Governors of 2 Pot States Push Back on Trump Administration

Photo by Vortex Farmacy.

BY BECKY BOHRER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Governors in at least two states that have legalized recreational marijuana are pushing back against the Trump administration and defending their efforts to regulate the industry.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a one-time Republican no longer affiliated with a party, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week asking the Department of Justice to maintain the Obama administration’s more hands-off enforcement approach to states that have legalized the drug still banned at the federal level.

It comes after Sessions sent responses recently to the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, who asked him to allow the pot experiments to continue in the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana. Sessions detailed concerns he had with how effective state regulatory efforts have been or will be.

Washington state also responded to Sessions this week. Gov. Jay Inslee said the attorney general made claims about the situation in Washington that are “outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.”

“If we can engage in a more direct dialogue, we might avoid this sort of miscommunication and make progress on the issues that are important to both of us,” Inslee and that state’s attorney general wrote to Sessions.

Since taking office, Sessions has promised to reconsider pot policy, providing a level of uncertainty for states that have legalized the drug. A task force assembled by Sessions encouraged continued study of whether to change or rescind the approach taken under former President Barack Obama.

In Alaska, Walker said he shared Sessions’ concerns about the dangers of drug abuse but said state rules for marijuana businesses address federal interests, including public health and safety concerns. The governor said Sessions cited a 2015 state drug report in raising questions about Alaska’s regulations but noted that the first pot shops didn’t open until late last year.

The state is taking “meaningful” steps to curb illegal pot use, especially by those who are underage, Walker and state Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth wrote in the letter obtained through a public records request.

In a separate letter, Lindemuth was more pointed.

“Given the diversity of public sentiment regarding marijuana throughout the country, marijuana regulation is an area where states should take the lead,” she wrote.

Alaska political leaders have long pushed back on issues where they think the federal government is overstepping its bounds. The state’s lone U.S. House member, Republican Rep. Don Young, said he has never smoked pot but supports states’ rights.

Alaska voted on it, “and the federal government should stay out of it,” he told The Associated Press last year.

The largest voting bloc in the state is not affiliated with a political party, though President Donald Trump won with just over 50 percent of the vote last fall. Voters in 2014 approved recreational marijuana, with about 53 percent support.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


U.S. Teen Drug Overdose Deaths Inch Up After Years of Decline

BY MIKE STOBBE
AP MEDICAL WRITER

NEW YORK (AP) — After years of decline, teen deaths from drug overdoses have inched up, a new U.S. government report shows.

The drop in teen deaths had been a rare bright spot in the opioid epidemic that has seen adult overdose deaths surge year after year — fueled by abuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and newer drugs like fentanyl.

“This is a warning sign that we need to keep paying attention to what’s happening with young people,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues who wasn’t part of the study.

It’s not clear why teen overdose deaths increased in 2015 or whether the trend will continue, said lead researcher Sally Curtin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC released the report Wednesday focusing on adolescents aged 15 to 19.

The overdose death rate rose to 3.7 per 100,000 teens in 2015, from 3.1 the previous year. Most of the deaths were accidental and were mainly caused by heroin, researchers found.

Clearly, drug overdoses have been a far smaller problem in teens than in adults. Tens of thousands of adults die from overdoses each year compared to about 700 to 800 teens.

Another difference: Unlike adults, overdose deaths in teens have not been climbing every year.

To their surprise, CDC researchers found that teen overdose deaths actually fell after 2008, and dropped as low as about 3 per 100,000 during 2012 through 2014.

The drop tracks with previously reported declines in teen drug use, smoking, drinking, sex and other risky behaviors, Keyes said. Some experts believe those declines are related to more time spent on smartphones and social media.

The decline was driven by boys, who account for about two-thirds of teen overdose deaths. The boys’ rate fell by a third in those years, but the girls’ rate held fairly steady.

Then came the increase. The rate among boys rose to 4.6 per 100,000 in 2015 from 4 the year before. Among girls, it increased to 2.7 from 2.2. Though small, it was the highest overdose death rate for girls since at least 1979, Curtin said.

Health expert said it’s likely teen overdoses edged up in 2015 because of the increasing availability of newer and more lethal kinds of opioids like fentanyl, which is sometimes mixed with heroin.

“If the drugs are more potent, your chances of it (drug use) being fatal have perhaps increased,” Curtin said.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ news right here.


