los angeles times

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California: Prop 64 Gains Major Newspaper Endorsements

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The campaign behind California’s Proposition 64 to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older announced that they’ve received the official endorsement of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

According to the Yes on Prop 64 campaign, this means that “every large-circulation daily newspaper in Southern California has now endorsed Proposition 64.”

The paper opposed Proposition 19 to legalize cannabis in 2010. The Union-Tribune joins the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Orange County Register and Riverside Press Enterprise as outlets that opposed Prop 19 in 2010. All publications support Proposition 64 in this year’s election.

The Union-Tribune went directly after one of the primary attacks used by opponents of the measure: that it decreases road safety.

“The recent increases in those states of the number of people in fatal accidents found to have THC in their systems may reflect a greater emphasis on drug testing instead of a spike in stoned motorists,” the paper says.

“Marijuana use has barely increased among Washington teenagers and somewhat increased among Colorado teens, reflecting a trend in the Rocky Mountain State that predated adult legalization.”

A list of newspaper endorsing Prop 64:

Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
San Jose Mercury News

California: Santa Catalina Island To Vote On Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A real estate broker hopes to turn his office into the first medical marijuana dispensary on Santa Catalina Island, off the Southern California coast near Long Beach.

Mark Malan is trying to sweeten the pot, so to speak, by promising to share a small portion of the revenue with local schools and city government, reports Louis Sahagun at the Los Angeles Times.

"It's going to create wheelbarrows of money," Malan said confidently.

A petition drive led by Malan has enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot that would repeal Santa Catalina's current ban on cannabis dispensaries and allow at least two of them in the three-square-mile resort community with a population of about 3,800.

The Avalon Medical Cannabis Facility Act of 2016 would impose an annual license tax of $10,000 per dispensary and direct half of that amount to Avalon Schools, a K-12 complex of 750 students operated by the Long Beach Unified School District.

The initiative would also put a 12 percent transaction fee on all medicinal cannabis purchases, which would be divvied up one-third to drug and alcohol education for local students; one-third to Avalon's general fund; and one-third to its parks and recreation department.

California: San Diego Rushes To Write Medical Marijuana Cultivation Rules

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new California law is spurring San Diego, for the first time, to regulate and allow cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits.

A memo issued by Deputy City Attorney Shannon Thomas last week describes ways the city could regulate the growing of medicinal cannabis, including zoning regulations or simply allowing cultivation in all areas zoned for agriculture, reports David Garrick at the Los Angeles Times.

The city might impose a "temporary" moratorium on cultivation while exploring new regulations, according to the memo.

California's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act aims to "legitimize" the nearly 20-year-old industry; state voters first approved the use of medical marijuana back in 1996. The new law also gets regulations in place in anticipation of Californians approving recreational use of marijuana in November.

The law requires mandatory product testing and gives reluctant cities new reasons to allow dispensaries and cultivation by allowing them in on the money action, collecting fees and levying taxes.

The law also says cities with no regulations in place by March 1 will permanently cede authority of medical marijuana cultivation to the state -- but the author claims that deadline was erroneously included.

Mexico: Marijuana Farmers See Profits Tumble As U.S. Legalizes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The loosening of marijuana laws in the United States has increased competition from American growers, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican black-market cannabis farmers.

Small-scale growers in the state of Sinaloa, one of Mexico's biggest marijuana production areas, said that over the past four years the per-kilogram price has fallen from $100 to $30, reports Deborah Bonello at the Los Angeles Times.

The price drops appear to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border.

"People don't want to abandon their illicit crops, but more and more they are realizing that it is no longer good business," said Juan Gerra, Sinaloa's secretary of agriculture.

For decades, in an impotent and ill-fated attempt to stop marijuana cultivation in Mexico, both the American and Mexican governments have paid farmers to grow legal crops, and have periodically sent in Mexican soldiers to supposedly "seek out and eradicate" cannabis fields. Just as often, the troops merely demanded a piece of the action.

Those efforts, of course, failed miserably to stop production, because marijuana was still more profitable than the alternatives. It took legalization in several states in the U.S. to actually make a negative impact on Mexican cannabis production; it's not rocket science and doesn't require a genius level IQ to comprehend.

