All posts tagged: Marijuana Laws

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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Vinni BelfiorePatrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar
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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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Patient Advocacy Needs to Take Center Stage

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the Pennsylvania State House.

The passage of Pennsylvania’s Act 16 medicinal cannabis act has generated a lot of interest among the business and legal communities, offering many opportunities for a wide variety of professionals.

And it’s not just growers and dispensaries, either.

Contractors, real estate developers, lighting suppliers, medical equipment manufacturers, staffing agencies and many others have jumped into the game.

This is a multi-million dollar industry that is offering many lucrative business possibilities, yet in the rush to generate profits, it’s important those of us in this rapidly growing field bear in mind why we’re all here: Getting patients medicine they desperately need.

Cannabis Legal Services is literally built on a long track record of patient advocacy. We are extremely proud of the central role founding partner Patrick Nightingale played in bringing Act 16 to life, and it’s important we as a firm continue to be a leading voice defending the rights of patients and their doctors to choose how they treat their medical conditions.

We encourage anyone getting into the medicinal marijuana industry to make patient advocacy central in their core business philosophy.

After all, patients who need medicine are the reason we’re all in this business in the first place.

Mr. Nightingale is available for speaking engagements to assist you in educating your employees and staff.  We’ll offer sound advice and counseling when it comes to patients rights, as well as advice regarding the continually evolving business landscape of Pennsylvania’s Act 16.

Email info@cannabislegalsolutions.net for more information on booking Mr. Nightingale to be a speaker at your next business meeting or event.

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Vinni BelfiorePatient Advocacy Needs to Take Center Stage
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The Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestThe legal status of Marijuana does far more harm to citizens than using it ever could.

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

“Tom” goes boating with friends over the holiday weekend on the river in Middleofnowhere County.  He was excited because he had saved up his money and bought a new boat, which he was taking on it’s maiden voyage.

Pennsylvania Fish and Game officers show up and pull him over — we’re still not clear on what their initial reason was– but they end up searching “Tom” and find a whopping gram of weed and a small pipe.

Fish and Game officers policing marijuana instead of protecting Bambi and Thumper is a mystery to me, but instead of just issuing a citation on what should be a simple matter, they arrest “Tom” and the floodgates of potential life-long repercussions open wide.

Just getting arrested, let alone convicted of a crime, has immediate negative ramifications. Family, friends, and more problematic, employers, are all suddenly sources of stress.

Hiring legal representation, missing time for court dates, which are often rescheduled, further dragging out the process and the emotional stress for the accused and their loved ones.

Employers in particular are not likely to ignore an arrest, especially if there are security and safety issues at play.

A marijuana possession conviction automatically results in suspension of driving privileges and can carry substantial fines, as well as a period of probation. Worst of all, it stays on your record.  This can adversely affect employment options and even restrict one’s ability to travel abroad.

Suddenly “Tom” goes from enjoying a holiday on his new boat to facing a complete disruption of his life. All over a gram of weed.

All because of the law.

Does that sound like Justice to you?

In Part 2, we’ll talk about a young lady who could — with the help of the police– graduate from marijuana to heroin in a most unexpected way.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”
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Marijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.

marijuana law reformWARNING: The following story might make you angry.

An epileptic woman from Michigan visits a relative in Pennsylvania.  She had moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania because medicinal cannabis was the only medicine that was working to alleviate her seizures.  Her husband is her caregiver, and he uprooted his whole life to move his wife to a state where she could legally take medicine for a documented medical condition.  That’s how much he believes in the efficacy of medicinal marijuana, based entirely on his own experience caring for an epileptic.

She has a medical card from her state of residency.  She has a medical condition that qualifies for treatment under Pennsylvania’s Act 16.  For her, in her mind, this is simply medicine.  It’s no different– in her mind– than carrying a vial of prescription medication in her purse.

Unfortunately, her original arrest happened before Act 16 became a reality, in a county where they are not prone to cutting breaks for marijuana possession.

In Pittsburgh, a small amount possession charge is a ticket. No cuffs, no jail, no court appearance. A ticket. Pay the fine and it’s done.

In many of the rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh, a marijuana charge can be catastrophic.  It can affect a person’s ability to get certain jobs. It can impact things like insurance rates and school loans. It often results in the loss of driving privileges. For a young person, it can ruin their life before it gets started.

In this instance, it’s penalizing someone for legally treating her legitimate medical condition, all because she’s in a different state in the same “One nation, under God”.

As was mentioned earlier, this was the original charge, but it gets worse.