Consumer Education: Transparency is King

Making Cannabis Transparent: The Future of the Industry is Information and Data

The last decade has been marked by great strides in the cannabis industry, as public awareness surrounding the health benefits of marijuana-infused products has spread and products have become increasingly well researched and scientifically advanced. Despite this significant progress, however, cannabis legislation and regulations continue to vary widely between states, ultimately contributing to a lack of clarity within the industry.

This issue was at the forefront of the DispensaryNext Conference and Expo agenda held in Denver a few weeks ago. During the expo’s Consumer Safety and Education discussion, a panel of industry leaders including Kevin Gallagher, director of compliance and government affairs at Craft Concentrates and executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA); Eileen Konieczny, registered nurse and president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association; Kevin Staunton, director of business development at RM3 labs; and moderator David Kotler, a partner at Cohen Kotler P.A., highlighted a number of important issues for cannabis patients and adult-use consumers, as well as what’s next for physicians, testing labs and dispensaries across the industry. A number of common themes resonated in their discussion of opportunities and challenges, ultimately pointing to a need for increased research and data, and most notably, a growing demand for transparency industry-wide.

Medical practitioners and dispensary technicians need qualified and legitimate information.

Konieczny opened by stressing that the industry must stop calling dispensary sales associates “budtenders.” “I prefer the term ‘dispensary technician.’ These are knowledgeable people who are on the front lines, helping patients understand the products available to them. They deserve a title to reflect that our industry and their knowledge is much more than ‘bud,’” says Konieczny.

These are knowledgeable people who are on the front lines, helping patients understand the products available to them. The most prominent information gaps in the industry lie at the level of dispensary technicians and medical practitioners. The ideal scenario for patients who are looking to use cannabis as medicine is that their medical practitioner is educated about the endocannabinoid system and that the products are available locally so that a treatment plan can be developed based on their needs. But the reality is that many patients enter their local dispensary without much knowledge or support at all, relying on the professionalism of the dispensary staff to help them navigate the dizzying array of products.

Putting the patient’s safety and success first, it is imperative that everyone involved has the proper data and information to make the best choices. However, dispensary technicians should be extremely careful to avoid making health or benefit claims. As Gallagher noted, “It is not only illegal, but also unethical to make medical claims as a dispenser. There is a difference between a claim and a personal experience. A dispenser can tell their customer that a certain strain helped them personally, but they cannot tell the customer that the strain will cure their specific ailment.”

The industry needs transparency.

New cannabis consumers may have a certain degree of misunderstanding of the products they are consuming and unfortunately, manufacturers do not offer a high level of transparency in disclosing ingredients, thereby preventing these customers from becoming better informed.

While educating the public is essential, educating the industry is of equal importance.Furthermore, labels often contain small barely legible type, along with confusing and unnecessary content. According to Gallagher, the labels need to be simpler. “Products are overloaded with redundant, confusing language that most consumers don’t understand. This turns them off—especially if they’re inexperienced in this realm,” says Gallagher. When customers who are new to cannabis find products off-putting, it hurts not only the industry, but also their own health. Ill-informed consumers may have trouble understanding how cannabis can help them, and therefore they can miss the benefits it provides.

While these issues are prevalent, there are many ways they can be resolved—with transparency at the core.

Research is critical and paramount.

For cultivators or manufacturers, research and data hold the key to attracting new consumers. By providing details about what is in a product and implementing certifications to show the product is contaminant-free, manufacturers are able to provide transparency and offer differentiation.

During the panel, Konieczny pointed out another common mistake that many manufacturers make—not sharing test results. “Not many are posting their test results, and yet this is one of the leading avenues that can increase revenue,” says Konieczny. “Most people just want to feel well again, so providing test results adds a layer of legitimacy for patients who are wary to try a new product.”

With all of this in mind, it is perhaps most important to consider the way that this information is conveyed. Facts and research are useless if they are not accessible to consumers, who may not comprehend complex data. “We need to present information in plain language, keeping it clear and simple to understand,” expressed Konieczny. The simpler the delivery, the better it will be understood and knowledge is a very powerful tool for patients, consumers and the bottom line.

Educating the educators.

While educating the public is essential, educating the industry is of equal importance. For instance, thoroughly training dispensary technicians to ask the correct questions and identify first-time users will ensure consumer safety while avoiding improper use.

