Cannabis news round-up

On-site smoking of marijuana one step closer after Anchorage, Alaska Assembly kicks questions to voters. Youth pot use dropped in states after legalization, including Colorado. California governor signs marijuana tax fairness bill but vetoes cannabis in hospitals. Nevada governor to tighten legal marijuana marketplace. How a California company is buying up marijuana grow centers in Illinois —without a cultivation license.

Image result for breathalyzer for weed

Breathalyzer for weed could be a game changer for legalization efforts. Marijuana legalization can help end vaping deaths by allowing the FDA to do its job. I’m an American doctor. Here’s the truth about Juul, vaping and legalizing marijuana.

The push to unionize cannabis workers, explained. Immigration and the growing marijuana industry. 

A reporter’s experience at the High Times Cannabis Bazaar in DetroitIllinois has a marijuana referendum after all. High-stakes pot deal goes bust as Illinois recreational use starts. Supporter of marijuana legalization says Illinois lawmakers left out key provisions. Chicago City Council black caucus takes issue with rollout plan fr legal recreational marijuana. Rules murky on opportunity zones for Michigan cannabis businesses. Legal marijuana casts a little haze over Michigan workplace drug rules. Indiana mixed messages on prohibition. 

New Mexico governor’s working group releases legalization proposal 
Crossing Wisconsin state lines to buy legal pot. A Democratic takeover could make Virginia more marijuana-friendly. But legalization may still be years away. Recreational marijuana would create more than 100,000 jobs in Florida

What to know about proposed bill that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania. Poll shows Pennsylvania voters wary of legalizing marijuana. Public skeptical of Pennsylvania marijuana legalization survey. New Jersey marijuana legalization mailbag. Will New Jersey weed, vaping laws look like those in states next door? Governors hope so. Governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania adopt coordinated marijuana legalization plan.

Grading the presidential candidates on marijuana. How Republicans learned to love a pot bill. Cannabis legislation progresses, yet companies and cannabis investors are moving in reverse.  How lobbyists broke the logjam on cash and cannabis. SAFE banking needed for legal marijuana businesses. Banks and big security companies won’t touch cannabis cash—that’s where the soldiers come in.

The new weed on the block. Why we don’t know much about pot. Trump doesn’t inhale, but the cannabis industry is betting his supporters do. Former congressman who fought marijuana legalization joins cannabis company board. Progressives tend to believe legalizing pot is a good idea. Here are 7 reasons they should think twice. The Great American cannabis experiment. “We have to take the handcuffs off states.”

One year on, Canada legal cannabis market is down but not out. 

A Suggestion of Mootness

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the enforcement of the subpoena for Trump’s tax returns issues by the House Committee of Oversight and Reform in a case captioned Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP (the “Mazars Case”). The three judge panel split 2-1, with Judge Neomi Rao dissenting. (The link at the D.C. Circuit’s website pulls up both the opinion of the Court and the dissent as a single file. For ease of use, I have broken that file into separate files. The Court’s opinion can be downloaded here. The dissent can be downloaded here.)

Judge Rao’s dissent is premised solely on what she believes is a limitation on Congress’ legislative power. She makes a distinction between the legislative power of Congress and what she terms its judicial power. Among the areas in which she believes that the judicial power can be exercised is that of impeachment. Thus:

[A]llegations of illegal conduct against the President cannot be investigated by Congress except through impeachment. The House may impeach for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” U.S. CONST. art. II, § 4, and has substantial discretion to define and pursue charges of impeachment. See The Federalist No. 65, at 338 (impeachable offenses “are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself”). While it is unnecessary here to determine the scope of impeachable offenses, Congress has frequently treated violations of statutes or the Constitution as meeting this threshold. Impeachment provides the exclusive method for Congress to investigate accusations of illegal conduct by impeachable officials, particularly with the aid of compulsory process. Thus, the key determination is whether this investigation targets allegations Congress might treat as “high Crimes” or “Misdemeanors.” To make this determination requires no search for hidden motives, but simply crediting the Committee’s consistently stated purpose to investigate “illegal conduct” of the President. Cummings Memorandum at 4; cf. Eastland v. United States Servicemen’s Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 508 (1975) (“[I]n determining the legitimacy of a congressional act we do not look to the motives alleged to have prompted it.”).

