Tag: adult-use

GOP Senator Offers Bill to Legalize Cannabis in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill to legalize marijuana in Kentucky was introduced Wednesday by a Republican lawmaker who touted the value of cannabis as a revenue source for a cash-strapped state government.

Sen. Dan Seum, a member of the Senate’s GOP leadership team, said his bill would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 or older. He said it’s time for Kentucky to join the marijuana legalization trend taking root elsewhere.

“It’s already out there, it’s always very available to anybody who wants it,” the majority caucus chair said in an interview. “So you legalize it, you tax it and the state gets the new revenue.”

“It gives people the right to conduct their lives as they so choose, to partake in a product they’re already partaking in, and we tax it and we generate revenue.”

Sen. Dan Seum

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Taxing the production, processing and use of marijuana could generate between $100 million and $200 million yearly — revenue that Kentucky badly needs, Seum said.

Seum’s bill was introduced a day after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin proposed spending cuts of more than 6 percent across most of state government. Lawmakers also are looking at shoring up the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems.


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But other prominent senators quickly dashed the prospects that Kentucky could soon embrace legal toking.

“Dan and I have known each other for 20-plus years, but this is one area that I just don’t agree with him on,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters.

Stivers said he thinks the bill lacks support to pass the GOP-led Senate.

“I don’t believe that marijuana is a substance that we should be legalizing,” he said.


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Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also said he opposes the bill. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, raised concerns about the threat of impaired driving by marijuana users.

Seum said such drivers would face punishment just like other impaired drivers.

He said that decriminalizing marijuana would benefit police. “It frees a tremendous amount of money up in law enforcement to go after the violent people,” he said.


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Seum said legalizing marijuana would create jobs in production, processing and retail. And he gave a libertarian-leaning justification, too.

“It gives people the right to conduct their lives as they so choose, to partake in a product they’re already partaking in, and we tax it and we generate revenue,” Seum said.

Seum’s son, Dan Seum Jr., joined in a lawsuit last year that challenged Kentucky’s criminal ban against medical marijuana. The ban survived an initial court test when a circuit judge ruled that the state has a good reason to “curtail citizens’ possession of a narcotic, hallucinogenic drug.”

New Jersey Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Legalize Cannabis

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey governor-elect Phil Murphy doesn’t succeed Chris Christie until next week, but already his fellow Democrats have introduced legislation to achieve one of his campaign promises, legalizing marijuana.

Democratic state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced the measure allowing the recreational use of marijuana by those 21 and older on Tuesday, the same day the new session of the Democrat-led Legislature convened.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for the federal government, especially without local law enforcement, to close it down.”

Sen. Nicholas Scutari

The Justice Department last week overturned Obama administration guidelines that federal prosecutors shouldn’t interfere with states allowing people to legally use cannabis, but doesn’t change anything for New Jersey, Scutari said.

“We’re still going to move forward,” he said. “I think it’s going to be difficult for the federal government, especially without local law enforcement, to close it down.”


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Murphy campaigned and won in November on a promise to legalize recreational marijuana. He has said legalization could bring in roughly $300 million in new revenue. New Jersey already has a medical cannabis program.

Christie, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of legalization, referring to the prospect of tax revenue from marijuana as “blood money.”

The legislation is identical to a measure introduced in the previous session that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for those at least 21. It permits possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused products in solids, 72 ounces in liquid form, 7 grams of concentrate and up to six immature plants.


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The legislation would establish a Division of Marijuana Enforcement, charged with regulating the industry. The legislation also would establish a sales tax on marijuana that would rise incrementally from 7 percent to 25 percent over five years to encourage early participation, Scutari said.

The public seems to be behind the effort. A September 2017 Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of residents approved of marijuana legalization. The poll surveyed 1,121 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.

Eights states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. Vermont’s Legislature this week gave final approval to a measure legalizing marijuana, and the governor has indicated he would sign it.

5 Mandatory Montreal Experiences for High Folks

For at least two decades, cannabis-scented air has been a common part of Montreal’s olfactory character. At any time of day or night, you can walk down “The Main” (Saint-Laurent Boulevard) or Sainte-Catherine Street and smell someone enjoying a pinner on break from work, or out walking their dog, or concluding a business meeting. Yes, cannabis is still illegal here—at least until this summer’s deadline for national legalization—but the overall culture of our city is enormously cannabis-positive. If you’re coming to Montreal, here are five fantastic places to visit while high.

1. The Tam-Tams


Every Sunday during the summer, hundreds of people gather around the statue of George-Étienne Cartier in Jeanne-Mance Park to join in a massive drum-circle and attempt to hotbox the great outdoors. This has been going on at least since the early 1990s. Police are present but don’t bat an eye at people sparking a joint (they’d have to arrest all 400 people), so a massive cloud of skunk smoke hovers over the crowd from lunchtime till dusk. This makes it easy to find: If you’re in Montreal’s Plateau area, just follow the sound of the drums until you smell weed, and let your nose guide you home.

The Tam-Tams appeal to a particular type of cannabis consumers, those who identify with “cannabis culture.” This can be a turnoff—not everybody loves Bob Marley, hacky sacks, and white college students wearing Baja Hoodies in Jamaican colours. But if you like to get high with a crowd of other cannabis enthusiasts and explore the rhythmic textures of a hundred drums, you couldn’t ask for a better place to spend a Sunday.


