400 pounds of marijuana seized after drugs mailed to Elmwood business, authorities say

A Harvey man told authorities the four packages he received through the mail at an Elmwood business contained hemp and that he had the paperwork to document their legality.

But he was arrested and jailed because federal authorities said the packages contained marijuana that was illegally mailed through the U.S. postal system.

Agents ended up seizing about 400 pounds of marijuana after searching Urban Nola LLC, a business in the 900 block of Edwards Avenue in Elmwood, on Feb. 6, according to an arrest report.

Anthony Le, 35, whom state records list as a managing member of Urban Nola, was booked with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service opened the investigation on Feb. 4 after local staffers intercepted three packages that smelled like marijuana, authorities said. The parcels were addressed to Urban Nola and had been mailed from Watsonville, California.

Boyca, a drug-sniffing State Police dog, “alerted” to marijuana in the packages, the arrest report said. Investigators opened the boxes and found vacuum-sealed bags that tested positive for marijuana.

A day later, a fourth box addressed to Urban Nola came through the postal system.

The post office delivered the four packages to the company’s Elmwood office in a “controlled delivery” and arrested Le when he accepted them. Investigators then searched the company’s office and found a total of 21 boxes containing about 400 pounds of marijuana, the arrest report said.

Le claimed the packaged plant material inside the parcels was hemp, a less potent and recently legalized cannabis cousin of marijuana.

Recently passed federal and state laws legalized “industrial hemp,” a cannabis plant that has a lower level of the psychoactive ingredient THC than marijuana. Hemp is used to make several products, including cannabidiol (CBD), paper, textiles and alcohol.

Legal hemp has a THC concentration of 0.3% or less, according to Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which regulates the state’s budding hemp industry.

Le showed the agents paperwork purportedly documenting the THC levels in Urban Nola’s plants. The arrest report did not reveal whether agents conducted their own THC-level tests.

Even if the plants meet the state and federal THC levels, Urban Nola has other problems, according to Strain and U.S. Postal Service inspectors. Le did not have any of the state licenses required to transport, process or possess industrial hemp, the arrest report said.

The hemp was also shipped from California, a state that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to legally grow the product, according to Strain.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not comment directly on the investigation, but agent Tony Robinson said it’s illegal to mail marijuana through the postal system. People living in states where marijuana has been legalized often mistakenly believe that they can mail their weed, he said.

“Even though something might be legal to sell in a state, federal laws prevent them from mailing it through the U.S. mail,” Robinson said.

Le was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna. He was released Friday on a $100,000 bond.

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Trump Budget Proposes Ending State Medical Marijuana Protections And Blocking DC From Legalizing

President Trump proposed ending an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department interference as part of his fiscal year 2021 budget plan released on Monday.

The rider, which has been renewed in appropriations legislation every year since 2014, stipulates the the Justice Department can’t use its funds to prevent states or territories “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This isn’t the first time that an administration has requested that the rider be stricken. Trump’s last two budgets omitted the medical cannabis protections language, and President Obama similarly asked for the policy to be removed. In all cases, Congress has ignored those requests and renewed the protections in spending bills.

During last year’s appropriations season, the House approved an even more expansive amendment that would have provided protections for all state and territory marijuana programs, rather than just medical cannabis systems. But the Senate did not follow suit and the provision was not included in final fiscal year 2020 legislation sent to Trump’s desk.

When Trump signed that large-scale spending legislation in December, he attached a statement that said he is empowered to ignore the congressionally approved medical cannabis rider, stating that the administration “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”

Cannabis is also mentioned in several other places in Trump’s new budget proposal for next year. For example, it contains another long-standing rider that blocks Washington, D.C. from using local tax dollars to legalize marijuana sales.

Separately, the plan requests that funds be set aside to help the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invest “in priority activities,” including the “regulation of cannabis and cannabis derivatives.” FDA is actively developing regulations for CBD since hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

“FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer, and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities,” the agency said in a summary. “FDA is aware that companies market products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the law and may put consumer health and safety at risk.”

“Questions remain regarding the safety of these compounds,” it continued. “FDA is committed to protecting the public health and improving regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of cannabis and cannabis-derived products within the agency’s jurisdiction.”

FDA said it was important to fund these regulatory efforts because it’s an example of an issue with “rising public health needs as growing
markets outpace increases to Agency resources.”

The agency requested $5 million to “continue enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing potential regulatory pathways, to the extent permitted by law, for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”

“FDA is seeing a significant increase in activity relating to the marketing of unlawful cannabis-derived products, especially those containing cannabidiol (CBD), since the Farm Bill passed. In many cases, product developers make unproven claims to treat serious or life-threatening diseases, and patients may be misled to forgo otherwise effective, available therapy and opt instead for a product that has no proven value or may cause them serious harm.”