Dissent slip op. at 6-7 (footnotes omitted).

I do not know whether the distinction that Judge Rao draws is valid. However, why do we even have to address that point now? When the subpoenas at issue in the Mazars Case were first issued, the House had not begun to explicitly investigate the possibility of impeachment. That is no longer the case. In response to Judge Roe’s dissent, the House Oversight Committee should simply issue a new subpoena seeking the same documents that were the subject of the first subpoena. The new subpoena would lack the infirmity that Judge Rao perceived in the subpoena at issue in the Mazars Case and her objections to that original subpoena would therefore be moot. The House could then get on with the pressing task of investigating whether Trump should be impeached. (Yes, I know that the White House Counsel has issued a letter refusing to cooperate with the various constituent parts of the impeachment investigation because, inter alia, there really isn’t a valid impeachment investigation. I suspect that this argument would not be tossed aside lightly by any reviewing court. Rather, it would be thrown aside with great force. Cf. here.)

Just rewards

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry at last recognizes John Goodenough and his revolutionary battery.

The Nobel Prize committee for chemistry took their time but finally did the right thing:

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 was awarded jointly to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino “for the development of lithium-ion batteries.”

Yours truly has been agitating for this since 2017. I’m sure far more influential voices than mine have been making the case, though I’m still quite proud of the letter I sent them (reproduced in the post), and repeated last year.

It’s particularly gratifying that John Goodenough is still alive to receive the prize. He is amazingly fit and still working, but at 97 nothing can be taken for granted.

Many chemists, including him, are trying to find a better battery formulation, but so far, your mobile phone (revolution one) and future electric car (revolution two) still run on the battery he and others invented over 30 years ago.

If human civilisation gets through this mess, he and his colleagues will be on the short list of unlikely heroes and heroines who gave us a chance.

Thank you, John, Stanley, and Akira, from all of us.

A Little Snark

Please forgive me, but it’s hard to deal seriously with what I see in the news each day. So I’ve crafted a couple of snarky responses to current controversies:

  1. Simple answer for LGBT prejudice: create a new LGBT religion and sue rejecting employers on the basis of First Amendment violations.
  2. It appears that the 2020 election will pit Pocahontas against Poco Pe*is.

Cannabis news round-up

Scientists unveil weed breathalyzer, launching debate over next steps.

Mexico moves toward legalization of cannabis. Mexico cannabis users eagerly await legal marijuana. Mexico senator files marijuana legalization bill ahead of Supreme Court deadline. 

Mayor of Fall River, in enough trouble as it is, arrested for extorting six-figure bribes from marijuana vendors. Five months after opening, NETA Brookline is still one of America’s busiest pot shops—and not everyone is thrilled. Central Mass officials walk fine line in seeking ‘pot’ of gold. Massachusetts pot shop laws cry out in the reform wilderness. Here’s what to know about the pot shops opening in Massachusetts this week.  

California has completely crapped the bed rolling out legal marijuana 
Weedmaps to stop listing illegal cannabis retailers in California. (As predicted by Dr. Kleiman) nearly 3,000 illegal marijuana businesses found in California audit, dwarfing legal trade.

Legal marijuana is a positive amenity for new Colorado residents, study finds. Colorado official shares lessons from state’s marijuana legalization 
Colorado adds marijuana fungus testing requirements.

Bumps in the road to legalizing on-site inhalation of marijuana in Anchorage. After the Grand Opening: Assessing cannabis supply and demand in Washington State. Washington marijuana industry shakes Cheech-and-Chong stereotype, improves in public eye.

