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AG Jeff Sessions Hints at Marijuana Crackdown

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is back in the news as he makes threats against legalized marijuana.

Sessions won’t disclose what his plans are, but he has indicated his strong opposition to any form of legalization, medicinal or otherwise.
This news came on the heels of a statement from President Trump addressing the opioid crisis sweeping the country.

Sessions’ comments were wreathed in a smoke screen of scare tactics and outright misinformation. Despite a growing mountain of evidence showing that marijuana actually reduces opioid use in states where it is legal, Sessions chose instead to cite outdated reefer madness hyperbole such as, “It’s a gateway drug”, and the old tried and true fear mongering of, “What about the children?”

Meanwhile, states like Colorado have seen a 25% reduction in opioid use since legalizing marijuana and, equally significant, a drop in teen use of marijuana.

As far as the children are concerned, apparently Mr. Sessions has never witnessed the dramatic results of cannabis in treating seizure disorders in children. I guess he doesn’t care about those children.

The evidence being accumulated since the legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis in over half the States in the U.S. is impossible to ignore.

Unless you’re a 70 year old Attorney General who places personal feelings over actual justice, or a grotesquely overweight Chris Christie.

The Governor of New Jersey is Chairman of the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Governor Christie last week called upon the President to reject any efforts to acknowledge marijuana’s promising role in mitigating opioid abuse and dependency, and ignoring peer reviewed studies showing marijuana has efficacy in combating opioid addiction.

The commission released the following statement:

“The Commission acknowledges that there is an active movement to promote the use of marijuana as an alternative medication for chronic pain and as a treatment for opioid addiction. … There is a lack of sophisticated outcome data on dose, potency, and abuse potential for marijuana. This mirrors the lack of data in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when opioid prescribing multiplied across health care settings and led to the current epidemic of abuse, misuse and addiction. The Commission urges that the same mistake is not made with the uninformed rush to put another drug legally on the market in the midst of an overdose epidemic.”

Reality Check:

“K” is a paramedic in the city of Pittsburgh. Because of the nature of her work, she asked we don’t use her real name.

“K” has 10 years of experience and has never encountered a single instance of a marijuana overdose. Her biggest concern is marijuana being laced with other drugs.

“We sometimes see marijuana laced with embalming fluid or PCP” said K. “Often the person smoking doesn’t know what they’re being given.”

The fact that 29 States have legalized some form of medicinal cannabis means there is a wealth of evidence being accumulated showing the efficacy of medicinal cannabis. Instances like “K” talked about shows the need for regulation, so consumers don’t end up with tainted marijuana.

Ironically, it is the commission itself using outdated information to support an untenable position in the light of the many peer reviewed studies that are currently available.

NORML has assembled a list of studies here:
http://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets/item/relationship-between-marijuana-and-opioids

We urge President Trump to reject the advice of his commission and allow States and the medical community to continue providing this valuable medicine to patients who need it.

As of last week, a new poll shows a record number of Americans now favor legalization of marijuana (62%) and it’s no wonder the public is coming around. In States where it’s legal, business is booming, bringing those States desperately needed revenue, much of which ironically goes to fight and treat opioid abuse.

President Trump is pro business and anti-crime. Marijuana legalization addresses both those concerns while providing medicine to people who need it.

Perhaps the President’s commission chair, Governor Christie, should check out the U.S. patent office, where tucked away in a file is a patent on THC for treatment of cancer and brain trauma.

The patent is owned by the United States of America.

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Vinni BelfioreAG Jeff Sessions Hints at Marijuana Crackdown
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Medical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – What are a patient’s firearms rights?

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the Pennsylvania State House.

Medical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – what are a patient’s firearms rights?
By Patrick K. Nightingale, partner Cannabis Legal Solutions

The issue of a medical cannabis patient’s Second Amendment rights is of great concern here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where we have a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen.  Now that physicians are registered and patients can seek recommendations many are wondering whether they will lose their Second Amendment rights or be required to surrender their firearms.

The answers are not entirely straightforward.  Under PA law a medical cannabis patient is not prejudiced relative to firearms ownership.  Under federal law, however, that same patient risks a felony prosecution under federal firearms law.  Any patient purchasing a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer is required to execute ATF Form 4473 which, as will be discussed below, does not acknowledge medical cannabis.

Does Pennsylvania law prohibit a registered Pennsylvania patient from owning a firearm?

