More than 90% of Calif. pot farms infected with ‘severe’ pathogen

An infectious pathogen inside California’s pot farms is attacking cannabis plants and growing invisibly for months only to spoil a crop just as a farmer is ready to harvest. Scientists believe that it’s in nearly every pot farm in the state and could be causing billions of dollars in damages to the national weed economy.

Hop-latent viroid, or HLVd, shrivels pot plants and reduce how much weight they produce by as much as 30%. It also destroys the amount of THC, pot’s most common active compound, that a plant produces, greatly reducing the value of affected plants. 

HLVd was first documented in cannabis in a pair of scientific studies published in 2019, including a study that confirmed the viroid’s presence in samples from a Santa Barbara pot farm. It’s now infected at least 90% of California’s cannabis grows, according to a 2021 estimate. It’s spreading globally, and a recent scientific paper declared the pathogen was the “biggest concern for cannabis” growers worldwide.

But one Bay Area startup has a new tool that they think will stop the pathogen’s spread in its tracks.

Oakland’s Purple City Labs released a new HLVd test earlier this year that can be conducted on site and deliver results to pot farmers in just a few hours. That’s much faster than the current methods for finding HLVd infections, which are predominantly done by farmers mailing samples to labs and waiting days or even weeks to get a result.

The company said this new at-farm testing could be pivotal in slowing the spread of this global pathogen, as it allows farmers to quickly identify infected plants.

“We didn’t just identify a great test that is accurate, but it’s [also] easy to use and it doesn’t require a high level of expertise,” said Luke Horst, director of business development for Purple City Genetics. “You can take microbiology to the public and put it in their hands. … It’s important for people to have this type of testing.”

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Minnesota Will Be the 23rd State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, today reiterated his promise to sign a marijuana legalization bill that arrived at his desk on Saturday. That will make Minnesota, which legalized medical marijuana in 2014, the 23rd state to allow recreational use.

The Minnesota House and Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats, had previously approved slightly different legalization bills. H.F. 100, which both chambers passed last week, reconciles those differences.

Adults 21 or older will be allowed to possess two ounces or less of marijuana in public, share that amount with other adults, keep two pounds or less at home, and grow up to eight plants, four of which are mature. Those provisions take effect on August 1.

The bill also establishes an Office of Cannabis Management to license and regulate commercial production and distribution. Marijuana products will be subject to a 10 percent retail tax, in addition to standard state and local sales taxes (which total about 8 percent in Minneapolis, for example). Local governments will be allowed to regulate retailers and cap their number but will not be allowed to ban them entirely. Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL–Coon Rapids), a co-author of the bill, said licensed sales should begin in 12 to 18 months.

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Pot Legalization Is a ‘Big Mistake’ Only If You Ignore the Value of Freedom and the Injustice of Prohibition

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat thinks “legalizing marijuana is a big mistake.” His argument, which draws heavily on a longer Substack essay by the Manhattan Institute’s Charles Fain Lehman, is unabashedly consequentialist, purporting to weigh the collective benefits of repealing prohibition against the costs. It therefore will not persuade anyone who believes, as a matter of principle, that people should be free to decide for themselves what goes into their bodies.

Douthat recognizes that his case against legalization “will not convince readers who come in with stringently libertarian presuppositions.” Lehman, a self-described “teenage libertarian” who has thought better of that position now that he is in his 20s, likewise makes no attempt to argue that the government is morally justified in arresting and punishing people for peaceful conduct that violates no one’s rights. They nevertheless make some valid points about the challenges of legalization while demonstrating the pitfalls of a utilitarian analysis that ignores the value of individual freedom and the injustice of restricting it to protect people from themselves.

Douthat and Lehman are right that legalization advocates, who at this point include roughly two-thirds of American adults, sometimes exaggerate its impact on criminal justice. All drug offenders combined “account for just 16.7 percent” of people in state and federal prisons, Lehman notes, and perhaps one-tenth of those drug war prisoners (based on an estimate by Fordham law professor John Pfaff) were convicted of marijuana offenses. People arrested for violating pot prohibition usually are not charged with production or distribution and typically do not spend much, if any, time behind bars.

Still, those arrests are not without consequences. In addition to the indignity, embarrassment, inconvenience, legal costs, and penalties they impose, the long-term consequences of a misdemeanor record include barriers to employment, housing, and education. Those burdens are bigger and more extensive than Douthat and Lehman are willing to acknowledge.

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The origins of weed: How the plant spread across the world

Cannabis has grown and evolved with humans for thousands of years. Many separate cultures cultivated the plant, using its seeds for food, its fibers to make textiles, rope, and other materials, and its buds as a medicine and psychoactive substance in spiritual ceremonies. Cannabis proved to be a very useful plant for our ancestors and it continues to be today.

