New Zealand Leaders Demand Cops Stop Spraying Chemicals on Cannabis

New Zealand’s recently revived cannabis eradication has gotten out of control, residents say. A couple growing three weed plants last February, for instance, were having dinner together when a helicopter flew overhead, spraying chemicals onto their three weed plants that they used for medical reasons.

The program isn’t settling well in the modern world—not at a time when nearly 70% of New Zealanders support legalization or decriminalization. Both leaders and residents are fed up with the waste of resources as the country races toward cannabis reform.

Legalization backer and Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said spraying cannabis plants from helicopters isn’t the way to solve this. Last February, the New Zealand Police National Headquarters made the decision to revive its cannabis eradication program, which was canceled in January 2021.

“But obviously, we have an incredibly ineffective law when this amount of money is being continually spent on an annual basis, and making no effect on the supply on the streets,” Swarbrick told Stuff.co.nz yesterday.

Instead, Swarbrick suggested focusing on a real problem the country is grappling with—such as meth. On June 9, the New Zealand customs issued a news release that they had uncovered “435 grams of methamphetamine, approximately $455,000 in cash, and clan lab-related items.” 

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director, Sarah Helm, agreed that the police policies don’t align with what is happening across the country. “Nearly half of the country voted for full legalization of cannabis in the 2020 referendum,” Helm said. “Polling commissioned last year by The Helen Clark Foundation found 69 per cent of New Zealand respondents supported either full legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis.”

According to uncovered documents provided to Waikato Times under the Official Information Act of New Zealand, the country spent $2,653,878 on aerial spraying cannabis nationally over the past five years. Locals are fed up that over $2.6 million was spent on destroying what the majority of the country supports.

Over 48% of New Zealander voters said they support legalizing cannabis in a referendum held last year. A poll conducted by market research firm UMR for the Helen Clark Foundation found an additional 20%, give or take, voted no but said they think cannabis should be decriminalized, bringing the total to 69%.

What the F*** are Cops Spraying on Weed?

So what exactly are cops spraying on weed? A journalist from Te Ao Māori News also wanted to know in 2018.

Officers were asked what substances they were using and one officer told Te Ao Māori News “nothing, just dye and water.” But local resident Whetu Paitai caught cops in the act, pouring a mysterious blue liquid onto the beach, and posted a video on Facebook. It turns out it’s the same herbicide they’re using to kill weed plants.

“I took a photo of the container and Googled them to find they were a weed killer called Bio-Safe from AGPRO,” Paitai said. “They have a hazchem code of 2XE which means any waste material is to be contained and removed to be correctly disposed of, as opposed to material that you can just dilute down,” 

According to AGPRO Bio-Safe’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), it can harm aquatic life with “long lasting effects,” and it is classified a poison despite being produced using natural ingredients.

A police spokesperson claimed the spray used only affects plants and has no major impact on the soil. “A blue marker dye, which is non-toxic and environmentally safe, is used to alert growers to the fact that a plant has been sprayed,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

We can learn from the past when it comes to herbicides. When U.S.-funded cannabis eradication programs in Mexico (and other countries) in the 1970s used the dangerous herbicide paraquat, the weed made its way back into the United States where it ended up harming Americans. 

In March 1978, 21% of marijuana samples surveyed from the southwestern United States were found to be contaminated with paraquat. A recent study on paraquat poisoning in 2020 shows that “the in-hospital mortality rate was 72.7%” of people surveyed, with “acute kidney injury” being the major reason. It is also believed to cause Parkinson’s.

There are dangerous effects of smoking pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (in legal operations, especially myclobutanil). On top of that, herbicides can harm foliage, shoots, flowers, and fruits—and the spray gets everywhere. Lab-tested legal weed is typically tested for contaminants like those. There must be better ways of mitigating illegal cannabis crops without spraying chemicals on them.

The post New Zealand Leaders Demand Cops Stop Spraying Chemicals on Cannabis appeared first on High Times.

California Officials Bust Huge Subterranean Pot Farm

Law enforcement officials in San Bernardino County, California have filed charges against 11 individuals after a huge subterranean cannabis cultivation operation was discovered by police. At a press conference on Monday, San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson and Sheriff Shannon Dicus announced the group faces charges of felony cultivation of marijuana, violating environmental law, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana for sale.

