Is Jared Kushner at Odds with Jeff Sessions over Mandatory Minimums?

Jared Kushner—Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor with zero political experience… just like his boss—is apparently involved in discussions over potential changes to the criminal justice system, including mandatory minimum sentencing, which has ruined the lives of countless non-violent drug offenders.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who adores harsh sentencing, is furiously pushing his pitiless, tough-on-crime agenda.

If fresh-faced Kushner can stay out of trouble himself over his meetings with Russians, endless financial conflicts of interest and corruption scandals, he apparently wants to discuss a thing or two with the “beleaguered” Jeff Sessions about tossing people into prison and throwing away the key.

“He’s quietly listening to all sides, including outside groups, to understand what’s possible and to ultimately be able to make a recommendation to the president,” reported the Wall Street Journal, quoting a White House official who is familiar with meetings that are underway on the issue.

“It’s a personal issue to him given his father spent time in prison. He got to know the families and got to see what’s wrong with the federal prison system,” said the source.

Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, a real-estate executive and large-scale swindler, spent two years in a cushy white collar prison after being convicted of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering after he attempted to blackmail his brother-in-law by hiring a prostitute to seduce him and then sent the videotaped encounter to his sister. You know, the normal extended Trump family sleaze.

But to his credit, Kushner is at least talking about curbing long mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

The practice subsided under President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder, who discouraged harsh sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenders, which advocates say contributed to a national rethinking of how America’s drug criminals should be prosecuted.

But that all changed with Trump.

Sessions, from the minute he stepped into the White House, has been promoting mandatory minimums as a crime-fighting tool to help prosecutors get cooperation from suspects and to keep dangerous offenders behind bars, so he says.

Sessions’ recent directive to federal prosecutors to seek the harshest charges and sentences against defendants drew swift opposition from criminal-justice reform advocates both in and outside of government.

Critics of mandatory minimums, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), say they contribute to disproportionate numbers of African-Americans arrested and serving prison time.

A number of states, including several led by Republicans, have revamped or eliminated mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, essentially dropping the ugly remnants of the failed War on Drugs.

And now, might we see a little dust-up between the first son-in-law and the possibly soon-to-be-dismissed attorney general?

Stay tuned.

RELATED: Trump Is Sick of Jeff Sessions, Who (So Far) Refuses to Quit
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Hawaii Veterans Turn to Medical Marijuana for Help

Photo by Vortex Farmacy. 

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii group is helping veterans cope with mental health issues by guiding them through how to use medical marijuana.

Honolulu News Now reported Thursday that Complimentary and Alternative Medicine is teaching vets how medical cannabis can help them with PTSD-induced pain and anxiety.

The push comes as Hawaii ramps up its medical marijuana dispensary program.

Program participants say they stumbled across the group after other options did not work.

The program advocates using legal oils from industrial hemp to help relieve a variety of symptoms.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Los Angeles Ponders the Prohibition of Concentrate Production

Photo by Chewberto420.

As Los Angeles unfurls its long list of rules and regulations, as part of its effort to establish order in the state’s legal weed industry, input has been effusive and pencil pushing endless.

Home to four million people, L.A, is set to be a blockbuster market, but city voters want their say in how the operation is going to be set up.

One thing folks don’t want is for anyone to set anything on fire. After all, California is only just now recovering from a long period of drought, and they hate the smell of smoke.

That being the case, City Hall’s proposal to outlaw “volatile cannabis manufacturing” may seem logical to some, but it’s not going down too well among dabbers, not to mention practical matters like millions in lost revenue.

A ban on volatile cannabis manufacturing, the most common method used for creating weed concentrates, such as dabs, wax and THC oils, could curtail revenues in L.A. and force lucrative weed businesses to set up shop outside the city’s boundaries.

Rhory Gould of the Arborside dispensary in Ann Arbor said, “Concentrated cannabis can generate up to 40 percent of our sales in the form of wax, oil, hashish, kief, e-pens and edibles made with concentrates,” HIGH TIMES previously reported.

Some observers put that number even higher. According to LA Weekly, concentrates compose as much as 60 percent of the MMJ market in Southern California.

Concentrates are also the active ingredient in another fast-growing market: edibles. And, in California, the edibles market is booming.

“They’re a growing part of the market. But if Los Angeles ends up being one of the only cities to go in this direction, this will put it at a competitive disadvantage,” said Chris Walsh, of Marijuana Business Daily.

That’s for sure. Arcview Market Research estimated that California customers munched on about $180 million worth of edibles last year alone, and they’re still hungry for more.