It also outlined how it intends to use the funds across four different branches within FDA.

About $4 million will be allocated to an initiative designed to “better regulate the usage of cannabis-derived substances, such as cannabidiol (CBD), in FDA-regulated products such as dietary supplements and when used as unapproved food additives.”

It will also “support regulatory activities, including developing policies and continue to perform its existing regulatory responsibilities including review of product applications, inspections, enforcement, and targeted research.”

Half a million dollars will go toward FDA’s Animal Drugs and Feeds Program in order to “strengthen its capacity to evaluate scientific data related to the safe use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives in animal products.”

FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs would receive $2 million to help “regulate and inspect establishments manufacturing FDA regulated products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”

“The initiative will support regulatory activities, including developing policies and continue to perform its existing regulatory responsibilities including review of product applications, inspections, enforcement, and targeted research,” the agency said. “FDA must support oversight of increasing numbers of marketed FDA-regulated products containing cannabis-derived substances that may put the public at risk.”

Another “priority component” of the budget is to fund cleanup efforts for illicit marijuana grows on federal public lands.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) would also take a serious budget hit under the president’s proposal. If enacted, ONDCP’s funding would go from the $425 million it was allotted for 2020 to just $29 million for 2021—an approximately 90 percent cut. Trump included a similar request in prior budgets, but Congress rejected the cuts

Some of those dollars for ONCDP would be transferred to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “improve coordination of drug enforcement efforts among Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S.” through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the document states. Other dollars for grants to local anti-drug groups would be moved to the Department of Health and Human Services.

ONDCP, which is an office within the White House, applauded Trump’s request for $35.7 billion to fund “counter-drug efforts” in a press release. Jim Carroll, the offices’s director, said “President Trump has brought a relentless, whole-of-government approach to combating the crisis of addiction in our country.”

“The FY 2021 budget request sends a strong message that, although we’ve seen signs of real progress, the Trump Administration will not let up in our efforts to save American lives,” he said. “Whether it is going after drug traffickers, getting people struggling with addiction the help they need, or stopping drug misuse before it starts, this budget request ensures our partners will have the resources needed to create safer and healthier communities across the Nation.”

The budget also prioritizes funding for the implementation of a domestic hemp program since the crop was legalized. It calls for $17 million for 2021 for the program, which “provides a national regulatory framework for commercial production of industrial hemp production in the U.S. through regulations and guidance.”

“In addition to those regulated under USDA plans, USDA approves state and Tribal nation plans to provide licensing services, technical assistance, compliance, and program management support,” the budget states. “In 2021, USDA will administratively implement fees to cover the Government’s full cost for providing services to beneficiaries of this program.”

Another current rider that prohibits the Justice Department from contravening an industrial hemp research program was proposed to be removed. However, that provision is essentially redundant under the new agriculture law, which transferred jurisdiction of the crop from DEA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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“An organic option for the rich”: Medical marijuana price concerns remain after pharmacy slashes prices

By Amanda Roberts | February 5, 2020 at 10:17 PM CST – Updated February 6 at 3:30 PM (Read the full article here)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -At a doctor’s recommendation, Jackie Hyer tried medical marijuana and says it was all that was promised and more, but she just couldn’t justify staying on it because it was costing her hundreds of dollars a month.

“I thought this would be my miracle and its great, but I just can’t afford it,” said Hyer.

Hearing her cry and dozens of others, Ruston Henry with H&W Drugs says that’s when they made the decision to slash the prices for medical marijuana by 25 percent.

“When you have a patient that saying because of price I will need to not take my medicine that’s a problem as a pharmacist,” said Henry.

The price change can save patients anywhere from $24 to $45 a vial depending on the doctor’s recommendation. Henry says their phones have been ringing, and more patients are starting to come back to them.

“The people we service are a desperate population so now there is hope, at H&W we say we try and give people back their lives,” said Henry.

But neurologist Chad Domangue believes it’s going to take more than a price reduction to make real change, especially because medical marijuana is a cash-only drug.

“I’ve seen people cry in my office about how it helps them sleep, depression, and pain so forth, but then after a month or two as people come into my clinic crying because they can’t afford $180 a month… even if they discounted 25% we can’t afford $300 a month it’s many people car notes right,” said Domangue.

He says any step to make medical marijuana more affordable and therefore more accessible is a good step, but says because of state laws and insurance company demands, he winds up putting a number of those patients back on opioids.

