Medicinal cannabis dispensary opens in San Juan

SAN JUAN – The first dispensary in Puerto Rico’s metropolitan area dedicated to selling and shipping products derived from the cannabis plant has been inaugurated in Condado’s McLeary Avenue. The company, “b.well Healing Center,” presents itself as a therapeutic center that, apart from selling medicinal cannabis products, also offers complementary services aimed at improving patient health and quality of life.

“We understood that we should allow patients to be in a central area. This is the first dispensary that opens in the municipality of San Juan. Our commitment is with the health and well-being of the thousands of patients who have found relief for their conditions in medical cannabis,” b.well Managing Partner Carmen Serrano said.

The new dispensary and well-being center not only intends to serve patients in the metropolitan area and neighboring municipalities, but also tourists who are certified patients of medicinal cannabis so they can acquire their medicine while vacationing on the island.

Besides a dispensary, B.well Healing Center is a therapeutic center that offers complementary services aimed at improving the quality of life and health of patients. (Courtesy)

“A tourist with a medicinal cannabis license from any of the other 28 states that have regulated its use can come here, get a doctor’s authorization to validate that they have one of the 16 conditions included in the ruling and go to a dispensary to buy their medicine,” Serrano explained.

She emphasized that during this initial phase, the center doesn’t have a doctor to provide the local certification, which as established by Health Department regulations needs to be obtained by a local doctor, who can determine it the patient meets local requirements.

“Our location transforms us into the pioneer establishment in offering medicinal cannabis treatments to patients from other jurisdictions under the alternatives of medical tourism authorized by the medicinal cannabis program,” Serrano said.

Serrano assured there are several doctos in the island who are certified to prescribe cannabis products and who accept “walk-in patients” regularly, so these won’t have to subject themselves to a recertification programs while they on vacation.

B.well provides several cannabis products, such as the flower for vaporization, oils, sublingual drops, pills and edible products.

“b.well, apart from offering medicinal cannabis products, is a healing center where we will offer other related services, such as relaxation techniques, educational seminars… there is plenty of work to be done in the education area: understanding the medicine, the components, the doses. So we want to be, beyond providing the medicine, an educational and well-being center,” Serrano said.

b.well Healing Center is part of a network throughoutPuerto Rico that plans to operate 10 dispensaries in different points on the island. Serrano explained that two other dispensaries are in the construction phase, a second one in the Condado area and another in Bayamón.

“We look for locations with high a population density and to be able to take the medicine to areas where patients can access them easily,” she affirmed.




US Senate proposal holds line on marijuana taxes

By Bob Salsberg

BOSTON — The debate over Massachusetts’ recreational marijuana law took a new twist on Friday with the release of a plan that would not raise taxes on pot and would leave decisions on whether to ban retail marijuana stores in the hands of local voters.

The proposal, unveiled in summary form by Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat, is in sharp contrast to a House bill that calls for increasing taxes on recreational marijuana from a maximum rate of 12 percent to a fixed 28 percent rate, and gives local governing bodies — such as city councils and select boards — the authority to keep pot shops out of their communities without first holding a referendum.

A marijuana joint is rolled Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in San Francisco. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Jehlen is the Senate chair of the Marijuana Policy Committee, which spent several months considering revisions to the voter-approved law that legalized possession and use of recreational marijuana by adults. Senate members of the committee largely rejected the House version of the bill after it was released this week, with Jehlen calling it an assault on the will of the 1.8 million voters who approved the November ballot question.

“A high tax rate is not the will of the voters,” she said Friday in an interview after releasing the outline of the Senate bill.

Critics contend that higher taxes will discourage people from purchasing the drug legally, thereby keeping illegal dealers in business.

“You want to start low enough to make the legal market catch hold,” said Jehlen, who did not rule out raising taxes in the future.

Supporters of higher taxes argue the revenue will be needed to pay for regulating recreational marijuana. The House bill also earmarks some of the proceeds from pot taxes for substance abuse treatment programs.

Even at 28 percent, the retail tax would be lower than in Washington and much of Colorado, states that had previously legalized recreational marijuana.

Democratic House leaders had originally planned to vote this week on their version of the bill, but put off debate in order to make technical corrections and address other concerns raised by members. A vote has now been set for Wednesday.

Jehlen said she expected the Senate proposal to be taken up within 10 days, setting the stage for negotiations on a final version of the bill.

The two chambers did appear to agree on several points, including a restructuring of the regulatory board that will oversee recreational marijuana, and removing a provision in the current law that gives existing medical marijuana operators a leg up in securing licenses for recreational sales.

Yes on 4, the group that sponsored the ballot measure, said it was encouraged by the approach senators were taking.

