Tag: Industry

Trash Talk: 4/20 Organizers Forced to Step Up Their Garbage Game

Early in the morning after the massive 4/20 rally in Toronto last month, organizer Chris Goodwin drove past the public square where the rally had taken place. He liked what he saw.

“The square looked like we had never been there,” he says. “That is what we wanted — clean in, clean out with no damage to anything.”

That’s not the rule in every city. Last week Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration declared that the organizers of this year’s 4/20 rally would not be issued permits for the event for at least three years. The reason? Trash, among other things.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 10.05.02 AM(Denver Post)

After this year’s rally in Civic Center Park, which featured a concert by 2 Chainz, mounds of trash remained in the park the following morning. “Leaving the trash overnight in the park, even if bagged, is not effective or timely removal of trash from the park,” city officials wrote in an 11-page letter to event organizers.

Rob Corry, general counsel for the group organizing the event, told the Denver Post that the event permit allowed the group to continue the cleanup through the following day, and “we leave the park cleaner than we received it.”

It may be an issue of when that cleanup was done. Timeliness and public perception matter. On April 21, the Post ran a headline (“Who trashed Civic Center Park? Denver wakes up to a sea of garbage, but organizers say park was cleaned after 4/20 rally”) over a story that included photos of boxes, newspapers, packing peanuts, and discarded banners strewn about Civic Center Park.

Meanwhile, Up North…

In Toronto and Vancouver, there were few complaints about garbage removal after 4/20. What made the difference? In part, budgeting and planning.

The 4/20 rally in Toronto is a major event. Thousands jam the square to enjoy live performances, visit booths selling everything from T-shirts to paraphernalia or grab a bite to eat at one of the many food trucks nearby. Organizer Chris Goodwin tends to every detail of the event — and takes steps to ensure there is no messy fallout. He says he spent about $5,000, approximately 10 percent of the event’s total budget, on garbage cleanup.

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As required by the city, he paid a crew affiliated with the local Business Improvement Association (BIA) to circle the area surrounding the square, two or three blocks away from it, and pick up garbage left by people leaving the rally.

He also bought a hundred industrial-sized garbage bins and spread them out across the square. “But no matter how well you manage the situation, no matter how many times you empty the bins, there is still going to be trash on the ground,” he says, speaking from experience. So additional steps have to be taken.

At the end of the festivities this year, Goodwin cut the zip ties holding up a 30-foot banner and, with the help of five others, walked through the square with the banner fully extended, prodding stragglers to leave the area the way a cowcatcher at the front of a train clears the track of obstructions.

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When the square was empty, 20 employees of a private cleaning company Goodwin had hired sprang into action. They swept back and forth across the square with giant shovels, clearing the garbage like a snowplow clearing Toronto streets in winter. There was nary a complaint from city officials.

What’s the key to effective garbage management at 4/20 rallies? It’s simple, says Goodwin. “The key is to stop relying on volunteers because they’re not accountable. They just leave when they’re tired,” he says. “I notice that some rally organizers have been recruiting volunteers by offering incentives such as free marijuana or T-shirts. I don’t do that. I just hire professionals to do the job.”

Vancouver: 35,000 People, 5,000 lbs. of Trash

Vancouver 4/20 organizer Dana Larsen recruited volunteers to clean up the trash at this year’s event at Sunset Beach. “We had about a dozen people collecting garbage during the event but we were still cleaning up at 3 a.m. and many of the volunteers had gone home by then,” says Larsen, who was still in his official rally attire, a three-piece suit, at that point. “Those of us who were left had to drag the trash to the top of a hill for the sanitation trucks to collect it — and that was taxing.”

Larsen and his volunteers even made the trash cleanup a feature of their Twitter feeds that day.

In subsequent days, there was a public hue and cry about damage to grass; much of the park’s turf had turned to mud during the rain-drenched rally, and park officials said the area would have to be closed for five weeks to recover. Larsen offered to have his organization pay to have the area re-seeded, and park officials agreed.

Despite their anger over the turf, however, officials commended organizers on trash management. Howard Normann, director of parks, said he was pleased to find that most garbage — almost 5,000 lbs. of it — had been picked up by volunteers. “Generally, it’s looking pretty good this year compared to last year,” he told the CBC. “I’m quite pleased with the lack of garbage.”

Nonetheless, Larsen now believes there is a better way to get the job done. “It’s surprising how much garbage people can generate. We’re going to hire a professional crew to take care of it next year,” he says. “We’re learning more as we go.”

Australia’s First Med School Course on Cannabis to Launch in Victoria

Victoria’s Deakin University is on track to offer Australia’s first-ever medical school course on cannabis in light of a recent announcement by Cann10, an Israeli cannabis start-up accelerator that will deliver the new course.

Dubbed the Medicinal Cannabis Leadership Program, the eight-week program aims to give students an overview of the cannabis plant, its medical applications, and the industry developing around it. You won’t get a degree at the end of it, but participants will be awarded a certificate of accomplishment.

If you’re keen, classes start in August.

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The course is based on programs Cann10 has run in Israel and the United States, which have a strong commercial focus. According to the company, the program will “provide a comprehensive approach to cannabis education including historical, cultural, legal/regulatory, commercial, chemical and agricultural aspects.”

Botany, agriculture, cultivation, clinical science, manufacturing, and R&D will also be addressed during the intensive program.

Deakin University School of Medicine Dean Jon Watson endorsed the program while at the same time acknowledging that some have been surprised at the new offering.

“This is very unusual,” he said, “but also fit for purpose.”