“As physicians we’re being told there’s too many opioids, there’s too many opioid,s but the alternatives such as marijuana and other noninvasive options we have, you can’t get them covered or paid for,” said Domangue.

Domangue believes until legislators allow more suppliers in the state, and insurance companies broaden their coverage a Louisiana medical marijuana recommendation will still be costly.

“Because we only have two suppliers they jack the price up to whatever they wanr. It’s set up to fail it’s one of those things we got excited because they passed legislation but they basically created an organic option for the rich,” said Domangue.

The discounted drug price reduction has only been in place at the H&W store on Tchoupitoulas for about a week.

Henry said they still need time to see how the new price fits within the community’s needs, but is hopeful.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.


Marijuana Ponzi scheme alleged in Washington state

A Washington state cannabis farm was the focus of a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, an illegal example of the sudden-riches mentality in the legal marijuana industry, according to federal officials.

Investors plowed $4.85 million into the alleged scheme from Green Acres Farms near Anacortes, Washington, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint.

Many of the investors – lured by promises of huge profits – used retirement funds or family loans.

Instead of investing the proceeds into the marijuana farm, Robert Russell, of Duvall, and his California-based executive partner, Guy Scott Griffithe, spent $3.5 million of investors’ money on luxuries such as a 2008 Bentley Continental, a 2012 Mercedes Benz C-Class, a 2015 Porsche Panamera and a yacht, the SEC said.

Neither Russell nor Griffithe could be reached for comment. An attorney who is reportedly representing Robert Russell did not respond to an interview request from the Associated Press.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, charges Russell and Griffithe with civil violations of federal securities law and seeks return of “ill-gotten gains.”

No criminal charges were filed.

“Griffithe and Russell exploited popular interest in the cannabis industry to obtain millions of dollars from investors who thought they were buying into a profitable business,” Melissa R. Hodgman, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement.

The SEC said Green Acres Pharms was never profitable.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has permanently discontinued Green Acres Pharms’ license to produce and process cannabis.

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Rumors Are That MedMen Is Unable To Pay Vendors

Once touted as the first “unicorn” in cannabis IPO’s, MedMen Holdings Inc. (OTC: MMNFF) is now struggling to pay vendors. In addition to telling vendors, it wouldn’t be able to pay its bills until February or March, the company has been selling assets and also announced it was laying off employees in November. The Twittersphere was active on the subject as Jason Spatafora @WolfofWeedSt lead the charge by posting several exchanges between unidentified vendors and MedMen executives.

“That’s Shitty News”

One unnamed vendor’s email from MedMen’s Senior Director of Strategic partnerships, Ben Shultz read, “Sorry for the delay. We received our payment schedule from our consultant’s FTI and had them signed off by our CFO. I wish I had better news here, but unfortunately, we don’t have payments scheduled for you in the near term. We are working on longer cash term infusions, but it is unlikely that we will be able to pay off these invoices before Feb/March.” He goes on to write, “That’s shitty news and there’s no sugar-coating it, but I have to be the messenger of bad here. If and when we can allocate funds to pay off our AR, we will be in touch.”

One California vendor suggested vendors consult a lawyer or accountant before accepting stock instead of the money owed by MedMen. Also, not identified.

Josh Shlenker, the General Merchandising Manager wrote to another unnamed vendor, “We’ve employed a financial consultant FTI to help us devise a payment plan strategy to clear outstanding balances and get us caught up as expeditiously as possible.”

It goes on to read, “All I can realistically offer are imperfect solutions and I’ve had to have a lot of frustrating and awkward conversations. FTI is supposed to be reaching out early next week with a proposed solution for you.” It continues with, “I am working on creative arrangements with people who wish to remain in the assortment through this period and I am working to offer them more premium shelf space and trying to find fund to allocate weekly to chip away at the outstanding balances, while still planning to continue to place and receive orders on 45-60 day terms.”

Last week, CEO Adam Bierman spoke to Benzinga and acknowledged the layoffs announced in November, but that was the extent of his remarks regarding the 190 employees given the pink slip. Instead, he dwelled on the real estate choices the company was making. Yet, the company has been selling off its real estate assets (to a business that is closely connected to company executives) and then leasing the property back. Such that shareholders are really not benefiting from these assets. There was no discussion of financial difficulties.

Bierman’s point was the locations that MedMen is choosing will result in more sales. His thesis is that locations located near airports draw the tourist crowd. However, choosing a dispensary near the airport in Vegas, versus one on the strip seems like an odd choice for consumers.  (Editors note: GMR visited the Vegas MedMen dispensary during the MJ Biz conference in December and it was largely empty. NuWu ( billed as the world’s largest dispensary) was very busy with customers, as was Planet 13 and Reef Dispensaries had a line that snaked outside the door.)

