Inside Cannabis - August 12th, 2019

Inside Cannabis (Aug 12th, 2019)

Ohio accidentally decriminalizes / Odor ruling / NJ to try again

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1. In the effort to legalize hemp, Ohio state lawmakers effectively decriminalized cannabis—at least for the time being. The state legalized hemp at the end of July by changing the definition of cannabis to exclude hemp based on the amount of THC. Cannabis with a THC level of 0.3 percent or less is legal hemp, while a THC level over 0.3 percent is cannabis, which is still illegal in Ohio. However, police and even crime labs in the state are not equipped to test the THC level in cannabis, which has led the state's Attorney General to recommend that prosecutors not indict any cannabis-related cases until the problem is sorted out, which could take several months. – HUFFPOST

2. A Pennsylvania judge ruled that state police troopers who said they smelled cannabis in a car weren't allowed to search it once they were shown a passenger's medical cannabis card. Timothy Barr was a passenger in the car (his wife was driving) that state troopers stopped for a traffic violation. The troopers said they smelled a strong odor of cannabis and told Barr that gave them the legal right to search the vehicle. The officers found small amounts of cannabis and a loaded handgun, which Barr couldn't legally possess due to a prior conviction. However, the judge said it was "illogical, impractical and unreasonable" for the troopers to suspect illegal activity once Barr showed them his medical cannabis card, concluding that "the smell of marijuana is no longer per se indicative of a crime." – WTAE

3. A San Francisco immigration clinic is distributing signs to cannabis dispensaries warning immigrants to steer clear of the cannabis industry. According to federal law, working in the legal cannabis industry is considered evidence of “bad moral character," which can deprive immigrants of a bid for citizenship, a work permit or, in some cases, the right to remain in the country. “Immigrants are caught in the middle, often unknowingly,” said a University of San Francisco law professor. “They think, ‘I have permission to work, here’s a job that’s legal in California,’ and they take it. They could very well be falling into a federal trap.” – SF CHRONICLE

4. Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced last week that he would federally legalize recreational cannabis by executive order, but the plan is more complicated than it sounds. While a president can issue an executive order to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the process of doing so involves more than the president's signature. In fact, the final decision for such an order would ultimately rest with the Attorney General, according to the executive director of a cannabis advocacy group, meaning that even if Sanders chose this route, it wouldn't be guaranteed. However, Sanders' announcement solidifies his long-held commitment ending prohibition. – FORBES

5. Lobbying firms are taking advantage of the cannabis boom as a number of cannabis-related bills move through Congress and state legislatures. As businesses look for help dealing with new legislative and regulatory challenges, lobbyists are rushing to capitalize, highlighted this week by the highest-grossing firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, launching a new "Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Industry Group." A big focus for the group will be moving public opinion on legal cannabis. – THE HILL

6. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is looking to take one last shot at legal weed this year. In March, the Senate was just a few votes short from putting a legal weed bill on the floor in New Jersey, effectively ending hope for legal recreational cannabis this year. Instead, Gov. Murphy focused his efforts on expanding the medical cannabis program and said he would try again in 2020. Now he's hoping to pass a bill during the "lame duck" legislative session after Election Day. – ASHBURY PARK PRESS

7. A recent study found that the legalization of adult-use cannabis reduced opioid overdose deaths by 21 percent. “Our principal finding is that recreational marijuana access significantly decreases opioid mortality, with the most pronounced effects for synthetic opioids,” the researchers concluded. However, the study found that this effect is more related to access to dispensaries than legalization more generally. – LEAFLY

8. Four years after legalizing medical cannabis, patients in Louisiana finally have access. Nine pharmacies are now licensed to dispense medical cannabis across Louisiana and most opened last week, making the state the first in the deep South to dispense the drug. A Marine veteran struggling with PTSD and a woman fighting cancer were among the first people to purchase medical cannabis in the state. – ABC NEWS

9. A ruling by a New Mexico judge this week may enable Texas residents to register for that state’s medical cannabis program. New Mexico’s Department of Health went to court this summer to challenge a law that would issue medical cannabis cards to out-of-state residents. A district judge in Santa Fe disagreed and ordered the state agency to issue the cards to non-residents. However, critics are concerned that Texans may end up violating state and federal law by bringing the drug across state lines. – KERA NEWS

10. A battle has erupted between pot growers and winegrowers in Santa Barbara County, one of California's famed wine regions, where cannabis farms are proliferating. Due to loose local laws, the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016 led to a massive green rush in the area, which has taken up valuable land once reserved for grapes. At the same time, cannabis crops in residential areas are causing a literal stink. "I have to wear a mask now when I go out to my garden, and my grandchildren won't visit anymore because of the smell," said a local resident. – YAHOO NEWS

Tessa Love is a Berlin-based freelance writer hailing from California's weed country. In addition to writing and curating Inside Cannabis, Tessa has written about cannabis, culture, and tech for the BBC, The Outline, Racked, Slate, The Establishment and more. Find her on twitter at @tessamlove.

Editor: Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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