Governor of Utah Promises Back-Up Medical Marijuana Bill if Prop 2 Fails

Cannabis legislation has struggled in Utah. Political opposition and legislative stonewalling have led to numerous setbacks and half-measures that have both failed to satisfy advocates while still drawing the ire of opposition groups. Earlier this year, Utah passed a bill adding cannabis to their “right to try” law, giving terminally ill patients the right to try medical treatments that don’t have FDA approval. But pro-cannabis organizers continued pushing ahead, gathering many more signatures than required to bring a much wider legalization bill, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, to vote this November. There’s broad support for the bill, but the Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have mounted a coordinated and influential counter-campaign.

So the fate of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, on the ballot as Prop. 2, remains uncertain. But at a press conference Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a promise. He said that if voters don’t approve Prop. 2, a measure Gov. Herbert does not himself support, he’ll push for legislative action to legalize medical cannabis anyway.

Utah Gov. Wants a Medical Cannabis Bill—Just Not This One

“This bill is not perfect,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told reporters at his monthly KUED news conference. He mentioned “loopholes,” potential conflicts and other problems regarding public safety concerns and controlling access. Herbert’s concerns echo those medical cannabis advocates have heard from the state legislature for years. After numerous failed negotiations to craft a bill that appeased lawmakers, supporters of medical marijuana decided to take the issue directly to a ballot initiative.

Rather than direct his frustration toward state lawmakers, Gov. Herbert pointed the finger at Congress for failing to pass national medical cannabis legislation despite more than 30 states and territories having some form of legal cannabis. As for his own state’s efforts to legalize medical cannabis, Gov. Herbert is not a supporter of Prop. 2.

If voters approve it, Gov. Herbert says the bill will need fixing. And if it doesn’t pass, he has promised a back-up medical marijuana bill “that everybody can support.”

Is Utah Gov.’s Back-Up Medical Cannabis Bill For Real?

Members of the Utah Patients Coalition, one of the groups supporting medical cannabis legalization, is confident that patients will win come November. But even if Prop. 2 passes, Gov. Herbert indicated that lawmakers would still be able to make changes to the bill. Given the legislative opposition to legal medical cannabis, those changes could end up violating the will of voters. At the press conference, Gov. Herbert was short on specifics about how and what in the law would need fixing.

On the other hand, if Prop. 2 fails, it’s unclear that the governor’s back-up bill will be satisfactory either. An alternative piece of legislation is already being crafted by the Utah Medical Association and Drug Safe Utah, the two leading opposition groups next to the LDS Church. Michelle McOmber, UMA’s CEO, said: “We need to do it in a way that’s safe for Utahns, in a way that’s safe for our communities and our children.”

However, the major tweaks McOmber’s coalition is proposing are ones that would ultimately subvert the aim of the legislation: legalizing medical cannabis. In an interview discussing their proposal, McOmber said, “[medical marijuana] would be physician prescribed or something like pharmacy dispensed or pharmacy-like dispensed.”

But both of those proposals—physician prescriptions and pharmacy cannabis sales—are explicitly forbidden under federal law. Doctors cannot legally prescribe medical cannabis, they can only recommend it. Pharmacies can’t sell medical cannabis; specially licensed dispensaries have to.

Utah Will Vote on Medical Cannabis this November

If those are the elements of Gov. Herbert’s promised back-up bill, it’s not such a back-up after all. So come November, Utah voters will have to make a choice. They can either vote yes on Prop. 2, the bill they want and defend it against legislative efforts to water it down. Or they can pass on Prop. 2 and wait for a back-up bill that could very well be dead on arrival.

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The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Remember when TV was exclusively dumb procedurals? Seems like forever ago, especially considering just how incredible TV has become in the last several years. And with fall just around the corner, a lot of that incredible TV is also just around the corner. We all know that there ain’t a lot better than relaxing with a few jazz cigarettes after a long day of work and watching some great TV, so here’s what we’re watching this season, along with some tried-and-true hits.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Hulu

The Show That Seemed Dumb But is Actually Really Great: Castle Rock

J.J. Abrams has plastered his name over enough nonsense that and it probably made you shrug Castle Rock off. Guess what? Stop shrugging. It’s bad for your neck. Castle Rock is an expertly crafted supernatural drama, with (finally) a ton of interesting and well-developed characters and excellent writing, all living on the backbone of Stephen King’s universe. You don’t need to be a King fan to like Castle Rock; just a TV fan.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Netflix

The Show You Cannot Watch Without Food in Front of You: Chef’s Table

We get it, a show full of slo-mo food shots isn’t really for everybody.

