CarMax Employee Caught Allegedly Shipping Three Pounds of Pot to Work

When in doubt, it’s probably not a good idea to ship felony amounts pot to your workplace—especially not on your day off. 

A box containing about three pounds of cannabis was found in a parcel at a used car dealership, which was addressed to an employee at CarMax in Gastonia, North Carolina, according to the Gastonia Police Department (GPD). Employees at CarMax regularly receive parcels at work, but this particular box was suspicious enough for them to investigate. The box was shipped from a location in Hollywood, California, where weed is legal, but not in that large of an amount.

The CarMax employee, Michael Williams, 39, unfortunately was not at work on the day the package arrived, so he could not hide it to keep it under wraps. Williams’ fellow employees called authorities when they found the box, and police confiscated the pot.

Local police officers were not done, however: They refilled the box with three pounds of weights to mimic the bags of weed, setting up Williams to incriminate himself. This was the evidence they needed to cite him and send him to jail.

“[We] put some items in the box that weighed roughly three pounds, resealed the box, and waited for the suspect, Mr. Williams, to come to work to claim that package,” Rick Goodale with GPD told the Charlotte Observer. The GPD posted a photo of what appears to be three pound-sized vacuum-sealed bags that were in the parcel.

When Williams returned to CarMax to report for work on his next shift, he confirmed the package was meant for him. Police officers then placed him under arrest on May 22.

California allows adults 21 and over to possess cannabis, but only 28.5 grams of personal cannabis without a specific license. Also, shipping pot over state lines is always a no-no. Finding cannabis in this amount at someone’s workplace is out of the ordinary.

“Most of the time, it’s going to houses, it’s very unusual to go to a business,” Goodale said.

Police officers with the GPD believe William’s operation has been going on for some time.

Williams is out on bond after posting bail. In North Carolina, 1.5 ounces to 10 lbs of cannabis is considered a felony, with punishments of 3-8 months in jail, and a $1,000 fine, NORML indicates.

CarMax Under Scrutiny

CarMax attempted to distance itself from Williams, saying that he wasn’t directly employed by them—just a contractor. They released a statement last Wednesday, saying, “CarMax was founded on integrity and doing the right thing and we appreciate the quick response from the local police department.”

Hiring contractors can be advantageous when there are fluctuating workloads, but it’s also a way companies can avoid supplying benefits.

While it’s common to find lemons at CarMax, finding pot at a location is something entirely new.

CarMax has been under increased scrutiny due to the massive number of complaints alleging that lemons are being sold at its dealerships, The Lemon Firm reports. The Lemon Firm was founded by one of California’s top lemon law trial attorneys, Michael H. Rosenstein.

In some cases, CarMax patrons said they were not informed that the vehicles they were purchasing had been involved in accidents or had other major damages. Others allege that CarMax misrepresented the current condition of the cars, leading them to believe they were getting a stellar deal. Read what some Reddit users have said about the situation.

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California Agency Continues to Target Illegal Cannabis Activity

The California Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) recently announced its progress on “aggressively” combating the illegal cannabis market.

Between Jan. 1 and March 30, UCETF shared that there was a 43% gain in the number of plants eradicated (52,529 plants in Q1 2023 compared to 29,687 in Q4 2022). The agency also served 21 warrants in the first quarter of the year, compared to 30 in the previous quarter (a 30% decrease).

The agency eradicated 31,912 pounds of cannabis, which is a 43% increase from Q4 plant eradication of 29,687 plants. Between the two most recent quarters, there was a 39% increase in terms of retail value for cannabis products seized ($32 million vs. $52.6 million). UCETF’s most recent seizures earlier this year also netted an 87% increase in money seized on size during the searches, with $95,646 in Q1 2023 compared to just $12,602 in Q4 2022.