No.  Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law is silent on the issue of firearm possession.  Title 18, section 6105 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code sets forth that certain persons may not possess a firearm.  Section 6105 requires a criminal conviction.  Simple possession does not trigger the prohibitions under section 6105 unless the individual has a prior drug possession conviction.  The majority of the offenses that are set forth in section 6105 are felony level offenses.  Certain misdemeanors are also included such as second or subsequent drug possession conviction, Prohibited Offensive Weapon, Corruption of the Morals of a Minor and three or more DUI convictions.  A person subject to a Protection From Abuse order or an individual with a prior mental health commitment is also prohibited.

Does Federal law prohibit a registered Pennsylvania patient from owning a firearm?

Yes.  Title 18, section 922(g)(3) of the United States Code prohibits any individual who is an unlawful user of controlled substances from possessing a firearm.  Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance and the DEA and ATF have made clear that federal law does not recognize an exception for state medicinal cannabis patients.  A violation of section 922(g)(3) is a felony with a maximum period of incarceration of 10 years.  At present the Rohrbacher-Blumenaeur budget amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from using its Congressionally authorized budget to prosecute state cannabis programs.  Even if the amendment is not included in the final budget it is highly unlikely that the Department of Justice will utilize its limited resources to prosecute individual patients under this section unless the patient is otherwise involved in a more significant violation of federal law.

Can I apply for my Concealed Carry Permit/Must I surrender my Concealed Carry Permit?

No/No.  The right to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania is regulated by Pennsylvania state law.  The authority to issue a Concealed Carry Permit is vested in the County Sheriff of the county in which the individual resides.  18 Pa.C.S.A. §6109 sets forth the process for a concealed carry application and the responsibilities of the County Sheriff in reviewing applications.

One of the criteria is whether the applicant is an “unlawful user of marijuana.”  A registered patient would be a lawful user of marijuana under PA law.  Section 6109(e)(xiv) however, acts as a “catch all” and prohibits issuing a concealed carry permit to anyone otherwise prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.  Since any user of cannabis, whether pursuant to state law or not, violates 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(3) an application for a concealed carry permit will be denied.

At the time of writing I am unaware of any mechanism to try and revoke concealed carry permits merely because a patient is registered with the Department of Health.

Can I purchase a firearm lawfully if I am a registered PA patient?

No.  Any firearm purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer involves the execution of ATF Form 4473. In 2016 the ATF modified the form to include the following language in question 11(e):

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?  Warning:  the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless or whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”  (Emphasis in original).

If a registered patient answers this truthfully the sale will be denied after a Pennsylvania State Police review of the form.  If the patient lies on the form in order to purchase the firearm the patient risks felony prosecution by the Pennsylvania State Police.

An ATF Form 4473 is not required for the purchase of a rifle or shotgun, but a patient would nonetheless be considered a prohibited person.

A recent Ninth Circuit case addressed the issue of an Arizona patient attempting to purchase a firearm.  The licensed firearm dealer knew the individual was a medical cannabis patient and denied the sale.  The issue went before the federal appellate court and the court held that the Second Amendment does not protect the patient where cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.  The Ninth Circuit is not law here in the Third Circuit, but I do not anticipate a holding from out Court of Appeals that would grant Second Amendment rights without a change in federal law.

Unfortunately, federal law does not appear to be on the side of Pennsylvania patients.  A patient who owns firearms and/or possesses a concealed carry permit is unaffected by Pennsylvania state law but can easily run afoul of federal law if making a new firearms purchase.

For more information please contact Patrick K. Nightingale of Cannabis Legal Solutions at Patrick@cannabislegalsolutions.net

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Vinni BelfioreMedical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – What are a patient’s firearms rights?
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2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo

October 20, 2017, Pittsburgh

Patient advocacy is the cornerstone of this event, sponsored by Cannabis Certification Centers, Greenhouse Ventures and The Healing Center.

The World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo was a well attended affair.

Dr. Bryan Doner (right) greets patients at the CCC table.

Ken Shultz, Dr. Bryan Doner (CCC) and Patrick Nightingale

We look forward to working with Compassionate Certification Centers as they help patients get the medicine they need.

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Vinni Belfiore2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo
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Marijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania

On October 17, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the first medical marijuana grow facility is ready to start growing marijuana.

The PA Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing at their facility in Jefferson County, PA.

Ironically, we currently have a case in Jefferson county which concerns someone who legally purchased a bag of edibles (gummies) in the State of California and is being charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver in Jefferson county– a very serious charge. Unfortunately Jefferson county officials are not as open minded about marijuana use as the location of a professional grow in their county would imply.

A marijuana arrest can follow a person their entire life, negatively affecting their ability to work, find housing and even to travel out of country.

While we see marijuana arrests declining in cities like Philadelphia, which decriminalized marijuana possession last year, and Pittsburgh, which has an unofficial decriminalization policy that results in a citation, the statewide numbers are increasing.

