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Canada: Medical Marijuana Sellers Persevere Despite Crackdown

Canada marijuana.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Medical marijuana sellers in Canada are charging ahead despite recent crackdowns.

In Toronto, half of the city’s 83 known unlicensed stores have been targeted in raids and shutdowns that started May 26. Police have executed search warrants and seized products from stores they believe are selling to recreational consumers. But as the federal government moves toward full Canada marijuana legalization slated for a spring 2017 introduction, representatives from industry associations and medical marijuana stores met to discuss how to continue to operate.

Reuters reports:

"At Tuesday’s meeting, which was held at a marijuana-smoking lounge and attended by about 50 people, operators whose stores were raided told the audience what to expect. A lawyer spoke about how retailers can best deal with police.

Some unlicensed stores have been accused of selling to people without proper prescriptions. Some, such as the Cannabis Culture franchise in Toronto and Vancouver, sell openly to recreational users.

The federal government, which sets laws on both recreational and medical marijuana, has given little direction to municipalities on how to deal with either. Cities have used different regulatory and enforcement methods. Currently, only a few federally approved producers are allowed to sell medical marijuana – and only through the mail."

Canada: Vancouver Grants First Marijuana Dispensary License


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vancouver last week became the first city in Canada to issue a marijuana dispensary license after creating a separate set of bylaws regulating the establishments.

The Wealth Shop, just outside the gates of the University of British Columbia in the Vancouver neighborhood of Point Grey, got the city's first license to operate a cannabis business, reports Katie Shapiro at The Cannabist.

The store, which hasn't yet opened for business, will be required to pay an annual licensing fee of $30,000 to the City of Vancouver. The majority of already existing pot shops operate as "compassion clubs," which require a $1,000 fee to get a license. Currently, both types of shops still operate outside the Canadian federal government's medicinal cannabis program.

British Columbia: First Canada Cannabis Business License Issued In Vancouver

Canada weed.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Last month Canada's health minister announced that legislation to legalize marijuana will be introduced next spring. Changes are beginning to take place in Vancouver, where the first license was issued last week for a cannabis business.

The Wealth Shop, located just outside the gates of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, received the first license. Operating as a for-profit dispensary, the store must pay an annual licensing fee of $30,000 to the City of Vancouver.

As the country prepares for legalization, other provinces are watching Vancouver to see how it’s getting done. The Wealth Shop is just one of a number of BC-based dispensaries looking to expand eastward, with a store slated to open soon in Toronto.

Councillor Kerry Jang (the Vision Vancouver party’s lead on cannabis issues) told the CBC that the granting of the first medical marijuana business license is “exciting” and that “it shows that the bylaws we created are working. We have another two [stores] under final review. There’s another 21 shops across the city in the first stage of the development permit.”

Jang contends Vancouver’s medical marijuana licensing process is proving to be well conceived, and that other Canadian cities, including Toronto, are now studying the regulations.

“We’re actually bringing some order to the mess that it was,” said Jang.

Canada: Unlicensed Marijuana Dispensaries Thriving In Toronto


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 100 unlicensed marijuana dispensaries have sprung up in Toronto, most in the past six months, since the election of Justin Trudeau, who won on a legalization platform, among other progressive issues

Only a few dozen medicinal cannabis producers have a license from the Canadian federal government to sell marijuana; all other outlets are considered illegal, reports Jacob Templin at Quartz.

A few medical marijuana dispensaries have existed for years in Toronto, catering to a smallish clientele, requiring doctor's prescriptions, and operating out of undisclosed locations. The new breed of dispensaries, however, tend to have storefronts and are open to the public, according to Adam Verk, a project manager at The Big Toke, which consults with and collects data on cannabis-related businesses in Toronto.

"In the past six months it's gotten crazy, and a lot of them aren't following protocols," said Amy Brown, who has operated CannDo, a Toronto-based medical marijuana dispensary, since 2014.

It's unclear whether new federal laws will legalize the dispensaries. The Liberal government isn't unveiling its proposed legislation until Spring 2017.

Washington: Pot Bust Interrupts Vancouver Easter Egg Hunt

Vancouver pot bust.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A neighborhood Easter egg hunt was halted by a large pot bust Saturday in the Salmon Creek area of Vancouver.