Because the county elected to pursue this through the court system, as opposed to just reducing it to a disorderly conduct with a fine, they released her, but an appearance in court before a judge was required.  This meant the woman had to travel from Michigan back to Pennsylvania, all over a simple possession charge.

Unfortunately this woman never received her court papers. She thought they had taken mercy and dropped the charges, and so she never appeared in court. It was an honest mistake resulting from either a clerical error or simply, a lost piece of mail.

Missing a court date is never good, and even in what began as a minor offense becomes magnified and can make an otherwise routine situation much worse. It opens a person up to additional charges, and will result in the issuance of a “Bench Warrant”.

A Bench Warrant does not offer any specifics as to what the person was charged with, so a police officer who discovers a warrant will treat any such situation as potentially life threatening.  In this instance, the discovery of the warrant occurred in Ohio, where the woman had been pulled over in a traffic stop and she was once again found to possess marijuana. Ohio recently decriminalized marijuana, but because of the warrant, instead of getting a ticket and being sent on her way, she was arrested, taken to jail and held for over a week until she could be extradited back to Pennsylvania.

All because she had a small possession charge, even though she had a state issued medical card for treating epilepsy, which is recognized in Act 16 as a legitimate qualifying condition.

Fortunately the authorities have since realized this is a classic mountain out of a mole hill scenario and have released the woman to the care of her husband. But the story isn’t over. She still has to come back to Pennsylvania for another court date, retain an attorney, and spend even more money than she’s already spent.

What should have been a simple fine turned into a nightmare for this woman and her family that cost a lot of money for them and for the tax payers of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

All because of a minor marijuana possession charge.

Does this sound like justice to you?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMarijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.
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Beware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy

marijuana law reformAs Pennsylvania implements Act 16, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law, there has necessarily been a lot of excitement, a lot of interest, and a lot of people trying to find ways to make money.  The grow and dispensary licenses have been referred to as “a license to print money.”  While that may or may not be true, there are clearly many opportunities to participate in the medical cannabis marketplace.

Unfortunately, we have seen some unscrupulous individuals trying to “cash in” on the hopes and ignorance of sick Pennsylvanians.  I have seen physicians advertising that they can make medical marijuana recommendations for Pennsylvania patients.  These physicians will charge a consultation fee and allegedly provide some type of assessment and recommendation.

This may sound good at first glance, but it is illegal under Act 16.  Act 16 provides specific rules for physicians who want to recommend medical cannabis for their patients.  First and foremost, a physician MUST register with the Department of Health.  A physician can only do that AFTER completing a 4 hour training course that has yet to be developed.  Until a physician completes the training course and registers with the Department he or she CANNOT make a medical cannabis recommendation.  Additionally, Act 16 specifically prohibits a physician from advertising that they can make a medical cannabis recommendation.

I know Pennsylvania patients are desperate to legally access Pennsylvania produced medical cannabis products.  Our patient population must know that these individuals are simply defrauding them.  If a potential patient wants to know whether they may qualify for a medical cannabis recommendation they need look no further than the Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Website.

Similarly, there has been a significant amount of confusion and undue optimism about “legal” CBD oil readily available in Pennsylvania.

CBD is cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid in both cannabis sativa and its derivatives (marijuana) and cannabis ruderalis (hemp).  Some hemp derived products, such as hemp clothing, hemp seeds and hemp milk, are legally sold in the United States.  The source material is grown overseas and the processed or refined products are sold in the US.

CBD oil extracted from hemp plants has been gaining in popularity and has been marketed as “legal in all 50 states.”  Unfortunately, it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA because it has trace amounts of THC (one could not possibly get “high”, but its enough to trigger the Schedule I classification).  Additionally, the CBD oil being sold is extracted from plants grown overseas.  Unlike Act 16 with strict testing protocols and pesticide restrictions a patient has absolutely no idea what conditions the hemp plants were grown in.  The source plants could have mold, pesticides, commercial fertilizers, etc.  Compare and contrast that with a CBD oil produced in Colorado such as Quicksilver which is produced under highly regulated conditions and subject to strict third party testing.

Pennsylvania patients are anxious to participate in Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program.  Unfortunately they must wait for the program to be fully implemented, for physicians to register with the program, and for licensed grows and dispensaries to offer high quality medicines, whether CBD or THC.

Until then, beware the Charlatans and Snake Oil.

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society

www.pamcs.org

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Patrick NightingaleBeware Of Charlatans and Snake Oil Salesmen – PA’s Medical Marijuana Law is still in its Infancy
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President Trump and Legalization: What Now?

Since the election of President Trump, we have received many questions about how this could impact the legalization of Marijuana.