Law enforcement officials pegged the value of the cannabis products seized from the property in Newberry Springs at $9 million on the illicit market, although estimates from police and prosecutors have come under fire in recent months for being unrealistically inflated.

The charges against the defendants are related “to an industrial-sized subterranean illegal marijuana grow in Newberry Springs, a processing warehouse, and other properties used in conjunction with the selling, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis,” according to a statement from law enforcement officials.

California Property Raided Twice

Police first served a search warrant at the property in the small California high desert town in August 2020, according to arrest records from the sheriff’s department. At that time, law enforcement officials discovered eight greenhouses with approximately 2,000 cannabis plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana on the property. The owner of the land at the time was identified as Cheng Lin, who also faces a felony conspiracy charge. Two defendants who were detained at the site during the raid have also been charged.

Prosecutors allege that after the first raid, Lin sold the property to a second individual, Qiaoyan Liu, who also faces a felony conspiracy charge. On March 3 of this year, police raided the property a second time. During that action, officers with the sheriff’s department’s cannabis enforcement team discovered a large red shipping container known as a Conex box next to a house at the location.

“Upon searching the Conex box, deputies discovered the floor opened and were able to descend into an underground bunker,” the statement reads, according to a report from the Victorville Daily Press. “The bunker was 230 feet in length by 60 feet in width. It was constructed with over 30 Conex boxes approximately 15 feet below the ground.”

The underground facility covered 14,000 square feet and contained more than 6,000 illicit cannabis plants. Deputies also discovered a reserve of 5,500 gallons of fuel to power “generators that were used to air out the space and cure the plants,” according to Anderson.

Prosecutors also allege that “processed marijuana was found in the residence of Cheng Lin, as well as a commercial lease agreement in Cheng Lin’s name, for a commercial building in which law enforcement found numerous items used for the cultivation of marijuana and over (200) pounds of marijuana product.”

Felony Charges Filed

The district attorney is seeking a felony upgrade for the charges of illegal cultivation based on a provision of state law that permits stricter penalties for operations that harm the environment. Defendants in the case have been charged with “illegal discharge of waste and intentionally and with gross negligence causing substantial harm to public lands and other public resources.”

Anderson said that the case is indicative of law enforcement’s response to unlicensed cannabis cultivation in the area. He also vowed to seize property from owners of land used to grow cannabis illegally.

“Once we can say that these properties are known to contain a nuisance, we’re gonna take the property,” the district attorney said on Monday.

“If those folks can’t remediate the properties through appropriate sentence(s) that we may get in this particular case, then we will work with the county to try to take that property and then sell that property,” he added. “The taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for the illegal conduct that’s been engaged in here.”

Anderson said that enforcing the laws against unlicensed cannabis cultivation protects growers who have taken the effort, time, and expense of obtaining licenses to operate legitimately.

“You’re putting unfair competition on an industry that’s trying to be regulated,” Anderson said about illicit cannabis growers. He went on to compare the illicit cannabis cultivation operation to a counterfeit Amazon distribution warehouse.

“We have a bootleg Amazon selling illegal or counterfeit products out of a warehouse that’s buried underground,” he said. “Who can compete against that? Jeff Bezos couldn’t compete against that.”

Eight defendants who were on the property at the time the second search warrant was served have been charged in the case, including five defendants who have been arrested and charged. Law enforcement officials also issued arrest warrants for six additional people not yet in custody.

The post California Officials Bust Huge Subterranean Pot Farm appeared first on High Times.

Mayhem Erupts at Melbourne Cannabis Rally as Police Haul Off Patients

The annual 420 Rally & Community Picnic at Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia ended in disaster on April 20, when law enforcement sabotaged the event and hauled peaceful patients off while ignoring the medical cannabis law.

The Australian parliament amended the Narcotics Drug Act in 2016 to allow medical cannabis. In Victoria, doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe medical cannabis, but certain products need approval from the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The 420 events there today are a mix of celebration and a call to action. Jason, aka “Ancient Jay” organizes the 420 Rally & Community Picnic each year. Ancient Jay says this didn’t deter police from arresting people smoking peacefully at the rally.

