February 10, 2016

Elected Officials in CT Courts on Marijuana Charges

8/29/2011 – Last week was a busy one for elected officials caught with pot in Connecticut. A former alderman from Ansonia, CT was sentenced in a federal court to 3 years in prison for his role in growing more than 1400 cannabis plants. Joseph Cassetti, 61, owned many of the properties where the plants were seized in 2008. Two other men in their twenties were convicted of selling and distributing the cannabis.

Next was Rhode Island State Representative Robert A. Watson who failed to reach a plea deal in a DUI case. Watson was stopped by East Haven, CT police in April at a sobriety checkpoint. He tested below the legal limit for alcohol, blowing a 0.05 percent. But a urinalysis showed THC and cocaine.

In an interesting twist, Watson claims to be using cannabis to treat pancreatitis. He said that he did not smoke any marijuana the day of his arrest. Watson also said he kept marijuana on hand for medical use.

Watson, a Republican, has held his seat since 1993. He was the House Minority Leader at the time of his arrest but was quickly removed from that role by his legislative peers.  Still, Watson has retained his seat and has not announced any plans to resign.

Watson did vote “Yes” in 2009 for the medical marijuana law now in place. Yet when Rhode Island considered a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession for adults this year Watson fought hard against it.

In a Feb. 2011 speech to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Rep. Watson put his opposition to a variety of bills into a now-infamous statement: “I suppose if you’re a gay man from Guatemala who gambles and smokes pot, you probably think that we’re onto some good ideas here.”

Watson refused to apologize for the statement, even when pressured by Guatemalan-American groups.

Rep. Watson is essentially the only openly-green medical cannabis patient in the Rhode Island General Assembly. It is not known if he is officially a participant in the state’s program. RI allows access though caregivers and home cultivation. Governor Lincoln Chafee has kept the three state-approved RI dispensaries from opening.

Because Watson failed to reach a plea deal in Connecticut last week the case against him will continue.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

IMPORTANT – Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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Maryjane’s Corner

Sensible Science

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com




Suspended Medical Marijuana Centers in NJ, RI Showcase New Role of Governors

State House in Trenton - photo by C. David Freitag

7/16/2011 – Governor Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island and Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey are maintaining their executive hold on opening approved medical marijuana facilities. This shines a spotlight on an important role emerging for Governors in regulating cannabis. Officials in both states told Freedomisgreen that they still have legal questions so the suspensions could remain indefinitely*.

Chafee and Christie say their primary concern is the notion that state employees could be at risk for federal prosecution. Of course, no such legal action that has been seen in America for over 100 years. A new memorandum from the US Department of Justice was issued about medical marijuana on June 30th but seems to have offered little direction. [Read more…]

Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

6/30/2011 – UPDATE 7/1/2011 – Freedomisgreen.com obtained the new Department of Justice memo concerning medical marijuana. The communication is from US Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.  It was released on June 30th after New Jersey US Attorney Paul J. Fishman forwarded it to NJ state AG Paula Dow. The memo was sent to Dow in response to her multiple requests for federal clarification about medical marijuana operations authorized by state law.

Below is the full transcript. Link to original memo as a pdf [Read more…]

NJ, RI Hold Back Multi-Million Dollar Marijuana Centers

6/8/2011 – There are nine state-approved medical cannabis facilities prepared to open on the east coast. They have veritable dream-teams of expert staffers and some have tens of millions of dollars ready to invest. But Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are holding them back.

The six in NJ and three in RI have already been approved by state authorities after a tough bidding process. On paper, they are the most heavily regulated and carefully vetted marijuana centers in the country.  But a perceived threat of federal law has given pause to the two governors. [Read more…]

Rhode Island Gov Caves to Fed, Stops Medical Marijuana Centers

5/2/2011 – Governor Lincoln Chafee has announced that he will put an indefinite hold on the state’s three medical marijuana dispensaries from opening after receiving a threatening letter from US Attorney Peter Neronha on April 29th.

The Providence Journal published Chafee’s press statement:

May 2, 2011
Statement from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee Regarding Compassion Centers

The United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island delivered a letter to me on Friday afternoon which was copied to the Director of the Department of Health and the three Compassion Center applicants. That letter, as well as similar letters sent to officials in other states, clarified the Department of Justice’s position on medical marijuana. The Department of Justice previously indicated that it would not focus its limited resources on doctors and their sick patients who prescribe and use marijuana if such use was permitted by state law. This position was interpreted by some states as giving them latitude to authorize medical marijuana cultivation and distribution programs. Friday’s letter makes it clear that DOJ will now pursue certain commercial cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, even if such cultivation and distribution is permitted by state law. Compassion centers, their owners, landlords, financiers and other operations “facilitators” are identified as potential targets of federal law enforcement activities.

None of Rhode Island’s compassion center applicants have received a certificate of registration to date. In light of the United States Attorney’s articulated position on closing compassion centers, seizing proceeds and prosecuting business enterprises that market and sell medical marijuana, I have placed a hold on the State’s medical marijuana certificate of registration program. During this hiatus, I will be consulting with the governors of other states with similar medical marijuana programs, with federal officials and with the compassion center applicants themselves.

