Toronto dispensaries once owned by the Prince of Pot will all shut down this weekend

A former Cannabis Culture location, renamed the Village Dispensary, on Church Street will close its doors this weekend.

 

After police raids, former owner Jodie Emery says government is clearing way for legal producers

CBC News Posted: Apr 07, 2017 11:20 PM ET Last Updated: Apr 08, 2017 10:20 AM ET

The last of the former Cannabis Culture dispensaries in Toronto, once synonymous with Marc and Jodie Emery, will close this weekend after becoming a frequent target of police raids — a consequence the marijuana activists blame on the government’s support of licensed producers. 

The dispensaries were making pot available in contravention of the law, until recreational marijuana is actually legalized by the government, a process expected to happen in July 2018.

But former owner Jodie Emery said she believes dispensaries in Toronto have been raided more frequently in the past year because the federal Liberals want to keep the recreational weed market clear for the licensed producers already selling medical marijuana. 

“We’re seeing a government and corporate push to exclude the pioneers, to literally put us in handcuffs and throw us into cages while they move in to open up their own shops to sell their own pot.”

Mtl Pot Dispensaries 20161215

Jodie Emery, right, said the raids on recreational dispensaries have punished the activists who have fought for legalization. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The pioneers of pot

The Emerys divested themselves of their Cannabis Culture shops in Toronto on March 10, as part of their $30,000 bail conditions on possession and drug trafficking charges. 

Jodie Emery said the couple decided to open the storefronts to fund their activism — and because she believed the franchise model would be successful once Ottawa legalized pot. 

“We wanted to have our spot in this industry, because we’ve earned it and we deserve it …after 10 years of being broke and suffering through prison and court,” she said.

Jamie McConnell, Cannabis Culture general manager

Jamie McConnell, the owner at the Village Dispensary, said he’ll keep doing this somewhere else. (CBC)

The 461 Church St. location was reborn as the Village Cannabis Dispensary after the Emerys sold it to Jamie McConnell, the store’s former manager.

McConnell said his landlord will no longer rent to the dispensary, something he said has happened because of pressure from the police raids and the city.

“I was planning on being here forever, my goal was jail or the landlord locking me out. It looks like the landlord locked me out.”

He said he believes it’s better to have marijuana “activists and users” sell the products than licensed producers, because they know first-hand what makes a quality product.

“I don’t know what the government’s going to do as far as legalization, but I’m not going to stop.”

Legal producers also took risks: lawyer

But Andrea Hill, a corporate and securities lawyer with the firm SkyLaw who represents several regulated marijuana firms, said the dispensaries have been shut down because what they’re doing is illegal. It has nothing to do with the regulated medical marijuana industry.

And those licensed producers have been pioneers in the industry as well, she said. 

“They’ve put themselves on the line just as much as anyone else,” the lawyer said. “If a business is operating outside of the law and it can’t make it and it has to shut down I think that means that the law wins — and that people who play by the rules win, at the end of the day. I think that’s a good thing.

CANADA MARIJUANA/REGULATIONS

The Liberal government is expected to make recreational pot legal by July 1, 2018. (Julie Gordon/Reuters)

Corrections
  • An earlier version of this story indicated that recreational marijuana is expected to be legalized by the federal government this July. In fact, it is expected in July 2018.

    Apr 08, 2017 8:23 AM ET

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California lawmakers want to block police from helping federal drug agents take action against marijuana license holders

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Patrick McGreevy

With federal authorities hinting at a possible crackdown on state-licensed marijuana dealers, a group of California lawmakers wants to block local police and sheriff’s departments from assisting such investigations and arrests unless compelled by a court order.

A bill by six Democratic legislators has drawn strenuous objections from local law enforcement officials, who say it improperly ties their hands, preventing them from cooperating with federal drug agents.

“It really is quite offensive,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., who said he objected to lawmakers “wanting to direct law enforcement how they want us to work.”

But proponents say the measure is needed to assure marijuana growers and sellers that applying for state licenses will not make them more vulnerable to arrest and prosecution under federal law, which designates cannabis as an illegal drug.

“Prohibiting our state and local law enforcement agencies from expending resources to assist federal intrusion of California-compliant cannabis activity reinforces … the will of our state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 64,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), the lead author of the new bill.

The act of resistance is similar to legislation that would prevent California law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the deportation of people in the country illegally. Senate Bill 54 would address that concern and make California a so-called sanctuary state for immigrants, while Jones-Sawyer’s legislation would similarly make the state a sanctuary for the marijuana industry.

