1 Charge Dropped against Minnesota Mom Who Gave Son Cannabis Oil

A judge has dismissed one of two charges against a Minnesota woman who gave her son cannabis oil for chronic pain.

Judge Thomas Van Hon tossed out a charge of child endangerment against Angela Brown of Madison.

Brown still faces a charge of contributing to the need for child protection or services.

Brown has said her 15-year-old son improved dramatically after being given the cannabis oil for pain that stems from a brain injury three years ago.

The family bought the oil legally in Colorado, but medical marijuana doesn’t become legal in Minnesota until this July.

Van Hon filed his omnibus order Thursday. Neither prosecutors nor Brown’s attorney immediately returned phone calls Friday.

Mass. approves first medical marijuana dispensary, cultivator

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday selected the first company allowed to grow marijuana for medical use, a milestone in the troubled effort to carry out the state’s 2012 medical marijuana law.

Alternative Therapies Group Inc. received permission to operate a dispensary at 50 Grove St., Salem, and a cultivation site at 10 Industrial Way, Amesbury.

But the sale of medical marijuana is still months away. The seeds need at least three months to grow. Then, ATG will face further review, including tests of the plants and inspections of the company’s transportation plans.

“This is an exciting first step,” said Nichole Snow, deputy director of Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, which supports access to medical marijuana. “I am overwhelmed with joy. . . . It means that myself as a patient and other patients will have safe access to their much-needed medication.”

Snow, who lives in Salem, said she needed marijuana to treat muscle spasms and pain resulting from injuries she suffered in multiple car accidents.

The dispensary licensing process has been delayed after questions arose about the work of companies hired to review the 100 applicants.

One contractor acknowledged that it was pressed for time while scrutinizing some applications. Another, hired to perform background checks, failed to discover that a couple in line to run several proposed dispensaries had lost their marijuana license in Colorado because of violations.

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.

Source

Massachusetts – preparing for legalization in 2016

SalemNews.Com Reports:

BOSTON — Emboldened by victories in other states and recent polls showing widespread support, advocates of legalized marijuana are preparing to put the question to Massachusetts voters in 2016.

Supporters of legalization say they are drafting legislation to allow recreational marijuana cultivation and use, with a tax similar to those for alcohol and tobacco, for consideration in the legislative session that starts in January. They’ll also prepare a ballot question for the 2016 elections in case lawmakers fail to act.

“If the Legislature doesn’t do anything, we’ll go to the voters in 2016,” said Richard Evans, a Northampton attorney and chairman of a coalition that is pushing for legalization. “We want to give lawmakers the opportunity to enact it. Voters shouldn’t be making laws like this, lawmakers should. But when the lawmakers won’t, voters must.”

It seems unlikely the Legislature will sign off, given the track record of previous efforts. A bill to allow adults to grow marijuana while establishing a tax on retail sales failed to gain much support in the current session.

Still, Evans said he believes public opinion on marijuana use is turning, citing an easing of state laws and the approval of recreational use in Colorado, Washington and, more recently, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

In 2008, Massachusetts voters decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing jail time with a $100 fine. Four years later, voters approved the cultivation and use of medical marijuana. Both initiatives passed by more than 60 percent.

“It’s no longer a question of whether it will be legalized in the state, but when and how,” Evans said.

Support grows for legalization

Despite objections, a growing number of voters in Massachusetts have shown support for legalization in recent straw polls.

In the Nov. 4 elections, voters in several House of Representative districts — including several north of Boston — approved nonbinding ballot questions asking if their representatives should vote in favor of legislation permitting the cultivation and regulation of marijuana as an agricultural product.
Full article here

State approves Boston’s first medical marijuana dispensary

By Shelley Murphy (The Boston Globe)

State health officials on Friday approved a highly coveted license for Boston’s first medical marijuana dispensary, selecting Patriot Care Corp. to operate a facility near Downtown Crossing.

The company, which was already provisionally approved to open a dispensary in Lowell, also won permission Friday for a location in Greenfield, making it the only company positioned to run three dispensaries in Massachusetts.

In addition, state officials said they would allow another company to move forward with plans to open dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton — a decision that drew sharp criticism from some critics who allege the company has received special treatment.