No, It’s Not Bankrupt

Short-seller Grizzle.com added fuel to the fire by blasting a headline that asked, “Did MedMen Just Go Bankrupt?” It hasn’t and the general consensus is that cannabis companies can’t declare bankruptcy. According to the U.S. Courts, “All bankruptcy cases are handled in federal courts under rules outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.” Since cannabis is still federally illegal, it is suspected that the court would reject such a filing. Granted, many of these cannabis companies have complicated business structures where potential parts of the company that isn’t plant-touching could file to reorganize, but that remains to be seen or tested.

Setting up payment plans doesn’t necessarily mean a company is out of money, but with a retail business, the end of the year is typically when a company is flush with cash from holiday sales. So, not being able to pay bills at a time when there should be extra revenue coming in is cause for concern. Retailers like Wet Seal, The Limited, Eastern Outfitters and BCBG all filed for bankruptcy in February of 2017 after the holiday season. Demonstrating that this isn’t an uncommon time for retailers to call it quits.

Still, there’s the issue of total reported liabilities of $671 million as per the quarter ending in September. The revenue for the quarter was $43.9 million. This is a fairly lopsided situation. The next earnings report is on February 26, 2020.

Challenges In The C-Suite

MedMen has faced a lot of criticism since it has gone public. The company first came under fire when the May 2018 IPO disclosed the generous pay for Bierman and Co-founder Andrew Modlin, who recently purchased an $11 million home in Hollywood, despite the financial struggles of the company. The IPO also gave the founders the majority of the voting shares causing another outcry.

The company’s proposed acquisition of Pharmacann was terminated in October 2019, one bonus though is that MedMen received some Illinois licenses out of the deal. The company also took this moment to announce that Zeeshan Hyder has been appointed Chief Financial Officer at MedMen. Mr. Hyder, had been MedMen’s Chief Corporate Development Officer. Hyder succeeded Michael Kramer, who apparently was terminated as of October 7, 2019. Kramer was only just hired in December of 2018 and he followed the previous CFO James Parker who only lasted a year and a half. CFO James Parker resigned in 2019 and then followed with a scathing lawsuit that laid bare a great deal of dirty laundry.

More Ugly Rumors

If the vendor payment issues weren’t enough to scare investors, others on the Spatafora twitter feed suggested that the company had sold pesticide tainted cannabis and another said that MedMen was experiencing harvesting issues and was only selling other company’s products. None of this has been substantiated and could be sour grapes from ex-employees, however, if it is true it is troubling.

The stock was lately trading at 57 cents, down from its 52-week high of $3.84. Yahoo Finance lists the company’s market cap at $120 million. The founders have agreed to salary cuts and have relinquished a large portion of their voting rights in an effort to appease its creditors.

MedMen has not responded to a request for comment.

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Louisiana medical marijuana maker planning major expansions, launch of hemp-derived CBD products

Wellcana Group has big expansion plans for its LSU-licensed medical marijuana operations in Louisiana and is separately courting farmers to grow hemp to support the company’s launch soon into CBD products.

Wellcana — which already operates out of Baton Rouge and is one of only two companies approved in the state to produce medical marijuana — is scouting out land in a less-populated area between Baton Rouge and Lafayette for additional cultivation room for medical marijuana, officials said.

The company expects to build a 100,000-square-foot indoor marijuana greenhouse and storage facility that will create between 100 and 200 new full- and part-time jobs. It also would be a center for collecting hemp grown by area farmers for Wellcana’s planned push into CBD, cannabidiol, products that have grown nationally in popularity for their perceived health benefits.

At the same time, Wellcana expects to expand its Baton Rouge facility off Highland Road near Interstate 10 to primarily clone and process plants and make medical marijuana products being sold to about 5,000 patients so far through nine state-approved pharmacies through licensed-doctors’ recommendations.

Currently, Wellcana’s Baton Rouge facility can grow a limited number of marijuana plants and manufactures tinctures for patients suffering from specific ailments outlined in state law. The company also has been developing prototypes for salves, strips that dissolve on the tongue, metered inhalers and chewable medicine, which contain THC, the active ingredient in medical marijuana products. The facility also will be producing Wellcana’s hemp-based CBD products, which don’t contain THC and can be sold over the counter at all kinds of retail outlets and marketed for its own health benefits.

“We’ll roll out topicals first and then the strips, and then the edible chews. Then metered dose inhalers,” Wellcana Chief Executive Officer John Davis said of the company’s medical marijuana products.