The immigration and marijuana issues have been given new focus by the administration of President Trump, who state officials fear is breaking from the policy of former President Obama, who took a more hands-off approach to both issues.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has indicated in public comments that he thinks marijuana is a danger to society. Last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer caused a stir when he said, “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement” of laws against the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

In November, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational use. State agencies plan to begin issuing licenses early next year.

The new legislation would prohibit state and local agencies, unless served with a court order, from using agency money, facilities or personnel to assist a federal agency to “investigate, detain, report, or arrest” any person for actions that are authorized by state law. California authorities would also be unable to respond to requests by federal agencies for the personal information of anyone issued state licenses.

The measure has angered some local law enforcement officials — including Youngblood, who sees it as improperly meddling in law enforcement decisions in the same manner lawmakers are proposing with immigration law.

“This is ridiculous that this looks like a solution to somebody,” he said.

The sheriff said his agency frequently works with federal drug agents in task forces targeting illegal marijuana grows in forested areas of the county. He said he doesn’t want to be prevented from working with federal authorities, even if the state starts licensing pot farms.

“[Growing and selling marijuana] is still a federal felony and we are still in the United States of America, and the state of California cannot take over the United States,” Youngblood said, predicting that “at some point the federal government is going to have to step in and say, ‘You can’t do that.’ ”

The legislation has garnered initial support from marijuana industry leaders, including Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Assn.

“The election of Mr. Trump as president, and subsequent confirmation of Mr. Sessions as attorney general, has been perceived by many of our members to have increased the risk of doing business,” Allen said. “Businesses will need to feel confident that the state will protect them from the federal government.”

Current protocol and law obligates local law enforcement to cooperate with federal drug agents, he said.

“It is very hard for federal agents to go into a rural county and kick down a bunch of doors and arrest a bunch of people without the local sheriff being a part of it.” Allen said. “It’s dangerous, actually. This is about giving them legal standing to actively not participate.”

Updates from Sacramento »

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), a coauthor of the measure, said the legislation is needed because of a threat that the Trump administration might withhold federal funds from states that do not cooperate with federal authorities, although that threat has so far been limited to immigration enforcement.

“As this administration has threatened to defund California, we should not be expending scarce local and state resources to assist the federal government in ways that run counter to the crystal-clear wishes of California voters,” Bonta said, adding that the measure, Assembly Bill 1578, “will reassure responsible operators” that the state won’t turn them in to federal authorities.

The assemblyman said it is important that the bill also protects the personal information of license holders so that they are willing to share it with state regulators.

“California is committed to not sharing licensee information with the federal government and thereby upholding the will of the voters in creating a safe marketplace for medical and adult use,” Bonta said.

The current policy of the state Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation would be to treat any request for personal information as a formal request under the California Public Records Act. The agency “would determine, based on the information being requested, what is required to be released and what is exempt from disclosure under the law,” said Alex Traverso, a bureau spokesman.

Allen expects California to follow the lead of states such as Colorado, which makes public on a website the names of businesses and addresses of those who are given licenses to grow and sell marijuana.

The Colorado website lists growers and sellers by the names of limited liability corporations and does not list who the individual investors and partners are.

Allen said industry attorneys have advised him that some basic information about license holders will have to be made public.

The bill’s provision on personal information “is good symbolically and well-intentioned,” Allen said, “but we are not relying on anonymity as our pathway forward.”

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Don’t expect nationwide marijuana legalization under the Trump administration

Washington DC marijuana handout

With the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, the United States got a new president. And with that new president comes a long list of new appointees across various federal agencies and departments. While President Trump’s cabinet selection process has played out publicly, a variety of folks from former president Barack Obama’s administration have quietly stayed on.

One of the most prominent people that’s staying on is the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed by former attorney general Loretta Lynch in May 2015.

And that’s particularly notable, as the DEA is responsible for enforcing drug policy in the United States. Most importantly for most Americans, Rosenberg is in charge of enforcing marijuana illegality in the US — an area where, traditionally, the federal government and individual US states have butted heads.

For instance, California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996; despite legality in California, the drug remained illegal on a federal level, and the US government — through the DEA — policed it as such. California medical dispensaries were raided by the federal government repeatedly, regardless of its legality in the eyes of the State of California.

That relationship dramatically changed in 2013 due to a document known as “The Cole Memo” (written by deputy attorney general James Cole). The document re-focused federal resources away from prosecuting individuals who were operating legally within their own states, and instead focused on containment and prevention.

In so many words, it directed federal agencies to stop clashing with state-level marijuana policy.

And DEA head Chuck Rosenberg has upheld that memo.

“He didn’t have too much of a problem following the administration’s directives on that issue,” Marijuana Policy Project senior communications manager Morgan Fox told Business Insider. “And it says a lot for continuity — things will remain relatively the same at the DEA.” 

