Insiders share their stories from the 'fastest-growing industry in America'; marijuana isn’t included in mainstream jobs reports, but another report says pot outsold Girl Scout cookies in 2015
Some have messy buns and sleeve tattoos. Some have salon cuts and $2,000 suits.
Some are joining blue-collar unions, getting health benefits as they grow and sell a plant they’ve long loved. Some say they never touch it, but they’re standing guard outside shops and fiercely lobbying legislators in Sacramento to ensure that others can.
As public support and legalization of cannabis spreads, those who’ve quietly worked in California’s medical marijuana industry are slowly emerging from the shadows. And professionals who never would have considered joining the industry a couple of years ago are leaving behind traditional careers in law, real estate and finance as they flock to what they see as the next big boom.
“The fastest-growing industry in America is marijuana, period,” said Jake Bhattacharya, who recently quit his information technology job to open a cannabis testing lab in Upland.
With medical marijuana legal in 25 states and recreational use allowed in four, pot outsold Girl Scout Cookies in 2015, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, a 5-year-old news website covering the industry.
Pot retail sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, and Marijuana Business Daily is projecting that number could nearly triple by 2020.
The actual size of the industry may already be much larger, too, since California hasn’t tracked its massive medical marijuana market in the 20 years since it’s been legal. And it could skyrocket if voters here and a handful of other states approve recreational use Nov. 8.
The lack of reliable data coupled with the “niche” aspect of the industry is why cannabis — and the connected marijuana jobs — isn’t included in mainstream economic and jobs reports, according to Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
“It’s still too fly-by-night,” Thornberg said.
California’s Employment Development Department doesn’t track the diverse daisy chain of cannabis jobs either. And several recruitment firms said they don’t deal with the industry.
Job seekers and employers instead turn to Craigslist or specialized sites. There’s a recent post on WeedHire.com for a $75,000-a-year account manager at GFarmaLabs, which makes marijuana products in Anaheim, and one on 420careers.com for growers and trimmers at Buds & Roses dispensary in Los Angeles.
Working in the industry isn’t without complications.
It remains illegal at the federal level, which limits access to financial services and causes lingering concerns over raids by federal authorities.
California’s market is also emerging from two decades of nearly nonexistent regulation and intense battles with local governments who were less than welcoming to “potrepreneurs.” That legacy means newly licensed shops often still rely on growers and manufacturers in the gray market, and they struggle to survive alongside unlicensed operators who aren’t paying the same hefty taxes.
Then there’s the glaring disapproval that comes from shrinking (per the polls) but vocal pockets of the public. Fear of backlash from conservative family members or future business associates kept a number of cannabis workers from speaking on the record for this story.
“Let’s face it, of course there is a stigma,” said Juliet Murphy, a career coach who runs Juliet Murphy Career Development in Tustin.
Murphy expects that it would raise eyebrows for more traditional employers to see a weed industry job on someone’s résumé. However, Murphy sees it as less of an issue going forward as the industry becomes more mainstream and as millennials continue to transform the workforce.
“There are still a lot of kinks that are being worked out. But I think this presents an opportunity for a lot of jobs, provided that people do it right,” Murphy said. “I think in the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be huge.”
While marijuana laws have become lax in recent years, a "Marijuana DUI" can still get you in a lot of trouble.
criminaldefenselawyer.com by Monica Steiner, Contributing Author
The often tragic consequences and harsh legal penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are well publicized. What many people don’t realize is that it is also illegal and punishable in all 50 states to drive under the influence of marijuana (or a combination of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs).
Laws defining what it means to be “under the influence” of marijuana vary by state, as do applicable punishments.
Any amount = under the influence. In some states, any amount of marijuana in the driver’s system will conclusively establish that the driver was under the influence.
Above the threshold = under the influence. In other states a driver who is above a certain blood or urine concentration level will be considered under the influence.
The defendant’s behavior or actions= under the influence. A minority of states require the prosecutor to prove that the driver was under the influence, by pointing to his behavior or driving, regardless of the amount of marijuana in the driver’s system.
States also differ in their definitions of "driving." For example, in many states, a DUI charge can result from merely sitting in a stationary car while under the influence. Whether this definition of “driving” applies to you depends on the law of the state where you live, and is discussed further below.