“On taxes, local control and social justice, the Senate gets it right,” spokesman Jim Borghesani said in a statement. “The House bill, even with its most egregious flaws addressed, adopts a hostile approach that would not serve any system of commerce well, much less the fledgling legal marijuana market.”




California firms up marijuana rules, will allow deliveries

By Jonathan J. Cooper

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California would set standards for organic marijuana, allow pot samples at county fairs and permit home deliveries under legislation set to be considered by lawmakers Thursday as the state prepares for next year’s start of legal marijuana sales.

Lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration are working to merge California’s new voter-approved recreational pot law with the state’s longstanding medical marijuana program. They have settled on an array of regulations to protect consumers and public safety while ensuring taxes are collected.

The provisions were tucked into the state budget agreement between Brown and top legislative Democrats announced this week following months of negotiations with businesses operating illegally or in the legal medical marijuana field and investors who want to enter the nation’s largest legal marijuana market.

Joseph Hough, an employee at the Canna Care medical marijuana dispensary, displays a pre-packaged marijuana bud Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

“One of the biggest challenges we have is taking a multi-billion-dollar industry out of the dark and now into the light,” said Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat whose district includes much of Northern California’s prime marijuana growing region.

By 2018, state officials must have crafted regulations and rules governing the emerging legal marijuana market with an estimated annual sales value of $7 billion — ranging from where and how plants can be grown to setting guidelines to track the buds from fields to stores. Full legal sales are expected to roll out later in the year.

In general, the state will treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow six marijuana plants at home.

The budget agreement includes $118 million to pay for startup costs for the newly regulated industry, including technology and staff to work on regulations and issue licenses. The state will open a tax office in the remote region north of San Francisco so marijuana businesses can pay their taxes in cash without having to drive long distances with thousands of dollars.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, pot businesses generally cannot open bank accounts, conduct credit card transactions or otherwise use the federally regulated banking system.

The legislation outlines baseline rules for marijuana businesses and was crafted to promote a new artisanal industry in a state that has embraced craft beer and small wineries.

It would require state regulators to come up with rules for marijuana producers to call their goods organic — an important designation for California consumers that cannot be used on pot under federal rules. The state would also create standards for official marijuana varietals and growing regions, known as appellations, so craft producers can distinguish their products based on the unique strain and growing conditions like winemakers do.

With temporary licenses from the state, businesses would be allowed to sell pot and provide samples at county fairs, regional agricultural associations and cannabis festivals.

Growers would be allowed to form agricultural cooperatives without running afoul of antitrust laws. Businesses would be able to legally grow, distribute and sell their own product, though firms performing safety tests will have to be independent, with no financial ties to growers or retailers.

Keeping an open container of marijuana in a vehicle would be illegal like it is for alcohol in California, except for people with a medical card or doctor’s note.

Brown and lawmakers agreed to allow sellers with no public storefronts to deliver marijuana directly to customers.

“There are thousands of businesses currently engaged in this type of commerce,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association. “The more of them that can get licensed, the better off the state is going to be, the faster we’ll be able to get rid of the criminal element and the faster we’ll be able to make sure the product is safe and tested.”




Marijuana extract helps some kids with epilepsy, study says

By Marilyn Marchione

A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot’s possible health benefits.

“This is the first solid, rigorously obtained scientific data” that a marijuana compound is safe and effective for this problem, said one study leader, Dr. Orrin Devinsky of NYU Langone Medical Center.

He said research into promising medical uses has been hampered by requiring scientists to get special licenses, plus legal constraints and false notions of how risky marijuana is.

This Tuesday, May 23, 2017, photo shows GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, a medicine made from marijuana, but without TCH, in New York.  (Kathy Young/AP)

Opiates kill over 30,000 Americans a year, alcohol kills over 80,000 a year. And marijuana, as best we know, probably kills less than 50 people a year,” Devinsky said.

The study was published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

For years, desperate patients and parents have argued for more research and wider access to marijuana, with only anecdotal stories and small, flawed studies on their side. The new study is the first large, rigorous test — one group got the drug, another got a dummy version, and neither patients, parents nor doctors knew who took what until the study ended.

It tested a liquid form of cannabidiol, one of marijuana’s more than 100 ingredients, called Epidiolex, (eh’-pih-DYE’-uh-lehx). It doesn’t contain THC, the hallucinogenic ingredient, and is not sold anywhere yet, although its maker, GW Pharmaceuticals of London, is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

The company paid for, designed and helped run the study, and another doctor involved in the study has related patents.