“A pre-planned assault on some of Victoria’s most vulnerable members of the community, the police intimidated and illegally searched just about everyone passing through the park including a cancer patient recovering from recent brain surgery,” Ancient Jay told High Times.

Courtesy of Platform 2 Melbourne

“I was approached by one elderly gentleman who had been strip searched in plain view of everyone despite not having any cannabis or illicit substances, the humiliation he felt was visible in the tear rolling from the corner of his eye.”

Ancient Jay is a drug reform advocate, host of Ancient Jay’s Argo Nights, and has used cannabis for medical purposes for over 30 years.

British tabloid Daily Mail profiled one particular incident in which several officers dragged a man and ignored his pleas that he held a prescription for medical cannabis. The man was handcuffed and dragged away. He also said he obtained his cannabis legally from a pharmacy. The man told reporters that he assumed he’d have a good time for what was his first time at the event with legal medical cannabis.

A Victoria Police spokesman said police were on-site at Flagstaff Gardens on Wednesday for the protest, and that the man was released later—but after first being arrested, handcuffed, and hauled away. It’s not the kind of freedom advocates envisioned with legalized medical cannabis in the state.

A blogger from Platform 2 Melbourne was at the rally, and decided to record and post it on YouTube, considering the nature of the event, despite a DJ playing music in the background.

Police aggression can be plainly seen on the video, and commenters called the police “uniformed thugs,” “cowards,” and other names.

Part of the problem is accessibility for medical patients. “Despite the legality and availability of prescription cannabis the present laws create a situation that allows patients rights to be ignored,” Ancient Jay said.

The actions of police signal that they are not observing the state’s recently implemented medical cannabis law.

“The aggressive approach by police towards the 420 Rally indicates a total lack of understanding or empathy towards these vulnerable members of the community and an intimidation focused approach towards law reform campaigners.”

Psychedelic artist TROG is based in Victoria, and has many connections with the cannabis community there. He was also impacted by the course of events at the rally.

“It’s 2022, every human knows cannabis isn’t harmful, incidents like this shouldn’t happen, it’s incorrect,” TROG told High Times.

Around half of Australians say that cannabis should be legalized. According to a survey in 2019, 41.1% of Australians believe cannabis should be legalized in the country—a significant jump in approval ratings compared to 2013 when they were asked the same question. In an online survey, conducted by polling company Essential Research between March 30 and April 2 of 2022, 50% of respondents said that they were in favor of full cannabis reform.

The post Mayhem Erupts at Melbourne Cannabis Rally as Police Haul Off Patients appeared first on High Times.

New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

The post New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed appeared first on High Times.

Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp

On Wednesday, Spanish authorities announced the destruction of 415,000 cannabis plants worth an estimated $108 million. Police claimed that this was a vital strike against Europe’s “largest cannabis plantation.”

Approximately 50 tons of plants were being dried in a warehouse in the rural region of Navarre. The plantation was spread over 166 acres of land. The owners are now facing criminal charges.

But here is where the story starts to get really strange.

The plants were all low THC hemp—a substance at least on the European level, which is no longer considered a “narcotic.” Even in Spain, the sale and consumption of CBD is legal.

Spanish Cultivation and Legality

This case is one of the stranger ones to hit headlines of late, precisely because it highlights the legal confusion over the status of cannabis and hemp across the E.U. However, it also goes to show why there is a dire need for not only European, but individual European country sovereign reform.

Legally, the cultivation of cannabis in Spain (including CBD) is only allowed when the cultivator is growing “industrial hemp.” Growing hemp for conversion into CBD remains a criminal offense. Indeed, Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code criminalizes the cultivation of cannabis when it promotes, favors, or facilitates the illegal consumption of “drugs” with a prison sentence of between 3-6 years.

However this case is a bit of a legal oddity. European law, which of course at this point Spain is out of compliance with, does not define hemp with more than .02% CBD as a narcotic. In this case, the farmer was apparently planning to export the dried plant to other countries for this extraction process.

Further, per the Kanavape case, companies are allowed to export hemp flower and low THC products across country lines for sale when legally produced in the country of origin —which would also seem to apply in this case as the farmer claimed that this is what he was doing. Apparently, even though the crop was designated as industrial hemp in Spain, the intent to export and then extract was what triggered the police action.