So far, nothing definitive has been said by this administration on the subject, and Trump himself has been ambiguous as to the future of legalization.

In the past, Trump has said that he feels it’s an issue that should be determined on a state by state basis. This would suggest his administration may continue the “look the other way” approach of the previous administration.

But what about our new Attorney General?

There is widespread concern regarding the nomination and expected confirmation of Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) for Attorney General, as many people feel his confirmation does not bode well for the legalization movement.

Sessions has repeatedly made it clear that he is against any attempts to reschedule marijuana, and has hinted he would go after anyone breaking federal law, which ultimately supersedes state law.

How this will impact states where there has been reform is difficult to say. Will Sessions shut down states with full legalization like Colorado? Will he go after medicinal states as well?

At this time, we just don’t know.

Legalized marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is currently a six billion dollar industry, and that doesn’t include California’s recent legalization of recreational use.

A majority of states already have some type of reform in place– medicinal, decriminalization and/or recreational use. Whether or not this administration is prepared to absorb the financial repercussions of prosecution remains to be seen.

Beyond that, the loss of tax revenue, and the overall economic impact of shutting down one of the fastest growing industries in the country, would give anyone pause.

And that is the one hopeful aspect of all this. President Trump is a businessman who ultimately recognizes a good deal when he sees one.

Let’s all hope “The Art of the Deal” is more than just a book title.

 

Click Here for a complete state by state listing for medical and recreational marijuana reform information.

 

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Patrick NightingalePresident Trump and Legalization: What Now?
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An Open Letter to the President: Is Medical Marijuana About to Get Trumped?

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestDear Mr. President,

As of the time of this writing, I have been unable to verify the validity of today’s ‘news’ that the DEA is adding CBDs (the medicinal extract of marijuana) to the Schedule 1 list.

No major news reporting agencies have made any mention of it at this time, and although many independent and alternative news websites are reporting the story, it’s unclear if this is accurate news or simply an internet hoax run amok.

What is clear is the Trump administration is not shaping up to be friendly towards legalization efforts.

You have the power to end this madness, Mr. President, and with all due respect, your legacy will not be tarnished in the least. In fact, I would posit that such a bold step forward in the name of compassion and common sense will in fact reflect most favorably on you for generations to come.

Marijuana has real medicinal value. There is no denying that medical professionals in ever increasing numbers, and over half the States, have, in multiple ways, made the call: Marijuana is medicine.

Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve had an uphill fight that has resulted in 17 “Qualifying Conditions” for the medically proven application of CBDs in treatment– including the treatment of seizures, which are very often associated with children.

Forgive me, Mr. President, for playing this card, but yes: It really is about the children this time.

The thing is, I know in my heart you are a thoughtful, intelligent human being. And again, with all due respect, we know you toked a few doobies back in the day. It’s cool with most of us. The vocal minority of the present will be drowned out in the ocean of time. Justice will prevail.

My employment of the words, “minority” and “justice” are quite intentional, Mr. President, as I have spent my entire professional career in the criminal justice system, working both sides of the aisle, and I can tell you this with certainty:

Prosecutions for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania can be devastating for an otherwise law abiding, tax paying citizen. It can literally ruin their life. And worst of all, it falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities– those who can least afford it.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, “Light up!”

Now there’s talk of making the medically approved, medicinally effective extract of this most harmless of intoxicants, the equivalent of Heroin in the eyes of the law???

Constitutionally speaking, this is truly madness.

I am currently challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 ruling in a case in the Court of Allegheny County. This is no “Lawyer stunt” Mr. President.

This is a case of someone resorting to making their own effective medicine for their own health benefits. This is medically documented and would be a “Qualifying Condition”, if the State of Pennsylvania moved faster.

And this is but one of thousands of otherwise ordinary citizens who face prosecution for doing something they could do in a majority of the United States, legally. If that’s not a violation of “equal protection under the law”, I don’t know what is.

The Schedule 1 status of marijuana is the roadblock in all this. The DEA has too much motivated self-interest to judiciously wield this kind of constitutional authority, and is, in effect, circumventing the States, the Constitution and the will of the people.

The experiment with legalization in Colorado has proven wildly successful, with literally none of the predicted negatives put forth by it’s opponents.

Mr. President, the time is now.

Add actual healing to your legacy. Add the compassion that I believe is in you to your legacy. Stand up for the truth and lead us down a path of justice for those who need medicine and compassion, not vilification and jail.

Please! Remove Marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.

Most respectfully yours,

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esq.

 

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Patrick NightingaleAn Open Letter to the President: Is Medical Marijuana About to Get Trumped?
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