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Lawyer Promised Their Weed Was Legal, But It Landed Them in Jail

Marsha Yandell was getting ready for lunch when a SWAT team appeared on her lawn and shouted over a bullhorn to smoke her out.

It was February 2015, and the former registered nurse tried to tell Florida cops that she had paperwork for her cannabis plants. The documents, she claimed, showed she and her hubby Scott were allowed to grow medical marijuana.

Yandell was tackled and zip-tied once she emerged, while her husband phoned their attorney from inside the house. The lawyer, Ian James Christensen, had legally greenlighted their home-grow operation and provided them with a patient ID card.

Scott, then an engineer, was cuffed and charged, too. The couple faced a slew of felonies, including manufacturing cannabis and possession of cannabis with intent to sell or deliver, and decades behind bars.

The Yandells lost their home and their jobs. They took a plea deal in return for $15,000 in fines, three years of probation, and 100 hours of community service, court records show.

Nine months after their arrests, Christensen closed his law firm. He eventually left Florida and faces a federal lawsuit by the Yandells accusing him of legal malpractice. (A default judgment against Christensen was entered this month.)

Last week, the 30-year-old one-time barrister was disbarred for falsely telling his sick clients they could possess, use, and grow cannabis. Christensen claimed cops couldnt touch them as long as they had his Official Legal Certification and (phony) patient ID cards. At the time, medical marijuana wasnt even legal in the Sunshine State.

Two other peoplean Iraq War contractor with PTSD and his girlfriendwere arrested and prosecuted after following Christensens advice, a state bar investigation found.

Along with the Official Legal Certification, Christensen provided clients with grow signs they could post at their homes to announce they were cultivating medical marijuana, a Florida Supreme Court ruling stated.

In a Jan. 18 decision, the court ruled that Christensen erroneously advised his clients and gave them legally meaningless certifications based on determinations made by a physician not licensed to practice medicine in the State of Florida.

Christensen continued to insist on the correctness of his clearly erroneous legal positions even when facing disciplinary proceedings, the document states.

We will not tolerate such misconduct by members of The Florida Bar, the panel wrote in their decision.

Christensens attorney, D. Gray Thomas, released a statement suggesting his client never intended to harm anyone.

A young lawyer thought at the time that he was serving his clients rights and best interests, and was advising them appropriately, Thomas said. He thought he was raising a valid position on their behalf supported by existing Florida legal precedent on the defense of medical necessity.

In court papers, Thomas wrote that Christensen opened his own solo firm, unmonitored by an experienced law firm or attorney.

Christensen, in an affidavit, said, …I am extremely remorseful for the harms caused to my clients based on my naive persistence and misplaced confidence in what I was doing harms which I did not intend.

But Andrew Bonderud, an attorney for the Yandells, called Christensen a scam artist.

He has demonstrated a level of intransigence and arrogance that is remarkable, Bonderud told The Daily Beast. He had lots of opportunities to be persuaded that what he was recommending was hazarding all of his clients, and he ignored them.

Its a level of recklessness that cannot be explained away by an innocent misunderstanding, Bonderud added.

While Marsha Yandell is happy with the disbarment, she says her life is still in pieces. She and her spouse moved to Oregon for a fresh start, but her criminal record bars her from being employed as a nurse. I dont want this to ever happen to another vulnerable patient, ever again, she told The Daily Beast.

Yandell was a registered nurse for 25 years and lost her license after pleading guilty to possession of cannabis with intent to sell and possession of paraphernalia. Her husband, an engineer for 15 years, also lost his job at Verizon, she says.

Were very educated people, however, we are not educated in law, Yandell said.

Before she found Christensens firm, Yandell was suffering from fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and spinal stenosis. Desperate to ditch the daily pharmaceuticals she took to ease the pain, she attended a cannabis seminar and learned of Christensens business, Health Law Services (HLS).

Indeed, Christensen launched the IJC Law Group in July 2013, less than three months after being admitted to the bar. At the time, he had no training in the area of medical marijuana, the Florida Supreme Court found.

The attorney launched HLS in February 2014, and incorporated the Cannabinoid Therapy Institute five months later, court papers state.

Christensen charged HLS clients $799 a pop for a medical necessity evaluation. If his firm determined a need for weed, it would provide patients with the Official Legal Certification and a homemade ID card claiming the clients had a marijuana prescription.

The identification was not affiliated with any government agency.

HLS website erroneously claimed Floridas medical necessity doctrine would protect patients from law enforcement if they could prove they used pot for medical reasons. Therefore, if a patient can prove to a law enforcement officer that cannabis is the safest medication available to treat their diagnosed condition, they are NOT subject to arrest, the website stated.

Meanwhile, Christensens Facebook page boasted of being the first law firm to develop a process to assist you TODAY so you may rest easy knowing you have a valid legal option to use this safe non-toxic medicine.