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Patients in the study have Dravet (drah-VAY) syndrome , a type of epilepsy usually caused by a faulty gene. It starts in infancy and causes frequent seizures, some so long-lasting they require emergency care and can be fatal. Kids develop poorly, and their mental impairment seems related to the frequency of seizures — from 4 to as many as 1,717 a month in this study.

Allison Hendershot’s 12-year-old daughter Molly was four months old when she had her first. It lasted an hour and a half, and emergency room doctors medically induced a coma to stop it. Molly, who lives in Rochester, New York, has tried more than half a dozen medicines and a special diet, but her seizures continued.

“We literally could not count how many” before she started in the study, her mom said.

It included 120 children and teens, ages 2 to 18, in the U.S. and Europe. They took about a teaspoon of a sweet-smelling oil twice a day (drug or placebo) plus their usual anti-seizure medicines for 14 weeks. Their symptoms were compared to the previous four weeks.

The Good, Bad and Unknown about Marijuana’s Health Effects

Serious seizures with convulsions dropped from around 12 a month to about six for those on the drug and did not change in the others. Three patients on the drug became seizure-free during the study.

It’s no panacea, though. Diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, sleep problems and other issues were more frequent in the drug group. Twelve patients quit the study — nine on the drug and three in the placebo group.

Hendershot thinks her daughter got the dummy medicine because they saw no change in her seizures until the study ended and all participants were allowed to try the drug.

By the second day they saw a difference, and “she went seizure-free for two months. It was pretty remarkable,” Hendershot said.

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The fact the drug came from marijuana “did not matter to me at all,” she said. “If it helps, we’re happy. I think people hear ‘cannabis’ or that it comes from marijuana and immediately there’s a stigma attached to it.”

For those who swear marijuana helped them, “anecdote has been confirmed by data,” Dr. Samuel Berkovic writes in a commentary in the medical journal. He is an epilepsy researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where medical marijuana was legalized last year, and has worked with Devinsky in the past.

The drug is being tested in a second large study in kids with Dravet syndrome, and in studies of some other types of epilepsy.




Police object to California marijuana regulation revamp

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2016 file photo, Aaron Gonzalez removes a branch from a marijuana plant on grower Laura Costa's farm near Garberville, Calif. California law enforcement officials objected Wednesday, April 5, 2017, to Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed streamlining of the state's marijuana regulations, saying his plan could endanger public safety. Brown's administration released documents late Tuesday outlining proposed changes to square the state's new recreational pot law with its longstanding law on medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo, Aaron Gonzalez removes a branch from a marijuana plant on grower Laura Costa’s farm near Garberville, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

LOS ANGELES – California law enforcement officials objected Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed streamlining of the state’s marijuana regulations, saying his plan could endanger public safety.

Brown’s administration released documents late Tuesday outlining proposed changes to square the state’s new recreational pot law with its longstanding law on medical marijuana.

But the California Police Chiefs Association representing all of the state’s municipal police forces said the governor’s proposal could turn traditionally small marijuana businesses into much larger ones controlling the entire supply chain from growing operations to retail sales.

The proposed legislation to allow single businesses to hold multiple licenses to grow, distribute, manufacture and sell retail marijuana would be an opening for criminals to consolidate the booming industry, said association Ken Corney.

“The proposal favors big marijuana grows over the welfare of our communities,” Corney said.

The state’s two laws took different approaches in many areas – including whether one entity could hold multiple licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell in retail stores. The governor is seeking to “harmonize” those regulations. The proposal needs legislative approval.

Medical marijuana providers are currently prohibited from holding both licenses but Brown proposes to lift that restriction after it becomes legal to sell recreational pot in California on Jan. 1.

The head of California’s newly established marijuana agency defended the governor’s proposal.

“This proposed legislation helps build an effective statewide regulatory system for cannabis to achieve our goals of protecting public safety with clear and consistent rules that are not overly burdensome,” said Lori Ajax, head of the Bureau of Cannabis Medical Regulation.

She added: “It harmonizes the many elements of the two main statutes governing medicinal and adult-use cannabis, while preserving the integrity and separation of those industries.”

The police chiefs and other law enforcement agencies supported legislative passage of medical marijuana rules last year but opposed Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana after voters approved it in November.

The administration of Brown, a Democrat, has stressed that one regulatory framework is needed to avoid duplicating costs and confusing businesses in a marijuana economy expected to grow to $7 billion in annual sales annually after recreational sales become legal in California next year.

Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association, also said his organization has concerns with the elimination of the multiple licenses prohibition.

“It could lead to mega-manufactures and mega-chain stores,” Allen said.