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2. Kondiaronk Belvedere, Mount-Royal

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Montreal is named for the large hump in its centre, Mount-Royal. This isn’t a mountain, exactly, but it’s enough. If the Tam-Tams scene is too busy for you, follow the Chemin Olmstead trail through the Frederick Olmstead–designed Mount Royal Park until you get to the gigantic staircase. This will require you to climb a couple of hundred stairs more or less straight up, but the reward for your effort is a fantastic view. The biggest and most famous lookout at the top of the mountain is the huge and stately marble Kondiaronk Belvedere, which is lighted at night. The view of the city from here is breathtaking, and if you want to play some music, hoof a hacky-sack around, or throw a frisbee, this is the ideal place to do it. It can be crowded in daytime, but thins out after dark.

Also: At the top of the stairs, there is a smaller path that veers off to the right—this leads around the crest of the hill to a series of tiny, secluded lookouts in the woods that offer even more stunning views. Don’t like crowds? Prefer the feeling of getting high in deep nature while looking out over a teeming city? This is your spot.


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3. Poutine Heaven


If you’re not from Montreal, you probably haven’t had poutine. Sure, maybe you’ve had something called poutine, and that’s great. But the precise combination of fries, local cheese curds, and sauce brune is something that other cities never quite get right. Once the munchies set in and your tastebuds are dialed to delicious, Montreal offers you an imposing selection of poutine-speciality restaurants. I will offer here only four:

  • La Banquise: This legendary all-night poutinérie is so thick with grease that its floors are literally slippery. With a selection of 27 poutines, it frequently gets listed as the best poutine spot in Montreal by locals and visitors
  • Chez Claudette: A perennial also-ran, this casse-croute (snack bar) with more than 35 poutines was selected by the New Yorker’s Calvin Trillin as his favourite poutine in Montreal. Its fries are a little crispier than La Banquise’s.
  • Lafleur: This local chain of fast-food joints has McDonald’s-style benches and fluorescent lighting, making it a shade less welcoming than either of the above. However, they balance that out by cutting fresh fries around the clock from a bucket of potatoes and don’t change their oil very often. The fries are dense and heavy with a crisp outer edge. Importantly, Lafleur’s poutine only comes in one flavour: poutine.
  • Poutineville: Standard bearer of “the New Wave of Poutine,” this relative upstart offers a pub-like ambiance and build-your-own poutine menu, which is especially useful if your stoned-tooth has a craving for something wild (say, marinated eggplant and filet-mignon with brie and red-wine gravy, over house-special crushed potatoes). If the traditionalist snack-bar/fast-food quality of the classic joints doesn’t excite you, you can get inventive here.


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4. Saint Joseph’s Oratory

(Olivier Bruchez/Flickr Creative Commons)

When Saint-Joseph’s Oratory was completed in 1967, it was (and remains) Canada’s largest church. In a city where exquisite church architecture adorns nearly every corner, the Oratory stands out as a singularly magnificent building, visible from much of the city. It’s stunning enough you don’t even need to go inside (and if you’re reeking of skunk, you may not want to). At all hours of night and day, you can walk around the grounds and gardens and the Stations of the Cross soaking in the immensity of Brother André’s faith. But venture inside is worth it: the gigantic building’s mid-century vintage means it’s designed like a Sistine Chapel imagined by Gene Roddenberry. Whether or not you’re religious, a visit to the Oratory is a far-out experience.


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5. Dollar Cinéma

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Are you the type of person who likes to get high and experience something bewildering? Take the metro out to the inner edge of suburbia, where you’ll find the post-apocalyptic Décarie Square Mall, legendary even in the 1980s for its high vacancy rate. Wander its surreal halls, past the Dollarama and the empty stores, and enter one man’s cinematic vision: Dollar Cinéma. Legendarily odd hair-loss miracle-cure promoter/cinema owner Bernie Gurberg took over Décarie Square’s two-screen movie house (abandoned in 1997) in 2004, and by most accounts he is the only person who works there. Dollar Cinéma’s lobby feels like his garage, kind of dingy and filled with thrift-store furniture but decorated with genuine enthusiasm. Admission at the Dollar Cinéma is now $2.50, but snacks remain a very enticing $1 each. Bernie takes the tickets, sells the candy, and apparently starts the projectors on the second-run movies he programs. In 2009, the Dollar Cinéma debuted the spectacularly strange VIP Room, a large storage closet filled with patio furniture and a large-screen TV on which Bernie plays DVDs of movies. There is no better theatre in the world in which to see The Room. This is disorienting enough sober, so be prepared.

Here’s Where US Attorneys Stand on Cannabis Enforcement

Don’t expect Jeff Sessions’ undoing of the Cole memo to unleash a nationwide crackdown. By rescinding Justice Department guidelines that encouraged federal prosecutors to take a hands-off approach in legal states, the attorney general isn’t so much dropping bombs as he is encouraging his lieutenants to fire at will. It will be up to individual US attorneys to pull the trigger.


FAQ: What We Know About Jeff Sessions’ DOJ Action Against Legal Cannabis

In other words, a crackdown on state-legal cannabis, if it comes, will likely happen unevenly. District by district, US attorneys will decide for themselves how to enforce federal cannabis law—or whether to enforce it at all. This is exactly what we saw in California during the last major federal crackdown, in 2011 and 2012. US attorneys in some parts of the state tried to close every dispensary in their districts, while others allowed shops to operate unimpeded.

US attorneys are playing their cards very close to their chests.