He claimed to have a team of expert physicians, attorneys, and experienced marijuana professionals. Yet, according to the Yandells lawsuit, one of those experts claimed to be a lawyer but didnt even have a bachelors degree.

The Yandells met Christensen in June 2014 and paid him $799 each after they received a medical interview by a doctor, whom they later learned wasnt even licensed to practice in the state of Florida.

At the time, Marsha Yandell was desperate for a cure.

I was eating 15 pills a day with every doctor in Jacksonville saying, Im sorry youre feeling so bad, but theres not a lot I can do, Yandell said.

When I met these people, and they told me they had a way out of that whole rat race that I was living I was like, Hell yeah, I will try anything, Yandell recalls. If somebody would have told me to scrape asphalt off the left side of the highway and eat it, I would have done that.

The couple later showed Christensen their home cannabis plants, and the budding attorney allegedly restated that the operation was legal.

Christensen found ways to add validity to his practice by creating a website where law enforcement could search for and confirm whether patient ID cards were valid, Yandell told The Daily Beast.

She and her husband continued to cultivate marijuana until January 2015, when a former friend and HLS patient made a false 911 call about them, the lawsuit states. (Yandell said the pal was angry when she stopped growing his medicine for free. He allegedly told police he heard gunshots at the Yandell residence.)

According to the lawsuit, Christensen told the Yandells they had nothing to worry about and that his firm would contact the Saint Johns County Sheriffs Office to discuss the couples marijuana operation. There is no record, however, that Christensen ever contacted the agency.

One month later, the SWAT team raided their home and seized their vehicles and other valuables.

The Yandells paid HLS $3,000 in cash, in addition to filing fees, to have Christensen represent them after their first arrest.

When cops busted the couple a second time in March 2015, they hired a new attorney. They pleaded guilty to avoid lengthy prison sentences, becoming homeless, broke, convicted felons, their complaint states.

Their landlord later won a $25,000 judgment against them for lost rent and damages to the home from the police raid.

The Yandells werent the only victims of Christensens alleged scheme, court papers filed in the disbarment case reveal.

In June 2014, Matthew Young and his girlfriend, Lynne Nesselroad, sought advice on Floridas medical marijuana laws.

Christensen sent Young to his Cannabinoid Therapy Institute for an exam. Afterward, Christensen told Young he could grow and use weed for his medical conditions which include PTSD and brain injury.

Three months later, Christensen provided Young with a patient ID card and Nesselroad with a card identifying her as his qualified caregiver. Christensen was listed on both ID cards as their Licensed Florida Counsel.

In November 2014, Young and Nesselroad were arrested for trafficking marijuana and possession and manufacture of cannabis. Cops laughed when Young showed them Christensens paperwork, court papers state.

Christensen charged the couple $8,000 to defend them, but a judge disqualified him as their attorney because he was a witness in the case. When Young and Nesselroad tried to get a refund, Christensen allegedly told them the money was gone.

The State Attorneys Office dropped all charges against the couple in July 2015, and they became cooperating witnesses in an ongoing investigation, the Tampa Bay Times reported. That month, a judge also ordered Christensen to repay the $8,000.

Young had spent 1,600 days in Iraq as a military contractor. His tour left him with broken bones, PTSD, and brain injury from concussions he sustained during explosions. His attorney, Shawn Gearhart, told the Times that he also contracted HIV while working as a field medic and was later diagnosed with AIDS.

It calms everything, Young told the Times. Without cannabis my head is like a tornado and a hurricane all at the same time.

According to the Times, state attorney Bruce Bartlett said that without Christensens guidance, Young and Nesselroad wouldnt have faced their predicament. These people have been punished enough, Bartlett said.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com

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Trump now backs marijuana ‘states rights’ bill, senator says

President Donald Trump has reportedly lent his support to a U.S. senator from Colorado, promising to back legislation that “protects states’ rights” on legalized marijuana.

The president’s decision would represent a split from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in January rescinded an Obama-era policy, known as “the Cole memo,” that gave states more leeway over the federal government on marijuana policy.

The name refers to former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, whose memo explained the policy.

In a statement Friday, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, said he’d received an assurance from the president on the states’ rights’ issue earlier this week.

“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner said. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.

“Furthermore,” Gardner added, “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., addresses reporters, Jan. 22, 2018.  (Associated Press)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Gardner’s account of the president’s thinking — but Sessions’ reaction was not immediately known.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump said states should be able to decide their own marijuana policies. “I’m a states person, it should be up to the states, absolutely,” he told a television interviewer in Colorado that year.

However, a year earlier at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Maryland, Trump had said he supported medical marijuana but called recreational pot “bad.”

He singled out Colorado, the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales. “They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado – some big problems,” Trump said then.