The industry as a whole depends on transparencyEducating professionals on better product labeling is another critical way that the industry is working to improve itself. There has recently been a push at the manufacturing level for standardization in product labeling, as establishing a clear standard can aid customers in successfully using cannabis. “In working groups with Colorado’s MED (Marijuana Enforcement Division), we aim to standardize specific product categories, remove irrelevant names, and harmonize medical and retail labeling regulations,” says Gallagher. “Ultimately, we want to consolidate language and make it more transparent in promoting public health and safety so that it can be easily read and understood.”

All panelists agreed transparency is paramount for the future of the cannabis industry and for growing a brand. Using lab data can provide value, setting a brand apart and building loyalty among consumers looking for someone they can trust.

“Transparency is king,” Gallagher urges. “The more we educate consumers and professionals, the more clarity we will see at all levels, ultimately minimizing risk and creating greater demand among those consumers. The industry as a whole depends on transparency.”

The post Consumer Education: Transparency is King appeared first on Cannabis Industry Journal.


Watch: Episode 7 of ‘Growing Exposed’—Acres Upon Acres

If the scale of this next facility doesn’t blow your mind… then nothing will.

Welcome to the California field of dreams for medical marijuana growing.  Expert Justin Cooper guides you through this seven-acre natural sunlight greenhouse production facility that he believes will dictate the future of medicinal cannabis production for all of the U.S.

What makes natural sunlight greenhouses superior to other forms of cannabis production? First and foremost, it’s the utilization of natural sunlight that slashes energy costs, creating a far more sustainable product.

Secondly, this source of light remains the best quality and spectrum of light for the cannabis plant. The plant has been growing under the sun for thousands of years—not to mention, the temperate climate in many areas of California that allow for cannabis production all year round.

Just a reminder that the big reason clandestine operations began using HID lighting was to stay undetected in homes and buildings.

Before you start growing in a greenhouse, however, you’re going to need some control over the brilliant sun, especially when flipping your plants from vegetative growth (18 hours of light) to the flowering stage, which only requires 12 hours of light.

To solve this problem, this facility has massive light deprivation tarps to manipulate the photoperiod of the cannabis plants. Huge canopies are covered by massive black tarps that induce “night” or “lights off.” This allows optimal control over the light needed to grow at different times of the year, guaranteeing consistent all-year-round cannabis production.

In veg rooms, this facility uses small fluorescents on top of natural light that keep plants in veg for an 18-hour light cycle, which is crucial during the winter with the shorter daylight hours.

As Justin enters a room walking towards thousands of thriving cuttings he says: “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in a humidity dome? Well this is one big one.”

As he goes on, he explains the importance of ensuring your plants are kept at around 90 percent humidity to reduce the transpiration of water through the leaves. Most home growers can buy tiny humidity domes for cloning trays to keep their cuttings alive and well; but when growing on this scale, they had to use commercial methods.

When in flower, Andrew from Geopot takes over to explain how this grow operation benefits from fabric pots in flower, and why they’re better than traditional pots for root aeration.

Flowering plants are spaced out to maximize light coverage, which reduces the amount of “popcorn” buds on plants. The plants are quadruple trellised for optimal support and planted in 65 gallon Squat Geopots, with 2-3 plants per pot in King’s Mix medium from Royal Gold, a high-quality and trusted quality-controlled potting mix. Nutrient solution is fed into the plants using a dripping irrigation system through four separate drips.

“A large number of these commercial gardens are switching to economical solutions like Duel Fuel by Green Planet Nutrients,” explained Justin.

When you are growing on a scale like this, you need something like a simple 2-part that doesn’t need a ton of additives. They just need a trusted and tested formula backed by science.

When it comes time for harvest, boxes and boxes of cannabis are hung to dry and trimmed. All the cannabis grown at this facility is put through CO2 extraction to produce very clean medicine for medical users.

David Robinson, the author of The Grower’s Handbook, ends with some insight on the positive environmental impact of greenhouses for large-scale cannabis production over indoor facilities:

“Greenhouses are the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to produce cannabis.” said David. “Indoors uses HID lighting, where the bulbs end up in landfills. Many don’t know, but HID bulbs contain mercury, so a fair amount of toxic waste is produced with indoor production of cannabis.  Not only are we able to reclaim water through gutter systems, we’re also able to create super-consistent environments, creating optimal lights on/off temperatures and optimal humidity levels, while continuing to protect plants from outdoor problems, such as rain, heavy winds and hail, reducing the introduction of pests, fungi and harmful pollen into your environment.”