What it Means to be "Under the Influence"
In most states, being “under the influence” means that the driver is incapable of driving safely due to the effects of drug or alcohol use.
As you are probably aware, when it comes to alcohol, a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent of the driver's blood, by volume, will conclusively establish that the driver is under the influence (if the level is less, the prosecutor can still point to the driver's actions to prove that he was under the influence). In some states, the blood alcohol level threshold is even lower if the driver is a minor.
When marijuana is involved, however, states have different approaches to establishing that the driver was under the influence, as shown below.
Per se laws
In states with so-called “per se” DUI laws, any amount of marijuana in the driver’s system at the time of the offense will conclusively establish impairment. In these states, a prosecutor will not need to present any further evidence (such as behavior consistent with being under the influence or unsafe driving) in order to establish that the driver was under the influence.
State per se laws often include marijuana metabolites—compounds left over when the body metabolizes (or processes) marijuana—which can remain in a person’s body for days, weeks, or longer after marijuana use. While metabolites indicate that the person ingested marijuana at some point in the past, they do not indicate how long ago, or necessarily point to current impairment. Even so, state per se laws that include metabolites accept their presence as conclusive evidence of impairment for the purposes of a DUI charge.
Blood or urine marijuana concentration levels
As they do with blood alcohol thresholds, some states consider a level of marijuana (or marijuana metabolites) in the driver’s blood or urine—usually in nanograms/ liter—as conclusive proof of impairment. As with per se laws, the prosecutor will not need to prove that the driver’s senses were impaired—no need for field sobriety test results, or testimony about the driver’s speech, balance, or poor driving.
In these states, having a concentration level that’s lower than the threshold does not necessarily mean that the driver was not under the influence, however. The prosecutor may still point to the driver’s actions and behavior (such as his driving) to show that the driver was under the influence.
The driver’s behavior or driving
In the minority of states, the prosecutor must always establish that the driver was behaving in a way that showed that he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the arrest—regardless of (even relatively high) marijuana blood or urine concentration levels. Prosecutors can do this by showing that the driver had impaired balance or speech, or that he was driving erratically—even that he smelled of marijuana.
People are sometimes surprised to learn that the prosecution need not show actual unsafe driving to prove that the driver was under the influence. Merely being under the influence and driving will suffice. For example, suppose you are involved in an accident that you did not cause—your driving was just fine. But the police officer who comes to the accident scene smells marijuana in your car, observes your reddened eyes and tell-tale behavior, and sees half-smoked joints in the ash tray. This may be enough evidence to charge you with driving while under the influence, even though your driving was not unsafe.
Driving as a Medical Marijuana Patient
Eighteen states have made it legal to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, as long as the patient follows the law with respect to amounts, registration, and so on. But no state has gone so far as to say it’s okay to drive after using medical marijuana, even when the patient has scrupulously followed the rules. This can be especially problematic for medical marijuana patients in states that employ per se laws, because as explained, metabolites may remain in the body for some time after use, arguably with no effect on the person's driving.
Medical marijuana patients should know how their state approaches the issue of being “under the influence,” as explained above. For more information on this topic, see Medical Marijuana and Driving.
What Constitutes "Driving"?
Most state DUI statutes consider someone to be a driver within the meaning of the DUI law when he is “in actual physical control” of the vehicle at the time of arrest. This definition is broader than our common idea of “driving” or “operating” a vehicle. The policy goal behind this broad-reaching definition is to keep people from doing a wide range of vehicle-related activities while under the influence, thus increasing safety for other motorists, pedestrians, and property along roadways.
Because of this expansive definition, most state statutes do not limit DUI charges to people who are operating moving vehicles. Being “in actual physical control” of the vehicle can include being in control of a parked car, if the judge believes that the defendant intended to begin driving, or even that the defendant had already driven the vehicle before being found by the arresting officer.
If a DUI can include more than simply driving, what constitutes “actual physical control” of a vehicle? Judges tend to consider a combination of factors, including whether:
the vehicle was on or off
the vehicle was moving or stationary
the vehicle was operable
the keys were in or out of the ignition (and whether the defendant even had access to the keys)
the driver was awake or asleep (was the defendant perhaps “sleeping it off” in a parked vehicle?)
there was any gas in the tank
the vehicle’s gears were engaged, and
the defendant was in the driver’s seat.
