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What documents do I need to fill out my Oklahoma medical marijuana card application?

To apply for a medical marijuana card, you’ll need:

1) Proof that you’re an Oklahoma resident, which can be one of the following:

  • Oklahoma driver’s license or ID
  • Oklahoma voter ID card
  • A utility bill from the month just before your application (cell phone and internet bills excluded)
  • A deed to residential property that you own in Oklahoma
  • A current residential rental agreement in Oklahoma (your name must be on the agreement)

2) Proof of your identity, which can be one of the following:

  • Oklahoma driver’s license or ID
  • Oklahoma identification card (front and back)
  • U.S. passport or other photo ID that’s been issued by the U.S. government
  • Tribal ID that’s approved by Oklahoma for identification purposes, including US Bureau of Indian Affairs ID or Oklahoma tribal photo IDs.

3) A clear digital, full color picture of your full face on a white or off-white background
4) Your Patient Physician Recommendation form that has been signed within 30 days of your application submission
5) Proof of SoonerCare or MediCare enrollment or 100% disabled veteran status if you’re applying for the discounted application fee of $20.

How long does it take to receive a state medical card?

It can take up to 14 days for your application to be approved after completing your online application. You should check your email frequently during this time as the OMMA may need additional documentation to complete the process. If you do not provide any missing information within the time limit, your application would be denied and you’d have to begin the process again. There is no refund for the application fee.

How long does a rec or state ID card last?

Your state ID will last for two years unless it is revoked by the OMMA sooner.

How much does a state card cost?

The application fee is $100. SoonerCare and MediCare patients and 100% disabled vets can apply for a discounted fee of only $20.

Is there a discount for purchasing medical marijuana in Oklahoma?

Unfortunately, no. Most states that offer recreational cannabis do have a tax discount, or no taxes, for medical marijuana purchases. Oklahoma is a medical marijuana only state though, and the state taxes all sales at the rate of 7%

Am I required to register with the state to become a medical marijuana patient?

Yes. You must first register with, and receive approval and a license from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority before using cannabis for medical purposes: “Patient”or”Qualified patient”means a person that has been properly issued a medical marijuana license pursuant to Title 63 O.S. § 420 et seq. and these rules. (Emergency Rules page 4)

Can employers still fire me for testing positive for cannabis on drug tests?

According to HB2612 page 23, your employer can’t fire you solely for your status as a medical marijuana patient unless:

  • they are required to by federal law in order to obtain federal funding,
  • the employee doesn’t have a valid medical marijuana license,
  • they consume medical marijuana while at work, or
  • the position involves a “safety sensitive” job.

The OMMA defines a safety sensitive job as “any job that includes tasks or duties that the employer reasonably believes could affect the safety and health of the employee performing the task or others including, but not limited to, any of the following:”

  1. the handling, packaging, processing, storage, disposal or transport of hazardous materials,
  2. the operation of a motor vehicle, other vehicle, equipment, machinery or power tools,
  3. repairing, maintaining or monitoring the performance or operation of any equipment, machinery or manufacturing process, the malfunction or disruption of which could result in injury or property damage,
  4. performing firefighting duties,
  5. the operation, maintenance or oversight of critical services and infrastructure including, but not limited to, electric, gas, and water utilities, power generation or distribution,
  6. the extraction, compression, processing, manufacturing, handling, packaging, storage, disposal, treatment or transport of potentially volatile, flammable, combustible materials, elements, chemicals or any other highly regulated component,
  7. dispensing pharmaceuticals,
  8. carrying a firearm, or
  9. direct patient care or direct child care

(H.B. 2612 page 24, section K)

Does the state provide electronic cards immediately with applications?

Unfortunately no. Your state application can be submitted online, but the state then has up to 14 days to review your application. If your application is missing any pertinent information, the state will email you requesting the corrections, which you can also submit online. Those who fail to complete all requirements of their application will receive a rejection letter after 14 days explaining why their application was denied.

Can I use medical marijuana in public?

Not only can you not smoke cannabis in public, but you can’t vaporize it either. All smoking and vaporizing is subject to the same restrictions as cigarette smoking.

(OMMA Regulations Sec. 310:681-2-11)

What are the daily purchase limits for medical marijuana?

Patients can purchase up to three (3) ounces of marijuana, one (1) ounce of marijuana concentrate, seventy-two (72) ounces of edible medical marijuana products, six (6) mature plants, and/or six (6) seedling plants. The Unity Bill clarifies that these possession rights are cumulative and that a patient or caregiver can possess all of these items so long as they hold a valid license.

The OMMA and the Patient Protection Act made it clear that these limits are cumulative, and that patients and caregivers can possess all of the amounts listed: “The rights to possess the marijuana products set forth in Section 420 of Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes are cumulative and a duly licensed individual may possess at any one time the totality of the items listed therein and not be in violation of this act so long as the individual holds a valid patient license or caregiver license.”

(HB 2612 Sec. 8(A))

How many plants can a patient grow?

A patient may possess up to six mature plants and/or six seedling plants.

Does Oklahoma give reciprocity to out of state recommendations?

The state doesn’t allow purchases or possession with out of state licenses, but they do allow visitors to get a temporary license for up to 30 days. The cost of the temporary license is $100, and must be renewed if the patient is visiting for longer than 30 days. There are no discounts for out-of-state MediCaid or Medicare patients. You will need to do plenty of advance planning before traveling to Oklahoma because it can take the department up to 14 days to process a temporary license application. You can find out more here.

Can I use cannabis while on parole?

Oklahoma’s state law doesn’t prevent medical marijuana patients from using cannabis while on parole, but the district attorney in your county may still prevent it. The only way to know if you’re safe to use cannabis while on parole is to ask your parole officer what your county’s rules are.

Does Oklahoma law provide parental protections to MMJ patients?

The state recently passed SB 811, which will be in effect on Sep. 20, 2018. Sec. 425 says:

  1. No medical marijuana license holder may be denied custody of or visitation or parenting time with a minor, and there is no presumption of neglect or child endangerment for conduct allowed under this law, unless the person’s behavior creates an unreasonable danger to the safety of the minor.

Is my medical registration and information protected?

Both your patient records and all inventory tracking records containing your patient information must comply with federal and state laws, including HIPAA, and inventory tracking records can’t be retained for more than 60 days. You can read the full text of protections provided under HB 2612 here in Sec. 7.

What is the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act?

HB 2612, which is named The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act is also colloquially known as the Unity Bill, and it both clarifies some ambiguous areas of SQ 788 (the MMJ legalization bill) and makes changes that were necessary to conform with other laws. For instance, employers are still prevented from firing or refusing to hire medical marijuana patients, but there’s an exception now for so called ‘safety sensitive jobs.’ The bill can be read in full here: https://legiscan.com/OK/text/HB2612/id/1956047

  • How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Oklahoma

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    Oklahoma’s modern history with cannabis began back in April 2015, when former Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2154 into law, allowing for clinical trials of CBD. House Bill 2835 would expand CBD clinical trials to people over the age of 18 for this first time in the state. Gov. Fallin signed this bill in May of 2016.

    While the CBD clinical trial efforts were underway, Oklahomans had been pushing for medical access as early as spring of 2014. Setbacks held progress from moving forward in 2014, but by 2016, State Question 788 qualified for the ballot. Despite opposition from a myriad of resistance, citizens voted medical marijuana and State Question 788 into law in June 2018.

    Here is the vital information you should know about the law as it currently stands.

  • How to Apply for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Program

    Oklahoma voted medical marijuana into law on June 26, 2018, and has since signed granted over 145,000 patient and caregiver licenses. Patients licenses are valid for up to two years, and unlike other states, applicant’s need not have a “qualifying condition” to be approved.