The Patrick administration put the plans of the company, New England Treatment Access, on hold in August after the Globe reported that its chief executive had falsely claimed to be a college graduate on the firm’s applications to the state.

The licensing process has been slowed by repeated disclosures, from media and competing applicants, about questionable backgrounds of some company officials and misrepresentations. No dispensaries have opened, despite state officials’ initial prediction they would open by this past summer.

On Friday, Karen van Unen, chief executive of the state’s medical marijuana program, said in a news release, “I am pleased with the steady progress we are making and expect the first dispensaries to open later this winter.”

Two other companies received permission Friday from state health regulators to move forward with medical marijuana dispensaries: Coastal Compassion in Fairhaven and MassMedicum in Taunton.

To date, Massachusetts has conditionally approved 15 applicants across the state, which still must pass inspection and win local zoning approval before they can begin growing and selling marijuana. No dispensaries have been selected for the counties of Hampden, Berkshire, Dukes, and Nantucket.

“We are concerned about underserved counties,” van Unen said in a brief telephone interview. She said the state hopes to start accepting more applications for dispensaries in the spring.

Patriot Care spokesman Dennis Kunian said the company does not have a timeline on when it might be open for business in Boston. He said company officials have spoken to some Boston city councilors and neighborhood groups about its proposed dispensary at 21 Milk St. and will begin the process of seeking approval from city officials.

“We have a lot of work to do and we are very excited,” Kunian said. “We want to do the city proud.”

Patriot Care has faced legal challenges and questions about its dispensary operations in Washington, D.C., and Arizona. The company also applied for a license in Connecticut, but was not selected by regulators there.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh had urged the state to restart the dispensary process earlier this year, following allegations that some winning applicants provided false or misleading information that made it appear that they had had support from elected officials.

On Friday, Walsh’s press secretary, Kate Norton, issued a statement saying, “The City will work with our partners at the state level to ensure that any dispensary in Boston complies with all local regulations and guidelines.”

The state announced Friday that it has allowed New England Treatment Access to proceed with plans for dispensaries in Brookline and Northampton, months after the Patrick administration said it halted the plans because the Globe had reported the company’s director, Kevin Fisher, falsely claimed to be a college graduate.

At the time, the governor said, “I’ve said before: If you lie on the application, that is, from my perspective, a nonstarter.”

Van Unen said the state decided to let the company keep its conditional approval partly because Fisher had resigned and was no longer associated with the company.

“We feel NETA is in a position to meet the standards we expect them to meet,” she said.

The decision angered a group of Brookline residents who had lobbied regulators to remove the company from consideration after the problems with Fisher’s resume were revealed.

“It undermines the whole process that someone can lie on the application and, for reasons that aren’t clear, be reconsidered,” said Gordon Bennett.

“What’s changed?” he asked. “If they were put on hold earlier, why are they being taken off hold now?”

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for NETA, said the company “remains well prepared and educated on this emerging industry with some of the most knowledgeable and experienced people in the fields of medicinal marijuana standards and practices.”

The state’s selection progress has been plagued by controversy for the past year. Voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2012 that legalized marijuana for medical treatment. The state is authorized to select up to 35 nonprofits to open dispensaries around the state, including at least one, but no more than five, in each county.

In January, state regulators announced that they had granted preliminary approval to 20 of 100 applicants seeking to open dispensaries. But the state launched a more thorough examination of the companies after the media and losing applicants raised concerns about misrepresentations, financial arrangements, and conflicts of interest involving several of the companies, as well as the backgrounds of their principals. A number of lawsuits were filed against the state by losing applicants.

In June, state health regulators announced that they had eliminated nine of the 20 remaining applicants, including a company led by former US Representative William Delahunt that had proposed dispensaries in Taunton, Plymouth, and Mashpee.

Reasons for rejection ranged from questionable corporate structures that appeared to violate requirements that the companies operate as non-profits; misrepresenting local support; and omitting one investor’s drug conviction.

Dr. James Kurnick, chief executive of MassMedicum, said his company was relieved to be selected for Taunton.