CBD products will be rolled out in similar forms, with the exception of the inhalers, he said.

Right now, the company is tightly packed in its Baton Rouge facility, Davis said. Next month, Wellcana plans to build two more stand-alone pods at its Highland Road facility that will be used for manufacturing products after oils are extracted in another room from medical marijuana plants grown on-site.

A deal for the new off-site growing and storage facility planned between Baton Rouge and Lafayette is expected to close soon, likely with cooperation from a small town, Davis said, without elaborating on negotiations or the location.

“We’re also going to put together an industrial hemp processing center there, too,” Davis said.

That will support production of CDB products, which the company has been developing from hemp. Hemp-derived CBD oils do not contain significant amounts of THC and can be sold legally by retailers.

The stage already has been set by federal and state government for growing hemp, a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant and nonpsychoactive cousin to marijuana, in Louisiana. On Dec. 23, Louisiana’s industrial hemp plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Dec. 27, the state’s industrial hemp program began accepting license applications to produce, transport and process industrial hemp in Louisiana.

Wellcana already has been courting farmers for a supply of hemp. Davis trekked to a meeting near Alexandria a few weeks ago to meet farmers at an informational session about hemp that was hosted by the LSU AgCenter.

Davis said the session was standing room only with more than 500 attendees.

Wellcana envisions setting up a system akin to a sugar cooperative, where farmers can buy hemp clones rather than seeds alone, stick them in their fields and return with a fully grown cash crop.

The goal is for Wellcana to source enough hemp biomass so it can supply each of its new CBD products, with the cultivation center between Baton Rouge and Lafayette growing and supplying additional medical marijuana.

“Right now, we can (supply our own biomass) because the market is so slow in ramping up,” Davis said. “We can supply this five times, but in the future when we have different delivery systems (for hemp and medical marijuana), I want to make sure that we’ve got enough biomass dedicated at each one of these lines of products.”

Wellcana has the exclusive license from LSU to grow and manufacture medical marijuana products for patients across Louisiana. Southern University holds the state’s second license and has contracted with another company for operations that are expected to start this year.

The LSU license originally was awarded to Nevada-based biotechnology company GB Sciences, which invested several million dollars into the initial cultivation and manufacturing operation in Baton Rouge through a Louisiana subsidiary. The company also has conducted research alongside LSU into cannabinoids, or the underlying compounds of the active ingredients in marijuana plants.

GB Sciences sold off its Louisiana business over the past two years to a group of Lafayette-based investors, the latest involving a $16 million deal that closed in mid-December 2019 for the half of the company Wellcana didn’t already own.

Wellcana is led by Lafayette attorney Charles Rush and Cajungrocer.com founder Charlie Hohorst III. There are more than 100 investors in Wellcana, which had raised $10 million as of February 2019, including from four former NFL players — among them a former LSU player and two former Saints players.

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Prohibition began 100 years ago, and its legacy remains

In this era of bottomless mimosas, craft beers and ever-present happy hours, it’s striking to recall that 100 years ago the United States imposed a nationwide ban on the production and sale of all types of alcohol.

The Prohibition Era, which lasted from Jan. 17, 1920, until December 1933, is now viewed as a failed experiment that glamorized illegal drinking, but there are several intriguing parallels in current times.

Americans are consuming more alcohol per capita now than in the time leading up to Prohibition, when alcohol opponents successfully made the case that excessive drinking was ruining family life. More states are also moving to decriminalize marijuana, with legalization backers frequently citing Prohibition’s failures. Many of the same speakeasy locations operating in the 1920s are flourishing in a culture that romanticizes the era.

And in a time of heightened racial divisions, Prohibition offers a poignant history lesson on how the restrictions targeted blacks and recent immigrants more harshly than other communities. That treatment eventually propelled many of those marginalized Americans into the Democratic Party, which engineered Prohibition’s repeal.

”Prohibition had a lot of unintended consequences that backfired on the people who worked so hard to establish the law,” said Harvard history professor Lisa McGirr, whose 2015 book “The War on Alcohol” examines Prohibition’s political and social repercussions.

“It helped to activate and enfranchise men and women who had not been part of the political process earlier,” she said. “That was not the intention of Prohibition supporters.”

Ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, which set the stage for Prohibition’s launch a year later, culminated a century of advocacy by the temperance movement. Leading forces included the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Anti-Saloon League and many Protestant denominations. Prohibition supporters assailed the impact of booze on families and the prominent role that saloons played in immigrant communities.