Former Elgin, Illinois chief now in Colorado says drivers smoking legal pot is “difficult for enforcement.” Bloomington, Ilinois City Council to consider task force on legal marijuana use within city. Illinois is having trouble preparing for recreational weed. Tight-knit Illinois female lawmakers behind legal marijuana have new nickname. Cook County and Code for America aim to speed up marijuana expungement as legalization nears. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois dispensaries plan for legal marijuana.

Michigan kicks off education sessions on recreational pot licensing

Why the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party is pushing marijuana legalization. Marijuana in Minnesota: Legalization issue sparks fierce debate. 

Marijuana legalization, impact of trade war dominate Louisiana Commissioner race. Looking to other states, officials expect marijuana will be legalized in Kentucky. Advocates say it’s not “if” marijuana gets legalized in Virginia—but when. Recreational pot drive draws big bucks in Florida. Florida Atty. General to challenge marijuana legalization referendum. Arizona support is high for legalizing marijuana, but is it high enough? Arizona marijuana ballot measure will advance with minor changes after review.  

New Jersey may have found a way to help legalize marijuana, lawmakers say. One way to pass legal marijuana in New Jersey? Cut out those gummy bears, top Democrat says. Toms River, New Jersey forms 24/7 opioid response team. New Jersey’s would-be pot purveyors watch investments go up in smoke.  What if New York legalizes marijuana but New Jersey doesn’t? Cops prepare for legal weed border battle.

Where the 2020 Democratic candidates for president stand on marijuana legalization. Here’s what legalization advocates would ask presidential candidates at the debate. Kamala Harris proposes loaning government funds to “disadvantaged” marijuana business owners. Here’s how Kamala Harris really prosecuted pot cases. Joe Biden says marijuana should remain illegal as a misdemeanor at Democrats debate why the most pro-marijuana Congress ever won’t deal with weed. Rep. Blumenauer on legalization.

Marijuana 1-to-3 Act would reclassify cannabis under federal law. Former anti-pot Clinton cabinet official files marijuana reclassification bill in Congress. Congressional Black Caucus focuses on legalization at conference. DEA wants 3,200 kg of marijuana legally grown in 2020. 
Vape safety requires legalizing marijuana. Cannabis industry calls for legalization and regulation to snuff out underground vapes. 
Are there any downsides to marijuana legalization? 

How marijuana is poised for a North American takeover. Legal pot efforts have turned states from narcs to pushers. Restorative justice must begin with America’s pot POWs. NIMBY? Not so fast: the effect of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime. How hemp legalization has made it much harder to prosecute people for marijuana. The baffling legal gray zone of marijuana at the airport.   
 
Marijuana seizures increasing at Canada borders since legalization, police urge drivers to “think twice.” British Columbia still losing money on legalized marijuana sales. 11,000 marijuana plants seized in ‘extremely large grow operation’ in British Columbia. Ontario University launches online pot production course

Former New Zealand Prime Minister’s foundation urges ‘yes’ vote on marijuana legalization.

Unrestricting Employees

While most of us have been distracted by such minor kerfuffles such as whether the president should be impeached, the real world continues to move forward. My friend, Julie Janofsky, relayed to me that Maryland has now, by statute, declared that non-competition covenants entered into by lower paid employees are not enforceable.

The statute, Md. Labor Law Art. § 3-716, makes such provisions unenforceable with respect to employees making $15 or less an hour or $31,200 a year or less. Customer lists and other proprietary information remain protected.

In 2016, the Obama Administration issued a “Call for Action,” urging states to render such provisions unenforceable. Needless to say, the Trump Administration did not join in encouraging such legislative action.

Here, as it is still often the case, Justice Brandeis, dissenting, got it right:

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory.

New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 US 262, 311 (1932).

Tobacco, Nicotine, Illegal Markets

Which states have banned vapes? Federal judge gives tobacco manufacturers 10 months to comply with planned tighter FDA regulations. Judge Paul Grimm for the District of Maryland ruled that manufacturers have until May 11 to file pre-market applications for electronic cigarettes and cigars. FDA proposes stricter 10-month deadline for e-cigarettes. FDA ready to speed up its review of e-cigarettes, tobacco-related products.

