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Found 13 results

  1. USA -- Every morning, former Air Force senior airman Amy Rising makes breakfast for her second-grader, drives him to school and returns home to prepare what she calls her medicine. She suffers from severe anxiety after four years working in the frenetic global command center at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, coordinating bombings and other missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rising says she has found a treatment that helps her cope. But her local Veterans Affairs hospital does not provide it — because her medicine is a joint. Read More...
  2. Washington, D.C. -- State lawmakers are calling on the federal government to change its drug laws to let states experiment with marijuana and hemp policy. The National Conference of State Legislatures, the de facto bipartisan group of lawmakers, passed a resolution at its annual meeting Thursday calling on the federal government to amend the Controlled Substances Act to authorize state marijuana laws and on the administration to keep its nose out of state pot policies. Read More...
  3. Colorado's 40 casinos — and hundreds of others, including in the gaming mecca in Las Vegas — are bound by the same money-reporting rules that have made banks reluctant to let legal marijuana businesses open bank accounts, federal authorities now say. That means casinos can keep anyone associated with legal weed enterprises — from dispensary to grow operations — away from gaming tables anywhere in the country. And if they do allow them to play, casinos must file the same suspicious activity reports banks must file whenever they handle money derived from pot profits, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. "FinCEN's guidance applies to all financial institutions covered under FinCEN regulations, including casinos," FinCEN's public affairs director Stephen Hudak told The Denver Post. Because the government says casinos are financial institutions, like banks, they must have stringent anti-money-laundering programs in place. Filing suspicious activity reports, or SARs, to crack down on money laundering by criminal and terrorist organizations is not new for casinos. What is new is that it now extends to the legal marijuana trade. While FinCEN in February announced how banks could work with legal marijuana businesses, the government only now realized it extends to casinos. That's in any casino in the country — whether in Colorado, Atlantic City or Las Vegas — on land, on water or on sovereign American-Indian soil. So a casino on the Las Vegas strip would, by law, have to pay attention to the owner of a marijuana dispensary in Colorado who heads there to gamble. Currently, 22 states have legalized the sale of medical marijuana and two — Colorado and Washington — have legalized recreational sales. Colorado and 41 other states have some form of legal casino gambling. The news — revealed June 12 at a Las Vegas conference directed at curtailing money laundering — has stopped state regulators and the casino industry in its tracks. "The (Colorado) Division of Gaming was unaware of the FinCEN guidance," spokeswoman Cameron Lewis told The Post. "Division management will be taking this matter under discussion." Similarly, the Colorado Gaming Association, the trade group that represents the state's casinos, was unaware of the requirement. "To my knowledge, we have not been contacted by FinCEN regarding any issues dealing with ... marijuana suppliers," executive director Lois Rice said. Like banks, casinos must "know their customer" and have some knowledge of their source of funds. The casino industry keeps close track of gamblers through a variety of methods including high-roller clubs, frequent-player programs and other in-house incentives. "Casinos most comply with the government's guidance on filing suspicious-activity reports" said Jim Dowling, an anti-money-laundering consultant. "Their alternative is to not conduct a financial transaction with these individuals who were involved directly, or indirectly in the MJ business," said Dowling, a former IRS agent who was also an adviser on money-laundering issues to the White House. Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, FinCEN's requirements for doing business with the marijuana industry modified how financial institutions are to file SARs. The reports must now reflect that clients are in states where marijuana sales are allowed. Although the pot industry saw it as a first step in obtaining banking services — and more recent efforts have included the theoretical creation of a marijuana financial cooperative — Colorado banks have mostly shied from opening the door too widely. The marijuana-specific reports would either identify the cannabis-related business or employee as legally operating under appropriate guidelines, identify them as one conducting suspicious activity, or as one where the casino has ended its banking relationship "in order to maintain an effective anti-money-laundering" compliance program. The seven-page guidance also notes a number of "red-flag" scenarios that would require a bank or casino to file a SAR, including for a customer "depositing cash that smells like marijuana" who might be trying to conceal involvement