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Immigrants Can Be Denied Citizenship for Working in Legal Marijuana Industry

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  ROBYN BECK/Getty Images

The California Compassionate Care Network (CCCN) marijuana dispensary’s grow operation is one of the stops on the cannabis tour organized by L.A.-based Green Tours, January 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

ROBYN BECK/Getty Images


 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance a day before the unofficial marijuana holiday that makes clear working in the marijuana industry, or even just possessing cannabis could be grounds to reject a citizenship application—regardless of whether it is done in a state where it is legal.

Violations of federal marijuana laws “are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law,” according to the guidance issued Friday. Merely being “involved in certain marijuana-related activities” could be sign that an applicant for citizenship “may lack good moral character” regardless of whether “such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” according to the USCIS statement.

Immigration lawyers who work in states where marijuana is legal say they have been dealing with this issue for a while now, leading Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock to send a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking for clarification about policies that have been affecting immigrants. This isn’t just a theoretical issue either. CNN reports that two immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than two decades were told they were not eligible for naturalization due to their work in the marijuana industry. “I work hard in an industry that offers opportunity and that’s unquestionably legal within the state. For the government to deny my citizenship application because I’m a bad person is devastating,” one affected immigrant tells CNN.

Advocates for legalization say the guidance is more a reflection of the government’s anti-immigrant attitude than about drugs. “I don’t think this is about marijuana at all,” said Michael Collins, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think this is about them using the war on drugs to go after migrant community and that’s what they’ve been doing since Day 1.” A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana while 10 states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.


Oklahoma Begins Medical Marijuana Approval Process, Issuing First Patient Licenses

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Cannabis has been a pressing issue in Oklahoma lately. Earlier this summer, voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana. Since then, the state has been moving fast to implement the new program. As Oklahoma begins the medical marijuana approval process, issuing its first patient licenses, the state has taken a big step toward making medical marijuana a reality.

Oklahoma and Medical Marijuana

Last weekend was a potential landmark for medical marijuana in Oklahoma. On Saturday, the state’s medical marijuana application system went online. It was instantly flooded with applications from patients, businesses, and caregivers.

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According to the Associated Press, it was a big first day. In particular, the state received 1,054 applications from patients, 634 applications from business hopefuls, and three more applications from potential caregivers.

By the end of the day, the state had received around $1.5 million in application fees.

 

On the same day, the state also started issuing its first round of licenses. Over the weekend, authorities gave licenses to 23 patients.

This first small round of licenses was reportedly completed mostly as a way of testing the state’s system for receiving and reviewing applications, and for issuing licenses. If authorities are satisfied with the online system’s weekend performance, they plan to resume issuing licenses this week.

So far, the state’s online application portal seems to be working well. By the end of the weekend, state officials reported only a couple of minor errors. The main issue was that people with Yahoo and iCloud email accounts didn’t receive automated confirmation emails. The glitch was apparently fixed quickly.

 

The weekend’s licensing activity was the latest chapter in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana drama. Earlier this summer, voters approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

Despite winning the majority vote, the bill still faced significant opposition that carried over, even after the vote.

In particular, there was a lot of back and forth as advocacy groups and lawmakers attempted to make various amendments and revisions to the medical marijuana program. One of the biggest debates centered on whether or not the state would allow smokable marijuana.

 

Shortly after voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana, there was a surge of voices calling for the ban of smokable cannabis. The Oklahoma State Board of Health actually issued a ban on smokable medical marijuana.

The Board said that actual bud or other plant matter should not be allowed in dispensaries. It said it would still allow patients to grow their own smokable cannabis at home.

However, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin struck down that ban earlier this month when she signed a number of revised regulations.

The revised set of rules signed by Gov. Fallin did not include a ban on smokable marijuana. Similarly, the new rules also got rid of an attempt to require every dispensary to have a pharmacist on site.

For proponents of medical marijuana, Gov. Fallin’s revisions were important steps to ensure that medical marijuana is accessible to a broad range of patients.