Cann10 says it has recruited prominent figures from the cannabis industry in Australia and around the world to deliver lectures. Speakers include Peter Crock, the CEO of Australian Cann Group Ltd, which was the first company to be granted a commercial cultivation licence for medical cannabis; Phil Warner, managing director of Ecofibre; director of Zelda Therapeutics Mara Gordon, as well as a number of respected academics and researchers.

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The hope is that participants will graduate with knowledge of the industry “as well as practical tools to help build their commercial and scientific projects.” Participants are also encouraged to network with the aim of accelerating growth in an industry still prone to dramatic regulatory shifts.

With a price tag of $6,200 (USD $4,600) before tax, the program isn’t cheap. It will run in partnership with the Deakin’s new commercial arm, DeakinCo.

Deakin University has a mixed history with medical cannabis. In 2015, academics from the university published a groundbreaking paper exploring the potential for cannabis to treat obesity. But the same year, a clinical lecturer at Deakin, Dr. Michael Vagg, wrote critically about medical cannabis. “Simply put,” he wrote disparagingly, “THC-derived products are about as useful as paracetamol [acetominophen] for pain.”

In 2016 the university published a debate article on its content site, This, which reductively described medicinal cannabis as “using illegal substances to treat medical conditions.”

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The announcement that Deakin will partner with Cann10 to deliver the Medicinal Cannabis Leadership Program indicates a shift in the university’s messaging.

Deakin isn’t the only university in Australia hoping to capitalize on commercial cannabis. In October 2016, Sydney University hosted Seedlings, an event that brought together entrepreneurs, patients, doctors, and researchers to hear cannabis start-up pitches and brainstorm the future of the medical cannabis industry. Smaller institutions such as the Cannabis Training University are also positioning themselves to take advantage of the trend, offering what’s billed as a Master of Marijuana Certification for $199.

Cannabis Social Media Network MassRoots Needs $5M to Stay Afloat

Cannabis social media company MassRoots needs to dig up roughly $5 million in the coming year “to continue to fund operations,” according to its quarterly financial filings.

The Denver-based business ended the quarter on March 31 having posted total revenue of $134,721,  according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were first reported by MJ Business Daily. The net loss for the same period was $7,447,177.

MassRoots said in filing documents that the company expects “to raise a majority of these funds through warrant exercises,” adding that during the quarter that ended March 31, “we received approximately $4,443,000 proceeds from the exercise of our previously issued warrants.”

Capital obtained by selling MassRoots shares currently are crucial to keeping the company afloat, said  the publicly traded company (OTCMKTS: MSRT).

“We are dependent on the sale of our securities to fund our operations, and will remain so until we generate sufficient revenues to pay for our operating costs,” the SEC filing says.

  Quarter ending March 31, 2017 Quarter ending March 31, 2016
Total Revenues $134,721 $97,985
Net Loss $7,447,177 $2,726,094
Basic and diluted net loss per common share (0.09) (0.06)

Compared to the same period of time last year, MassRoots increased its quarterly revenue by more than $37,000. But the company’s net loss nearly tripled, rising from $2.7 million to $7.4 million.

In March of last year, MassRoots efforts to raise capital took a hit when the New York Stock Exchange rejected the company’s bid to be listed on that exchange. The company lamented the decision as “a dangerous precedent that will prevent nearly every company in the regulated cannabis industry from listing on a national exchange.”Compared to the same period of time last year, MassRoots increased its quarterly revenue by more than $37,000. But the company’s net loss nearly tripled, rising from $2.7 million to $7.4 million.

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Then, in September 2016, the company notified the SEC that it had defaulted on a $1.5 million promissory note. Five days later, MassRoots Chairman and CEO Isaac Dietrich issued a letter to the company’s investors, in which he omitted mention of the SEC notice and instead gave an upbeat overview of the company’s financials and reporting excellent quarterly results.

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In 2015, MassRoots bought $175,000 worth of preferred shares in Flowhub LLC, a seed-to-sale system, which at the time comprised 8.95% of Flowhub’s outstanding equity. MassRoots also invested $100,0000 in HighTimes and completed its acquisition of Colorado-based DDDigital and subsidiary Whaxy.

Florida Attorney John Morgan Considering $100M Investment in MMJ

One of the biggest supporters of Florida’s successful push to legalize medicinal marijuana last November, Orlando attorney John Morgan, is now considering a $100 million investment in the fledgling industry.

He told the Miami Herald through emails that he intends to invest up to $100 million into “the right opportunities.”

Morgan, who spent nearly $3 million this past election season to help pass Amendment 2, tells the Miami Herald that he’s currently looking for “the right opportunities” to invest in the industry. All told Morgan has injected nearly $7 million combined between two medical cannabis ballot measures in the state.

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In emails with the Herald, Morgan, who’s been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate for 2018, said he’s interested in a stake in a state-licensed dispensary. So far he has yet to invest in any cannabis companies, he told the paper.

“I am prepared to invest significant monies in this industry and I plan to,” he wrote. “I have learned a great deal about the miracles of marijuana over the last five years. And what better person than me to be involved?”

Though cannabis companies have flirted with him in the past, he added, he has yet to pull the trigger.

“I have been approached by many companies here and in the U.S. and have and will continue to consider them,” Morgan wrote, forwarding the Herald a voicemail from an Arkansas businessman to underscore his point.

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Morgan recently had a public falling out with a top campaign organizer over the future of Florida’s medical cannabis system. As lawmakers considered rules for the new industry, Morgan was involved in a debate over whether the state should cap the number of retail shops a licensed distributor can own and operate. Morgan was against setting such limits, while campaign chief Ben Pollara was in favor of them. 