But, reports of amateurs blowing up homes and hotel rooms while using flammable butane to make extracts have L.A. officials spooked.

“One or two headlines can scare a lawmaker into being overly restrictive,” said Walsh.

Experts agree that professional laboratories producing concentrates for California dispensaries are much safer than the amateur operations that end up in the news.

“It’s perfectly safe when there’s a trained operator using high-quality materials,” said David Sparer, CEO of Bay Area–based Refined Hydrocarbon Solutions, per the LA Weekly.

“We’re talking to the City Council about what is safe use. If the City Council doesn’t allow this to happen in a highly regulated environment, the good players will go to outlying cities, and the tax revenue will go with them,” continued Sparer. “And it will still be sold in L.A. Those bad players left will continue to blow things up.”

As yet, the rules aren’t set in stone, so there’s still time for reasonable lobbying.

“The good news is that they’re not banning concentrates outright,” Walsh said.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Maryland’s Highest Court Hears Medical Marijuana Case

BY BRIAN WITTE
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — An attorney for the state of Maryland is asking the state’s highest court to allow finalists for licenses to grow medical marijuana to intervene in a lawsuit.

Julia Bernhardt, an assistant attorney general, said Thursday the finalists have a direct economic interest in the lawsuit’s outcome. She says the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission can’t represent their interests, because the panel represents the public interest.

Alternative Medicine Maryland, an applicant that wasn’t selected, alleges in its lawsuit that the commission didn’t consider racial diversity of applicants as required. It wants to block the panel from awarding licenses until the lawsuit is resolved. Attorney Byron Warnken says companies who may benefit shouldn’t be able to intervene.

But Arnold Weiner, who is representing the finalists, says his clients’ interests aren’t adequately protected now.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Wana Brands Dominates Oregon Market, Expands to East Coast in 2018

Wana Brands launched their products in Oregon’s market in July 2016, about a year ago. Since then, their brand presence has grown considerably and their products are now in 240 of Oregon’s 375 dispensaries, according to a press release issued this morning.

Wana Brands is an infused products company; they make sour gummies, hard candies and caramels. The business originally launched in Colorado back in 2010 and as of 2016, they own 23% of the market share and had the most sales revenue of any edibles company in Colorado, according to BDS Analytics. The next closest competitor owns 12% of the market share.

Nancy Whiteman holding a batch of cannabis gummies

According to Nancy Whiteman, co-founder and co-owner of Wana Brands, becoming a market leader in Oregon is a result of their product’s consistency and taste. At the end of last year they launched in Nevada and this year they will launch in Arizona and Illinois. In 2018, they expect to make a big East Coast push, expanding into Massachusetts and Maryland as well.

Election Day last year legalized recreational cannabis in a number of states, including Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada. About a week before Election Day, we interviewed Whiteman about those states coming online and her drive to expand. She said she saw a lot of potential in those markets and she was right. Nevada witnessed a massive surge in demand with the opening of recreational sales in the beginning of July and Massachusetts is expected to be another huge market potential.

In that interview, she explained a bit of their growth model: “The model we are pursuing is a licensing agreement where we partner with existing or new license holders in their state,” says Whiteman. “In many ways they are doing the heavy lifting, but we are providing an enormous lift by licensing our intellectual property to them.”

Now that her company has found enormous success in established markets like Oregon, Nevada and Colorado, they want to make a big push in those fledgling markets on the East Coast. “In both markets [Massachusetts and Maryland], we will be working with a partner who will be licensing our products,” says Whitman. “I think the East Coast is a huge opportunity.  There are major population centers in New England, NY and FL and the markets are almost completely undeveloped at this point.” Wana Brands is also currently entering talks with partners in California, Florida and Maine.

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Senate Committee Votes to Keep Medical Cannabis Protections

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to continue protecting state-legal medical cannabis markets from the Department of Justice. The amendment, previously known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prevents the DOJ from using funds to target medical cannabis operations, patients and businesses in states where it is legal.

Every time Congress reviews the budget, this amendment needs to be included to keep protecting the medical cannabis community. While the rider still needs to make it through the final version of the appropriations bill, it is a big win for the status quo.

According to Aaron Smith, executive director and co-founder of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), this indicates that Congress is resisting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ calls to end the protections. In a letter sent back in May, Sessions urged the Senate on both sides of the aisle to stop protecting medical cannabis.

