Tag Archives: DEA

DEA Approves Synthetic Marijuana for Company That Spent $500K to Keep Weed Illegal


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March 24, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Written by Alex Thomas

(ANTIMEDIA) Lobbying in the nation’s capitol is a billion dollar industry, but sometimes, companies dip their toes into state and local politics, as well. When giant corporations want to influence bills and national elections, they generally spread their money around, cozying up to a number of politicians and shaking hands with numerous government officials. However, at the local level, high-dollar financing is a bit more transparent.

Insys Therapeutics is a small player on the national scale. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that they spent only $120,000 lobbying in D.C. in 2016. But in Arizona, where the company is based, they forked over $500,000 — and they did it to keep marijuana illegal in the traditionally Republican state.

Last September, the Washington Post first reported the large donation, which was one of the largest single contributions to any anti-legalization campaign ever.” Insys’ money was given to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a localized political action committee that opposed the state’s ballot measure to legalize cannabis in 2016. That measure was ultimately defeated, and now the group is fighting the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, a bill that could hit Arizona ballot boxes on November 8, 2018.

According to the full text of the bill, acquired by Anti-Media via ballotpedia.org, the application was filed at the beginning of March. It states that “marijuana and cannabis have been used safely for thousands of years for recreational, medical, religious and industrial purposes.” The bill also cited a study funded in part by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that “did not show a significant increase in levels of crash risk associated with the presence of drugs.”

The bill proposes a number of changes that would essentially legalize marijuana. These include:

“There shall be no limit on the number of cannabis plants in a personal grow that are not yet in a state of florescence.”

“All persons at least twenty-one years of age are authorized to maintain a home garden provided the person obtains a transaction privilege tax license.”

“Commercial grows, home gardens and cannabis sales are not authorized within 1,000 feet of a school.”

According to the Washington Post, Insys has “developed a drug based on a synthetic ingredient, THC. Called Syndros, the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July for treatment of AIDS and cancer patients’ symptoms.”

Insys was just given preliminary approval for Syndros from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) this week.

However, Insys has a shady history as a big pharmaceutical company, as they manufacture Subsys fentanyl, a deadly painkiller. An NBC report found that as of 2015, Insys had enjoyed sales of $147.2 million for their high-risk drug. They also came under investigation for the aggressive manner in which they were marketing and selling their drug. The NBC study quoted the Oregon assistant attorney general, who stated, “I’ve been investigating drug cases for about 15 years now, and the conduct that we saw in this case was among the most unconscionable that I’ve seen.”

For Insys, the fight against marijuana legalization has been long and arduous. In 2011, they retained the lobbying firm Hyman, Phelps & Mcnamara to nudge the DEA against legalization. In a statement to the Post, the company claimed they oppose marijuana legalization because “marijuana’s safety hasn’t been demonstrated through the federal regulatory process.”

Safer Arizona, the group fighting for legalization, features the tagline, “We don’t have a drug problem, we have a political problem,” on their website. Marijuana legalization in Arizona would be a huge step for nationwide legalization, as the state is seen as a stronghold of traditional American values. However, if big pharma continues to bankroll the opposition, the political action groups fighting against legalization will have more money to fund campaigns for local politicians who share their sympathies.

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Clarification of the New Drug Code (7350) for Marijuana Extract


Note regarding this rule – In light of questions that the Drug Enforcement Administration has received from members of the public following the publication of the Final Rule establishing a new Controlled Substance Code Number (drug code) for marijuana extract, DEA makes the following clarification:

  • The new drug code (7350) established in the Final Rule does not include materials or products that are excluded from the definition of marijuana set forth in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).1
  • The new drug code includes only those extracts that fall within the CSA definition of marijuana.
  • If a product consisted solely of parts of the cannabis plant excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana, such product would not be included in the new drug code (7350) or in the drug code for marijuana (7360).

As explained in the Final Rule, the creation of this new drug code was primarily intended to give DEA more precise accounting to assist the agency in carrying out its obligations to provide certain reports required by U.S. treaty obligations. Because the Final Rule did not add any substance to the schedules that was not already controlled, and did not change the schedule of any substance, it was not a scheduling action under 21 U.S.C. §§ 811 and 812.