But it’s most certainly is for us. Don’t watch this show hungry or if you have the munchies.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Netflix

The Show Everybody Keeps Telling You to Watch But You’ve Been too Stubborn: BoJack Horseman

Has somebody told you BoJack Horseman is the best show on TV? Have you then wondered how an animated show about an alcoholic horse could be the best show on TV? Despite a rocky first five episodes, BoJack quickly righted its course to become an incredibly emotional study of depression and anxiety, all while continually drilling us with great animal puns and a ton of LA-based “in” jokes. Season 5 is upon us, but if you still need to be swayed, check out last season’s “Time’s Arrow”. It’s about as good as TV can be.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Amazon

The Show That Might Be Far Too Difficult to Follow: Jack Ryan

Earth’s most perfect boy John Krasinski teams up with Carlton Cuse (one of the gentlemen behind LOST, Bates Motel, and Colony) for what is bound to be a solid addition to Amazon’s roster. But, if you’re an idiot like me, spy movies and shows are already pretty difficult to follow. Add your favorite flower to the mix, and it might be a whole lot to keep up with. Only one way to find out.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Netflix

The Show Hoping to Top Its Near-Perfect First Season: American Vandal

The show that made dick jokes funny again is back for Season 2, this time with its sights set on making poop jokes funny again. Blessed be the fruit.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Showtime

The Show That Might be a Sneak Attack Emmy Gobbler: Kidding

Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry, who previously teamed up for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, are here to give you all the feels with the series premiere of Kidding. In it, Carrey plays Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-type children’s show host who begins to battle his own darkness. I’m a firm believer in Jim Carrey’s dramatic roles, so sign. Me. Up.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Netflix

The Show You’re Using to Fill the Breaking Bad-Sized Hole in Your Heart: Ozark

If you’re missing a show full of violence and drug cartels led by a former sitcom star, look no further than Ozark. Besides Jason Batman’s supreme under-reactions to all of the insanely violent stuff he witnesses, it’s a top-notch show with some even-more-top-notch performances.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Hulu

The Show That Space Nerds Are Going to Eat Up: The First

A show about the first people on Mars from the creator of House of Cards? Yes please. Even that anthropomorphic field mouse Sean Penn can’t ruin this one for me.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of HBO

The Show That You Were Curious About, But Completely Forgot to Watch: Barry

Bill Hader stars as Barry Berkman — a hitman who discovers a love for acting — in a show that hits all the right notes from start to finish. Hader (surprise, surprise) is outstanding, and Barry rides the line between comedy and serialized drama like an absolute pro. Watch this show ASAP.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of FXX/ Netflix

The Show Gearing Up for Its 13th Season of Greatness: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
FXX / Netflix

Sunny is undoubtedly one of the best stoney shows out there, and luckily still streaming on Netflix. Here’s hoping for a lot more of Dennis’ freakouts this season, please.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of NBC/ Netflix

The Show That Will Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Get Old: The Office (U.S.)
NBC / Netflix

The American version of The Office is about as good as sitcoms get. Already watched it all the way through? Who cares. Fire it up again. Then think about how Steve Carell never won a single Emmy and try not to Andy Bernard-style punch a hole in a wall.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of ABC/ Hulu

The Show You Told Yourself You’d Watch Someday, But Never Got To: LOST
ABC / Hulu

LOST is up in its entirety on Hulu, so it’s time to finally take the plunge. Did you avoid the acclaimed, trippy, sci-fi adventure because people told you it had a bad ending? Tell them they’re dumb and wrong. Tell them they weren’t dead the whole time. Everything that happened happened. Any person who insists the characters were dead the whole time watched the wrong show. And perk up them ears for Michael Giacchino’s score, because it’s one of the best in all of TV.