When Trump selected Sessions, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. senator from Alabama, as his attorney general, marijuana supporters girded for a crackdown. But Gardner said Sessions had promised him he’d do nothing to interfere with Colorado’s robust marijuana market.

Gardner said he was blindsided when Sessions made his announcement in January regarding pot prosecutions.

In retaliation, Gardner used his power as a senator to prevent consideration of any nominees for the Department of Justice — an extraordinary step for a senator to use against an administration run by another member of his party.

Recently, Gardner and Justice officials have been in discussions for months to get the holds lifted. Gardner has met with Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the Russia probe who has been the target of Trump’s ire.

In his Friday statement, Gardner said he had released some holds, but left others in place until he acquired “a full commitment that the guidelines of the Cole Memo would be respected.”

Meanwhile, legislation to protect states where marijuana is legal is still being drafted. Trump’s backing is seen as key to getting a bill through Congress.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Jake Gibson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

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Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find

(CNN)Experts have proposed using medical marijuana to help Americans struggling with opioid addiction. Now, two studies suggest that there is merit to that strategy.

The studies, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, compared opioid prescription patterns in states that have enacted medical cannabis laws with those that have not. One of the studies looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2015, while the other looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016.
The researchers found that states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year under Medicare Part D, compared with those states without medical cannabis laws. Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies.
    “This study adds one more brick in the wall in the argument that cannabis clearly has medical applications,” said David Bradford, professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia and a lead author of the Medicare study.
    “And for pain patients in particular, our work adds to the argument that cannabis can be effective.”
    Medicare Part D, the optional prescription drug benefit plan for those enrolled in Medicare, covers more than 42 million Americans, including those 65 or older. Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 73 million low-income individuals in the US, according to the program’s website.
    “Medicare and Medicaid publishes this data, and we’re free to use it, and anyone who’s interested can download the data,” Bradford said. “But that means that we don’t know what’s going on with the privately insured and the uninsured population, and for that, I’m afraid the data sets are proprietary and expensive.”

    ‘This crisis is very real’

    The new research comes as the United States remains entangled in the worst opioid epidemic the world has ever seen. Opioid overdose has risen dramatically over the past 15 years and has been implicated in over 500,000 deaths since 2000 — more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.
    “As somebody who treats patients with opioid use disorders, this crisis is very real. These patients die every day, and it’s quite shocking in many ways,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, an addiction psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the new studies.
    “We have had overuse of certain prescription opioids over the years, and it’s certainly contributed to the opioid crisis that we’re feeling,” he added. “I don’t think that’s the only reason, but certainly, it was too easy at many points to get prescriptions for opioids.”
    Today, more than 90 Americans a day die from opioid overdose, resulting in more than 42,000 deaths per year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid overdose recently overtook vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States, the CDC says.
    Like opioids, marijuana has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain as well as other conditions such as seizures, multiple sclerosis and certain mental disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research suggests that the cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems rely on common signaling pathways in the brain, including the dopamine reward system that is central to drug tolerance, dependence and addiction.
    “All drugs of abuse operate using some shared pathways. For example, cannabinoid receptors and opioid receptors coincidentally happen to be located very close by in many places in the brain,” Hill said. “So it stands to reason that a medication that affects one system might affect the other.”
    But unlike opioids, marijuana has little addiction potential, and virtually no deaths from marijuana overdose have been reported in the United States, according to Bradford.
    “No one has ever died of cannabis, so it has many safety advantages over opiates,” Bradford said. “And to the extent that we’re trying to manage the opiate crisis, cannabis is a potential tool.”

    Comparing states with and without medical marijuana laws

    In order to evaluate whether medical marijuana could function as an effective and safe alternative to opioids, the two teams of researchers looked at whether opioid prescriptions were lower in states that had active medical cannabis laws and whether those states that enacted these laws during the study period saw reductions in opioid prescriptions.
    Both teams, in fact, did find that opioid prescriptions were significantly lower in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws. The team that looked at Medicaid patients also found that the four states that switched from medical use only to recreational use — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — saw further reductions in opioid prescriptions, according to Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky and a lead author on the Medicaid study.
    “We saw a 9% or 10% reduction (in opioid prescriptions) in Colorado and Oregon,” Wen said. “And in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant.”
    The first state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medicinal use was California, in 1996. Since then, 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved some form of legalized cannabis. All of these states include chronic pain — either directly or indirectly — in the list of approved medical conditions for marijuana use, according to Bradford.
    The details of the medical cannabis laws were found to have a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns, the researchers found. States that permitted recreational use, for example, saw an additional 6.38% reduction in opioid prescriptions under Medicaid compared with those states that permitted marijuana only for medical use, according to Wen.
    The method of procurement also had a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns. States that permitted medical dispensaries — regulated shops that people can visit to purchase cannabis products — had 3.742 million fewer opioid prescriptions filled per year under Medicare Part D, while those that allowed only home cultivation had 1.792 million fewer opioid prescriptions per year.
    “We found that there was about a 14.5% reduction in any opiate use when dispensaries were turned on — and that was statistically significant — and about a 7% reduction in any opiate use when home cultivation only was turned on,” Bradford said. “So dispensaries are much more powerful in terms of shifting people away from the use of opiates.”
    The impact of these laws also differed based on the class of opioid prescribed. Specifically, states with medical cannabis laws saw 20.7% fewer morphine prescriptions and 17.4% fewer hydrocodone prescriptions compared with states that did not have these laws, according to Bradford.
    Fentanyl prescriptions under Medicare Part D also dropped by 8.5% in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws, though the difference was not statistically significant, Bradford said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, like heroin, that can be prescribed legally by physicians. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and even a small amount can be fatal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
    “I know that many people, including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, are skeptical of cannabis,” Bradford said. “But, you know, the attorney general needs to be terrified of fentanyl.”