Santee Sioux Trial Verdict: Cannabis Consultant ‘Not Guilty’ on All Charges

Cannabis consultant Eric Hagen was acquitted on all charges on Wednesday afternoon, as his dramatic trial in Flandreau, South Dakota, came to a close. The case, which has major ramifications for the cannabis industry, pitted South Dakota prosecutors against Hagen, a Colorado cannabis consultant who had worked on one of the nation’s first tribal cannabis developments with the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe.

It took the jury just over two hours to find Hagen not guilty on three counts. The CEO of Monarch America was cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the tribe’s proposed cannabis resort located a couple miles from the Moody County Courthouse.

‘The state has to realize the tribe is a sovereign nation.’

Eric Hagen, CEO of Monarch America

State prosecutors tried to portray Hagen as a marijuana mastermind who used naive tribal members to grow illegal cannabis. But Hagen’s defense attorney portrayed the charges as a case of judicial overreach—and a political move on the part of South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, who is considered a leading candidate for governor.

Hagen, who now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said he was happy with the verdict but knows there is still a lot to be sorted out in terms of tribal sovereignty and cannabis policy.

“I’d just like to say I’m happy with the outcome,” Hagen said in a post-trial press conference at the Royal River Casino, which is owned by the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe. “The state now has to realize that the tribe is a sovereign nation and they can’t overstep their jurisdictional boundaries just because they don’t like something.”

It was Jackley vs. the Tribe

For Hagen, the motivation in this case was simple: This was about the political motivations of South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Hagen still serves as president and CEO of the cannabis consulting firm Monarch America, but he said his company lost all contracts, as well as its $80 million valuation, after his indictment. At the news conference Hagen blamed Jackley for sending a message at the expense of both his own business as well as the tribe’s.

“He tanked our company by spreading lies and rumors, and it’s upsetting,” Hagen said. “Frankly, I think Marty got his feelings hurt, because there was a meeting I set up with Marty that I had to cancel… When I cancelled that meeting with Marty, he threw a temper tantrum.”

“It was 100 percent politically motivated. Marty (is) running for governor.”

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Drama of the Final Day

The day started off with closing arguments before the 12-member jury. Deputy Attorney General Bridget Mayer, who prosecuted the case, tried to reinforce her portrait of Hagen as the person in control of the tribe’s cannabis grow operation. Mayer repeatedly took on the ‘role’ of Hagen, whispering to the jury at times and then dramatically rattling her hand against the prosecution’s table to emphasize her point.

Mayer portrayed Hagen as a puppet master who attempted to run an illegal clandestine grow on tribal lands.

“He told the agents all about marijuana, he knows all about marijuana, he’s been in the industry for eight years,” Mayer said.

Prosecutor: Hagen-Hunt Conspiracy

Mayer then turned to the evidence in the case. She highlighted the testimony of Jonathan Hunt, Hagen’s former business partner and a non-indicted co-conspirator in the case. Hunt was in control of the crop, Mayer contended, and because of his close relationship with Hagen, there was no doubt in her mind that a conspiracy took place. Mayer also detailed six acts she claimed were “overt acts” that proved the conspiracy, which included the selection of the “Girl Scout Cookies” and “Trainwreck” strains as part of the seed library.

‘Marty Jackley tanked our company by spreading lies and rumors.’

Eric Hagen

Because of Hagen’s role in the operation, Mayer asked the jury to return a guilty verdict on all three charges. Mayer argued that Hagen’s role in spearheading the project proved he was guilty of violating the state’s cannabis laws.

“We need to get that pot going, and we need to get it going now,” said Mayer, as she play-acted Hagen’s role in procuring seeds.

Defense: Jackley’s Political Motives

Once Mayer wrapped up, it didn’t take long for defense attorney Mike Butler paint a much different story. Butler compared the prosecution’s case to a movie version of a book that took too many liberties with the story. Due to those liberties, Butler argued, the jury should look beyond Mayer’s claims and realize that the case was more about power and political disputes, and less concerned with the law.

“This case is not a case of being stopped on the interstate, although they are trying to make it sound that simple,” Butler said. “If it’s so clear as they are going to say now… Beyond a reasonable doubt, how come it wasn’t clear to them [then], but now it is?”

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According to Butler, neither Hagen nor Hunt were ever warned that consulting on the project was illegal. Butler shot down the prosecution’s assertion that any attempt to get surveillance footage from the facility would be a “fruitless venture,” according to Mayer, and further asserted that the case was never being investigated as a drug case.

Had it ever been communicated to Hagen or Hunt that there was a question of legality, Butler said, both men testified they would have been “on the first plane” out of town.

“Nobody wanted that fight. You saw Mr. Hunt. You think he wanted that fight?”  Butler said. “If you were in the process of committing criminal acts—conspiracy—are you going to say to a law enforcement agent, ‘Come on it, look around, I’ll answer any questions you’ve got?’”

Where’s Marty Now?

Butler also pulled no punches with his assertion that the case came down to a power dispute between South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and the Flandreau Santee Sioux’s tribal sovereignty. Had it been within the state’s power to seize the plants when law enforcement visited the facility, Butler said, Jackley should have instructed them to do so, and charged Hagen and Hunt at that time. But Jackley declined, and then waited nine months after the crop was destroyed to make his next move.

‘This is a political power dispute, not a drug case.’