    To apply for a patient license in Oklahoma, you will have to provide the following:

    • Your full name
    • Your place of residence and mailing address
    • Your date of birth
    • Your contact information, including telephone number and email address
    • Your doctor’s information and recommendation
    • Your signature, which must be dated within 30 days of the date of application
    • A full color digital photo of your head and top of shoulders taken on a white, or off-white background. (The photo must have been taken within the past 6 months.)

    Keep in mind that only Oklahoma residents will be approved for a regular state license, although temporary licenses are available for visiting patients from other states. Applicants for a regular state license must prove they’re residents by providing a valid driver’s license, utility bills, or other accepted documents.

    There is an application fee of $100. Medicaid (also known as SoonerCare) or Medicare applicants pay a reduced fee of $20. You must use a MasterCard, Visa, or Discover credit or debit card for payments. Prepaid cards from stores are also accepted.

    Your transaction may include additional processing fees, which are non-refundable. Unapproved applicants are not subject to a refund.

    Additionally, the application must be submitted within 30 days of the doctor’s appointment to be valid.

    After the Application is Submitted

    The OMMA reviews all submitted applications. If it meets all requirements, the OMMA will issue an approval letter with your license. Then your card will be mailed within 14 days of the date you submitted your application.

    Incomplete applications will receive an email which details the reason(s) the submission is incomplete. You can log back into your account to make the needed corrections.

    If the Department denies your application, you will receive a denial letter listing why it was rejected within 14 days of the date of submission.

    You Can Include a Caregiver if You Need Help

    Caregiver licenses are available for those who wish to take care of certain patients who need assistance with their treatment. This documentation can be obtained by filling out the Adult Patient Physician Recommendation Form. An application can be provided when submitting your application, or at a later date. The form can be accessed online using your OMMA account. A patient is allowed one caregiver at any given time.

    The caregiver must be 18 or older and must submit proof that they are a resident of Oklahoma. There are no other parameters to qualify.

    You can change your caregiver. Patients must submit a Patient Withdrawal of Caregiver Form to withdraw the first person before designating another caregiver. The patient is required to sign and submit a new Adult Patient Caregiver Designation Form for their desired new caregiver.

    What Conditions Qualify for Medical Cannabis Treatment in Oklahoma?

    Unlike other states, there’s no list of qualifying conditions in Oklahoma – making it a rather unique and unrestricted program.

    Oklahoma’s State Question 788, the initiative that legalized medical cannabis, says “There are no qualifying conditions. A medical marijuana license must be recommended according to the accepted standards a reasonable and prudent physician would follow when recommending or approving any medication. No physician may be unduly stigmatized or harassed for signing a medical marijuana license application.”

    While there are no qualifying conditions in Oklahoma, you must still be able to show that you will benefit from the use of cannabis. When visiting the doctor, be sure to have documents to demonstrate your medical needs. Documents include:

    • Patient records and charts in detail
    • Records of any physical therapy
    • Current prescriptions being taken
    • All hospital visits made by the applicant
    • Medical test results

    Once approved by their physician, applicants will need to apply through the state’s online system. Applications and payment are collected via omma.ok.gov. To login, applicants must use a valid email address which will be used to receive notices.

    Submit Your Application at the OMMA Website

    Applications are only being accepted at omma.ok.gov.

    The following unexpired, valid documents can be used when submitting proof of residency online:

    1) Proof of state residency – Digital, color copies of any of the following can be used:

    • Oklahoma driver’s license (front and back is required)
    • Oklahoma identification card (front and back is required)
    • Voter I.D. license
    • Certain utility bills. The calendar month must precede the date of the application. This excludes cellular telephone and internet bills
    • A deed to any residential property in Oklahoma
    • A current in-state rental agreement for residential property

    2) Proof of identity – Digital, color copy of any of the following will suffice:

    • Oklahoma driver’s license (front and back)
    • Oklahoma state I.D. (front and back)
    • U.S. passport or other U.S. government issued I.D.
    • Tribal I.D. cards, which must be approved for identification purposes by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
    • U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs identification card

    3) A digital photograph of your full face

    4) An Adult Patient Physician Recommendation Form that is dated 30 days or sooner than the application’s submission. NuggMD will provide users with the form.

    5) SoonerCare (Medicaid) or Medicare I.D. card or enrollment documentation if you’re applying for the discounted registration rate of $20.

    The NuggMD Process

    When applying with NuggMD, applicants take the following steps:

    1) Create a NuggMD account at nuggmd.com.

    2) Choose the state in which you wish to apply.

    3) Enter your required information, including age, name and address.

    4) Fill out your medical history. Provide as much detail as you can to ensure your doctor will have all the information they need to evaluate your condition.

    5) Input your payment info while waiting in the NuggMD virtual waiting room.

    6) Once available, the physician will begin the medical evaluation using NuggMD’s telemedicine platform. The session can be as long or short as needed. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about your prognosis, how cannabis will fit into your treatment plan or anything else related to your visit.

    A few of the more common questions asked during consultations include:

    • Should I take CBD as well?
    • What’s the best method of ingestion for me?
    • Should I use more than one method of ingestion?
    • What dosage should I use?
    • How often should I consume?
    • Will any other medications or herbs I’m using affect my cannabis treatment?
    • Are there any health risks I should be concerned about?

    Give your doctor a complete understanding of your health. Tell them about every medicine, supplement and vitamin you are taking. Doing so will allow them to warn you of any possible adverse drug interactions to be aware of.

    NuggMD patients only pay $99. This is in addition to the cost of the online application.

    Those who are approved receive instructions on how to complete the state registration. The instructions will arrive via email.

    Don’t worry if you get confused during the process. Our expert customer service team is here to help you through the process.

    What Cannabis Consumption Methods Are Available in Oklahoma?

    All methods of consumption are available. This includes:

    • Smoked or Vaporized Cannabis: The effects typically take moments to minutes and can last two to three hours at a time.
    • Concentrates: These oils are versatile in usage. They can be added to smoking flower, used in edibles or even done in a dab. Keep in mind that extracted cannabis oil is much more potent than dried flower. When smoked, the effects should appear in a few minutes.
    • Edibles: Often taking a half hour to two hours to kick in, edibles are longer-lasting options. They are incredibly potent, but due to their delayed onset effects, many overconsume. Be sure to start on a low dose and go slow from there.
    • Topicals: Cannabis can penetrate the muscle but not into the blood with creams and balms. Taking near immediate effect, topicals are a popular choice among many users with body pains.

    What Does Cannabis Feel Like?

    If you’ve heard that cannabis will make you giggly, happier and relaxed, then you have a broad understanding of how marijuana feels. Depending on the strain, these effects and others can be more or less prominent in the experience. Other common effects of cannabis include:

    • Changed perception of time
    • Decreased energy, colloquially called “the couch lock”
    • Giggles
    • Happiness
    • Increased energy
    • Loss of concentration
    • Relaxation
    • Temporary memory loss

    There’s also the occasional horror story depending on tolerance and/or dose. If you’ve had a little too much, you may feel somewhat disconnected from reality or experience some paranoia, possibly even hallucinate on a rare occasion. You may find yourself becoming more introspective and less outgoing. This may be coupled with a burst of creative energy.

    In truth, both positive and negative effects vary from person to person. Until you know how you’ll react to cannabis, plan pleasant activities. Be around people you are comfortable with when you consume. Consider being in a place that makes you feel happy and comfortable as well.

    And do NOT drink alcohol. It’ll most likely create an unpleasant effect of being way too intoxicated, resulting in a headache, room-spinning and even vomiting. Some may know it as being crossfaded.

    What to Do if I Consume More Than I Should?