It will be interesting to see the development of this case.

The Dire Need for European Reform

It is precisely cases like this that underline the growing need for a regional approach to comprehensive cannabis reform. The problem seen in Spain (home, let’s not forget to non-profit cannabis clubs where high THC flower can be obtained), is one that is also showing up in other countries.

In Germany right now, importation of CBD can still result in legal action from overzealous prosecutors. In France, this was also true until the Kanavape case, which of course then went on to challenge E.U. law on the topic—and further set E.U. wide precedent that if hemp is legally produced in one member state, it can also be exported to another.

There is currently a case in Germany now pending in an attempt to bring German law into compliance with the E.U. on this matter.

This case, if properly defended, may well go on to set legal precedent about the same in Spain.

Until such matters are settled, however, working even in the CBD space in Europe remains a dangerous proposition.

It was, after all, less than a year ago that the German grocery retailer Lidl was actually raided by police in Munich for the “crime” of selling cookies and other products containing CBD.

In the Meantime…

The entire European cannabis industry is actually getting more hazardous, not less, even as reform begins to make headway in individual countries and E.U. wide policy on CBD is being set. This is even true in Holland, home of the coffeeshop, where there is a national trial underway to regulate the cultivation of cannabis, but the mayor of Amsterdam wants to ban tourists from the coffeeshops and close about two-thirds of them down.

In Germany right now, there are several hundred pending cases against legitimate businesses selling hemp—even as the new government has announced its intention to create a recreational market for high THC cannabis.

Beyond that, there are about 185,000 pending preliminary criminal proceedings across the country for recreational users who have been busted by the police for possession or even home-grow for personal consumption. These numbers also do not include patients, including those whose insurance companies have refused to cover medical cannabis despite such treatment being recommended by their doctors.

As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.

The post Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp appeared first on High Times.

New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Sederberg wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

The post New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed appeared first on High Times.

Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp

On Wednesday, Spanish authorities announced the destruction of 415,000 cannabis plants worth an estimated $108 million. Police claimed that this was a vital strike against Europe’s “largest cannabis plantation.”

Approximately 50 tons of plants were being dried in a warehouse in the rural region of Navarre. The plantation was spread over 166 acres of land. The owners are now facing criminal charges.

But here is where the story starts to get really strange.

The plants were all low THC hemp—a substance at least on the European level, which is no longer considered a “narcotic.” Even in Spain, the sale and consumption of CBD is legal.

Spanish Cultivation and Legality

This case is one of the stranger ones to hit headlines of late, precisely because it highlights the legal confusion over the status of cannabis and hemp across the E.U. However, it also goes to show why there is a dire need for not only European, but individual European country sovereign reform.

Legally, the cultivation of cannabis in Spain (including CBD) is only allowed when the cultivator is growing “industrial hemp.” Growing hemp for conversion into CBD remains a criminal offense. Indeed, Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code criminalizes the cultivation of cannabis when it promotes, favors, or facilitates the illegal consumption of “drugs” with a prison sentence of between 3-6 years.

However this case is a bit of a legal oddity. European law, which of course at this point Spain is out of compliance with, does not define hemp with more than .02% CBD as a narcotic. In this case, the farmer was apparently planning to export the dried plant to other countries for this extraction process.

Further, per the Kanavape case, companies are allowed to export hemp flower and low THC products across country lines for sale when legally produced in the country of origin —which would also seem to apply in this case as the farmer claimed that this is what he was doing. Apparently, even though the crop was designated as industrial hemp in Spain, the intent to export and then extract was what triggered the police action.

It will be interesting to see the development of this case.

The Dire Need for European Reform

It is precisely cases like this that underline the growing need for a regional approach to comprehensive cannabis reform. The problem seen in Spain (home, let’s not forget to non-profit cannabis clubs where high THC flower can be obtained), is one that is also showing up in other countries.

In Germany right now, importation of CBD can still result in legal action from overzealous prosecutors. In France, this was also true until the Kanavape case, which of course then went on to challenge E.U. law on the topic—and further set E.U. wide precedent that if hemp is legally produced in one member state, it can also be exported to another.