Allen said his organization is urging the governor to adopt a regulation that would temporarily ban a single business from owning more than three retail stores and having a farm larger than four acres (1.6 hectares), which Allen said may help to keep out big corporations.

Representatives of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, comprised of Southern California marijuana businesses, said they’re still reviewing the plan.

“This takes us another step closer to a uniform industry and puts this state in a position to set the national standard,” Avis Bulbulyan, president of the group, said in an email.

California joined a growing number of states in legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults.

The regulations and rules governing the emerging legal market will cover issues ranging from where and how plants can be grown to guidelines on tracking marijuana buds from the fields to retail stores.

People 21 and over are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow six marijuana plants at home.

Those changes must be approved by the state Legislature.

Earlier this year, Brown proposed spending more than $50 million to establish programs to collect taxes and issue licenses while hiring dozens of workers to regulate the industry.




Colorado official recommends recreational cannabis for Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – All speculation used as a diverging point between detractors and advocates on the reality of medicinal and recreational cannabis sales in Colorado dissipated Tuesday after a legislator from that state, House Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Pabón, appeared before a joint public hearing by the House and Senate to discuss Senate Bill 340, which would establish the Medicinal Law to regulate local use of the plant.

During the hearing in the Capitol’s Yiye Ávila Hall, the Colorado official spoke candidly of that jurisdiction’s reality regarding its management of the novel industry. He assured that the efficient and responsible development of the cannabis industry, both medicinal and recreational, could be part of the solution to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.

Pabón said Colorado collected more than $140 million annually from recreational cannabis; drug-related crimes saw a 20% decline; drug cartels were dismantled systematically; and 30%, or $33 million, of the revenue was allocated to law and order programs to prevent drug abuse; among other data.

Colorado House Finance Committee Chairman Dan Pabón, left, presents state data on medicinal and recreational cannabis. (Courtesy)

Colorado House Finance Committee Chairman Dan Pabón, left, presents state data on medicinal and recreational cannabis. (Courtesy)

However, the official said it wasn’t a smooth process because there was fierce opposition from the conservative sectors in the state, which he added is as polarized on the matter as Puerto Rico.

He explained that in 2012, voters approved the use of recreational cannabis, but the Legislature didn’t, acknowledging that even he voted against the bill, under the impression that Colorado would become a “guinea pig” to experiment on the substance.

“What many voters told us is they weren’t interested in the use of recreational marijuana, but they didn’t want drug cartels and criminals in the state. So in 2017, statistics show that crime has been reduced significantly in Colorado after legalizing recreational marijuana; violent crime and others related to that substance. In some cases, there was a 5% to 10% decrease, and up to 20% in specific crimes,” the official said.

“The other issue people asked about was marijuana use among the youth, for them not to have the impression that using the substance wasn’t out of the ordinary. But the response is no. We didn’t see a significant rise in marijuana use among youth since the legislation,” he added.

Pabón explained that after they put in effect the Cole Memo–which established new priorities for federal prosecutors who operate in states that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana–there was a substantial increase in dispensaries in Denver, the state’s capital. This prompted the state’s Legislature to create legislation to address concerns regarding this industry.

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“If you think you are stepping onto slippery ground, don’t worry, that happened to us, too, and Colorado survived,” he said.

Pabón also praised the way the government of Puerto Rico prioritizes research.

“Having traveled the world investigating this subject, I can say with certainty that Puerto Rico is on the brink of leading research and development [of medicinal cannabis] on a global scale unlike any other place on the planet,” he said.

“It is far easier for you because of the scientific base you already have here with the University of Puerto Rico, the Medical Sciences campus, and other prestigious institutions. Not only that, you have a history in the world of pharmaceuticals; with that background you have a base of knowledge that doesn’t exist in any other country in the world. To me, that is the definitive point, but, again, how you achieve that is an important part of the discussion,” he added as he regretted that in the United States and other parts of the world there aren’t concrete studies about cannabis’ benefits for different medical conditions.

The legislator also assured that many national studies don’t take into account minority groups. However, he said Puerto Rico offers a unique space of diversity that is optimal to conduct more thorough research on the effects of cannabis on different groups.

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Pabón also said that one of his state’s goals was for the cannabis industry to be self-sufficient, without the need to allocate public funds for its operations, unlike other industries in the state that are subsidized with public funds.

“A great deal of our success is linked to the revenue system we established, and that we invested greatly on substance abuse programs, as well as educational programs about cannabis use among minors. So it went well for us thanks to those investments,” he explained.

Pabón said that a sizable portion of revenue from this industry is allocated to construction, maintenance and public infrastructure improvement in the state. Because of this initiative, the legislator affirmed that many detractors accepted its legalization.