The new drug code is a subset of what has always been included in the CSA definition of marijuana. By creating a new drug code for marijuana extract, the Final Rule divides into more descriptive pieces the materials, compounds, mixtures, and preparations that fall within the CSA definition of marijuana. Both drug code 7360 (marijuana) and new drug code 7350 (marijuana extract) are limited to that which falls within the CSA definition of marijuana.

Because recent public inquiries that DEA has received following the publication of the Final Rule suggest there may be some misunderstanding about the source of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, we also note the following botanical considerations. As the scientific literature indicates, cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), cannabinols (CBN) and cannabidiols (CBD), are found in the parts of the cannabis plant that fall within the CSA definition of marijuana, such as the flowering tops, resin, and leaves.2 According to the scientific literature, cannabinoids are not found in the parts of the cannabis plant that are excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana, except for trace amounts (typically, only parts per million)3 that may be found where small quantities of resin adhere to the surface of seeds and mature stalk.4  Thus, based on the scientific literature, it is not practical to produce extracts that contain more than trace amounts of cannabinoids using only the parts of the cannabis plant that are excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana, such as oil from the seeds. The industrial processes used to clean cannabis seeds and produce seed oil would likely further diminish any trace amounts of cannabinoids that end up in the finished product. However, as indicated above, if a product, such as oil from cannabis seeds, consisted solely of parts of the cannabis plant excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana, such product would not be included in the new drug code (7350) or in the drug code for marijuana (7360), even if it contained trace amounts of cannabinoids.5

1 The CSA states: “The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.” 21 U.S.C. § 802(16).

2 H. Mölleken and H. Hussman. Cannabinoid in seed extracts of Cannabis sativa cultivars. J. Int. Hemp Assoc. 4(2): 73-79 (1997).

3 See id.; see also S. Ross et al., GC-MS Analysis of the Total Δ9-THC Content of Both Drug- and Fiber-Type Cannabis Seeds, J. Anal. Toxic., Vol. 24, 715-717 (2000).

4 H. Mölleken, supra.

5 Nor would such a product be included under drug code 7370 (tetrahydrocannabinols). See Hemp Industries Association v. DEA, 357 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2004) (Hemp II). However, as the Ninth Circuit stated in Hemp II, “when Congress excluded from the definition of marijuana ‘mature stalks of such plant, fiber . . . , [and] oil or cake made from the seeds,’ it also made an exception to the exception, and included ‘resin extracted from’ the excepted parts of the plant in the definition of marijuana, despite the stalks and seed exception.”  Id. at 1018. Thus, if an extract of cannabinoids were produced using extracted resin from any part of the cannabis plant (including the parts excluded from the CSA definition of marijuana), such an extract would be included in the CSA definition of marijuana.

SOURCE LINK

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 1:29


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Here is an essay that I’ve written to the News Enterprise, the Courier Journal, the Lexington Herald, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Brett Guthrie, Matt Bevin, Rick Sanders, and the Kentucky Medical Association. I’m still looking for more people to write to, but I thought you might appreciate it. Love what you guys are doing, and keep up the great work! –Joshua

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29

Those are the very first words that God spoke to mankind. He told us that He Himself made every herb, and He has given us every single one of them.

Cannabis being legalized isn’t just about the fact that the Controlled Substance Act is grossly unconstitutional, that mothers and fathers are going to prison and having their children ripped from their homes, that Congress abuses the Commerce Clause to tell us what we cannot have in our own homes and bodies, or the countless lives that have been destroyed because of the failed War on Drugs. Cannabis is a God given right.

The governments tell us God was wrong; that He made a mistake. Why should anyone, whether they support legalization or not, stand for such a thing? Cannabis laws have nothing to do with helping anyone, nor do they have to do with money. The government uses cannabis to invade the rights of everyone. The DEA has put GPS tracking devices on vehicles, they have intercepted millions of American’s phone calls, they can open your mail, and they can search your home or car without a warrant by simply saying, “It smelled like marijuana”.

The Commerce Clause of the Constitution says that Congress has the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. From this single sentence, Congress created the Controlled Substance Act. This is how it works:

Congress has the authority to control “interstate commerce”, or commerce between state lines. Commerce within state lines, or “intrastate commerce” is supposed to be regulated by the individual States. However, Congress says that it is not feasible for law enforcement to know whether cannabis is being sold or was obtained through interstate commerce, so they regulate the intrastate commerce as well.