In this new normal, it’s crucial to understand not just Sessions’ views, but also where each US attorney stands on cannabis. To that end, we’re tracking how US attorneys in legal states have responded to the removal of the Cole memo—and how likely they are to take action.

You’ll notice a common theme as you read through this piece: US attorneys are playing their cards very close to their chests. Most have issued murky statements that can be interpreted in a number of ways. We’ve done our best to parse the available information and add to those statements to get a better sense of the risk of prosecution in that district.


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Initially we’ll be looking at states that have legalized adult-use cannabis. This page will be updated to include more information about US attorneys in medical-only states.

Each state has at least one federal district. A US attorney acts as the chief federal prosecutor for his or her district. (Courtesy of the US Department of Justice)


US Attorney Brian D. Schroder, a Trump appointee whom the Senate confirmed in November, isn’t giving us much to go on. He said in a statement shortly after Sessions’ announcement that his office would continue using “long-established principles” in deciding which cases to charge. He added that violent crime, including that which stems from drug crimes, has been a top priority. His office has declined to comment further.

Schroder’s statement—like his record on cannabis—is awfully thin. Aside from any violent incidents in the state system, which would almost certainly draw his attention, it’s not yet clear what action, if any, his office might take.

Prosecution Risk: UNKNOWN


Alaska Authorities Vow to Fight Feds on Legal Cannabis


Central District (Los Angeles)

Interim US Attorney Nicola T. Hanna took his post last week, when Sessions appointed him and 16 others as interim US attorneys. So far both Hanna and his predecessor, Sandra Brown, have been mum on enforcement, which could be an ominous sign if the office weren’t in the midst of a transition. As it is, it doesn’t tell us much.

It’s worth noting that Hanna was a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and San Diego during the 1990s, when the war on drugs was in full swing. He then left the office for private practice, taking a position at the international firm Gibson Dunn. He hasn’t said much on cannabis, but in the 2016 presidential election, records show he gave $2,700 to the campaign of Chris Christie—a notorious anti-cannabis crusader.

Complicating it all, Hanna’s gig is only temporary. As an interim US attorney, he can serve for 120 days until President Trump must appoint someone and seek Senate confirmation.

Prosecution Risk: LOW/MEDIUM


LA Cannabis Industry: Jeff Sessions ‘More Bark Than Bite’

Eastern District (Sacramento)

US Attorney Scott W. McGregor, a Trump appointee currently awaiting Senate confirmation, already held the position under President George W. Bush. While in office, he targeted large-scale cannabis operations and developed a reputation for seeking harsh sentences. As the Sacramento Bee reports, at the time he asked local authorities to refer cannabis cases to federal prosecutors. He also went after a pair of dispensary operators who were convicted in 2008 and each sentenced to 20 or more years in prison. (President Barack Obama granted one of the two men clemency in 2017. The other is still behind bars.)

Following Sessions’ memo, McGregor spokesperson Lauren Horwood said the office would evaluate possible enforcement actions “in accordance with our district’s federal law enforcement priorities and resources.” That’s pretty standard boilerplate and doesn’t tell us much, but McGregor’s enforcement history suggests he wouldn’t be shy about going after cannabis businesses if he feels they’re too far out of line.

“He used to be a hardcore, anti-cannabis drug warrior,” Sebastopol lawyer Omar Figueroa told the Sacramento Bee. “I hope he has evolved.”

Prosecution Risk: MEDIUM


California Authorities Seize 27,000 Cannabis Plants in 4-Day Calaveras Raid

Northern District (San Francisco)

Acting US Attorney Alex G. Tse took over for former US Attorney Brian Stretch, who announced through a spokesperson on Jan. 4 that he would be leaving the post. It was the same day Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, though Stretch said the announcement was not the reason for his departure.

Despite their San Francisco office location, Northern District prosecutors have a reputation for interfering with California’s legal-cannabis system even when local officials push back. The office famously undertook—and famously lost—a multiyear case against Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, perhaps the state’s best-known dispensary.

Tse, for his part, spent most of the 2011-12 federal crackdown in California working in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. The experience likely gave him an understanding of the close working relationship between federal and local authorities—something that might give him pause before bringing cases against locally approved, state-licensed businesses.

Prosecution Risk: LOW


Federal Court Bars Justice Department From Prosecuting Medical Cannabis

Southern District (San Diego)

Interim US Attorney Adam L. Braverman was appointed by Jeff Sessions in November, though he’s been a federal prosecutor in the Southern District since 2008. His focus was large, international drug-trafficking cartels, and after being sworn in as US attorney last year, he said he wanted to prioritize “those crimes committed by transnational criminal organizations.”

On its face, that seems just fine. State-legal cannabis has shrunk the illegal market in the United States, and Braverman may rightly see prosecuting licensed businesses as a surefire way to reinvigorate cartels. But sometimes when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

More worrisome is Braverman’s statement following the Sessions memo: “The Department of Justice is committed to reducing violent crime and enforcing the laws as enacted by Congress. The cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana has long been and remains a violation of federal law,” he said. “We will continue to utilize long-established prosecutorial priorities to carry out our mission to combat violent crime, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, and stem the rising tide of the drug crisis.”

If Braverman does his homework, he’ll see that legalization tends to accomplish those priorities. But if he views legal cannabis as part of the problem, watch out.