The Ultimate Fall TV Guide for Stoners

Courtesy of Showtime/ Netflix

The Show You Should Re-Watch And then Stop After Season 5 So You Don’t Have to Relive How Awful it Became: Dexter
Showtime / Netflix

Remember when Dexter was good? Treat yourself to the golden years of Seasons 1-5, and then tell yourself you just watched the series finale. Because, (and here come some spoilers) by the end of Season 5:

  • Dexter had eliminated Jordan Chase, his inbred goons, and RoboCop.
  • Dexter had done Quinn a favor by clearing the blood from Quinn’s shoe, thus causing Quinn to stop investigating him.
  • Deb and Quinn were happily dating, and Quinn had not yet become a nightmarish cartoon character.
  • Dexter had not yet taken a quick five-day road trip to Nebraska to stab a random hotel worker with his dead brother (the same dead brother that later gets called the WRONG NAME in a Season 6 episode).
  • Dexter had not yet walked out of a hospital with his sister’s dead body (which I guess is a thing you can do when hospitals are busy), driven his boat into a big CGI storm wall, had an obituary written about the death of a random blood spatter analyst on the front page of an Argentinian newspaper, and gotten a secret lumberjack job in the forest.

Okay, clearly I’m not over the way Dexter ended and I need to just move on.

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Pennsylvania State Prisons on Lockdown Due to Suspected Synthetic Weed Outbreak

All state prisons in Pennsylvania are on lockdown after dozens of workers at several of the institutions fell seriously ill in the last month. Officials believe the prison employees may have been sickened after being exposed to synthetic marijuana, according to media reports.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel told reporters that he is unsure how long the institutions will remain on lockdown.

“We’re really just trying to make sure everybody’s safe and calm everybody down until we come out of this,” Wetzel said. “We don’t want to take a chance. We don’t want to put our staff at risk and, frankly, we don’t want to put our inmates at risk.”

Corrections officials announced the lockdown of all 24 state prisons on Wednesday after employees at institutions in Greene, Fayette, and Mercer counties became ill in five separate incidents. The workers who fell ill exhibited symptoms including shortness of breath, flushing, and loss of consciousness.

While on lockdown, inmates must remain in their cells 24 hours per day. No visitors are allowed and mail service for all but legal correspondence is halted. Wetzel said in a press release that the illnesses were being investigated.

“Our state prisons, especially those in the western part of the state, have experienced recent incidents in which employees have been sickened and we need to get to the bottom of this issue now,” Wetzel said.

Are Synthetic Cannabinoids To Blame?

Prison officials believe that powerful synthetic cannabinoids are making their way into the facilities. They suspect that colorless, liquid forms of the drug are being applied to the paper in letters and books being sent to inmates.

“Some of the challenge around this is that one of the ways that it’s coming is it’s a clear, odorless liquid that’s put on paper, so it’s kind of undetectable,” Wetzel said. “It’s just a difficult construct.”

Once inside the institution, prisoners consume the drugs by eating or smoking the treated paper.

New Safety Protocols Coming

The secretary said that new employee procedures were being established at the correctional facilities. Workers will now be required to use safety gear including gloves and other protective equipment. All employees will undergo training in dangerous substances and a hazardous materials response team will be assigned to each institution before the statewide lockdown is fully lifted. Wetzel added that hazmat teams will be in place by Friday, at which time the lockdown could be modified.

“Certainly visits and mail will be the last things that come back online,” he said. “We just can’t have a situation where we think there’s an issue and we’re sending staff in there and putting them at risk.”

Wetzel said that new safety procedures will be put in place at the prisons, which may include employees scanning every piece of mail arriving at the facilities.

“We have to learn how to act like a surgeon in an operating room – and that’s not just gloving up,” he said. “We have to constantly remind ourselves that anything we touch could possibly be contaminated.”

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Two New Bills Could Revolutionize Marijuana Industry in New Jersey

Two bills being crafted by state legislators could revolutionize the marijuana industry in New Jersey if they are successfully passed into law. Provisions of the measures include home delivery of cannabis products, removing a cap on dispensaries, and automatic expungement of some past marijuana convictions.

For the past several weeks, a group of New Jersey legislators has been writing two bills that encapsulate the provisions of several cannabis bills introduced during this year’s legislative session. The first measure would allow the expansion of the medicinal use of cannabis, while the second bill would lead to full legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Danielson is one of the lawmakers working on the bills. He told local media that the group of legislators is still working out the details of the bills.

“Everything is a guessing game because leadership still has to get the votes,” said Danielson. “There are a lot of moving parts. It’s like an erector set.”

The lawmakers have been writing the bills with gaining the support of Gov. Phil Murphy in mind so that the cannabis legalization programs will be successful.

