Deep-Dive Story Outlines Lawsuits, Pesticide Issues For Marijuana

Why don’t we have much data on how much pesticide weed smokers are being exposed to and what effects that exposure might be having on them? Photo Credit, Slate report, 4/20/16

Why don’t we have much data on how much pesticide weed smokers are being exposed to and what effects that exposure might be having on them? Photo Credit, Slate report, 4/20/16

It turns out that marijuana consumer seek the same “organic” and pesticide-free products that consumers seek in other agricultural products. The Slate magazine website has published a deep-dive into some of the legal and consumer issues facing the fast-growing legal marijuana business, including how the gap between federal and state laws can create an odd lack of health studies and other efforts. In particular, the piece looks at how pesticides impact pot products.

Says the Slate story of pesticides: “… this is an issue that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of, thanks to a series of recalls, lawsuits, and front-page exposes that have highlighted the gravity of a growing pesticide problem in the pot world. In the past year, Colorado has made 19 recalls of pot products after quarantining more than 100,000 plants that regulators feared had been treated with unapproved pesticides. In June, the Oregonian found abnormally high levels of pesticides on nearly half of the pot products sold in state dispensaries. Those pesticides included a common roach killer, half a dozen human carcinogens, and a fungicide that allegedly turned into hydrogen cyanide when heated. This March, the Emerald Cup (an outdoor cannabis competition) announced that it would tighten its contamination rules after a large percentage of entrants failed pesticide tests.”

Read the piece here: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2016/04/there_s_a_clean_natural_weed_movement_but_it_can_t_call_itself_organic_here.html

RICO Lawsuits Shape Legal Marijuana Landscape

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, July 25, 2012. Photo Credit, International Business Times report, 3/25/16

A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, July 25, 2012. Photo Credit, International Business Times report, 3/25/16

It’s not exactly news that litigation can have serious impact even if it gets dismissed or dropped. And the International Business Times has a truly cautionary tale out of Colorado. The story is about how recent court victories set net legal milestones but the legal marijuana industry has a long way to go.

Part of the story details how one man lost his business in litigation that never even made it to the discovery phase. The marijuana dispensary owner was doing well, says the IBT, but “… when he made arrangements in 2015 to move to a nearby location and expand his operation to include recreational marijuana sales, the Holiday Inn located next door to the new spot pre-emptively sued Olson as well as the owner of the property he was going to occupy, his bank, his bonding firm, his accounting company and others associated with his business, alleging the marijuana shop would be a detriment to the hotel’s business. The affiliated companies were eventually dropped from the suit once they either severed ties with Olson or reached cash settlements with the hotel. As part of its deal with the landowner, the Holiday Inn purchased the property Olson was going to use. In November, with only Olson left as a defendant, Holiday Inn dropped its lawsuit before the case reached discovery. By that point, Olson, who said he heard a doughnut shop and housing were going to be built on the site, no longer had a dispensary. The lease on his old location had expired and, inundated with legal fees, he couldn’t afford to relaunch his business elsewhere.”

Read the excellent report here:

Marijuana Legalization Movement Just Won Multiple Courtroom Battles, But Will That Be Enough to Quash Future Legal Threats?

California City Remains A Lesson In Pot’s Unintended Consequences

Robert Taft Jr., director of the licensed 420 Central dispensary, with Ocean Grown Jack Herer sativa. “I'm fighting for the patients we have. People want to go to a safe store.” Photo Credit, Orange County Register report, 3/29/16

Robert Taft Jr., director of the licensed 420 Central dispensary, with Ocean Grown Jack Herer sativa. “I’m fighting for the patients we have. People want to go to a safe store.” Photo Credit, Orange County Register report, 3/29/16

Confusion and civil lawsuits abound in the Orange County, California city of Santa Ana over legal marijuana sales –and the fringe shops that may or may not be legal.

Attorney Arthur Travieso is representing a shop called Live2Love and four other unlicensed pot shops in lawsuits against Santa Ana, claiming the city’s lottery process was unfair because it allowed multiple entries by the same individuals, as long they applied and paid a $1,690 fee. Some shops also say they are legal under the state’s medical marijuana law and don’t have to follow city regulations.