Prosecution Risk: MEDIUM


Colorado Delegation Moves Quickly to Stop Sessions’ War on Cannabis


(Courtesy of DOJ)

US Attorney Robert C. Troyer became an acting US attorney in 2016 and was appointed interim US attorney by Jeff Sessions in November. Asked by the Denver Post about the Sessions memo, Troyer’s office provided this response:

Here is the question we ask every time we consider allocating our finite resources to prosecute any of the vast number of federal crimes we can prosecute, from violent crime to immigration crime to opioid crime: Will this prosecution make Colorado safer? … Under the attorney general’s new memo, we have more freedom and flexibility to make decisions that make Colorado safer by prosecuting individuals and organizations for marijuana crimes that significantly threaten our community safety.

US attorneys often point to their own district’s unique needs when explaining their enforcement priorities, so this doesn’t tell us much—although it does suggest Troyer could take action in response to local officials who believe legal cannabis is a threat to public safety, as has happened in past crackdowns.

For now, Troyer said he would “continue to take” the approach his office has been using—suggesting not much will change in the short term. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the Post that she had asked Troyer to “please notify me … if there is going to be any change in those priorities or in those actions so that we have a heads-up. And I have his agreement that he will do that.”​ In the meantime, she said, “I would encourage people not to freak out.”

Prosecution Risk: LOW/MEDIUM


Colorado Officials Say: Stop Freaking, We Ain’t Retreating


(Courtesy of DOJ)

US Attorney Halsey B. Frank, a Trump nominee, was confirmed by the Senate in October. To his credit, he’s issued a lengthy statement on the Sessions move. Unfortunately, like most other US attorney statements so far, it doesn’t offer much in the way of clarity. “My job is to enforce federal law, not countermand it,” Frank said. “I do not have the authority to categorically declare that my office will not prosecute a class of crime or persons.”

Unlike some other US attorneys, Frank has spoken out publicly against legalized cannabis in the past. In a 2013 column in The Forecaster newspaper (published after the Cole memo), he wrote that when “there is a conflict between state and federal law, federal law prevails.” Maine’s state law, which at the time allowed medical use of cannabis, “is not a defense to federal prosecution for manufacturing or distributing marijuana,” he wrote.

Lest you think he was just opining on legal procedure, he also included this veiled jab at legalization: “Society can only tolerate a certain number of intoxicated people on its streets and highways, at school, at work and at play.” (You can read his full column here.)

One bright spot, especially for individuals: Frank’s recent statement notes that his office “has prioritized the prosecution of cases involving the trafficking of opiates, cocaine, crack and similar hard drugs.” Prosecuting individuals for possession, he said, “has not been a priority.”

Prosecution Risk: MEDIUM


Maine Lawmakers Face Big Cannabis Decisions


US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling, a Trump nominee, was confirmed by the Senate in December. In response to the Sessions memo, he issued a statement saying he could not “provide assurances that certain categories of participants in the state-level marijuana trade will be immune from federal prosecution.”

This is a straightforward rule of law issue.  Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute and/or possess marijuana.  As a law enforcement officer in the Executive Branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law, guided by the Principles of Federal Prosecution.  To do that, however, I must proceed on a case-by-case basis, assessing each matter according to those principles and deciding whether to use limited federal resources to pursue it.

This has the noncommittal air of some other US attorneys’ statements, but the tone is comparatively harsh. While it doesn’t signal a categorical crackdown on cannabis businesses, it certainly suggests the office could bring targeted actions against certain state-legal actors.

More worrisome is the relative lack of local pushback to Sessions rescinding the Cole memo. While officials in many other legal states have decried the move, Massachusetts elected officials, many of whom opposed the 2016 ballot question that legalized cannabis, have been relatively quiet.

Prosecution Risk: MEDIUM/HIGH


Massachusetts Regulators: ‘Nothing Has Changed’ After Shift in Fed Policy


Interim US Attorney Dayle Elieson was one of 17 interim US attorneys appointed by Sessions last week. Before the appointment, she was an assistant US attorney in Texas, where she focused on fraud, money laundering, and terrorism. As a new arrival to Nevada, she’s a relatively unknown quantity, and Nevada officials are eagerly awaiting further guidance from the office.

“I know that the US attorney in Colorado has already said that he is not going to enforce federal laws against the legalized marijuana industry in that state,” Gov. Brian Sandoval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I would like to see something similar here in Nevada, but that’s a discussion that needs to be had.” (It’s worth noting that Sandoval may be overstating assurances by Colorado US Attorney Robert C. Troyer; see the Massachusetts section of this story, above.)

Nevada’s legal cannabis program has strong support from state and local officials, which could help dissuade Elieson from taking a hardline stance legal against legal cannabis while still new to the office. Federal prosecutors tend to work closely with local law enforcement and other partners, and targeting cannabis could risk hurting those relationships.

As an interim US attorney, Elieson’s post is only temporary. She’ll be able to serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate someone for the position and seek Senate confirmation.

Prosecution Risk: UNKNOWN


Talk of Federal Cannabis Crackdown in Nevada Draws Partisan Reactions


(Courtesy of DOJ)

US Attorney Billy J. Williams, who became an acting US attorney in 2015 and was nominated by Trump in November to remain in the post, has already expressed concerns with the state’s cannabis regulatory system. In an interview with the Associated Press last year, he complained about what he said was insufficient enforcement by the state to prevent cannabis from being illegally exported to states where it’s not legal. Stopping diversion to other states was a key piece of the now-rescinded Cole memo.

