of love, compassion and good health" and isn’t just a place for its members to get high.

Indiana’s law sparked protests and boycott threats this spring amid concerns it could provide a legal defense to discriminate against gays, lesbians and others. Lawmakers later revised the law to address those concerns.

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The Cannabiterians and the cops


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THE COPS

Charlie Doss stood outside his house on South Rural Street and watched the cops rumble by on their motorcycles.
“You’d think they were gettin’ ready for World War Three,” he muttered. The police presence in his neighborhood was making Charlie cranky.
“What’s the big fuckin’ deal?” he announced.
Roughly two dozen patrol cars and a mobile IMPD unit sat at the ready in the parking lot of the Carpenters Local Union building two blocks from the First Church of Cannabis. Officers seemed to be everywhere; on foot, on bicycles — like so many other cities in America in recent years, Indy’s police department looked less like a group of peacekeeping constables and more like an occupying force.
IMPD was out in strength for the opening services of Bill Levin’s brainchild, the First Church of Cannabis, an “unintended consequence” of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration law. After gaining tax-exempt status from the IRS, Bill had planned his inaugural ceremony for the day the law went into effect — July 1, 2015.
Bill had initially stated that his congregants would partake of their sacrament — weed — at the end of the service.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry had responded to Bill’s intentions with a press conference. Curry expressed monumental frustration with the Indiana legislature, but made it clear IMPD would have all the plastic cuffs it needed: “Anyone caught in possession of marijuana will be subject to arrest … anyone caught giving marijuana to another individual will be subject to arrest for dealing.”
And further, as NUVO’s Amber Stearns reported on June 26:
Curry outlined all of the potential causes for arrest at the church service. Anyone attending the service, if marijuana is present, could be subject to arrest for probation violation or for visiting a common nuisance even if they choose not to partake in the church’s “sacrament.” Anyone who tries to drive away from the church while high is subject to arrest for operating under the influence. Any and all possible criminal code violations will be enforced. He also stressed that no minor child should be in the vicinity of the church.

Worried about a mass bust — including those who simply might’ve shown up to sing and not smoke — Levin prohibited weed at the church for the July 1 services. 

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City-County Councilor voices concern over city’s response to First Church of Cannabis
Posted By Amber Stearns @AmberLStearns on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM

IMPD was present in large numbers at the inaugural service of the FIrst Church of Cannabis. - PHOTO BY ED WENCK

Indianapolis City- County Councilor Zach Adamson issued a statement calling into question the actions of the city and specifically the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in their response to the First Church of Cannabis.

The church held their first service Wednesday at noon following the enactment of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Adamson says the views expressed in his statement are his own and are not meant to reflect the sentiment of the entire council.

Adamson’s statement reads as follows:

Yesterday, as Hoosiers watched as several new state laws took effect, one issue of particular local interest has been a bit more high profile in the news. Specifically, The First Church of Cannabis, as they push the limits of the liberties the state says they wanted to protect.

Sadly, more than the reaction of the state, the OVER-reaction by local authorities has been of greater disappointment. Indianapolis residents have watched over the weeks as the media wars on both side of the issue have battled it out on both mainstream and social media.

“I’ve been very troubled by the reaction by our city and the by and large overreaction by our police chief, who actually compared this religious institution’s leader to Jim Jones. That’s a jaw-dropping comparison to a horrific crime and it is an insult to the lives that were lost in that tragedy. It is even more disappointing to see this overreaction using scarce public safety resources during a time of great need in our neighborhoods”, said City-County Councilor Zach Adamson.

Adamson continued, “Many residents have rightfully raised concerns about the city’s inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to fund harassment of this minority religious group. After reading several media reports of selective enforcement of municipal ordinances, the undue installation of police surveillance cameras – at a time when so many of our areas hardest hit by crime don’t have such attention – and the literal recruitment of opposition protesters by the mayors IMPD chief, many fear that Chief Hite’s actions have exposed the City of Indianapolis to expensive and preventable civil liabilities for violations of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, among others.

As our city saw with yesterday morning’s homicide on the near northwest side, we need more officers on the streets and more dollars for neighborhood policing strategies – not unwarranted harassment.”

The Council intends to take all possible actions to give IMPD the necessary tools they need to prioritize enforcement and we hope that we can pull back this encroachment onto the religious freedom of our residents. We call on the public safety agencies to allocate the officers and cameras where our residents have, for years, been begging for them and stop this highly inappropriate use of scarce taxpayer resources. We also call on Chief Hite to issue an immediate apology for the inappropriate invoking of the Jonestown Massacre.

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IRS Approves First Church Of Cannabis. What’s Next For Marijuana?


Welcome to the First Church of Cannabis Inc., approved by Indiana’s Secretary of State under its controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Even bigger that state law approval, the church has even been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS. Tea Party conservatives evidently had a lot more trouble with their tax exemption applications. The stated intent of the upstart church is “to start a church based on love and understanding with compassion for all.”

Bill Levin is the self-described “Minister of Love and Grand Poobah” of the Church. The first church service is set for July 1, 2015. It is no coincidence that July 1 is the day the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act takes effect. The church has a Facebook page with clever notes like “The Deity Dozen,” “Don’t be an asshole” and “Do not be a ‘troll’ on the Internet.”

First Church of Cannabis

The Indianapolis Star says First Church of Cannabis could test the new religious freedom law. And many are probably wondering if the Church of Cannabis a real church. The State of Indiana and the IRS think so. For others, it may depend on how you define a church and how well this fits the pattern. There are some strange court cases that have looked at the question. For example, U.S. v. Myers, examined five factors to determine whether a “Church of Marijuana” was authentically religious: ultimate ideas, metaphysical beliefs, a moral system, comprehensiveness of beliefs, and the ‘accoutrements of religion,’ such as important writings, a priesthood, etc.

The Church says that “Cannabis, the ‘healing plant,’ is our sacrament.” Its founder plans to grow hemp. though the church will not buy or sell marijuana. But smoking in church will evidently be permitted. “If someone is smoking in our church, God bless them,” Levin said. “This is a church to show a proper way of life, a loving way to live life. We are called ‘cannataerians.’”

There are many tax advantages of church status and an IRS determination letter. Even compared to other tax-exempt organizations, church status is the crème de la crème. Churches reap a vast array of tax advantages. They even include special rules limiting IRS authority to audit a church. A “church” is not specifically defined in the tax code, but the IRS lays out buzzwords in its tax guide for churches and religious organizations, including these characteristics:

  1. Distinct legal existence;
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship;
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government;
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline;
  5. Distinct religious history;
  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination;
  7. Organization of ordained ministers;
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed study;
  9. Literature of its own;
  10. Established places of worship;
  11. Regular congregations;
  12. Regular religious services;
  13. Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young; and
  14. Schools for preparing its members.

The IRS considers all facts and circumstances in assessing whether an organization qualifies. But unlike other exempt organizations, a church need not actually apply for tax exemption. Most churches do, but it is technically not required. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center reports that over one hundred 501(c)(3) organizations lose their tax-exempt status each year. The reasons vary, but the losses of tax-exempt status do suggest that the mere fact that the First Church of Cannabis obtained a tax exemption does not necessarily mean it will keep it forever.

For alerts to future tax articles, follow me on Forbes. You can reach me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.

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