As e-cigarette era heats up, PMI and Altria talk merger after decade apart.
PMI’s Marian Salzman: “I wasn’t bought.” Altria to test HNB in Atlanta.

Study linking vaping to heart attacks muddied amid spat between two tobacco researchers. Ex-FDA chief Scott Gottlieb: “Juul is going to be in a hard spot to ever get their product approved.”

Will new Vermont e-cigarette tax lead to a vaping black market?

Foundation for a Smoke Free World is using a contest to target school children.

Attempted hit: South Africa tobacco boss Simon Rudland kingpin of the ‘cheapies.’ The smoking gun: South Africa goes after illicit cigarette trade.

Smuggled North Korea cigarettes become increasingly popular in China. Production of illicit cigarettes poses high health risk in India. Cigarette smugglers make base in Bengaluru, India. The true cost of cheap cigarettes in Vietnam. Philippines destroys $42,000 worth of smuggled cigarettes. Duterte’s visit to China meant to bolster drive against illicit cigarettes.

Cheap whites: Inside Germany‘s globalized black market for smokes.

Don’t smoke these fake Greek cigarettes. You may hurt a pensioner. Malta black-market cigarette trade cost €12 million last year. Bootleg Turkish cigarettes fund PKK, minister says.

See how many cigarettes this immigrant was caught smuggling into Israel airport. Jordan government defends new anti-smuggling measures in wake of riots. Fake cigarette ring exposes Jordan corruption woes.

$60 million “lost” annually to illicit cigarettes in Papua New Guinea, say manufacturers who would prefer to sell legally.

Report breaks down Paraguay to Brazil cigarette smuggling trail.

Family of three smuggled cigarettes worth £67,000 through Birmingham Airport. UK shopkeeper found with thousands of illegal cigarettes claimed he was a heavy smoker. Sales of smuggled cigarettes in Blackpool “too lucrative to give up.”

We bought illegal cigarettes in the Vancouver (Canada) Downtown Eastside so you don’t have to. British Columbia seized 1.6 million cigarettes’ worth of contraband tobacco in 3 months. Crime Stoppers founder says contraband tobacco a big problem in Ontario.

My climate strike

Joining the striking kids in Malaga

Lu and I joined the children’s climate strike in Malaga yesterday.

Can you spot the odd man out? Photo by Lu

The photo is slightly misleading in that the majority of the protesters were older, with a surprising number of Seniores. A decent if not startling turnout, and all very good-humoured.

Our information-rich poster. Translation at the end. Bus by Playmobil. Hollin is soot – the streaks are the real thing from my wood-burning fireplace. The QR code links to a paper in Nature Communications, but only one other participant took a photo of it. No media in sight.

I did quite well on photos otherwise: several dozen. Very markedly, there was disproportionate interest from middle-aged women. I assume it’s the placenta reference: it doesn’t connect in the same way to young nulliparae.

If I were Francisco de la Torre, the 77-year-old PP mayor of Malaga, would I be worried enough to reconsider my policies? For instance on slow-walking the buying of electric buses? I doubt it: we weren’t enough, nor sufficiently focused. A lot depends on whether Greta’s army, or its parents, will get down to the plank-boring work of political organization. The Occupy Wall Streeters notoriously failed to make this transition. But I might be more worried by the middle-aged women, the kind that go to meetings, who may now be circulating photos of my poster and others on their FB feeds.

Continue reading “My climate strike”

Latest Immigration Ruling Setback for Trump Administration

I’ve posted the ruling by Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S.D.C. for the Central District of California in Flores v. Barr. That case deals with the Trump Administration’s attempt to overturn the settlement agreement reach in 1997 dealing with the manner in which the INS may detain immigrants who are minors.