Whether you were in “actual physical control” comes down to the judge’s consideration of the specific facts surrounding your case.
Marijuana DUI Penalties
The most common punishments for DUI offenses are a fine, jail (or prison) time, or both. Many states will also impose some length of license suspension or require the use of an ignition interlock device, so that the defendant’s vehicle will not start without a clean breathalyzer sample. Specific penalties for DUI convictions vary by state, though all states impose some combination of the following to punish DUI convictions:
jail (or prison) time
victim impact program participation
home confinement (also known as house arrest)
ignition interlock device use
vehicle impoundment or forfeiture, and
drug and alcohol abuse programs.
Within each state, the severity of the applicable penalties in each case usually depends on whether the offense was a first or subsequent violation, and aggravating factors may increase applicable penalties (see below).
The following circumstances will increase the penalties that would normally apply to a DUI conviction. These include (but are not limited to):
second and subsequent offenses
a minor in the vehicle at time of offense (sometimes referred to as “child endangerment”)
a minor as the defendant
DUI while driving on a suspended license
DUI while driving a school bus
causing a traffic accident, property damage, bodily injury, or death, and
driving with particularly elevated alcohol or drug content levels
Sentence ranges and mandatory minimum sentences
Although many state statutes list maximum fines, jail time, and license suspension periods, unless the law requires minimum fines, jail time, and suspension, the judge usually has discretion to sentence for periods up to the various maximums. This means that a defendant can theoretically end up with no, or very low, jail time and penalties.
Defendants who have prior DUI convictions probably can’t count on a mild sentence due to the absence of a mandatory minimum sentence in the statute, however. In all states, penalties increase for second and subsequent offenses, and in most states, that means mandatory minimum penalties for these subsequent violations. However, often there’s a “wash out” provision—a rule that effectively makes a prior DUI of a certain age go away for purposes of enhancing subsequent sentences. For example, a mandatory minimum may apply to a current conviction only if the prior conviction was incurred less than five, seven, or ten years ago. When a prior has washed out, the subsequent offense is treated as a first offense for punishment purposes.
A tip for American farmers: Grow hemp, make money
By Doug Fine latimes
june 25 2014
After a 77-year break, hemp plants are growing in American soil again. Right now, in fact. If you hear farmers from South Carolina to Hawaii shouting "God bless America," the reason isn't because Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper (he did). Nor is it because the canvas that put the "covered" in pioneer covered wagons was made of hemp, nor that the hemp webbing in his parachute saved George H.W. Bush's life in World War II.
Nope. It's because U.S. policy is finally acknowledging that hemp can help restore our agricultural economy, play a key role in dealing with climate change and, best of all, allow American family farmers to get in on a hemp market that, just north of us in Canada, is verging on $1 billion a year.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis — and thus a cousin of marijuana — that contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive component THC. (Marijuana plants typically contain 5% to 20% THC.) You can't get high from hemp, but starting in 1937, U.S. drug laws made cultivating it off-limits.
Finally, the U.S. hemp industry is back. A provision in the 2014 farm bill signed by President Obama on Feb. 7 removed hemp grown for research purposes from the Controlled Substances Act, the main federal drug law.
Not a moment too soon. American farmers have been watching as Canadian farmers clear huge profits from hemp: $250 per acre in 2013. By comparison, South Dakota State University predicts that soy, a major crop, will net U.S. farmers $71 per acre in 2014.
Hemp takes half the water that wheat does, and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate change era. — Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin
Canada's windfall has been largely due to the American demand for omega-balanced hempseed oil. But hemp is also a go-to material for dozens of applications all over the world. In a Dutch factory recently, I held the stronger-than-steel hemp fiber that's used in Mercedes door panels, and Britain's Marks and Spencer department store chain used hemp fiber insulation in a new flagship outlet. "Hempcrete" outperforms fiberglass insulation.
Farmers I've interviewed from Oregon to Ohio have gotten the memo. In a Kansas-abutting corner of eastern Colorado, in the town of Springfield, 41-year-old Ryan Loflin wants to save his family farm with hemp. "It takes half the water that wheat does," Loflin told me, scooping up a handful of drought-scarred soil so parched it evoked the Sahara, "and provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate-change era."