Of course, this is all up for change. If Trump’s attorney general appointee, Senator Jeff Sessions, is appointed, he could direct the DEA to take a more hardline stance. And if President Trump himself decides to take a more hardline stance, that would also impact how the DEA operates when it comes to federal marijuana policy. To be clear, neither Sessions nor Trump have indicated as much.

As Fox told Business Insider, “The DEA head acts as the direction of the attorney general who acts at the direction of the president.” That said, both President Trump and Senator Sessions have indicated intentions to keep the status quo: allowing states to legislate and police their own drug laws.

In 2016, alongside Trump winning the presidency, several states enacted laws either outright legalizing recreational marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution/sales or legalized medical use. For the foreseeable future, it looks like the US government will continue to defer to individual states in terms of marijuana policy.

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U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Writes Open Letter To President About Marijuana

Tue, 01/12/2016 – 22:24 – steveelliott

EarlBlumenauer(Congressman-D-OR)[LadyBud]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressman Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday wrote an open letter advocating marijuana legalization to President Obama in advance of the President’s State of the Union speech.

"As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances," Rep. Blumenauer wrote to the President.

The language chosen by Rep. Blumenauer is very significant, politically speaking. "Removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances" is, of course, the only way forward that avoids cannabis being immediately co-opted and controlled by Big Pharma, which is assuredly what will happen if it is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II or III on the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.

Following is Rep. Blumenauer’s letter in its entirety.

An Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

A State of the Union speech is a unique opportunity to address Congress and the nation about priorities and accomplishments, as well as to highlight critical issues.

I remember another speech in May 2008 when you spoke to over 70,000 Portlanders. The overwhelming feeling of hope coming from the crowd was palpable.

Tonight, you will undoubtedly reflect on the last seven years. During this time, you fulfilled your promise of systematic change while dealing with the largest economic disaster the United States has seen since the Great Depression and almost unanimous Republican obstruction in Congress. Your actions jumpstarting the economy, reforming health care and Wall Street, and providing critical leadership on climate change will be felt for generations to come.

As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances.

We both know the prohibition of marijuana has not and will not work. Recent surveys find that 18 million adults used marijuana in the past month — and well over a million use it legally under state laws for medicinal purposes. Despite dire hyperbolic warnings and the threat of citation, arrest, or even prison, all evidence indicates Americans will continue to use marijuana, especially since younger Americans feel even stronger that it ought to be legal. They understand that, while not without risk, marijuana is certainly less dangerous than tobacco — which is legal in every state despite its highly addictive nature and proven deadly consequences. Indeed, if we were scheduling drugs today, tobacco would probably be classified as Schedule I and marijuana would be left off.

I suspect that both your heart and your head tell you ending prohibition is the right thing to do, especially from a civil rights and criminal justice perspective. We’ve undercut respect for the law, wasted law enforcement resources, and more important, wasted lives.

A shocking 620,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2014. No area is more stark and unfair than the treatment of African Americans — particularly young men. Research shows they are no more likely to use marijuana, yet the heavy hand of the law descends upon them with a vengeance. Depending on where they live, African Americans are two to eight times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, according to a study by the ACLU. Unlike white middle class Americans, for young men of color — especially if poor — even a minor infraction can have devastating consequences. They can be forced from their family home if they are living in public housing, or have difficulty obtaining federal student loans to make it nearly impossible to attend college.

This is wrong.

Current federal policy declares marijuana has no medicinal value and implies it is more dangerous than methamphetamine or cocaine. I don’t believe that any member of your Administration believes this is true. Yet inaction creates another serious consequence — an inability to focus on real threats to public health. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and opioids are all far more dangerous than marijuana. In 2013 alone, over 20,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses — while there have never been any reported marijuana overdose fatalities.

This is also wrong. By telling Americans something demonstrably false, the case and credibility of drug enforcement authorities at all levels is weakened.

Not only that, federal policy has placed a stranglehold on effective marijuana research — even as evidence continues to mount about its medicinal benefits. Medical marijuana patients receive relief of pain, suppression of nausea, and the control of symptoms of neurological disorders. Recognizing this, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have legalized medical marijuana, and 17 other states have authorized some form of medical marijuana. Removing federal barriers to research will help eliminate the guess work about both its benefits and potential problems.

For all the talk about gateway drugs, having millions of Americans relying on the black market for marijuana only opens the way for thugs to directly market to young people and those desperate to deal with depression and pain. No drug dealer checks for ID on the street corner or schoolyard. They have no license to lose and every incentive to sell other more dangerous, addictive and profitable drugs.

