Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren Joins Fellow Senators Asking For Update On Marijuana Classification

Elizabeth Warren.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has signed on to a letter asking the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice for an update on their decision to reclassify marijuana at the federal level.

Currently, marijuana is classified as a "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The classification is for "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

The DEA and other agencies earlier this year said they plan to release a determination in the first half of 2016 on re-scheduling marijuana.

"While we appreciate the DEA's willingness to maintain an open dialogue with our offices, we are concerned that 'the first half of 2016' is coming to a close and no rescheduling announcement has been made," the letter from Warren, D-Mass., and others said.

"We continue to believe that the rescheduling of marijuana and the resolution of other regulatory barriers to research is a time-sensitive matter that requires immediate action," the senators added.

In addition to Warren, the senators include Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Barbara Boxer, D-California; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.

Massachusetts: Federal Prison Sentence For Southwick Man Busted With 111 Pounds Of Pot, $1 Million In Cash

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

In 2014, federal and local investigators discovered a stash with 111 pounds of marijuana and just over $1 million in cash in an "Uncle Bob's" storage unit in Agawam, Massachusetts. The find resulted in a sentence Thursday for Connor Cipolla, 31, for one year and one day in a federal prison camp, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni.

With good behavior, that should shake out to 10 months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines.

Investigators stumbled across the stash of contraband when they went to the site to investigate two unrelated subjects. Cipolla sped off in his car when he saw the police cars, leading them on a high-speed chase through Agawam, Southwick, and across the Connecticut border.

Police finally found the car abandoned in a nature preserve in Suffield. Cipolla had fled through the woods on foot.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for the storage unit and found a "massive" amount of drugs and money stacked up inside, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Shukla said during Cipolla's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court.

"I think pictures lend some insight to the court," the prosecutor told Mastroianni. "Because of the colossal amount of cash found."

U.S.: Keurig-Like Device For Marijuana Set To Hit Market Next Year


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The mainstreaming of marijuana continues: Now, a Keurig-like device is set to hit the market early next year, and a former Keurig executive is one of the co-founders of the company which will manufacture them.

There are plenty of nascent businesses springing up to serve consumers who now have access to legal cannabis. Among the offerings are tools and gadgets to go along with the weed -- and because American consumers seem to love things in "pods," there's a weed vaporizer in development right now that's being called the Keurig for marijuana, reports Mary Beth Quirk at Consumerist.

CannaKorp is the company behind the CannaCloud, the Keurig-like machine for pot, reports Curt Woodward at The Boston Globe. The device heats up the weed enough so that it releases vapor, but doesn't actually incinerate it. Consumers then inhale the vapor and get high.

Massachusetts: Senate President Rosenberg Sitting Out Marijuana Referendum

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg has not joined the group of powerhouse politicians that have united to oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, and says he is not convinced by arguments that legalizing marijuana would worsen the state's opioid addiction problem.

Rosenberg said Tuesday during a question and answer session with State House reporters that he remains unsure about a connection between marijuana use and the opiod epidemic.

“I’m not an expert so I have no opinion right now on that and I haven’t studied it,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve heard those comments. I’m not sure what they’re basing it on, and it would be helpful to see what information they’re using to come to that conclusion.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced last month that they will lead the anti-legalization campaign fighting the ballot question that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. Attorney General Maura Healey has also come out against legalization, though she is not taking a role in the campaign.

Rosenberg is skeptical of the "gateway" drug argument made by Baker, Walsh and Healey that marijuana use leads to opioid abuse. He has said he believes adults should be able to make their own decisions about personal marijuana use.

Massachusetts: Baker-Walsh Anti-marijuana Group To Fight Pot Ballot Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Massachusetts anti-marijuana legalization committee headed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today will publicly challenge backers of the legalization measure to acknowledge the high potency of the drugs it would legalize. They want backers to admit that the marijuana industry depends on these high-potency cannabis products to make a profit.