From an agronomic perspective, American farmers need to start by importing dozens of hemp varieties (known as cultivars) from seed stock worldwide. This is vital because our own hemp seed stock, once the envy of the world, was lost to prohibition. This requires diversity and quantity because North Dakota's soil and climate are different from Kentucky's, which are different from California's. Also, the broad variety of hemp applications requires distinct cultivars.
Legally, farmers and researchers doing pilot programs in the 15 states that have their own hemp legislation (including California) now have the right to import those seeds. The point of the research authorization in the farm bill is explicitly to rebuild our seed stock. Such research is how the modern Canadian hemp industry was kick-started in 1998.
But one final hurdle has been placed in front of American hemp entrepreneurs. In Kentucky, U.S. Customs officials, at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in May seized a 286-pound shipment of Italian hemp seed bound for the state's agriculture department. After a weeklong standoff, a federal agency had to be reminded by the federal courts that the law had changed and Kentucky's seed imports were legal.
The problem is as much an entrenched bureaucratic mind-set as the ink drying on the new federal hemp policy. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told a law enforcement group last month that the hoisting of a hemp flag above the U.S. Capitol last July 4 was "the low point in my career."
It should have been a high point. Hemp's economic potential is too big to ignore. When he was China's president, Hu Jintao visited that nation's hemp fiber processors in 2009 to demand that farmers cultivate 2 million acres to replace pesticide-heavy cotton. Canada funded its cultivar research for farmers, with today's huge payoff.
Even Roger Ford, a politically conservative Kentucky utility owner, told me his Patriot BioEnergy's biofuels division would be planting hemp on coal- and tobacco-damaged soil the moment it was legal. Why? To use the fiber harvest for clean biomass energy. "We have a proud history of hemp in the South," Ford told me.
Congress knows the farm bill hemp provision is just a baby step. The real solution is the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would allow nationwide commercial hemp cultivation. Colorado, already ahead of federal law on legalizing psychoactive cannabis, is also in front on hemp; it has a state law allowing commercial hemp cultivation. At least 1,600 acres were planted this season.
Wyden's bill should be fast-tracked. In the meantime, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) believes hemp is so important for the Bluegrass State that he's not waiting for another brouhaha over seed imports. He added an amendment to a bill that controls the DEA's budget to specifically protect imported hemp seeds from seizure. It passed in the House 246 to 162 on May 30.
It's a necessary move: Just last week at the Canadian border, the DEA seized another shipment of hemp seeds, this time bound for Colorado farmers. This counterproductive nonsense must stop.
American farmers and investors need our support to catch up with Canada's and the rest of the world's hemp head start. Now. As Loflin put it when I toured his family's 1,200-acre Colorado spread, "I'm planting hemp to show my neighbors that small farmers have a real option as businesspeople in the digital age."
We're down to 1% of Americans farming; it was 30% when our world-leading hemp industry was stymied in 1937. The crop is more valuable today than it was then. We should be waving flags and holding parades for the farmers ready to plant the crop that Thomas Jefferson called "vastly desirable." I know I'm ready. To cheer, and to plant.
Ex-narcotics chief leads undercover marijuana busts in Haight
Some residents applaud crackdown as pot advocates criticize heavy-handed tactics
San Francisco police Capt. Greg Corrales strolled down a dirt path in Golden Gate Park looking for someone to arrest.
Corrales, 64, had left his uniform at the police station, a few blocks from Haight Street. Today, he wore a pair of black jeans, a Giants cap and a jersey that read, “Grumpy.”
He headed for Alvord Lake, a manmade pond near Hippie Hill, and spotted a group of ragged young men. As he drew close, one looked at him and brought a closed finger and thumb to his puckered lips.
Corrales knew the sign: weed for sale.
The undercover captain said he wanted $20 worth of marijuana, pocketed his purchase and disappeared into the park. Moments later, a team of officers swooped in to arrest the unsuspecting seller.
The police operation was one of 50 undercover busts Corrales has led since transferring to the Haight-Ashbury district in June to lead a crackdown on street-level marijuana dealing.
To many residents, the arrests are a welcome relief in a neighborhood struggling with aggressive vagrants and dealers. In the district that was the birthplace of the hippie revolution, police are jailing suspects for amounts of marijuana that, in a possession case, would amount to a $100 ticket.