Many see this morning’s vote as Congress standing up to Jeff Sessions, and standing up for medical cannabis patients. In a letter to NCIA members, Smith says that a lot of work still needs to be done, but this is an important first step. “This is not the end of the story. There are still many steps to go before a new budget is finalized,” says Smith. “But this is an important indicator that our allies in Congress are standing up for us, even in the face of DOJ opposition.” In an official NCIA statement, Smith acknowledges the hurdles that still face the amendment. “Now it’s time for the House to do the same,” says Smith. “Patients deserve access to care, states deserve respect, and members of the House deserve the opportunity to vote on amendments like this that have the strong support of their constituents.” Bipartisan support like this in Congress is needed to prevent the current administration and the DEA from meddling in states with legal medical cannabis.

 

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Yacht Wars: Pot Company Kicked off San Diego Dock during Comic-Con

Who booted Budtrader.com off a ritzy yacht dock during Comic-Con last weekend—and why? Nobody will say, so now lawyers are involved.

Without a doubt, the place to be during Comic-Con in San Diego last week was the Fifth Avenue Landing marina.

The dockyard of choice for any super-yachts in town at any time, Fifth Avenue is within sight and sound of Comic-Con’s main events at the San Diego Convention Center. It’s the best place to spot celebrities—Justin Timberlake had disembarked here at Comic-Cons past, and this was where Conan O’Brien would anchor his star-studded coverage for TBS—as well as the after-hours party place of choice. IMDB had its invitation-only party here, and the party yachts for content magnates like Amazon.com would be docked here all weekend long.

It made perfect sense, then, for Brad McLaughlin, CEO of medical-marijuana marketplace Budtrader.com—a “Craigslist for weed” active in every state where cannabis is legal in some form (31 and counting)—to pick Fifth Avenue as the place to make a big splash for his company’s brand.

To do that—to “crash an A-list Hollywood yacht party,” and maybe impress some investors in the process—he would do it right. McLaughlin rented a super-yacht of his own, the 125-foot “Liquidity.” That wasn’t easy or cheap. 

Just being there required a stroke of luck—another yacht had canceled at the last minute, according to McLaughlin, leaving a slim window of opportunity—and merely having a yacht on hand for show, no cruises or sailing allowed, ran him $42,000, including a $3,000 cash payment to the harbormaster.

At first, it was well worth it. Budtrader set up a smoking tent on the dock—positioned to blow “exhaust” towards the ocean, laid in a substantial supply of pre-rolled joints and edibles to give away (a legal act in California these days, as long as the recipient is 21 or over), deployed its signature “Budtrader babes,” loaded a t-shirt cannon, prepared a few air horns, and at 20 minutes past 4 p.m. on Thursday, the party began.

Celebrities came through—cast members from “Game of Thrones” were spotted boarding the Liquidity, and, some Budtrader employees posed for photos with the cast of truTV’s Impractical Jokers—and a few guests from the nearby IMDB, Amazon and TBS yacht parties snuck away to board the Budtrader boat, McLaughlin told HIGH TIMES. (Maybe it was the pre-rolls.)

Things got icy almost immediately.

On Friday, security guards from the nearby yachts warned McLaughlin and the Budtrader team that any “disrupting” of their A-list events would result in the Liquidity’s removal from the dock. Like a house party going on next door to a convent, Budtrader agreed to turn down the music and cut off the flow of alcohol. 

Aside from another polite ask from neighboring boats to please try to blow the marijuana smoke towards the Pacific, all was peace through Friday night, according to McLaughlin. Budtrader even earned some positive press from the San Diego Union Tribune.

“We had no dab bar, no craziness, no smoke-out room,” McLaughin told HIGH TIMES. “Someone from the Office was on our yacht. We had comedians. Everyone was taking pictures.”

Then something happened. Something bad.

McLaughlin still isn’t sure what it was or who made the call, but when he and the rest of the Budtrader team returned to the dock on Saturday morning, the Liquidity had been taken over. 

All of Budtrader’s gear was removed from the boat and unceremoniously dumped on the pier. The company was given strict marching orders: The rest of their stay on the Liquidity was canceled. They had to leave the dock, security guards in “combat gear” told them. Events for Saturday and Sunday—the biggest day on Budtrader’s boat calendar—would have to be canceled, vendors refunded and partygoers turned away.

The party—and the party-crashing—was over. And now, the drama.

“We were thrown off the dock, and no one will tell us why,” said McLaughlin, who sent a formal request to Fifth Avenue Landing’s management and San Diego Marine Services, the entity from which he rented the Liquidity, demanding both an explanation and a full refund. 

