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Alaska: Fairbanks Groups On Mission To Stop Marijuana Commercialization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Efforts are underway in Alaska to stop cannabis businesses from opening in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

A Salcha man is launching an initiative that he hopes will keep the legal marijuana trade out of the borough, while the president of a strip mall condominium association is claiming pot shops are banned in the River Mall under condo association rules, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, reports Amanda Bohman at the Daily News-Miner.

The borough has already issued more than 40 land use permits for marijuana businesses, mostly cultivation. Another six applications for land use are pending, according to the borough Department of Community Planning.

Eleven of the 40 cannabis related permits are for marijuana retail storefronts.

The initiative which would prohibit cannabis commerce in the borough is pending review by Borough Clerk Nanci Ashford-Bingham, who said she got the application on last week.

Jim Ostlind of Salcha said he plans to get enough signatures to get a question on the local ballot asking voters to stop "marijuana commercialization."

Illinois: Medical Marijuana Advocates Cheer Governor's About-Face On Expanding Program

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates are applauding Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's about-face on expanding the state's medicinal cannabis pilot program, saying it will allow time to show the program is working and help more suffering patients.

Democratic Rep. Lou Lang on Friday announced an agreement with the Republican governor to extend the state's four-year medical marijuana pilot program to 2020, reports the Associated Press.

The program had been set to expire in 2018, but advocates said more time is needed because medicinal cannabis sales only began in November 2015.

The agreement, which still must be approved by the Illinois Legislature, adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and terminal illness to the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.

Governor Rauner had previously balked at adding any conditions, despite recommendations from the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

Chairwoman Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple of the board said she's "thrilled" that more patients will now benefit from the program.

Photo of Gov. Bruce Rauner: Chicago Now

U.S.: TV Pot Show 'Marijuana Straight Talk' Soars To Top Of Ratings

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A woman-owned media company has launched a national TV show focused on one of America’s hottest and most controversial topics: marijuana.

The show, Marijuana Straight Talk, soared to the top of the ratings with its “420 special” episode last month, making its debut at a time when support for legalizing marijuana in the U.S. has never been stronger. A recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61 percent of Americans now support legalizing cannabis.

“Now, more than ever, this country is ready for Marijuana Straight Talk,” said host Becca Williams, a noted media entrepreneur and TV producer.

The growing interest among Americans is evident when it comes to Marijuana Straight Talk’s reception. Based on the show’s “420 special” episode, it became the most popular weekly program in 2016 to date on Free Speech TV network, which garners about 1.2 million viewers per month based on Rentrak ratings service.

U.S.: AAA Says There's No Scientific Basis For Laws Against Driving On Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Six states that allow marijuana use in one form or another have legal tests which supposedly serve to determine who is driving while impaired -- but those tests have no scientific basis at all, according to a study done by the largest auto club in the United States. AAA, as a result, has called for scrapping those laws.

The study was commissioned by AAA's safety foundation, and it discovered that it's not possible to determine impairment by setting a blood-test threshold for the level of THC, the main component of marijuana responsible the high. Yet the laws in five of those six states automatically presume a driver is guilty of driving while impaired if he or she tests higher than the limit, not not guilty if the level is lower, reports the Associated Press.

The AAA foundation recommends replacing those faulty laws with ones that actually rely on science, using specially trained police officers to determine if a driver is impaired on pot, backed up by a test for the presence of THC rather than a specific level. The officers would be responsible for screening for dozens of supposed indicators of marijuana use.

U.S.: Ruling Could Limit Federal Marijuana Prosecutions

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A federal appeals court is expected soon to rule on the scope of the law that could point the way to ending or overturning at least six federal marijuana prosecutions and convictions.

People who are fighting federal marijuana charges say that a recent act of Congress should have stopped the U.S. Department of Justice from prosecuting them, because their activities were legally allowed in their states. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law for any purpose.

"It's been the hardest thing I've ever hard to deal with in my life when you see the government coming down on you for simply trying to be healthy," said Rolland Gregg, who along with his family has fought federal marijuana charges, reports the Associated Press. Gregg said the cannabis plants found on his property in Kirkland, Washington were for medicinal use and in compliance with state law.

South Dakota: Federal Judge Lifts Decade-Old Injunction Against Native Hemp Farmer

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A federal judge on Monday lifted the injunction which has been in place for almost 12 years prohibiting a South Dakota tribal member from cultivating industrial hemp. Other issues remain to be resolved before Alex White Plume can grow it on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken of South Dakota said there has been a "shifting legal landscape" since the original order was filed in 2004 against White Plume, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, reports Dave Kolpack of The Associated Press. The federal hemp laws were loosened in the 2014 Farm Bill, and marijuana has been legalized in several states in the interim.