Witnesses said a man in the neighborhood began screaming that his roommates were going to shoot him.

Clark County Sheriff's deputies responded to the home about 6 pm after getting calls about the disturbance.

The deputies soon learned the disturbance was related to an "ongoing large-scale unlicensed marijuana distribution operation" headquartered at a nearby house.

Detectives executed a search warrant and found more than 45 pounds of processed marijuana, valued at over $202,000 on the street.

They also seized over $108,000 in cash, suspected to be drug proceeds, as well as documents and material related to marijuana trafficking.

Despite legalization, Clark County deputies say the illegal marijuana business is booming. They say alleged drug movers often take pot to other states and sell it under the table in order to avoid taxes and in turn, make more money.

Suspects Charles Yorkovich, 24, of Vancouver; Joseph Sullivan, 24, of Vancouver and Jordan Long, 27, of Vancouver were arrested at the scene and booked into the Clark County Jail.

Photo courtesy Clark County Sheriff's office

Canada: Ban On Medical Patients Growing Their Own Marijuana Struck Down


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Canadian Federal Court judge on Wednesday struck down regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grown their own cannabis. The judge gave the Liberal government six months to come up with new rules.

Judge Michael Phelan ruled in Vancouver that the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations were an infringement on charter rights and declared they have "no force and effect," reports CBC News.

The judge suspended his declaration for six months, to give the federal government time to come up with new rules for medical marijuana.

Judge Phelan also ordered that an earlier injunction, allowing thousands of Canadians with prior medical marijuana authorizations to continue to grow it at home, remains in effect. But Wednesday's ruling did not extend that to cover new patients.

The judge was careful to point out that his ruling doesn't change the laws that make it illegal for Canadians to use cannabis recreationally.

Lawyer Kirk Tousaw, co-counsel for patient Neil Allard, who was behind the court challenge, was very pleased with the decision. "Basically we won, and it was a complete victory," Tousaw said.

"[The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations] were declared to be unconstitutional and violate the charter rights of medical cannabis patients," Tousaw said, adding it will now be up to the new Liberal government to come up with new rules.

Washington: Feds Spend Week On Farmer Tom's Cannabis Farm Studying Working Conditions


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal researchers spent most of the week on a working medical marijuana farm in Vancouver, Washington, studying the working conditions and occupational hazards of cultivating and processing cannabis.

The study was the first of its kind because marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, in the same class as heroin and LSD, reports Matt Markovich at KOMO News.

A team of four researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) visited Tom Lauerman's medical marijuana farm east of Vancouver to observe and take notes that could be used to develop federal "best practice" standards for workers in the cannabis industry. The team had never set foot on a legal marijuana operation until now; their previous cannabis experience had been limited to the federal pot farm at the University of Mississippi.

"This is novel for us," said the lead NIOSH researcher, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Researchers gave Farmer Tom and several of his workers electronic air sniffers to study the air quality inside the greenhouses and the processing facility. The researchers also used a glove with sensors tied to a laptop that tracked the repetitive hand movements involved in trimming marijuana.

Canada: New Prime Minister Plans To Legalize Marijuana


Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party Supports Drug Policy Reform, including Marijuana Legalization and Cutting Edge Harm Reduction Policies

Trudeau Represents 180 Degree Turn From Prime Minister Harper’s Punitive Approach

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Canada on Monday voted in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in a general election, which will have outstanding implications for drug policy reform in the country. The Liberal Party plans to legalize cannabis.

The election puts an end to Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 9-year rule, which was marked by a repressive approach to drugs, including a commitment to rolling out mandatory minimum sentences, pushback to effective supervised injection sites that reduce the harms of drug use, and strong opposition to marijuana reform. In contrast, the Liberal Party has promised to legalize and regulate marijuana and Trudeau has expressed support for harm reduction and the expansion of supervised injection sites across the country.

Canada: Vancouver Pot Shops Fighting New Regulations, Rejections


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana dispensary owners who could be put out of business by Vancouver's new regulations are not planning on going away without a fight.

Only 15 to 20 dispensaries will be approved and licensed after the city goes through 176 applications for business licenses, according to Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang, reports Laura Kane at The Canadian Press. But owners who are expecting rejection letters said the first "no" from the city will just be the beginning of a process of appeals and legal action.