    One of the most common and unpleasant side effects of marijuana overconsumption is anxiety. Individual levels vary by person, with stronger tolerances playing a factor. Remember, just because one friend can consume 25mg or more doesn’t mean you need to in order to feel the same effect. If you consume more cannabis than your tolerance allows, you’re very, very likely to become anxious.

    Do your best to remain calm if you find yourself in this situation, and don’t be embarrassed. You aren’t alone. Many cannabis patients can tell you exactly what it feels like to have a panic attack after consuming a heavy dose.

    Once you’re back to your normal self, call your doctor and have your dosage adjusted. Believe it or not, some people get extremely high from doses as small as 2.5mg THC. Each person metabolizes cannabinoids at varied rates. At the same time, consider having some CBD oil on hand. For some, it can help offset the effects of THC during these rare occasions.

    Be sure to use the old cannabis adage “start low and go slow”! We can’t say this enough. You can always consume more, but you can never consume less. So, don’t rush it. Be patient. Listen to your physician’s instructions for ideal results.

    Let’s Discuss Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome

    It’s true that no one has died of an overdose from cannabis. However, you run a chance of developing Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome. If you experience symptoms such as severe vomiting, be sure to seek medical attention. Excess vomiting can cause dangerous dehydration and metabolic imbalances, so this really is a medical emergency.

    And not to state the obvious, but if you’re under the influence of cannabis, get a ride to seek medical attention. Never attempt to drive yourself.

    Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is on the rise as more consumers take more significant doses of THC. The cause of the condition is unknown. It’s believed by some that CHS is the result of the over-stimulation of the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors brought on by large doses of THC.

    Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome seems to happen in three stages:

    • The Prodromal stage is most mild nausea and pain in the stomach. In some cases, this can lead to a brutal cycle where patients consume more cannabis thinking it will relieve the condition. This is a process that can last for months, even years.
    • The Hyperemesis stage is where the patient begins vomiting in larger amounts. They may suffer from dehydration and malnourishment due to an inability to hold anything down. A hot shower is often considered the only temporary source of relief from the nausea. See a doctor right away if this occurs.
    • The Recovery stage begins after cannabis use ceases. Relief tends to come in days once the person stops consuming. That said, it can take months to fully recover. If cannabis use is reintroduced, the symptoms run a high probability of returning.

    It is not certain why some consumers develop the condition and others do not. Meanwhile, some continue to dispute its validity.

    That said, this is the state of cannabis today. It is a biphasic drug that offers varying effects at different dosages, and that threshold varies from person to person. This is  why it is vital to consume cannabis cautiously and responsibly.

    Scientists can’t yet pinpoint who is likely to develop cannabis hyperemesis, as it can be a months-long process to develop. So, again, be sure to start low and go slow, listen to your body, and contact the doctor as soon as possible if you start to notice nausea or stomach discomfort.

    Following the Law in Oklahoma

    Oklahoma has the highest prison population per capita. Not just in the U.S., but the world. So, it’s best to remain on the right side of the law.

    The state’s medical marijuana laws say that if you don’t have a patient license, but can show that you have a medical condition, then possession of up to 1.5 ounces without a valid card is a misdemeanor offense with fines not exceeding $400. Possession of any more can result in possible jail time. That said, drug paraphernalia remains illegal for non-card holders, who could face jail time. Card holders are exempt from the law.

    Counties are allowed to determine how they prioritize non-violent cannabis offenses, which means people can still end up in jail for marijuana. In some cases, DAs have reportedly refused parolees the right to use medical cannabis, even if they have a card. Reports have also claimed that some DAs are instead steering offenders towards opiate-based options.

    According to H.B. 1441, those driving under the influence of a Schedule 1 substance will be jailed for anywhere from 10 days to over a year, with their license possibly suspended for up to three years. This prohibition against driving under the influence applies to medical cannabis users as well. So your card won’t save you if you’re driving while high. Oklahoma also allows for property and vehicles to be seized in cannabis cases.

    Additionally, while employers can’t discriminate against patients, consumption at work can still be restricted by the employer. The same goes for consumption in public places, just like tobacco and alcohol.

    You cannot buy your cannabis anywhere but from an OMMA licensed medical marijuana dispensary, and you can’t sell your cannabis to anyone unless you’re a state-licensed dispensary. You also can’t give away your cannabis, not even for free to another patient, as unfair as that seems. And don’t even consider taking it out of state, whether or not that state allows cannabis use. It’s a federal crime to transport medical marijuana across state lines, and the penalties are very severe.

    Need Help? Nugg’s Here for You

    Nugg’s eager customer service team answers hundreds of questions each and every day via live chat and email. They think outside the box to help solve your cannabis problems. If there is a solution, they’ll find it to the very best of their abilities.

    On the rare chance that Nugg is unable to help, the list below has information and links to Oklahoma legislators, regulators and some of the more active cannabis advocacy organizations. If you know of any other organizations we could add to this list, we’d love to hear from you.

    Also, consider using this list to become more active in medical marijuana legislation. We’ve made great strides with legalization, but the battle for freedom of choice still rages on. It’s not time to rest on our laurels at this point. Please consider joining the marijuana community as we endeavor to end the War on Drugs once and for all.

    Additional Resources

    Medical Marijuana Registry

    Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority

    PO Box 262266

    Oklahoma City, OK 73125-2600

    OMMAGrower@ok.gov

    OMMAProcessor@ok.gov

    OMMADispensary@ok.gov

    OMMACompliance@ok.gov

    OMMAPhysicians@ok.gov

    http://omma.ok.gov/

    Legislators

    State Legislature contacts

    State Senate members

    Governor Kevin Stitt

    Activist Organizations

    Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Cannabis in Oklahoma

    Where can I read the law for myself? 

    Visit here for the full text: http://omma.ok.gov/Websites/ddeer/images/SQ%20788.pdf

    How long does my patient’s license last?

    Your license can last for up to two years before it needs to be renewed, unless your doctor establishes a shorter timeline for use.

    Can I use my medical marijuana card from another state?

    Out of state patients can obtain a temporary license for up to a month. The out of state license will cost $100, regardless of participation in public health programs or financial need. Do not make the mistake of using cannabis in Oklahoma without this license. The penalties for unlicensed possession can include jail time. It may seem unreasonable to pay the state $100 for the right to legally use cannabis for a short trip, but this expense is nothing compared to legal costs of defending yourself against illegal possession charges. To apply for your temporary card, go to the state’s website here and follow the instructions: http://omma.ok.gov/temporary-adult-patient-application-information1

    How do I find a medical cannabis doctor?

    You can find a list of approved physicians on this list provided by the OMMA, or simply head over to NuggMD to complete the entire process online: http://omma.ok.gov/Websites/ddeer/images/MM%20Registered%20Physicians.pdf

    Is home growing allowed?

    Yes, all licensed patients are able to cultivate at home. For specifics on amounts, check the question below.

    How much cannabis am I allowed to possess for medical purposes?

    Under Oklahoma laws, qualified patients or caregivers can legally possess up to three (3) ounces of medical cannabis. Approved patients are allowed to own six (6) mature plants as well as one (1) ounce of cannabis concentrates. They can also possess up to 72 ounces of edibles in addition to having up to eight (8) ounces of cannabis at their house.

    What are the requirements for a minor to obtain a license?

    Minors can obtain their medical marijuana license to possess, use and grow cannabis in Oklahoma. The minor must have signed recommendations from two different physicians as well as the signature of their parent or guardian. To learn more, visit http://omma.ok.gov/minor-patient-application-information1.

    Will my information be kept private? 

    Yes, personal medical information will remain private, as will your application. The OMMA’s registry is protected by HIPPA, and all records are confidential.

    Will every dispensary sell the same products?

    No, unlike other stores, dispensary supplies will vary. If you’re looking for a specific product, consider calling ahead to make sure the dispensary has the product you need.