Chief of the Law Enforcement Division, Bill Jones, said in a press statement that working with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has led to a higher rate of success and seizure. “As the DCC Law Enforcement Division focuses on illegal indoor cultivations, unlicensed dispensaries, and unlicensed manufacturing and distribution operations, the multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional approach of UCETF allows us to leverage the expertise of each participating department to disrupt a broader scope of illegal businesses,” said Jones. “Significantly improving our results speaks to our effectiveness and will help support the legal cannabis market.”

Chief of Enforcement for California Department of Fish & Wildlife, David Bess, stated that the overall increase in numbers will continue to rise. “This multiagency task force has hit the ground running, allowing partners with the opportunity to contribute to their area of expertise. UCETF has quickly made an impact on the illegal cannabis supply chain, which in turn is helping the regulated market succeed,” Bess said. “The gains and successes made by the task force speak directly to the efficiency and dedication of this multiagency collaboration and we expect to see this type of continued success throughout the year as UCEFT moves into outdoor cultivation enforcement season.”

The UCETF was created through California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2022-2023 budget to target illegal cannabis operations through a multi-department effort. It works closely with the DCC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Homeland Security Division of Cal Office of Emergency Services. It also collaborates with numerous California agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, Department of Justice, Department of Public Health, Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and many more.

UCETF has been operating since summer 2022, but in October 2022 it announced its first major crackdown on a site in the San Fernando Valley. “California is taking immediate and aggressive action to stop illegal cannabis and strengthen the burgeoning legal market throughout the state,” said Newsom in a press statement at the time. “By shutting down illegal grow sites and applying serious consequences to offenders, we are working to curtail the criminal organizations that are undercutting the regulated cannabis market in California.”

Since last year, UCETF has seized $84,652,875 in unlicensed cannabis products, eradicated 82,216 plants, and served 51 search warrants so far.

In August 2022, the DCC announced that between 2021-2022, state law enforcement had seized more than $1 billion in illegal cannabis products. “This important milestone was reached through close collaboration with local, state, and federal partners and furthers California’s efforts to go after activities that harm communities and the environment, including water theft, threats of violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking to name a few,” the DCC wrote. “These operations and the products they produce threaten consumer safety and the vitality of legal and compliant licensees.”

While some government agencies are targeting illegal operations, others are reviewing the negative impacts of the War on Drugs. Recently the Reparations Task Force released a detailed report about reparations, and ultimately recommended “that compensation for community harms be provided as uniform payments based on an eligible recipient’s duration of residence in California during the defined period of harm (e.g., residence in an over-policed community during the ‘War on Drugs’ from 1971 to 2020).” The task force will convene once more before submitting its final report on June 29.

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Carnival Cruise Line To Continue Using Drug Dogs Amid Prevalence of Pot

Carnival Cruises will continue to deploy drug detection dogs to search for pot and other drugs, according to a brand ambassador who confirmed the cruise line’s drug policy Tuesday.

Don’t plan on smoking if you’re vacationing on a cruise: Carnival Cruise Line (CCL), Royal Caribbean (RCL), Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH), and every other major cruise line operating or departing U.S. ports bans cannabis consumption on-board. Most display “Drug Free Zone” signs aboard and employ a zero tolerance policy.

Cruise lines follow federal law, which trumps state laws, even though their ships are not flagged in the U.S., so cannabis is prohibited in nearly every circumstance. The open seas are not actually lawless and laws typically extend miles from shore, and most cruises stop in multiple countries.

The Gwinnett Daily Post reports that Carnival Cruise won’t be changing its policy on cannabis anytime soon, after a brand ambassador clarified the cruise line’s efforts to control cannabis use on-board.

“As for the drug detection dogs, well let me say that they have, along with our no tolerance rules and enforcement, made a massive difference to the problem of people thinking it is legal and allowed to use marijuana on their cruise. It isn’t,” Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald posted on his Facebook page on May 23. 

Some cruise guests complained of the weed smell that is common on cruises. Passengers say they get it while ships dock on ports and when they venture into the city.

“They really need more drug dogs when we are getting back on the ship because people pick up drugs in ports and that is when I smell marijuana on the balconies,” a commenter named Janet replied on Heald’s page.