The Court enjoined the Trump Administration’s regulations, which would have abrogated the settlement agreement, and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the agreement. The concluding paragraph of the opinion sets forth the nub of the legal issue:

The blessing or the curse – depending on one’s vantage point – of a binding contract is its certitude. The Flores Agreement is a binding contract and a consent decree. It is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed. It is a creature of the parties’ own contractual agreements and is analyzed as a contract for purposes of enforcement. Defendants cannot simply ignore the dictates of the consent decree merely because they no longer agree with its approach as a matter of policy. The proper procedure for seeking relief from a consent decree is a Rule 60(b) motion by which a party must demonstrate that a change in law or facts renders compliance either illegal, impossible, or inequitable. Relief may also come from a change in law through Congressional action. Having failed to obtain such relief, defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this Court cannot permit.

Slip op. at 24.

An important point to note with respect to all district court opinions blocking Trump Administration actions from this point on. There’s only a little over thirteen months until November, 2020. Many of these cases will not be heard by the Supreme Court by January 20, 2021. Thus, if these district court opinions withstand review by the relevant circuit courts, a new administration can protect the rulings merely by failing to seek Supreme Court review or, if review has been sought by an outgoing Trump (or Pence) Administration, withdrawing the appeal in the Supreme Court.

Finally, I note that while Judge Gee’s ruling has been reported on by the mainstream media, this is the first link to the opinion other than via PACER. Another illustration of the value of the RBC.

Weekend Film Recommendation: The Sandbaggers

Britain has long managed to turn out espionage films at all points along the dimension that has escapist fare like James Bond and The Avengers at one pole and grey-shaded, unglamorous, works like Smiley’s People at the other. I can enjoy the fantasies as much as the next moviegoer, but the Brit spy films that stay with me and thereby end up as my film recommendations are all from the grimy, realistic, end of the spectrum: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, Charlie Muffin, Callan, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and this week’s film recommendation: The Sandbaggers.

Like Callan’s “The Section” this television series focuses on a small team of agents you’ve never heard of: the “Sandbaggers”. These trouble-shooting spies are led by a former sandbagger, the dour, workaholic, Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden, in a magnificently austere performance). Burnside spends as much time fighting Whitehall bureaucracy and careerism as he does his opposite numbers in The Soviet Union, a process that is complicated by his ex-wife being the daughter of the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office! (Alan MacNaughtan, succeeding in a markedly different role than he played in the satisfying To Serve Them All My Days).

The cast never put a foot wrong, which is a credit to their own talents as well as that of the primary directors, Michael Ferguson and Peter Cregeen. The show was produced by Yorkshire Television, and has an unmistakably Northern English chip on its shoulder about London, HMG, and people who went to Eton, which productively accentuates the cynical viewpoint of the series.

The Sandbaggers was scripted by Ian Mackintosh, a former Naval Officer who may have been in the game himself, and who (almost too perfectly) mysteriously disappeared in 1979. Every bit of the show feels real, from the civil service backbiting and hassles (I cringe in recognition at the ongoing subplot of British secret agents having to fly in economy) to the exciting front-line missions of the sandbaggers. And as in real life, virtue often goes unrewarded, many missions fail, and death does not look pretty.

As with many modestly budgeted British television shows of this era, there is no soundtrack or incidental music, only an opening and closing theme over the credits. Luckily, they got Roy Budd (who wrote the immortal music to another former RBC film recommendation, Get Carter) to compose it. As usual, Budd hit it for six.

As a complete work, the first season is the best for overall narrative arc, especially the evolution of the relationship between Burnside and the first female sandbagger, Laura Dickens (Well-played by Diane Keen). But for a single episode that gives you the flavor of the series, I would recommend from Season 2 the nail-biting Decision by Committee.

The Sandbaggers is a 40-year old show and Yorkshire Television doesn’t exist anymore, so I don’t know if it’s still copyrighted or not. But I will channel Neil Burnside and take the risk to tell you that whatever the rules are, an agent with initiative can find almost every episode of the brilliant series on Youtube.