Mike Butler, defense attorney

“This was a political dispute, not a drug case,” said Butler. “This is a power dispute, not a drug case. And my client, and Mr. Hunt, are collateral damage. That’s what they are, in a fight between two other people in a battle over jurisdiction.”
And after Jackley “stood right there” and announced the indictment to “great fanfare” in this same courtroom, Butler said, the defense attorney questioned Jackley’s lack of involvement in the case and his absence from the witness list. Now that the trial was underway, Butler pointed out, Jackley “is nowhere to be found.”

Tribe Seeks Federal Clarification

Flandreau Santee Sioux tribal president Tony Reider, who joined Hagen at the press conference, said that while he was happy with the outcome, this case clearly illustrated the need for a continued dialogue about the future of cannabis in Indian Country.

‘We were trying to proceed with caution.’

Tony Reider, tribal president

“There is an underlying battle within this case that is something the tribe looks forward to trying to get some clarification on,” Reider said. “Some jurisdictional issues. We’ve discussed (restarting the project), but we want to see more clarification on the federal level. We don’t want a repeat of what happened. We’re not here, and we were never here, to be first and to be stubborn with the project. We were trying to proceed with caution.”

“We want to be right, and we wanted to generate some income to take care of some shortfalls that the federal government has been unable to provide with treaty applications. And that was always our ultimate goal.”

Santee Sioux Trial Verdict: Cannabis Consultant Acquitted on All Charges

A South Dakota jury has reached a verdict in the case of a consultant who faced drug charges for helping an American Indian tribe that sought to develop a marijuana resort on tribal land.

The 12-member jury reached a verdict Wednesday in the trial of Eric Hagen, pictured above, who worked as consultant to the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe on the project. Jurors deliberated for roughly two hours.

Hagen was accused of conspiracy to possess, possession by aiding and abetting and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana. His defense argued that Hagen and others were transparent with authorities and that the marijuana belonged to the tribe.

The tribe pursued the resort in 2015 after the Justice Department cleared the way for tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as states that legalized pot. But the tribe eventually burned its crop.

Leafly correspondent Pat Radigan has been reporting from South Dakota on the Santee Sioux trial all week, and will have a full report on closing arguments and the verdict later today.

Santee Sioux Trial, Day 3: “Whose Marijuana Is It?”

Colorado cannabis consultant Eric Hagen took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday, and his attorney presented and concluded their case in one day, setting the stage for final arguments on Wednesday morning.

Hagen, CEO of the cannabis advisory firm Monarch America, stands accused of three cannabis-related felonies in connection with a failed resort and grow operation on the Flandreau Santee Sioux reservation in South Dakota. State prosecutors have spent two days attempting to peg Hagen as the mastermind behind an illegal marijuana operation. When it came time for the defense’s case, Hagen’s attorney went after the motivations and actions of the state—including state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

‘From beginning to end, we were looking for a stop sign.’

Tony Reider, Santee Sioux tribal president

After giving the jury a brief idea of his background in business and the cannabis industry, Hagen addressed his interactions with Jackley. After initially setting a meeting with the attorney general, Hagen testified that the only date that Jackley’s office said was open turned out to the the same day he was offered by the US Attorney.

Because the tribal ordinance was overseen by federal authorities, Hagen said priority was given to the meeting with the US Attorney. He asked Jackley’s office for an alternate date. Hagen testified that he tried two more times to set up an appointment with Jackley, but that his calls were never returned.

That failed meeting was brought up again during Hagen’s cross examination. Deputy attorney general Bridget Mayer, with Mayer grilled the defendant on his attempt to meet with her boss. Hagen testified that if Jackley told him that he would be prosecuted, Hagen would have abandoned the project. Mayer wasn’t satisfied with that answer.

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“So the attorney general for the state of South Dakota has to meet your schedule?” Mayer asked.

Hagen said no, adding, “I don’t know why you’re getting combative with me,” when Mayer begin to raise her voice and limit Hagen’s responses to mostly yes or no answers. Mayer then turned her attention to establishing Hagen as an expert in the cannabis industry. Hagen referred to his own experience as “above average,” and disputed Mayer’s claim that his interview with FBI agent David Keith showed his acumen in the industry.

The information Hagen provided to Keith is “common sense in the industry,” Hagen said. He reiterating his role in Monarch America as the “business guy.” Hagen briefly detailed the work he has done for 14 different tribes around the country, and repeatedly told Mayer that his main concern was his fiduciary responsibility to his company’s stockholders.

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“First Plane Out of Here”

Hagen testified that he believed the Flandreau Santee Sioux project was legally protected by tribal sovereignty. After meeting with federal, local and state officials, he said, he wasn’t made aware of any issue with non-natives working within the grow facility. Had they been informed of any legal concerns about that, Hagen testified that he and Hunt would have been on “the first plane out of here.”

“There was no concern at all,” Hagen said. “It never even crossed our mind.”

The subject of tribal sovereignty was touched on during the first two days of the trial, but took center stage on Tuesday morning when the defense called the tribe’s lawyer and president as its first two witnesses.

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Tribal Leaders on the Stand

Seth Pearman, the tribe’s attorney, took the stand and addressed the subject of federal enforcement policy with regard to cannabis and Indian Country. Defense attorney Mike Butler introduced the US Department of Justice’s Cole Memorandum and the Wilkinson Memorandum into evidence, and had the tribe’s legal representative walk the jury through the significance of those federal memos.

‘There was sort of a nod… We perceived that as a nod to go ahead and order seeds.’