Problems with Drug Sniffing Dogs and Cannabis

There are a handful of problems with using dogs to sniff out drugs and pot. Commenters raised concerns about allergies to dogs that might be interfering with privacy.

Heald continued, “These uber intelligent and highly trained dogs are used at embarkation and occasionally, not every cruise on every ship will sail as well with their handlers. Again, the ships are large enough for this [to] not be a concern for anyone who is allergic…”

It turns out that the Washington Post asked this same question last March, and a CCL representative confirmed the cruise line’s cannabis policy.

“In case there’s any confusion, let me remind guests that while marijuana and cannabis products may be legal in some states, we are required to follow federal law irrespective of the law in the state where you may be boarding your ship,” CCL President Christine Duffy told the Washington Post.

Since dozens of states have legalized cannabis in one form or another, drug dogs in general are losing their jobs in droves. In other cases, drug-sniffing dogs are getting trained to ignore cannabis. Why? A major exposé from The Chicago Tribune in 2011 claimed that drug-sniffing dogs can pick up on and follow the biases and prejudices of their handlers. 

It’s not just dogs. China enlists drug-sniffing red squirrels, while honeybees could soon be the next natural drug locator. Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany recently published a study in the journal Plos One, entitled “Detection of Illicit Drugs by Trained Honeybees,” showing the promise they have in law enforcement.

Cruise passengers who are caught with cannabis are typically punished quickly, and often kicked off the cruise at the next port.

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Irish Authorities Seize Over $3 Million Worth of Weed at Dublin Port

Law enforcement officials in Ireland on Sunday seized hundreds of pounds in “herbal cannabis” at a Dublin port, leading to the arrest of “a man in his 40s.” 

According to a press release from the Irish Tax and Customs, revenue officers in the country “seized approximately 142kgs of herbal cannabis with an estimated value of €2.84 million at Dublin Port.” (That breaks down to about 313 pounds and $3.06 million).

“The illicit drugs were discovered when Revenue officers stopped and searched a vehicle which had arrived from France. A man in his 40s was arrested by An Garda Síochána [the national police service of Ireland] and is currently detained under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 at a Garda Station in Dublin,” the customs and tax office said, noting that investigations remain “ongoing.” 

The release said that the seizure was “part of Revenue’s ongoing joint investigations targeting organised crime groups and the importation, sale and supply of illegal drugs,” and the agency urged any “businesses, or members of the public” to come forward if they “have any information regarding drug smuggling.” 

An Garda Síochána orchestrated a similar bust on Friday in south Dublin. As part of an intelligence operation, officers “seized approximately 16kgs of herbal cannabis with an estimated value of €316,000,” which was “made as a result of a joint operation involving Revenue’s Customs Service, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) and the Terenure District Drugs Unit.”

“A woman in her 30s was arrested by An Garda Síochána and is currently detained under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 at a Garda Station in South Dublin. Investigations are ongoing,” the tax and customs office said in a press release.

And on Thursday, revenue officers “seized approximately 54kgs of herbal cannabis with an estimated value of €1,080,000 in Dublin.”

‘“The seizure was made as a result of a joint operation conducted by Revenue’s Customs Service, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) and the DMR North Central Divisional Drug Unit,” the press release said.

Recreational cannabis is illegal in Ireland, as per An Garda Síochána’s official website: “It is an offence to cultivate, import, export, produce, supply and possess cannabis except in accordance with a Ministerial Licence. Policy to date has not permitted the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes and no licences have been issued for this activity.”

The website notes that the Irish government “has no plans to legalise cannabis.” 

There are reform-minded Irish lawmakers who would like to end the prohibition, however. Last year, a bill was introduced in Irish parliament that sought to legalize cannabis for “adults of at least 18 years of age to possess up to 7 grams of cannabis or 2.5 grams of cannabis resin (hashish),” according to Forbes.

The bill did not “include the sale of cannabis products or the cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use,” according to Forbes, which means that “cannabis users will likely continue to purchase cannabis from the illegal market.”