Prohibition greatly expanded federal law enforcement powers and turned millions of Americans into scofflaws. It provided a new revenue stream for organized crime.

By the time the constitutional amendment was ratified in January 1919, many states had enacted their own prohibition laws. That October, Congress passed a law detailing how the federal government would enforce Prohibition. It was known as the Volstead Act in recognition of its foremost champion, Rep. Andrew Volstead of Minnesota. The law banned the manufacture, sale and transport of any “intoxicating liquor” — beverages with an alcohol content of more than 0.5%, including beer and wine.

Statistically, Prohibition was not an utter failure. Deaths from alcohol-related cirrhosis declined, as did arrests for public drunkenness.

What the statistics don’t measure is how extensively Prohibition was flouted. Bootleggers established vast distribution networks. Makers of moonshine and “bathtub gin” proliferated, sometimes producing fatally tainted liquor. Determined drinkers concealed their contraband in hip flasks or hollowed-out canes. Maryland refused to pass a law enforcing the Volstead Act.

McSorley’s Old Ale House, established in New York in 1854 and still flourishing as one of the city’s oldest bars, never closed during Prohibition. Ostensibly, it served “near beer” with permissibly low alcohol content, but in fact produced a strong ale from a makeshift brewery erected in the basement.

“It wasn’t a near beer. It was McSorley’s ale,” said the pub’s manager, Gregory de la Haba. “At least once a week, people ask, ‘What did we do during Prohibition?’ And my reply, ‘We made a ton of money.’’’

The federal government, as well as state and local authorities, spent huge sums on enforcement yet never allocated sufficient resources to do the job effectively. Bootleggers awash in cash bribed judges, politicians and law enforcement officers to let their operations continue.

“Newly hired and poorly trained Prohibition agents, along with local and state police, targeted violators at the margins,” McGirr wrote in a recent article. “But they lacked the capacity, and at times the will, to go after powerful crime kingpins.”

It’s simplistic to say Prohibition created organized crime in America, but it fueled a huge expansion as local crime gangs collaborated with those from other regions to establish shipping systems and set prices for bootlegged alcohol. Beneficiaries included Chicago-based gangster Al Capone, who earned tens of millions of dollars annually from bootlegging and speakeasies. In the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, gunmen disguised as police officers killed seven men from a gang that sought to compete with Capone’s empire.

Beyond the ranks of gangsters, legions of Americans were committing or abetting crime. Michael Lerner, in his book “Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City,” says courtrooms and jails were so overwhelmed that judges began accepting plea bargains, “making it a common practice in American jurisprudence for the first time.”

Anti-immigrant sentiment was a key factor behind Prohibition, partly because of record-high immigration in the preceding decades.

Saloons in immigrant neighborhoods were prime targets, says Slippery Rock University history professor Aaron Cowan, because middle-class white Protestants viewed them as political and social danger zones.

“Often the political machines run by the bosses were based in these saloons, or used them as a conduit for extending favors,” Cowan said. “So there was concern about political corruption, changing social values, immigrants learning radical politics.”

Prohibition’s start in 1920 coincided with a major expansion of the Ku Klux Klan, which supported the ban on alcohol as it waged its anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and racist activities.

The Volstead Act “provided a way for the Klan to legitimize its 100% Americanist mission — it could target the drinking of those they perceived to be their enemies,” McGirr said.

One notorious example occurred in 1923-24 in southern Illinois’ Williamson County, where the Klan mobilized hundreds of volunteers to raid saloons and roadhouses. Hundreds of people were arrested and more than a dozen killed.

That kind of social friction helped spur efforts to repeal Prohibition. Economics also played a role.

While some Prohibition supporters predicted it would boost the economy, instead it proved harmful. Thousands of jobs were lost due to closures of distilleries, breweries and saloons. Federal, state and local governments lost billions in revenue as liquor taxes disappeared. One major consequence: Increasing reliance on income taxes to sustain government spending.

The onset of the Great Depression hastened Prohibition’s demise, as the need for more jobs and tax revenue became acute. The Democratic Party called for repeal of Prohibition in its 1932 platform; its presidential nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, embraced that cause as he rolled to a landslide victory over incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover.

In March 1933, soon after taking office, Roosevelt signed a law legalizing the sale of wine and 3.2% beer. Congress also proposed a 21st Amendment that would repeal the 18th Amendment. Prohibition formally ended that December, when Utah provided the final vote needed to ratify the new amendment.

One of the pithiest summaries of Prohibition came earlier — a scathing assessment from journalist H.L. Mencken in 1925.