So far, he’s received no answer—and no satisfaction.

“We’re still missing tools, we’re missing equipment,” he said. “This is not cool. This is messed up.”

“We want to know exactly whose decision it was to get us kicked out, take all of our shit and throw it onto the dock.”

Reached via telephone on Monday, Neil Wilson, the marina manager at Fifth Avenue Landing, declined to comment to HIGH TIMES. A telephone message left at a listing for San Diego Marine Services, the entity from which McLaughlin rented the boat, was not returned.

According to a copy of the rental agreement shared with HIGH TIMES, there were no stipulations against marijuana use. Which is good, considering the yacht was rented to a marijuana company. 

McLaughlin has a few theories as to what happened. And there’s at least some evidence.

When Budtrader.com employees were haggling with security guards on the dock Saturday, seeking the return of property that was on board the yacht, people aboard the TBS yacht could be seen “gloating” and “high-fiving one another,” McLaughlin said—an outburst borne out of pure jealousy. 

Part of it was that were too many visitors to the other yachts were boarding the Liquidity to snake a pre-roll, McLaughlin said. Another part was party envy.

“Their boats were dead. Our boat had people on it, having a fun. It was a good vibe,” he said. “TBS and Amazon were spending $1 million to be there for a week. We’re not spending anywhere near that.”

“BudTrader’s 1 million plus registered users (which is probably larger then TBS’s entire audience LOL) would be disappointed to find out that TBS had something to do with the removal of BudTrader from 5th Avenue Landing and the Liquidty.” McLaughlin wrote in a demand letter sent to the harbor and yacht-rental companies.

But according to screenshots of a text message conversation with a security supervisor for Amazon, whose yacht was docked next door to the Liquidity, the Budtrader yacht was thrown off the dock by the marina harbormaster for “violation of their policies.”

“Amazon and our team never had any issues with your event,” wrote Samuel Hamilton, a Seattle-based manager of security at Amazon Studios.

As for those policies? There’s at least some evidence suggesting the harbor’s owners might have taken unkindly to a cannabis company.

According to public records on file with the California state attorney general, Fifth Avenue Landing LLC is owned by Arthur Engel of Coronado, California, just across the bay from San Diego.

Engel, a prominent player in waterfront real estate in San Diego and CEO of a San Diego-area cruise ship company, is also a regular contributor to conservative political causes, according to campaign finance records, including a $1,000 donation to the Republican Party of San Diego, and an $800 check to Donald Trump’s campaign, written last October.

The Trump administration has been no friend to drug-policy reform, despite supportive statements towards medical marijuana on the campaign trail.

Does Engel hate weed? Maybe—he’s also contributed money to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat who is nonetheless a sworn enemy of marijuana legalization and almost anything else resembling modest drug-policy reform.

Was it Trump? Was it TBS? Was it simply a case of the snobs taking a poor view of the upstarts sidling up to their yacht?

Whatever it is, McLaughlin said, he plans to find answers and satisfaction—through the courts, or through the media.

At one point, McLaughlin said, an executive from TBS informed Budtrader that they simply didn’t fit in. The Fifth Avenue Landing and Comic-Con were simply no place for a cannabis company, the TBS representative said, according to McLaughlin.

“If you don’t know how marijuana fits into Comic-Con, then you don’t know Comic-Con,” he said. “To say that means you’re totally out of touch with the Comic-Con community.”

Even if you still have a boat.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


HIGH TIMES Merger Aims to Take Company Public

On Thursday, High Times Holding Corp., publisher of HIGH TIMES and a leading voice of the cannabis community since 1974, announced its merger with Origo Acquisition Corporation, a special purpose acquisition company, in a move to take the company public.

Since the brand’s recent acquisition by Oreva Capital, HIGH TIMES has begun to position itself to better capitalize on its robust future growth, taking steps to broaden the company’s three primary segments: events, licensing and media.

Given the rapidly expanding acceptance and legalization of cannabis, HIGH TIMES believes access to capital and an elevated profile, via its anticipated public company listing, will enable it to expand the brand, while funding new business opportunities that leverage and support nationwide medical and recreational usage initiatives.

“HIGH TIMES is one of few household names in the cannabis industry. We believe that the barriers to entry are substantial, given the respect and trust associated with our brand that comes from informing and entertaining people for over 40 years,” said Adam Levin, CEO of HIGH TIMES. “As a leading authority in a rapidly growing and evolving industry, we believe the public market is the best vehicle for capturing and funding substantial market opportunities and championing the innovations emerging across the globe in this industry.”