Seth Pearman, tribal attorney

The Cole Memo laid out eight guidelines for states to adhere to when legalizing adult-use cannabis, while the Wilkinson Memo extended those same guidelines to sovereign tribes. It was because of the Wilkinson Memo, Pearman said, that the tribe began discussions about a cannabis grow/resort project. That led them to a meeting with acting US Attorney Brendan Johnson in Sioux Falls.

The meeting with Johnson then led Pearman to reach out to DEA agents in the pursuit of seeds. The agent he spoke with, Pearman said, indicated that the DEA worked under the same federal department—the US Department of Justice—that issued the Cole and Wilkinson Memos; therefore the DEA was instructed to follow the same guidelines as federal prosecutors.

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With that conversation, Pearman said he got the indication the tribe could pursue the acquisition of seeds under a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

“In this process there was never a green light,” Pearman said. “There was sort of a nod, never a thumbs up. We perceived that as a nod to go ahead and order seeds.”

After indicating to US Attorney Johnson that the tribe planned to explore the possibility of legalizing cannabis on tribal lands, Pearman and tribal officials met with South Dakota Attorney General Jackley. The meeting included tribal representatives, Jackley, and a pair of unnamed state Department of Crimininal Investigation (DCI) agents. Pearman said Jackley’s expressed concerns centered on who would be consuming cannabis on tribal lands. Pearman indicated that at that point, the tribe and Jackley began a dispute over the state’s authority to arrest non-natives on tribal land—a long-running point of contention between many tribes and state authorities across the nation.

State vs Tribe: Arrest Authority?

The dispute between the state and the tribe became even more clear on cross examination, as Mayer clashed with Pearman over the tribe’s authority to legalize cannabis for non-natives on any land inside the borders of the state of South Dakota.

Mayer asked Pearman if he would agree the state had authority over non-natives on tribal land. Pearman allowed how that was true on “some matters.” Mayer then turned her attention to the two federal memos. On more than one instance, Mayer asked Pearman to agree to specific phrases and sentences within the memos, with Pearman instead choosing to read the entire sentence or clause to clarify for the jury. When Mayer asked Pearman if the memo shifted the burden of policing cannabis to the state level, Perlman pointed out that the Cole Memo referenced “state and local” authorities, and repeated the phrase before directly interjecting to Mayer that the tribe’s cannabis policy was enacted based on the legal concept of tribal sovereignty.

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The tribe’s sovereignty was then further discussed by tribal president Tony Reider. On cross examination, Reider admitted that the state had the right to its own cannabis policy because it is “sovereign, like the tribe,” but also contended that the tribe had the same right under the Wilkinson Memo. Reider testified that at no point in the process did Jackley indicate there was an issue with non-native individuals working at the facility.

Reider also testified that the initial meeting was the only time Jackley and the tribe discussed the project prior to charges being filed against Hagen. Reider said the attorney general expressed an interest in speaking to the tribe after the indictment. Jackley’s office informed the tribe of the indictment the day before it was announced, Reider said, but also indicated that the tribe declined the invitation to speak with Jackley at that time.

Tribe: It’s Our Project, Not Hagen’s

On his direct examination, Reider was quick to tell the defense that the tribe was mindful of law enforcement’s input throughout the process.

“From beginning to end, we were looking for a stop (sign),” Reider said.

“Did you get that from the attorney general?” asked defense attorney Mike Butler.

“No.”

Countering the prosecution’s portrayal of Eric Hagen as the mastermind of the cannabis operation, Reider firmly stated that the development was the tribe’s, not Monarch America’s. “Whose marijuana is it?” defense attorney Butler asked. Reider said that everything belonged to the tribe. Flandreau Santee Sioux officials, he said, made all the decisions when it came to both the grow facility and the proposed consumption lounge.

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At the conclusion of its case, the defense again asked to have all charges dismissed for a lack of evidence, but the motion was denied. The prosecution declined the opportunity to present a rebuttal, ending the evidentiary portion of the trial.

Both sides will now present closing arguments on Wednesday morning, and then the case will be handed over to the jury for deliberations. Stick with Leafly for updates as the trial continues.

3 Highlights from the MAPS 2017 Psychedelic Science Conference

On April 21, over 3,000 people swarmed the Marriott Hotel in Oakland to attend the third international conference held by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies), a 5-day conference beyond most imaginations. “[MAPS] is a non-profit research and educational organization that I started in 1986,” Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS, told Leafly. “The best way to understand it is as a non-profit pharmaceutical company focused on developing psychedelics and marijuana into FDA-approved prescription medicines.”

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With over 40 countries represented by its attendants, the crowd at Psychedelic Science 2017 was a mixed bag of appearances and experiences. Clean-cut clinical types, curious dreadlocked psychonauts, and everything in between mingled in rows of chairs. Beneath the high ceilings of conference halls typically reserved for business gatherings and trade shows, presentations on LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, and cannabis projected onto enormous screens. Without the winds of cannabis legalization at our backs, this scene would look utterly surreal. In a way, it still did.

Scanning the day’s schedule, attendees found lectures with titles like Treating Alcohol-Related Disorders with Ayahuasca; Principles of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD; and Injustice, Intersectional Trauma, and Psychedelics. After hours, guests could meet up for cannabis-assisted meditation or yoga, film screenings, or relaxed networking – and for some guests, a sunset cruise in the San Francisco Bay.

Here, we gathered to explore the healing potential of plant and psychedelic medicines, whose true natures are so often barred from popular knowledge by taboo. For anyone fascinated by the inner workings of the mind, the weekend was an intellectual playground. And in case you missed it, here’s the highlight reel. You can also check out recordings of the presentations, which MAPS has generously shared on their YouTube channel.