California: Convicted Medical Marijuana Seller Gets Congressional Allies In Legal Appeal

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch has for years waged a legal battle against federal prosecutors who want to send him to prison. Last week, he finally got help from some unexpected and influential allies: U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel).

Reps. Rohrabacher and Farr filed a strongly worded brief with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals accusing prosecutors of flouting federal law as they go after Lynch, reports Joel Rubin at The Los Angeles Times. The Congressmen called on the court to end the case against Lynch.

Rohrabacher and Farr were late last year the authors of an amendment to federal law meant to prevent the Justice Department from interfering in states where medical marijuana is legal. The amendment, receiving unusually broad bipartisan support in December, was written into a government spending bill.

The amendment prevents the Justice Department from using federal funds in a way that hinders states "from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

It was assumed federal prosecutors would have no choice but to abandon cases such as the one against Lynch. But Justice Department officials have persisted in their war on marijuana. In general, they've argued the spending ban forbids them from interfering with officials carrying out state law, but doesn't stop them from going after sellers.

U.S.: Smackdown! Congressmen Tell Justice Department To Halt Medical Marijuana Prosecutions

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In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) refuted the Justice Department’s recent interpretation of a spending provision intended to protect state medical marijuana laws and confirmed that any criminal or civil action against medical marijuana providers is a violation of federal law. The full letter is available at http://www.mpp.org/DOJletter.

The letter comes in response to statements made last week by a Justice Department spokesman to The Los Angeles Times. In the article, the spokesman said the Justice Department can still prosecute medical marijuana cases, notwithstanding the spending restriction adopted by Congress. The full article is available at http://mppne.ws/1a6F6bb.

In the letter, the Congressmen call the Justice Department’s interpretation “emphatically wrong” and ask Holder to “bring [the] Department back into compliance with federal law” by halting prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions in states with medical marijuana laws.

California: Gubernatorial Candidate Gavin Newsom Supports Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is preparing for a 2016 gubernatorial campaign, and if an expected ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana meets his criteria, he will endorse it and effectively become the public face of the campaign, betting his political future on the popularity of cannabis in the Golden State.

Newsom, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking official in California to support recreational legalization, reports Seema Mehta at The Los Angeles Times.

Although legalization will almost certainly be popular with liberal and young voters, some political analysts believe his support for legalization could present a challenge.

"He could motivate large numbers of young people who aren't regular voters to turn out for him," said director Dan Schnur, of the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. "But taking a leadership role on this could make older swing voters nervous, even if they agree with him on the issue. It's a potentially risky play."

Voters in California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 but in 2010 voted against recreational use, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. Since then, polling has shown that public support for legalizing pot has grown, reaching 53 percent in a March survey by the Public Policy Institute of California — a record high in that organization's surveys.

U.S. DOJ Says It Will Prosecute People for Medical Marijuana Despite Congressional Ban

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Drug Policy Alliance Calls on President Obama to Rein in Out-of-Control Prosecutors

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this week told the Los Angeles Times that a bipartisan amendment passed by Congress last year prohibiting DOJ from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws doesn’t prevent it from prosecuting people for medical marijuana or seizing their property.

The statement comes as the agency continues to target people who are complying with their state medical marijuana law. This insubordination is occurring despite the fact that members of Congress in both parties were clear that their intent with the amendment was to protect medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution and forfeiture.

“The Justice Department is ignoring the will of the voters, defying Congress, and breaking the law,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder need to rein in this out-of-control agency.”

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize and regulate marijuana for medicinal purposes. Twelve states have laws on the books regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, a non-psychotropic component of medical marijuana which some parents are utilizing to treat their children’s seizures. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for non-medical use.

California: Judge Halts Medical Marijuana Delivery App In L.A.

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A medical marijuana delivery smartphone application based in Los Angeles had aimed at becoming the city's first such service was ordered to stop conducting business by a county judge on Thursday.

Judge Robert O'Brien of the Los Angeles County Superior Court said Nestdrop, a mobile phone app designed to connect legal medical marijuana patients with dispensaries, violated a voter-approved law called Proposition D that bans medical marijuana delivery, reports Time Magazine.

Nestdrop said they weren't violating the law because they only connect dispensaries with patients, and don't handle the cannabis themselves, reports Soumya Karlamangla at the Los Angeles Times.