If the bill were to pass and become law, it would change the so-called Misuse of Drug Act, the 1977 law that enshrined the prohibition on cannabis in Ireland.

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Riverside County Law Enforcement Seizes $1 Million in Illegal Cannabis, Mushroom Products

According to a press release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the raid occurred on May 4 around 5:30pm. The Jurupa Valley Sheriff’s Station Special Enforcement Team (SET) responded to a disturbance at the 1700 block of Production Circle, located within a business area that is home to other businesses off of Rubidoux Boulevard.

Multiple people attempted to flee the scene, but the sheriff’s department reports that many were detained. “Jurupa Valley SET deputies located evidence of an illegal/unlicensed marijuana dispensary and secured the location. Jurupa Valley SET deputies obtained a search warrant for the property and requested assistance from the Riverside Sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET),” the department stated.

On site, officers found a variety of illegal cannabis products. “During the service of the search warrant, deputies located approximately 115 pounds of processed marijuana, 10 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms, 100 pounds of marijuana concentrate, 2,400 marijuana vapes, and 1,200 edible marijuana items. The estimated value of the seized items was determined to be over $1,000,000,” the department reported.

As of May 9, the investigation is still ongoing and no further information has been shared at this time.

Last summer, the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) announced that between 2021-2022, law enforcement had seized more than $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis products. “This important milestone was reached through close collaboration with local, state, and federal partners and furthers California’s efforts to go after activities that harm communities and the environment, including water theft, threats of violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking to name a few,” the DCC stated. “These operations and the products they produce threaten consumer safety and the vitality of legal and compliant licensees.”

More recently in March, the DCC released its enforcement statistics for 2021 and 2022. During that time frame, search warrants increased from 62 in 2021 to 155 in 2022, with over 41,726 pounds of illegal product seized in 2021 and 144,254 pounds in 2022. 

Bill Jones, the DCC’s Chief in the Law Enforcement Division, explained the importance of continuing to target illegal operations. “Through each enforcement action our teams gain a better understanding of how these criminal operations work which helps us better focus our resources and amplify our results to protect the health and safety of all Californians,” said Jones. “I would like to thank the dedicated group of officers in our department who work closely with our law enforcement partners to make these operations successful. Together, we are cracking down on the illicit cannabis market and ensuring California maintains a well-regulated and legal marketplace that benefits Californians.” 

Additionally, the DCC reported that it destroyed 19,221 illegal cannabis plants in 2021, and 264,196 plants in 2022—a 1,274% increase.

The city of Riverside is one of many that are still working on establishing a regulatory framework in their respective areas. According to The Press Enterprise, the Riverside City Council recently approved an ordinance on Feb. 28 that would allow up to 14 cannabis retail permits. On March 1, a city press release shared statements from a few key individuals.

According to Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro, it’s high time Riverside kept up with the times. “Today’s long overdue decision to overturn the ban on cannabis retail was the result of a multi-year effort that included intensive community and stakeholder input,” said Fierro. “This is the first step in a pragmatic and sensible policy process that is centered around providing benefit and opportunity for all Riverside residents.”

Riverside Mayor Pro Tem Clarissa Cervantes also released a statement about cannabis finally moving forward in Riverside. “With a little over 18 months until the November 2024 ballot, we have the time we need to create a program that is socially equitable and ensures voters are informed about what the tax measure will do,” Cervantes said. “Riverside voters approved this measure years ago, and the Council voted to move forward with creating a pathway for safe access, and quality workforce opportunities.”

City staff will continue to develop a process for permit review and implementation, and plan to propose their plan to the Riverside City Council sometime this summer.

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Groups Condemn Conviction of Journalists in Nigeria Over Report on Pot Use at Politicians Factory

Two organizations condemned the convictions of two journalists in Nigeria who were arrested in 2019 after they exposed pot smoking at a business associated with a high-ranking politician. While Nigeria is the world’s third-highest consumer of cannabis, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, the plant is illegal in the country. Some view it as a double standard for officials and commoners.