“I learned my lesson with the medicinal marijuana program when the (Christie) administration was not on board. We saw a slow-moving program,” said Democratic Sen. Nicholas Scutari.

Advisory Commission To Be Formed

According to media reports, the legislators have reached a consensus on some terms of the bills. Scutari said that one provision would establish a marijuana advisory commission to regulate the recreational and medicinal cannabis markets.

“Market forces will decide, but we want to make sure [the market] runs effectively and there is adequate product available,” Scutari said.

Scutari expects the commission to be responsible for “rounding out the specifics on diversity in the licensure process, and for the vetting [of] geographic areas,” he said.

Cannabis Home Delivery Under Consideration

The home delivery of both medicinal and recreational cannabis is also under consideration by the group of lawmakers. Earlier this year Murphy indicated his support for delivery to medical marijuana patients, and now recreational cannabis may be included as well.

The recreational marijuana bill has no cap on the number of dispensary licenses that could be issued, according to Sen. Joe Vitale, also a Democrat. Another legalization bill earlier this year had proposed a cap of 120 dispensaries for the state, but that idea has been rejected so that if increasing the number in the future becomes necessary, further action by the legislature will not be required. Instead, the number of licenses issued will be determined by regulators.

Criminal Records To Be Expunged

Legislators also plan to include a measure in the cannabis legalization bills to expunge the criminal records of those with convictions for actions that are no longer illegal. Scutari said that “immediate” expungement would be granted for simple possession convictions and that the bill will have “an efficient and cost-effective method” of clearing people’s records.

Other possible provisions of the two bills include micro-licenses for small operators, and programs to encourage diversity in the cannabis industry. The lawmakers are close to finishing the bills, with only details remaining, according to Vitale.

“There’s clean-up language that we’re doing now,” Vitale said. “And we’ll probably have one more quick conference call.”

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Report Shows Nearly 90 Percent of Illegal Cannabis Farms Use Toxic Pesticides

According to new reports from federal authorities and researchers, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of illegal marijuana grows in California that are using dangerous pesticides. As a result, researchers said these illegal grows are harming animals and poisoning water sources.

Increase in Dangerous Chemicals

As reported by the Associated Press, new stats show that roughly nine out of 10 illegal cannabis grow sites are using dangerous chemicals in the cultivation process, including toxic pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

These new stats represent a dramatic increase in the number of grows using harmful chemicals. For example, today’s rate of chemical use is reportedly six times higher than it was in 2012. And last year, 75 percent of illegal grows were using dangerous chemicals. Clearly, the number of sites using these types of chemicals has been steadily climbing.

According to researchers, when illegal grows use chemicals it can pose a significant risk to the local environment. In particular, pesticides and other similar toxins often end up poisoning local wildlife. Additionally, these chemicals leach into water sources, where they harm fish and spread toxins further downstream.

In some cases, researchers said that pesticides were being added directly to irrigation waters. Obviously, this can lead to significant damage as the chemicals flow to agricultural sites downstream and can contaminate the soil.

Officials are struggling to keep up with this dramatic increase in chemical use. Most notably, clean up projects are backlogged. In some cases, toxic cultivation sites have been waiting as long as eight years to be cleaned up.

This year, more resources are going toward cleaning up these toxic sites. So far, clean up crews have found 95 illegal grows and removed more than 10-tons of potentially harmful chemicals from these locations.

In total, clean up crews have worked on 160 sites. Authorities have seized more than 600,000 cannabis plants and over 25,000 pounds of harvested weed. Additionally, clean up crews have removed around 60 tons of garbage.

Carbofuran: A Deadly Chemical

Much concern has arisen in response to the increased use of carbofuran, an incredibly potent and deadly chemical that was originally intended to kill crop-eating insects. But it was quickly found to be so toxic that many countries around the world have banned it, including the U.S.

Carbofuran is so potent that researchers said just a quarter teaspoon of the insecticide can easily kill a 300-pound bear. Similarly, a single grain of the substance is enough to kill a bird.

The use of carbofuran has been especially alarming to researchers and authorities. In particular, as the number of grow sites using harmful chemicals has spiked, so has the number of sites using carbofuran.

According to reports earlier this year, carbofuran was discovered in over 70 percent of all illegal marijuana grows in California a year ago. That number represents a large increase compared prior years. Back in 2012, only 15 percent of illegal grows were found to be using the chemical.