Following Sessions’ move last week, Williams put out the following statement:

As noted by Attorney General Sessions, today’s memo on marijuana enforcement directs all U.S. Attorneys to use the reasoned exercise of discretion when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana crimes. We will continue working with our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to pursue shared public safety objectives, with an emphasis on stemming the overproduction of marijuana and the diversion of marijuana out of state, dismantling criminal organizations and thwarting violent crime in our communities.

It sounds like Williams might be OK with Oregon’s cannabis program when it works, but failures—including things like diversion, violence, or illegal sales to minors—could prompt him to take action. So he’s presumably not too pleased with reports like one issued this week by Oregon cannabis regulators that found a number of stores around the state that reportedly sold cannabis to minors.

Prosecution Risk: LOW/MEDIUM


Oregon Politicians Push Back Against Sessions Memo

Washington, DC

US Attorney Jessie K. Liu, a Trump nominee whom the Senate confirmed in September, has said through a spokesperson that the office is “committed to reducing violent crime and dismantling criminal gangs and large-scale drug distribution networks that pose a threat to public safety.”

Washington, DC, is unusual in that it allows individuals to grow, possess, consume, and even give away cannabis but, due to pressure from federal lawmakers, forbids purchases or sales. The laws have led to the emergence of a thriving gray market in which consumers make “donations” or purchase other items and are “gifted” cannabis as part of the transaction. Liu may take a closer look at these businesses—they are, after all, operating in Jeff Sessions’ backyard—but it seems unlikely at this point that she’ll bring cases against individuals who follow the law.

Prosecution Risk: LOW/MEDIUM


Jeff Sessions Asks Congress to End Medical Cannabis Protections

Washington State

Eastern District (Spokane)

Interim US Attorney Joseph Harrington was another of the 17 interim US attorneys appointed by Sessions last week. He’s a longtime federal prosecutor, with nearly three decades of experience handling the office’s criminal division, health care cases, and terrorism matters.

Harrington has said hardly anything about how Sessions’ move would affect his office’s cannabis enforcement. Immediately following the undoing of the Cole memo, he directed questions directly to the main Justice Department press office in Washington, DC. The Eastern District, nevertheless, has come to be seen as an aggressive enforcer by many in the state’s legal cannabis industry. The office sought criminal charges, for example, against a family of medical cannabis patients who became known as the Kettle Falls Five.

Harrington filed a motion in October to put that case on pause, noting that a federal spending provision—which had been adopted three years earlier and halted a blockbuster California case in May 2016—prevented the case from going forward. But that provision, the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer amendment, is set to expire later this month, and it only blocks prosecutions against medical operations. Currently nothing stands in the way of Harrington bringing cases against the state’s many adult-use businesses.

Prosecution Risk: MEDIUM


In Surprise Move, Justice Dept. Stands Down on ‘Kettle Falls Five’ Case

Western District (Seattle)

US Attorney Annette L. Hayes, who became acting US attorney in 2014 after her predecessor resigned, remained in the position after President Barack Obama declined to make an appointment. On the day Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, she issued this statement:

Today the Attorney General reiterated his confidence in the basic principles that guide the discretion of all U.S. Attorneys around the country, and directed that those principles shepherd enforcement of federal law regarding marijuana.  He also emphasized his belief that U.S. Attorneys are in the best position to address public safety in their districts, and address the crime control problems that are pressing in their communities.  Those principles have always been at the core of what the United States Attorney’s Office for Western Washington has done – across all threats to public safety, including those relating to marijuana.  As a result, we have investigated and prosecuted over many years cases involving organized crime, violent and gun threats, and financial crimes related to marijuana.  We will continue to do so to ensure – consistent with the most recent guidance from the Department – that our enforcement efforts with our federal, state, local and tribal partners focus on those who pose the greatest safety risk to the people and communities we serve.

This may be the most supportive statement of state-legal cannabis to come out of a US attorney’s office in the wake of Sessions’ announcement. Read between the lines. Hayes’ almost cheeky use of “reiterated” suggests little or nothing has changed in her eyes. Rather than read Sessions’ move as a sign the attorney general wants to see more cannabis cases—which, given Sessions’ views on cannabis, it almost certainly was—Hayes’ comments interpret the memo as an endorsement of local discretion. “Thanks for trusting us to do a good job,” the statement seems to say. It’s likely that wasn’t by accident.

Prosecution Risk: LOW


Washington State Vows to Defend Cannabis From Federal Crackdown

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

California Bill Would Ease Erasure of Cannabis Convictions

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker wants to make it easier for Californians with marijuana convictions to reduce or erase their records as the state moves into the next phase of legalized cannabis.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require county courts to automatically expunge eligible records. It’s one of several efforts to build on the choice California voters’ made to legalize marijuana despite fresh threats from the federal government.

The Drug Policy Alliance estimates more than 100,000 people are eligible to have their records changed.

Voters approved the ability to wipe criminal marijuana conviction records in 2016 as part of Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana and retroactively erased and reduced some cannabis-related criminal penalties from felonies to misdemeanors.

Existing law requires people with convictions to initiate the process themselves. But many people don’t, either because they’re unaware it’s an option or because it can be complicated and costly. As of September 2017, around 5,000 people had applied for a change to their records, according to state data. That’s a fraction of the people that experts estimate are eligible.

The bill would “give folks who deserve it under the law the fresh start they’re entitled to,” Bonta said, adding that cannabis convictions have disproportionality affected young minorities.