In this seventh episode of Growing Exposed, we explore why greenhouses could be the future of large-scale medicinal cannabis production and the benefits of this method on the environment.

Make sure to tune into Growing Exposed to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of growing cannabis exclusively on HIGHTIMES.com.

Missed an episode? Catch up on the entire Growing Exposed series, HERE!


Ohio Finds Public University Willing to Lab Test Medical Pot

Ohio state law requires that for the first year of its medical marijuana program, a quality testing lab must be operated by a public institution of higher education, located within the state, with the resources to operate a lab. After a year of the program, private labs can be licensed.

At least one public university in Ohio is willing to test medical marijuana, for quality purposes, according to CCV Research. This was disclosed in an effort to squash concerns that a lack of labs could delay the entire medical marijuana program.

CCV Research, which understand the “monumental task of implementing an entire cannabis regulatory framework, and the difficulties faced while on-boarding an existing industry into legal compliance,” would not name the college, but announced that it meets the criteria in the state’s medical marijuana program regulations, that demands a public college or university host a laboratory to monitor the quality of plants and products sold to Ohioans.

According to CCV Research spokesman John Cachat, they made the announcement because state lawmakers were considering amending Ohio’s medical marijuana law, out of concern that schools wouldn’t apply. The law requires the first labs to be hosted at a public college or university. Several schools expressed concern that taking part in the program would jeopardize the federal funding they rely on, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

“We had a difficult time even finding qualified colleges which were willing to engage in the conversation” said Cachat. “However, we found a unique, entrepreneurial team that recognized the opportunity to provide education with hands on lab experience, create local jobs and support a functioning medical cannabis system in Ohio.”

Last week, CCV Research announced a completed letter of intent with the Ohio institution in part to ease concerns of Ohio patients, cannabis businesses and state regulators that no eligible colleges were willing to participate. The concern was that this critical step in the supply chain would not be met and the entire program would experience delays. State regulators addressed this trepidation by suggesting that the law (HB 523) and/or testing lab regulations could be changed before launch to allow privately-owned companies to apply.

However, CCV Research and other industry experts have been passionately advocating for institutes of higher education to participate in legal cannabis analytics research for years.

Dr. Amanda Reiman, who currently serves on the board of the International Cannabis Growers Association said, “I think that the involvement of universities in the testing of cannabis for state programs makes total sense.”

“Universities and colleges are often on the forefront of research and public discourse,” she added. “Federal funding used to be a huge barrier for these institutions wanting to get involved in this way. But, more and more, state medical cannabis laws are including these institutions as a vital part of their program. I think this is a move in the right direction.”

“For all the flack state regulators have been getting during the rule making process, Ohio did get this right,” said Dr. Jonathan Cachat, president and CEO of CCV Research (and the son of its spokesperson). “The Ohio legislators did a great job in getting colleges involved to assure an unbiased and controlled approach to testing medical cannabis. By placing the analytic testing in the hands of public institutes, Ohio has opened the door for significant life-saving medical breakthroughs, deeply needed workforce development opportunities and eliminated the risks of lab-shopping.”

Lab shopping in mature legal cannabis markets with privately-owned labs is a significant issue in unregulated states. Cannabis product is taken by cultivators or producers to whichever lab gives the best, pre-determined, desired results; E.g., ‘Lab X’ always over estimates the flowers’ THC levels. ‘Lab Y’ never fails any product for fungal diseases.

“It was important that we advise the executive team that lab licensure is not a mechanism for a private company to partner with the college to beat out other companies,” stated Dr. Jonathan Cachat. “In turn, the executive team disclosed a vision for a long-term plan to develop a robust lab technician program across multiple disciplines. They indicated that the cannabis test lab is just a part of the overall workforce development program. “

“There is still concern about loss of federal funding. However, as a public Ohio college, we feel empowered to support the state and Ohio patients with quality and safety assurance, and obligated to provide education and workforce development opportunities,” stated an unnamed college representative.

CCV Research officials did say the institution isn’t in northeast Ohio. They wouldn’t rule out southwest Ohio. Ohio-based media Dayton Daily News contacted officials at Miami University, Wright State, Central State, Ohio State and Sinclair Community College. All of the universities spokespeople weren’t immediately aware of any involvement in the program.