The current trend of increased carbofuran is alarming for other reasons, too. This chemical is not meant to be consumed in any capacity, let alone heating up and then smoking. And, as of recently, grows using the chemical tend to use it in much more concentrated forms. This makes the already-dangerous chemical even more potent and more dangerous to water sources and local wildlife.

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Elizabeth Warren Predicts Vote on Marijuana Bill if Democrats Take Senate

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has predicted that the U.S. Senate will vote on a pending marijuana legalization bill if the Democratic Party takes control of the legislative body in November’s election. The senator made the comments during an interview with Rolling Stone.

Warren and Sen. Cory Gardner (D-Colo.) introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States, or STATES, Act in June of this year. If passed, the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act so that it is no longer applicable to statutes “relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of” cannabis.

“I feel confident that if the Democrats recapture the Senate we’ll get a vote on this, and the vote will carry,” Warren said. “I think we’ve got the votes for this.”

Protection From Jeff Sessions

The senator went on to say that she is trying to protect her constituents who are complying with Massachusetts state law from prosecution by the federal government.

“I care about this marijuana bill because I care about people in my home state who are at risk of getting arrested by Jeff Sessions for either buying marijuana or running a marijuana business,” said Warren. “And I also care about when a state decides that marijuana should be legalized either for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes, or both, that the state ought to be the one who controls here. And that’s what this STATES Act is all about.”

Warren said that she was spurred to act on the issue by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tough stance on cannabis.

“Let me describe it this way: We are in a moment when Jeff Sessions highlighted aggressive law enforcement on marijuana and a lot of folks here in Congress looked at each other and said, ‘That’s a bad idea,’ ” Warren said. “What Cory [Gardener] and I have done is give them a place to channel that where we can make real change. Now we just need to get a vote from Mitch [McConnell].”

Trump Hints At Approval

Warren said that the bill is popular with fellow Democrats and noted that President Trump has indicated that he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

“We’ve got plenty of colleagues on the Democratic side who will support this, and Donald Trump said it sounded like a good idea to him,” Warren said. “He’s said it, I think, three different times now. So I’m pretty hopeful that if we could get a vote in Congress that we could actually get this passed.”

Warren said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been an obstacle to getting a vote on the STATES Act in the Senate.

“So the way over that hurdle is to get enough Republicans to push Mitch McConnell,” Warren said. “And we’ve been bringing people on to our bill two by two; a little like Noah’s Ark: A Democrat and a Republican join hands and become cosponsors on our bill. We now have multiple cosponsors [in the Senate]. We have lots on the House side. In other words, we have a lot of people on McConnell’s team who are pushing McConnell to do this.”

A change in congressional leadership may be necessary if the STATES Act is to succeed. Despite bipartisan support in both houses, the bill has stalled.

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Former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa Joins MedMen Board

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, has been named to the board of directors of cannabis retailer and producer MedMen. The company, which is based in Los Angeles, operates 19 licensed cannabis facilities in three states.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to shape the cannabis industry and its commitment to social equity by joining the board of the company that is leading the charge,” Villaraigosa said on Wednesday in a press release.

Adam Bierman, the CEO of MedMen, said that the company will tap into Villaraigosa’s experience and network of political and business contacts in Los Angeles and the state of California.

“California is the largest legal cannabis market in the world, and Los Angeles is the epicenter of our fast-evolving industry,” said Bierman.

“Few people understand Los Angeles and our home state better than Mayor Villaraigosa. He will be instrumental in guiding MedMen’s expansion in the Golden State and through his broad network, Mr. Villaraigosa will help MedMen solidify its presence across the country. He has dedicated his career to empowering local communities, and we look forward to his leadership,” he added.

Commitment To Social Equity

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Villaraigosa said that he plans to be part of the cannabis industry social equity programs being created in Los Angeles. Such programs seek to provide opportunities to people of color and to members of communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

“I have a relationship with those communities that’s as strong as anyone’s,” Villaraigosa said. “I understand the goal [of social equity]; I’ve supported it from the beginning. But we’ve got to make it work. Right now, a lot of what we have is doodles on paper.”

Bierman said that MedMen supports social equity programs in the cannabis industry. But he wants to be sure that they do not become too much of a burden for businesses and believes that the former mayor can help the company achieve that goal.