    ‘A call to action’

    This is not the first time researchers have found a link between marijuana legalization and decreased opioid use. A 2014 study showed that states with medical cannabis laws had 24.8% fewer opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010. A study in 2017 also found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 reversed the state’s upward trend in opioid-related deaths.
    “There is a growing body of scientific literature suggesting that legal access to marijuana can reduce the use of opioids as well as opioid-related overdose deaths,” said Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “In states with medical marijuana laws, we have already seen decreased admissions for opioid-related treatment and dramatically reduced rates of opioid overdoses.”
    Some skeptics, though, argue that marijuana legalization could actually worsen the opioid epidemic. Another 2017 study, for example, showed a positive association between illicit cannabis use and opioid use disorders in the United States. But there may be an important difference between illicit cannabis use and legalized cannabis use, according to Hill.
    “As we have all of these states implementing these policies, it’s imperative that we do more research,” Hill said. “We need to study the effects of these policies, and we really haven’t done it to the degree that we should.”
    The two recent studies looked only at patients enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare Part D, meaning the results may not be generalizable to the entire US population.

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    But both Hill and Moore agree that as more states debate the merits of legalizing marijuana in the coming months and years, more research will be needed to create consistency between cannabis science and cannabis policy.
    “There is a great deal of movement in the Northeast, with New Hampshire and New Jersey being well-positioned to legalize adult use,” Moore said. “I believe there are also ballot measures to legalize marijuana in Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota as well that voters will decide on in Fall 2018.”
    Hill called the new research “a call to action” and added, “we should be studying these policies. But unfortunately, the policies have far outpaced the science at this point.”

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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    Dream catchers, succulents and joints: a visit to an LA cannabis shop

    Catering to wealthy people, todays dispensaries aim to present the drug as part of a healthy lifestyle

    Dream catchers, succulents and joints: a visit to an LA cannabis shop

    Dream catchers, succulents and joints: a visit to an LA cannabis shop

    Catering to wealthy people, todays dispensaries aim to present the drug as part of a healthy lifestyle

    Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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    Ex-Speaker John Boehner Joins Marijuana Firms Advisory Board

    • Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld also added
    • Watershed moment for cannabis as drug goes mainstream

    The U.S. marijuana industry has a new spokesman: John Boehner.

    The Republican former Speaker of the House has joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states. Boehner’s endorsement, after saying nine years ago he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization, could be considered a watershed event: Marijuana has gone mainstream.

    “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he said in an interview. “I find myself in that same position.”

    Sixty-four percent of Americans, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, want to legalize it, according to an October Gallup survey. That’s the most since the pollster began asking the question in 1969, when 12 percent of the population favored legalization.

    Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld will join Boehner on the advisory board of Acreage, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses in the U.S. Boehner, 68, was first elected to the House of Representatives from Southwest Ohio in 1990. He was Speaker from 2011 to 2015, when he resigned amid problems with an increasingly fractious Republican caucus.

    Since then, he’s served as a board member for tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. and adviser for global law firm Squire Patton Boggs US LLP. Weld, 72, who was governor from 1991 to 1997, was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 2016.

    ‘Immensely Positive’

    “We view this advocacy that we get from these two gentlemen as immensely positive for the industry,” said George Allen, Acreage’s president.

    The politicians are a sign of a watershed moment for the industry, according to Vahan Ajamian, an analyst at Beacon Securities Ltd.

    “It is difficult to overstate the impact of this monumental event for the U.S. cannabis sector,” he said in a note Wednesday after Bloomberg broke the news.

    The two former Republican politicians join Acreage as current officeholders vacillate on their support for weed. President Donald Trump has gone back and forth, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a longtime opponent. The Justice Department in January rescinded the Obama-era policies that allowed state legal pot markets to flourish.