Neither the governor’s office—which CCV says was made aware of the deal—nor the Ohio Department of Commerce would identify the college, either.

It is rumored to be in Southwest Ohio, because Southwest Ohio has been approved to have 15 medical marijuana stores.

“We are waiting until September 5 to formally announce our involvement, to assure support from our community and develop an application that has a high probability of success.” said the anonymous college source. “We are also aware of a potential capacity problems and are reviewing ways to increase testing capacity by means of satellite lab facilities located across the state in cooperation with other Ohio public institutes of higher education allowed by the law.”

State law requires for the first year of the medical marijuana program that the quality testing lab be operated by an institution of higher education that is public, located within the state of Ohio, and has the resources to operate a lab. After a year, private labs can be licensed.

Commerce will accept applications for lab licenses from Sept. 11 through Sept. 22.

CCV Research estimates that by 2020, Ohio’s lab testing industry could be worth half a billion dollars. Not a bad guesstimate, considering Ohio plans to purchase a $6 million seed-to-sale marijuana tracking system.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Private Sector Banks Putting the Squeeze on Uruguay’s Legal Marijuana Industry

On July 19, Uruguay started selling legal weed in pharmacies—making it the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace with the government involved in the entire chain of movement from cultivation to purchase.

The problem however is that, at $1.30 per gram, the country has already run out of weed and it’s program has only been operating for less than a month.

From the very first day when sales started, there were shortages; some pharmacies were cleaned out before closing time.

Pharmacy owners say the situation continues and that their supply is gone almost as soon as it is delivered.

Some stores in the capital, Montevideo, where about two-thirds of the country’s 3.4 million people live, haven’t had a shipment since August 4.

According to the PanAmPost, the situation is even worse outside the capital.

What’s going on? Blame the banks.

In addition to the supply problem, it turns out, banks are closing the accounts of all companies connected with the sale of cannabis, which in Uruguay happens to be 22 pharmacies.

Private-sector banks have begun closing accounts by order of their overseas parent companies, claiming they would be subjected to sanctions if they did not.

While weed is legal in Uruguay, it is still illegal in the countries where the parent financial companies operate.

The issue even threatens Uruguay’s state-owned Banco República with its correspondents in the rest of the world.

The Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA for its Spanish acronym) is looking for ways to deal with this situation, which, if not solved, could make it impossible for pharmacies to sell marijuana.

According to El Observador, a source close to the country’s banking association said that a local financial institution has proposed that pharmacies have two bank accounts—one for their normal commercial activity and another for their marijuana sales.

Pablo Durán, legal counsel for the Pharmacy Center, said that some pharmacies may decide to undertake this complicated process in order to not be pushed out of the financial system.

“It is beyond absurd that the banks are able to sabotage a government measure like this,” said Miguel Taberne, Director of the Pharmacy Association of the Interior.

We, here in the United States, understand your pain as our banks refuse to provide financial services to the weed industry.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


California Businessman Believes the Smell of Marijuana Hurts Wine Grapes

Robert “Pat” Patrick is the CEO of the local chamber of commerce in Lodi, California, a stretch of the state’s agricultural heartland that, in recent years, has made a name for itself as a nascent winemaking region.

It’ll never be Napa or Sonoma, but brother, if you’ve ever taken a sip of red wine and been greeted by a bold flavor explosion—like drinking a jam sandwich, made by an overcompensating Guy Fieri, borrowing Sam Elliott’s boots right after a 100-mile horseback ride through a tobacco juice swamp—you know the pleasures of a Lodi Zinfandel.

Grapes are a big deal here—in 2015, Lodi was Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “Wine Region of the Year”!—so Patrick will predictably take unkindly to anything threatening the area’s 110,000 acres of vineyards. Like marijuana fields, the smell of which, according to Patrick, can permeate the skin of a wine grape and render it less valuable.

Patrick uttered this puzzling contention last week, when the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors was considering whether to lift a ban on commercial marijuana cultivation in the area. San Joaquin was one of the epicenters of the subprime mortgage meltdown that fueled the Great Recession, and the county is still hurting for jobs. (Apparently, grapes don’t pay the bills.)

There are many who see farmland like the Central Valley as the future of marijuana cultivation.

Land is cheap and energy—via the sun, which beats down, blank and unsmiling, for most of the year—is free. Yet the notion of opening up the area to commercial marijuana cultivation was met with near-universal opposition from commercial dairy farmers and other representatives of industrial agriculture.