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Recreational marijuana became legal in California last year, and on Jan. 1 it became legal for licensed dispensaries to sell it to non-medical patients.

Another proposal that stalled last year would restrict state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal efforts to crack down on anyone growing or selling cannabis legally under state law.

Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles introduced the bill last year amid tough talk about marijuana from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’, but it did not advance as the state Legislature waited to see what the U.S. government would do. He hopes to see it move forward now that Sessions has made more concrete threats.


FAQ: What We Know About Jeff Sessions’ DOJ Action Against Legal Cannabis

The U.S. Justice Department announced last week it’s halting an Obama-era policy to take a hands-off approach toward states that have legalized marijuana, still illegal under federal law. That could lead to increased prosecutions of marijuana sellers and growers, although it’s unclear how aggressive federal attorneys will be. More than half of states have legalized or decriminalized the drug and lawmakers in those states pledged forcefully to defend their policies.

“California overwhelmingly sent a message to the federal government stating that their cannabis-centric ‘war on drugs’ should not be waged here,” Jones-Sawyer said in a statement. “State resources that are paid by tax dollars should not be used to disrupt lawful businesses.

Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said she talks to many people who are unaware they can eliminate their past convictions under the new law. She estimates more than 100,000 people are eligible to have their records changed.

Bonta provided no cost estimate for what his proposal. It would require county courts to identify eligible convictions, change the records and then notify people of the changes.

Saskatchewan to Sell Cannabis Through Private Retailers With ‘Good Character’

Breaking with precedents set by Ontario and Quebec, the Saskatchewan government will not have a monopoly on legalized cannabis, choosing instead to sell the drug through the private sector. The prairie province is the latest region to announce its approach to cannabis distribution, as Canada’s vague summer deadline for legalizations approaches. Here’s what we know about how things will be done in Saskatchewan when it comes to legally selling cannabis.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority will issue up to 60 cannabis retail permits to private retail outlets in as many as 40 municipalities and First Nation communities.

* The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) will issue up to 60 cannabis retail permits to private retail outlets in as many as 40 municipalities and First Nation communities across the province. The permits will be given to communities of at least 2,500 people, with larger districts given additional permits. CBC reports that the province’s largest city, Saskatoon, will be given the option of having seven licences, while Regina will receive six and cities with smaller populations—such as Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, and Lloydminster—will receive two. Eligible First Nations communities and municipalities will be given the chance to opt out from having a cannabis retailer in their community. The number of retail permits will depend on how many community leaders choose to opt out.


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* Retail cannabis stores in the province will follow a similar model as private liquor stores. The private sector will be responsible for wholesaling and retailing cannabis, which will be regulated by the SLGA. Stores selling cannabis must do so from a standalone storefront, with the option of also having an online store. Stores are limited to only selling cannabis and related accessories. They also must be able to track and report cannabis inventory to help assure that customers have access to safe, legal product from regulated wholesalers.

Liscencees will be expected to meet ‘good character’ criteria as part of the permitting process.

* The SLGA will work with an independent third party to choose retail operators through a two-phase process. The first phase will screen candidates for financial capacity and the ability to track and report inventory. Phase two will see qualified applicants selected at random through a lottery. Those chosen will be expected to meet ‘good character’ criteria as part of the permitting process. Makowsky told the CBC that stores already selling cannabis might lose their means to the market under a lottery system. The province has not stated whether retailers will be able to buy supply from wholesalers outside Saskatchewan.


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* The CBC reports that an online survey set up by the province showed 45% of respondents wanted to see the stores run by SLGA. However, Gene Makowsky, the minister responsible for the SLGA, said the government didn’t want to spend millions of dollars establishing the infrastructure needed to sell cannabis. “It de-risks the taxpayer, certainly,” he said. “It’s an ill-defined market right now. We’re not sure what the future of that is going to be.” He added that the province would gain revenue from taxation and licensing fees, although those details have not been finalized.

* Details about application criteria and timelines, along with permit licensing fees and other related matters, will be finalized in the coming weeks. The province, which has a legal drinking age of 18, is expected to announce its minimum age for cannabis consumption by spring.

Oregon Politicians Push Back Against Sessions Memo

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s governor said Thursday the state will fight U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to roll back a lenient policy on federal enforcement of the drug to protect its economic interests.


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Gov. Kate Brown said marijuana is an important component of the state’s economy, creating more than 19,000 jobs. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize personal possession, in 1973. It legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational use in 2014.

“The principle of federalism is at stake.”

Knute Buehler, Republican gubernatorial candidate

“My staff and state agencies … will fight to continue Oregon’s commitment to a safe and prosperous recreational marijuana market,” Brown said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler said Sessions’ move was an infringement on states’ rights.

“The federal government should respect the will of Oregon voters; the principle of federalism is at stake,” Buehler said.

Sessions ended an Obama-era policy that allowed cannabis to flourish in states and will let federal prosecutors in legal marijuana states decide how aggressively to enforce U.S. law prohibiting the drug.


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Billy J. Williams, U.S. attorney for Oregon, indicated he would maintain the same limited level of enforcement.

“We will continue working with our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to pursue shared public safety objectives, with an emphasis on stemming the overproduction of marijuana and the diversion of marijuana out of state,” Williams said in a statement.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer urged people to mobilize against Sessions’ decision.

“Going against the majority of Americans — including a majority of Republican voters — who want the federal government to stay out of the way is perhaps one of the stupidest decisions the attorney general has made,” Blumenauer said.