Colorado weighs strategy for guarding against pot crackdown

By Kristen Wyatt

DENVER — Colorado is considering an unusual strategy to protect its nascent marijuana industry from a potential federal crackdown, even at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections.

A bill pending in the Legislature would allow pot growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational pot as medical pot if a change in federal law or enforcement occurs.

It’s the boldest attempt yet by a U.S. marijuana state to avoid federal intervention in its weed market.

The bill would allow Colorado’s 500 or so licensed recreational pot growers to instantly reclassify their weed. A switch would cost the state more than $100 million a year because Colorado taxes medical pot much more lightly than recreational weed — 2.9 percent versus 17.9 percent.

In this Friday, Dec. 9, 2014, file photograph, Matt Hart holds up a bud of Lemon Skunk, the most potent strain of marijuana available at the 3D Dispensary in Denver. A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature may allow recreational pot growers to instantly re-classify their product as medicinal grow if there is a change in federal law or enforcement. (David Zalubowski, File/AP)

In this Friday, Dec. 9, 2014, file photograph, Matt Hart holds up a bud of Lemon Skunk, the most potent strain of marijuana available at the 3D Dispensary in Denver. (David Zalubowski, File/AP)

The measure says licensed growers could immediately become medical licensees “based on a business need due to a change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy.” The change wouldn’t take recreational marijuana off the books, but it wouldn’t entirely safeguard it either. What it could do is help growers protect their inventory in case federal authorities start seizing recreational pot.

The provision is getting a lot of attention in the marijuana industry following recent comments from members of President Donald Trump’s administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said there’s a “big difference” between medical and recreational pot.

Sponsors of the bill call it a possible exit strategy for the new pot industry. It’s hard to say how many businesses would be affected, or if medical pot would flood the market, because some businesses hold licenses to both grow and sell marijuana in Colorado.

The state had about 827,000 marijuana plants growing in the retail system in June, the latest available data. More than half were for the recreational market.

“If there is a change in federal law, then I think all of our businesses want to stay in business somehow. They’ve made major investments,” said Sen. Tim Neville, a suburban Denver Republican who sponsored the bill.

If federal authorities start seizing recreational pot, Colorado’s recreational marijuana entrepreneurs “need to be able to convert that product into the medical side so they can sell it,” Neville said.

His bill passed a committee in the Republican Senate 4-1 last week.

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But it’s unclear whether the measure could pass the full Colorado Senate or the Democratic House. Skeptics of the proposal doubt the classification change would do much more than cost Colorado tax money.

“It’s a big deal for our taxation system because this money has been coming in and has been set aside for this, that and the other,” said Sen. Lois Court, a Denver Democrat who voted against the bill.

Schools would be the first casualty of a tax change. Colorado sends $40 million a year to a school-construction fund from excise taxes on recreational pot. It’s a tax that doesn’t exist for medical pot.

Other items funded by recreational pot in Colorado include training for police in identifying stoned drivers, a public-education campaign aimed at reducing teen marijuana use, and an array of medical studies on marijuana’s effectiveness treating ailments such as seizures or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The proposal comes amid mixed signals from the federal government on how the Trump administration plans to treat states that aren’t enforcing federal drug law.

Spicer said the president understands the pain and suffering many people, especially those with terminal diseases, endure “and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.”

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has voiced doubts about pot’s medical value.

“Medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much,” Sessions said in a speech to law enforcement agencies in Richmond, Virginia.

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Marijuana activists say giving the industry an option to keep their inventory legal is a valuable idea for recreational pot states. They point out that a change in federal policy wouldn’t make the drug magically disappear from the eight states that allow recreational use, along with Washington, D.C.

“It would be very harmful to the state if it reverts back entirely to an underground market,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization activist group.

If the bill becomes law, Colorado would be the first pot state to take action to protect producers from a federal drug crackdown, marijuana analysts said.

A bill pending in the Oregon Legislature aims to shield the names and other personal information of pot buyers by making it illegal for shops to keep an internal log of customers’ personal data, a practice that is already banned or discouraged in Colorado, Alaska and Washington state.

Other states such as California are considering proposals that would bar local and state law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities on investigations into cannabis operations that are legal in their jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, members of Congress from some pot states have talked about trying to block federal intervention in marijuana states. Congress could reclassify marijuana so medical use is allowed, or it could try to block federal enforcement of marijuana prohibition through the federal budget.

But the proposed Colorado change may be a longshot effort.

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Medical and recreational pot are the same product. The only difference between them is how they are used, and the U.S. Controlled Substances Act says marijuana has no valid medical use. Federal health regulators have rejected repeated attempts to carve out a legal place for marijuana use by sick people.