Between 2010 and 2016, marijuana related arrests have risen by 33% in Pennsylvania.

Even more alarming, African Americans are EIGHT times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.

The fact is, usage rates among black and white citizens are about the same, yet the chart below makes it clear black citizens are being  targeted by law enforcement in a disproportionate way.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

Regarding the new facility in Jefferson county, the Governor said the number one priority is getting medicine to the Pennsylvanians who need it.

While we applaud the Governor’s concern for patients, we can’t help but wonder why his concern for the citizens of Pennsylvania seemingly does not extend to citizens who face life long consequences for merely possessing marijuana.

According to Governor Wolf, full decriminalization and or legalization is, “not on the table” at this time.

In light of this new data, and the fact that Governor Wolf has been a vocal proponent of more sensible marijuana policies, we would ask Governor Wolf to reconsider if maybe now is the time to move forward with decriminalization of marijuana.

This is not something he can simply sign into existence, but it is something he can and should take the lead on.

From a strictly financial view, a plan for legalizing marijuana could bring in millions in revenue for Pennsylvania’s empty coffers, creating a budget surplus that would benefit all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

From a humanitarian view, that revenue could be used to help alleviate the increasing opiate crisis here at home, offering treatment options and education for young people to avoid getting hooked on these very dangerous drugs.

When a group of citizens is being singled out for arrest, apparently based on race, there is a problem for all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Justice is, after all, supposed to be blind.

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Vinni BelfioreMarijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania
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Patrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar

Patrick Nightingale displays his medical marijuana card, issued by the state of California

The first ever West Virginia medical cannabis seminar was held in Morgantown, WV., September 30 with Cannabis Legal Solutions founding partner Patrick Nightingale hosting the event.

CLS is a proud sponsor of WV Cannabis Seminar

Although West Virginia’s medicinal law is very similar to Pennsylvania, there are some differences, most notably in that there are a couple qualifying medical conditions West Virginia does not include.

Naturally, there are also state and local laws in West Virginia regarding things like zoning that may vary as well.

In addition, the actual number of available licenses is smaller in West Virginia due to a smaller population in that state.

Ultimately, Cannabis Legal Solutions has the knowledge and experience to guide our clients through the process of getting licensed, ensuring complete compliance, setting up your business, including real estate and contract legal matters, and assisting with the legalities of day to day operations in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

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Fix PAT with Pot

Pennsylvania is experiencing a budget crisis. No shock there. The state has been experiencing budget shortfalls for what seems like forever.

This morning, WTAE TV 4, Pittsburgh, is reporting on proposed legislation in the state House that would significantly cut funding for public transportation. The cuts would have a catastrophic effect on Pittsburgh public transportation.

The Port Authority of Allegheny county could lose as much as $100 million between the loss of funding coupled with the loss of revenue the proposed cuts would cost PAT through discontinued routes and service cuts.

It would mean a significant loss of jobs as well, forcing layoffs for a substantial number of PAT employees.

The loss of evening and weekend service would leave thousands in Pittsburgh without the means to get to and from work, school, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc. It would force PAT to raise rates (that are already among the highest in the nation) to levels that would disproportionately impact the poor and disenfranchised, as well as senior citizens who depend on buses and the T to get around town, and would leave many people stranded in outlying communities, where getting a cab or Uber is not a financially viable option for them.

There are an estimated 1 million marijuana users in Pennsylvania who spent an estimated $2.3 billion on illegal weed last year.

Translation: Pennsylvania missed out on approximately $585 million in tax revenue. That’s just one year.

That’s money that could easily solve many of Pennsylvania’s budget woes. It’s money that could go to educate kids, treatment for addiction, infrastructure repairs and, yes, keep the buses and trains running on time.

And that figure does not include the savings to law enforcement and the justice system from not prosecuting and incarcerating citizens for marijuana. It would allow them to focus on truly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth.

The state of Pennsylvania already sells alcohol. Why not marijuana? The most harmless and least toxic intoxicant there is.

 

 

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Vinni BelfioreFix PAT with Pot
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Cannabis Business and Taxes: Section 280E

One of the greatest challenges facing the emerging Pennsylvania Medicinal Cannabis Industry is addressing taxes and appropriate deductions for operating expenses.

Because Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, it falls under Section 280E of the Internal Revenue code, which denies a medical marijuana business from deducting the business operating expenses on their tax return, even in states where the sale of medical marijuana is legal.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled on it’s second tax case involving IRC 280E in Canna Care vs. The Commission.