Several governors have recently alluded to a planned meeting on the medical marijuana issue. The National Governors Association is the official body of these elected officials. NGA is currently led by Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington.  DOJ also sent a letter to Gregoire, that action prompted her to veto parts of a new law that would have regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com:

Fed Curls Fist at Rhode Island Marijuana Dispensaries

Fed Curls Fist at Rhode Island Marijuana Dispensaries

The first shot has been fired in Providence for the modern medical marijuana battle in the East. US Attorney Peter F. Neronha sent a harsh notice to Rhode Island on April 29th. The letter was addressed to the governor and state officials but in a new tactic, it was also sent to the handful of  licensed medical cannabis dispensaries.

WNRI in Providence obtained a copy of the letter. It includes a revealing statement about how the federal government is treating the issue.

Accordingly while the Department of Justice does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Memorandum of Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, the Department of Justice maintains the authority to enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distributing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

We all know that state medical cannabis laws are in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. But the last part seems to be the driving force behind a recent storm of Drug Enforcement Administration raids, “…even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

Clearly the federal government does not care if doctors recommend marijuana or if patients possess a small amount of cannabis. The forbidden sins are growing and selling. Again not new news, but the real kicker is the target.

Rhode Island recently licensed three dispensaries: The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center and Summit Medical Compassion Center. All three were copied on the letter. Governor Lincoln Chaffee’s copy was delivered by hand.

The DEA conducted four raids in Washington on April 28th. A similar afternoon in Rhode Island would shut down all of the state’s carefully selected medical cannabis operators. The full letter is a clear and open threat to bring federal agents with automatic weapons to clear out regulated marijuana, cash registers, bank accounts and assets.

What has yet to be seen is the response from the fiercely independent state to the federal government’s prodding. There may be a taller political wall in Rhode Island for the DEA to hurdle.

Read the letter care of WNRI: http://wrnihealthcareblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/u-s-attorney-letter.pdf

Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. He volunteers with local groups to change prohibition laws including PhillyNORML and The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.

East Coast Medical Marijuana Industry opens

St. Patrick’s Day has some green competition as March 2011 could see three states on the East Coast open their medical cannabis industries. Maine, Rhode Island and New Jersey are all in the process of licensing facilities to supply medical grade cannabis to qualifying residents.

Maine’s first dispensary is actually set serve patients this week. That will represent the tangible beginning to state-regulated cannabis coming to this side of the country, but just barely.

The Portland Press Herald published an extensive piece today, well worth reading in full:

The opening of Maine’s dispensaries — the first east of Colorado — comes 16 months after voters approved a network of dispensaries to expand access to marijuana for patients with a limited number of medical conditions, such as cancer and glaucoma. Registered patients can still grow their own or have a caregiver grow marijuana for them.

Five operators have been working to set up eight dispensaries, one in each of Maine’s public health districts Read full

Medical marijuana growing - photo by Editor

Maine essentially legalized medical marijuana in 1999 and has spent the rest of the time trying to come up with a dispensary system. Until now, patients there could only grow their own cannabis or have a designated caregiver cultivate it for them.

That was also the case in Rhode Island where a medical marijuana law was passed in 2006. Patients and caregivers there could form collective gardens or cultivate personally.

Last year RI officials denied every application and then published the carefully crafted business plans online (much to the chagrin of the applicants).

The Ocean State was set to announce the winners of their second round of applicants this week but there has been another delay.

The Providence Journal – The state Health Department has once again postponed making a decision as to whom, if anyone, will be allowed to operate medical-marijuana dispensaries in Rhode Island.

In a news release Monday morning, the department said its new interim director, Dr. Michael D. Fine, needed an additional week — until March 15 — to review the 18 applications that have been submitted. Read

Unfortunately it is also a series of delays that have been seen in New Jersey. The NJ Department of Health and Human Services is moving ahead under some questionable regulations charging a $20,000 application fee.

New Jersey saw 21 groups bid to run one of six Alternative Treatment Center sites. Although the rules to operate the facilities have not been finalized Garden State officials say they will announce the winners on March 21st.

So along with Spring and Shamrocks it could be medical cannabis that green the East this month.

Unless there’s another set of delays.

YouTube video below of Diane Riportella in New Jersey who does not have any more time to spare.

More information

Grassroots http://www.asamaine.org/

Rhode Island
Grassroots http://ripatients.org/

New Jersey
Grassroots http://www.cmmnj.org


Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. He volunteers with local groups to change prohibition laws including PhillyNORML and The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. He enjoys old-school hip-hop, vintage airplanes and changing the world. Contact chris { at } freedomisgreen.com

3/17/2011- CORRECTION – Maine allows for designated caregivers to grow medical marijuana for patients as well as personal cultivation by patients. Added “or have a designated caregiver cultivate it for them.” in sixth graph.