The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts alleges in a legal challenge, currently pending before the state’s highest court, that the marijuana legalization measure is based on misleading information about the potency of the products it would legalize. They include edibles such as cupcakes and candy and other highly concentrated forms of marijuana. Opponents call some if these "cannabis crack" because of the high amounts of THC.

“People deserve to know that this ballot question would allow the industry to market and sell a drug that is much more potent than what existed even a generation ago,” the committee said in a statement to the Herald. “It will also unlock the door for the sale of dangerous edible products that are a risk for accidental use by children.”

Massachusetts: School Superintendents Oppose Marijuana Legalization

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents came out Wednesday against a likely ballot question to make marijuana legal for recreational use, saying it is worried legalizing marijuana for adults will make it easier for kids to obtain the drug.

“As superintendents, our primary focus is on helping each and every student reach their full potential, and we believe the commercial legalization of marijuana runs directly counter to that goal,” the executive director of the association, Tom Scott, said in a statement. “Where marijuana is legal, we see increased use and abuse by young people.”

Supporters of marijuana legalization disagreed with that claim.

“We’ve actually seen use among young people remain flat or go down in Colorado,” where recreational marijuana sales for adults began in 2014, said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts, which is backing the ballot effort in this state.

“We think the more dangerous market is the one that exists today — where drug dealers don’t ask for IDs,” Borghesani said, echoing a main argument of backers that children will be safer when marijuana sales move from the street to licensed stores that sell only to adults.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Initiative Backers' Campaign Highlights Alcohol Hypocrisy


Backers of a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts are launching a campaign Friday to highlight the hypocrisy of elected officials who oppose the initiative but promote the use of a more harmful substance — alcohol.

Leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol held a news conference Friday morning in front of the Massachusetts State House. They showcased a large, provocative sign featuring their first two targets, Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who just announced they have formed a committee to oppose the proposed initiative because they believe marijuana is too dangerous to regulate for adult use.

Baker has proposed legislation to loosen the state’s liquor licensing regulations and expand the number of locations in which alcohol can be served. He also supported repealing the state alcohol tax and opposed a Boston alcohol tax. Walsh proposed legislation to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., providing an extra two hours of drinking time.

Massachusetts: Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Responds To New Opposition Committee


The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Thursday issued a statement in response to Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s announcement the same day, that they have formed a committee to oppose the campaign’s initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts.

Earlier in the day, the Western New England University Polling Institute released the results of a statewide survey that found 57 percent of Massachusetts voters support the proposed initiative and just 35 percent are opposed.

“Our campaign will not allow our opponents to claim the high road on matters of public health and safety," said Jim Borghesani, communications director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "The truth is that the greatest danger associated with marijuana is its illegal status. Our opponents seem to prefer that criminals control the marijuana market and sell untested, unlabeled products to people of any age.

“Gov. Baker and others need to understand that conflating the opioid epidemic with marijuana sends a very dangerous message to our youth," Borghesani said. "The blurring of lines between drugs in this country is a pattern that started with Richard Nixon more than four decades ago. And it has caused more harm than good.

Pennsylvania: State Will Be 24th To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the latest version of Senate Bill 3, sending it to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf for a signature.

The governor has been pushing for the state legislature to approve medical marijuana for the past year. With 10 days to sign the bill into law, he is expected to act without hesitation.

“I am proud and excited to sign this bill that will provide long overdue medical relief to patients and families who could benefit from this treatment,” Gov. Wolf said Wednesday in a statement. “I applaud members of both parties in the House and Senate who have come together to help patients who have run out of medical options and want to thank the thousands of advocates who have fought tirelessly for this cause.”

Earlier this week the Senate approved a recently amended House version of the bill after making some minor adjustments. There was concern that the minor changes in the language could hinder the passage of the bill in 2016.

In the end, the Senate's modifications, most of which concerned the industry, and not the plant or the patient.