In 2002, Angel Raich’s home was invaded by DEA agents who destroyed her six medical cannabis plants. Raich took this to the Supreme Court, claiming that her plants were for personal use and obviously did not affect interstate commerce. The Court disagreed, stating that in Wickard vs. Filburn (1942), the Court had decided that growing wheat for one’s personal use was within Congress’s power to regulate. This essentially means that Congress has the authority to prohibit absolutely anything. If they wish to prohibit chairs, you cannot have a chair for personal use. They may also ban all materials used to “manufacture” chairs. This is not just about “drugs”. This is about our rights and liberties as American citizens.

The Controlled Substance Act says cannabis, or “marihunana” as it’s called in the Act, is a Scheduled 1 substance along with heroin and LSD, which means it has no acceptable medicinal value. However, Patent 6630507 is the U.S. Govenment’s own patent on the various cannabinoids present in cannabis. The government is lying, and millions of people are forced to use prescription drugs which have rampaged Kentucky and the country.

Yet alcohol, which must be manufactured and has destroyed countless lives, is sold and celebrated all over the country. The Scriptures have plenty to say about alcohol and why it is wise to avoid it. When God made all the plants on the third day, before there was ever a man to till the ground, cannabis grew without any help. There is no need to “manufacture” cannabis. It’s a plant!

Some will say “But it’s against the law of the land!” Nonsense. The law of the land is that God made all plants and herbs, because the very first words that God said to man is “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed”.

God made it, and He made it for you. He made it because He loves you. He made it to bring you health, wellbeing, and to supplement your endocannabinoid system, which He also made. Nobody has the right to tell you that you can’t have that which God explicitly said is yours.

“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth” Psalm 104:14

If you have access to the internet, I urge you to research whether these things are true. Search where Congress draws their power for the Controlled Substance Act, the endocannabinoid system that exists in every human, Patent 6630507, and the history and science behind this very ancient herb. Then contact our representatives and tell them that we will not stand for having our rights trampled on any longer; because we are Kentucky, we are patriots, and we believe the Word of God.

(Written and received from an “Anonymous” reader, sk.)

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle”


 

 

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(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Patrick McGreevyPatrick McGreevyContact Reporter

Warned of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, California elected officials and cannabis industry leaders said Friday they were preparing for a potential showdown in the courts and Congress to protect the legalization measure approved by state voters in November.

The flashpoint that set off a scramble in California was a news conference Thursday at which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no plans to continue the Obama administration’s permissive approach in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” he said, adding that the administration would continue to allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana for medical use.

The latest development could force California officials and marijuana industry leaders into an unusual alliance against the federal government, with billions of dollars in profits for businesses and taxes for state coffers at stake.

The state agency responsible for drafting regulations said Friday it was going ahead with its plans to start issuing licenses to growers and sellers in January.

“Until we see any sort of formal plan from the federal government, it’s full speed ahead for us,” said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.

In Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) plans to introduce legislation that could blunt Spicer’s threat by preventing the Department of Justice from enforcing federal laws against the recreational use of marijuana in states that have legalized it, a spokesman said Friday.

And industry officials warn that any federal crackdown in California and other states will result in many growers and sellers continuing to operate, but on the black market.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says he is ready to safeguard the rights approved by 57% of voters in Proposition 64, which allows California adults to possess, transport and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

“I took an oath to enforce the laws that California has passed,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday after Spicer’s comments. “If there is action from the federal government on this subject, I will respond in an appropriate way to protect the interests of California.”

State lawmakers also say California should do what it can to preserve Proposition 64.

“We will support and honor the laws that California voters have democratically enacted,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), an author of legislation creating the licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Becerra would likely be joined in any defense of the state’s marijuana policy by attorneys general in other parts of the country. Recreational use has also been legalized in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, home to a combined 68 million Americans.

Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, who has worked with Becerra on opposing President Trump’s travel ban, said he and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week asked for a meeting with U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to discuss how the recreational marijuana use system is working in their state.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading supporter of Proposition 64, took a similar approach, sending a letter Friday to Trump urging him not to carry through with threats to launch a federal enforcement effort.

“I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other … states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children, while targeting the bad actors,” the Democrat wrote.

If the Justice Department starts arresting licensed marijuana sellers, the multibillion-dollar industry would join forces with the states that issue permits to challenge the action in court, said Amy Margolis, an attorney whose law firm has more than 200 clients in the marijuana industry, including businesses in California.