  • Is Marijuana Legal in New York Yet or Not?

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    Is recreational marijuana legal in New York? 

    The short answer is no, not yet.

    It’s been two months since New York enacted its expanded marijuana decriminalization law on August 29, 2019, and it seems like New Yorkers are more confused than ever about the legal status of cannabis in the state. After all, marijuana has been decriminalized in New York since 1977, with possession of up to 25 grams being a mere infraction carrying a $100 fine. Possession in public view, however, was a misdemeanor.

    This led to abuse of the infamous stop and frisk, where the police officer would pull the cannabis into public view during the search and then arrest the victim. This public view loophole was closed by the new decriminalization bill, and that really is a big deal. But it’s not the massive change the public expected.

    The new law Senate Bill 6759A, decriminalizes possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, but it has a lot of caveats and there are still plenty of ways to get into trouble or go to jail–just not quite as many as before.

    Marijuana Possession Penalties in New York

    Under the current decriminalization law, possession of one ounce or less of cannabis is a $50 fine. Those in possession of between one ounce and two ounces are subject to a $200 fine. And fines aren’t the only penalty for these low-level possession charges. New Yorkers can still be arrested, and they are still being arrested. Worse, those arrested are still mostly people of color. Children can still be removed from the home’s of cannabis users and undocumented immigrants can still be deported for marijuana use or possession.

    Here’s the other penalties you can still face for non-medical marijuana possession in the state:

    • Possession of more than 2 but less than 8 oz is a misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and a $ 1,000 fine.
    • Possession of more than 8 oz but less than a pound is a felony with up to 4 years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
    • Possession of more than a pound, but less than ten pounds is a felony with up to 7 years in jail and a 5,000 fine.
    • Possession of more than 10 pounds is a felony with up to 15 years in jail and a $15,000 fine.

    And selling cannabis in the state without a license comes with very severe penalties. The smallest penalty is 3 months in jail and a $500 fine for selling a single joint, and it goes up from there. Hardly worth it.

    Smoking cannabis in public is now treated the same way that smoking tobacco is. Therefore, you’re not allowed to smoke cannabis in any of the places listed here, and if you get caught, you’ll get a fine.

    No one is arguing that the expanded decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis isn’t a huge accomplishment in a state well-known for its abuse of marijuana enforcement. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But most New Yorkers want to know why it’s not fully legal yet, especially in light of Governor Cuomo’s promises and the dangers posed by the current vaping illness.

    Where Are People Buying Their Cannabis?

    New York’s highly restrictive legal medical market leads most New Yorkers to seek out black market sources for their cannabis, and one of the most common black market items in the state is the cannabis vape pen. These are hot selling items because they are more discreet than flower and can’t be as easily detected.

    Unfortunately, these black market vapes are the prime suspect in the vaping illness investigations, and for good cause. Most of them contain dilutants such as Vitamin E acetate that are known to be harmful when combusted and inhaled.

    So far, this hasn’t been a problem seen in legal medical cannabis vape products, although the state is still advising cessation of all vape products out of an abundance of caution. New York has also approved the first raw flower product–Curaleaf’s ground flower pods, which can be vaporized using dry herb vaporizers instead of oil-based vape pens.

    But what’s truly needed are practical expectations and common sense regulations for a fully legal adult use market. Right now, the vast majority of cannabis users in the state obtain their supply entirely from the black market. This is true even for medical users who have a card because the price of legal medical cannabis is double that of black market or even more.

    Legalization will only fix this if the regulations and prices are reasonable. Hopefully, this is the goal for Governor Cuomo’s talks with Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey–rather than simply ensuring all states have similar unreasonable pricing schemes. Otherwise, adult users from all four states will simply continue to purchase from the black market. It’s just far too easy to smuggle inexpensive vape pens from anywhere in the country, so common sense would dictate that any effort to steer the legal market in these four states to just a few mega companies would result in a stronger black market than ever.

    And this is definitely a point of contention for those state representatives who are holding out for a better deal.

    When Will Marijuana Be Legal in New York?

    The real choke point for New York’s legalization push has been the state senate. Both Governor Cuomo and Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger have pointed fingers at each other for failing to pull in the needed Senate votes.

    Among the more notable senate holdouts was Brooklyn Senator Andrew Gounardes, who expressed concerns over ability to detect impaired driving. This will be a tough hurdle since testing methods are not developed enough to detect current impairment with marijuana. It’s honestly not even possible to put a number on what would represent an impaired driver since tolerance and blood levels vary wildly.

    Senator Peter Harckham of South Salem wants to see more state aid for schools, public health and law enforcement. This is an easier problem to solve and it likely will be solved in this round of talks, but it will probably mean higher taxes for consumers and a greater chance of increased black market activity.

    It will almost certainly be necessary to ensure local control as well. Long Island, Hudson Valley, Putnam and Rockland counties are likely to disallow sales if given that option. Their Senators’ support will probably not come without that option.

    And this year’s efforts will most certainly include social justice and equity discussions, which Governor Cuomo included in the recent talks with other states. This will be complicated, but extremely necessary considering New York’s history of racially-biased enforcement.

    These complications are just the tip of the iceberg. So it’s easy to see why the Governor’s having a difficult time keeping his promise. At times like this, a little public support never hurts. You can find the contact information for your local state senator here.

    The legislature will be reconvening for the second half of the 2019-2020 legislative session in January and will have until June to find a solution that satisfies enough state senators to pass a bill allowing adult-use marijuana in 2020.

  • How To Find A Job That Doesn’t Drug Test In 2020

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    Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

    Drug testing policies have never made much sense in regard to recreational and medical marijuana use. It seems a little twisted that a drug test can be positive for marijuana up to a month after casual use while methamphetamine and cocaine users and alcoholics often fly through the screening process. This is because most drug tests can only detect alcohol ingestion within a few hours and methamphetamine and cocaine use for a couple of days.

    The hypocrisy and danger of the current system is readily apparent to even the most jaded observer. After all, who’s the safety risk on the job? Someone who smoked a joint at a party over the weekend and came to work completely sober and refreshed, or a person who came into work so hung over from alcohol that they couldn’t function properly? Yet the safe and sober weekend marijuana user is far more likely to fail a drug test than a problem drinker.

  • Drug Tests Are Becoming More Invasive

    Standard drug tests aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be because it’s so easy to circumvent them. A simple search on Google will reveal dozens of tried-and-true tactics. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Probably one of the most inventive is the Wizzinator.

    For those who’ve never heard of this brilliant little device, it’s a contraption designed to look like a genuine human penis with a urine container which is attached to the body and designed to look as if you’re actually urinating when you pinch the valve to drain it. And there are similar female devices, although their use is a bit more involved.

    In response to devices like these, drug testing procedures have been adapted to include checking for them. And in most cases the invasion of privacy involved in doing so is beyond extreme. Some employers, such as those involved with the Department of Transportation, require direct observation of the person’s genitals, and then observing the testee as they urinate. Direct observation is always required of all follow up and return to work tests for the Department of Transportation; meaning, to put it bluntly, if you’re injured on the job and have to take a few weeks off, they get to look at your junk before you’re allowed to come back to work.