Sponsors concede there are no promises that reclassifying all that pot as medicine would stop a federal crackdown.

But they say Colorado shouldn’t sit idly by and wait to see if the Trump administration starts enforcing federal drug law by attacking businesses that are legal under state law.

“This bill allows the industry to know there is something after tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may bring,” Neville said.




Medical Law to Oversee Cannabis Revenue in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – There aren’t many novel aspects included in Senate Bill 340 when compared with the Health Department’s Regulation 8766, which sets forth the legal framework to regulate the cannabis industry in Puerto Rico.

However, the legislation brings to light concerns about how the revenue generated from medical cannabis will be managed, especially following stateside reports of substantial revenues registered from that industry.

Moreover, the bill aims to prevent that industry from being used for money laundering or as a pretext to sell controlled substances, such as cocaine and heroine. Thus, the legislation is supported by strict federal regulation on the management of this cash flow, establishing guidelines regarding the management of resources related to the industry’s financial activities.

BERKELEY, CA - MARCH 25: One-ounce bags of medicinal marijuana are displayed at the Berkeley Patients Group March 25, 2010 in Berkeley, California. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified a ballot initiative late Wednesday to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana in the State of California after proponents of the measure submitted over 690,000 signatures. The measure will appear on the November 2 general election ballot. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One-ounce bags of medicinal marijuana are displayed at the Berkeley Patients Group March 25, 2010 in Berkeley, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“The financial industry must exert its responsibilities with due diligence with respect to its client’s activities. As such, the Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidelines to clarify expectations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for financial institutions that want to provide services to businesses related to marijuana,” S.B. 340 reads.

Another justification in the bill is that the Health Department regulation doesn’t have the legal tools to address possible criminal activity within the industry, since marijuana possession is still illegal under federal law.

Although a valid justification, since the Health Department’s role is to establish public policy and not to enact punishment, Ruling 8766 indicates it was established by taking into account local laws on the matter. The ruling states it was created in accordance to Act 81 of 1912, known as the Health Department Act, which enables the agency to act on matters concerning public health; the Puerto Rico Controlled Substances Act; and Act 170 of 1988, known as the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act.

However, the Senate’s bill only mentions federal statutes that address the issue, omitting local laws.

See also: Charbonier House Points Out Gaps in Puerto Rico Medical Cannabis Ruling in

The bill also emphasizes that former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla‘s executive order was a “reckless course of action,” while assuring that “from the perspective of substantive Administrative Law, Executive Order 2015-010 was limited in requiring the participation of only one expert, when the act to allow medical cannabis required intervention from multiple expert entities.”

To address these needs, the medical law proposes to establish the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Board (MCRB) to enact the law’s purposes and decrees, which include to settle which medical conditions should be included under the law’s decrees, methods to administer medical cannabis, the maximum amount of time per condition under which a medical recommendation can remain active, and methods to detect the substance.

However, the bill contradicts itself by saying the MCRB will comprise the following five members: the secretaries of the Health, Agriculture, Economic Development & Commerce and Treasury departments, as well as an official designated by the governor. Of these, Health Secretary Rafael Rodríguez Mercado, a neurosurgeon, is the only official with the expertise to analyze the conditions that could be treated with cannabis.

Some have raised concern that the bill states the MCRB will have the faculty to enter into contracts “with any person, firm or corporation for consultations or advise.” This leads to question why the government doesn’t simply use the Health Department’s existing resources for this purpose, especially amid a fiscal crisis.

In addition, it is questionable to generalize treatment with medicinal cannabis, since every patient presents a different background and needs to be treated individually.

One of the most common uses for medical cannabis in other jurisdictions is to treat conditions in minors, such as epilepsy, because cannabis isn’t linked to secondary health effects, unlike lab-developed drugs.

Nevertheless, in its Article 8, S.B. 340 establishes that “no person under the age of 21 may enter a dispensary,” but does not state whether it will be allowed to be used by minors in an another location, such as their residence.

See also: Medical Cannabis Association Favors New Regulatory Bill

Although the legislation seeks to fill possible gaps left behind by Regulation 8766, as it doesn’t address legal concerns that could arise in the industry,it does regulate nearly all aspects involving the use, possession, growth, manufacture, dispensation, distribution and research into medical cannabis.

S.B. 340 doesn’t state the reason why it intends to repeal the Health Department’s ruling, save for some indications in its exposition of motives, which limits to categorize Executive Order 2015-010 as a judgement error by the past administration.