    Both Boehner and Weld say they’ve never tried the drug, but adult recreational use is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. That means more than one in five American adults can partake. Twenty additional states allow for some form of medical marijuana. The legal market is expected to reach $75 billion by 2030, according to the investment bank Cowen & Co.

    Still, the drug remains federally illegal and is classified as a Schedule I narcotic, the harshest of five government ratings.

    Supported Referendum

    Weld said he’s been in favor of medical marijuana since 1992 and supported the referendum that legalized recreational pot use in his home state in 2016.

    “I was a little bit ahead of the field there,” he said in an interview.

    Even so, his belief in the functionality of the plant has grown, he said, especially when it comes to easing the opioid crisis.

    “Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug,” he said.

    Boehner said his perspective shifted after he saw the plant’s efficacy in helping a close friend deal with debilitating back pain. Marijuana’s potential use as a treatment for veterans helped sway him, too. Plus he’s been studying the problems of the U.S. criminal justice system for years.

    “When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

    10th Amendment

    On top of all those reasons to support the plant, Boehner and Weld say the debate over legalization is, at its core, a discussion of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows states to do what they want.

    “If some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative,” Weld said. “But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”

    Despite the GOP mostly lauding the amendment, Republican politicians have been split on the cannabis issue. Sessions’ harsh words for marijuana, and his decision to roll back Obama-era protections, didn’t deter Boehner or Weld’s decisions to get involved with the industry, they said.

    “When I saw the announcement, I almost chuckled to myself,” Boehner said, referring to the policy reversal. “I don’t know why they decided to do this. It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”

    Winding Road

    The politicians’ years in public office may help the company navigate the winding road to federal legalization.

    “When it comes to an issue like this, that has what I’ll call murky legal issues and political issues, we’re there to provide advice to Acreage in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on what states look promising,” Boehner said.

    Neither Boehner nor Weld has made a financial investment in Acreage, though Weld says he’s considering it.

    “Millennials who will inherit the kingdom before long, they are even more positive about cannabis than the populous at large,” Weld said. “You can look at the trend of millennial opinion and you can see the future.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

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    Trump Backs State-Level Marijuana Regulation, Lifting Pot Stocks

    Trump Backs State-Level Marijuana Regulation, Lifting Pot Stocks

    Updated on
    • Colorado’s Gardner says he received assurances from president
    • White House spokeswoman says Gardner statement ‘accurate’

    President Donald Trump endorsed letting states decide how to regulate marijuana, in a major boost for the legal pot industry.

    Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner said that as a result of Trump’s assurances, he’ll end a blockade of Justice Department nominees. Gardner held up the nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an earlier Justice Department memo that shielded marijuana operations in states like Colorado from enforcement of the federal ban on the drug.

    "Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said in a statement Friday. “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Gardner’s statement is “accurate.” She didn’t elaborate.

    “The president did speak with Senator Gardner yesterday and again today,” Sanders told reporters Friday at the White House, adding, "the president is a firm believer" in states’ rights.

    Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and for recreational use in eight.

    Marijuana stocks surged on the news, which removed the threat posed by Sessions’s decision in January to rescind an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational pot.

    Canada’s Canopy Growth Corp., the largest cannabis producer by market value, jumped as much as 11 percent in its biggest intraday advance since March 5. Medical-marijuana supplier Aphria Inc. climbed as much as 21 percent in Toronto trading.

    Gardner said he’s lifting his hold and working with colleagues on legislation that would protect marijuana operations in states that have legalized the drug. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana “should happen” and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states.

    Sessions, on the other hand, has been an outspoken opponent of state marijuana laws.

    The Justice Department under President Barack Obama created guardrails for federal prosecution of the sale and possession of cannabis, which remains illegal under federal law, and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country. Under Sessions’s approach, U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal were given approval to prosecute cases where they see fit.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

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    John Boehner, who helped send drug dealers to prison, to lobby for marijuana

    "My thinking/the profits on this matter have evolved."
    Image: chip somodevilla/Getty Images

    Now that he’s retired from Congress, former House Speaker John Boehner has decided to channel his inner flip-flopper and lobby for legalized weed. 

    Boehner announced his decision Wednesday to join the board of Acreage Holdings, “an investment company with an established footprint in the cannabis industry in the United States.” 

    “My thinking on cannabis has evolved,” Boehner said, sans winking emoji, in a tweet.

    Boehner said he’d be lobbying to de-schedule the drug so we can “do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic.”

    The former speaker’s decision comes at a time of soaring profits for the legalized cannabis industry, with $10 billion in sales recorded in 2017.