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An amendment by Blumenauer and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher prevents the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.

Don Morse, director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, said the amendment also protects the recreational side to some extent, because “it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.” Cannabis grown legally in Oregon can be sold to medical marijuana patients from recreational shops.

Congress recently passed a short-term funding bill that maintained the Blumenauer-Rohrabacher amendment. The bill expires on Jan. 19, and Blumenauer is working to ensure it gets into the next measure, his office in Washington said.


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President Donald Trump made a campaign promise not to interfere with state marijuana laws, Blumenauer said. That was echoed by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who co-sponsored legislation from New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

In Oregon, Morse said he expects “business as usual” in the marijuana industry.

“Legal marijuana has become so entrenched in the U.S. — it’s a multibillion-dollar industry — and I don’t see the people who are behind this, people like myself, rolling over for the Justice Department, which means Congress will have to act,” Morse said, adding that he thinks lawmakers should declassify marijuana as a dangerous drug.

Vermont House Passes Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s House of Representatives has signed off on legislation that would allow adults 21 years old or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow cannabis at their homes.

The legislation would make the Green Mountain State the latest to legalize the recreational use of marijuanaThe Burlington Free Press said the bill, approved Thursday night, would not create a legal market for marijuana and would not impose any taxes.

The measure will have to return to the Senate for another vote. Senate leaders have said a vote could come next week.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he’d sign the legislation.


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House lawmakers spent much of the day Thursday, with a break during Scott’s State of the State speech, debating the proposal, which was passed by the state Senate last June. The debate took place with the backdrop of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding a policy that paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.

Throughout the debate in the Statehouse, the full House rejected a series of Republican-proposed changes. The first proposal that was rejected would have delayed implementation of the law a year, until July 1, 2019. Other amendments focused on what the opponents of the underlying proposal said were ways to protect public safety.


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But proponents said they felt those issues were addressed in the existing legislation.

It was expected House lawmakers would give final approval to slight changes to the original bill.

Get a Pencil: California Cannabis-Tracking System Not Yet in Use

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s legal cannabis economy was supposed to operate under the umbrella of a vast computerized system to track marijuana from seed to storefronts, ensuring that plants are followed throughout the supply chain and don’t drift into the black market.

But sales began this week without the computer system in use for cannabis businesses. Instead, they are being asked to document sales and transfers manually, using paper invoices or shipping manifests. That raises the potential that an unknown amount of product will continue slipping into the illicit market, as it has for years.


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For the moment, “you are looking at pieces of paper and self-reporting. A lot of these regulations are not being enforced right now,” said Jerred Kiloh, a Los Angeles dispensary owner who heads the United Cannabis Business Association, an industry group.

Not since the end of Prohibition in 1933 has such an expansive illegal economy been reshaped into a legal one.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture, which is overseeing the tracking system, said in a statement it was “implemented” Tuesday. However, it conceded that growers and sellers are not required to use it yet and training on how to input data will be necessary before it becomes mandatory, apparently later in the year.

The slow rollout of the tracking system is just one sign of the daunting task facing the nation’s most populous state as it attempts to transform its long-standing medicinal and illegal marijuana markets into a multibillion-dollar regulated system. Not since the end of Prohibition in 1933 has such an expansive illegal economy been reshaped into a legal one.

So far, it’s been an unsteady start.


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Business licenses issued to growers, distributors and sellers are temporary and will need to be redone or extended later this year. Much of the state is blacked out from recreational sales because of the scarcity of licenses and because some local governments banned commercial cannabis activity.

“There are a lot of things inside the law that are transitional. I don’t think it’s as rigid as people want it to sound,” Kiloh said.

Another risk is that some consumers might stay in the black market to avoid sticker shock from hefty taxes. And there are concerns that a new distribution system will fail to get cannabis to shelves once current stockpiles run out, possibly in weeks.


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Cathy Bliss at Mankind Cooperative in San Diego said the store did not have as much product in stock as it would have liked.

Charles Boldwyn, chief compliance officer of ShowGrow in Santa Ana, which opened to customers Monday, said the relatively small number of licenses issued so far could create a bottleneck, cutting off pot from stores selling it.

“The biggest hurdle we see, right out of the gate, is that starting today our access to product is limited,” Boldwyn said.


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The tracking system is part of the state’s maze of rules and regulations intended to govern the emerging $7 billion pot economy, the nation’s largest. They range from where cannabis can be grown and smoked to environmental safeguards for streams near marijuana fields.

According to state law, the tracking system will provide “data points for the different stages of commercial activity, including, but not limited to, cultivation, harvest, processing, distribution, inventory and sale.”

It’s also intended to help the state keep track of taxes.

According to the state, businesses holding annual licenses will be required use the tracking system, but those issued so far to growers and retailers have been temporary and they “are not required” to use the system.


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The expanded legal sales could offer a rich payoff for the state treasury. California expects to pull in $1 billion annually in taxes within several years.

The move into an era of legalization was marked across the state Monday with ceremonial ribbon cuttings and door prizes at dispensaries.

The path to legalization began in 2016 when voters approved Proposition 64, which opened the way for legal sales to adults. Medical marijuana has been legal in California for about two decades.


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With the 2016 vote, it became legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it was not legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The state did not issue rules for the new marketplace until late last year, and cities and counties have struggled to fashion their own. Los Angeles and San Francisco are among those where recreational pot sales have been delayed.