But to marijuana legalization activists and residents who fondly recall the Haight of the 1960s, the campaign represents a return to a time of zero tolerance for peace, love and weed. San Francisco once led the country in its tolerance and celebration of marijuana. Now, marijuana legalization activists say, it is moving backward.
“The people of San Francisco have voted repeatedly they don’t want marijuana laws enforced,” said Dennis Peron, a longtime medical marijuana activist who moved to San Francisco during the heyday of the hippies. “It’s a waste of time.”
Corrales, a former head of the narcotics division, is employing a tactic most commonly used to combat street sales of drugs such as heroin and cocaine. In buy-bust operations, an undercover officer poses as a customer and buys drugs from an individual he or she suspects of dealing.
In the Haight, Corrales conducted the first six himself.
Some of the operations have netted repeat offenders, including several suspects with guns or outstanding warrants. But most of the suspects carried small amounts of marijuana. Some had medical marijuana ID cards.
“It really doesn’t matter,” he said. “They can’t sell.”
Many visitors to the Haight expect to be immersed in the marijuana culture; some sample it themselves. The low-level dealing has contributed to a vibrant tourism industry that memorializes the Haight as the birthplace of the hippie revolution during the “Summer of Love” in 1967. It was a time when the district attracted rock stars like Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, filling the otherwise poor and dilapidated district with thousands of young people. They embraced communal living and free love. LSD and marijuana were staples.
After the counterculture waned, the Haight-Ashbury emptied. Stores and homes were boarded up. Dealers and users arrived who were less a paean to the hippie revolution than a testament to the ugly, destructive nature of hard drugs.
Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, moved into the neighborhood with his wife in 1989, in the midst of a crack epidemic. At the time, he said, the violent drug trade was flourishing.
“I got to see the everyday reality of what the drug culture did to people,” he said.
In an effort to wrest control of the neighborhood, Loewenberg and about 30 others formed a group called RAD – Residents Against Druggies. A few nights a week, the members armed themselves with two-way radios and notebooks and walked the streets, looking for buyers and dealers.
“If we saw someone we suspected of buying, we would circle around them and just make them so uncomfortable they didn’t want to buy,” recalled Susan Strolis, a waitress who moved to the neighborhood in 1985.
“If we saw a deal going on, we would all post up with our backs against the walls and write down our observations. If we felt unsafe, we radioed someone who was at home by the phone,” she said. “That was our way of sending a message instead of being confrontational.”
As the Haight residents railed against drugs, the city began an effort to decriminalize marijuana. In 1991, San Francisco voters passed Proposition P, urging the state to legalize medical marijuana. In 1992, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging police and the district attorney to deprioritize the crime of possessing or growing marijuana for medical use. That same year, Peron, the medical marijuana rights activist, opened the country’s first dispensary, the Cannabis Buyers’ Club.
Corrales, a former Marine, had made a name for himself as a young undercover officer in the 1970s. His specialty was buy-bust operations targeting heroin dealers in the city’s housing projects.
Newspaper articles at the time chronicled his exploits. During one notorious bust, he crashed through the window of a suspected dealer’s apartment in a Superman T-shirt. On another occasion, he fired his gun into the air after leaving a bar near police headquarters. Later, he smashed up his patrol car while making an illegal U-turn on the Golden Gate Bridge. He racked up hundreds of citizen complaints.
But by 1994, he was a captain and led the narcotics division. (Under his command was Greg Suhr, then a sergeant and now chief of police.) Corrales said he couldn’t ignore Peron.
“He got so brazen, he went on the television show ‘Hard Copy.’ They had a segment with him showing the reporters around,” Corrales recalled. “He was a marijuana dealer.”
Peron was leading the statewide campaign for Proposition 215, a measure to legalize medical marijuana. Corrales and his undercover investigators came up with evidence that Peron was selling marijuana to customers who were not ill. But when the police department brought its case to then-District Attorney Terence Hallinan, he refused to prosecute.
By then, Hallinan had visited Peron’s medical marijuana club. “I thought it was great,” he recalled. “There were people there with AIDS. Everyone had company and friends. It didn’t make sense to me to go raiding that. So they went around me.”
Corrales took his case to then-Attorney General Dan Lungren, an aspiring Republican gubernatorial candidate and Prop. 215 opponent. In summer 1996, with voters considering the measure, Lungren led a raid on Peron’s dispensary.