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1. Medical Breakthroughs and Hope for PTSD

Setting the tone for the conference was a series of presentations on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with treatment-resistant PTSD. Having recently completed their Phase II pilot study, MAPS was given approval by the FDA to proceed with Phase III trials, the final step before MDMA becomes a prescription drug for use under strict medical guidance in clinical settings. Astonishingly, 83% of study participants no longer met the criteria of a PTSD diagnosis following two months of treatment, in which MDMA was administered just twice. Compare that to psychotherapy alone – about 20% – and it’s clear that we have an important breakthrough in psychiatric medicine here.

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“I love my life. The medicine’s lessons are forever tattooed on the cells of my body,” said one participant, reflecting on her healing experience during a panel presentation. Looking next to the study’s therapists sitting nearby, she finished with a cracking voice, “With all my heart, I bow to you in gratitude.”

A day later, in the same room, three researchers – Philippe Lucas, Sue Sisley, and Zach Walsh – would present on their studies of cannabis and PTSD. Though less curative and more useful as a tool for symptom control, cannabis is giving PTSD patients back their lives as well, especially as it reduces the intake of harmful and addicting prescription medications.

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2. Community, Social Justice, and Taking a Look Around the Room

“The silencing of indigenous people is happening today. It’s happening at this conference.” That’s what panelist LisaNa Redbear had said in a forum just before we all filed into a small conference room for a workshop called White Allies and Anti-Racist Practices in the Psychedelic Community.

Chairs lined the room’s perimeter. We’d be meeting for an hour to discuss with each other the role of race in research of psychedelic and plant medicines. There was an overwhelming white majority in the room, but I hadn’t really noticed – not yet, at least.

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The forum facilitators started us off with an exercise. In our hands were ten marbles, and we were asked to put one on the floor in response to various prompts: “Put a marble down if the color of your skin has never made you feel uneasy when pulled over by police. Put a marble down if you’ve never felt discriminated against in a job interview because of your skin color.”

Marbles rolled out of white hands around the room, but about five questions in, we heard a voice from the back corner of the room. “Excuse me, can we switch this up?” said one of the only black women in the room, tears in her eyes, palm full of marbles. “I understand what this exercise is meant to show people, but for me, this is torture.”

This comment accomplished what no exercise could. Thinking back to what LisaNa had said, it dawned on me that the conference’s keynote speakers were indeed overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male – perhaps not out of discrimination, but a problem running in the veins of an inherently racist drug war; of course participation by minorities in the psychedelic community and research is met with fear of repercussion and prosecution. The importance of this fact cannot be forgotten as we seek to build an industry of diversity and inclusivity.

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3. Spirituality and the Exploration of Consciousness

Inextricably tied to mind-expanding plants and sacred medicines are experiences of mysticism. This spiritual aspect of psychedelic medicines can provide a kind of existential therapy, especially for those enduring the trauma of terminal illness and end-of-life anxiety. These spiritual experiences, often referred to as “catalysts,” can be immensely powerful tools of healing.

Though these types of intense trips are most commonly associated with potent psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD, even cannabis has the power to catalyze healing in the right setting.

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I first experienced the glorious combination of cannabis and guided meditation a year ago with Daniel McQueen of Medicinal Mindfulness, so when I saw a similar opportunity on the MAPS schedule, I hurried over to the 21st floor of the Marriott where Sōtō Zen teacher Vanja Palmers would be leading a silent meditation followed by a sound bath. Outside, we gathered in the largest smoking circle I’ve ever seen and passed around joints in silence.

Back inside were singing bowls, gongs, drums, sitars, and some obscure instrument that looked like a giant tambourine. At least sixty of us laid down quietly and waited for the sound to wash over. It began with quiet tones humming from the bowls then escalated to fearful crashing of the gongs, before finally erupting into the melodious singing of sitars. Here among the sounds, the sensations, and silent friends, peace was on tap.


Want more coverage from the conference? Look forward to more on cannabis, PTSD, political hurdles, and more in upcoming Leafly features. In the meantime, don’t miss these cannabis speakers from the conference!

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Santee Sioux Trial, Day Two: Ex-Partner Denies Hagen’s Guilt

Cannabis consultant Eric Hagen came face-to-face with his former business partner in court on Monday as the prosecution wrapped its case against the Colorado-based executive.

‘I agreed to tell you guys because I’m not afraid of the truth.’

Jonathan Hunt, Former partner, Monarch America

Day two of the trial over a failed cannabis resort on the Flandreau Santee Sioux reservation in South Dakoa centered around the much-anticipated testimony of Jonathan Hunt, the “blue collar” half of Monarch America’s operation. Hunt agreed to a plea agreement with the prosecution last year in exchange for his testimony. And while Hunt detailed Hagen’s involvement and provided inside information, his testimony was far from the smoking gun the prosecution was looking for. In fact, once on the stand Hunt categorically denied his own and Hagen’s guilt on all charges.

After months of speculation about the details of his deal with the state prosecutor, Hunt explained on Monday that he pleaded to the lesser charges only due to a lack of “financial wherewithal” to mount a legal defense.

As part of his direct examination by the prosecution, Hunt said that the state’s decision to charge him left him “flabbergasted.” When asked on cross examination if he was guilty of conspiracy to possess marijuana, Hunt categorically denied any direct guilt.