If Patrick has his way, cannabis will only be grown indoors under grow lights in this area. According to the Lodi News Sentinel, he’s concerned about the “problems caused by [marijuana] plants’ odor.”

“The odor travels, it could permeate grape skins and render the wine deficient, causing it to lose value,” Patrick told the paper.

During the board meeting, there were ample examples of ignorant, patently false, or dishonest statements—another farm bureau bigwig posited that existing farms could lose their loans, insurance or be penalized by the USDA if marijuana moved in, a development seen exactly nowhere elsewhere Big Ag operates, like Oregon and Washington—but Patrick’s breaks new ground.

He is claiming that the mere smell of marijuana, the scent of the essential oils in the resinous trichomes found in the flowers of mature female plants, can somehow cause harm to other crops.

This is something other, more powerful smells endemic to large-scale ag production—like manure, for example—are unable to do to wine grapes. Wine grapes are more fragile than table grapes, but manage to survive an onslaught of pests and fungi—including powdery mildew, the scourge that fells many a marijuana crop—in order to become this year’s vintage of Carlo Rossi. Patrick is suggesting that a grape that could withstand Phylloxera and black rot can be ruined by essential oils from plants on the next property over. For their sake, let’s hope winemakers don’t use aftershave or put pine-tree air fresheners in their trucks.

This is next-level nonsense, but Patrick wasn’t done.

Not content with spinning Reefer Madness, he wrapped up by proving himself a colossal asshole—making an argument in favor of paying criminally underpaid ag workers their embarrassingly low wages:

Patrick also brought up the argument that cannabis growers can afford to pay higher wages than other agriculture, construction or entry-level manufacturing jobs, as well as mentioning that some employers have already had issues with employees using cannabis on the job, leading to potential safety risks.

Yes, it’s true: In other regions, like Napa and Sonoma, winemakers have had to pay their workers more in response to higher wages offered by marijuana companies. It’s almost like competition is good—unless it’s competition that is good for the worker and consumer, rather than the employer.  

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Modest Victories for Defense in Case against Med-West Cannabis Company

In a case being watched by both the cannabis and legal communities nationwide, attorney Jessica McElfresh and her legal team scored two modest victories last week.

In a pre-trial hearing in San Diego Superior Court, Judge Laura W. Halgren ordered the return of McElfresh’s seized medical records and set a schedule for the attorneys in the case to file further briefs.

The major issue of the briefs requested by the judge is how the long-established concept of attorney-client privilege applies in this case. McElfresh had worked with hundreds of clients during her seven years practicing cannabis law. The current lawyers for many of those clients have expressed to Judge Halgren their claim that attorney-client privilege applies to paper and electronic files seized during a search of McElfresh’s home and office.

Judge Halgren (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

McElfresh is charged with several felonies in the case against Med-West, a San Diego medical marijuana company that was raided by law enforcement in January 2016. The district attorney alleges McElfresh, among other things, conspired with Med-West ownership and staff to conduct and conceal illegal cannabis extraction operations. She has entered a not guilty plea to all charges.

Stacy Hostetter is an associate attorney at the Law Offices of Omar Figueroa, a prominent cannabis legal firm. She flew to San Diego from Northern California to appear in court on behalf of the National Cannabis Bar Association (NCBA). The NCBA plans to file an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of a ruling from the bench that upholds attorney-client privilege.

Before the proceedings, Hostetter explained the goals of her trip.

“I’m hoping that the judge will be discussing what she wants briefed with regards to attorney-client privilege,” she said. “There’s a question about how that works and what the process should be moving forward in this case. It’s nice to be able to get an idea of where she stands preliminarily, that way we can address her specific concerns.”

Stacy Hostetter (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Eugene Iredale, McElfresh’s criminal defense attorney, sensed support from Judge Halgren for limiting the scope of the prosecution’s search of McElfresh’s computer files. Iredale believes that the D.A.’s request for a broad search is prosecutorial overreach.

“With respect to attorney-client privilege, it is the prosecution’s somewhat peculiar, Pickwickian interpretation of the warrant that is mostly problematic. And that is, they say ‘We can go through every file, we can look in every file that was seized, regardless of whether it was mentioned in the warrant application, regardless of whether there was a finding of probable cause, regardless of the scope of the warrant,’ and fortunately, it appears that rather unusual view is not going to prevail,” said Iredale after the hearing.