The Eagle reports that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) condemned the conviction of two young Nigerian journalists, Gidado Yushau and Alfred Olufemi over an investigative report. CPJ, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, described the conviction as “a chilling message to the Nigerian press.” The Eagle called it an “inglorious attempt to muzzle the press and investigative journalism in Nigeria.”

Yushau serves as editor of The News Digest and is Convener of the annual Campus Journalism Awards (CJA), while Olufemi is a freelance journalist with bylines in Premium Times and Punch, two Africa-based newspapers. It’s not the publications’ first dance with danger: Premium Times, for instance, exposed crimes such as those targeting women and civilians allegedly committed by Boko Haram.

Both journalists were arrested and charged in court in 2019 after they wrote an investigative report exposing the prevalence of pot smoking by staff, a Kwara, Nigeria-based rice factory, which is associated with Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries. Why is that significant? Hillcrest Agro-Allied Industries is linked to a high-ranking official: Presidential Economic Adviser Sarah Aladea, who formerly served as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Organization leaders worry that the arrests have a political motivation. On Feb. 7, Adams Salihu Mohammed, a magistrate in Ilorin, Nigeria, ordered the journalists to be held for five months in jail or pay a steep fine of N100,000—each—for the alleged crimes of “defamation and conspiracy.” They ended up paying the fines to avoid jail during the trial.

A Chilling Message to Journalists in Nigeria

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the journalists will be provided with a fair trial according to their legal counsel.

“There was evidence before the trial court that the police report which purportedly indicted our clients came into existence even before they were invited by the police,” Barrister Ahmed Ibraheem Gambari, an attorney representing one of the journalists, said after they were convicted. In other words, the police deemed them guilty of the “crime” long before they were allowed to share their own side of the story. The journalists’ claims were backed by former employees of the rice factory, who said that it’s common to smoke pot during work.

“Also, an ex-employee of the company testified before the court that he was not only a witness to how smoking of Indian hemp pervaded the site but equally, it was the persistent smoking of the Indian hemp that informed his decision to sever his employment with the company,” Gambari said. “What’s more, in order to establish the verisimilitude of his assertion, the same witness tendered his bank statement evidencing the receipt of his monthly salaries from the company during the period when smoking was prevalent. It, therefore, remains a conundrum of how the court found them guilty in the face of this empirical evidence among others.”

CPJ’s Africa program coordinator based in New York, Angela Quintal, said that the two should never have been charged, let alone convicted. “The telecom surveillance used to bring the journalists into custody, followed by a more than three-year-long trial, demonstrates the lengths Nigerian authorities will go to arrest and prosecute the press,” Quintal said.

International human rights courts and UN organizations have repeatedly denounced the use of criminal sanctions for “defamation.”

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New York Governor Unveils Plan To Address Illicit Pot Shops

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled new legislation to combat the state’s persistent illicit cannabis operators. The bill, which already has the support of dozens of lawmakers in the New York Senate and State Assembly, also provides increased authority for regulators including the Office of Cannabis Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance to enforce regulations and close stores engaged in illegal cannabis sales.

“Over the past several weeks I have been working with the legislature on new legislation to improve New York’s regulatory structure for cannabis products,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The continued existence of illegal dispensaries is unacceptable, and we need additional enforcement tools to protect New Yorkers from dangerous products and support our equity initiatives.”

New York Legalized Recreational Weed In 2021

New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 and the first recreational marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Manhattan late last year. But so far, only four Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) retailers have opened statewide. Meanwhile, the number of unlicensed pot shops has skyrocketed, prompting operators in the nascent licensed cannabis industry and others to press state officials for action against illicit operators.

Under the proposed legislation announced by Hochul on Wednesday, New York’s tax and cannabis laws would be amended to enable the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) and local law enforcement agencies to enforce restrictions on unlicensed storefront dispensaries. The legislation does not impose new penalties for cannabis possession for personal use by an individual and does not allow local law enforcement officers to perform marijuana enforcement actions against individuals.