Former North Dakota U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon, White Plume's lawyer, said the Monday's decision is a victory for both White Plume and tribal sovereignty.

"This order brings some justice to Native America's first modern day hemp farmer," Purdon said. "For over 10 years, Alex White Plume has been subject to a one-of-a-kind injunction which prevented him from farming hemp."

Federal prosecutors in South Dakota couldn't be reached for comment.

Still unresolved is the question of whether hemp cultivation on southwestern South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation should be legal. Purdon said Judge Viken's order should "further the discussion" on whether the Oglala Tribe is being treated unfairly, since the Farm Bill allows states to produce hemp under certain restrictions.

U.S.: Support For Marijuana Legalization Hits All Time High Of 61%

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new survey released on Friday by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago shows record support for marijuana legalization in the United States, at 61 percent.

The survey asks, "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?", which is the same wording as previous Gallup surveys, which had shown a previous high of 58 percent support for legalization last October, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The AP asked a follow-up question which showed that 24 percent of legalization supporters said cannabis should be made available "only with a medical prescription." Another 43 percent wanted to restrict purchase amounts. One-third of legalization supporters said there should be "no restrictions" on purchase amounts.

"This is yet another demonstration of just how ready Americans are for the end of marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The growing level of support for legalization that we see in poll after poll is exactly why we're not in a situation -- for the first time in history -- where every major presidential candidate on both parties has pledged to let states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference."

While cannabis legalization is very popular among Democrats (70 percent) and independents (65 percent), just 47 percent of Republicans support it.

U.S.: Veterans Increasingly Turning To Marijuana For PTSD Relief

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More and more states and considering allowing military veterans and others with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to use medical marijuana for relief. But many veterans aren't waiting for permission.

Military veterans are increasingly using medicinal cannabis, although it remains illegal in most states and is frowned upon by the Department of Veterans Affairs, reports the Associated Press.

Marijuana does a lot better managing anxiety, insomnia and nightmares than the harsh pharmaceuticals approved by the federal government and handed out by the VA, according to many former members of the military. Prescription drugs such as Zoloft and Klonopin are often ineffective and make them feel like zombies, many veterans said.

"I went from being an anxious mess to numbing myself with the pills they were giving me," said 39-year-old former Marine Mike Whiter of Philadelphia, where marijuana is still illegal. "Cannabis helped me get out of the hole I was in. I started to talk to people and get over my social anxiety."

After Andy Zorn got home from serving with the Army in Iraq, he suffered from PTSD and self-medicated with cannabis. The VA diagnosed him with "marijuana dependence" as well as depression and bipolar disorder, according to his mother, Sally Schindel of Prescott, Arizona.

Colorado: Feds, Local Cops Raid Suspected Illegal Marijuana Grows

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

This isn't quite how we pictured legalization. Denver police and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Tuesday morning raided multiple unlicensed marijuana grows as part of a two-year investigation.

There have been no arrests, and police faced no resistance at any of the locations where officers executed search warrants, said Denver Police Commander Marcus Fountain, reports Noelle Phillips at The Denver Post.

Police wouldn't say how many sites were raided, and wouldn't quantify the amount of cannabis seized (I don't know, maybe they haven't figured out how much they're stealing yet).

The grow sites were across the Denver area, including residential areas, according to Fountain, who said the investigation continues.

Law enforcement has identified no connections to any gangs or cartels, according to Fountain. Police have more interviews to perform, and more locations to investigate, he said.

"It's likely to go on for several more months," Fountain said. "It's that complicated."

Police claim "it's possible" that "some of the operators" may be shipping weed out of state, reports the Associated Press. Well, lots of things are possible, but that doesn't mean we need to base police raids of them.

Washington: Legislature OKs Industrial Hemp Cultivation; Bill Heads To Governor's Desk

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow licensed farmers to produce industrial hemp in the state as part of a research program.

Senate Bill 6206 unanimously passed the Washington House, 97-0, on Tuesday after passing the state Senate last month, reports the Associated Press. It now heads to Governor Jay Inslee's desk.

The measure would allow Washington State University to conduct a research program on the feasibility of industrial hemp production in the state. WSU would report to the Legislature in January 2017.

Industrial hemp can be made into a number of products such as food, fuel, fiber, clothing, cosmetics and medicines.

The Washington Department of Agriculture would supervise the program and license hemp farmers.

Graphic: Marijuana Venture

Utah: Mormon Church Opposes Medical Marijuana Edibles Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Mormon church is opposing a bill before the Utah Legislature which would legalize the medicinal use of edible cannabis products.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leaders claimed they were worried about "unintended consequences" of the bill introduced by Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Eagle Mountain), reports the Associated Press. A majority of state lawmakers in Utah are Mormons, so the church position on an issue usually is codified into law.