"With any new rules or regulations or licensing, it will take a long time," said Chuck Varabioff of the British Columbia Pain Society. "I do know a lot of dispensaries will file lawsuits."

"I'll never file a lawsuit against the city," Varabioff said, "but I definitely would appeal if I'm told that I have to move."

The city isn't imposing a cap on dispensaries, according to Jang, but only 15 are 20 shops are likely to meet its stringent requirements, including a clean criminal record and a ban on operating with 300 meters of schools, community centers and other dispensaries. Jang first revealed that estimate to local politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Monday; he said it was his own calculation and not an official figure.

Washington: State To Open Retail Marijuana License Applications With No Initial Cap


WSLCB Says The Goal Is To 'Align' Recreational and Medical Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) on Wednesday announced that beginning October 12, it will accept new retail applications "using the priority criteria set forth in the law." According to the Board, there will not be an initial cap on the number of licenses issued.

"Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to ensure that they have all of the required documentation before applying," the WSLCB announced. "Failure to provide required documentation in a timely manner will result in the application being withdrawn, however you will be able to apply again."

The WSLCB adopted emergency rules and issued new draft rules to begin the public process of "aligning" the medical marijuana market with the existing recreational market (many activists would more cynically call it "eliminating" the medical marijuana market "in favor of" the recreational market).

The Board’s actions are the result of 2015 legislation, the so-called "Cannabis Patient Protection Act" (SB 5052, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers), which established a priority system for licensing existing medical marijuana outlets. The emergency rules, which are effective immediately, allow the WSLCB to begin the process of licensing new retail outlets that may sell both medical and recreational marijuana.

Existing recreational stores may also apply for an endorsement to sell both.

Canada: Marijuana Gold Rush As Vancouver, BC Gets 176 Applications


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vancouver, B.C. says it has gotten 176 applications for medical marijuana related businesses after imposing new license requirements earlier this summer.

Sixty-nine of those have the potential to be licensed as compassion clubs, while the rest have applied as retail businesses, the city announced on Friday, reports Tiffany Crawford at the Vancouver Sun.

Business licenses for compassion clubs -- nonprofit groups also offering additional health services like nutritional counseling, massage and acunpuncture -- are significantly lower. Those clubs paid $1,000 each, compared to the standard retail license of $30,000 for the rest of the medical marijuana businesses.

The deadline for applications closed a week ago, on August 21, and any medical marijuana businesses that missed the window of opportunity must close their doors, or city officials warn they'll take enforcement action, including hefty fines and lawsuits.

City staff will now review the applications, with particular attention to zoning regulations. Some of these relate to whether the shops are located in permitted commercial zones, and whether they are at least 300 meters from schools, community centers, places that serve "vulnerable youth," as well as other medical marijuana related businesses.

Canada: Health Canada Plans Crackdown On Marijuana Advertising


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose on Saturday ordered a crackdown on groups that illegally advertise marijuana, and repeated the Conservative Party's promise to keep storefront dispensaries illegal on the eve of the launch of a federal election campaign.

"Today I directed Health Canada to create a task force to crack down on illegal marijuana advertising," Ambrose said, reports Morgan Lowrie of The Canadian Press. "This task force will ensure that those who engage in such illegal activities are stopped, and should these illegal activities continue, promptly referred to law enforcement."

Health Canada will begin actively monitoring cannabis advertising instead of acting mostly on the basis of complaints, the agency announced. Under current law, only licensed producers of marijuana are allowed to advertise basic, non-promotional information.

Health Canada said it will issue compliance letters in cases where violations are identified. The department said it will also be more active in working with businesses to make sure they are aware of the rules around advertising cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Businesses and individual Canadians will be provided an opportunity to file complaints about illegal advertising for follow-up, according to Health Canada.

Washington: Owner Arrested In Raid Of Vancouver Medical Marijuana Business


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Officers with the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force on Thursday seized and carried away dried marijuana, cannabis plants, money, and growing equipment from Grow Systems Northwest, a business on St. Johns Boulevard in Vancouver, Washington.