“This industry is so mature and it’s so far along that I have no doubt that if the Department of Justice started true enforcement actions against cannabis businesses, that they would go to court,” Margolis said. “I see joint actions between the states and the industry hoping to prevent those type of actions.”

Margolis would argue that it is a states’ rights issue.

“The argument would be that this is a situation where the states have the right to regulate and tax an industry the way they want,” she said, adding that states are gaining tax revenue to pay for government programs.

Although federal law does not outline a medicinal use for marijuana, Trump administration officials have made public statements indicating they recognize that such a benefit exists, which could help the industry in a potential court case, Margolis said.

However, the states may find their hands tied legally if they try to keep federal agents from raiding and shutting down marijuana growing and sales operations, according to Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA School of Law.

“I imagine that California will mount a legal challenge to any crackdown on recreational marijuana,” Winkler said. “Yet there is not much California can do. Federal law is supreme over conflicting state law. Federal agents are entitled to enforce federal law anywhere in the country, including California.”

He said there are limits to federal power, but the courts have held that the federal government does have the authority to enforce federal drug laws.

Aaron Herzberg, an attorney for the industry, agreed that the state would face a tough fight. He cited the 2005 case Gonzales vs. Raich, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress may criminalize the production and use of homegrown marijuana even if states approve its use for medical purposes.

“Let’s face it: If the federal government wants to shut down recreational marijuana, they could quite easily accomplish it using federal law enforcement and taxation tools,” Herzberg said.

Others say one basis for legal action would be an argument that enforcing laws against marijuana would damage states that have put regulations in place and are depending on hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay for government programs.

States are too far down the path of regulating, licensing and taxing those who are making big investments in the sanctioned marijuana industry to pull the rug out now, said Richard Miadich, an attorney who co-wrote Proposition 64.

“Given the strict regulatory structure set forth in Proposition 64, that medical and adult-use regulations are being developed in concert, and that public opinion is squarely on the side of states’ rights on this issue, I think it is impractical for the federal government to reverse course now,” he said. “Not to mention the potential for great harm to individual states.”

Supporters of Proposition 64 say there is also a potential political solution.

In recent years, Rohrabacher and former Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) won congressional approval of a rider to the federal budget that prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws.

Rohrabacher plans to introduce legislation that would expand the protection to businesses that comply with state laws allowing the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use, according to spokesman Ken Grubbs.

The congressman is planning the legislation “because recreational use is an issue of individual freedom and should be dealt with legally according to the principle of federalism, a bedrock conservative belief,” Grubbs said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) is also “reviewing options to counteract whatever the Trump administration’s plans” are for state marijuana laws, said senior advisor Jack d’Annibale.

Another option, though a long shot, would be for Congress to attempt to change the federal Controlled Substances Act to decriminalize the use of marijuana nationally.

Herzberg said reinstituting federal raids would be “a major setback for the industry.”

But the state could still go ahead with a licensing system for medical marijuana growing and sales in spite of a federal crackdown on recreational use, according to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Assn.

“A vast majority of California growers and cannabis business owners would choose to participate only in the medical marketplace if given the option, and some would choose to avoid licensure entirely if they were unable to distinguish themselves from adult-use businesses,” Allen said.

Because Spicer did not provide details on what an enforcement effort might look like, many in the industry hope it will focus on the illegal exporting of marijuana to other states, leaving alone state-licensed firms that grow and sell pot.

“The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said any change in federal enforcement policy on states that have legalized recreational use would be misguided.

“You can’t put the genie back into the bottle — marijuana regulation and enforcement can’t and shouldn’t go backwards,” he said.

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The DEA doesn’t see it as legal’ and that’s where he gets his medical license.”


FOX Files: Some doctors fear following Missouri’s medical marijuana law

Posted 11:15 pm, February 21, 2017, by Chris Hayes

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- A form of medical marijuana may be legal in Missouri, but patients are finding doctors afraid to even discuss it. It’s called CBD hemp oil, extracted from a type of marijuana that cannot get you high. It’s now legal in Missouri for treating intractable epilepsy, but families say some doctors are afraid to honor the new law.

Robert Tufts,  11, says it hurts when he seizes.

“It just feels like some sort of shock like, my brain, inside my head. I’ll just get a little fuzzy feeling and I’ll shake and I’ll be dizzy for a second.”

He takes a handful of pills he says sometimes make him feel worse.

“It just felt like I was so enraged and wanted to break everything.”

