Tuesday | October 3, 2017. A look at policing cases on the Supreme Court docket, the fight against the ‘Walmart of Weed,’ and Atlanta’s city council unanimously approves marijuana decriminalization. Also: an update on the case of Jessica McElfresh, the California cannabis attorney facing felony charges.
Criminal justice at the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has started a new term, and has several policing cases on the docket. While none of them pertain to cannabis specifically, they could have implications on marijuana enforcement. Carpenter v. United States will tackle digital privacy and whether cops can access cellphone location data without a warrant. Two other cases, Collins v. Virginia and Byrd v. United States, will delve into questions about when police can search a car. The Atlantic The Supreme Court declined to hear one case on car searches prompted by the smell of cannabis. SCOTUSblog Related: Two new bills will tackle criminal justice reform at the federal level. It’s unclear where the White House stands on the measures. Axios
Washington v Sessions. Could this be the case that overturns prohibition? The suit “feels more aspirational and activist, rather than a lawsuit that will affect a national prohibition,” said one marijuana lawyer. “But you couldn’t find better plaintiffs. Who doesn’t love football, veterans, and children?” The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include a former NFL player, an army veteran, and two children who are medical marijuana patients. Other potentially landmark cases like Gonzales v Raich have failed before the Supreme Court. marijuana.com
Against Big Marijuana. A newly legal marijuana market attracts big money. In Massachusetts, one man is pushing back against “a monopolistic stranglehold” in the industry. “Commercialization of cannabis cultivation will bring the Walmart of Weed to our Commonwealth, squeezing out opportunity for smaller and more skilled cultivators to take their rightful places in the industry,” said the president of a grower advocacy group. He’s urging regulators to create a tiered structure that involves craft cooperative products. “Only the tourists and occasional tokers will waste their money on Walmart Weed.” Mass Live
A ‘chilling message’ to lawyers with cannabis clients. Jessica McElfresh, a cannabis lawyer charged with felony drug offenses, notched a small win at a hearing this week: Prosecutors wanted all of the attorney’s communications with other clients, jeopardizing attorney-client privilege. A judge sided with McElfresh by requiring the DA to justify why the documents are necessary. The judge also required prosecutors to release information about a confidential informant. The prosecution of a cannabis business lawyer sent chills among other lawyers who specialize in navigating the tricky legal landscape of the marijuana industry. “Your business is legal if the local district attorney deems it legal,” said another attorney involved in the case. San Diego’s DA has a history of taking a conservative approach to state cannabis laws. Slate
Colorado drags down national pot prices. The price of wholesale cannabis continues to decline, with the price of Colorado flower dropping 40 percent in the first half of this year. But “despite the overall decline, marijuana prices showed ‘remarkable’ stability considering last year’s price volatility and recent political uncertainty,” according to analysts. Further price drops are expected thanks to fall harvests. The Cannabist
‘Truffle Man’ goes legit. Trevor, aka Truffle Man, has been selling his cannabis-infused truffles in San Francisco’s Dolores Park for more than a decade — amassing a cult following in the process. Now, he’s entering the state-legal market. Consumers can find his products — in fancy packaging — on dispensary shelves. “I’ve been waiting all these years,” he said on his desire to bring his business above ground. “It was something I only wanted to do if I could navigate it with integrity.” For Trevor, that meant not taking outside investment and making sure the brand he built translated to commercial packaging. Eater
Campfire pot. A record year of wildfires in California has likely tainted many cannabis crops. “Especially when it’s ripe — I can tell you from personal experience, wildfire definitely will make your cannabis have a smoky flavor to it,” said the director of a cannabis farmer’s association. The smoke-tainted buds are likely destined for black markets elsewhere in the country. Beyond affecting the flavor, cannabis exposed to smoke “are more susceptible to disease, leading to unhealthy levels of mold, mildew and fungus that may put one at risk of developing cardiovascular disease or lung infection.” GreenState
Medical marijuana in New Zealand. A 14-year-old epilepsy patient has tried 15 medications and two surgeries to remove parts of his brain. But the medical interventions have failed to stop his seizures. While regulators say doctors can prescribe CBD products, they have not yet approved any low-THC products, leaving patients in a catch-22 situation. Price is another issue: some products the patient’s mother has looked into cost $100,000 a year. New Zealand Herald Canada-based Tilray has started exporting medical cannabis to New Zealand. Marijuana Business Daily
Former Tory minister advocates for decriminalization. Crispin Blunt called for decriminalizing drugs as a way for the conservative party to woo younger voters. Prohibition is “about as intelligent as the prohibition of alcohol in the United States,” he recently said at a conference, criticizing the government for “[ceding] total control of a significant public health issue to organized crime.” He favors regulating cannabis similarly to alcohol and tobacco. The Independent
How the war on drugs targets the poor. A survey found that most Filipinos believe that only the poor are killed in president Duterte’s brutal anti-drug campaign. Respondents were split over the validity of police accounts on extrajudicial killings. Reuters The Roman Catholic Church has offered to protect police officers who want to testify about the war on drugs. The church has been on the forefront of advocating against the anti-drug campaign and demanding accountability for the thousands of extrajudicial killings. “The protection offer could escalate an emerging clash between the church and the government.” The New York Times
Word on the States
- In Georgia, the Atlanta city council unanimously passed legislation to reduce penalties for marijuana possession.
- In Florida, a medical marijuana company pushes regulators to develop rules for edibles.
- In Colorado, state lawmakers are at an impasse over a special session to address a pot tax drafting error.
- In Massachusetts, marijuana regulators are listening to stakeholders.
- In California, Long Beach picks medical marijuana licensees with lottery balls.
- In Pennsylvania, the MMJ program is on track despite legal issues.
- In Hawaii, the new medical marijuana market attracted more patients who made smaller purchases compared to other markets on the mainland.
- In Oklahoma, a candidate for governor endorses an effort to legalize marijuana.
- In Ohio, Ohio University is partnering with an MMJ company on cannabis research.
- In Maryland, individuals can now petition to have marijuana possession convictions expunged.
- In New Mexico, the state’s new hemp law leaves many questions for potential cultivators.
- In Wyoming, a deep dive into the death of a criminal justice reform effort.
Word for Word
“We are not going to prosecute or enforce our way out of this [opioid] mess, no way. That said, there’s a crucial role in law enforcement here. The cartels and the gangs profiting off this poison. They are profiting off our misery.” – Former DEA head Chuck Rosenberg, Hartford Courant
“A guy with four felonies is going to be treated differently than the 22-year-old college student from Stanford who came to celebrate graduation from college… we do that with any case, not just marijuana. They’d probably be charged but like so many of the other marijuana cases, we resolve them because there has been a change in the morals of our community. Our culture has decided that the ingestion of marijuana should be tolerated. So unless someone is flagrantly violating the law and throwing it in our face, we’re going to recognize all of the things that should be recognized and deal accordingly.” – Clark county district attorney Steve Wolfson, Las Vegas Sun
“I know chronic pain. As a physician I have treated chronic pain patients for decades, and as a patient I have been humbled and devastated by the shingles virus. There is hope, however, for you and others who suffer from chronic pain… There is the very real possibility of feeling better than you ever have. I am offering you the medicine of empowerment — the power to regain control and the joy of life that chronic pain has stripped away. And medical marijuana plays a vital role in this self-healing process.” – Dr. Rav Ivker, Word on the Tree
“It is… striking that in states that allow regulated use of medical marijuana, overdose death rates are lower. It confirms what my fellow Commissioners [at the Global Commission on Drug Policy] and I have been saying for years: that the most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of prohibition and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.” – Richard Branson for virgin.com