As long as Gov. Wolf follows through with what he has said, patients suffering from 17 qualified conditions will soon have access to medical marijuana from 50 dispensaries across the state.

Massachusetts: Politicians Form Anti-marijuana Legalization Committee

Massachusetts politicians have formed a committee to oppose marijuana legalization.

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and several other legislators and healthcare professionals have formed a committee to oppose legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.

The bipartisan committee, A Campaign For A Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, was formed to oppose the upcoming ballot question that would make pot legal in the state.

“I’ve met far too many families in Boston and elsewhere where kids have lost their way in school and been shut out of success in the workplace due to addiction and abuse of marijuana,” Mayor Walsh said in a release. “Where marijuana is legal, young people are more likely to use it and a vote against legalizing the commercial marijuana industry is a vote to protect our kids and communities.”

Gov. Baker said legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts would hinder the state's fight against widespread opiod use and abuse.

“I’m happy to join Mayor Walsh, Speaker DeLeo, Senator Lewis and others in bipartisan opposition to legalizing a recreational marketplace for a drug that would put our children at risk and threaten to reverse our progress combating the growing opioid epidemic so this industry can rake in millions in profits,” said Baker in a release.

Vermont: Governor Says Marijuana Edibles Make For 'Bad Pot Bill' In Massachusetts

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Governor Peter Shumlin wants to legalize marijuana in Vermont before Massachusetts because he does not want Massachusetts' "bad pot bill" to negatively influence his state.

The governor expressed his views in a blog post entitled The Time is Now to Take a Smarter Approach to Marijuana on his official website.

The bill Shumlin supports would ban edibles, unlike the bill proposed in the Massachusetts ballot initiative, which would permit them for recreational users.

“The bill’s approach is in stark contrast to the one proposed in the Massachusetts referendum that will be voted on in November, which would allow edibles that have caused huge problems in other states, smoking lounges, home delivery service, and possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana. Vermont’s bill allows none of that,” Shumlin wrote in his post. “If Massachusetts moves forward with their legalization bill while Vermont delays, the entire southern part of our state could end up with all the negatives of a bad pot bill and none of the positives of doing the right thing."

Jim Borghesani, communications director for The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told the State House News Service: “He seems to focus on edibles as a negative and, unfortunately, I think he’s falling into the same exaggerations when it comes to edibles that a lot of other people have. The problems with edibles in Colorado were pretty much contained to the first year of legal sales. The packaging has been changed, the portioning has been changed. It’s a learning process."

Massachusetts: Boston City Council Admits To Violating Open Meeting Law While Passing Anti-Medical Marijuana Measure

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The City of Boston recently rushed to pass an anti-medical marijuana bill in an attempt to limit the number of medical marijuana outlets in the city. A medical marijuana group, the Massachusetts Patient Advisory Alliance, made allegations that the City Council failed to follow the Open Meeting Law.

The Open Meeting Law is in place so that citizens can know what changes to law are bring proposed, and have an opportunity to provide public comment.

Per the Boston Globe:

"The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance accused the council of violating the law by failing to provide 48 hours’ public notice before voting earlier this month on buffer zones for marijuana dispensaries.

The city said it was an honest mistake. A typographical error led to the wrong item being copied onto the printed agenda that was circulated to councilors, the city’s letter states. The city clerk discovered the mistake about 90 minutes after the agenda was posted and corrected the online version, the letter said.

"Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the mistake means that this item was not noticed for 48 hours as required by law,” states the letter from Adam Cederbaum, of the Law Department."

The group of advocates are calling for nullification of the vote, that proper notice be re-issued, and that a re-vote occur after the public has had a chance to make comments.

Massachusetts: 80-Year-Old Pot Dealer Gets 10 Year Sentence

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

An 80-year-old man who ran a marijuana-dealing operation that covered several states was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Marshall Dion pleaded guilty last year to drug and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, US District Judge Denise Casper rejected a plea agreement that called for a five- to seven-year prison sentence for Dion. His lawyers then called for a sentence range of five to 10 years. Judge Denise Casper sentenced him to the maximum during a hearing Tuesday in US District Court in Boston.