California joined a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where recreational marijuana is permitted, even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles officials said they would begin accepting applications Wednesday from medical marijuana shops to expand their sales to recreational pot. Temporary city licenses could go out as soon as Monday, which would then clear the way for the state to issue licenses for recreational sales.

Unlicensed medical marijuana shops in LA that continue to supply customers in the interim would technically be violating state law, but Los Angeles police won’t crack down on those operating in good faith, Assistant Chief Michel Moore said. He said police would focus on pot operations run by felons or that attract gang activity or violence.

LA Customers Line Up for West Hollywood Cannabis Opening

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Starting as early as 6 o’clock Tuesday morning, cannabis retailers in West Hollywood opened their doors for the city’s first day of legal adult-use sales. A total of four shops, all located within a roughly two-mile section of Santa Monica Boulevard, planned to be open throughout the day on Jan. 2.

West Hollywood, which is surrounded entirely by the city of Los Angeles, is expected to be a hotspot among Angelenos, who may have to wait weeks until licensed adult-use stores open in LA proper.


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Shortly after 9 a.m., it seemed to be business as usual at Alternative Herbal Health Services (AAHS)—busy, but not overwhelmed. Security guard Andy Bird, who greeted a steady stream of customers as they entered the shop, said that when he arrived at 5:15 a.m., a line of eager customers was waiting outside the door. They were allowed inside the check-in area to wait, he said, but were not allowed to make any purchases until after 6 a.m. due to state limits on operating hours.

A medical cannabis dispensary since 2004, AAHS is the oldest operating storefront south of San Francisco and was also the inspiration for the Netflix show “Disjointed,” said store owner Jason Beck. Its expansion into adult-use sales has brought mostly subtle changes in the rather cozy dispensary, such as setting up two separate cash registers—one labeled “adult-use” and the other “medical.”


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Beck plans to open the shop at 6 a.m. all week to feel out customer demand.

“This is a 24-hour city,” he said. “Let’s just see what the market dictates.”

So far, he’s seen some interest from early birds on their way to work or having just left one of the many nearby gyms. If that early-morning demand dies down, however, Beck said the shop may eventually start opening later.


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Mark Joyce, a veteran of the Vietnam War, made his first-ever trip to a cannabis store on Tuesday, joined at AAHS by his dog JuJu. Joyce said he has long used marijuana for “personal use” but was forced to purchase the product through illegal channels. “It’s legal now,” he said. “It’s all fun and games.”

Bill Araiza (above) a “cannabis enthusiast” from Dallas, TX, happened to be in LA for the holidays so he decided to hit up the MedMen opening. Four years ago he traveled to Denver for the debut of its adult-use stores. Araiza said the vibe was much more celebratory in Denver than in Los Angeles, which he attributes to the fact that medical cannabis has been legal here for so long. (Hayley Fox for Leafly)

A few blocks west of AAHS, a line began to form outside the upscale cannabis chain MedMen beginning around 8:30 a.m., according to the store’s staff. In addition to multiple local news trucks parked outside the store (and a food truck selling bagels), the line outside the dispensary continued to grow in anticipation of it’s 10 a.m. opening.

MedMen security and employees were outside handing out branded red tote bags emblazoned with the phrase “Mainstreaming Marijuana.” Bill Araiza, in town from Dallas, Texas for the Christmas holiday, described himself as a “cannabis enthusiast” and said he had also been in Denver in 2014, when Colorado became the first US state to begin legal adult-use sales.

“In Denver it was more of a sensation,” he said, suggesting that because medical marijuana has been legal in California for so long, there’s “not quite as much excitement” around adult use.

But for visitors like Jeremy Parks, who was visiting Los Angeles from Oklahoma for the Rose Bowl game on Monday, legal cannabis is still a novelty. Oklahoma still criminalizes even medical cannabis use.


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Parks said his reason for coming to MedMen today was simple: “To get some marijuana!”

Parks chose MedMen because he heard about it on the news, he said. He planned to leave with some pre-rolls and a few other products.

Patrick Roe, 26, came to West Hollywood for the opening of MedMen. He used to have his medical card but let it expire and doesn’t plan to renew it now that adult use is legal. Roe said he consumes cannabis like he would alcohol—occasionally and for fun. (Hayley Fox for Leafly)

In line behind Parks was Patrick Roe, a 26-year-old L.A. resident who previously held a medical marijuana card but allowed it to expire. He has no plans to re-up either, as he doesn’t consume very often and will now have ready access to cannabis from nonmedical stores. He sees cannabis as a replacement for alcohol, he said. “I’d rather smoke than drink.”

At Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group (LAPCG), which opened at 11 a.m., the line remained steady  throughout the morning and early afternoon. Lindsey Reese, a budtender working the front desk, said that most of the morning’s customers had been first-timers and adult-use consumers. Only about 15%, she estimated, are returning medical patients.

She stopped to answer the phone. “LAPCG, this is Lindsey speaking,” she said. “We’re recreational today!”

Most callers have wanted to know whether or not they’ll be a difference in quality between medical and adult-use products. They’re also curious about tax rates and how long they’ll have to wait in line, she said.

The answers? State taxes are currently are 24.5%, and while West Hollywood doesn’t charge any local taxes, it could eventually impose one. And the midday line took about half an hour to get through.

In line was one customer who had something extra to celebrate: a 21st birthday, allowing entrance to the newly legal shops.