 




What’s the buzz? Pot-growing lights vex ham radio operators

In this Feb. 21, 2017 photo, lifelong ham radio operator and expert tinkerer Tom Thompson, looks at a representation of radio waves on his computer, inside his basement home office, where he operates a ham radio and other devices, in Boulder, Colo. After discovering that radio interference was being caused by high-powered lights from home marijuana growers, Thompson built an electronic filter and has given them to nearby growers. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In this Feb. 21, 2017 photo, lifelong ham radio operator and expert tinkerer Tom Thompson, looks at a representation of radio waves on his computer, inside his basement home office, where he operates a ham radio and other devices, in Boulder, Colo. After discovering that radio interference was being caused by high-powered lights from home marijuana growers, Thompson built an electronic filter and has given them to nearby growers. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

AUGUSTA, Maine — Retired Coast Guard officer Roger Johnson sometimes notices a harsh buzz when he turns on his amateur radio, and he blames high-powered lighting used to grow pot.

Amateur radio operators say the legalization of marijuana is creating a chronic nuisance thanks to interference caused by electrical ballasts that regulate indoor lamps used to grow pot. The American Radio Relay League wants the Federal Communications Commission to take a stand against devices that give off much more interference than federal law allows in homes.

Ham radio operators generally say they don’t have a problem with pot but worry amateur growers may not be aware that cheap ballasts can have phony FCC-compliance stickers. The operators point out they serve as backup communication during emergencies — but concede it’s unlikely any lighting devices would still be on if the power goes out.

Johnson, one of the radio league’s 166,000 members, said he worries interference will only become a bigger inconvenience in years to come in Maine, which recently legalized growing up to six flowering marijuana plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings.

When he recently heard suspicious noisy static, Johnson said, he drove up and down side streets with a spectrum analyzer hooked up to his laptop to determine the source, which turned out to be a licensed grower a mile away who said he had no idea he was causing a disturbance.

“My prediction is that as more and more states legalize marijuana, the number of growers is going to increase exponentially and overwhelm the FCC’s ability to regulate it,” he said.

The American Radio Relay League has filed four complaints against the FCC and said it hasn’t heard back, and says complaints concerning alleged interference continue to trickle in, particularly in Colorado and California. Cultivation of recreational marijuana is also now legal in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Alaska, Washington state and the District of Columbia.

Will Wiquist, an FCC spokesman, said the agency takes all interference issues seriously and sends warning letters after receiving complaints about unlawful interference, including from lighting. He declined to comment further.

Grow lamps are distinctive because they power on and off for 12 hours at a time, and marijuana grow lighting can be powerful enough to produce the same amount of radio interference as a 1,000-watt AM radio station, said Bill Crowley, the Maine section manager of the Radio Relay League.

One inexpensive ballast sold by big-box retailers produced 640 times the level of interference of a legal unit, said Mike Gruber, the league’s resident radio interference expert, who did the test.

The interference often sounds like the kind of harsh, grating static generated by a lightning strike — except it doesn’t stop, said Tom Thompson, an amateur radio operator in Boulder, Colorado.

Thompson said he has dealt with independent pot growers causing interference a half-dozen times. Given the weak federal enforcement and declining FCC manpower, he said, he has created his own solution: a filtering device that almost eliminates the static by suppressing interference from non-compliant ballasts.

“Some won’t cooperate, but most do,” he said. “I go to their places and give them a filter and give them instructions how to install it.”

Last year, Kalkaska, Michigan, began requiring medical marijuana growers to use FCC-compliant lighting equipment. Scott Yost, the village’s manager, is an amateur radio operator himself.

In Maine, Johnson wants legislators to get the state to step in and ban ballasts that produce radio frequency noise extending beyond the user’s property. Out-of-compliance ballasts could be refunded or replaced with a unit that doesn’t produce noise, he suggests.

Several legislators said such a move would likely pre-empt federal law, and a committee recently voted to kill such a bill. Other ham radio operators say the federal government should do its job.

Crowley said he has experienced a disturbance himself, and hopes President Donald Trump’s new FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai — who has praised pending federal legislation aimed at helping amateur radio operators — will be more sympathetic.

Education might be the answer and could make growers more aware of the need to use ballasts approved by the FCC, said Erin Worthing, of Cape Elizabeth, a recreational marijuana caregiver.

The FCC-approved grow lighting he uses for his crops lead to a higher-quality product, he said, as noncompliant ballasts also tend to be cheap and poorly designed.

The White House said last week that the Justice Department will begin stepping up enforcement of federal laws prohibiting recreational marijuana. Noting that marijuana remains federally illegal, Worthing said, “Under the current climate, we don’t want feds knocking on doors.”