Law enforcement said the store isn't licensed as a recreational cannabis retailer and doesn't operate within the state's medical marijuana law, reports Emily Gillespie at The Columbian. Police claim Grow Systems Northwest has been selling $200,000 worth of pot every month.

The store caught the attention of law enforcement back in April when a Vancouver police officer responded to the business on a report of a stolen vehicle. The owner, Adam Alexander, gave the officer a tour, according to Vancouver police Sgt. Pat Moore, the lead drug detective in the case.

Alexander helpfully told the officer that he was selling marijuana from his house, but then his business became too big so he moved it to the storefront on St. Johns Boulevard, Moore said. The officer told the Clark-Vancouver Drug Task Force, and Moore began investigating.

Grow Systems Northwest's website says it offers medical marijuana delivery. "We have been serving the Clark County area for many years now and would love to have you as one of our regulars!" the website reads.

Oregon: Portland Police Say Bringing Marijuana From Washington Isn't An Issue


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Portland police on Wednesday said that Oregonians who travel to Washington state to buy marijuana to bring it back are "not an issue" as long as they stay within legal limits.

Beginning on July 1, Oregonians 21 and older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana away from home, and up to eight ounces at home, under the recreational cannabis legalization law approved by voters last November.

Oregonians going to Washington to shop for marijuana are nothing new, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. Sales data released by the Washington Liquor Control Board for May showed that one recreational 502 shop in Vancouver -- just across the state line -- sold more marijuana than any other shop in the state, thanks in part to Oregonians, who account for about half of sales.

But Portland police said they don't see this as a problem.

"We are not doing interdiction on people who are going there to buy their weed and bringing it back," Sgt. Pete Simpson said. "Our drugs and vice division has not and does not focus on low level drug transfers of any kind. They are working large scale operations, which is not what we are talking about."

Washington: Driver Gets 6 Months For Crash That Likely Had Nothing To Do With Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

During the campaign leading up to the passage of marijuana legalization Initiative 502 in Washington state in 2012, many activists -- this writer included -- expressed grave concerns about the effect of 502's unscientific, arbitrary per-se cutoff point of 5 nanograms per milliliter as a "bright line" beyond which motorists are considered too high to drive. On Tuesday, a Vancouver, Washington marijuana user got a six-month jail sentence, followed by five years of probation, in a case that illustrates exactly why we were worried.

You see, the new definition of stoned driving established by I-502 has nothing to do with impairment, unlike the old law. Before, law enforcement had to prove actual impairment if they wanted to convict motorists of driving under the influence of marijuana, but now, all they need is a test showing marijuana metabolites above 5 ng/ml in the driver's blood. Impairment doesn't even matter anymore in a "driving under the influence" case; we've passed through the looking glass.

Canada: Marijuana, Rock and Roll To Meet At B.C.'s CannaFest 2015


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two natural allies -- rock and roll and cannabis -- will be together in August at a musical festival in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

CannaFest 2015 will bring together musicians and people to educate about the healing power of marijuana, according to organizer Chuck Varabioff of the B.C. Pain Society in Vancouver, reports Daybreak South at CBC News.

"I deal with sick people every single day," Varabioff said. "I wanted to give back something to them, where they're able to come forget about their pain, their problems, anything they have negative going on in their life, and come out and experience something positive."

"It's all about the movement; it's all about the people coming together and promoting a product they believe in," Varabioff said.

This is the second year that Varabioff has organized CannaFest. The first one took place in Vancouver last year.

Grand Forks Mayor Frank Conrad said he won't "delve into the marijuana issue because that is a federal issue," but said he believes the event will help stimulate the local economy.

The B.C. Pain Society is a medical marijuana dispensary that houses Canada's first cannabis vending machines.

CannaFest 2015 will take place on Aug. 7 and 8 at James Donaldson Park in Grand Forks, B.C. One-day passes are $50, and two-day passes are $75.

Global: Partnership To Develop Cannabinoid Therapies For Ocular Allergies


InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Tuesday announced it has formed an exclusive strategic collaboration with the University of Debrecen, Hungary, to develop novel phytocannabinoid-based therapies (plant-based cannabinoids) to treat ocular allergic symptoms.