There is currently a case in Germany now pending in an attempt to bring German law into compliance with the E.U. on this matter.

This case, if properly defended, may well go on to set legal precedent about the same in Spain.

Until such matters are settled, however, working even in the CBD space in Europe remains a dangerous proposition.

It was, after all, less than a year ago that the German grocery retailer Lidl was actually raided by police in Munich for the “crime” of selling cookies and other products containing CBD.

In the Meantime…

The entire European cannabis industry is actually getting more hazardous, not less, even as reform begins to make headway in individual countries and E.U. wide policy on CBD is being set. This is even true in Holland, home of the coffeeshop, where there is a national trial underway to regulate the cultivation of cannabis, but the mayor of Amsterdam wants to ban tourists from the coffeeshops and close about two-thirds of them down.

In Germany right now, there are several hundred pending cases against legitimate businesses selling hemp—even as the new government has announced its intention to create a recreational market for high THC cannabis.

Beyond that, there are about 185,000 pending preliminary criminal proceedings across the country for recreational users who have been busted by the police for possession or even home-grow for personal consumption. These numbers also do not include patients, including those whose insurance companies have refused to cover medical cannabis despite such treatment being recommended by their doctors.

As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.

The post Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp appeared first on High Times.

Police Link Rash of New England Cannabis Facility Burglaries

Police have linked a rash of burglaries targeting New England cannabis dispensaries to a trio of suspects in Massachusetts, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald. Law enforcement officers say that a man from New Bedford, Massachusetts and two brothers from Boston are suspected in the string of burglaries of licensed cannabis enterprises going back to 2020.

Police began connecting the crimes after a burglary at a cannabis grower in Gorham, Maine in October of last year. In that caper, three individuals wearing face coverings, hats and long sleeves cut their way through an exterior wall of the business located in an industrial park while a fourth person stood watch outside. The three burglars inside the building moved cautiously from room to room, trying to avoid detection by motion sensors. When the team finally left a couple of hours later, they took 30 pounds of cannabis and 500 THC vape cartridges with them.

During their investigation, police reviewed video from the cannabis cultivator’s security cameras. One camera caught the image of the Massachusetts license plate of a pickup truck that entered the parking lot two hours before the crime. And inside the building, one of the camera’s microphones recorded the burglars talking to one another.

“Where the (expletive) is Dario?” one burglar clearly said to another.

“He’s putting the trunks in the truck, ” the accomplice replied.

Investigation Yields Three Suspects

The license plate led law enforcement officers to Dario Almeida, a 21-year-old man with an address in New Bedford, Massachusetts. When Gorham police Detective Stephen Hinkley called New Bedford police, they gave him a cellphone number for Almeida, who had had a recent contact with the department.

A week later, police in New Bedford contacted Hinkley via email to inform him that Almeida and his brother Rafael were suspects in a similar burglary of a cannabis cultivator in Warwick, Rhode Island, where the same pickup truck was also caught on video. Police believe that the brothers are from South Boston and a third suspect is from New Bedford, according to Mass Live.

After reaching out to other New England law enforcement agencies, Hinkley learned of seven similar burglaries that had occurred in Maine since June of last year. Another Gorham cannabis business was also burglarized by criminals who cut through an exterior wall on Thanksgiving night in 2020. Burglars also targeted a cannabis business in South Portland, Maine. In January, a Portland, Maine judge issued a search warrant for evidence including location data from one of the suspect’s cell phones for the times that two of the burglaries occurred. No arrests have yet been made, and the case is still being investigated.

Police in South Portland and Warwick did not reply to reporters’ questions about the burglaries. Gorham Police Chief Christopher Sanborn also declined to comment on the rash of burglaries.

“This is an open investigation that we are currently working on,” Sanborn said. “I’m sorry, but I cannot comment any further at this time.”

Maine’s cannabis regulatory agency, the Office of Marijuana Policy, requires licensed cannabis businesses to report burglaries, robberies and other crimes. But David Heidrich, a spokesperson for the agency, said that many businesses are not familiar with the procedure to submit such reports. The reports the regulator has received are confidential and an analysis of the information they contain has not been conducted by the agency.

