Archives for April, 2014

Broward Sheriff Remains Neutral on Medical Marijuana

The loudest critics of medical cannabis are often those in the law enforcement community.  In fact, it should come as no surprise that the Florida Sheriff’s Association has officially come out against Amendment 2.

However, the Sheriff of Florida’s second most populous county has not taken the hardline stance against medical pot that his colleagues in other parts of the State have.  In a recent interview, Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, said that he would not take a position on the issue and would leave it up to the voters to decide.  Sheriff Israel is quoted as saying:

My position is: I’m an executive. I’m with the executive branch of government. I’m not a legislator. I believe the whole issue should go to the people. I think the people get it right more times than we do, and whatever the people do, we’ll enforce those laws.  I think this is something that’s left to the people of the state of Florida

Sheriff Israel went on to say that he still hadn’t yet decided whether he would personally vote for or against the measure.

Banks Still Wary of Medical Marijuana Businesses

Opening any type of business is never easy, but that process is doubly hard when the business you are opening is related to Medical Marijuana.  Despite recent assurances from the Departments of Treasury and Justice that he Federal Government does not intend to proceed against banks offer services to medical cannabis businesses, most major banks are still unwilling to allow those businesses to open accounts and those that have opened accounts risk losing them if the business is discovered to be marijuana related.

The banking industry has always been conservative, and major players such as Bank of America and JP Morgan simply refuse to do business with Medical Cannabis entrepreneurs out of fear that they may be acting in violation of Federal Law.

As a result, medical pot shop owners have been placed in the uncomfortable position of running cash-only businesses.  This raises obvious security concerns and has resulted in these businesses needing to spend considerable amounts on security measures.  It is also highly problematic when the businesses have to make payment of the taxes and regulatory fees that are associated with the industry.  Without the ability to even open a simple checking account, these fees must all be paid in cash.

The problem also operates on the other end of the spectrum, hindering the regulatory agencies from effectively monitoring the businesses without the assistance of normal financial and banking records.

Medical Marijuana businesses can be very profitable and they would certainly make good bank customers ,but until the arcane Federal laws related to cannabis are changed, banks will likely continue to be hesitant to offer their services to this growing sector of the economy.

Florida House Adds Teeth to Proposed Charlotte’s Web Law – Could It Have a Chilling Effect?

The law that would allow Florida doctors to prescribe the “high CBD/low THC” strain of cannabis known as “Charlotte’s Web” continues its journey through the legislature, but yesterday it got a notable modification while in the House Judiciary Committee.

As reported by the Sun-Sentinel, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, (Republican -Orlando) added an amendment to the bill which would make it a misdemeanor offense for a doctor to prescribe Charlotte’s Web if he/she had a “reasonable belief” that the patient was not in need of it.  Essentially, the bill will now prosecutors and police officers to second guess the medical opinions of doctors, and to charge the doctors with a criminal offense if they disagree.

It is obvious that the legislators are concerned that unethical doctors may abuse the law, but one has to wonder about the chilling effect this new provision may have.  Will doctors be reluctant to prescribe Charlotte’s Web, even where good grounds exist for its use, out of fear that a prosecutor or police detective may not like it?

Caught in the Red Tape – A Potential Obstacle for Medical Marijuana in Florida?

Government bureaucracy is not exactly known for moving quickly or efficiently.  If Florida voters approve Medical Cannabis on November 4th, that won’t be the end of the ballgame. In fact, it will only be the 1st inning.  What will follow the election is the designing, approving, and implementing of the necessary governmental rules and regulations that will govern how Floridians will receive Medical Pot.

That process will be run by government agencies, departments and bureaucrats.  So, don’t expect things to move rapidly.  An example of the lethargic movement of governmental agencies can be seen in the State of Washington which approved Recreational Cannabis use more than 16 months ago.  Despite the amount of time that has passed, citizens of that state are still not able to access legal cannabis even though they approved it well over a year ago.

The reason why:  the government agencies charged with implementing the new law have run into problems and issues that have delayed it from going into effect.  In the meantime, people who are waiting to invest money in what will surely be a thriving market are stuck sitting on their hands while the government winds its way through setting up the rules.

The Washington Post has published a very informative article about the quagmire in Washington that you can read by clicking here.

Could the same thing happen in Florida if medical marijuana is approved?  Will it be months or even years before ganajapreneurs can open their doors in the sunshine state?

Medical Marijuana Doesn’t Result In More Crime

One of the often repeated talking points that anti-cannabis crusaders frequently fall back on is that relaxing the prohibition against pot will cause an upswing in the crime rate.  The flawed logic behind this argument is that marijuana use causes people to commit other crimes and by making it easier for people to use marijuana you will therefore see an increase in other criminal activity.

We have known this argument to be false for years, but empirical evidence is now backing us up.  Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas have completed a study where they examined crime statistics between 1990 and 2006, a time when 11 states legalized the medical use of cannabis.  The study found no increase in crimes related to homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.  In fact, a slight decrease in homicide and other violent crimes was detected in states where medical cannabis was permitted.

So, the next time someone tells you they are voting against medical marijuana because it will cause in increase in crime, let them know what the studies have shown.

Cops Will Be Cops – DEA Chief Remains Critical of Pot Reform

Despite the massive shift in public opinion favoring loosening marijuana prohibition, and the fact that 20 states have now approved the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes, the DEA remains steadfast in its anti-cannabis stance and is doubling down on its outdated position.