in marijuana-related business activity. "There are a number of ways money laundering can occur in a casino," Dowling said, "and keeping track of this is very labor-intensive." FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery told attendees at the Las Vegas conference that it's no secret casinos are targets of organized crime. "Illicit actors are also looking to game the system so that they can move or hide funds among the many cash and non-cash transactions you conduct daily," she said. "Think about what happens each time a customer enters your casino. Often, the first thing a customer does is conduct a financial transaction — they buy chips. And the last action a customer takes is usually also a financial transaction — they cash out those chips." Casinos, like banks, must know who is bringing them money, she said, and meeting that obligation relies on the casino's ability to understand with whom it is doing business. "It's one thing when it's organized crime or terrorist money laundering, when the individuals might be unknown," Dowling said. "It's quite another matter when it's a licensed business and the individuals associated with it are indeed known." With a dispensary's difficulty in obtaining a banking relationship, casinos could become an easy substitute. For instance, "chip walking" — when chips are not redeemed — is a well-known problem at casinos. A marijuana business without a bank account could choose to pay its employees with casino chips, which are redeemed for cash, a transactions that is, by definition, now laundered. Chips purchased with marijuana-derived funds also can be redeemed for cash or a casino's check, which could then be deposited into a personal bank account. Though Colorado has a $100 limit on the size of a bet, there is no limit on how many chips a customer can purchase. FinCEN's rules require casinos to file SARs when it "knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect" a transaction is suspicious, but only when the amount of money involved — typically buy-ins or cash-outs — is at least $5,000, at once or in a single day. http://www.denverpost.com/marijuana/...owners-workers
  4. US Gov: Marijuana Arrests for Federal Funding? The United States government has been dangling the proverbial carrot in the faces of law enforcement agencies all across America in a ploy to exchange minor marijuana-related arrests for federal funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Instead of awarding additional funds to law enforcement agencies that make devastating busts that affect the bottom line of the drug cartels, this program pays police agencies a significant bonus for making minor marijuana arrests -- a discrepancy in the system that has become just as much a problem for rural communities as it is in big cities. “Although the government claims [byrne grant money] goes toward apprehending high-level traffickers, it’s often very low level people who get arrested. It targets low-income people and people of color much more than anyone understands,” Harry Levine, a drug policy expert and sociologist at Queens College, told AlterNet. Funds from the Byrne grant program are distributed each fiscal year to law enforcement agencies based on drug arrest and seizure criteria from the previous year. Those standards, which are consistent state-to-state, include: number of offenders arrested, number of offenders prosecuted, number of drug seizures, quantity by weight and drug type, and total value of funds and assets forfeited. The Marijuana Arrest Research Project recently set out to dissect the Byrne Reports of 20 states, in which they uncovered a ghastly agenda against the stoner nation. It seems that law enforcement’s bullying tactics against the average marijuana user is the most productive group to shakedown, seizing 232,006 ounces of marijuana in the state of Tennessee in 2011. To make things worse, the report cosigns what most marijuana advocates have been privy to for some time -- marijuana possession is the most profitable “drug” offense across the country. In Arizona, police agencies nailed more people for marijuana possession (42 percent) than for any other drug – methamphetamine (26 percent), cocaine (nine percent). It does not take a genius to see that if police stopped arresting citizens for marijuana, their funding would be severed almost in half. The report finds that police agencies have been using Byrne funds to pay their force and assist them in fulfilling their equipment wish list, rather than using the money as it is intended -- to finance special narcotics departments. “With Byrne grant money, the police can buy all kinds of stuff -- police cars, bullet proof vests, computers, bullets -- buy whatever they want,” said Levine. Essentially, local police departments are being rewarded with bonus money to finance salaries and new toys for officers based on the number of non-violent marijuana possession arrests they make each year. Of course, pressure to maintain this funding has given law enforcement and local municipalities the will to aggressively pursue, arrest and prosecute the average marijuana user. Ultimately, the Byrne grant program is funding foot soldiers fighting the War on Drugs and in doing so, intensifying the battle rather working towards a unified surrender.