If there was one thing our ancestors knew, it was the healing properties of cannabis. While the wonders of cannabis medicine may feel like a new discovery in the West, cultures in the East have used and documented it for thousands of years. 

Check out the story of cannabis—where it originated, how it spread across the globe, and which cultures used it. Learn how important the plant was to ancient humans and how it continues to be important to humans today. 

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Lawmakers Argue that Weed Must Be Kept Illegal to Protect the Jobs of Police Dogs—Seriously

 In a stunning display of misplaced priorities, some Minnesota politicians appear to be more concerned about the jobs of drug-sniffing dogs than the lives of humans impacted by cannabis prohibition. As the push for cannabis legalization in Minnesota gains momentum, it seems the well-being of these K-9s has somehow become a primary argument against it.

Minnesota’s House of Representatives recently passed a bill to legalize non-medical marijuana for individuals 21 and older, with a vote of 71-59. However, Republican state Rep. Brian Johnson voiced his concern over the costs associated with retiring police dogs trained to sniff out cannabis. Apparently, the default state of unemployment for dogs is a problem that should hold priority over human freedom and well-being.

“I did not see anything reading through the bill dealing with our K-9 units,” Johnson said. “Can you tell me how much money is in this bill to help defer the cost to our counties and police departments for the cost of the retirement of the dogs?”

This K-9-centric mindset isn’t new. Minnesota State Sen. John Jasinski, also a Republican, previously raised the “police dog discussion” during a committee hearing, lamenting the “thousands and thousands of dollars” spent on training these furry narcs, who will now have to retire due to cannabis legalization.

It’s worth noting that the legal cannabis industry has already created hundreds of thousands of jobs for humans. Yet, it seems the careers of drug-sniffing dogs are held in higher regard by some politicians.

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Delaware Just Became the 22nd State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Delaware just became the 22nd state to legalize recreational marijuana. On Friday, Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, said he will allow two legalization bills to take effect without his signature, notwithstanding his continued concerns about the consequences of lifting Delaware’s ban on recreational use.

“After years of advocacy, collaboration, and grassroots organizing, we are thrilled to see cannabis legalization become a reality in our state,” Laura Sharer, executive director of the Delaware chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a press release. “This victory is a result of the tireless work of thousands of volunteers, dozens of lawmakers, and with the support of a huge majority of our Delaware community. So many have championed this righteous cause and recognized the need for sensible cannabis policy reform.”

Delaware has allowed medical use of marijuana since 2011, and in 2015 legislators decriminalized possession of an ounce or less, making it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. Carney supports both of those policies but has previously resisted efforts to go further. Last year he vetoed recreational legalization. The Democrat-controlled Delaware General Assembly recently approved essentially the same legislation that Carney blocked last year, this time by larger margins, making it more likely that a veto would be overridden.

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Years after legalization, the state’s growers say police are taking a “seize first, ask questions later” mentality toward marijuana enforcement, sometimes with heavily militarized operations that allegedly violate their rights.

Zeke Flatten was driving southbound on Highway 101 in Northern California in December 2017 when he was pulled over by an unmarked SUV with flashing emergency lights.

Two officers clad in green, military-style garb and bulletproof vests approached Flatten’s vehicle but didn’t identify themselves. After asking Flatten if he knew how fast he was going, one of the men told him they suspected he was transporting cannabis, according to court documents. Flatten was immediately suspicious.

“He never mentioned anything else about the reason, probable cause, why he stopped me,” Flatten said in an interview with The Appeal.

The officers were correct, however: Flatten, a film producer and former undercover cop who’d temporarily relocated to Northern California, had three pounds of marijuana, including a few rolled joints, in the car—worth over $3,000 at the time. Flatten says he was working on a number of cannabis-related projects and was driving to a lab to test the weed, which he’d hoped to sell legally.

Just over a year before the stop, California had voted to legalize the personal cultivation and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with the passage of Proposition 64. Under the measure, possession of larger amounts of cannabis was reduced from a felony offense to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months of incarceration and a maximum $500 fine.

But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, classified as a Schedule 1 substance alongside drugs like heroin, LSD, and MDMA, known as Ecstasy. When the officers identified themselves as members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a federal agency, Flatten said he started to realize something was off.

“There’s no patches, there’s no badges, there’s no name tags,” Flatten said.

Flatten says he offered to show the officers his medical marijuana card, which should have allowed him to have the cannabis. But they didn’t want to look at the card. He figured if the agents believed the marijuana was illegal, they’d take it and provide him a receipt for the seizure, which would give him a chance to argue his case in court, Flatten said.