Iredale was also encouraged by the judge’s order that medical records taken by the government be returned to McElfresh.

“The seizure of her personal medical records was lunatic. It’s inexplicable. It’s the grossest of overreaches. It has nothing to do with anything,” he said. “It’s an example of the overreach, the totalitarian nature of the search warrant and the theory by which the prosecution claims a right to invade every file of every client to search through to find some potential or speculative evidence against her. It’s unprecedented.”

The judge also requested legal briefs on how a search of location data contained in McElfresh’s mobile phone should be accomplished. The prosecution wants access to all GPS data on her phone for a period of three years.

Iredale sees this request as beyond the scope of the warrant and another example of over-zealous prosecution from the D.A.’s office.

“The second aspect of what they’re seeking is truly, outrageously over-broad,” he said. “And that is, they want to know every search she did for three years, every website she visited, every social media app, everything that she has in her computer. Incredible.”

Iredale believes the judge may limit the search to locations specified in the warrant, based on her comments and questions.

Jessica McElfresh and Eugene Iredale (Photo by A.J. Herrington)

Jessica McElfresh, while pleased with the outcome of the hearing, was also visibly frustrated with the ordeal she is going through.

“I am still disturbed that the D.A. keeps trying to expand this into a further search of files not related to the warrant,” she said. “I appreciate that the judge has to hear everyone out, but this has been going on now for a while. I think it’s time that they stop trying to get into more of my files than could ever be covered by the warrant.”

Judge Halgren has asked for briefs and replies from both sides by September 15. She is expected to rule on the matters at a hearing scheduled for September 27.

A legal defense fund has been established for McElfresh. You can help preserve the rights of all members of the cannabis community by donating HERE.

RELATED: Felony Charges Follow Raid on Legal Cannabis Company Med-West
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Hawaii Braces for Surge in Medical Marijuana Patients

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Health is preparing for a surge of patients signing up for the state’s medical cannabis registry, as two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are officially open for business.

Hawaii News Now reports more than 18,000 patients have joined the state’s medical cannabis registry.

About 38 percent of the patients reside on the Big Island, while 29 percent live on Oahu.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Can Legal Weed Rescue West Virginia?

When a bill was introduced in West Virginia to legalize medical marijuana this past spring, MMJ patients were pleased and so were some Republican politicians who are not normally known for such displays of support.

“I think we all know someone who has benefited from some application of marijuana or certainly could benefit based on the research that’s available today,” said John Shott, West Virginia’s Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Another governmental organization that also perked up its collective ears was the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

A report issued by the center listed the advantages of decriminalized marijuana that could have far reaching benefits for a state that could use some help.

“If marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation,” the report stated. “If 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, the state could collect an estimated $194 million.”

This amount would be enough to eliminate West Virginia’s projected deficit and create a $183 million surplus, according to the report, and would eliminate the need to cut money from higher education and Medicaid.

The report also mentioned saving money spent enforcing the state’s marijuana laws—$17 million in 2010—which has surely grown since then.

Politicians and business people are looking at what other states have done with their lucrative weed industries in terms of creating jobs, which West Virginia also sorely needs.

While West Virginia is the country’s second largest coal-produce after Wyoming, coal exports declined 40 percent in 2013 and are expected to continue to drop, according to a WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research report released this summer.

West Virginia’s number one employer for years has been Walmart, with coal and mining companies falling way down the list of employers in this state of 1.8 million people.

For the fourth year running, West Virginia has ranked last in the Gallup Economic Index. It is also among the bottom five states, for the last six years running, in CNBC’s “Top States for Business.”

Another issue… the opioid crisis.

West Virginia has been called “ground zero” in the nation’s worst drug crises with the highest rate per capita of overdose deaths—a statistic that is growing rather than shrinking.

Currently, the medical marijuana program in West Virginia is extremely limited—no herbal cannabis, only cannabis-infused preparations in the forms of pills, oils, topicals, patches or tinctures, etc.—and still hovers in a transitional state.

But a light at the end of the tunnel became ever so slightly visible when local politicians stopped moralizing and started looking at the what marijuana could do for a state that is in dire need.

To answer the question “can legal weed rescue West Virginia?”

The answer seems to be yes, but only if the Mountain State will let it.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.