“To take the deal, you had to agree to the deal,” Hunt told prosecuting attorney Katie Mallery. “I agreed to tell you guys because, just like I’ve said a hundred times, I’m not afraid of the truth.”

The prosecution rested its case at the conclusion of Hunt’s testimony. At that moment, Hagen’s defense attorney stood and entered a motion to dismiss all charges in the case. The presiding judge denied the bid.

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Cannabis 101 in the Courtroom

It was a chippy day all around.

First on the stand was David Keith, the local FBI special agent who initially investigated the case. Keith testified that an online video first brought the tribe’s cannabis project to the attention by his superiors at the Minneapolis field office. That video prompted Keith to initiate an investigation. A few weeks later, Keith paid a visit to the tribe’s facility, in conjunction with the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation.

The court listened to the entire interview that Keith conducted that day, which lasted for more than an hour. Keith spoke with, among others, tribal lawyer Seth Pearman. On the tape, Keith repeatedly used the analogy of growing corn to try and understand how marijuana was grown. The conversation turned into a kind of Cannabis 101, as Eric Hagen, the defendant, helped Keith wrap his head around the scope of the operation.

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Keith’s inexperience on the subject was later put on display during cross examination, when the subject of the Cole Memo was raised. The Cole Memo was a memorandum issued by deputy attorney general James Cole in 2013, which offers guidance for federal prosecutors dealing with state’s that have legalized marijuana. Keith was familiar with the existence of the memo, but when asked to provide specifics, the federal agent in charge of the case was unable to recall the specifics of the memo.

It was also during Keith’s testimony that the tension in the courtroom started to pick up, with defense attorney Mike Butler interrupting Keith at one point to instruct the witness to “look at him” and answer his questions. As the recording of his interview played, Keith nervously shifted his gaze from the ceiling to his feet, rarely meeting the eyes of the jury, but changed his tone as he opened up for long-winded answers to the jury on cross examination.

Butler eventually got Keith to testify that once the crop was destroyed, his investigation ended.

Tribe Paid $600k for Consulting

Keith’s details filled in the basic outlines of law enforcement’s case, which was outlined on Friday by DCI agent Sam Kavanagh. The prosecution then shifted to Hunt’s testimony, which started with another courtroom lesson about the cannabis industry. Hunt detailed how the project’s cannabis seeds were planted, cultivated and tracked throughout the growth process, and walked the jury room-by-room through pictures of the facility.

Hunt revealed that Monarch America received a payment of $600,000 from the tribe for the company’s work—but that work consisted only of building the grow facility and populating it with plants for a crop.

Hunt also detailed the steps that the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe, with Monarch America’s assistance, took to appease local and state authorities. Along with tribal leaders, Hunt said he spoke with the local police and the county sheriff’s office. During a Moody County attorney Paul Lewis, Hunt recalled, Lewis never told him that there was an issue with non-natives working on the project. Hunt said that Lewis’ only request was “please don’t make gummy bears.”

“We understood where we were, we understood the politics, we understand people don’t understand what was going on,” Hunt said. “Fear of the unknown is pretty epic for some people.”

Tribe Said Not to Meet Jackley

The only state official the group did not meet with, Hunt said, was South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Hunt said they initially wanted to meet with Jackley, but at the tribe’s request they did not pursue a meeting.

That led Hunt to detail his interaction with federal authorities. The United States attorney at the time, Hunt recalled, praised the tribe for a “well-written resolution” on the cannabis project. Hunt said his initial interactions with state and federal authorities led him to feel confident about proceeding with the project. All of that changed when the facility was visited by officials with the FBI and DCI on October 14, 2015.

Hunt: Too Risky, Rip it Up

After that visit, Hunt said, he strongly recommended that the tribe abandon the grow. Hunt said the tribe initially rejected his suggestion. After tribal officials met with FBI agents a few days later, however, they agreed to let Hunt reduce the number of plants. Even with the reduction in the plants, which Hunt said was done after hearing the concerns of DCI agents, tribal officials were informed by the U.S. attorney that their facility would be raided “before Thanksgiving” if they didn’t do something about it first.

A few weeks later, the tribe voted to shut down the operation. Hunt then cut down the plants and handed them over to tribal police to be burned in a nearby ditch.

A Thank-You Note

Hunt said that the tribe then alerted the U.S. attorney that the crop had been destroyed, and that they received an email simply stating, “Thank you very much,” with no other comment from the same source that had congratulated the tribe earlier in the year.

The other two witnesses to testify on Monday were state legislators who toured the facility as part of a fact-finding mission. State Rep. Spencer Hawley gave basic details of the tour and presentation, and former state Rep. Matthew Wollman added a more in-depth recollection of the day that included pictures.

Wollman, who resigned from his position after admitting to sexual contact with interns, went on to identify a strong smell of marijuana in the facility, and testified that a youth explorers class from his childhood gave him the “training” to recognize the smell.

Case Dismissed? Not Quite

At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, Eric Hagen’s defense attorney requested that the charges against his client be dismissed, due to a lack of evidence that a reasonable jury could use to convict. Butler asked that the conspiracy charge be thrown out because two different prosecution witnesses testified that Hagen did not conspire to possess any amount of marijuana. If the judge were to abandon the conspiracy charge, it would also negate charges for possession and attempt to possess.

After brief consideration, the judge denied the motion without comment. That set the stage for the defense to open its case at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Stick with Leafly for more coverage as the trial continues.

Flandreau Santee Sioux Trial, Day One: Why Did Cops Refuse Evidence?