“In his life, he’s been a mediator and a conduit for compromise,” he said. “How do you make sure a social-equity program is created and exists in L.A that is the gold standard, while also ensuring commercial viability?”

Does The Former Mayor Partake?

Villaraigosa, who is now 65, said that he used to smoke cannabis when he was young.

“I grew up in the 1960s; everybody in my neighborhood did,” he said.

But when he was asked if he had used cannabis lately, the former mayor was not as forthcoming.

“I’m not aware of all the new products out there,” Villaraigosa said, avoiding the question.

High-End Cannabis Shopping

MedMen was founded in California in 2010 and operates 19 licensed cannabis businesses in California, Nevada, and New York, including cultivation facilities, processing operations, and retail stores. This week, the company announced it had struck a deal to license the Woodstock brand name for exclusive use in the cannabis industry. MedMen places a heavy emphasis on marketing and seeks upscale shopping destinations for the location of many of its stores.

“How do you become the trusted brand in the hearts and minds of the marijuana users of tomorrow? You do it on Fifth Avenue, you do it in Beverly Hills,” Bierman said.

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China’s Drug Control Agency Denies Trump’s Allegations of Supplying Fentanyl to US

On August 20, President Trump blamed China for supplying the synthetic opioid fentanyl that’s devastating U.S. communities. In a strongly-worded tweet, Trump accused China of moving the drug through the U.S. Postal System. The tweet marks the second time Trump has accused China of playing a role in the U.S.’s ongoing opioid crisis, and China’s Drug Control Agency’s rejection of those claims marks the second time they’ve disputed them. Evidence to support Trump’s claims has not been provided, Beijing officials say. This back-and-forth is once again heightening the already-tense relations between the two nations.

China Again Denies “Flooding” the U.S. with Fentanyl

Prior to his November 2017 visit to China, President Trump claimed that China was the producer of most of the synthetic opioid fentanyl coming into the United States. He also stated that he would discuss the issue with President Xi Jinping at their Beijing meeting. And just days ahead of the visit, Chinese officials rejected Trump’s claim.

Wei Xiaojun, deputy director general of the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, acknowledged that in some individual cases, fentanyl manufactured illicitly in China had ended up in the United States. But Wei expressly denied the claim that most U.S. fentanyl comes from China.

Nevertheless, both the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy consider China to be North America’s main source of fentanyl and related drugs. Trump’s latest allegations to that effect came ahead of a meeting last Thursday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sources inside the meeting say Trump reiterated his calls for convicted opioid dealers to receive the death penalty. The meeting also discussed delaying potential prison and sentencing reforms until after the midterm elections.

Senior Chinese Officials Call Trump Tweet “Highly Irresponsible”

Senior officials with China’s National Narcotics Control Commission found similar language to denounce Trump’s tweet claiming it was “outrageous” that fentanyl continued “pouring into” the U.S. Yu Haibin responded to Trump in a press briefing today, referring to Trump’s comments as “unacceptable” and “irresponsible,” CNN reports.

In November, officials in China were willing to concede that some illicitly-made fentanyl had made it to the United States. This time, however, Yu said “it’s highly irresponsible to draw such a conclusion based on some individual cases,” according to CNN. Yu reiterated that neither the U.S. government or its law enforcement agencies have supplied proof that most fentanyl comes from China.

But the Trump administration remains convinced China is the source. In 2017, a Congressional report cited a handful of law enforcement cases and drug investigators who had traced fentanyl linked to overdose deaths to manufacturers in China. This report appears to be what’s behind Trump’s allegations.

At the briefing, other Beijing officials announced the addition of 32 new drugs to China’s list of prohibited controlled substances. The list includes fentanyl and its analogs, including several other “designer” narcotics. Authorities also emphasized that China had installed 13,000 security checkpoints at shipping companies in an effort to address the U.S.’s drug trafficking concerns.

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New York State Assembly Planning Public Hearing on Legalizing Marijuana

It has been an action-packed summer in New York as far as efforts to change marijuana laws go. And all signs point to the imminent legalization of cannabis for adult use. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a panel to draft a legalization bill after a multi-agency study he ordered earlier this year recommended New York pursue legalization. Likewise seeking input on the matter, the state Assembly announced today a series of four public hearings on legalizing cannabis. The hearings will take place this fall.