“This legislation, for the first time, would allow OCM and DTF to crack down on unlicensed activity, protect New Yorkers, and ensure the success of new cannabis businesses in New York,” the governor’s office wrote. “The legislation would restructure current illicit cannabis penalties to give DTF peace officers enforcement authority, create a manageable, credible, fair enforcement system, and would impose new penalties for retailers that evade State cannabis taxes.”

The bill clarifies and expands the OCM’s authority to seize illicit cannabis products, establishes summary procedures for the OCM and other governmental entities to shut down unlicensed businesses, and creates a framework for more effective cooperative efforts among agencies. 

Violations of the law could lead to fines of $200,000 for illicit cannabis plants or products. The legislation also allows the OCM to fine businesses up to $10,000 per day for engaging in cannabis sales without a license from the state.

Elliot Choi, chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, hailed the use of financial penalties instead of jail time to help reign in New York’s illicit cannabis market. 

“Governor Hochul’s proposed legislation is very much welcomed as prior efforts to combat the illicit dispensaries haven’t appeared to have much of an impact,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “We support the use of fines as opposed to incarceration to avoid recriminalization and a return of anything that resembles the prior failed war on drugs.” 

In addition to fines for unlicensed cannabis operators, Choi said that penalizing property owners who rent to unlicensed businesses would also be an appropriate tool for the state’s cannabis regulators and called for an increase in funding for state agencies tasked with controlling underground operators.

“Landlords should not have any incentives to rent to illegal operators and should be financially punished for doing so,” said Choi. “Finally, both the OCM and the Department of Taxation and Finance need additional resources to enforce as the OCM already has enough on their plate getting the regulations finalized and corresponding licenses issued in a timely fashion.”

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Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Targeting Illegal Weed Industry

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that targets the illicit weed industry by requiring medical marijuana businesses to provide proof that they are legally occupying the property where their operations are located. The measure, Senate Bill 806, was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 41-1 on Tuesday and now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

The legislation is one of dozens of bills designed to reign in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry that have been introduced following the defeat of a ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis earlier this month. Senator Brent Howard, the author of Senate Bill 806, said that the bill is designed to help law enforcement regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in 2018 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure. If passed by the House and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt, the legislation would limit the number of medical marijuana businesses that can list the same physical address on their license applications.

“Those who regulate our medical marijuana industry are running into problems when they raid a facility only to learn that there are numerous licensees who utilize that one address and all have product stored there,” Howard said about Senate Bill 806. “This makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to know what product is actually illegal and to properly investigate the case. This measure would limit the number of licenses that can be listed under one address to help improve regulation and shut down illegal business activity.”

Under the bill, applicants for medical marijuana business licenses would be required to provide proof that they own or rent the property at the address listed on the application. Such proof could consist of a copy of an executed deed of conveyance or a signed lease for the property. An address or physical location would not be permitted to have multiple licenses within the same medical marijuana license category. The bill is designed to help the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and the state Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) identify medical marijuana businesses that are operating without a required license from the state.

“By requiring full disclosure of possessory right, OMMA and OBN will be able to ensure no illegal operations or bad foreign actors are abusing Oklahoma lands and citizens,” Howard said. “This bill would also ensure we know that there are no straw purchasers for illegal foreign owners coming in after the initial application.”

Recreational Weed Measure Failed This Month in Oklahoma

Senate Bill 806 is one of several bills that have been introduced to help regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in Oklahoma with the passage of State Quest 788 in 2018. With low barriers to entry including license fees for cannabis businesses of only $2,500 and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry quickly grew to become one of the largest in the nation.

State Question 788 also had few restrictions to qualify for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients now equals nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, more than the number of gas stations in the state, according to a report from local media.

Earlier this month, the state’s Republican governor said the state of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program is largely responsible for the failure of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana at a special election on March 7. The proposal, State Question 820, was rejected by nearly 62% of voters.

“There’s enough marijuana, I’ve been told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. That’s not what this was supposed to be,” Stitt said after State Question 820 failed at the polls. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s gotten way out of control.”