On April 2, 2014, DEA Chief Michele Leonhart told a House of Representatives Subcommittee that the legalization of recreational cannabis in Colorado and Washington has only caused her agents to “fight harder”.  She was also critical of President Obama’s comparison of marijuana to alcohol and has suggested that voters in Colorado and Washington were tricked into approving legal pot.

Ms. Leonhart’s viewpoints are not only incorrect and outdated, but they are also the self-serving words of a person who makes her living from perpetrating the idea that citizens should be locked up in jail for using cannabis.  Fortunately, these opinions are quickly being eclipsed in this country by a more sane and rational drug policy.  But let Ms. Leonhart’s words serve as a reminder that an anti-marijuana faction still remains amongst many who work in law enforcement and will have to be confronted by anyone interested in entering the Medical Marijuana field.

Pot Lottery – Could Florida Follow Washington’s Example for Dispensaries?

We are still seven months away from Florida’s vote on the Medical Marijuana Amendment, but people across the State are clamoring for information about how to best position themselves to capitalize on the change in the law if and when it occurs.

While it is impossible to know exactly how Florida would implement the new law, one can look to how other states are handling the process in order to prepare for what might take place here.

For example, the Sate of Washington announced earlier this week that it will be limiting the number of marijuana retail outlets in that state to 334, with a larger percentage being allowed in more populous parts of each county.  Because there are far more 334 people interested in opening such businesses, the State has elected to use a lottery system to select the recipients of each license.

There are certain requirements that an applicant must meet to apply for the lottery, and then even if the applicant is ultimately selected there will be another set of criteria that must be satisfied before a license to sell cannabis is ultimately granted.  These criteria include the evaluation of the applicant’s criminal history, the financial backers involved in the business, the residency of the applicant, the physical location of the proposed business, and a host of other factors.

The massive interest in cannabis related businesses in Florida means that the number of people who want licenses will far outweigh the number of licenses that will actually be issued.  So, it is quite possible that Florida may adopt a lottery-based system similar to that being used in Washington.

In Washington, it is being reported that a large percentage of the applications are being returned for being incomplete and incorrectly submitted.  Just like with any other lottery; you can’t win if you don’t have a ticket.  So, make sure you arm yourself with an experienced and knowledgeable consultant who can help you successfully navigate the application process.

West Palm Beach Medical Marijuana Business Conference a Huge Success

Cannabis activist, Robert Platshorn, recently hosted a conference dedicated to Medical Marijuana in the State of Florida.  Norm Kent from Florida Cannabis Consultants was a featured speaker at the event, which drew a sold out crowd.

Read the Miami Herald’s coverage of the event by clicking here.

Norm Kent from Florida Cannabis Consultants to Speak At Barry University

Barry University in Miami will be holding a panel discussion about Medical Marijuana on Wednesday, April 2nd at 7pm.  The panel will address the human rights concerns related to the use of Medical Cannabis.

Norm Kent from Florida Cannabis Consultants will be speaking at the event.  Also appearing will be, Ben Pollara,campaign manager for “People United for Medical Marijuana and Irvin Rosenfeld, the longest surviving federal medical cannabis patient in the United States.

More info about the event can be found by clicking here.

Will Cannabis be Re-Classified?

For years, myself and others have found it incredibly incongruous that the government permitted the limited distribution of cannabis to a restricted number of patients for medical purposes while on the other hand going into courts and asserting that marijuana has no accepted medical use.

As many of you know, one of my clients, Elvy Mussika, is one of those patients. For over a quarter of a century, she has been receiving 300 marijuana cigarettes quarterly, prescribed to her through a physician under a program administered by the National Institute for Drug Abuse. It is called the Compassionate Use Protocol. How can the government says that pot has no medical value while it’s research labs distribute the same product medicinally? Crazy, right?

In United States v. Schweder, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, the Eastern District of California became the probably the first court in the country to set an evidentiary hearing on defendants’ constitutional claims that the continued inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the DOJ’s enforcement policies violate the constitutional requirements of federalism and equal sovereignty.

The evidentiary hearing is currently set for June 2, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Mueller.  The government is said to be bringing in attorneys from Main Justice in D.C. to handle the hearing.  Here are the briefs:   Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss And Memorandum Of Law, Government’s Opposition, and Defendants’ Reply Brief.

The reply brief makes clear that defendants’ motion is narrow.  They are not asserting a fundamental right to use and distribute medical marijuana nor arguing that the current classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance violates the Ninth Amendment.  And the motion does not ask the Court to require the DEA to reclassify marijuana.  Rather, the motion to dismiss and evidentiary hearing raise a number of interesting and unresolved legal questions as part of a challenge to the equal protection of our country’s laws:

Is there any legitimate basis now for continuing to treat marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any accepted medical use in light of current scientific and medical research?   Evidence presumably will be presented on the issue at the June 2 hearing.

Can the government constitutionally choose to prosecute people for the distribution of marijuana in some states, but not prosecute others involved in the same conduct in other states that have legalized marijuana?  Isn’t federal law supposed to apply equally to all nationwide?

The motion to dismiss is based, in part, on the Cole Memo 8-29-13, which explains the federal government’s policy of prosecuting people differently for federal marijuana offenses depending on which state they live.