    For those who’ve never been subjected to a ‘direct observation’ drug test, it’s difficult to imagine the indignity that a person goes through in order to comply with regulations. So, here are the exact procedures for a ‘direct observation‘ drug screening from the Department of Transportation’s website:

    • The observer must be the same gender as the employee.
    • If the collector is not the observer, the collector must instruct the observer about the procedures for checking the employee for prosthetic or other devices designed to carry “clean” urine and urine substitutes AND for watching the employee urinate into the collection container.
    • The observer requests the employee to raise his or her shirt, blouse or dress / skirt, as appropriate, above the waist, just above the navel; and lower clothing and underpants to mid-thigh and show the observer, by turning around, that the employee does not have such a device.
    • If The Employee Has A Device: The observer immediately notifies the collector; the collector stops the collection; and the collector thoroughly documents the circumstances surrounding the event in the remarks section of CCF. The collector notifies the DER. This is a refusal to test.
    • If The Employee Does Not Have A Device: The employee is permitted to return clothing to its proper position for the observed collection. The observer must watch the urine go from the employee’s body into the collection container. The observer must watch as the employee takes the specimen to the collector. The collector then completes the collection process.

    Failure of the employee to permit any part of the direct observation procedure is considered a refusal to test.

    That Sounds Unconstitutional!

    According to the Supreme Court, it’s not. It may be outrageous, but courts have ruled that such invasive testing is allowable when there’s a reasonable expectation that drug use would result in a danger to public safety. And this might even be a reasonable course of action if urinalysis was more likely to show current intoxication than off duty drug use–but of course we all know it’s not.

    So where does one draw the line, considering the likely uselessness of private testing on one hand, and the outrageousness of observed testing on the other. Apparently, JetBlue hasn’t just crossed the line–they forgot it even existed. A recent lawsuit accuses the company of forcing a flight attendant to lift her shirt and bra up to her armpits, drop her pants to her ankles, and then urinate into a cup while an observer squatted two feet away at the level of her genitals to observe the process.

    Then, she had to go through the entire process again because common medications she was taking for a bladder infection caused discrepancies in the test. This time, it was even worse. According to the complaint, the observer “squatted six inches away from Reese while she urinated and at one point ‘reached out and physically spread plaintiff’s legs wider by pushing against the inside of plaintiff’s left knee with the back of her right hand.’”

    Who Are These “Observers?”

    Most of the time when a person is submitting to the drug test, they make the mistaken assumption that the person observing their genitals and watching them urinate is a nurse or an otherwise trained medical professional. That is not a requirement. From Samhsa’s handbook on urine specimen collections, these are the requirements for a person who wishes to become a direct urine specimen observer. The person must:

    • Be knowledgeable of the direct observed collection procedure as described in the Mandatory Guidelines
    • Be knowledgeable of any guidance provided by the federal agency or by HHS relating to the direct observed collection procedure described in the Mandatory Guidelines
    • Receive training on the following subjects:
      • The steps necessary to perform a direct observed collection correctly
      • Maintaining the integrity and security of the specimen throughout the collection process by maintaining visual contact with the collection container
      • Ensuring the privacy of the donor
      • Ensuring that the observation is done in a professional manner, to minimize discomfort of the donor
      • Avoiding conduct that can be interpreted as offensive or inappropriate
      • Be the same gender as the donor. There are no exceptions to this requirement. An observer is not required to be a trained collector.

      As you can see, these observers are not trained medical professionals. They aren’t even required to be a trained collector. There is also no mention of a requirement that the person undergo a background check to ensure they are not a sex offender–merely the requirement that the person is of the same gender as if this somehow insulates the testee from the possibility of assault or inappropriate behavior.

      Privacy Violations In The Private Sector

      Even more outrageous is that this type of testing method isn’t just used for very safety sensitive jobs (although it’s extremely arguable how “safety sensitive” a flight attendant’s job is). A recent court case in Ohio, LUNSFORD v. STERILITE is addressing the case of four women who were forced to produce their urine samples under direct observations at a plastic container plant. In the private sector, there’s little to no regulation of drug testing at all. Lunsford’s type of situation is far from unique.

      If you don’t know your company’s drug screening guidelines yet, you can ask for a written copy of their policy. You may be surprised at the extent of invasion which they allow to maintain a drug free workplace. More importantly, if you’re ever subjected to a drug test and the testing procedures violate the written policy provided to you by your employer, you might have a good lawsuit on your hands. It doesn’t matter who administers the test by the way. Whatever company does it is acting as your company’s agent, and therefore, your company is responsible for their actions–a lesson that JetBlue is learning all too well at the moment.

      Privacy Isn’t The Only Concern

      Discrimination against medical marijuana users is rampant despite the mounting evidence that medical marijuana may be a safer alternative to both opiate pain treatment and recreational alcohol use.

      Recently, Dish Network received severe public backlash for firing a paraplegic employee who was using medical marijuana to treat intractable muscle spasms. The case, which happened in Colorado of all states, went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

      The court documentation notes that Brandon Coats, who is confined to an electric wheelchair and has only limited use of his hands, was a model telephone customer service representative. But after he obtained a license to use medical marijuana and informed his company that he was using it, he was fired despite his exemplary performance. Keep in mind that Coates was not engaged in a safety sensitive job by any means, and that he performed indisputably well at his job. Yet the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that he was not wrongfully terminated after a 5-year battle.

      What benefit does society as a whole gain from Brandon Coates’ unemployment? Does he simply serve as a precautionary tale to those suffering from the same disorder that they must turn to addictive pharmaceuticals for their pain lest they join the unemployment line?

      More importantly, this man clearly qualifies for disability, yet he found a way to earn a living and contribute to society despite his physical limitations. What are the implications here for taxpayers who already face massive burdens? How can this possibly be considered a socially responsible viewpoint or policy?

      Yet this scenario is not uncommon.

      In response to these outrageous situations, states are adopting guidelines to prevent discrimination against medical cannabis users who ingest on their own time, but we have a very long way to go. Meanwhile, what’s a medical cannabis user to do?

      How Do I Pass A Drug Test?

      This is one of the most common questions we see. In fact, an adventurous Nugg blogger wrote a piece that actually provided some pretty sage advice in this area. The answer?

      Stop smoking cannabis.

      Well, he’s not wrong. It’s great advice if your employment depends on it because it’s the only way to actually avoid testing positive for cannabis use.

      But maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question. When we truly examine the considerable indignities we are exposed to with drug testing procedures, the invasion of privacy, and the outrageous assumption that an employer has the right to regulate what we do when we aren’t on the clock, why are we subjecting ourselves to this draconian treatment at all?

      Are we mice or are we men? Our cannabis use shouldn’t be the topic of conversation here. Casual cannabis use is no more an employer’s business than the decision to crack open a beer and watch football on your day off.

      Becoming A Drug Test Conscientious Objector

      No, the appropriate topic of conversation here is why employers feel they are justified to examine employee’s genitals on demand and investigate what they do in their free time. Even employees who don’t use cannabis or any drugs at all should be reasonably outraged by such a request.

      So what would happen if the pool of applicants willing to subject themselves to such indignities simply dried up?

      The answer to this question is already apparent. The employers would change their policies, and many already have. But finding these forward-thinking employers can be challenging. It’s not always easy to find a company’s full drug testing policy on Google–not to mention the time it takes to research all of these places before we apply.

      In response to the hassle, a very helpful Redditor began this thread to let people enter information about their company’s drug testing policies in a database. There are only 175 entries so far, but it contains information from companies like Walmart, K12 and Target.

      A preliminary check shows that the information isn’t 100% accurate. For instance, the chart says that Walmart never drug tests, but they actually do for safety sensitive jobs like driving a forklift or for management positions. It’s a good effort though as long as the user is willing to double check the information before applying too. And the database is sure to improve as more people enter information.

      Indeed is another source of information that looks a little more accurate. Prospective employees can ask questions as well as rate the company’s work environment, and fellow employees are usually happy to share the details.

      States That Protect MMJ Users’ Rights

      Some states are also taking action to prevent abusive drug testing policies altogether, or at least diminish the harms that result.

      Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Vermont and New York City have all passed laws that restrict drug testing to one extent or another. This is an important win for citizens who are concerned with the loss of our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search. The Supreme Court has done very little to protect these rights in recent decisions, so it’s very clearly up to our legislators to uphold our constitutional values.