New York Legislators Want to Hear from the Public on Legalization

State Assembly members Joseph Lentol, Richard Gottfried, Linda B. Rosenthal and Crystal Peoples-Stokes, all Democrats, have planned four public hearings for this fall. The hearings will seek public input on a bill to regulate and tax adult marijuana use. And while the Assembly wants to hear from cannabis industry experts and those with experience in neighboring adult-use states, it’s also welcoming input from voters and the wider public. Marijuana legalization is a popular position among New Yorkers. One poll puts support at 63 percent.

The fall hearing schedule comes on the heels of an earlier and well-attended Assembly hearing on the same issue. Crystal Peoples-Stokes has already sponsored an Assembly bill (A03506-B) to establish a “marihuana regulation and taxation act” [sic] in New York. A companion bill was introduced in the state Senate at the same time. Progress on those bills has been slow, but New York has made major strides reforming its marijuana policies. At the same time, the state is investing time and resources into studying how legalization will impact New Yorkers and learning from its neighbors who’ve taken the lead.

On Track For Legalization in New York

Regional pressure, political pressure, and economic pressure are all doing their part to push New York toward adult-use legalization. Not to mention the studies and commissions that continue to conclude that legal cannabis will benefit the state, pose few risks and reduce harm overall.

New York officials have already acknowledged the dramatic racial disparities of marijuana enforcement. That’s why New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio ordered the NYPD to stop arresting people for smoking weed (93 percent of whom have been people of color this year, according to one watch group), and why Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance announced an end to marijuana possession and use prosecutions.

New York officials have already acknowledged the health, healing and therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis. That’s why the state Health Department expanded the list of qualifying conditions this year, including adding opioid replacement treatments. And why the Health Department‘s final assessment of marijuana legalization concluded that the positive effects outweigh the potential negative impacts.

Under increasing pressure from progressive candidates with progressive cannabis agendas, like gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, more and more politicians in New York are heeding their constituents who want legal marijuana. At the Assembly’s four hearings this fall, they’ll have another chance to make their voices heard.

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Trump Regime Reportedly Attempting to Undermine Legal Pot Reefer Madness-Style

The Trump administration has established a committee to combat growing positive perceptions of cannabis by Americans, according to a report from BuzzFeed News. The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, made up of representatives from agencies throughout the federal government, has been tasked with opposing positive messages about marijuana and analyzing state legalization efforts for flaws, according to the report.

A summary of a meeting between the White House and personnel from nine government departments attacked the public’s positive views.

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” the summary reads.

The meeting was coordinated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and included staff from the State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services departments.

In a memo from the White House the following week, those federal agencies and the departments of Defense, Education, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency were instructed to provide biased information by August 10. The White House asked for two-page fact sheets with bullet points highlighting the public threats of cannabis and information on state marijuana legalization efforts.

“Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” the memo reads.

The memo said the White House wanted the federal agencies to “identify marijuana threats; issues created by state marijuana initiatives; and consequences of use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security.”

‘Secret Hate Agenda’

Terrie Best, the San Diego chair of cannabis activist group Americans for Safe Access, told High Times that the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee is the latest tactic of an administration bent on authoritarianism and bias.

“Black folks, weed, what’s next in Trumps’s secret hate agenda? Rock and roll?” asked Best.

“They formed department-wide prohibitionist cabals in our government and armed them with fake news about cannabis in order to overthrow the will of the voting citizens. It’s shameful and deceitful,” she added.

Government Officials Tight-Lipped

Although spokespeople for the government agencies tasked with providing negative information on cannabis declined to comment on the committee itself, some staffers did talk about the actions taken by their respective departments.

Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill said this week that the agency had submitted the information requested by the Trump administration.

“I’m told we did turn it in on time to the White House,” she said.

And a spokesperson from the Department of State said that the agency often discusses drug policy with the White House.

“The State Department regularly coordinates with ONDCP on a wide range of drug control issues. For specific questions about the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, we refer you to ONDCP,” the spokesperson said.

The White House declined to comment on the workings of the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, but Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told BuzzFeed News that the working group is an effort to align administration policy with the president’s goals.

“The Trump Administration’s policy coordination process is an internal, deliberative process to craft the president’s policies on a number of important issues facing the American people, and ensure consistency with the president’s agenda,” said Walters.

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