Now that the state’s application system is up and running, the state can start officially issuing licenses. Advocates of medical marijuana hope to see marijuana sales begin sometime in the near future.

Report Shows Teen Marijuana Use in California Has Declined

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A statewide study in California has found that cannabis use by teens in the state has declined. Results of the California Healthy Kids Survey were released by the California Department of Education on Monday. The study is funded by the state’s health and education departments and is conducted every two years.

According to the research, 4.2 percent of 7th graders reported that they had used cannabis at any time between 2015 and 2017. That figure represents a 47 percent drop from the last survey when 7.9 percent of 7th graders reported using marijuana from 2013 to 2015.

Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported that they had used cannabis at some time during 2015 to 2017. That is a 25 percent decline from the 23.1 percent who reported using marijuana in the previous study.

Eleventh graders also showed a reduction in marijuana use. In the last survey, 37.9 percent of high school juniors said they had used cannabis between 2013 and 2015 while this year’s result for 2015 to 2017 recorded a 16 percent decline with 31.9 percent claiming cannabis use.

 

The percentage of teens who had used cannabis in the 30 days prior to the survey also declined. For 7th graders, the figure dropped from 5.0 percent in the last survey to 2.3 percent for the latest one. For 9th graders, the drop was from 13.4 percent to 9.5 percent, and for 11th graders, the number declined from 20.1 percent to 16.7 percent.

Will Legalization Affect Future Results?

The study’s authors noted that the survey was conducted prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, which began in California at the beginning of 2018.

“How the recent legalization of marijuana use for adults in California [affects] the declining trend among youth warrants attention,” they wrote.

 

“The next biennial survey will be of particular interest to shed light on whether the change in state marijuana laws [affects] these findings,” researchers added.

Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a press release that educators have a role in making sure that cannabis legalization does not lead to increased use by young people.

“We must continue to be diligent in our efforts to prevent, or at least limit, marijuana use in light of the potential effect of the legalization for adults as a result of the passage of Proposition 64 two years ago,” Torlakson said.

 

Cannabis Activist Responds

Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, said in a blog post from the advocacy group that the legalization of recreational cannabis is actually a factor in the decline of use by teens.

“These initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis doesn’t increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect,” said Komp. “The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”

Komp also said that sound cannabis policy reforms are the best way to keep California residents and their communities safe.

“It’s time to stop trying to ‘send a message’ to young people about drugs and instead implement sound, science-based policies that best protect our children and public safety, along with our privacy and human rights,” Komp said.

California Lawmakers Pass Bill to Overturn Pre-Legalization Marijuana Convictions

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California lawmakers have passed a bill directing prosecutors throughout the state to overturn convictions for acts that are no longer illegal under the state’s Prop 64 cannabis legalization initiative. The bill would also reduce many felony convictions for marijuana-related crimes to misdemeanors.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1793, was passed by the California Senate Wednesday with a bipartisan vote of 22-8 after being approved by the California State Assembly on May 31 by a vote of 43-28.

If the bill is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, it will direct the state Department of Justice to identify cases from between 1975 and 2016 that are eligible to be overturned or reduced by July 31, 2019, and notify the appropriate district attorney for action. Prosecutors will then have until July 1, 2020 to decide if they want to challenge the reduction or elimination of any of those convictions.

Prop 64, passed by voters in 2016, legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis and eliminated many marijuana-related crimes. That decriminalization also applied retroactively, making many eligible for a reduction or elimination of past cannabis convictions. Those with convictions for non-violent felonies including possession or distribution of less than one ounce of cannabis are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors. Prosecutors have the right to challenge relief based on the criminal history of affected individuals.

 

Thousands of Cases Eligible For Relief

The justice department estimates that 220,000 convictions qualify to be reduced or eliminated.  Prosecutors in San Diego and San Francisco have begun to proactively reduce or eliminate convictions, but many other district attorneys in the state have said that they do not have the resources to follow suit. That puts the burden of relief on those with the convictions, many of whom may not be aware that they are eligible. Some with convictions that qualify for a reduction or elimination have taken it upon themselves to petition the court for relief, but only a small minority of those who are eligible have done so.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who voted for the measure, said it “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page,” according to an Associated Press report.

State Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego County, said that reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors will allow people to regain lost civil rights, including gun ownership.

 

“This bill will take those people off the prohibited list, save us time and money,” Anderson said.

AB 1793 was introduced by Democratic Assembly Rob Bonta of Oakland. He said that “the role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law — not create unneeded obstacles, barriers, and delay.”

Although AB 1793 received broad bipartisan support, not all lawmakers agreed with the elimination of past convictions. Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber argued against passage of the measure by his colleagues in the Senate.

 

“This directs us to forget any prior behavior that was illegal,” Nielsen said. “They should not be given a pass.”

With the approval of AB 1793 by both houses of the California legislature, the bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Votes to Legalize Marijuana

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5,871 miles of open Pacific Ocean waters separate the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the coast of California. But the 15-island chain that makes up the United States’ westernmost territory is poised to do something no U.S. state has ever done.

On Wednesday, 18 of CNMI’s 20 legislators voted to approve a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. The bill would also legalize medical cannabis and industrial hemp. And if CNMI Governor Ralph Torres enacts the bill, the territory will make legalization history—twice.

CNMI Would Be First U.S. Jurisdiction to Go From Total Prohibition to Full Legalization

This isn’t the first time CNMI lawmakers attempted to legalize cannabis. As recently as May, the CNMI Senate approved a piece of legislation nearly identical to the House-approved bill. Procedural issues, however, stymied the bill’s progress.

After another false start in the Senate, the House opted to file its own bill. It took less than a week for the full chamber to vote to approve the proposal.

 

That act alone makes CNMI unique among the 9 U.S. states that have legalized adult-use marijuana. Vermont comes closest, having legalized marijuana through a legislative process rather than a ballot initiative. But unlike CNMI’s proposed legislation, Vermont’s law doesn’t establish a retail market. The Mariana Islands’ legislation would.

There’s a second way CNMI would make legalization history if the bill becomes law. Every U.S. state that has legalized adult-use marijuana did so only after establishing a medical cannabis program. But in CNMI, there is no medical marijuana. The territory would be the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from total prohibition to full legalization.

What’s Next for Legal Cannabis in U.S. Territories?

Despite the tremendous distance between the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the continental United States, the territory has been closely watching legal cannabis unfold there. Indeed, the overwhelming support for the proposal in the House is due to lawmakers’ recognizing the significant benefits of legal weed.

 

The full text of the legislation, SB 20-62, cites how states with regulated markets for marijuana “have observed real and significant benefits to public health, safety and quality of life for all residents,” and goes on to list medical benefits like treatments for pain, epilepsy and PTSD, social benefits like a reduction in overdose deaths and lowered crime and economic benefits like tax revenue and job growth.

But the bill still has a couple more hurdles to clear before it becomes law. The CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 is currently on its way back to the Senate for approval. After that, it will head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Torres, a Republican who has expressed concerns about legalization.

In response to House passage of the bill, Torres stressed the importance of taking “a look at both sides of the coin.” Torres wondered about the crime statistics in states with legal weed and other public safety issues.

 

Whether those reservations would ultimately lead Gov. Torres to veto the legislative effort and oppose the will of CNMI residents, however, remains to be seen. Public hearings about the act had higher attendance than any hearings senators could remember. Initially, legislators had designed the bill as a voter referendum before adopting it in the Senate.

Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

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Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

July 5, 2018 

Marijuana festival organizers were banking on this to be their biggest year yet, now that recreational cannabis is legal in California and the state is legitimizing such events by licensing them for the first time.

Promoters say they planned to stop operating under the loose protections of the state’s medical marijuana laws, where they’d force attendees to get doctor’s recommendations for cannabis before entering the gates. Instead, they hoped to have licenses that would allow anyone 21 and older to buy and smoke cannabis, just like they can buy and drink beer at other festivals.