The collaboration will leverage InMed's proprietary Intelligent Cannabinoid Drug Design Platform (IDP) and will be led by one of the world's leading cannabinoid researchers, Dr. Tamas Biro, MD, PhD, DSc. Dr. Biro has extensive research experience in studying the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the closely related transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in various human diseases.

Under the discovery and development collaboration InMed's IDP Platform will be used to identify cannabinoid- and non-cannabinoid-based phytochemicals for ocular therapies focused on reducing various pro-inflammatory cytokines in in vitro and in vivo models.

"We have accumulated significant experience and expertise in developing cannabinoids to treat ocular disease, which forms the basis of this strategic collaboration," said Dr. Sazzad Hossain, chief scientific officer of InMed. "As we prepare to initiate Phase 1 clinical trials of our lead phytocannabinoid-based drug candidate CTI-085 for glaucoma, we look forward to expanding our ophthalmic therapy pipeline by developing ocular anti-allergic drugs, where we expect Dr. Biro's 18 years of experience in this specialty field to be invaluable."

Washington: Marijuana Stores Allege Price Gouging By Growers


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Recreational marijuana sales only began two-and-a-half weeks ago in Washington state, and it didn't take the price gouging long to get started.

Ramsey Hamide, the manager of Main Street Marijuana, a recreational cannabis store in Vancouver, Washington, said that when he saw what came in a shipment of pot from a new grower this week, he said no thanks, deciding to close his business's doors until he can get a more variety, lower prices and better quality, reports Sue Vorenberg at The Columbian.

Hamide said some growers and processors are trying to charge him $6,000 per pound for marijuana, reports Stephen Mayer at KATU. He said that's about triple the normal price.

"I'm not going to let these guys hold us hostage anymore," Hamide said of the growers who he says have been selling low quality marijuana for high prices. "It's hurting the entire system, and it needs to stop. By continuing to play ball with these guys, it's just making things worse."

Hamide said Main Street Marijuana would likely remain closed through the weekend and possibly well into next week.

Canada: Medical Marijuana Vending Machines Hit Vancouver


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Vending machines could become one of the latest additions to Canada's medical marijuana industry, if Chuck Varabioff of the British Columbia Pain Society has his way.

Varabioff, who provides medical marijuana to Vancouver residents 19 and older, said his goal is to install the vending machines in clinics and nursing homes, reports the New York Daily News. He already has the machines installed at his Vancouver storefront dispensary.

For $4 Canadian, the brightly lit machine drops a plastic ball filled with Cotton Candy; $6 will get you Purple Kush. A variety of other strains is available.

The British Columbia Pain Society is one of about 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in Vancouver. The shops operate in a legal gray zone since a federal court ruling stymied Canada's latest attempts to regulate its distribution.

Under the new scheme, as of April 1, about 30,000 home-growing operations by patients across Canada were to be replaced by just a few large, commercial grow operations.

But many of tthe smaller growers -- particularly in British Columbia -- have refused to step aside.

While marijuana is illegal outside the federal medical marijuana program, Vancouver police said in March that it is not one of their top priorities, which are instead focused on gangs and hard drugs including cocaine, meth and heroin.

"Medical marijuana dispensaries operating today in Vancouver don't meet those criteria," a police statement said.

Canada: Injunction Granted; Patients Can Continue To Grow Their Own Medical Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Canadian medical marijuana patients who are currently licensed to grow their own cannabis will be allowed to continue doing so, despite new regulations banning homegrown which start on April 1, a Federal Court judge ruled last Friday.

Judge Michael Manson granted an injunction to a group of medical marijuana patients who asked the judge to block the rule, preserving the status quo until a constitutional challenge of the new system can be heard, reports The Canadian Press.

The decision is a blow to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government's attempt to shift control of the country's medical marijuana system from the roughly 37,000 enrolled patients to the government. The Conservatives claim the current system has problems ranging from unsafe grow operations to infiltration by criminals.

Under the new rules, only commercial growers would be allowed to cultivate cannabis. Friday's injunction doesn't affect the new licensing system.

Health Canada had ordered patients who are licensed to grow marijuana under the old rules to confirm they had destroyed their plants, or they would be reported to the police.

The patients acting as plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued the growing ban violates their right to access important medicine, because cannabis is expected to be more expensive under the new system. They also say they won't have much control over which strains of marijuana are available.

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