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

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.
 

California Finally Moves To Regulate Legal Marijuana

The Golden State was the first to legalize medical marijuana, but was also the first of several states to drag its feet on how to regulate growing and selling the now-legal medicine. Now, 20 years after the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the state legislature has passed several bills that establish “seed to sale” systems. Proponents of medical marijuana are wasting little time in urging Gov. Brown to sign the bills into law, noting that he did help draft the regulations.
 
The Los Angles Times has a fine editorial asking the gov to not only sign the bills, but take an active role in making sure they are implemented. The LAT says that previous efforts have “… provided little guidance on how the state could help ailing patients get the drug — or how to keep it out of the hands of those who weren’t entitled to it. Legislators repeatedly failed to develop rules, so cities and counties adopted a patchwork of policies, which triggered a series of lawsuits and judgments that created a confusing mess for patients, law enforcement, cannabis growers and dispensary operators.”
 
Read the newspaper’s argument, signed by “the editorial board,” here: Gov. Brown, sign the medical marijuana bills

Legal Weed Still Brings Plenty Of Court Action

As criminal actions against marijuana users and growers diminish in “legal” states like Colorado and Washington and in more than 30 “medical marijuana” states like California, there has been a new crop of civil litigation. For example, in Riverside County, California the county is facing litigation over a new law that authorities said is a “crackdown the proliferation of large-scale, for-profit marijuana farms” in their communities.
 
Those operations are usually cooperatives, where many people will combine their rights to create a larger operation. More than a dozen lawsuits are underway to sort out regulatory questions. But medical pot providers say the civil actions amount to another way to shut them down. Read about that in The Riverside Enterprise newspaper.
 
Up in Washington state, a prosecutor in King County named Dan Satterberg argues that medical pot shops have been selling marijuana illegally for years and that will end soon after he serves lawsuits to 15 collectives in unincorporated parts of the county in the coming days. For years, the NW Cannabis Collective catered to its clients seeking medicine for pain and other conditions.
 
NW Cannabis CEO Michael Keysor said, “Most of these patients have been given up on by doctors. They have no answers for them.” This month, he received a letter from authorities telling him to shut down or be sued. He says a forced closure will kill his business for good. Again, the authorities are using civil leverage to advance their goals, and you can find Channel 13 TV coverage of that situation here.

Medical Cannabis Parents Getting Caught Up with Child Endangerment Charges

As cannabis laws shift at a rapid clip across the country, medical cannabis patients seem to be unexpectedly caught in a web of child protective services. Such was the case for Shawnee Anderson according to Al Jazeera America. An argument over a dirty diaper turned into a loud couple’s squabble, prompting a neighbor to call the police. The fight proved to be the least of their worries as police found remnants of their medical cannabis. The couple spent five days in jail and have been fighting while their son was placed in foster care for nearly two weeks.

This story is not unusual for parents in the 23 states where medical cannabis is legal. While it is legal for medical purposes, civil issues like family law are proving tricky. The article notes that “Meanwhile, low-income families of color are more likely to face neglect charges involving pot, as they tend to live in more heavily policed neighborhoods and give birth in hospitals that may be more likely to conduct drug testing on newborns.”

As we have reported before, the lack of Civil Gideon means there is no requirement that the government provide legal services for people who cannot afford them. This puts low-income families at a significant disadvantage when going up against state child advocates well-versed in the court system. Without legal counsel, parents may lose custody of their children simply for legally consuming a drug.

See more on the story here, “Parents face child abuse investigations over pot use.

We also recommend following the national story on Shona Banda who is fighting for custody of her son, and against felony charges that could put her in jail for 3 decades. See “This Mom Faces Prison For Medical Marijuana.

New Civil Actions Coming For Marijuana Water Use

As reported 8/29/15 in the Sacromento Bee, "California regulators undertake unique experiment to govern water use for marijuana. Video by Paul Kitagaki Jr."

As reported 8/29/15 in the Sacromento Bee, “California regulators undertake unique experiment to govern water use for marijuana. Video by Paul Kitagaki Jr.”

You probably saw this coming: The state of California is using civil lawsuits to make environmental cases against legal marijuana growers, especially when it come to water use during the state’s history making drought.
 
Many growers claim this is just sour grapes over the legalization of some uses of marijuana, while other growers are embracing the regulation. It makes for interesting cop stories, especially for those trying to understand how police raids are part of civil litigation. And you can catch up on the via The Sacramento Bee story here:California takes new approach on water regulation for pot farms