      The legislators in California tried to pass a similar law the 2019 season, but the proposed bill was defeated. AB 882 would have prevented employers from terminating an employee for testing positive for a drug that is being used as a medical-assisted treatment under the care of a physician or licensed treatment program. It was quickly defeated due to concern that the bill would hurt companies that rely on federal funding.

      And of course, it’s been making the news lately that some states are moving very far in the other direction. For instance, Wisconsin now requires drug testing for all food stamp recipients. Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia have varying drug testing requirements for public assistance as well. These programs come at a hefty price tag and produce positive results in very few cases.

      The Takeaway

      Drug testing policies are in flux, and there’s still very little common sense exercised in the public debate. The current argument in style is that if employees need to be tested for jobs, then welfare seekers should be tested too, and maybe politicians while we’re at it. What we’re not hearing is that maybe these tests aren’t really worth it at all. Very few people are considering the cost to human dignity, our 4th Amendment rights and our health and safety.

      But there are employers out there who forego drug testing because they understand that such policies only give lip service to public safety concerns, and in some cases drive employees to much more dangerous pain treatment and recreational alternatives in their off-time. We just have to do a little work to find them.

      If you’re looking for employment right now, perhaps it’s time to consider one of these more forward-thinking companies in the best interest of freedom. More importantly, it might be time for all of us to consider who deserves our business as well. Perhaps if companies like Dish Network saw a loss in revenue, they would reconsider their draconian anti-medical cannabis policies.

      We all know it’s darkest before the dawn. As big pharma begins to lose its grip on our over-medicated and unhealthy nation, people are finding better alternatives to treat their ailments. Dietary changes, exercise, meditation and social support are all playing a huge role in our health revolution; and for some, medical marijuana is playing a big part in this change too as we work to overcome pain and addiction to opiates, cigarettes and alcohol. It usually takes years for laws to change bad policies, but change they will.

      Let’s help them get there faster.

      The opinions of the author are not necessarily the opinions of Nugg, NuggMD or Nugg Club.
  • Alternatives To Vaping Cannabis In New York

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    New York’s Governor and Health Commissioner are urging New York cannabis patients to stop using all vape products until health officials can trace the cause of the recent rash of serious vaping illnesses.

    This warning to stop using all vape products includes THC, although none of the vaping illnesses have been traced back to legally purchased cannabis products in New York.

    The intention of this article isn’t to speculate about the cause of the vaping illnesses or suggest that any one method of consumption is safer than another. Instead, it will explain other methods of consumption and how they tend to affect users in hopes that patients can have a more informed conversation with their physicians about alternatives.

  • What We Currently Know About Vaping Illness

    As of September 25th, there are 805 reports of this illness in 46 states. There have been 12 confirmed deaths in 10 different states. So far, none of the deaths have occurred in New York.

    The one thing that all of the victims seem to have in common is that they’ve vaped in the past 90 days. From there, there are many variations. Some report only smoking e-cigarettes and some have smoked counterfeit cannabis cartridges, and some have smoked both.

    The length of time between exposure and the illness developing has been varied as well. The illness, now called VAPI–vaping associated pulmonary illness–tends to develop over the course of a few days, but can take weeks.

    What Are The Symptoms Of VAPI?

    The main symptoms of VAPI are coughing and shortness of breath sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, fatigue and weight loss. Most victims are hospitalized, with some requiring intensive care or even respirators. Most cases resemble lipoid pneumonia.

    It’s vital to note here that regardless of the speculations, the FDA hasn’t actually found a common thread between the different illnesses. Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products says that it looks like many cases involve THC, but not all. Some cases involve oils and some involve CBDs. A few reportedly involve nicotine only, but Zeller is eyeing those cases dubiously.

    The latest death was a Georgia man who reported heavy nicotine vape use, but reported no THC use. Zeller is doubting the veracity of these reports though, as investigators are relying on self-reported data in states where THC products are highly illegal. Patients would obviously be reluctant to report THC use. Possession of one ounce or less in Georgia can result in a year in prison, and possession of more than an ounce is a felony charge carrying up to 10 years.

    So it’s easy to understand that high criminal penalties are hampering investigations into the source of the problem. This means it will probably take a little longer to get to the bottom of this puzzle–especially if it involves black market or counterfeit vape pens.

    Alternatives To Vaping Cannabis

    For those who currently vape and wish to use other methods until the source of the illness is clear, there are several alternatives available.

    The non-vape oil products currently allowed in New York are:

    • Tinctures,
    • Solid and semisolid preparations like capsules, tablets and lozenges,
    • Ground, non-smokable plant preparations,
    • Ground, vaporizable plant preparations, and
    • Topical applications and patches.

    The Difference Between Oral and Inhaled Cannabis

    Oral cannabis and inhaled cannabis are very different. They even involve different psychoactive compounds. When cannabis is smoked, delta-9-THC is absorbed into the lungs. When cannabis is ingested, much of the THC is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver.

    11-hydroxy-THC crosses the blood-brain barrier much more easily because it’s more water-soluble. So, even though it takes longer for the high to hit from eating–up to 90 minutes or more–it lasts longer and is much more potent.

    This is one of the main reasons many people prefer inhaled cannabis. It’s easier to titrate the dose. Inexperienced patients tend to take too much oral cannabis because of the delayed onset. If they take too much because they mistakenly believe it’s not working, they will get an unpleasant surprise when it all kicks in at once and it will last for hours.

    With inhaled cannabis, the effects are felt much more rapidly–usually within about ten minutes. This makes it much easier to find the best dose. It also mitigates the discomfort if they take more than they’re comfortable with because the effects usually peak in about 15 to 45 minutes and wear off in a couple hours.

    Inhaled cannabis’ fast onset also makes it the preferred method of administration for pain patients, who are the vast majority of medical cannabis users in New York.

    This is why the recommendation to avoid vaping will have a powerful impact on New York cannabis patients. Those who need to switch to oral cannabis will need to take their time adjusting their dose for the best comfort and symptom relief.

    A Closer Look At Vaping Alternatives

    Tinctures

    Tinctures are sometimes called cannabis oral solutions. Whatever the name, they’re a liquid solution that’s held under the tongue. This helps your system to absorb the THC faster through the network of large blood vessels there.

    Just like with vape pens, you’ll find tinctures from low to high CBD to THC ratios designed to treat different conditions.

    Like all oral cannabis, it’s easy for patients to assume a tincture isn’t working if the effects take longer than they expect. It’s very important to wait at least 90 minutes, if not longer before attempting to adjust the dose. Don’t take more than your doctor recommends.

    Oral Sprays

    Oral sprays work like tinctures do, but they make microdosing easier. This makes it simpler for first-time users to start with small doses and experiment until they find the right amount.

    You might see ads that say oral sprays mimic smoking. That’s not to say that you should inhale them. That will hurt your lungs. Oral sprays are meant to be sprayed on the mucous membranes inside your mouth and held there for about 30 to 60 seconds without swallowing. They work much the same as tinctures in this way, and should be dosed in the same way with the same waiting period before trying more.

    Capsules

    Capsules may be a more comfortable dosing method for patients who are used to taking pills. They come in a wide variety of dosing options and THC to CDB ratios. The downside is that it’s harder to adjust the dose if you find that your capsules are more potent than needed.

    Also, make sure you let your pharmacists know if you have any allergies, such as to gluten or wheat. They may need to check the inactive ingredients to ensure you can take them safely.

    Hard-Pressed Tablets

    Tablets work in basically the same way as capsules. Their advantage is that it’s easier to split your dose if you find that the option you purchased is too potent for your needs. Again, make sure to check the inactive ingredients for any possible allergens that can affect you.