Dion has had a long history with law enforcement. In 1985, he crash-landed a small plane in Wisconsin, breaking both his ankles. Kenosha County sheriff deputies found him crawling through a muddy field while money floated in the air around him. Dion was not charged criminally, but the government kept nearly $112,000 of the cash after a judge found it was likely drug proceeds.

He was stopped for speeding in a beat-up pickup truck in Junction City, Kansas in 2013, where police found about $828,000 in the vehicle. A federal investigation led authorities to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they found about $15 million in cash, nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers detailing drug deals going back to 1992.

Dion has been in custody since his arrest in 2013, so he has already served 2 1/2 years of his sentence.

He declined to make any comment to the court during his hearing.

Massachusetts: Attorney General Asks Voters To 'Wait' On Legalizing Marijuana


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is asking state voters to "wait" to legalize marijuana.

Voters could be faced with a ballot question in November to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use. Atty. Gen. Healey is asking residents to vote no, reports Ashley Afonso at WWLP.

"Not now, not at this time," Healey said. "We're in the midst of his opioid crisis." (Evidently, the Attorney General doesn't know that cannabis is an exit drug out of opiate addiction.)

"I think it's really important that we talk about the public health aspects which haven't really been talked about," Healey said. "Legalizing recreational marijuana I think is a really bad idea for many reasons, but to me most important is the health and well-being of young people."

Massachusetts already has legalized medicinal cannabis, and has decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce for adults. The new measure would legalize recreational weed for adults 21 and older. It would also add taxes on cannabis sales and a commission that would oversee the regulation of the industry.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association wrong-headedly opposes legalization, claiming "safety concerns" including "greater youth accessibility." What they don't seem to realize is that black market dealers don't ask for ID, and legal marijuana stores do.

Massachusetts: Hull Man And Pregnant Wife Busted In Huge Pot Operation


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Hull Police Department in Massachusetts has charged a man and his pregnant wife with weapons and drugs violations after they discovered a large marijuana operation in their house.

On Thursday, Hull police raided the house of David Maglion, 35, and his pregnant wife Erika Zerkel, 38 and uncovered a sophisticated marijuana operation. In addition to marijuana, police confiscated several firearms.

Officials executed the search warrant with a SWAT team because Maglio, who has prior drug convictions, was considered armed and dangerous before the bust, police said.

"The male suspect in this case is a career criminal, well-known to police, who was armed and dangerous. All precautions were taken, and I am very proud that this investigation came to a conclusion without incident or injury to either the suspects or police officers involved," acting Police Chief Robert C. Sawtelle said in a police statement.

Authorities said the police seized a handgun, rifle, more than $5,000 in cash,more than 40 pounds of pot, and nearly 50 marijuana plants.

Photo: Hull Police Department

Maglio was charged with the possession and cultivation of marijuana, intent to distribute and various weapons-related charges, police stated. Zerkel was charged with marijuana possession and cultivation.

Because of Zerkel's pregnancy, police added that both suspects were also charged with the reckless endangerment of her unborn child.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Inititiative Backers Launch St. Patrick's Day Billboard In Boston


Backers of a proposed ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts launched a St. Patrick’s Day-themed billboard Monday that highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will hold a news conference today at 12 p.m. ET in front of the digital billboard, which faces Seaport Blvd. on the south side of District Hall. The ad will run through Sunday, March 20, when local and state leaders will gather for the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the nearby Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

The billboard features a green beer, a glass of whiskey, and a marijuana leaf below the words, “Beer,” “Liquor,” and “Safer,” respectively. It directs viewers to, which details several ways in which marijuana is significantly less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society.