The vast underground network supplying millions of Americans can and should be transformed into a legal industry that is regulated and taxed. We continue to enrich Mexican drug cartels that use marijuana as one of the pillars of their financial model. We should instead be taxing and regulating marijuana to help balance the budget and fund important services. If we approach marijuana the same way as alcohol, we could take the billions of dollars we save in enforcement and additional billions that will be generated in tax revenue to deal with education, the protection of our children, and the treatment for people with addiction problems.

Mr. President, you’ve already had the most profound effect on marijuana law reform than any President in history. You’ve declined to interfere with states that have legalized adult use of marijuana and others states that allow medical marijuana, and you’ve provided breathing room for state-legal marijuana businesses.

It is time, Mr. President, for you to take the next logical step, cementing your legacy in history on drug reform and a fairer criminal justice system. Call for an end to marijuana prohibition and de-schedule marijuana. The House and Senate are reluctant to take bold action to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but you don’t have to wait. Under your leadership by de-scheduling marijuana, you will trigger monumental reform, allowing states to continue their pioneering efforts and putting pressure on Congress to take additional actions to tax and regulate. We can start by ending the lunacy of forcing legal marijuana companies to operate as cash-only. Seldom has such a small step, supported by a majority of Americans, had such potential transformational power.

Please seize the moment. We can’t wait.

The time is now. The country is ready.

In 2008, I joined with tens of thousands of Oregonians who cheered you on chanting, “Yes, we can!”

Today, I speak on behalf of millions of Americans across the country and ask you to support ending the prohibition of marijuana.

We hope you will respond, “Yes, I will.”

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

– See more at: http://crrh.org/news/node/6521#sthash.TEB7vmh3.dpuf

115 years of marijuana coverage

 

Image result for seattle marijuana

 

To mark the anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in Washington, we look at The Seattle Times’ coverage of pot over the past 115 years.

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By Paige Cornwell

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cannabis made one of its first appearances in The Seattle Daily Times in 1911, in a recipe to cure corns. An extract of cannabis, along with sodium and collodion, would form a paste. Readers were instructed to “paint over the corn once or twice a day and scrape away superficial growth in three or four days.”

Later stories journeyed from a portrayal of marijuana as an illegal, dangerous drug used by dirty hippies to a legal drug purchased at a regulated store.

The corn remedy is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of mentions of marijuana, also referred to as pot, weed, mary jane, cannabis, reefer, that have appeared in The Seattle Times pages since 1900.

To mark Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in the state, we took a look at our cannabis coverage over the past 100-plus years.

A look back

Marijuana turned musicians in Chicago into “laugh addicts,” according to a 1928 account. A 1940 dispatch from New York recounted that “Harlem Negroes” had invented a new lexicon related to marijuana. Other stories recounted drugs coming in from Canada, China and the Middle East.

“There’s always some demonized group,” said Bruce Barcott, a Bainbridge Island journalist who co-wrote a Time cover story in May about pot research and legalization.

And oh, won’t someone think of the children?

Echoing films such as “Reefer Madness,” marijuana was often portrayed as a gateway drug to narcotics, debauchery and a life of crime. In 1953, The Seattle Times interviewed parents of teens arrested for stealing cars. The parents of one 13-year-old said their son “got in with a tough Queen Anne High School gang,” who would get marijuana, then steal cars “for the thrill of it.” A year later, a dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling dope to minors.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the drug became more associated with counterculture, with hippies wandering around in a “sea of mud, sickness and drugs,” as Woodstock was described in a 1969 story.

In 1981, The Seattle Times ran a 10-part series (yes, 10) called “Marijuana and Your Child.” There was a marijuana epidemic among America’s children, an Associated Press reporter wrote, that didn’t kill, but maimed.

“The media’s portrayal has, in some instances, contributed to accurate public knowledge and marijuana’s effects on behavior, how popular it was, who was using it,” said Roger Roffman, a University of Washington professor emeritus and author of “Marijuana Nation: One Man’s Chronicle of America Getting High.” “In other instances, the media pretty grossly contributed to stereotypical views of marijuana users and marijuana policy.”

Feb. 26, 2015: From artisan glass blowing to grow operations and retail, Kush Tourism takes curious guests through various facets of the marijuana industry. (Steve Ringman and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

Only recently have the mainstream media covered marijuana as something that might have value, Barcott said. One of the first Seattle Times stories about medical marijuana was published in 1975, when a drug expert testified at a Drug Enforcement Administration hearing.

And last year, The Seattle Times wrote about Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes buying two packages of marijuana, one for posterity and one, he said, for “personal enjoyment.” The reporters even noted what strain he bought: “OG’s Pearl.”

“It will be very interesting to see how that coverage changes,” Barcott said. “Not just year to year, but week to week, month to month. It’s such a fast-moving story.”

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