    Ground Flower Pods

    This is a very new option that’s only recently become available with Curaleaf–although other retailers are sure to follow soon. Ground flower pods are simply cannabis buds that have been pre-ground for easy vaping. The flower is inserted into a specially designed vaporizer that heats the herb to just under the combustion level. This releases the cannabinoids for inhalation without creating smoke and tar.

    So far, ground flower pods are only available in a 20:1 THC to CBD ratio.

    Health authorities have not weighed in yet on whether vaping dry herbs may be a safe option to vaping oil during the investigation, so it’s best to ask a doctor if this method is advisable.

    If your doctor decides this is a good option, you’ll need a special device called a dry herb vaporizer to use the flower pods. These devices come in desktop or handheld units and can run on household electricity or batteries. Your dispensary and doctor can recommend the best make and model to suit your needs and show you how to use it.

    What If A Dose Is Too Strong?

    Those who’ve never taken oral cannabis might experience some anxiety if they take a strong dose. If you haven’t found your sweet spot yet, you might want to be with a comfortable friend or family member till you find it.

    Some people experience palpitations, paranoia and panic attacks instead of the usual calming and pain-relief they experience with inhaled cannabis. If this happens to you, remember that no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose. Simply remain calm and call your doctor to have your dosage adjusted. Your doctor might want to consider a higher CBD to THC ratio as well.

    Until you feel better, drink plenty of fluids and eat a snack if you feel hungry (which you most likely will). This can help to occupy your mind. Try to find something fun to do as well, like playing a game with friends, reading a good book or watching a favorite show or movie. It may seem like forever till it wears off, but it eventually will–usually within about 6-8 hours.

    And of course, if you start to experience any very unusual symptoms like excessive vomiting, call your doctor.

    How To Change Your Cannabis Administration Method In New York

    Unlike most other states, New York requires that a doctor recommends the specific amount of cannabis a patient needs, the ratio of CBD to THC, and how to administer it. In other words, New York recommendations work a lot like medication prescriptions. Some doctors recommend a wide variety of options, and some are very specific.

    If you received your recommendation from a NuggMD doctor, chances are you already have access to other forms of cannabis besides vaping. Their doctors recommend many types and strengths to allow room for trial and error. Other doctors may have recommended only one specific method and strength.

    If you have one of those recommendations that only allow vaporization oil, you will need to see a doctor to get this changed. NuggMD doctors are available from 8AM to 10PM daily via NuggMD’s state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. You can see a new cannabis doctor with them from the comfort of your own home today.

    Conclusion

    As stated above, it could take months to discover the cause of the recent illnesses. Meanwhile, patients and recreational cannabis users will need to weigh the risks versus benefits of their particular form of cannabis use.

    There will likely be unintended consequences of the bans and precautions as well. Some states are considering banning all vape products, not just flavored liquids. Most notably, the governor of Massachusetts declared an emergency ban of all vape products for 4 months. This is leading to speculations that more problems will occur as vapers turn to black market products instead. Others are questioning why e-cigarettes are banned after 12 deaths when legally-sold regular cigarettes kill nearly half a million people a year.

    Regardless of whether the current illnesses are simply media hype or something more serious, those who choose to use inhaled forms of cannabis should monitor their lung health carefully and report any new breathing problems to their physician.

  • At Least Pot Smokers Can Read A Map

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    A hilarious Tweet by @ChiefWolfhound is going viral this week. In the Tweet, which appears to be part of a larger coordinated campaign called #COWillVapeYou, Chief Wolfhound, who is a retired SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, says:

    Of course, there’s something glaringly wrong with this post, seeing as this map appears to be alleging that Wyoming is Colorado…or maybe they’re arguing that Wyoming is weed central?

    Or maybe the authors weren’t operating with all their faculties when they built this map. But this isn’t the first time it has made its ugly and hilarious rounds. The embarrassingly wrong map is actually a mistaken infographic that was published by USA today way back in 2016. Everyone from the Huffington Post to Westworld had a lot of fun with the much-needed geography (and spelling) lessons.

    Those geography and spelling lessons apparently fell short of their mark though.

    They are right about the spelling. On the map, it’s spelled marjijuana.

    The Chief tried to pass the buck by blaming the ill-informed and misspelled map on the DEA

    Nope


    And also, it’s just the wrong source. But we knew that already.

    And Echo makes a very good point.

    It’s nice to see you can concede with a little grace, Chief.

    But they aren’t about to let you off the hook.

    Whatever the cause for the loose nut behind the steering wheel of this doomed infographic, the Twitter crowd had an absolute field day with this oldie but goodie, again.

    As it turns out, scientific evidence is beginning to mount that marijuana use does not make us dumb, but even moderate alcohol use can damage the brain, so alcohol might be a better target for anti-cannabis prohibitionists concerned about national health.

    Keep raising the bar weed tokers! Proving one failed scare tactic at a time that the gig is up on prohibition.

  • California’s Weed Market Will Remain Cash-Only…For Now

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    Hopes have been very high for SB 51, which proposes to create state-chartered banking services for legal cannabis businesses. So businesses and consumers felt a little let down last week upon learning that the bill is being tabled.

    Senator Hertzberg’s office wants to assure the bill’s supporters that this move is only temporary, and that the bill is in no way being tabled for lack of support—just the opposite, in fact.

    “Lack of support is definitely not the issue with this bill,” says Katie Hanzlik, Press Secretary for Senator Hertzberg. “It got bipartisan support and only received 5 ‘no’ votes total over the course of six committee hearings and a Senate Floor vote.”

    Instead, the devil seems to be in the details. After all, cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, and this makes it very difficult to get bankers on board with state-legal cannabis activities. This has led to frustrating and even dangerous transactions involving – literally – piles of cash. It’s an immense safety issue for the industry as a whole.

    In some cases, legal cannabis businesses are being forced to pay taxes and fees amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. This obviously makes them a target for theft. And what are state offices supposed to do with these piles of cash?

    Worse, it’s hard on the consumers too. Almost every dispensary in the state is operating on a cash-only basis. This has led to some rather creative problem solving on the part of industry players, and while creative thinking is usually commendable in the business sector, some are under attack for their efforts.

    Creative Accounting or Fraud?

    Just recently, the founders of Herban filed a lawsuit with their former business companions Eaze, alleging they were committing fraud through their online payment platform. Their complaint alleges that Eaze conspired to hide the nature of customer payments from offshore payment processors by disguising the transactions through shell companies with non-cannabis related names.

    Their complaint is purely a civil suit based on charges of unfair competition, not a criminal one. Herban’s efforts are focused on obtaining an injunction to stop these transactions in order to level the playing field for compliant companies. It raises criminal concerns as well though, with the proponents of the lawsuit saying “Eaze is directing, coordinating, and participating in a scheme to defraud credit card companies and financial institutions into processing cannabis transactions in violation of a host of criminal laws.”

    What Will The Discovery Process Find?

    Matters only got worse for Eaze on Sept. 10, 2019 when the San Francisco Superior Court denied Eaze’s motion to drop the suit. Herban says that they will now continue forward to “conduct discovery into Eaze’s alleged credit and debit card fraud and bring the matter to trial.”

    When a civil case is moving through the discovery process, it’s sometimes possible for a civil suit to reveal criminal actions as well. This could turn the case into a criminal trial in certain circumstances. This is rare, but if and when it does happen, the person or entity can pass through the civil claim and then face criminal charges if law enforcement chooses to prosecute.

    How To Solve The Banking Problem

    Long story short, this kind of creative accounting wouldn’t even be necessary if SB 51 were to pass—or better yet, the federal government were to remove prohibitions against providing banking services to cannabis-related enterprises.