"We're a technology company," said Nestdrop cofounder Michael Pycher. "We have every right to be an app."

According to Pycher, Nestdrop helps bring more "legitimacy and compliance" with the city's medical marijuana rules, because they can track everything through the app. "We thought this would be making the city happy," he said.

U.S.: Federal Govt. Won't Stop Native Americans From Growing, Selling Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In an epochal shift likely to change the face of American society forever, the federal Department of Justice on Thursday will tell U.S. Attorneys not to prevent Native American tribes from growing or selling marijuana on their sovereign lands, even in states where cannabis is illegal.

The new memorandum will offer guidance which will be implemented on a case-by-case basis, according to U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon of North Dakota, chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues, reports Timothy M. Phelps at the Los Angeles Times.

Tribes must still follow the eight guidelines or "areas of concern" offered by the federal government after Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize marijuana in the 2012 elections. The federal guidelines will also apply in Oregon and Alaska, where voters chose to join the ranks of legal states in 2014.

While it is still unknown just how many reservations will take advantage of the new policy, it seems likely that many will, judging by the proliferation of tribal casinos. Many tribes, however, remain opposed to legalizing marijuana on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.

U.S.: Federal Government Approves Medical Marijuana Research For PTSD

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates won a big victory on Friday when the Obama Administration opened the way for a University of Arizona scientist to research whether cannabis can help military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The move could lead to more studies into the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis.

Scientists have for years been frustrated by the federal government's intransigence when it comes to approving marijuana research -- unless the study is designed to find harms, rather than benefits, of cannabis. The Arizona study had long ago been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but under federal rules, such studies can only use federally grown marijuana from the University of Mississippi, report Evan Halper and Cindy Carcamo at The Los Angeles Times. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which oversees that pot farm, is hostile to any studies aimed at examining the benefits of cannabis; NIDA normally only funds studies to find its hazards.

"This is a great day," said Suzanne A. Sisley, the Arizona researcher, who is clinical assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arizona's medical school. She has been trying for three years now to get the study approved.

"The merits of a rigorous scientific trial have finally trumped politics," Sisley said. "We never relented."

D.C.: Capitol's Strict Medical Marijuana Law Keeps Demand Low

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Since opening during the summer, Washington, D.C.'s, three medical marijuana dispensaries have served a total of only 111 patients -- and that's in a district with 600,000 residents. Not surprisingly, all three shops say they are losing money.

That's about 100 times fewer medical marijuana patients, on a per capita basis, than places like California or Oregon, which also have medicinal cannabis. What's going on?

The low numbers are because the District's medical marijuana program is considered the most restrictive in the nation, reports Becca Clemons at the Los Angeles Times. Patients can get marijuana authorizations 0only from doctors with whom they have an "ongoing relationship," and only if they have one of just four qualifying conditions: HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, or severe muscle spasms such as those caused by multiple sclerosis.

The law allows up to five dispensaries in D.C., but with the three which have opened so far struggling financially, there's no guarantee two more shops will open.

"I think there was a general expectation that the numbers would be higher," said Jeffrey Kahn, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center, one of D.C.'s three operating dispensaries.

California: LA Sheriff Cuts Ties With Pastor After Learning He Rents To A Pot Dispensary

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Christian pastor who's getting paid more than $100,000 a year by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has been sent home -- with pay -- after it was revealed he owns a strip mall where a medical marijuana dispensary is located.

Bishop Edward R. Turner, who has worked as a "paid field deputy" for Sheriff Lee Baca and headed the sheriff's Multi-Faith Clergy Council for 14 years, is being investigated for his connections to a medicinal cannabis access point which is housed in a mall he owns, reports Nancy Dillon at the New York Daily News.

"He was relieved of duty today and assigned to his home with pay," said sheriff's department spokesman Steve Whitmore on Wednesday. Whitmore confirmed an internal affairs investigation has started. Rev. Turner was relieved of duty by Sheriff Baca on Thursday after the department learned from KABC-TV Channel 7 about the revocation of Turner's foundation's nonprofit status, and that a medical marijuana dispensary is being operated on his property, according to Whitmore.

Whitmore said Rev. Turner owns two strip malls in L.A., and one of them has a medical marijuana dispensary as a tenant. "The City of Los Angeles has deemed dispensaries to be illegal," Whitmore sniffed.