“We are not a law enforcement entity, and our role in regulating cannabis is to ensure licensee and registrant compliance with Maine’s adult and medical use of marijuana laws,” Heidrich wrote in response to a request for information on crime reports at cannabis businesses. “Thefts and burglaries are crimes, and the best source for information about criminal activity is and has always been law enforcement.”

An executive at Tetrapoint LLC, a South Portland-based cannabis security firm that transports pot and cash for cannabis businesses, told the Portland Press Herald that many companies are lulled by Maine’s reputation as a low-crime state into being complacent about security. But he said that the threat to cannabis businesses still exists.

“The tendency is to say, the bank’s only a half-hour away, why would we pay people to drive there?” said the executive, who requested anonymity to prevent being targeted for robbery while he’s on the job. “We have clients who are next door to a bank, and they still utilize our services.”

The executive also noted that despite pot’s continued illegality at the federal level, many local police departments are treating cannabis businesses just like other crime victims.

“In several different communities, we’ve found that local law enforcement are very friendly because it’s driving new business,” the security executive said.  “Some folks may not be particularly happy about the industry, but it’s here, it’s now and it’s happening.”

The post Police Link Rash of New England Cannabis Facility Burglaries appeared first on High Times.

L.A. Cultivators, Jungle Boys, Raided Over Bogus Late Fees

Tuesday night saw one of Los Angeles’s most storied dispensaries have a rough run-in with law enforcement and The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

TLC is famously the headquarters of the Jungle Boys. They are one of the premier examples of urban farmers bootstrapping their way to success in the modern cannabis industry, which has seen so many tragically fall short and have to sell a piece, or sell out completely. So as one of the culture’s best success stories in a world of corporate dogs, the community was pissed to see what they had to go through last night. 

Why? Because we’ve watched them jump through every hoop that’s ever existed for the legal cannabis market in L.A. and maintain a quality that is better than most. While some would say, “Well, this is legal cannabis,” in regards to the raid, and wouldn’t be wrong, those with a bit more hope in their hearts would be pissed to see someone who’s done so well up to this point be treated like this.

So what happened? We talked with Ivan from the Jungle Boys to find out. 

“At five o’clock in the evening, we’re all sitting inside of the shop. It’s the first of the month so we’re paying all our bills,” Ivan told High Times. “We look up at the camera and see one car, two cars, three cars, four cars, and are like ‘holy shit, they must be chasing someone inside of our building,’ you know? We watched them come up and my first thought was either they’re chasing someone inside of our building or someone that worked for us maybe has a warrant or something.”

As they started to watch the employees get corralled by law enforcement, they realized the situation was quickly turning into something else. Ivan explained the shock of that moment, “We started seeing a round-up of all our employees into the front lobby area and were like, ‘are we fucking raided?’”

He immediately jumped on the line with his lawyer as he looked at the cameras. He then explained what happened next, “Right next to the office, two cops come with guns on us, put them in our face, tell us to get to the fucking ground, this is basically a raid, and we’re like what the fuck?” Ivan spent the first hour presuming someone had really screwed up somewhere to cause this kind of event at the shop. 

“I was thinking in my head we owed them millions of dollars,” Ivan said. “I’ve never seen it where you have Highway Patrol undercovers, LAPD, sheriff, every agency there all working together.”

Eventually, the TLC team would discover this was all caused by a fine discrepancy with the CDTFA from when their offices were closed during the pandemic and dispensaries couldn’t pay taxes in cash. Despite the $18 million they did receive from the Jungle Boys last year, they decided to move forward with this action on a $66,000 sum the Jungle Boys already received a hearing date for. 

The CDTFA regularly inspects California dispensaries. They’ll come in and ask to see your last few invoices to make sure everything is in order. We asked Ivan if, during those site inspections that have increased over the last year, anything seemed off or ever felt like things weren’t cool? He said it always seemed normal. They would come, say what they wanted to see, and TLC would go along with it. 

But once Ivan realized what was really up, they weren’t going along with this. 

“They’re trying to charge us late fees,” Ivan realized in that moment. “And we appealed that.”

TLC provided all the paperwork to the arriving authorities, but apparently, that still wasn’t enough.