Origa’s CEO Edward J. Fred echoed Levin’s sentiments, stating: “We believe HIGH TIMES has an important mix of qualities essential for success. HIGH TIMES is a highly-recognized brand in a rapidly growing industry that has a very engaged base and increasing opportunities to leverage that following.”

Noting that the merger with Origo should substantially improve HIGH TIMES’ balance sheet and provide additional future growth capital, the company divulged a portion of its exciting growth strategy, including: the expansion of events in new and existing geographies; leveraging the brand name by offering licensing and branding opportunities to events, dispensaries, lounges/hotels, retail stores, seed companies and consumer product companies; and utilizing new and existing affinity-based digital platforms to create the definitive destination for cannabis knowledge, while also offering expanded e-commerce, social media, advertising and data collection opportunities.

Post-merger, the current HIGH TIMES management team, led by Levin, will continue to run the combined company, while two current members of the Origo Board (or their designees) will join HIGH TIMES as independent directors.

The full press release—including all types of fun investor lingo and legal jargon—can be found HERE.

It’s long. But if you can make it through, the 358-word section entitled, “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward Looking Statements,” is worth a read—if only to empathize with that one lawyer or paralegal in your life, who likes to complain about all the tediously acute and scrupulous copy he or she has to write.

Our suggestion? Light one up, kick back and get ready to watch all the good HIGH TIMES plans to bring to the cannabis community.

Seriously, we’re just getting started! The team has been working harder than ever to turn HIGH TIMES into a transformative global brand and to transcend the normal media business models during this time of massive marijuana innovation

Again—Find the Full Press Release HERE—for any unanswered questions or concerns.

RELATED: New Highs! HIGH TIMES Acquired by Tech and Entertainment Conglomerate
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.


Cannabis Industry Needs Leadership, Not Pesticides

The medical cannabis sector is currently attracting increased attention, as patients, doctors, regulators and investors take a closer look at our industry.

There is a lot for them to learn and to benefit from as our industry matures under the glare of the proverbial spotlight.

And there’s a lot for those of us in the industry to be proud of. We’re helping patients manage pain, for example. We’re helping them get their lives back.

But that same spotlight is also revealing some problems in our industry.

Take ingredients for example.

When I look at the ingredient list in my natural medicines, I don’t expect to see Myclobutanil, Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin, Bifenezate, and Avermectin listed.

Yet, that’s exactly what some licensed producers of cannabis in Canada and some cultivators in California have been selling to their patients.

You have to ask yourself why, when pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things.

Patients don’t take cannabis to harm themselves. They do it to improve their quality of life.

Yet, some cannabis companies have violated their patients’ trust in supplying them with something that could harm them. Indeed, recalls for cannabis, unfortunately, are now becoming somewhat commonplace on both sides of the border.

These licensed producers – audited and approved by government – are entrusted to produce safe, reliable, consistent medicine for patients. They are entrusted to put safety at the core of their business at all times.

But that is clearly not the case in certain circumstances.

In the past year, a few of the 48 licensed producers in Canada have been found to have pesticide contamination in their cannabis products.

From what I can see, the explanations given for the presence of these pesticides don’t make sense.

Pyrethrin, for instance, has been found on some medical cannabis products shipped out of certain growing facilities. However, pyrethrin does not naturally appear on plants. It has to be intentionally applied, accidentally or otherwise.

That means, in cases where this pesticide has been found on products after they left the growing facility, two things had to have happened. First, someone introduced it onto the plants to deal with an insect infestation. And second, lax quality control standards – perhaps influenced by a short-term focus on profits over patients – allowed infected products to enter their supply chain and, in many cases, to be consumed by patients.

When revealed, those responsible for companies using pesticides such as pyrethrin say they are “shocked”, publicly declaring that they have no clue as to how these toxic substances entered their cultivation processes.

The fact is, if you don’t test your inputs, if you fail to test your outputs, and if you manage your business for short-term profits, you shouldn’t be producing cannabis.

There’s no place in healthcare for people who disregard a patient’s well being, because – from a patient’s perspective – what you don’t know could hurt you.

No one who grows something can absolutely guarantee that a mistake will never be made, granted.

But as the cannabis sector expands, experienced cannabis firms know there’s a direct correlation between attention and leadership: as the world pays more attention to our sector, the onus on us to be stewards in and for our industry also rises.

That means putting patient safety at the centre of everything we do.

And that means ensuring patients are consuming safe cannabis produced by licensed companies that are committed to the long-term health and prospects of our growing industry.

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