The raid, however, created sympathy for medical marijuana users. Californians voted in favor of Peron’s initiative, and San Francisco politicians demanded that Police Chief Fred Lau discipline the person responsible for the unpopular investigation. The chief promptly banished Corrales from narcotics.
In the Haight, many merchants and residents now clamor for Corrales’ aggressive strategies.
Loewenberg, the improvement association president, said the neighborhood’s increasing opposition to marijuana dealers reflects just how much the Haight – and San Francisco – have changed.
Tourism and higher income levels have attracted new homeowners, high-priced boutiques, chain stores and a Whole Foods Market. Residents complain about hostile dogs, excrement and trash on their front steps, and panhandlers so aggressive that parents hesitate to walk their children to the park.
To reduce panhandling, the neighborhood led a successful campaign in 2010 to outlaw sitting and lying on city sidewalks. After residents testified en masse at a police commission meeting earlier this year, an impatient Chief Suhr ordered a buy-bust team into the district. Then he replaced the district’s captain with Corrales.
Since landing in the Haight, Corrales has put his narcotics training to good use. Although the number of buy-bust operations this year has decreased citywide, the number in the Haight has tripled.
One of the first to be swept up in the crackdown was 25-year-old Michael Fulmore, a self-described stoner with a medical marijuana identification card that permits him to possess weed.
On the day of his arrest in March, Fulmore recalled wearing a gray V-neck sweater over a button-down shirt. He was living with his aunt in the Haight and contemplating joining the Army. But without a job, he felt drawn to the vagrants in Golden Gate Park. With weed in hand, Fulmore found it easy to make friends and avoid his messy life.
That Saturday evening, Fulmore was about to step off the curb in front of Ben & Jerry’s at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets when a petite young woman in a ponytail and sweatshirt walked up to him.
“Do you know where I can find some weed?” she asked, according to the arrest report.
“Right here,” he said.
According to the arrest report, Fulmore led the woman a few steps up Ashbury and took a cigarette pack out of his front pocket. He picked out some loose leaves and put them in her hand. She quickly gave him a $20 bill and walked away. Moments later, Fulmore was surrounded by police.
In California, possessing an ounce (28.3 grams) or less of marijuana is punishable by a $100 fine. Anyone who gives away an ounce or less of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor. Fulmore had handed the officer barely a gram; they had never discussed how much she wanted or how much she would pay him. But Fulmore had accepted the $20 bill.
He was arrested and spent six days in jail. He now faces felony charges of selling marijuana and possession with intent to sell.
“I was just being a nice guy, trying to help her out,” Fulmore said during an interview at his public defender’s office. “I put it in her hand and then when I looked up, there was money there. So I took it. I could see if it was crack cocaine or something harsh like meth. But this is pot – a gram of weed. It’s, like, a ticket, not a felony.”
Corrales has no qualms about the buy-bust operations. He said the lack of enforcement had created an environment where dealers felt comfortable approaching anybody. Now, he said, the dealers are less aggressive.
“When I first went out there, they were careless,” he said. “I probably could have bought marijuana in a suit and tie because there had been no enforcement, so nobody was paranoid. Now they’re more careful.”
In particular, Corrales said he has seen fewer dealers near Alvord Lake.
He was still wearing his “Grumpy” shirt on that day in June when he returned to the lake 45 minutes after his first buy-bust. He approached the same group of young men and asked, “Got anything?”
“Not for you, we don’t,” one replied. The captain heard him mutter “pig” under his breath.
Corrales feigned outrage.
“I’m 75 damn years old,” he yelled, adding more than a decade to his age. “How the hell am I going to be a cop?”
“Calm down,” the young man sputtered. “We gotta be careful. Our buddy just got busted. How much do you want?”
Corrales walked away with another $20 worth of marijuana. And his officers made their second buy-bust arrest of the day.
Oakland sues U.S. to stop medical marijuana property seizuresL.A. Now
The city of Oakland filed suit Wednesday against top federal prosecutors in an attempt to stop them from seizing property leased by the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary.
The unprecedented civil complaint, filed in federal court against Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, seeks to “restrain and declare unlawful” a July federal forfeiture action against Harborside Health Center’s landlords in Oakland and San Jose.
The suit comes as federal prosecutors have ramped up efforts to shutter dispensaries statewide, targeting those close to schools as well as operations such as Harborside, which are in compliance with local and state laws but that prosecutors have deemed "superstores."