The OC Register newspaper also notes that “… Santa Ana police garnered unwelcome international attention after a May raid caught on video showed officers forcing Sky High customers to the ground and eating merchandise. Three officers involved in the raid were charged this month with petty theft and vandalism.” And, you guessed it, that brought more lawsuits.

Read the cautionary tale here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/city-709935-shops-pot.html

Supreme Court Backs Colorado, Nixes Neighboring State’s Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court this week handed pro-marijuana states a 6-2 victory against litigation from neighboring non-marijuana states. Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s law violates the federal Controlled Substances Act, which treats marijuana as a dangerous drug and forbids its sale or use. They urged the Supreme Court to take up the issue as an “original” matter and declare that Colorado’s law was preempted by the federal drug laws.

The Los Angeles Times explains that “… usually, the high court hears appeals from lower-court rulings. But on rare occasions, the justices are called upon to decide disputes between states. Typically, however, these ‘original’ suits involve disagreements over boundaries or the use of river water that flows from one state to another.

The Times also noted that “… the suit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma also implicitly challenged the Obama administration for its refusal to intervene more directly in Colorado.
Since California’s voters in 1996 authorized medical use of marijuana, 22 other states have adopted similar measures. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska went further and allowed for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use.”

“The state of Colorado authorizes, oversees, protects and profits from a sprawling $100-million-per-month marijuana growing, processing and retailing organization that exported thousands of pounds of marijuana to some 36 states in 2014,” the states argued. “If this entity were based south of our border, the federal government would prosecute it as a drug cartel.”

Read the Times report here:
Supreme Court rejects challenge to Colorado marijuana law from other states

Colorado Water Court Eyes ‘Right’ To Grow Marijuana

A water court case in Colorado’s high country could create new policy that impacts the fast-growing marijuana industry in the Mile High state, the Aspen Daily News is reporting in conjunction with the Aspen Journalism non-profit journalism site. The report explains that a local marijuana cultivator, which works with a local dispensary, applied in 2014 for water rights for between 2,000 to 3,000 pot plants in a 25,000 square foot facility.

Reporter Brent Gardner-Smith continued that “… in response to the High Valley Farms application, a water court referee, who initially reviews applications, asked High Valley to answer the question of whether a water right to grow marijuana in Colorado can be “lawfully” granted when the plant is illegal under federal law. Other marijuana-growing operations in Colorado have gotten their water by using existing water rights, not by applying for new rights specifically to grow pot, as High Valley Farms has done. For example, a grower might have bought land that came with water rights, or may have leased water from a district or city with existing water rights.”

The report added that, “… whether the High Valley Farms case implodes the pot industry or not, the case is on track to set legal precedent.” Pro-marijuana advocates worry that the water court could consider growing to be “unlawful” under federal law, raising doubts about the recent state constitutional amendment legalizing pot not just for medical use but recreationally as well. One of the issues is whether cultivating pot is “beneficial” use under state law.

See the report via the Aspen Daily News here: http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/169976

First Court-Sanctioned Case of Interstate Medical Cannabis Commerce

A potentially precedent-setting cannabis case comes out of the Northeast this week. Linda Horan, a lifelong Labor activist, said her last fight would be to pave the way for medical cannabis to be used in New Hampshire. While the Legislature there authorized medical cannabis more than two years ago, the State itself was slow to implement the policy leaving legal medical patients in limbo. Until dispensaries opened, NH was refusing to authorize patient cards to qualifying residents.

Enter Horan. With Stage IV lung cancer, she argued that by the time the dispensaries would be open, she would be dead. While wasting syndrome took more than twenty pounds from her in just a few short months, her tenacity never failed her, or her team of supporters. She sued the State for the right to have her medical card, arguing that she could travel to the neighboring State of Maine where she could procure her medication under its reciprocity laws.

Maine has allowed medical marijuana since 1999, and authorized medical dispensaries in 2009. Both were passed at the ballot box while the NH law was passed through the Legislature. Unlike Maine, NH does not allow for so-called “home grow” where patients can grow a limited number of plants for themselves, leaving the only legal means for patients to procure medical cannabis through dispensaries.

Judge Richard McNamara, a broadly respected judge whose rulings are rarely overturned ruled in favor of Horan, directing the NH Department of Health and Human Services to issue Horan a patient card. The decision hinged upon the fact that medical cannabis was, in fact, available to Horan, albeit in a nearby State.