    In 2011, John Boehner said he was “unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.” He added, “I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”

    In fact, the former speaker spent much of his legislative career making life harder for drug users and instituting harsh penalties for drug sellers. In 1999, he voted to prohibit needle exchange and medical marijuana in D.C. — services that, arguably, help the the most vulnerable victims of the drug trade. In 2007, he voted against expanding services for ex-offenders leaving prison and re-entering public life. In 1999, he voted for a bill that allowed juveniles to be tried as adults for serious drug offenses.

    Towards the end of his career in Congress, Boehner did signal an openness to getting people out of prison who “don’t really need to be there,” including non-violent drug offenders. The bill was never passed, and shortly thereafter, Boehner left Congress.

    I wonder if Boehner’s thoughts on all of the drug bills he signed have also “evolved.”

    My hunch is a giant “Nah.” 

    Read more: http://mashable.com/

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    California weed stored serves 23,606 people in first month

    Image: medmen

    The first month of California’s legal recreational marijuana sales showed that weed is big business, despite local government’s reluctance to issue permits.

    MedMen, a cannabis company that’s basically an Apple Store for pot products has dispensaries across Los Angeles, and found itself in an interesting position as one of the few places people could purchase marijuana in the most densely populated areas of Los Angeles when legalized sales began in California.

    At MedMen’s West Hollywood location, customer traffic clocked in a 23,606 people in January alone. Revenue was up 200 percent, compared to December, and up 500 percent compared to the year before. Its Santa Ana location brought in 5,051 people, doubling December’s revenue. 

    MedMen’s West Hollywood location.

    Image: medMen

    Since recreational pot sales began on Jan. 1, Californians have been flocking to the few dispensaries that are allowed to sell to residents without medical cards. Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis, lets local governments regulate sales. 

    Some cities in Los Angeles county have been resistant to recreational weed. Santa Monica, for example, has banned non-medical marijuana storefronts entirely. Long Beach issued a 180 day ban on recreational sales at the end of 2017, giving the city time to figure out regulations. 

    The city of Los Angeles set up framework for regulation, but businesses couldn’t apply for licenses until January 3. Vendors also had to apply for a separate license from the state-run Bureau of Cannabis Control.

    The city of West Hollywood issued temporary permits for stores like MedMen. The California Bureau of Cannabis Cannabis Control issued only 47 temporary retail licenses, but they’ll expire by May 1. 

    The unique position helped set up MedMen to be a marijuana unicorn. Canadian investment firm Captor Capital invested $30 million in the company for just 3 percent, valuing the company at about $1 billion.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/

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    Vermont Makes History By Legalizing Marijuana, But Its Law Comes With A Catch

    For the first time, a U.S. state has legalized marijuana with the stroke of a pen, not a vote at the ballot box.

    Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 511, which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. The legislation says nothing about creating a state market for recreational weed, however. The new law will go into effect in July.

    “Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511,” said Scott in a statement addressed to the state’s General Assembly. “I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”

    With Scott’s signature, Vermont will join eight other legal-weed states, as well as Washington, D.C., in a growing movement away from federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD. Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004, and is currently among nearly 30 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with such programs in place.

    Although other states have legalized cannabis through ballot initiatives that have left the decision up to voters, Vermont does not allow for such a process. Over the past few years, lawmakers in the state have instead been working to address marijuana reform through legislation. A similar legalization bill made it to Scott’s desk in 2017, but the governor vetoed it, citing concerns with weak language on punishment for the sale of marijuana to minors and its establishment of a commission to study how a regulated cannabis market would work in Vermont.

    The final version of H. 511 clarified civil penalties for the sale of marijuana to individuals under 21 years old and removed the commission entirely. Scott has instead created his own marijuana task force, which is examining the state’s involvement in recreational cannabis sales and focusing on developing comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies.

    “There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax-and-regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market,” Scott said on Monday. “It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.”

    Some state officials say the composition of that commission looks to be biased against marijuana, which means recreational weed faces an uncertain future in Vermont.

    “There is frustration that the governor’s panels appear to be predetermined in opposition [to a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana sales] versus the sentiment of the House and Senate, which was to move forward,” said Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.

    The governor’s commission is expected to deliver a final report to lawmakers by the end of the year, which would guide them on future legislation to establish a market for cannabis. Under Vermont’s two-step process of legalization, it could be a while before the state sees its first legal marijuana sale, said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for cannabis reform around the country.

    “The tone of the commission all along has been, ‘Let’s figure out how to do this, regardless of whether we think it should happen or not,’” he said. “They’re gonna come up with specific policy recommendations. Now whether the legislature decides to take those recommendations or not is a whole different story.”

    It’s not yet clear if there would be enough support in the state legislature to pass a tax-and-regulate bill without Scott’s support. Vermont requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a gubernatorial veto. With statewide elections upcoming in November, these deliberations seem likely to become a key campaign issue in the coming months, though it’s not yet clear if lawmakers will be willing to put themselves on the record as strong supporters of legal marijuana sales in Vermont.