Canna Care, Inc., of California, appealed a decision by The United States Tax Court that IRC 280E applies to a business engaged in the sale of a substance that, while legal in California, is still illegal under Federal law.

The Tax Court ruled that medical marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance and that the sale of medical marijuana is always considered trafficking under IRC 280E, even when permitted by state law.

The Ninth Circuit ultimately upheld the Tax Court ruling, however, Canna Care attempted to raise new issues on appeal, including a Constitutional challenge of IRC 280E as being a violation of the 8th Amendment protection against imposing excessive fines, however, because the issue was not raised in the original case, the Ninth Circuit did not rule on the Constitutional argument.

Challenging federal statues on constitutional grounds can often be difficult, but the constitutional arguments may have some merit. It is a best practice to raise all arguments before the court so they are not waived on appeal.

Further, all cannabis related businesses should consider filing protective refund claims, which will keep open the statute of limitations in the event IRC 280E is overturned by a court.

It is important for a cannabis business to understand the impact of IRC 280E on it’s tax liability and the potential risks of NOT applying IRC 280E when filing a return. The immediate tax savings may be attractive but in the long run, those savings must be weighed against the potential costs of having to defend their position down the road.

Cannabis Legal Solutions is available to help cannabis businesses develop a plan for dealing with IRC 280E and creating a strategy to negotiate the negative affects of IRC 280E and defend their position if challenged.

 

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Vinni BelfioreCannabis Business and Taxes: Section 280E
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Educational Cannabis Law Presentations with Patrick Nightingale

Patrick K. Nightingale is a leader in the formation of Pennsylvania’s medicinal cannabis industry. In fact, Mr. Nightingale was a central figure in getting Pennsylvania’s Act 16 Medicinal Cannabis Law passed. He has testified at the Pennsylvania State House on behalf of patients and has worked with state and local officials to bring about meaningful change in Pennsylvania’s treatment of cannabis as medicine.  He is currently working with the city of Pittsburgh to implement a decriminalization policy for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Mr. Nightingale is a regular guest speaker on the subject of marijuana law for a number of major media outlets throughout Pennsylvania, including KDKA radio and television, WTAE TV 4, Pittsburgh City Paper and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

His knowledge and experience are unparalleled and he is available to bring that knowledge to your next conference or group meeting.

Mr. Nightingale has been the featured speaker at many medicinal cannabis-related events, and has also taught his fellow attorneys at various Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes for the Allegheny County Bar Association, Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office and the 2017 Westmoreland County Bench Bar Conference.

If you’d like to book Mr. Nightingale to speak at your next event or conference, please contact Cannabis Legal Solutions at 412.553.1744.

 

 

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Vinni BelfioreEducational Cannabis Law Presentations with Patrick Nightingale
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Cannabis Legal News Update 08-07-17

There has been a lot of news this week in the world of marijuana law.

New Legislation has been introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D) that is being described as ‘the most far reaching overhaul of federal marijuana law ever introduced’. The Bill addresses the disparity between arrests of minorities for marijuana related crimes — African Americans are 4 times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than white people. Booker’s Bill would legalize marijuana, expunge federal marijuana convictions and penalize states with racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes. The changes are aimed at undoing some of the harm the nation’s decades-long war on drugs has inflicted on poor and minority communities.

Read the full Washington Post article here.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be the biggest anti-marijuana politician since Richard Nixon. Since taking over the Justice Department, Sessions has repeatedly called for a crackdown on states with legalized marijuana and he created a Task Force to study ways to do it.

Mr. Sessions got a disappointing response from his team when the panel came back with a recommendation that more study was needed before they could make any suggestions. In fact, the panel pretty much took a wait and see approach that is consistent with the hands-off policy of the Justice Department under President Obama. After initially suggesting he would continue that hands-off approach, President Trump has remained silent on the subject of legalization.

Sessions recent attacks on Washington State’s legal Marijuana program were called, “Uninformed” and are “…based on outdated information.”

Read the full Seattle Times article here.

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Cannabis Legal Solutions’ own Patrick K. Nightingale has been selected by the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) District Attorney’s Office to teach his peers in the legal profession about medicinal cannabis. The upcoming Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar will be held Friday, August 25 in courtroom 313 at the Allegheny courthouse. There is a $15 fee. Contact Lynn Gettings at 412-350-3110 to register.

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Patients in Pennsylvania are one step closer to to getting the medicine they need. The state has confirmed two training courses for Pennsylvania doctors to get certified to recommend medicinal cannabis to their patients. One is online and one is in person.

Check out this article in The Incline for more information.

 

 

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Vinni BelfioreCannabis Legal News Update 08-07-17
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