December 23, 2017
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ALEX HALPERIN
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Here's the news.
POLITICS
As part of a spending measure, Congress temporarily extended the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment , which blocks the Justice Department from prosecuting state-legal MED businesses, until January 19.

Politico reports on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ sustained attack on the amendment and what a crackdown might look like. Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP) Morgan Fox “worries less about SWAT team raids than the possibility the Department of Justice would quietly send letters to landlords who rented to legal marijuana businesses to threaten them with asset forfeiture.”

Reason argues that a crackdown remains unlikely . Back in February, I argued something similar in Slate.
Federal pot policy stood still in 2017 , Rolling Stone writes.

California lawmakers and craft growers say the state’s new REC rules favor large growers .   New environmental regulations for cannabis grows are coming to California as well. (Grows are damaging NorCal watersheds .)

Here are the stores and cities that will be open January 1. But regulatory controls against pesticides and other contaminants won’t yet be in place .

L. A. will send inspectors to dispensaries, the way it does with restaurants. The city also said it will not start to accept license applications  until January 3.

Los Angeles magazine offers a consumer’s guide for California’s REC system. S.F. could vote on creating a city cannabis agency in June.

Ten years after legalization, Michigan, the country’s second largest MED market, released applications for MED licenses . For more see here .

Alaska regulators warn the potency labels on cannabis products may be inaccurate.

New York lawmakers will hold a hearing on REC legalization in January. The Chicago Tribune discusses why Illinois has been slow to legalize .

The “ Marijuana Doomsday Didn’t Come ,” an opinion piece in USNews argues.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the REC market would open next summer , not July 1 as previously expected.


Austria’s new right wing government plans to ban the sale of cannabis seeds and plants . It’s currently legal to sell non-flowering plants.

After its experiment in drug decriminalization, Portugal is considering cannabis legalization .

New Zealand released a MED legalization bill . Iceland’s “Pirate Party” proposed legalizing MED .
BUSINESS
Inc. has a juicy story on the collapse of Tradiv , a promising online cannabis marketplace with funding from Poseidon Asset Management, Anslinger Capital, Sand Hill Angels and CanopyBoulder, among others. It involves sexual harassment allegations against co-founder Geoff Doran (he broadly denies them), and another co-founder, Aeron Sullivan, who had a religious awakening while on LSD.
Tripp Keber resigned as CEO of Colorado edibles brand Dixie. Keber will take on a role with BR Brands, an affiliate of private equity firm Rose Capital, which is building a portfolio of cannabis brands. At Dixie, he’ll be replaced by longtime partner Chuck Smith.

There’s been a shake-up at the National Cannabis Industry Association . Denver activist and entrepreneur Kayvan Khalatbari resigned from the board and Genifer Murray, former CEO of defunct start-up CannLabs, was terminated as chief of staff after only two months on the job. The industry’s largest lobby said it’s in stronger shape than ever, but Khalatbari said stay tuned for more info.   

Rob Kampia, the former MPP head, who had to take a leave of absence in 2010 for lewd comments, is no longer on the Students for Sensible Drug Policy advisory board. More allegations surfaced about his time at the organization. And his former chief of staff Alison Green called him a “ serial sexual harasser .” In a statement Kampia cited the MPP board’s position that no harassment had taken place since 2010.

Founder Isaac Dietrich reclaimed the CEO spot at MassRoots and the troubled company was, as of Thursday, facing eviction from its Denver office for owing almost $40,000 in rent.

In California, the battle is on between big weed and craft weed.

MJBizDaily is following dispensary Berkeley Patients Group as it transitions into the legal REC market .

Talks are underway between California, the Feds and banks on how to offer financial services to the state’s cannabis industry.

Banks are skeptical about a proposed California plan to bring banks into the industry. Former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) is starting a cannabis distribution business called C4 Distro.

First Green Bank, which offered banking to cannabis businesses in Florida, is exiting the business .

Nevada’s 273 cannabis businesses employ 6,700 workers . Alaska growers don’t like the state’s wholesale tax .


For the cannabis industry, CNBC says, bitcoin is an alternative to banks .

Fast Company asks if cannabis is imitating the tech industry’s lack of diversity .

KQED reports on unionizing workers . The piece focusses on Hugs Alternative Care in Sacramento, where CEO David Spradlin brought in the union in 2011. “My hope has always been that the cannabis industry doesn’t turn into 7-Eleven,” he said.