    To that end, the SAFE Banking Act is moving though Congress and a vote is planned for the end of September. This act would create protections for banks and other services that work with licensed cannabis businesses. If it passes, then the accounting problems that cannabis businesses face can be solved in short order.

    Meanwhile, it’s up to state legislators to find the solution for California’s cannabis banking woes, and Hertzberg’s office is hard at work on a viable solution.

    “We plan to spend the next couple of months working with the Governor’s administration to iron out any final details about implementation and what this would actually look like on the ground. That seemed to be the biggest question mark as the bill moved through the process,” says Hanzlik. “We should have some clarity by January, when we can get it across that final hurdle on the Assembly Floor and then to the Governor for signature. This bill has an urgency provision, so it would go into effect immediately!”

    Speak Up!

    If you’d like to show support for SB 51’s quick return and passage, you can contact your state legislator here.

    And to show support for the SAFE Act, you can contact you Congressional representative here.

  • New York Is Sealing 360 Marijuana Cases-Why This Is A Big Deal

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    You may have heard by now that New York City, specifically Manhattan, is sealing 360 cannabis cases. Perhaps you’re thinking, “why is this a big deal?”

    It’s a huge deal. Read on to find out why.

    New Yorkers Get a Fresh Start

    360 lowest-level marijuana misdemeanor convictions will be sealed in a new court ruling that involves New Yorkers who had no other misdemeanor or felony convictions. The ruling is a result of a class-action lawsuit that seeks to streamline the process of sealing previous marijuana convictions under a recently-passed law that allows low-level offenders a (mostly) clean slate.

    Sealing isn’t a fully clean slate, like expungement is, but it does make the record inaccessible by normal means. This means that a person who’s record is sealed is free to deny the conviction under ordinary circumstances. Once a record is sealed, they can move on with their life, free of the collateral damage that comes with having a criminal record.

    City leaders are applauding this action for good reason. It’s well-known that New York’s stringent cannabis laws have disproportionately affected communities of color. The numbers are undeniable, and whatever the reason for the disparities in enforcement, the end result is the same. Minorities end up facing educational barriers and economic burdens that perpetuate a cycle of poverty and disenfranchisement.

    Most New York Cannabis Arrests Really Did Target Minorities
    Until very recently, cannabis-related arrests were hovering between the most common and third most common reason for arrest in New York. More disturbingly, between 87% and 93% of those arrests were people of color.

    These are utterly shocking numbers.

    While 360 convictions may seem like a drop in the bucket–especially considering New York’s long history of targeting black and hispanic cannabis users with stop-and-frisks–this case will likely begin a landslide of similar cases making the same appeal.

    It’s important to note that roughly 90% of petty arrests being made are still people of color, but at least cannabis no longer makes the top of that list. That’s really not much comfort. Regardless, it’s safe to say that misguided marijuana prohibition policies have had a disproportionate effect on these communities. In fact, black people were eight times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites, and Latino people were five times more likely. This is despite the fact that cannabis use is roughly equal among these populations. It will take years to undo this damage.

    How Will This Class Action Dismissing Marijuana Convictions Affect Other New Yorkers?
    The convictions were sealed under Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, which was passed in 2017. What’s remarkable is more than half a million people are eligible for relief under this law, but only about 1,200 people have used it so far. That’s less than 1% of the people who are qualified to benefit.

    So, to make the process more efficient, the proponents of the class action sought to seal nearly 400 records in one fell swoop–a very forward-thinking idea that can make the process much more efficient. And it was a surprising group that teamed up for the action, including:

    • The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office,
    • the Legal Action Center,
    • The Community Service Society,
    • The Legal Aid Society,
    • New York County Defender Services,
    • Neighborhood Defender Service, and
    • pro bono counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

    “Fewer than 1% of the expected pool of eligible people have accessed the law. This problem has brought together unlikely allies. The District Attorney, public defenders and reentry advocates worked together on this matter out of shared recognition that we need more efficient mechanisms for people to seal their convictions. This successful petition is a first step,” said Kate Wagner-Goldstein, Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Action Center.

    Can Others Qualify For A Similar Action
    Yes! This is hopefully just the first tiny snowball rolling downhill that will turn into an avalanche. This class action will almost certainly be followed by appeals from other New Yorkers in similar circumstances. The class members whose convictions were sealed had:

    • Low-level marijuana possession convictions under New York Penal Law 221.10(1)
    • No other felony or misdemeanor convictions in New York
    • No other convictions in New York for the last 10 years, and
    • No undisposed arrests or pending charges in the state.

    Lawyers and legal-aid centers will be able to help others who fall into this category seek similar actions in their boroughs. “One of the devastating consequences of mass incarceration is that it has saddled millions of people with criminal records. These individuals face tremendous barriers to employment, housing, education, voting and equity in general,” said Seth Steed, Managing Attorney of Neighborhood Defender Service’s criminal defense practice. “We are proud to be part of this effort to seal hundreds of marijuana offenses that will allow our clients to move forward with their lives.”

    Moving Forward: New York’s New Policy Lowers Penalties For Cannabis Possession
    Beginning August 27, new state decriminalization legislation signed by Governor Cuomo will decrease penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession and automatically seal low-level cases. The lowest offense, possession of less than one ounce, will carry a $50 fine and no arrest at all. The bill will also provide a process to expunge certain past cannabis offenses.

    But there’s still a long way to go and plenty of room for improvement. Basima Hafiz, Supervising Attorney at New York County Defender Services says his organization’s proud to be part of this action and looks forward to helping more New Yorkers in the same predicament get relief. But he believes more action is needed to provide a true solution for the issue.

    “The War on Marijuana ravaged vulnerable communities in New York City, marking hundreds of thousands of people of color with a permanent stain on their record that significantly limits their ability to secure good jobs, safe housing and affordable student loans,” says Hafiz. “New York County Defender Services is proud to join with the other petitioners to help some of our clients seal their records. We look forward to engaging in further litigation to widen the scope of these efforts and help even more people to seal their records. But the state legislature can and must act quickly to legalize cannabis for personal use and expunge the records of all people previously convicted of marijuana offenses. Piecemeal litigation like this is only a Band-Aid – legalization, expungement and community reinvestment are the cure.”

    You can find the contacts for New York County Defender Services here.

  • New York Misses Deadline to Legalize, Decriminalizes Instead

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    There were a lot of disappointed New Yorkers this week. Governor Cuomo’s promise to legalize cannabis in the state has been an up and down battle for the past few months. A bill to fully legalize cannabis made enormous progress through the state legislature, but was finally shut down due to inability to agree on social justice and regulatory issues.

    Image courtesy of Raihan Rana

    Instead, the legislature did the next best thing–they further decriminalized cannabis possession, and promised to begin expunging cannabis criminal records. The bill was passed in the last legislative hours by both the State Assembly and Senate, and is now headed to the governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

    You can read the bill here.

    In short, the bill says:

    • Possession of under two ounces will no longer be a criminal offense, and fines will be reduced.
    • A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree when they knowingly and unlawfully possesses marijuana. The fine will be $50.
    • A person is guilty of unlawful possession of marijuana in the first degree when they knowingly and unlawfully possess one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing  marijuana and the preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of more than one ounce. The fine will be $200.
    • Procedures will be established to automatically expunge criminal records for possession.
    • Smoking marijuana has been added to the official definition of “smoking” under Public Health Law so that cannabis smoking can be prohibited wherever tobacco smoking is prohibited.

    It’s not legalization, but it’s a start!

    Meanwhile, remember that these fines only apply to unlawful possession of cannabis. If you’re considering using cannabis medicinally and have a qualifying condition for medical cannabis use, you can become a registered patient to use cannabis products legally. To find out if you qualify, contact NuggMD for an appointment today.