U.S.: Marijuana Use Rises Among Young Adults And Those In Their 50s

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana's rising popularity is behind an increase in pot use among Americans, including young adults as well as those in their 50s and 60s, according to a recently released national survey.

Cannabis is the most popular illegal substance in America, and it only increased its popularity from 2007 to 2012, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reports Emily Alpert at the Los Angeles Times. More than a fifth of young adults said they had used "illicit drugs" in the previous month, with almost 19 percent of adults 18 to 25 saying they recently used marijuana.

The surge of marijuana use was especially strong among Baby Boomers in their late 50s, whose rates of "illicit drug use" rose from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 6.6 percent in 2012. Researchers say the Boomers are taking their lifelong propensity for drugs into that age group.

A majority of respondents told the Pew Research Center in a poll earlier this year that pot should be legal.

Though marijuana use is on the rise, many other drugs have fallen in popularity or remained about the same. Cocaine was less common in 2012 than in 2006, with only one percent of Americans saying they've used it in the past month. Fewer than 640,000 people said they had started using cocaine in the past year, compared with a million new users in 2002.

California: Owner of Marijuana Dispensaries Sentenced To 21 Years

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Orange County, California man who ran a string of what law enforcement described as illegal medical marijuana dispensaries was sentenced on Monday to more than 21 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $4.2 million in restitution.

John "Pops" Walker, 56, of San Clemente, pleaded guilty in an April plea agreement to drug trafficking, tax evasion and owning weapons as part of the drug trafficking, reports Joseph Serna at the Los Angeles Times.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury last fall along with 13 codefendants. As the alleged head of the "drug ring," Walker operated at least nine marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and Orange counties. He admitted to prosecutors that he made more than $25 million over a period of six years, and that he paid taxes on only a fraction of it.

Walker on Monday was ordered to pay $2.4 million to the Internal Revenue Service and $1.8 million to the California Board of Equalization. Government agents also seized $25 million in income, his luxurious home in San Clemente, several mobile homes in Mammoth Lakes, a property in Long Beach and his stake in two strip clubs.

He was sentenced to 262 months in federal prison, which is 21 years and 10 months.

California: Senate Moves To End For-Profit Sales of Medical Marijuana

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Meanwhile, L.A. Voters Weighing In Tuesday On Dispensary Regulations

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The California Senate on Monday approved a bill that would end all for-profit sales of medical marijuana in the state.

The proposed law would go further than then-Attorney General (now Governor) Jerry Brown's 2008 non-binding guidelines, in that it would make the nonprofit collective model mandatory for dispensaries, reports Stephen C. Webster at The Raw Story. Provisions in the bill, SB 439, would also put extensive records-keeping requirements on dispensary owners.

That would theoretically allow tax agents to look more closely at dispensary finances to ensure no profits are being taken; unfortunately, it would also expedite federal prosecutions if those records were successfully subpoenaed by the federal Department of Justice.

Brown issued the guidelines after law enforcement asked for clarification on who they could bust for medical marijuana. After California voters in 1996 approved medical marijuana, the Legislature in 2004 expanded and clarified the law in 2004 with SB 420, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, a system of voluntary regulations that established a licensing system and put limits on cultivation and sales.

But more than 200 cities around the state have banned medical marijuana dispensaries, actions which the California Supreme Court recently upheld.

California: 2,000 Pounds of Marijuana Found on Santa Barbara Beach

Photo: Los Angeles TimesBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An estimated one ton of marijuana was found on Sunday wrapped in plastic bags on Arroyo Quemada Beach in Santa Barbara County, California. Santa Barbara County law enforcement officials claimed the worth of the 2,000 pounds of cannabis as being $4 million.

Sheriff's deputies "located an apparently abandoned 309-foot 'Panga' style boat with two outboard engines and 20+ plus containers on board," the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said in a news release, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Sheriff's detectives located a significant amount of evidence that was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities, including trash and debris that was strewn about the beach and nearby coastal access trails," the sheriff's release said. Hemp News was unable to confirm at press time if the "debris" consisted of Doritos bags.

Law enforcement officials are now "testing the drugs and other evidence" found at the scene.

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