    “Some Republicans feel vulnerable if they support this kind of legislation, even though the support for this is majority across all parties,” said Zuckerman. “The cultural sentiment is still in some of those districts, and they don’t feel the support is there yet.”

    Recent surveys have shown strong support for relaxing marijuana laws in Vermont and nationwide. A January HuffPost/YouGov poll showed that 55 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana both nationally and in their own states. National support for legalization at the federal level hit a record high 64 percent in a Gallup survey from October 2017, including among a majority of Republicans.

    Recreational marijuana has already become a substantial revenue source in the states that have legalized it. Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. hit $6 billion in 2016, with tax revenue in Colorado and Washington, the states that have had legal cannabis markets for the longest, now bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to an analysis by the Marijuana Policy Project. Another recent study projected that over a nine-year period, legal marijuana nationwide could provide 1 million new jobs and generate more than $132 billion in federal tax revenue, with nearly $52 billion in sales tax alone.

    Without a system to tax and regulate cannabis sales in Vermont, all commerce involving marijuana would remain underground.

    “Marijuana is widely available, widely used throughout Vermont. Vermonters spend an awful lot of money on marijuana and it all goes to the illicit market,” said Simon. “Why wouldn’t we have a regulated system so that money would instead go to taxed and regulated businesses and the state would have some revenue to deal with any costs or issues that do arise?”

    Despite the clear economic benefits of legal marijuana, the state-federal divide on cannabis laws has gotten deeper over the past month. Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives passed H. 511 just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released new Justice Department guidance giving federal prosecutors the go-ahead to crack down on state-legal marijuana operations. Although the announcement led to some anxiety in the fledgling marijuana industry, its practical effect remains to be seen.

    That Justice Department action alone shows that the political stigma around marijuana reform still hasn’t faded completely, said Zuckerman. But he hopes the Vermont legislature’s successful move toward legalization could serve as an invitation for lawmakers in other states to pursue reform.

    “This is a significant signal to other legislative bodies around the country that legislatures can act in the interest of the general population without some of the fear that there will be electoral retribution,” he said. “In the world of making laws, that is often one of the things that lawmakers look at, that potential consequence.”

    For now, lawmakers are discussing how best to incorporate Vermont’s progressive principles into any future system of state marijuana sales, Zuckerman said.

    “The very broad sentiment from right to left is that nobody wants Big Cannabis to own Vermont, and whatever we do end up drafting for a tax-and-regulate bill will be oriented toward smaller production facilities and a more broad distribution of the economic benefit throughout the state, as opposed to large out of state corporate version,” he said.

    Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman governor is a Democrat. Zuckerman won both the Democratic and Progressive primaries for the position, and has been affiliated with both parties.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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    These Doctors Want Your Doctor To Know More About Weed

    Dr. Janice Knox was several years into retirement in Oregon when she was asked to fill in at a “card mill” ― a facility where patients can be diagnosed with conditions that qualify them for a medical card to buy cannabis.

    This was a few years ago, and public sentiment about medical marijuana wasn’t quite what it is today. “I had the mindset that most people had at the time ― ‘marijuana is a terrible drug, it’s just a drug,’” Knox told HuffPost.

    When she arrived at the clinic, the makeup of the waiting room was “not who I was expecting,” she said.

    “There were businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers. I just couldn’t believe who I saw,” Knox said. “They were coming because conventional medicine had failed them. They wanted a better quality of life.”

    “People were coming in with their last dime to get a card,” she added. “I was stunned.”

    Equally surprising to Knox was how she, a practicing anesthesiologist for 35 years, had been taught so little about the mechanisms and effects of cannabis ― a substance that people said eased their suffering, even from symptoms related to chronic diseases.

    “I knew nothing about this medicine. I felt so embarrassed as a physician that that’s where I was. So I really made it a point to learn everything that I could about it,” Knox said. Since then, she’s tried to “change the narrative” about who uses cannabis and why.

    The Canna MDs
    Dr. Janice Knox grew the American Cannabinoid Clinics from her existing wellness clinic.

    In 2014, Knox founded the American Cannabinoid Clinics from her existing wellness clinic in Portland, Oregon, where marijuana has been legal for medical purposes since 1998 and legal for recreational use since 2015. Other than Knox, there are very few U.S. medical professionals who specialize in cannabis therapeutics. Fortunately, three of them are members of her family. 

    Knox’s husband, David, is a former emergency room doctor. Their two daughters, Rachel and Jessica, are physicians who received both medical and business degrees from Tufts University.

    At his wife’s urging, David Knox also visited the “card clinics” where his wife had been providing care. Like Janice, he was struck by the diversity of patients and conditions for which the plant seemed to offer relief.