The church isn't objecting to another medical marijuana bill, a much more restrictive CBD-only measure that would only allow access to cannabis infused oil, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

Madsen told The Salt Lake Tribune that church representatives told him and other lawmakers about their opposition, but wouldn't explain their reasoning. "Maybe they don't want to be known as the spcial interest who put their thumb on the scale and decided this for everyone in the state," he said.

"If they're going to put their thumb on the scale politically and force everyone to a standard, then I think they owe something of an explanation to the people," Sen. Madsen said. Madsen's right; at the very least, these hypocrites seem to be falling a little short of their ideals.

Both medical marijuana bills in the Utah Legislature have been approved in committee and are expected to be debated before the full Senate within a week.

South Dakota: House Approves Industrial Hemp, Bill Heads To Senate

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The South Dakota House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would allow the cultivation of industrial hemp.

House lawmakers voted 57-11 to approve the plan, which now heads to the Senate for consideration, reports the Associated Press.

Rep. Mike Verchio (R-Hill City) is the main sponsor of the House version of the bill, which would allow people to apply to the South Dakota Department of Agriculture for a license to grow hemp.

The bill specifically asserts that hemp licenses shall not be subject to federal approval, reports the Tenth Amendment Center: "“A license required by this act is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.”

President Barack Obama early in 2014 signed a new Farm Bill into law, including a provision which allows states to begin limited research programs on hemp cultivation.

New York: Company Will Offer World's First Certified Kosher Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A New York company has announced it will soon offer the world's first certified kosher medical marijuana.

Vireo Health, based in Albany, said its non-smokable medicinal cannabis products have been certified as conforming to the Jewish dietary law by the Orthodox Union, reports Glenn Blain at the New York Daily News.

The Orthodox Union said it awarded kosher certification to the product after inspecting Vireo's facilities to ensure the cannabis was grown and processed according to kosher standards. The standards include that the plants be insect-free, for example.

Vireo, one of just five companies chosen by the state to grow and distribute medical marijuana, said it will be the first "medical cannabis company in the world" to have the "OU" symbol on its oils, vaporization cartridges and other products.

Vireo said the certification will help the company serve patients among New York's Jewish population, the largest in the U.S. Its program is scheduled to start next month, and will serve patients who qualify under New York's medical marijuana law.

“Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis,” said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung.

Oregon: Hemp Farmers Ask For Help From Legislature

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A group of Oregon hemp farmers, along with residents who want to grow hemo next year, on Wednesday asked state regulators at a hearing to clear roadblocks preventing the industry from thriving. Meanwhile, the hemp industry is thriving in other states with less onerous regulations.

But the types of changes they're asking for would require the help of the Oregon Legislature, not just state regulators, reports Taylor W. Anderson at The Bend Bulletin.

That's where the Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association comes in. The group will ask hemp-friendly lawmakers to help fix the issues the state's nine licensed hemp farmers had in their first year of cultivation.

"Right now, the biggest changes to the legislation that we need is regarding greenhouses and propagation freedom," said Courtney Moran, a Portland attorney who is organizing the group. "This is the only crop in Oregon that you cannot grow in a greenhouse or use cuttings or clone."

The Oregon Department of Justice ruled in September that, since the 2009 state law legalizing hemp didn't include the specific word "greenhouse," and because greenhouse isn't included in the dictionary definition of "field," hemp farmers can't grow the plant indoors. Yeah, these guys really need to get out more.

Vermont: Medical School Delves Into Cannabis Science

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The University of Vermont is offering a course in the science of cannabis, but the professors say they are hobbled by a lack of research on what has long been a taboo topic.

While other institutions have offered classes in marijuana law and policy, the university's medical school is possibly the first in the nation to offer a full course on medical cannabis, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, reports the Associated Press. Other medical schools have touched on the topic.

"What we're trying to do with this course is to sort of demystify this whole subject matter, to try to treat this like any other drug, like alcohol or amphetamines or opioids," said Vermont pharmacology professor Wolfgang Dostmann. "Just demystify the whole thing and say what it is, what is going on with it, how does it work."

The Massachusetts Medical Society is offering online medical marijuana courses including one on pharmacology, but those courses are also limited because of the lack of research on the topic.

Nearly 90 graduate and undergraduate students have signed up for the Vermont class, which is to start in the spring, forcing the professors to expand the classroom twice. The class is also open to the general public, allowing members of the Legislature, or those in law enforcement or medicine, to attend.

Chile: Mother Restricted Access To Baby For Smoking Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Chilean mother says a hospital is restricting her from seeing her newborn daughter because she admitted smoking marijuana a few days before she gave birth.