  5. Some cannabis growers may soon find themselves with a lot less irrigation water if the U.S. government decides to block the use of federal water for state-legal marijuana cultivation. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees management of federal water resources, "is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” said Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau. He said the evaluation was begun "at the request of various water districts in the West." Local water districts in Washington state and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, contract with federal water projects for supplies. Officials from some of those water districts said they assume the feds are going to turn off the spigots for marijuana growers. “Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana,” said Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which handles approximately one-third of all water for northeastern Colorado and is the Bureau of Reclamation's second-largest user in the number of irrigated acres. Washington state’s Roza Irrigation District, which supplies federal water to approximately 72,000 acres in Yakima and Benton counties, has already issued a “precautionary message” to water customers that may be involved in state-legal cannabis growing. “Local irrigation districts operating federal irrigation projects have recently been advised that under Federal Reclamation Law, it is likely project water cannot be delivered and utilized for purposes that are illegal under federal law,” wrote Roza district manager Scott Revell in letters to the Yakima and Benton county commissioners. “Presumably growing marijuana would fall into this category.” Both Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for medical use more than a decade ago. Pot remains illegal under federal law. Reclamation’s Soeth said that the issue of cutting off water supplies for marijuana has never come up before. A Department of Justice official told HuffPost it has no comment on the water issue. The Bureau of Reclamation is likely to announce a decision this month. “We’re going to work with our water districts once that decision is made,” Soeth said. Marijuana advocates condemned the possibility of a federal water ban for state-legal crops. Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and key backer of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, criticized the hypocrisy of a federal government that would prevent water access to some legal businesses and not others. “If water is so precious and scarce that it can’t be used for state-legal marijuana cultivation, it shouldn’t be used for brewing and distilling more harmful intoxicating substances like beer and liquor,” Tvert said. The impact on Washington may be more severe, since the state’s marijuana laws allow for outdoor growing and, according to McClatchy, the Bureau of Reclamation controls the water supply of about two-thirds of the state’s irrigated land. In Colorado, marijuana businesses can grow either indoors or outdoors, but some local jurisdictions like Denver require the outdoor grow to be in a fully enclosed and locked space, like a greenhouse. Growing in Denver, home to the majority of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, likely wouldn't notice a shortage if the Bureau of Reclamation cuts off federal water. “Because we are not a federal contractor, we would not be affected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesman for Denver Water, the main water authority for the state’s capital and surrounding suburbs. But many other regions of the state rely on federal water. In Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver, about 20 percent of regional water is Reclamation-controlled. Although the remaining 80 percent of the region's water is locally controlled, it passes through the Pueblo Dam, operated under Bureau of Reclamation authority. "Yes, they come through a federal facility, but the federal facility is required to let those water right to pass," Pueblo Board of Water Works executive director Terry Book said to southern Colorado’s NBC-affiliate KOAA. The St. Charles Mesa Water District, another Pueblo-area water facility, has already imposed a moratorium on supplying water to marijuana businesses until the Bureau of Reclamation settles the issue. The Bureau of Reclamation said its facilities deliver water to 1.25 million acres of land in Colorado and 1.2 million acres in Washington state. About 1.6 million acre-feet of water is delivered to Colorado’s agricultural sector from Reclamation and about 5 million acre-feet is delivered to agriculture in Washington. As McClatchy reported last month that there are several viable alternatives to using federal water. Small-scale marijuana-growing operations may be able to use city-controlled water sources, or drill a well. Greenhouse growers are allowed to use up to 5,000 gallons of well water per day under state law. Any use beyond that requires a permit from the state. While some marijuana plants can require an average of six gallons of water per day, growing operations in the state are likely to fall well within that limit. However, in areas of the state where much of the water is controlled by Bureau of Reclamation contracts, these alternatives aren't as accessible. The potential water ban has already set off local opposition. The Seattle Times' editorial board urged the Bureau of Reclamation to allow federal water contracts to be used by marijuana farmers. "The bureau has never had -- nor should it have -- a stake in what crop is planted. That’s a basic tenet of the 1902 National Reclamation Act, which created the bureau and transformed the arid American west," read the May 4 editorial. "Yet the federal government is now threatening to forget that history, because some regulators are queasy about Washington and Colorado’s experimentation with marijuana legalization." As the Times' board points out, there is some precedent for the Justice Department to stand down on the water issue. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DOJ wouldn't intervene in the states' legal pot programs. And earlier this year, federal officials issued guidelines expanding access to financial services for legal marijuana businesses, so long as the business doesn't violate certain legal priorities outlined by the Justice Department. "While we appreciate how the Obama administration has made some administrative concessions to the majority of voters who support legalization by issuing banking guidelines and having the Justice Department largely stand out of the way of state implementation, this water issue highlights the urgent need to actually change federal law," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. "There are bills pending in Congress that would solve this and other state-federal marijuana policy discrepancies, but so far the support from elected officials doesn't even come close to matching the support from the public. I expect that gap will shrink with each passing election cycle as politicians start to see just how popular this issue is with voters." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/0...n_5335219.html
  6. Kentucky Sues Federal Government Over Hemp Seeds Louisville -- Kentucky's Agriculture Department sued the federal government Wednesday, seeking the release of imported hemp seeds that have been held up by customs officials. The state said it needs to get the seeds in the ground for the spring season and each day they are held up jeopardizes the yield. The 250-pound shipment from Italy has been held for more than a week by customs officials in Louisville. "No state should have to endure what Kentucky has gone through in this process. We must take a stand against federal government overreach," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. Read More...