Celebrities launch pot brands as California legalizes drug

SAN FRANCISCO — Country singer Willie Nelson, the children of the late reggae icon Bob Marley and comedian Whoopi Goldberg are just a few of the growing number of celebrities publicly jumping into the marijuana industry and eyeing the California pot market, which is expected to explode after voters legalized the recreational use of weed.

Regulators are still scrambling to get California’s recreational pot market launched and are racing to issue licenses to growers and sellers by early 2018. Still to be decided is who will receive the first licenses to grow, distribute and sell recreational marijuana.

Growers already cleared to sell medical marijuana in California could be the first in line.

In this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, file photo, the Hollywood sign is seen vandalized. Los Angeles residents awoke New Year's Day to find a prankster had altered the famed Hollywood sign to read "HOLLYWeeD." (Getty Images)

In this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, file photo, the Hollywood sign is seen vandalized. Los Angeles residents awoke New Year’s Day to find a prankster had altered the famed Hollywood sign to read “HOLLYWeeD.” (Getty Images)

Analysts say brands already established in legal medical marijuana dispensaries — including celebrities who partner with approved California growers — will have a leg up when the first licenses are issued. Several pot-loving celebrities are in prime positions because of their fame and backstory with the drug, including Marley’s children.

The late Jamaican singer was at the vanguard of the global legalization movement.

Backed by a Seattle venture capital firm, Marley’s oldest daughter launched Marley Natural in 2014. Cedella Marley says California is now the world’s largest legal cannabis market since voters approved Proposition 64 in November. Marley Natural products already are available in California medical dispensaries.

There is enormous opportunity for growth in the state, Cedella Marley said in an email interview.

“It also carries enormous cultural significance and influence, so it will be an important place to help people understand the herb the way my dad enjoyed it,” she said.

See also: Pereira: Drug War has been lost, continues fight to legalize marijuana

Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian Marley, runs a competing operation, Stony Hill, and recently joined with another weed company to buy a vacant 77,000-square-foot prison for $4.1 million in Coalinga, in California’s Central Valley. They turned it into a marijuana factory.

All uses of pot remain illegal under federal law, keeping most banks and Wall Street companies out of an industry that could grow from $6 billion to $50 billion in the next decade, according to the financial services firm Cowen & Co.

Nonetheless, Wall Street has taken notice.

Beer and spirit companies have warned investors that legal weed could threaten profits. Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams, and Brown-Forman Corp., distiller of Jack Daniels, say they fear consumers will cut down on drinking and start using marijuana more as it becomes legal in more locales.

This file photo shows the jars from the marijuana line marketed by rapper Snoop Dogg in one of the LivWell marijuana chain's outlets south of downtown Denver. (David Zalubowski, file/AP)

This file photo shows the jars from the marijuana line marketed by rapper Snoop Dogg in one of the LivWell marijuana chain’s outlets south of downtown Denver. (David Zalubowski, file/AP)

In California, the new marijuana law calls for nearly 20 types of licenses, including permits for farmers; delivery services that will take pot to a buyer’s front door; testing labs; distributors; and dispensary operators at the retail level.

But because the drug is still illegal under federal law, the U.S. Patent and Trademark office won’t issue trademarks to protect marijuana brands. So marijuana companies and their advocates have turned to state lawmakers for help.

Rob Bonta, a Democratic assemblyman from Alameda, has introduced a bill that would grant cannabis companies state trademarks.

It also would ban marijuana billboards near freeways and provide money to develop standards for testing impaired drivers. Law enforcement officials have taken no position on it even though they opposed the legalization of recreational pot.

Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association, a marijuana farmers’ trade group, said California has a mature marijuana marketplace in which consumers expect high-quality pot and have more than price and quality in mind when shopping.

“California consumers are interested in how their products were grown, how workers were treated,” Allen said.

Celebrities who have associated themselves with social causes that also sell weed will stand out in California, he said.

Few stars have invested so publicly — and heavily — in the marijuana industry as Calvin Broadus, better known as rapper Snoop Dogg. He has branded his own line of bud called Leafs by Snoop, created a marijuana news website and launched a $25 million venture capital fund for pot investing called Casa Verde, Spanish for “greenhouse.”

In turn, Casa Verde has invested $10 million into Eaze, a marijuana delivery service.

Snoop Dogg and other deep-pocketed celebrities investing in the industry are paving the way for broader acceptance, advocates argue.

See also: US government won’t reclassify marijuana, allows research

“They’re helping to legitimize marijuana,” said Cheryl Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club. “Marijuana is fast becoming cool and glamorous.”

Some 26 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the medical use of marijuana, and polls show a majority of Americans support repealing the federal ban on marijuana.