The small town of Flandreau, South Dakota, stepped into the national spotlight this week when the two-year standoff between the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley finally made it to a Moody County courtroom, where Eric Hagen, a Colorado-based cannabis consultant, faces up to 15 years in prison for advising the tribe on an ill-fated cannabis development.

Law enforcement was invited in. There were no secrets.’

Defense attorney for cannabis consultant Eric Hagen

Hagen is charged with three felony counts pertaining to his work in 2015 on a proposed cannabis grow facility and consumption lounge on the reservation land of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe. (Leafly published this feature about the controversial project in late 2015.)

The trial has drawn national attention because of its potential implications for tribal sovereignty, and the precedent it could set for cannabis consultants working on projects in Indian Country.

Hagen was charged with three cannabis-related felonies almost nine months after the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe destroyed its crop.

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The state lacks the authority to try members of the tribe for acts done on the reservation, so the state brought charges against Hagen, who is not a tribe member. Prosecutors have accused him of possession, conspiracy to possess, and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana. If convicted, Hagen could face up to 15 years in state prison.

Hagen’s case kicked off on Friday morning in a cramped county courtroom just a mile away from the failed event center and adjacent grow operation. And it was that grow facility, along with Hagen’s alleged role within the operation, that the prosecution attempted to lay out on day one of proceedings.

Prosecution: Hagen as Mastermind

The prosecution’s opening statement was delivered by state attorney Katie Mallery, who attempted to paint a picture of Hagen as the mastermind of the cannabis grow/resort venture. Mallery put forth the theory that it was Hagen and Jonathan Hunt (the vice president of Monarch America who accepted a plea deal in the case) who controlled and ran the operation. Mallery portrayed Hagen as a hands-on participant who ramrodded a cannabis project onto the land of, and at the expense of, the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe.

Defense attorney Mike Butler countered in his opening statement: Hagen’s transparency and cooperation throughout the venture, Butler argued, proved that Hagen was nothing more than a cooperating consultant on a project covered by tribal sovereignty.

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“The evidence will show this would have had to be the most transparent conspiracy ever, if it was that,” Butler said. “Law enforcement was invited in by Mr. Hunt, by Mr. Hagen. They”—meaning law enforcement officials—“declined. This thing was laid out on a platter, what was being done on tribal land, in a tribal building. There were no secrets.”

The prosecution’s story started to come apart with the first witness.

Defense: Hagen Invited the Authorities In

The state called Sam Kavanagh, a South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation case officer. He  gave background information on the investigation, and revealed what knowledge the state had regarding the proposed cannabis grow operation. Mallery continued for the prosecution, but immediately changed course on a crucial detail with Kavanagh on the stand.

In her opening statement to the jury, Mallery said that law enforcement officials made a visit to the grow facility in October of 2015, where they “found” Hagen and Hunt, before meeting with the pair at a location outside of the facility. Yet in the defense’s opening statement, Butler said Hagen was not present that day, and that his client traveled to South Dakota the next day to meet with authorities.

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As part of his testimony, Kavanagh told Mallery that Hagen, another DCI agent, and a pair of FBI agents traveled to Flandreau on October 14, but confirmed Butler’s assertion that Hagen showed up at the facility on the following day to try and meet with authorities.

Cops Didn’t Want to Visit

On cross examination, Kavanagh went on to explain that the law enforcement officials did not want to tour the facility, or appear on video at the facility, for fear of creating a public perception that law enforcement was cooperating with the project. When asked by Butler how the public would know about the visit, or why a visit would suggest law enforcement was cooperating, Kavanagh said he did not know.

Butler continued to press Kavanagh. The defense attorney asked Kavanagh if it was usual law enforcement practice to turn down an invitation to see evidence. Kavanagh said no. Butler also asked Kavanagh about attempts to get a search warrant for the tribal facility’s surveillance footage. Kavanagh said the DCI and FBI did not seek out the footage because they did not want to “tip their hand” about a potential raid.

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No Ask for Security Footage

Even after the crop was destroyed, Kavanagh indicated that there was no attempt made to obtain the security footage from the grow facility.

“I don’t know why we didn’t grab (the footage),” said Kavanaugh.

“You didn’t even ask?” replied Butler.

“No.”

When asked by the prosecution about not seeking search warrants, Kavanagh said his agency didn’t need footage, due to Jonathan Hunt’s cooperation in the case. That came after Butler asked about the investigation into the communication between Hagen and Hunt, with Kavanagh indicating that law enforcement did not seek the e-mail and text messages exchanged between the Monarch America executives.

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One text message exchange that was on display involved the other witness called by the state. Cory Johnsen was Monarch’s marketing consultant in South Dakota. He took the stand Friday as a non-indicted co-conspirator. Johnsen, who was testifying under the protection of a use-immunity agreement, explained his role in the promotion of the Flandreau cannabis project. He walked the jury through a text message exchange about purchasing plumbing parts for the facility.

Speedy Trial

Johnsen told jurors that he organized, created promotional material for, and eventually hosted a cannabis seminar on tribal lands. He also discussed his early inquiries into a potential shuttle service between the proposed resort and the city of Sioux Falls, which is located 50 miles south of the tribe’s casino and planned event center on the reservation next to Flandreau.

With the case moving quicker than expected, proceedings were halted after Johnsen was excused from the witness stand, and the court adjourned for the weekend.

The state’s case will resume on Monday morning, when the jury is expected to hear the testimony of Hagen’s Monarch America business partner, Jonathan Hunt. Hunt accepted a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony about the operation. Tribal leaders and other law enforcement officials are also expected to take the witness stand in the coming days.