His mom, Stephanie, thinks CBD oil could be a better way, but she can’t convince her son’s doctor.

“His exact words to me were, ‘It’s not legal,’” said Stephanie Tufts.  “I said well the oil is legal here in Missouri and he basically came back with, ‘It’s not. The DEA doesn’t see it as legal’ and that’s where he gets his medical license.”

FOX 2 has learned only 66 families in Missouri have obtained medical cards to buy CBD oil, with potentially thousands of families asking for it.

Treasurer Eric Schmitt fought for the new law when he was State Senator.

“This idea that you’ve tried everything and it’s not working, but there may be something that is now legal in the State of Missouri to now possess and use and that a doctor and a hospital would not allow families to access that – there’s no excuse for it,” said Schmitt.

Schmitt has met with hospital administrators across the State trying to get them to reconsider.

“I know for a fact that there are neurologists in those hospital systems that want to be able to recommend, but are not being allowed to by the lawyers. And I think that that’s just…it’s unconscionable.”

There is one hospital working with patients.  It’s in St. Louis, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Sean Goretzke with SSM said, “Even though there might be some negatives and some side effects, (we felt) there was a certain percentage of patients that we owed it to to do everything we could to try to help within a safe and reasonable effort.”

Dr. Goretzke is director of child neurology at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

“Cases where this works are really highly publicized. There’s a lot of social media attraction to it and those are great and we’re happy about those. But we know this isn’t going to work for every patient, just like every other medicine we have.”

Patients must first try three traditional prescriptions without success.  The marijuana strain that’s cultivated for its CBD oils does not contain the psychoactive THC, which hurts brain development, but Dr. Goretzke says there’s no research to answer whether CBD oil could still present risks.

“The majority of kids we are treating with this substance are so delayed from the burden of their seizures, maybe from the side effects of their other medications, that we feel the potential benefit for this medicine far outweighs those risks,. But with a typically developing child we’re still just not quite sure yet.”

He acknowledged they must start somewhere, but said it would help if there was research money to help answer their concerns.  Dr. Goretzke also said this is not a mandate and the hospital will respect individual doctors who might not want to be part of it.

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CONTINIUE READING…

Here’s how Attorney General Sessions could shut down the legal marijuana industry overnight


Mark Kleiman, professor of Public Policy at NYU/ Marron explains how the Trump administration could have a negative impact on the growing industry of legal marijuana. 

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Josh Barro: With the new administration coming in, there’s some question over what the justice department will do. The Federal government has, so far, taken a pretty hands-off approach to states that legalize even though marijuana is illegal under Federal law. Are you concerned about what the Federal government might do there? And what sort of mess would that create if the Federal government decided that it wanted to enforce laws against marijuana in states that have legalized?

Mark Kleiman: Well, it could create as much of a mess as the attorney general wanted to create. If the president held still for it. I mean, it’s pretty clear the attorney general, thinks that, or at least he said he thought, that the Obama administration was doing the wrong thing by acquiescing in these state license violations of Federal law. I assume that the career staff there is giving advice — and he may actually already know this — that they didn’t have much choice.

Barro: Why’s that?

Kleiman: Because there are 4,000 DEA agents worldwide. There are 500,000 state and local cops. If a state doesn’t want to enforce its cannabis laws, the Federal government really cannot step into those shoes. And, again this is hard Constitutional doctrine. The Federal government may not require a state to make something criminal or to help enforce safe Federal law. 

So yeah, if … the justice department wanted to shut all the legal markets down, they could do that within weeks at very low resource cost. They go into the state regulatory agencies, they get all the license applications, which I think are public record, but if not, they can subpoena them, they take that pack of applications to the nearest US Federal District Court and say, “Your Honor. here are people who have signed an application for permission to commit a Federal felony. Please enjoin them from doing so.” That injunction issues without even hearing from a lawyer on the other side. And then you use the contempt power to enforce it.

So they could destroy the legal market overnight. But they’d just replace it with an illegal market. If Colorado and Washington reacted by repealing their cannabis laws, then instead of a taxed and regulated market, you’d have an untaxed and unregulated market.

And, yeah, you could, you could have the pleasure of sending some people to prison, but you couldn’t do anything about it. So my guess is, that’s the advice that the new attorney general will get from his staff, and that they will acquiesce as the Obama administration acquiesced in something they can’t stop.