Five years of Prohibition “completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists,” he wrote. “There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

Prohibition’s centennial comes as the United States is incrementally ending the criminalization of marijuana. Recreational use of pot is now legal in 11 states. More than 30 allow its use for medical purposes.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, believes most Americans now view the anti-marijuana crusades of America’s “War on Drugs” as misguided in ways that evoke Prohibition.

“Even some of the older generation are saying, ‘We went too far. That was a mistake,’” he said.

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Jamaican Herb Houses

Kaya is no ordinary, sterile-looking, pharmacy-inspired dispensary, it is a destination. The Herb House comes complete with a dab bar, pizza place, full alcohol and coffee bar, consumption lounge, accessories and clothing shop.

Incidentally, the CJO “Chief Ganja Officer” of the dispensary chain, Jamaican-born Balram “Bali” Vaswani, 43, is also the CEO of Rohan Marley’s heritage Blue Mountain coffee brand, Marley Coffee.

With members of Jamaica’s first family in Vaswani’s corner, along with cannabis industry veteran, Lorne Gertner, the future is looking upbeat for the Herb Houses.

Gertner, founder of Canadian mainstays Tokyo Smoke and ByMinistry, is one of Kaya’s investors. Gertner’s mission is to “improve the world through cannabis and design excellence.” He is globally-renowned for his acumen and foresight for pioneering highly influential companies.

As a person with a similar vision, Vaswani’s company, Ganja Labs, produced the first legal harvest of refined Jamaican herb. He now operates a chain of three successful Kaya Herb House medical cannabis dispensaries. In March 2018, Kaya opened in Drax Hall, St. Ann, followed by its second opening in Falmouth.

The third location in Kingston’s “Golden Triangle” of tourism which includes Devon House and the Bob Marley museum, opened last Thursday to much fanfare. The grand opening featured a performance by Rohan’s brother KyMani Marley and an art instillation by Jude Issa, featuring creative portraits of dancehall legends Spice, and Vybz Kartel.

The property features a wooden deck and veranda built around an enormous tree that is the perfect selfie spot, with nearby tables for consuming pizza and other snacks. More of an entertainment complex than merely a dispensary, it has quickly become a tourist and local hot spot.

The shop sells t-shirts and toiletries such as hemp soap and deodorant, which are necessities in the 85° heat on typically sunny days.

As for the herb itself, Kaya is vertically integrated, with a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse, cultivating 2.5 meters-high trees. The quality of the strains were put to the test at this past weekend’s Jamaican Ganja Cup in Negril. Local farmer Wabba took first place, scoring 92 out of 100 points. Kaya’s Sting A Ling came in second by a hairsbreadth, scoring 91.80 and its Kurple came in third with 90.75. with a “variable of Irieness,” Vaswani says, good naturedly. “It is all good. I am happy Wabba and a Negril farmer won.”

True to the spirit of brotherly love, Vaswani envisions Kaya carrying strains from every part of the island. He nostalgically remembers the heyday of Jamaican herb, famous for the Lamb’s Bread strain beloved by Bob Marley.

“That’s really when Jamaica was kicking,” Vaswani says. “We had great strains in the Seventies.”

Since then, Jamaican ganja has waned on the world stage: diluted by outside seeds imported from overseas – and victimized.

The U.S. government threatened to hold up the tiny, developing world country’s desperately-needed World Bank loan, if Jamaica didn’t stop the flow of illicit cannabis exports. Subsequently, the War on Drugs and burning of ganja fields quickly ensued.

However, in what was clearly a losing battle for Jamaica not be reputed for its cannabis, the Jamaican government decriminalized it first, then eventually legalized medical marijuana.

Vaswani’s longtime friend Rohan Marley acknowledges he restored the reputation of Jamaican-grown ganja. “You can taste the soil, the pineapple and the sweetness, says Marley. “Bali brought the standard way up.”

While an employee of local radio station IRIE FM notes that consuming cannabis is still stigmatized among older, working class Jamaicans, hopefully their minds will open alongside Kaya’s groundbreaking and stigma-shattering enterprise.

Vaswani plans to expand the dispensary chain and wellness platform across the Caribbean with outposts in Cayman, St. Vincent, and Trinidad in 2020.

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Less Constipation in Recreational Marijuana Users

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Recreational marijuana use is associated with decreased odds of constipation, according to findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The endogenous cannabinoid system in the gastrointestinal tract mediates various physiological bowel activities, which might thus be modulated by cannabinoid compounds from recreational cannabis use. Previous studies of the effects of recreational marijuana use on constipation and diarrhea have yielded conflicting results.