During labor, Sindy Melany Ortiz told hospital officials that she had used cannabis to relieve pain in one of her arms that had been broken, report Eva Vergara and Luis Andres Henao of the Associated Press.

Six hours after her daughter Luciana was born on November 19, a social worker and a psychologist told her that the hospital had "activated a security protocol" and that her baby was being transferred to the neonatology unit. She said that since then, she's only been allowed to see Luciana for 2.5 hours a day, and is not allowed to breast-feed her.

"The pain (in my arm) was too strong," Ortiz said. "We researched several methods to ease it and we took a decision as a family because we didn't think it would affect the baby. It wasn't recreational, it was strictly medicinal."

Hospital officials in the southern Chile city of Talcahuano claimed they were just following protocol when they told a local court they'd found traces of marijuana in the mother's system.

"We've taken actions for the greater good of the child," claimed Patricia Sanchez, acting director at the hospital. "There's nothing out of the norm, and as consequence the baby is hospitalized."

U.S.: DEA Chief Called Medical Marijuana A Joke; Patients Calling For His Resignation

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Last week, acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration called medical marijuana "a joke" while talking with reporters. Medicinal cannabis patients are now calling for Rosenberg's resignation, with an online petition getting more than 16,000 signatures on Change.org.

"What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal -- because it's not," Rosenberg said in a Q&A with reporters, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. "We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don't call it medicine -- that is a joke."

"There are pieces of marijuana -- extracts or constituents or component parts -- that have great promise" medicinally, he said, obeying his masters in Big Pharma who seem to want to market individual cannabinoids, but not the whole, organic plant itself. "But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana -- which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana -- it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine."

Arkansas: Marijuana Legalization Proposal Rejected Due To Grammar Errors

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A legalization proposal in Arkansas has been scuttled by what state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge claims are "errors of grammar, punctuation and spelling" and "ambiguities in text." This is the second time the attorney general has rejected the proposal.

The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment, written by Mary Berry of Summit, Arkansas, would have allowed adults to cultivate, process, possess and use cannabis and anything made from the plant, reports Alexandra Sims at The Independent.

Atty. Gen. Rutledge found phrases in the proposal problematic, including "Any person eighteen (18) years of age and older," which she claimed should have been "or" instead of "and," reports Russia Today.

The phrase "all products derived from the cannabis plant," was declared "ambiguous" by Rutledge, who claimed the products could also include other ingredients and create a potential loophole in other laws.

"State laws as it pertains to marijuana" and "number of license" were also declared grammatically incorrect by Atty. Gen. Rutledge.

Berry has been instructed to resubmit the measure and ballot title.

Voters in Arkansas narrowly defeated a medical marijuana legalization proposal in 2012, with 48.56 percent approval.

Oregon: Retail Marijuana Rules Adopted; On Site Consumption Prohibited

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana stores will be prohibited from allowing on site consumption, and wouldn't be allowed to sell both recreational and medical marijuana under preliminary regulations approved Thursday by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

More than 70 pages of rules were approved to govern Oregon's retail marijuana system once it is fully operational next year, reports Jonathan J. Cooper of the Associated Press. While medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to begin selling to recreational customers 21 and older on October 1, they can do so only until January 1.

By 2017, all companies producing or selling recreational cannabis will be required to follow the OLCC's rules for health, safety, and security. The rules must be in place for Oregon to start accepting applications in January for licenses to operate marijuana businesses.

The rules will limit the size of growing operations to 10,000 square feet indoors, and 40,000 square feet outdoors. The rules are an attempt to control the amount of cannabis entering the legal market. "It's a really tough issue, and I don't think we have the data at this point," said OLCC Chairman Rob Partridge.

The OLCC also bans on site use of marijuana in stores. Employees with medical authorizations can do so in private, along and out of view, but they can't be "intoxicated," whatever that means.

Colorado: Feds Reject Marijuana Bank

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The federal government has dealt yet another setback to attempts to provide banking services to the marijuana industry.

The Federal Reserve, in a Wednesday court filing, said it doesn't intend to accept any money connected to cannabis sales, because marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, reports the Associated Press.

The stance, taken in response to an attempt by a Colorado-based company, appears to signal a shift in the position of the federal government. Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department had issued rules for how banks can accept marijuana money.

"We're frustrated," said Andrew Freedman, in charge of marijuana coordination for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. "We tried to do the most with the building blocks of instructions they sent us, set up the most rigorous solution. And we still are left with confusion."

The court filing came in a legal tussle between the Federal Reserve and Fourth Corner Credit Union, established in 2014 to serve Colorado's marijuana industry, now worth $700 million annually.

Fourth Corner can't open without permission from the Federal Reserve, which said in its court filing that "transporting or transmitting funds known to have derived from the distribution of marijuana is illegal."a

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