  7. Seattle -- A federal lawsuit is challenging Washington state’s authority to tax marijuana as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The case arises from the state’s attempt to collect sales taxes from a medical marijuana dispensary. But lawyer Douglas Hiatt, who filed it late Thursday, said it could throw a wrench in Washington’s plans for collecting taxes on recreational marijuana, too. Read More...
  8. Washington, D.C. -- The federal government just ordered all the marijuana it wants -- something it would send most Americans to prison for doing. On Monday, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a new rule that increases the U.S. government's production quota for medical marijuana from an annual 21 kg to 650 kg. That's about 1,433 pounds of pot in total. The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops. "NIDA recently notified the DEA that it required additional supplies of marijuana to be manufactured in 2014 to provide for current and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana," reads a recent Federal Register's statement from the DEA. The statement goes on to specify a production quota of 650,000 grams of pot for the current year. The DEA decided to grant NIDA access to more marijuana "in order to provide a continuous and uninterrupted supply" of cannabis for research, according to the statement, which also says that the federal government was "unaware" of NIDA's need for additional marijuana when the initial production quota of 21 kg was set in 2013. Read More...
  9. Denver -- The federal government has reluctantly agreed to let Colorado be the first state to collect taxes from the legal sale of recreational marijuana, but it also has made clear it doesn't agree with the move and may try to stop it, if isn't tightly controlled. Instead of keeping a low profile with the money, however, some Colorado lawmakers are trying the bold move of using millions of dollars they've collected so far from pot sales to seek matching funds from the federal government to keep kids off drugs. Read More...
  10. Washington, D.C. -- The Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to take marijuana off the list of what the federal government considers the most dangerous drugs, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday. "We'd be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress," Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. "It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made." Read More...
  11. Florida -- Irvin Rosenfeld is Florida's only legal pot smoker. His marijuana provider? The federal government. Since 1982, as part of an experimental drug program, Rosenfeld has received a monthly tin with 300 fat joints – about nine ounces – grown by the feds on a farm at the University of Mississippi.Rosenfeld, 60, a Fort Lauderdale stockbroker with a painful chronic bone tumor disorder, carries a prescription bag with his marijuana cigarettes to work. When I visited him at his office last week, he took a hit off a smokeless vapor pipe, which he sometimes uses when the market gets hectic. But he prefers smoking, which he says is more beneficial in getting the plant's full medicinal effects. Read More...
  12. Don’t Treat MMJ Patients Like Recreational Users Washington -- Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s legislators are poised to make history as they devise a plan to harmonize their medical cannabis program with one that allows anyone 21 or older to buy and possess marijuana. What Washington lawmakers decide will shape how patients are treated elsewhere in the nation. Inslee has shown courage implementing Initiative 502, pushing the federal government through letters and meetings to accept his state’s new adult-use marijuana law. As a congressman, he fought to protect the medical cannabis program in his state from federal interference. Now that same determination is needed to support the spirit of the 1998 medical-marijuana state initiative that created safe access. Read More...
  13. U.S. Attorneys in California Defy Obama on MMJ California -- Last week, the Alameda County (CA) Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking the Federal government to, "end Federal interference on the municipal and state laws allowing medical marijuana, and... requests that President Obama begin a discussion about the potential benefits of reforming federal laws on marijuana use in all forms, including medicinal and recreational uses." Their desire for clarification and support on this issue is understandable. Two of the oldest and most respected dispensaries in California, Harborside Health Center and Berkeley Patients Group, both in Alameda County, have been targeted by the Feds on numerous occasions, even in light of strict regulations imposed by their localities, and a squeaky clean track record of providing both a crucial public health service and a large amount of tax revenue. Read More...
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