“It’s been a long process, and we have put lot of time, money, and effort into this,” said Kurnick, a cancer researcher and part-owner of two biotechnology companies. “We are a medical group, and we hope we can do this in a medical fashion.”

Tim Keogh, president of Coastal Compassion, said the company hopes to open its Fairhaven facility in fall 2015.

Mass. drops flawed marijuana applicants

By BostonGlobe.Com
Kay Lazar

Nearly half the 20 applicants given initial approval for medical marijuana dispensaries have been eliminated after a second review, state health officials announced Friday — including both in Boston and all three run by former Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt.

Reasons for rejection ranged from questionable corporate structures that appeared to divert revenues from the non-profit dispensaries to for-profit affiliates; misrepresenting local support; and omitting one investor’s drug conviction.

Only 11 dispensaries will be given provisional certificates allowing them to set up operations and undergo inspections, Karen van Unen, executive director of the state’s medical marijuana program, said during a news conference.

She said some dispensaries could open by November, but most wouldn’t until February; state officials originally envisioned most would open this summer. She said 97 percent of the state’s population will live within 30 miles of a dispensary.

The contentious, high-stakes selection process was delayed for months after the media and losing applicants raised concerns about misrepresentations, financial arrangements, and conflicts of interest involving several of the companies approved in January for provisional dispensary licenses, as well as the backgrounds of some of their principals.

The state then launched a more thorough examination of the companies, which revealed the assorted problems.

Those rejected are: Delahunt’s Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, which had proposed locations in Plymouth, Mashpee, and Taunton; Green Heart Holistic Health & Pharmaceuticals in Boston; Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, with proposed locations in Boston and Worcester; Brighton Health Advocates, Fairhaven; Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers, Holyoke; and Greeneway Wellness Foundation, Cambridge.

RELATED: Mass. cracking down on medical marijuana caregiver

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These companies can reapply next year, when a new round of applications will likely be considered, van Unen said.

In a letter to Delahunt’s company, van Unen said it was denied licenses because it planned to divert excessive gross revenues to a management company, and made “incorrect representations” on its application that suggested it had support from state Senate President Therese Murray.

A marijuana dispensary “must operate on a non-profit basis for the benefit of registered qualifying patients,” Van Unen wrote. Delahunt’s company, she said, “could not substantiate the reasonableness of the fee’’ it planned to pay to the management company, which amounted to an estimated $10.6 million over the first three years.

When pressed about how it had arrived at that amount, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts admitted it was “arbitrary,” van Unen wrote.

Delahunt’s company said on its application that in an effort to obtain assurances of support or non-opposition for its Plymouth dispensary, it met with more than a dozen officials, including Murray.

Van Unen said in her letter that Delahunt, the chief executive of Medical Marijuana, admitted during an interview with state officials that his meeting with Murray “was simply informative and no request was made for her support.”

Delahunt issued a statement, saying, “We worked very hard to get this right at every turn, legally and ethically, so we’re obviously surprised and disappointed. But frankly, I’m also perplexed, because the corporate structure cited as the main reason for our denial is the same one that was in place when we were rated #1 among applicants in the last round and received the Department’s green light to proceed.”

He added that his team would review the decision, “with the intention of providing clarifications of any findings that warrant them and to weigh our options going forward.”

State officials have acknowledged they hadn’t checked the veracity of applicants’ claims before the January announcement, despite spending more than $600,000 on two contractors who were hired to scour the backgrounds and evaluate their proposals. Regulators said they have since dug extensively into company executives’ backgrounds, finances, and business plans.

At Friday’s news conference, van Unen said the fact that the latest review found so many problems should not shake the public’s confidence in the process.

“I say it’s fabulous,” she said. “I am delighted to be at this point.”

The selection process has been shrouded in secrecy, with state health officials refusing to release the documents showing in detail how they evaluated and scored each of the 100 applicants that vied for the first batch of licenses awarded by the state. Those documents were finally released Friday afternoon.

Several lawsuits have been filed, and state lawmakers launched an investigation into the fairness of the licensing process, which was authorized by voters in a 2012 referendum. Massachusetts is one of 22 states that has legalized medical use of marijuana.

Another of the companies knocked out by regulators Friday, Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, had proposed locations in Boston and Worcester. In a letter to the company, van Unen cited claims in its license applications that it had support from local officials, which the officials contested.