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Burgeoning Marijuana Market Prompts Concerns about Crop’s Environmental Impact


By Melati Kaye on February 2, 2017

A visit to a marijuana farm in Willow Creek, the heart of northern California’s so-called Emerald Triangle feels like strolling through an orchard. At 16 feet high and eight feet around, its 99 plants are too overloaded with cannabis buds to stand on their own. Instead each plant has an aluminum cage for support.

Welcome to America’s “pot basket.” The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates 60 percent of cannabis consumed nationwide is grown in California. According to the Department of Justice, the bulk of that comes from the three upstate counties of the Emerald Triangle: Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity. Conditions here are said to be perfect for outdoor marijuana cultivation. But that has proved to be a very mixed blessing for the region, bringing with it a litany of environmental disturbances to local waterways and wildlife. Creek diversions threaten fish habitat and spur toxic algal blooms. Road building and clear-cuts erode soil and cloud streams. Deep within, illegal “guerilla grows” pepper forestlands with banned rodent poisons that are intended to eradicate crop pests but are also fatal to other mammals.

On November 8 voters in four states—Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada—legalized recreational marijuana. These states join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, along with the District of Columbia, where one can already legally buy the drug for recreational use. Will this expanded market mean more environmental damage? Or will legalization pave the way for sounder regulation?

In 1996 California legalized marijuana for medical use, providing the first legal space for pot cultivation since the federal government’s blanket ban on the crop some 60 years before. As grow operations in the state flourished, California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Bauer analyzed satellite imagery to examine the impact of cultivation on water levels in four Emerald Triangle watersheds. His study, published in PLoS ONE in 2015, found that in three of the four watersheds, “water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeds stream flow during the low-flow [summer] periods.”

The real problem is not marijuana’s overall water consumption, which still falls far short of California staples like walnuts or almonds, explains environmental scientist Van Butsic of the University of California, Berkeley. Rather it is an issue of where and when pot is grown. Analyzing aerial imagery of 4,428 grow sites in 60 Humboldt county watersheds, Butsic found that one in 20 grow sites sat within 100 meters of fish habitat and one in five were located on steep land with a slope of 17 degrees or more. “The problem is that cannabis is being grown in the headwaters, and much of the watering is happening in the summer,” Butsic says.

If that arrangement goes on unchecked, U.C. Berkeley ecologist Mary Powers warns, summer plantations could transform local rivers from cool and “salmon-sustaining” to systems full of toxic cyanobacteria. Over eons of evolution native salmon species have adapted to “deluge or drought” conditions, she says. But the double whammy of climate change and water extraction could prove to be a game-changer.

Powers spelled out the unprecedented stresses in a 2015 conference paper focused on the Eel River that flows through Mendocino and southern Humboldt. She and her team found riverbed-scouring floods in winter, followed by dry, low-flow conditions in summer, led to warm, stagnant, barely connected pools of water. That is bad news for salmon, but ideal for early summer algal blooms. The algae then rot, creating an oxygen-deficient paradise for toxic cyanobacteria, which have been implicated in the poisoning deaths of 11 dogs along the Eel River since 2002.

Dogs are not the only terrestrial creatures endangered by the grow operations. Between 2008 and 2013 Mourad Gabriel, then a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Genetics Lab, carried out a study of the American fisher, a small carnivorous mammal that is a candidate for the endangered species list. He wanted to suss out the threats to fisher populations in northern California. So he radio-tagged fishers from Trinity County’s Hoopa Valley Reservation and public lands near Yosemite National Park to track their movements. Between 2006 and 2011, 58 of the fishers Gabriel and his team tracked turned up dead. Gabriel studied the necropsies and found that 46 of the animals had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides—rat poisons that block liver enzymes, which enable blood clotting. Without the enzyme the exposed mammals bled to death from flesh wounds.

The finding puzzled Gabriel at first, because rat poison is more common in agricultural and urban settings than in remote forests. But then he started visiting the remnants of guerilla grows that had been busted under the guidance of lawmen such as Omar Brown, head of the Narcotics Division at the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. “We have found [anticoagulant rodenticides] carbofuron on grows in the national forest,” Brown reports. “These are neurotoxin-laced pesticides that have been banned in the U.S. since 2011. And even for allowed pesticides, we’ve found instances where trespass grows are using them in illegally large quantities.” The poisons hit female fishers particularly hard, because the early, pest-prone phase of marijuana cultivation coincides with the fishers’ nesting season, when pregnant females are actively foraging.