Launched in 2006, Harborside now counts 108,000 patients in its collective and paid $3.5 million in taxes last year, $1.1 million of that to Oakland. Co-founder Steve DeAngelo worked closely with Oakland officials as they crafted one of the nation's strictest regulatory schemes to monitor and tax the industry.
The lawsuit refers to Harborside as "vital to the safe and affordable distribution of medical cannabis to patients" suffering from pain, illness and injury.
San Francisco attorney Cedric Chao, who is representing Oakland, said in a statement Wednesday that the federal government "acted beyond its authority" by filing the forfeiture action outside the statute of limitations. He added that the government has indicated for many years "by its words and actions that so long as dispensaries and medical patients acted consistently with state law, the dispensaries would be allowed to operate. Oakland has reasonably relied on these assurances."
In an interview, Oakland City Atty. Barbara J. Parker said the lawsuit "is about protecting the rights of legitimate patients who need this medicine” and “doing everything we can to assure that this pipeline is not shut off."
If federal prosecutors succeed in shuttering Harborside, she said, “public safety could be worsened because those patients would be out in the black market purchasing this medicine from criminals.”
A representative for the U.S. attorney’s office did not return a late afternoon call for comment Wednesday.
Advocates for medical marijuana said they know of no other instance in which a city has sued federal prosecutors in an attempt to protect a dispensary.
"I would definitely welcome them to the fight," said Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access. “The symbolism of this is very important.”
Harborside's Oakland dispensary is the largest in the nation, and the center also operates a smaller sister dispensary in San Jose. Landlords facing the forfeiture action have moved in state court to evict, while Harborside has countered that it is meeting all lease requirements. Court rulings are expected soon.
Meanwhile, a federal court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 1 on a motion by the San Jose property owner "to enjoin us from selling cannabis," Harborside's DeAngelo said. He called Oakland’s lawsuit "the first time that any official governmental body has formally challenged the federal government’s attacks on medical cannabis laws."
"I think the city realizes that Melinda Haag is not only attacking Harborside but attacking the entire system of regulated medical cannabis sales that the city painstakingly developed," he said.
Ads running to legalize marijuana in three states
By Carl Marcucci
In November, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Although similar initiatives have failed in the past, this time the groups fighting to legalize pot are well-organized, professional and backed by high-dollar donors willing to outspend the competition, reports Raycom News Network.
In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has produced several ads that say marijuana is healthier than alcohol. The campaign’s website points to medical studies that claim marijuana, unlike alcohol, has not been linked to cancer, brain damage, addiction or high healthcare costs.
CRMLA was given nearly $1.2 million from the Marijuana Policy Project, a DC-based lobbying group, as well as more than $800,000 by Peter Lewis, the founder and chairman of Progressive Insurance. Lewis has been a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization for several years and donated millions to legalization efforts around the country.
In an online video ad campaign, CRMLA has young adults explaining to their parents they prefer marijuana to alcohol. In one of the ads, titled Dear Mom, a 20-something woman tells her mother marijuana is “better for my body, I don’t get hung-over and honestly I feel safer around marijuana users.”
In Washington, rather than comparing marijuana to alcohol, New Approach Washington (NAW) is focusing on legalization, arguing outlawing cannabis does more harm than good, by wasting tax dollars on law enforcement while letting gangs control the money. She describes the possible benefits of legalization through saved law enforcement dollars and extra tax revenue.
The TV spot has a professional/executive looking woman, “I don’t like it personally, but it’s time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. It’s a multi-million dollar industry in Washington state, and we get no benefit.”
These efforts appear to be working. In Washington, 50% of voters say marijuana should be legal while 38% say it should not, according to an Elway Research poll. And in Colorado, a Denver Post poll showed 51% of Coloradans were in favor of legalization, while 41% opposed it.
In Washington, the effort to legalize marijuana is being fought with a bankroll of between $4 and $5 million, according to the Raycom News Network story. NAW used those funds to put $1 million into television advertising during August, and hope to put triple that amount into the weeks preceding the November vote.
In total, groups in Colorado fighting to get marijuana legalized have a war chest of $2.5 million.
The campaigns are especially targeting women ages 30 to 55, whom tend to be less supportive of legalization and regulation than men.