Green Heart Holistic, a California-based company that had planned to open in Boston’s South End, was told it was deemed unsuitable because its application didn’t mention that the chief executive’s brother and business partner had once been convicted of a marijuana-related felony.

Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers was denied a dispensary license for Holyoke because its president, Heriberto Flores, earned a combined salary of $900,000 from two nonprofits and was expected to make at least $300,000 for managing the dispensary, state officials said.

In a rejection letter to the company, van Unen wrote that a state audit last month revealed that Flores was paid $450,000 for working full time on behalf of the New England Farm Workers Council, which provides services to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.

At the same time, Flores was collecting $450,000 as the chief executive and full-time employee of another, affiliated nonprofit.

A lawyer for Flores and Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers issued a statement calling the state’s action unfair and improper, saying it was based on “a gross misunderstanding” of the audit, which is being challenged by the New England Farm Workers Council.

The attorney, William M. Bennett of Springfield, said he was confident Flores would be vindicated.

As with Delahunt’s company, state officials objected to the financial structure of Brighton Health Advocates. A letter from van Unen said that Brighton’s application for a Fairhaven dispensary indicated that a for-profit management company, comprising Brighton’s top executives, would be paid “20% of the non-profit’s gross revenues; a 30% upcharge on employee salaries; lease payments under a sublease that doubled the rent charge; and repayments under a promissory note that almost doubled the interest rate.”

Ernie Corrigan, a company spokesman, said, “We changed the management structure in response to questions raised during the review process, and we are frankly at a loss to understand how we didn’t respond specifically to the concerns they raised.”

Greeneway Wellness Foundation, which won provisional approval for a dispensary in Cambridge and had applied for two additional sites, was rejected for questionable finances. Applicants were required to show evidence of at least $500,000 in capital for a single application, and $400,000 for each subsequent application.

Greeneway’s application showed three savings accounts with a total of $1.3 million, state regulators said, but on the day after the applications were submitted to the state, Greeneway pulled all of its money out and returned it to its “alleged investors,” said a letter from van Unen.

When questioned about its finances, Greeneway showed regulators bank statements and letters from 30 different “investors” that said they were “custodians” holding the funds for Greeneway, but the letters were created in early June, months after the $1.3 million was returned to the original investors, van Unen’s letter noted.

John Greene, chief executive of the company, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Anthony Richard, who is listed as the company’s chief financial officer in its application, said in an interview that he was unaware of the company’s finances, had been introduced to Greene last fall through a mutual friend, and only agreed to be involved with the company if it won a license.

“As far as finances, John was in charge of everything,” Richard said.

Advocates Urge Lawmakers for Access to Marijuana

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The move to legalize marijuana for recreational use continues in Massachusetts.

A legislative committee heard testimony today on a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana.

The bill called the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act was introduced by Amherst State Rep. Ellen Story.

It was heard before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

If it passes, the bill would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.

The legislation also calls for putting a tax on the marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

“Very simply, this is a choice whether marijuana should be prohibited or whether it should be regulated. Currently, marijuana is all produced on the illicit market. It’s millions of dollars that flow into the hands of criminals that could be flowing with taxpaying, law-abiding businesses, creating jobs here in the Bay State. Marijuana is here, it’s widely available, possession has been decriminalized,” says Matt Simon with Marijuana Policy Project

As testimony was being heard on the bill to legalize and tax marijuana medical marijuana, patients and their families gathered inside the State House urging the state to move faster on opening medical marijuana dispensaries.

“I just started doing it…for the last three or four months. It’s made a difference in my life, where I can get around and move. I suffer from arthritis and have circulatory problems in my legs and I suffer from depression also,” adds Kim McMurray from Quincy.

Bay State voters have long favored marijuana reform.

In 2008, they approved a ballot question which decriminalized marijuana and then in 201,2 they approved legalizing medical marijuana.

In according to the latest polls most Massachusetts residents favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use. A Suffolk University poll shows 53 percent in favor and 37 percent against.

Medical marijuana advocates also brought their concerns of getting dispensaries open to Governor Patricks’s office.