But with local authorities now able to block such festivals even from the limited venues where they’re permitted by new state rules, there weren’t any state-sanctioned events in Southern California during the first half of the year. And none are on the horizon for the rest of 2018.

The picture is a bit brighter in Northern California. The state licensed marijuana festivals this spring in Sacramento and in Santa Rosa, where the massive Emerald Cup is also expected to go off in December without a hitch.

Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana

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Marijuana is now legal in Oklahoma for medical purposes.

Voters approved State Question 788 in Tuesday’s primary, which makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law provides no outlines on qualifying conditions, giving physicians broad latitude to determine why they recommend medical marijuana to patients. Under the law, adults with a medical marijuana license would be authorized to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six flowering plants and various weight of edibles and marijuana concentrates derived from the plant.

“The passage of State Question 788 highlights the strength and diversity of public support for laws allowing the medical use of marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a drug policy reform group. “Most Oklahomans agree that patients should be able to access medical marijuana safely and legally if their doctors recommend it. It is noteworthy that this measure passed in such a red state during a primary election, when voter turnout tends to be older and more conservative than during a general election.”

Oklahoma becomes the 30th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Legal recreational marijuana has been approved in nine states and Washington, D.C., which continues to ban sales, unlike the state programs. Despite the states’ efforts to scale back on criminalizing the plant over the past few years, marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  

Former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed states to forge their own way on marijuana policy with guidanceurging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. But in January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance, a move that has possibly paved the way for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. But states that have legalized medical marijuana retain some protections from federal interference under a budget rider known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which must be renewed every time Congress passes a government-funding bill.

In order to more fully protect marijuana states from the policies of federal prohibition, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow businesses and individuals working in the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in states around the nation to operate without fear of Department of Justice prosecution. The bill would also protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. President Donald Trump has said he will “probably” support the bill.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and the trend of states bucking prohibition in favor of legal regulation of the plant reflects a broad cultural shift toward greater acceptance of marijuana. National support for the legalization of the drug has risen dramatically in recent years, reaching historic highsin multiple polls. And states like Colorado, the first to establish a regulated adult-use marijuana marketplace, have seen successes that have debunked some lawmakers’ and law enforcers’ predictions that such policies would reap disaster.

Marijuana News: FDA Approves First-Ever Cannabis-Based Drug

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The good marijuana news for GWPH is that the organization is giving its approval to Epidiolex. This is a type of oral solution for the treatment of seizures. This includes seizures from two types of rare epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

This bit of marijuana news marks the first time in the history of the U.S. that the FDA has given its approval to a purified drug derived from marijuana. However, customers with concerns about psychoactive effects from the drug need not worry.

Epidiolex won’t be causing psychoactive effects comparable to marijuana. That’s because it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes the “high” that users experience. Instead, patients are taking cannabidiol (CBD), which is another component of the drug.

The FDA notes that the current Controlled Substances Act requires Epidiolex be listed as a Schedule I substance due to its connection to marijuana. However, it has looked over the abuse potential of the drug and is advising the Drug Enforcement Administration on how to handle the situation.

The effects of Epidiolex could very well be a boon to patients with the two forms of epilepsy mentioned above. The drug went through three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to determine its effectiveness in treating the two diseases. It was shown to be more effective at reducing seizures, when taken with other drugs, than a placebo during these studies.

Despite all this good marijuana news, there are still some negative side effects to Epidiolex. These side effects are “sleepiness, sedation and lethargy; elevated liver enzymes; decreased appetite; diarrhea; rash; fatigue, malaise and weakness; insomnia, sleep disorder and poor quality sleep; and infections.”

Texas Republicans Come Out in Support of Marijuana Decriminalization

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Texas Republicans have come out in support of marijuana decriminalization in their official party platform. State GOP delegates also approved an expansion of medical marijuana access and support for industrial hemp at their convention.

Nearly 10,000 delegates attended the state Republican Party convention last week. Before Saturday’s vote on the platform, delegates had the opportunity to learn about cannabis policy and regulation. In a first for the convention, three pro-pot groups and one anti-pot group had booths in the exposition area.