Dr. Kyle Staller of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston, and colleagues used NHANES data from 2005 through 2010 on more than 9,600 adults aged 20-59 years to examine the effect of recreational marijuana use on self-reported bowel function (based on the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS) and weekly bowel-movement frequency).

They defined constipation as BSFS type 1 and type 2 or less than three bowel movements per week. Diarrhea was defined as BSFS type 6 and type 7 or more than 21 bowel movements per week.

The frequency of constipation (defined by BSFS criteria) was lowest among recent marijuana users (5.2%), intermediate among past users (6.7%), and highest among never users (8.1%, P=0.02), the researchers report in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

In multivariate analysis, recent marijuana use was associated with 36% lower odds of constipation and past marijuana use was associated with 17% lower odds of constipation compared with never users, both significant risk reductions.

The association remained significant after adjustment for demographic factors, comorbidities and diet, but there was no longer a difference between past users and never users.

There was no relationship between marijuana use and diarrhea in either univariate or multivariate analyses.

Marijuana use was not associated with constipation or diarrhea as defined by bowel-movement frequency.

“Further studies are needed to identify how use of whole cannabis, different marijuana strains, and frequency of marijuana use exert their apparent effects on constipation,” the authors conclude.

Dr. Raquel Abalo Delgado of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Madrid, who recently reviewed cannabinoid pharmacology and therapy in gut disorders, told Reuters Health by email, “This seems to be in contradiction with the well-known constipating effects of marijuana, its derivatives, and synthetic cannabinoids, particularly those acting upon CB1 receptors. However, these results can be due to different factors, most, if not all, related with the observational design of the study and the relatively little information obtained from the questionnaires.”

“Since use of recreational and medical marijuana (or other cannabinoids) is likely to increase worldwide, it is necessary to clarify its impact on all health issues, including gastrointestinal-tract function, many times overlooked compared with other ‘more vital’ body systems,” she said. “To what extent constipation (and other motility disorders, like hyperemesis) induced by cannabis may be considered aversive by marijuana users and may contribute to reduce heavy marijuana consumption has not been studied.”

“Likewise, the pharmacology of the different compounds present in the plant and how they contribute to the final effect on gut function need to be clearly determined,” said Dr. Abalo, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Michael Camilleri of Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, who also was not part of the study, recently reviewed cannabinoids and gastrointestinal motility in humans. He told Reuters Health by email, “No definite conclusions should be drawn from these epidemiological studies which constitute useful hypothesis-generating data.”

“Further studies with selective CB1 and CB2 receptor modifying medications should be further explored before any conclusions regarding the potential benefits of marijuana in gastrointestinal diseases,” he said.

Dr. Staller did not respond to a request for comments.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2Pxlw00 The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online November 22, 2019.

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GB Sciences Closes the Sale of GB Sciences Louisiana Cannabis Business to Wellcana Plus

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — PRESS RELEASE — GB Sciences, Inc. completed the sale on Nov. 15, 2019 of its 50% membership interest in GB Sciences Louisiana, LLC to Wellcana Plus, LLC, an affiliate of Wellcana Group, LLC who owns the other 50% interest. The sale immediately eliminates current cash obligations due from GB Sciences as well as the company’s share of operating expenses going forward. While selling the cannabis cultivation and oil production business, GB Sciences retained the benefit of Wellcana Plus’s 50% interest in intellectual property developed under the Master Research and Development Agreement.

The terms of the sale include a promissory note from Wellcana Plus to GB Sciences for $8 million, with payments commencing in June 2020 through December 2021. The promissory note is secured by a pledge agreement with the 50% interest as collateral, declining pro-rata with note payments until all principal and accrued interest have been paid. In addition to the note, there will be an earn out of $8 million from operations through the term of the Agreement for Services including renewals, if any. The actual proceeds realized through the earn out and the timing of those proceeds will depend upon patient count accretion and the profitability of the Louisiana operations.

John Poss, CEO of GB Sciences, stated, “We think the transaction is a win for everyone. Wellcana Group has been an exceptional partner in Louisiana. With the same managers, we know Wellcana Plus will lead GB Sciences Louisiana to even greater success for not only their investors but also the patients and other stakeholders in Louisiana. For our own shareholders, the sale will greatly reduce our operating expenses while maintaining the benefit of intellectual property developed in Louisiana. It allows us to focus on continued development of clinical cannabis formulations for which the company has filed numerous patents, and progressing the research on our Parkinson’s Disease and Chronic Neuropathic Pain formulations towards clinical trials and first-in-human pilot studies. We believe this strategy offers tremendous opportunity to create shareholder value in this untapped segment of the cannabis sector.”

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