    “It was an eye-opener. The potential is just incredible,” he said, adding that he’s seen patients successfully reduce or eliminate their use of opiates for chronic pain after beginning cannabis therapeutics. (Federally funded research has also found this result, which could have meaningful implications amid America’s ongoing opioid crisis.)

    People were coming in with their last dime to get a card. I was stunned. Dr. Janice Knox

    At their clinic, the Knoxes practice what they call “integrative cannabinoid medicine.” They counsel new and experienced cannabis patients alike on the best treatment options for their conditions, the best way to deliver the medicine (e.g. vaping, topical, ingesting), and how to mitigate undesired effects. These are all aspects of cannabis medicine that a general practitioner might not know as much, or indeed anything, about.

    “We’re looking at the whole patient, and how to use cannabis optimally, so the patient can get the best benefit from the minimal dosage without side effects or complications,” David said.

    Rachel Knox, 35, wasn’t particularly surprised by her parents’ new career path. She and her mother share an interest in natural medicine. For Rachel, this interest only grew stronger in a medical school and residency environment where emergency treatments for the most urgent symptoms of chronic illness were rarely followed up with meaningful conversations with patients about maintenance and prevention.

    “We weren’t being taught how to prevent or reverse chronic illness in our medical education,” she said. “We had this longing for more. My curiosity for natural medicine grew out of that frustration in conventional medicine.”

    “My sister and I really felt like if we were going to pursue medicine, we should do something different with it,” she went on. “When my mom and my dad said they had started writing cannabis authorization for patients, that fit right into the natural options I wanted to investigate for patient care.”

    The Canna MDs
    Dr. Rachel Knox’s involvement in cannabis therapeutics grew out of her interest in natural medicine.

    Cannabis provides therapeutic effects mainly through its impact on the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various processes throughout the body such as organ function and immune response. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produced a sweeping report on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, concluding that restrictions on possession and consumption have made it difficult to develop research-based consensus on its medical utility.

    The barriers to conducting meaningful research on the effects of a federally prohibited substance are considerable. Trials involving cannabis have to be approved by three government agencies and an independent review board, the Knoxes said. After that, there’s the matter of procuring the cannabis itself.

    “Right now you can’t ship cannabis across state lines, so you have to rely on a secure source within that state to do that,” Rachel said.

    The American Medical Association has long referred to cannabis as a “public health concern” ― but it recently issued a policy update calling for a review of the plant’s Schedule I designation, which categorizes marijuana as a drug with no medical benefits and restricts its availability for research. Heroin and bath salts are also Schedule I substances

    SAEED KHAN via Getty Images
    The U.S. still officially considers cannabis a Schedule I substance with no medicinal value.

    Given the limits on research and accessibility, many doctors are reluctant to discuss cannabis-related treatment options with patients. Many of the Knoxes’ patients come to the clinic because they’re not sure whether their general practitioners condone medical cannabis, or even know very much about it.

    The Knoxes have seen more than 3,000 patients at the American Cannabinoid Clinics. Very few, they said, have any interest in getting high. In fact, many would prefer to avoid it.

    “Patients will tell me eight or nine times, ‘I don’t want to get high,’” David said. 

    Many patients, especially seniors, come in asking for CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, Rachel added.

    “What surprises the patients most who say that is when we come back and tell them, ‘This condition that you have actually will respond better with some THC on board, let us talk to you about how to use THC to avoid those adverse effects,’” she said. “I had a patient today who was surprised to hear that she could use THC without getting high.”

    Patients are also “shocked” to learn they don’t have to smoke the cannabis to feel better, Janice said.

    “People have this image of a smoker smoking the joint, and when you tell them, ‘No, you don’t have to do it that way, you can use it incrementally and won’t get a THC high’ ― I think that’s really shocking to them,” she said, adding that placing medicine under the tongue, rubbing it into the navel, and delivering THC through a rectal suppository are all effective and in some cases superior alternatives to smoking cannabis. 

    Patients will tell me eight or nine times, “I don’t want to get high.” Dr. David Knox

    Though based in Oregon, the Knoxes see patients from neighboring states such as California and Washington. Rachel Knox is vice chair of the Oregon Cannabis Commission, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, and serves as the medical chair for the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Janice Knox sits on the board of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, which promotes safe practices and improved quality of medical cannabis products.

    Through their clinics and ancillary work in the industry, the Knoxes hope to help more medical practitioners integrate cannabis therapeutics into their practices and promote more specialization in cannabinoid medicine. They plan to launch their own training program for medical professionals later this year.

    “We need to be helping trained clinicians in the practical implementation of cannabis therapeutics in the same way we do it at the clinic,” Rachel said. “Patients should feel comfortable that the doctor they’re talking about cannabis with is knowledgeable about this medicine.”  

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

    Marissa SafontThese Doctors Want Your Doctor To Know More About Weed
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