The platform approved by delegates contained more than 330 planks covering policy issues ranging from gay rights to immigration. Of those, four are related to the regulation of cannabis.

One plank calls for a change in state law to remove criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Instead, civil penalties would apply to adults caught with an ounce or less.

 

“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” .

Currently, adults possessing up to two ounces of pot can receive a six-month jail term and a fine of $2,000.

Another platform item seeks a federal rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. “Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and move to Schedule 2,” according to the document.

 

Republicans also support an expansion of the state medical marijuana program with a call for “the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”

Additionally, GOP delegates voted to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity.” They also urged “the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”

Cannabis Activists React to GOP Platform

Cannabis activists applauded the party’s stance on cannabis issues. Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy told Forbes that the proposals would be positive changes for the state.

 

“Texas Republicans, like the majority of Americans, are ready to see more sensible marijuana policies enacted,” said Fazio. “Our state wastes valuable criminal justice resources arresting between 60,000-70,000 Texans annually. Delegates took a stand this week for a better approach. While it would be preferable for cannabis to be de-scheduled entirely, this call by the Texas GOP signifies a very positive shift in opinion. Outright prohibition is not working and Texas Republicans want to see Congress take action to make cannabis more accessible.”

Fazio also said that more Texans would be able to access medicinal cannabis if the GOP proposals become law.

“Under the current [medical cannabis] program, most patients are being left behind,” she said. “Texas conservatives are seeing the value of medical cannabis and want to see more inclusive access. Now we will take this to the Legislature for action during the 2019 legislative session.”

Under current law, only patients with intractable epilepsy may use low-THC cannabis oil after receiving approval from two doctors. The new platform calls for doctors, not lawmakers, to decide which patients might benefit from medical marijuana.

 

 

 

30 Arrested at Washington DC Marijuana Pop-Up Event

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Marijuana pop-up events have been growing in popularity in Washington DC over the past month. That momentum has come to a grinding halt as DC cops crack down on the events. Over the weekend, 30 people were arrested at a marijuana pop-up.

Weekend Arrests

Over the weekend, police officers broke up what was described as a “marijuana pop-up event.” According to local news source WTOP, cops arrived to carry out a search warrant. It’s unclear what, exactly, the warrant was for.

Police quickly moved to break up the event. They seized multiple pounds of weed and other cannabis products containing THC. Additionally, they took around $10,000 in cash. Police also reportedly found three firearms.

Police arrested 30 people in connection with the pop-up. Reports said there were around 28 vendors at the event. It’s still unclear how many people were participating as sellers, vendors, or attendees.

 

DC’s Thriving Pop-Up Scene

Marijuana pop-ups have become pretty popular in the nation’s capital. The pop-ups have typically functioned without being harassed by law enforcement, thanks to a legal loophole.

In the fall of 2014, DC residents voted to legalize cannabis. The new law went into effect in February 2015. Under the new law, it’s legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Adults can also smoke weed in private, but public consumption is not allowed.

Additionally, it’s legal for people 21 and older to give up to one ounce of weed to another adult. Adult DC residents are also allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

 

Although these laws technically don’t let people sell weed, the marijuana pop-up events function by “gifting” weed rather than selling it.

Vendors will sell non-marijuana products—like stickers, shirts, hats, or juice—and throw in some flower on the side, as a gift.

Since they are technically only selling the non-weed product, and giving the weed away to customers, vendors say they’re not actually violating any laws.

 

The Popularity of Pot Pop-Ups

Marijuana pop-ups have become so popular that DC locals tell High Timesthey’ve become an almost daily event.

Cannabis vendors who “gift” marijuana at pop-ups have established a working network of events and clients. In fact, residents in DC can easily find cannabis pop-ups being advertised on social media, especially Instagram.

Beyond the pop-ups, people have tried other methods for taking advantage of DC’s ambiguous weed laws. For example, some vendors offer home delivery. Of course, the product they’re actually selling is something like artwork, juice, or clothing. And after making a purchase, customers receive a little green on the side as a thank-you gift.