Insurer Lloyd’s of London rejects a Colorado homeowner’s claim on a house destroyed in a hash manufacturing accident.

Hawaii’s MED program needs more workers .

Snoop Dogg’s media outlet Merry Jane is partnering with Jack in the Box to offer the “ Merry Munchie Meal.

Wal-Mart stopped carrying its “ marijuana Christmas tree.
HEALTH & SCIENCE
Critics says the available data underestimates youth cannabis use in Colorado. They also say kids get cannabis from their parents and other family members. (Denver launched a campaign to prevent youth cannabis use . It includes a social media game show called “ Weeded Out.
In Oregon, the number of teens who went to the ER or called emergency services for marijuana poisoning, climbed from 40 in 2015 to 70 in 2016.

In Texas, more than 345,000 epilepsy patients won’t be able to access MED under the state’s program.

Willamette Week examines a grassroots effort to fight a secretive attempt to patent cannabis genetics .

The VA is denying a story , ( first broken by Tom Angell ) that it has loosened its guidelines on MED.

Colleges remain dead set against cannabis use by students , for fear of losing federal funding.

Testing cannabis for contaminants remains a challenge for states.

U.S. life expectancy declined for the second straight year in 2016, due largely to a 21 percent jump in fatal opioid overdoses. In hard-hit Pennsylvania, authorities continue to endorse tough criminal penalties , especially for fentanyl.

Critics say a shake-up at the Office of National Drug Control Policy suggests the Trump administration isn’t interested in the opioid crisis .

Australian doctors have new MED guidelines .

Missouri dropped a “moral turpitude” charge against nurse and MED activist Dolores Halbin .

A bitcoin philanthropist known only as Pineapple Fund, donated $1M to medical research on psychedelics.
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CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Denver cops said they closed eight Sweet Leaf stores and arrested at least 13 budtenders for ‘looping,’ allowing customers to repeatedly buy the maximum permitted amount, in this case one ounce. The company’s three owners have not been charged. For the industry implications, see here .
The Sacramento Bee visits Siskiyou County, in far northern California, where Sheriff Jon Lopey has declared war on illegal growers , many of them of Hmong descent. Lopey, who has a tea party following,  is becoming one of the most prominent anti-pot voices in California.

Twenty Bend, Ore., dispensaries passed sting operations checking if they’d sell to minors.

Outgoing New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) made it easier to expunge minor crimes , including cannabis crimes.

Johnny Boone, a seventy-something Kentuckian known as the “Godfather of Grass,” plead guilty to participating in a cannabis operation almost 10 years ago. He faces up to five years in prison.

Irvin Dana Beal, 70, whose cannabis activism dates back to the 1960s, was arrested in California’s Emerald Triangle with 22 pounds of pot.

Travis County (Austin), Texas, created a diversion program , for those facing minor cannabis possession charges to avoid a criminal record. An Austin man spent eight months locked up for smoking pot while owning guns , a violation of an obscure federal statute.

Four years after an attempt at reform, about 85 percent of those cited for cannabis violations in St. Louis are black.

Vice looks at how local police may profit from legalization . Some Colorado police departments are becoming more permissive about recruits’ past cannabis use.

A 17-year old Mexican YouTube star known for drunken rants, was gunned down in a bar after he insulted powerful drug lord El Mencho.

Nautilus investigates how sellers create trust in the online drug marketplace known as the darknet.

Scholastic looks at the world of incarcerated American teenagers , many locked-up for non-violent drug offenses.

Reason takes on the “myth of the playground pusher,” and calls drug free school zones “ little more than excuses for harsher drug sentencing .”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) defended his new policy to drug test food stamp recipients in a PSA. The Progressive says the spot harks back to “Reagan’s Race-Baiting Playbook.”

Hong Kong cops are confiscating way more cannabis than before.
CULTURE
For Christmas, some homegrowers like to give away their crop .
Matthew “Kind” McCabe, who hosts the podcast CannaInsider , is starting a scholarship for college students studying cannabusiness.


Can we talk about marijuana at church? ,” asks The Christian Century.

High Maintenance returns to HBO in January.

Pot fans in Massachusetts rolled a 100-foot joint containing 1 kg of cannabis. Las Vegas dispensaries are trading free weed for canned goods and other holiday donations.

Happy holidays!
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Alex 

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