Gabriel, now director of the Integral Ecology Research Center based in Humboldt County, says other states may be dealing with rodenticides, water diversions and other problems from guerilla grows, too. “The climate in Colorado, Oregon and Washington is conducive for marijuana cultivation,” he observes. But “there just isn’t the scientific data to prove whether other states have these problems because there has not been research funding put towards answering these questions.”

In California headwater ecosystems could get a reprieve if a greatly expanded legalized pot industry moves to the Central Valley, where production could take place indoors and costs would be less. In pot-growing pioneer states like Colorado or Washington much of the production has moved indoors, where temperatures can be more closely managed. But other factors may hinder that move. “Bud and pest problems are always worse indoors, which biases farmers toward a chemically intensive regime,” says Marie Peterson of Downriver Consulting, a Weaverville, Calif.–based firm that helps growers fill out the paperwork for state and county permits as well as assesses water management plans for their plantations. And besides, the Central Valley already suffers from prolonged drought.

Of the eight states that legalized the cultivation of recreational marijuana, only Oregon and California allow outdoor grows. But regulating open-air pot plantations in these states remains challenging, even though legal operations for medical marijuana have been around since 1998 and 1996, respectively. In 2015 California passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which calls on the state’s departments of Food and Agriculture, Pesticide Regulation, and Fish and Wildlife, along with the state’s Water Board—to oversee environmental impacts of the industry. The board came up with a list of requirements for a marijuana plantation water permit, which in turn became a necessary condition for a license to grow medical pot in any of the three Emerald Triangle counties. Counties have until January 2018 to decide whether to create similar stipulations for recreational marijuana growing permits.

Butsic is optimistic about a more regulated future for the marijuana industry in California. “I think five years from now things will be more sustainable. Permitting shows growers that the state is interested in water use and their crop.”

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Don’t expect nationwide marijuana legalization under the Trump administration


Washington DC marijuana handout

With the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, the United States got a new president. And with that new president comes a long list of new appointees across various federal agencies and departments. While President Trump’s cabinet selection process has played out publicly, a variety of folks from former president Barack Obama’s administration have quietly stayed on.

One of the most prominent people that’s staying on is the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed by former attorney general Loretta Lynch in May 2015.

And that’s particularly notable, as the DEA is responsible for enforcing drug policy in the United States. Most importantly for most Americans, Rosenberg is in charge of enforcing marijuana illegality in the US — an area where, traditionally, the federal government and individual US states have butted heads.

For instance, California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996; despite legality in California, the drug remained illegal on a federal level, and the US government — through the DEA — policed it as such. California medical dispensaries were raided by the federal government repeatedly, regardless of its legality in the eyes of the State of California.

That relationship dramatically changed in 2013 due to a document known as “The Cole Memo” (written by deputy attorney general James Cole). The document re-focused federal resources away from prosecuting individuals who were operating legally within their own states, and instead focused on containment and prevention.

In so many words, it directed federal agencies to stop clashing with state-level marijuana policy.

And DEA head Chuck Rosenberg has upheld that memo.

“He didn’t have too much of a problem following the administration’s directives on that issue,” Marijuana Policy Project senior communications manager Morgan Fox told Business Insider. “And it says a lot for continuity — things will remain relatively the same at the DEA.” 

Of course, this is all up for change. If Trump’s attorney general appointee, Senator Jeff Sessions, is appointed, he could direct the DEA to take a more hardline stance. And if President Trump himself decides to take a more hardline stance, that would also impact how the DEA operates when it comes to federal marijuana policy. To be clear, neither Sessions nor Trump have indicated as much.

As Fox told Business Insider, “The DEA head acts as the direction of the attorney general who acts at the direction of the president.” That said, both President Trump and Senator Sessions have indicated intentions to keep the status quo: allowing states to legislate and police their own drug laws.

In 2016, alongside Trump winning the presidency, several states enacted laws either outright legalizing recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution/sales or legalized medical use. For the foreseeable future, it looks like the US government will continue to defer to individual states in terms of marijuana policy.