The only visible group opposing the marijuana ballot, SMART Colorado, has been given less than $200,000 – most of it from Save Our Society, a Florida-based anti-drug group.
RBR-TVBR observation: Interesting that the Chairman of Progressive Insurance is donating so much money in this legalization effort. Perhaps legalizing it would create fewer accidents/injuries from police chases and save the insurance industry money? We doubt drivers with the stuff in their car would try to flee if it’s no more illegal than a pack of cigarettes. Who knows, but Progressive is a big corporation and Lewis seems to not be concerned about sticking his neck out on this.
Medical Marijuana Laws Go Up in Smoke
By CAMERON LANGFORD courthousenews.com
Sixteen years after California voters passed Proposition 215, legalizing medical use of marijuana, it's clear the plant is not going to disappear.
Now if only the federal government could figure that out.
The message will be exhaled across the West Friday, as pot smokers gather to celebrate their national holiday: 4/20, a number whose origins are veiled in time and rumor, if not in smoke.
President Obama does not hear the message.
At a Summit of the Americas conference in Columbia on April 14, the host nation's President Juan Manuel Santos discussed alternatives to the "War on Drugs," and urged consideration of a middle ground short of decriminalization.
In response, Obama said, "I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places." But, he added, "I personally, and my administration's position is that legalization is not the answer,'" according to The New York Times.
Consider some numbers the War on Drugs has generated:
The annual marijuana crop in California is worth $13.8 billion, according to "Ganjanomics," an Aug. 15 story in High Country News.
Mexico's war with drug cartels, backed by $1.6 billion in U.S. money for training, support and equipment, has brought that country 50,000 deaths in 5 years.
If marijuana were legal in the United States, you could grow it in your back yard, bring it to your local farmers' market to trade or sell, and buy it commercial grade at your corner store or at specialty shops.
Law enforcement could use a device, akin to a breathalyzer, to determine if someone was too high to be driving.
Drug cartels would have less incentive to battle over supply routes marijuana would no longer be expensive.
Unfortunately for California, the Obama administration is making the state it the poster child for what flouting federal drug laws will get you.
Under the Controlled Substances Act marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning: "a) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse, b) The drug or substance has no currently accepted medical use in the United States."
But in the rural Northern California counties of the Emerald Triangle, including Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt Counties, marijuana is what powers their economies.
Tired of dealing with hunters and hikers encountering gun-toting pot growers in its forests, Mendocino County started a first-of-its kind permitting program in 2010 that let medical marijuana collectives grow up to 99 plants, to bring pot growers out of the black market.
Participants paid the county $1,500 in application fees, $50 for zip ties for each plant and $300 to $600 per month for monthly garden inspections by sheriff's deputies.
Nearly 100 farmers signed up for the program, which generated $663,230 for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office from July through December, according to county officials.
That all changed in October, when DEA agents raided Northstone Organics' owner Matthew Cohen's Mendocino County farm and cut down his 99 marijuana plants.
Cohen ran a medical marijuana delivery service for patients in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and appeared on the PBS documentary show "Frontline" earlier in the season, touting his garden's compliance with county law.
Due to threats from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag that Mendocino County could face litigation if the program continued, the board of supervisors voted in February to end it.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman was an advocate of the program.
"This step that the U.S. Attorney's Office took in California, in my humble opinion as an elected sheriff, was a step backwards," Allman told KQED News. "We're further away from a solution today than we were two months ago."
On April 3 federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana training college in Oakland, founded by Richard Lee, who spent more than $1 million backing a defeated 2010 California ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana use.
An IRS spokeswoman told reporters that agents were serving a federal search warrant but said she could not comment on the raid's purpose.
Given the federal government's position, and the U.S. Supreme Court 2005 ruling in Gonzalez v. Raich, that Congress can criminalize homegrown cannabis production and use even where states approve it for medical purposes, this is a battle that will play out over decades.
What will it take for our nation's leaders to even start discussing solutions to a problem that will only keep growing?
Click On Magazine below to View Issue 14
In This Issue:
Strains: StarDog & Lambs Bread
Articles: Secret Life of Water, Little Black Book of Marijuana, CHAMPS preview Special, Releaf report, CannaBuzz, CannaChef Interviews: "Joey's Mom" Mieko Perez
HomeGrown Gadget: Compact Ebb & Grow System
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