“As I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” Stitt added. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”

Since then, state lawmakers have filed dozens of cannabis-related bills for this year’s legislative. This week, state Attorney General Gentner Drummond praised Oklahoma lawmakers for passing three of the measures, including Senate Bill 806.

“Oklahoma’s illegal marijuana grow operations pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in rural communities invaded by organized criminals from China and Mexico,” Drummond said in a statement on Tuesday. “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to working arm-in-arm with Oklahoma’s law enforcement agencies to deliver justice and restore peaceful order.”

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Four Americans Convicted in U.K. Smuggling Case

Four U.S. nationals have been convicted of smuggling cannabis into the United Kingdom and now face time behind bars for their crimes, according to statements made by law enforcement officials. The convictions follow a rash of marijuana smuggling attempts made last month at London’s Heathrow Airport that resulted in the arrests of nine Americans in the span of a week.

On Friday, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) announced that three Americans were convicted of charges of importing class B drugs. In one case, 24-year-old Barrington Walters of Los Angeles, and Mandy Silowka, 34, of Princeton, New Jersey, were detained at Heathrow Airport by Border Force personnel after arriving on the same United Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport on January 17. Officers discovered 33 kilos (more than 72 pounds) of herbal cannabis in luggage belonging to Walters and another 26.5 kilos (more than 58 pounds) of weed in Silowka’s suitcase.

The pair were interviewed by NCA investigators and subsequently charged with importing class B drugs. On February 23, Silowka and Walters admitted their roles in the smuggling plot at Isleworth Crown Court in London and were convicted of the charges against them. Silowka received a 12-month custodial sentence, and Walters was given a 10-month jail term.

The next day, Kiara Lanee Malone, 31, a clothing boutique owner from St. Louis, Missouri, also pleaded guilty to charges of importing class B drugs. Following her conviction in Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, she was remanded into custody and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5.

Malone was arrested at Heathrow Airport on January 10 after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles when Border Force officers discovered 27.5 kilos (just over 60 pounds) of cannabis in her luggage. Malone told investigators that she was traveling to the U.K. for cosmetic procedures and admitted to bringing the bags, but said that she had been given the luggage by another person and thought that they contained clothing.

“These cases serve as further warnings to those who think they can get away with smuggling drugs into the U.K.,” NCA Heathrow Branch Commander Andy Noyes said in a statement from the law enforcement agency on February 24. “No matter what you might get told by those organizing these trips, you will get caught, and as these individuals will tell you, you will face jail time. The NCA and our partners in Border Force are determined to do all we can to target drugs couriers, and disrupt the international organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking.”

Last week’s cases followed the conviction of U.S. national Zered Akolo, a 26-year-old photographer from Antioch, California who was arrested at Heathrow Airport shortly after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles on January 16. Border Force officers searched his two checked bags and found 47 kilos (more than 103 pounds) of cannabis. Despite having luggage tags bearing his name, Akolo initially told investigators that the bags were not his. 

After questioning by NCA investigators, he was charged with attempting to import class B drugs. At a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday, February 16, Akolo pleaded guilty to importing class B drugs and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

“Akolo was foolish in the extreme to think he could get away with a brazen drug smuggling trip like this. As a result he faces a long period of time away from friends and family in a British jail,” Noyes said in a statement from the NCA on February 16. “I hope this case serves as a warning to others who would consider acting as drug mules for organized criminal gangs – it isn’t worth taking the chance.”

Nine Americans Arrested On Smuggling Charges In January

The convictions follow the arrests of nine Americans on drug smuggling charges at Heathrow Airport in just one week’s time in January. The smuggling attempts came as government officials engaged in a renewed debate over cannabis policy in the U.K. In July of last year, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel announced proposed new sanctions on users of cannabis and other drugs that include the confiscation of driver’s licenses and passports under a new three-strikes policy for illicit drug use. 

“Drugs are a scourge across society. They devastate lives and tear communities apart,” Patel said in a statement from the government. “Drug misuse puts lives at risk, fuels criminality and serious and violent crime and also results in the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people.”