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Hemp Industries Association Files Petition Against DEA


Hemp Industries Association Files Petition Against DEA to Defend Lawful Hemp-Derived Products from Agency Overreach
19 Jan 2017 5:41 PM

Suit Seeks to Defend Hemp Farmers, U.S. Businesses and Consumers from Illegal Attempt to Schedule Non-Psychoactive Hemp Derivatives as ‘Marihuana Extract’
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), the leading non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, filed a Petition for Review on January 13, 2017, in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, seeking to block the implementation of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recently announced Final Rule regarding “Marihuana Extract.” The proposed DEA Final Rule attempts to unlawfully designate hemp-derived non-psychoactive cannabinoids, including cannabidiol, as “marihuana extract,” and append the Controlled Substances Act to add all cannabinoids to its Schedule I. Furthermore, this action by the DEA contravenes clear Congressional intent and legal parameters for the production and consumption of hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids, enacted by Sec. 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

To read the full petition, please visit:

https://hoban.law/sites/default/files/2017-01/17.01.13%20Petition%20%5Bfinal%5D.pdf

The DEA does not have the authority to augment the Controlled Substances Act; that power resides with Congress. Congress has clearly mandated, through the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2016 Omnibus Spending Law that the Controlled Substances Act does not apply to hemp grown in state pilot programs, and that it is a violation of federal law for agencies such as DEA to interfere with these programs. The DEA’s proposed rule regarding cannabinoids thumbs its nose at Congress and threatens to undermine the market for legal hemp products containing cannabinoids, including those produced in the U.S. under state laws that regulate hemp cultivation and processing pursuant to, and in accordance with the federal Farm Bill. These products, such as hemp foods and supplements, fall outside the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and are not subject to regulatory control by the DEA.

“Hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids are an increasingly in-demand category within the hemp market—and U.S. consumers constitute the largest market for hemp products worldwide,” said Colleen Keahey, Executive Director of the Hemp Industries Association. “We are committed to defending the rights of our members, of entrepreneurial hemp farmers, businesses and consumers, who all are acting entirely within the legal framework of the CSA and Farm Bill, including those adversely affected by trying to source American-grown hemp and hemp derivatives to supply this demand. The DEA’s attempt to regulate hemp derived products containing cannabinoids lawfully sourced under the CSA, and farmed and produced under the Farm Bill in states like Kentucky and Colorado, is not only outside the scope of their power, it’s an attempt to rob us of hemp’s economic opportunity.”
The DEA has made previous attempts to interfere with legal hemp products, notably from 2001-2003 when the agency contended that hemp food products such as cereals, hemp seed and hemp oil, are a Schedule I substance due to trace insignificant residues of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. On February 6, 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in response that hemp is not included in Schedule I; that the trace THC in such products is similar to trace opiates in poppy seed bagels, and does not render them controlled substances. The HIA believes this 2004 ruling sets strong legal precedent for the current petition, which asserts that cannabinoids derived from lawful portions and varieties of the Cannabis plant exempted from control under the CSA and through the Farm Bill, may not be regulated as “marihuana” or “marihuana extract” by the DEA.

More recently, in 2014, the DEA interfered with the implementation of state pilot programs for hemp farming, when the agency unlawfully seized 250 lbs. of certified industrial hemp seed imported from Italy. The viable hemp seed had been legally sourced to supply six hemp research projects licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and coordinated in conjunction with Kentucky State academic institutions. The seed was quickly released, following the filing of a lawsuit against the DEA on May 14, 2014 by then Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, now U.S. Congressional Representative James Comer.
“Over a decade ago, the Ninth Circuit held that non-psychoactive hemp is not controlled by the CSA,” said Patrick Goggin, co-counsel for the HIA. “The DEA is again attempting to schedule under the CSA cannabinoids and non-psychoactive hemp beyond its authority. We believe the Ninth Circuit will invalidate this rule just like it did in 2004.”
To date, 31 states have passed hemp legislation that allows their farmers to cultivate hemp according to guidelines set forth in the Farm Bill. Per these guidelines, U.S. farmers planted nearly 10,000 acres of hemp in 2016. Farmers and agri-business across the country have invested many millions of dollars in infrastructure to comply with federal law; this retroactive misreading of statute puts the livelihood of these law-abiding companies and individuals at risk.
Recent DEA pronouncements indicate that DEA is threatening to flout prior court rulings, and assert regulatory authority over hemp seed, oil, and products made from hemp seed and oil, which have always been exempt from the Controlled Substances Act. HIA continues to monitor these developments, and will consider further actions to resist DEA’s unlawful attempts to regulate legal hemp products.
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The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new hemp products. More information about hemp’s many uses and hemp advocacy may be found at www.TheHIA.org.