What sets this civil case apart from all others is McNamara’s explicit insistence that Horan could bring medical cannabis over the border, essentially ruling that NH would authorize interstate commerce. According to the Portland Press Herald, “In his ruling, McNamara rejected the state’s argument that allowing Horan to possess marijuana from Maine would destroy the tight distribution controls lawmakers envisioned in passing the law. He noted that the law allows visitors from other states to obtain marijuana in New Hampshire, suggesting that lawmakers knew other states would have similar provisions.”

At 4:30 PM the day before Horan was scheduled to drive to Maine, the NH Attorney General advised DHHS to authorize patient cards for all qualifying NH residents.

While McNamara is not a federal judge, it will be interesting to see what kind of a precedent this may set for future cases, particularly as Oregon’s adult use market comes online, immediately next to Washington State. While all eyes have been watching whether interstate commerce would be allowed there under the Cole Memo which requires legal states prevent diversion to non-legal states, a dying woman’s last wish for non-opiate palliative care may have just cleared the path for interstate commerce between legal, neighboring states.

For Horan’s part, she says, “I’m over the moon.”

Read more about Horan’s story at the Concord Monitor.

Lawsuits Defining Marijuana Policy In California And ‘Legal’ States

While the Golden State is not among the “legal” states like Colorado and Washington, it continues to stumble toward a more permissive marijuana policy via civil litigation. An example is the recent Fresno-based case where a state appeals court ruled that growing medical marijuana is not a crime, but more of a civil infraction if it violates zoning laws. The Oakland-based East Bay Express reported that the case is precedent-setting for the rest of the state.
 
The report explains that “…. Fresno enacted one the state’s worst bans in 2014, prohibiting nearly all medical cannabis activity as nuisances or misdemeanors.” The resulting lawsuit, the report notes, “… went to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which ruled that Fresno’s bans are valid under zoning powers, but medical pot growing isn’t a crime. It’s more like having a barking dog or playing loud music late at night”
 
The report also notes that public lands managers predict some 40,000 marijuana farms will be created in California and also checks in with marijuana policy in the “legal” states.
 

Court Tells Feds To Lay Off Medical Pot Providers

A federal judge seems to have settled an issue between federal law enforcement and local marijuana operations in states with laws allowing legal pot. At issue was an amendment to a federal spending bill saying that law enforcement cannot use federal funds to go after marijuana operations or users in states that have laws governing such things. As Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham explains, “… when the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law. The DEA, however, didn’t see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against actual states — not against the individuals or businesses that actually carry out marijuana laws”
 
The judge did not find that argument at all amusing. Read the results here: Federal court tells the DEA to stop harassing medical marijuana providers

First Product Liability Lawsuit May Challenge Marijuana Industry Growth

The LA Times Reports, "The list of ingredients on a LivWell container includes pesticides. The company says they are safe. (AAron Ontiveroz / Denver Post)" in its 10/8/15 "A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit" article.

The LA Times Reports, “The list of ingredients on a LivWell container includes pesticides. The company says they are safe. (Aaron Ontiveroz / Denver Post)” in its 10/8/15 “A first for the marijuana industry: A product liability lawsuit” article.

You knew this was just a matter of time. A legal-marijuana user has filed a product liability lawsuit against a cannabis company alleging use of harmful substances in their production process.
 
The Los Angeles Times reports that the attorney representing the 24-year-old medical  marijuana user is seeking “class action” status for the litigation and expects more clients to join the lawsuit.
 

As Government Delays, Civil Lawsuits Set Pot Policies

As California considers a sweeping regulatory changes in how it handles marijuana use, the civil courts continue to define how laws will actually be applied. A good recent example, covered by NBC in San Diego, involves a “… couple whose home was raided by agents with guns drawn” who has filed a lawsuit against San Diego law enforcement, alleging their rights as medical marijuana patients were violated.
 
The report points out that “… the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court is the latest example of the ongoing debate over the rights of medical marijuana patients in California – how their treatment is regulated and how, according to their attorney, these type of cases are perceived by law enforcement.” This particular couple had previously arrested and put on trial for marijuana infractions, but found innocent.