Under the proposal, which was detailed in a white paper drafted by the Home Office, those caught with illegal recreational drugs would face fines and mandatory drug education. They could also be banned from nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

Three months later, U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed that she was considering tightening the classification of cannabis under the nation’s drug laws over concerns that marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to serious health problems. Braverman’s review followed calls from law enforcement leaders to reclassify cannabis as a Class A drug, the same category assigned to substances including heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy.

But then last month, a group of police chiefs in the United Kingdom announced a plan to effectively decriminalize the possession of drugs including cannabis and cocaine. If adopted by the government, the use and possession of small amounts of recreational drugs would be treated as a public health issue for first-time offenders, rather than a criminal offense subject to prosecution and jail time or other punishment.

The proposals, which were developed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing, would effectively decriminalize the possession of Class A drugs including cocaine and Class B substances such as marijuana. Under the plan, individuals caught with illegal drugs would be offered an opportunity to attend drug education or treatment programs, rather than being subjected to prosecution.

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Irish Police Seize More Than 250 Pounds of Weed

Police in the Republic of Ireland announced this week that law enforcement officers seized more than 250 pounds of cannabis as part of an ongoing effort to target organized crime activity in the Dublin area. In a statement released on Tuesday, the garda (Irish national police force) said that the seizure resulted in the arrest of two men, who are being held pending further investigation.

The seizure was carried out as part of an ongoing investigation related to Operation Tara, a garda campaign to target serious organized crime activity in the Dublin Region. On Monday, officers intercepted two vehicles in Tallaght, a suburb of the capital city, leading to the search of a house in nearby Knocklyon. The action led to the seizure of about 120 kilograms (nearly 265 pounds) of cannabis, which the law enforcement agency said has an estimated street value of more than €2 million (more than $2.1 million).

“Personnel attached to the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) supported by the Special Crime Task Force (SCTF), intercepted two vehicles in the Tallaght area and searched a residential address in the Knocklyon area,” a garda spokesperson said in a statement to the media. “During the course of these searches, 120kg of cannabis herb with an estimated street sale value of €2.4m was seized.”

Police noted that two men in their 40s had been arrested in conjunction with the seizure of the illicit cannabis. The men are currently being held on suspicion of drug trafficking charges as the investigation continues. The weed seized in the operation has been sent to a laboratory for further analysis.

Courtesy of the Garda

Public Pushes Back On Prohibition

The garda publicized the seizure on social media, noting in a Twitter post that the agency is “#KeepingPeopleSafe.” But other users on the platform questioned the public safety value of the police operation.

“Safe from what?” asked one Twitter user. “There would [have] been a few lads heading to shops for munchies after a few joints, do we really need to be safe from that or do you think there is bigger and more serious crime we should be kept safe from first.”

People commenting on social media also pushed back on the estimated street value of the seized cannabis provided by law enforcement, suggesting that the figure given is ten times what the confiscated weed is actually worth.

“In Canada where Cannabis is legal, regulated and taxed, this 120kg would be worth about CAD$400k and 5% of that would have gone to the gov in tax,” a Twitter user commented. “It’s also packaged a whole lot better than that! CAD$400k is around €250k or 10% of that valuation.”

Weed Legalization Bill Under Consideration

This week’s seizure of illicit marijuana in Ireland comes amid a renewed debate over cannabis prohibition in the country. Late last year, Gino Kenny, a lawmaker known as a Teachta Dála (TD) and a member of Ireland’s People Before Profit political party, proposed legislation that would legalize the possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrates for personal use.

“The Bill is quite moderate. It amends existing legislation that dates back 42 years,” Kenny said during a November debate in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament. “Forty-two years is a very long time. I believe the existing legislation is out of date and out of time. We need a different narrative around drug reform.”

“I hope the Government can support this legislation,” he continued. “It is timely. Different parts of the world are looking at different models which do not criminalize people and which take a harm-reduction approach. I look forward to the debate.”

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