“Our goal is to make this year’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities as educational as they are enjoyable,” said CRMLA Campaign Manager Will Luzier, who previously served as executive director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. “While folks are celebrating with a pint of green beer or a glass of whiskey, we want them to think about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Campaign Says Senate Report Is "Recycled Hysteria"

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Officials with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts called a special Beacon Hill report "hastily written" and said the document ignores the positive aspects of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the campaign, said the 118-page report ignores the regulatory structure described in their ballot initiative. The initiative is expected to be on the statewide ballot in November.

State senators released the report at a press conference inside the State House.

"A lot of this stuff is directly from 1930s, reefer madness," Borghesani said after seeing the report. "It's just recycled hysteria and we don't think anybody's falling for that," he continued.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol proposal would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to grow cannabis plants at home. It would establish a system of retail marijuana businesses and cultivation facilities, and would add a 3.75 percent state tax on top of the 6.25 percent sales tax.

A Cannabis Control Commission would regulate the substance.

The report from the special State committee called for a prohibition on home growing and heavier taxes.

Sen. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, said that he was undecided but leaning towards legalization until taking a trip to Colorado in January. He said he's against legalization now.
"The black market doesn't go away because it's so well-established," he told reporters last week.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers Plan To Ban Home Cultivation If Marijuana Legalized


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Massachusetts voters haven't even legalized marijuana yet, and already state lawmakers are planning how to gut important parts of the law, in case it passes.

A sharply worded Senate report released on Tuesday says that if voters legalize recreational cannabis in the state, lawmakers should promptly cancel their wishes by outlawing home cultivation, imposing high taxes, and prohibiting most edible products, reports Joshua Miller at The Boston Globe.

While the report from the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana claims not to take an official stance on the proposed ballot question to legalize, it repeatedly, and even shrilly, warns of legalization's supposed dangers. The authors claim that legalization could make it easier for children to access marijuana -- despite the fact that it would be limited to adults 21 and older, and black market drug dealers certainly aren't asking for ID currently.

The bipartisan 118-page propaganda piece, I mean "analysis," comes the same week Gov. Charlie Baker, Atty. Gen. Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston published a scathing op-ed in The Boston Globe opp=osing legalization, and the Massachusetts Legislature's judiciary committee heard testimony on the ballot measure.

Massachusetts: Backers of Legalization Initiative To Respond To Senate Committee Report


The special Massachusetts Senate Committee on Marijuana is scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday, March 8, at 10:30 a.m. ET in the Senate Reading Room of the State House to release its report regarding the potential impact of regulating marijuana for adult use. Backers of a proposed November ballot initiative to regulate cannabis like alcohol in Massachusetts will hold a media availability outside the Senate Reading Room immediately following the Tuesday news conference to respond to the report.

The report is expected to include recommendations for regulations that should be enacted if marijuana prohibition is repealed by the legislature this session or by voters in November. Members of the committee traveled to Colorado in January to examine the state’s system of regulating marijuana cultivation and sales for adult use.

“We commend the Senate committee members for traveling to Colorado to examine the state’s marijuana regulatory system,” said CRMLA Communications Director Jim Borghesani. “Based on news accounts of the trip, however, it appears some committee members traveled to Colorado with a bias against regulating marijuana and sought information to buttress their positions.

Massachusetts: Backers of Marijuana Legalization Urge Legislators To Approve H. 3932


Leaders of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will testify at a legislative hearing Monday in support of a measure that would end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary is considering H.3932 because the CRMLA submitted more than 105,000 signatures in support of the proposal in December. The measure will appear on the November ballot if the Legislature does not approve it.

“This is the Legislature’s opportunity to embrace a far more sensible marijuana policy,” said CRMLA campaign manager Will Luzier.

“Marijuana prohibition does not eliminate marijuana use," Luzier said. "It only ensures that marijuana is unregulated, untested, untaxed, and sold by gangs and criminals. It is time to regulate marijuana and stop punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol.”

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