Instead, they proceeded to confiscate the cannabis from the back of Flatten’s car without running his name for warrants, or issuing a traffic ticket, court summons, or even documentation of the seizure, Flatten said. The officers did tell him that he might be getting a letter from the federal government. But he never did.

Flatten said he felt like he’d been robbed. He started looking for a lawyer, and a few days later, went to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department to report the incident. The next week, after returning to his home state of Texas, he made an official report at the FBI field office in San Antonio.

He would soon find out that the officers who seized his marijuana weren’t actually ATF agents. Flatten alleges one was a member of the sheriff’s department. The other was from the Rohnert Park Police Department, and has since been indicted on federal charges including extortion and conspiracy in connection with cannabis seizures.

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New York City Should Have Always Smelled Like Pot

“​​The degree to which Manhattan air is now just saturated with the aroma of marijuana is frankly absurd,” tweeted writer Thomas Chatterton Williams back in January. “New York Smells Like a Declining City,” declared The Wall Street Journal last month. “It’s like everybody’s smoking a joint now,” New York City’s own mayor, Eric Adams, commented last year.

Though New York state legalized recreational weed in 2021, it’s taken two years for the cannabis industry to actually get it off the ground. Just a few dispensaries have opened up in the city so far, but much has been made about its alleged transformation into either a Reefer Madness hellscape or a stoner Xanadu, depending on who you ask.

“Let’s be blunt—legal weed is turning New York workers into zombies,” wrote Steve Cuozzo for the New York Post just days ago, complaining of worse customer service than he encountered yesteryear. “the weed / garbage / piss cocktail of smells in parts of manhattan is truly nauseating,” one Twitter user chimed in. “The biggest change is the smell of marijuana. It’s EVERYWHERE. Inescapable. It’s made the city a lot grimier, and much more unsafe,” added another.

Now that they no longer have to fear arrest, more people may indeed be lighting up in public. As with many things in New York, private behavior—a couple’s fight, a parent disciplining their child, a group of friends who are too boisterously drunk—spills into public spaces. We’re tasked with learning how to tolerate, or at least look past, the low-grade deviancy and etiquette missteps we encounter in streets and subway stations, shared hallways and stoops. “For the record, I don’t care if people smoke (or drink!), but the imposition of the odor all over public spaces is weird and feels deeply unserious,” Chatterton Williams (one of the more reasonable pot critics) added.

Still, many of the tweets and articles in this genre clumsily attempt to underscore the same idea: New York is getting worse by the day—and pot must be to blame.

But the aroma of weed in the air ought to be interpreted as people relishing their newfound freedom, a sign that tolerance toward people’s mind-alteration preferences has rightfully prevailed.

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The United States of Weed

IF IT SEEMS like a new state is legalizing cannabis nearly every week, don’t worry, you’re not high — states are indeed allowing adult-use of the drug at an unprecedented pace. If the wave of green legislation is slowing to some degree now, that’s only because so many states have already taken action. That doesn’t mean the wave will stop. Since our last update two years ago, numerous states have passed recreational or medical laws. At the same time, setbacks have come as ballot initiatives have been rejected. In other instances, lawmakers and certain governors remain steadfast in their opposition to pot. 

It’s now a question of when, not if, politicians in Washington, D.C., will get with the program and decide to do what the majority of Americans support by passing legislation to end federal prohibition once and for all. In 2022, Politico reported that over 155 million Americans lived in a legal cannabis state after the November 2022 Election Day results — inching closer to 50 percent of the population. In the meantime, states are continuing to prime themselves to legalize the drug, either for medicinal use, recreational use, or both. Here’s where things stand is all 50 of them.

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Another Federal Judge Rejects the DOJ’s Argument That Cannabis Consumers Have No Second Amendment Rights

A federal judge in Texas recently agreed with a federal judge in Oklahoma that the national ban on gun possession by cannabis consumers violates the Second Amendment. Kathleen Cardone, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, also concluded that the federal ban on transferring firearms to an “unlawful user” of a “controlled substance,” first imposed by the Gun Control Act of 1968, is unconstitutional.

The case involves Paola Connelly, who was charged with illegal possession of firearms under 18 USC 922(g)(3) after El Paso police found marijuana and guns in her home while responding to a domestic disturbance in December 2021. Connelly, who said she used marijuana “to sleep at night and to help her with anxiety,” also was charged with violating 18 USC 922(d)(3) by transferring guns to her husband, a cocaine and psilocybin user. Both gun offenses are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

As a preliminary matter, Cardone held that Connelly’s Second Amendment claims were not precluded by prior decisions in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which includes Texas, upheld Section 922(g)(3). Those decisions, she noted, preceded the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which said gun control laws must be “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

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