“They won’t talk to our lawyer. They won’t look at the appeal paperwork,” Ivan said as he relived the shock of it all. “They just basically said they’re taking all the money inside the building. I’m like, wait, this is over the $66,000?”

At this point, Ivan’s demeanor started to change. 

“I’m like, fuck you motherfuckers, what the fuck? You’re fucking raiding our building over a fucking dispute that we have a date set that you guys have the email, you guys received it, you guys fucking accepted it! We send you faxes. We have all the paperwork, here it is. This is what this is about? I thought this was over, like, millions of fucking dollars that we messed up on.”

As Ivan was raging, the CDTFA cleared out $174,000 dollars from TLC. They even emptied the tip jars for the budtenders at the counter.

“This is our standard procedure for cannabis businesses or any business. We’re not singling out any industry or type of business. If you owe taxes in California, we do our best to collect what is due,” the CDTFA told High Times.

The post L.A. Cultivators, Jungle Boys, Raided Over Bogus Late Fees appeared first on High Times.

New Zealand Police Reboot Illegal Cannabis Operation Search After Year of Inactivity

New Zealand Police National Headquarters recently brought back its cannabis eradication program, which was cancelled in January 2021. According to Stuff.co.nz, the program was costing the department more than $700,000 annually to send out helicopters and airplanes, and the program has been running for approximately 20 years. However, the department recently set aside $635,000 to fund this effort once again, which began in January 2022 and will be conducted through March. The cannabis eradication program utilizes flight vehicles to scan for large-scale illegal grow operations.

A briefing was originally published by the police department in December 2021 detailing this decision, but was only recently released to Stuff.co.nz through the Official Information Act of New Zealand. Until now, all information was withheld until the police minister had approved it. In the briefing, it states that although the program had been stopped in all 12 districts last year, the funding was still available.

With the revival of the program, now called Operation Emerald, six out of the 12 districts have opted in. “Running a nationally coordinated operation provides efficiencies in terms of negotiating a fixed-wing plane and helicopter contracts, deploying staff, provision of training for staff, and administration of the budget,” the briefing states.

However, there has been one report of an incident that involved three cannabis plants, rather than a large cultivation operation. In early February, a police helicopter flew over one couple’s property to remove three cannabis plants. “It got closer and closer and then just zoomed in on this little hill about 80 metres from our house and sprayed three small cannabis plants that were in pots up on the hills,” the individual said. “We could see the pilot, he could see us, we waved to them, and he was just sitting there above the hills spraying the plants and then just buggered off.” The individual noted that he had recently received an operation to remove cancer, and invested in a $150 cannabis oil bottle to treat the pain, instead of the tramadol and codeine he was prescribed. (His wife also suffers from an autoimmune disease, and medical cannabis helps her sleep.) As a result, he and his partner believed it would be easier and more cost effective to grow their own cannabis plants for medical use.

“The spraying of our plants seems like overkill, we would’ve been happy if someone had knocked on our door and said ‘hey we’ve had a complaint’ or something … we would’ve destroyed them if they asked us to,” he continued. “We’re just a mother and father … good community jobs, we work in the community, we help the community with sports, we’re both in community groups and are working for non-profit organizations. We don’t understand why we got targeted in a distressing manner.”

Chlöe Swarbrick, a Green Party MP and previous advocate of cannabis legalization, criticized how the plant eradication was handled. “This situation underlines yet again how these police chopper operations are not only a waste of time and money but literally cutting off some people’s medicinal cannabis supplies,” she said. “New Zealanders going about their business harming nobody have had a police chopper drop into their family dinner simply because parliament continues to prefer and enable people to get legally fully blackout drunk with all the social harms that come with that instead of moderately using an evidentially less-harmful substance that 80 percent of us will already have used by the time that we’re out of our teens.”

The focus of Operation Emerald is to target large-scale grow operations in New Zealand, but a spokesperson confirmed that it is common for smaller plants and grows to be targeted in this manner. “However, as this work is often conducted in remote or rural areas, and from the air, smaller cannabis plots can naturally be sprayed during the discovery phase of flying operations,” the spokesperson said.

The post New Zealand Police Reboot Illegal Cannabis Operation Search After Year of Inactivity appeared first on High Times.