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Thursday, May 5, 2016

National News for May 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Housing Guru: 
Connecting Growers and Landlords
Landlords and tenants alike ran into problems when marijuana cultivation became legalized in Colorado. Landlords would find tenants had created a grow in the house they were renting, often making holes in the walls for ventilation. While tenants who had created their own garden would sometimes find themselves locked out by a landlord who was against the plant and had never authorized the grow room in the home. Home Guru was started as a result of these issues. The company connects tenants who would like to grow legally with landlords willing to allow them to grow. Housing Guru acts as a property manager – checking on the property, making repairs, and taking care of any issues that may come up. It also checks out prospective tenants for verifiable income, references, good rental history, and a legal background check. The company has had more landlords approaching them for assistance in renting their properties after learning that most tenants are willing to pay higher than market rent to be able to grow in their home with the landlord’s approval and knowledge. Dan Fortune, a landlord who uses Housing Guru for his 20 properties throughout the state, claims that the tenants ‘who grow in his properties are among the best he has had. Because they are engaged in an activity that many people frown upon, they are quiet.’

Colorado Releases First Official Data
Colorado Springs:
Colorado released its first report containing local, state, and federal data this month. The Colorado Department of Public Safety gathered the information to show how legalization has affected public safety, marijuana-related arrests, adult and teen usage, and hospital visits related to ingestion of the plant. The data shows that marijuana-related arrests have been cut in half and arrests for marijuana sales have decreased by 24 percent. The report also shows that marijuana use has increased among adults in the state, jumping from 21 percent of people ages 18-25 to 31 percent,  but has decreased by a little over 3 percent among high school students. Marijuana-related hospital visits were also covered in the document, stating hospital visits of this type have tripled since legalization. Before legalization 800 of every 100,000 visits were due to the plant, since it was legalized, however, 2,400 of every 100,000 involves marijuana. Colorado’s DPS stated that these are early statistics and it is too soon to come to any conclusions about the effects of legalizing marijuana.

Grow Operation Found at Crime Scene
Piketon, OH:
Eight family members, in four different houses, were brutally murdered execution style as they slept in their beds in late April. Authorities believe the Rhoden family was specifically targeted and have cautioned other members of the family living in the area that they could be potential targets. So far 50-60 people have been interviewed, over 100 tips have been received and are being investigated, and over five search warrants issued and completed in the case. Authorities commented, “This was a pre-planned execution of eight individuals. It was a sophisticated operation and those who carried it out were trying to do everything they could to hinder the investigation and their prosecution.” While officials would not release how many guns were used, the type used, or whether the family members were involved in criminal activity, they did state that marijuana grow operations were found at three of the four crime scenes. As the investigation is ongoing, officers would not comment as to whether the grows had anything to do with the murders.

Pennsylvania Joins the Green Side
Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill at the end of April, making Pennsylvania the 24th state to legalize marijuana for medical use. The new legislation will allow any person with one of the seventeen qualifying conditions to receive and use medical marijuana to treat their ailment. Some of the conditions approved include epilepsy, cancer, PTSD, autism, and various neurological and gastrointestinal disorders. It will take about 18 months to get the program into place before medicine will be able to be dispensed to patients. Governor Wolf addressed the crowd before signing the bill, stating, “This is really a great day for Pennsylvania. This is a really great day for all of us.”

Big Grow, Big Charges
Two men were arrested last month in connection with a grow operation that contained over 1,100 plants. Authorities describe the discovery as a “very high-tech indoor grow operation”. Inside the house, officers found a hash processing room and industrial equipment that would allow the men to process a high volume of plants after they are harvested. At another house, owned by one of the men, detectives found processed cannabis in sealed bags, ready to be distributed. Patrick McDonald and Kyle Sorensen were arrested and face charges of manufacturing, possession with intent to sell/transport, and possession of over 2 pounds of marijuana. Authorities said the operation could’ve produced about 4,000 pounds of marijuana per year, which is a potential $10 million in street value.

Sore Losers
Nebraska and Oklahoma:
After their lawsuit against Colorado was dismissed by the US Supreme Court last month, Nebraska and Oklahoma are trying again, in the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, asking to combine their lawsuit with another already brought against the state. The case they are hoping to be added to is a consolidation of two separate appeals filed by a group of county sheriffs and owners of a property next to a marijuana grow operation, supported by anti-legalization groups, whose lawsuits were dismissed in lower courts. All three lawsuits are based on the idea that federal laws criminalizing marijuana should override any state laws. Nebraska and Oklahoma continue to argue that legalization in Colorado “violates their sovereignty and requires them to spend more money arresting, jailing and prosecuting an increasing number of people caught bringing pot into their states.” There is not a time line for the Circuit judge to make a decision on the states’ request.

Trial for Marijuana Mom
The trial for a 39 year old, northern Colorado mother accused of buying and selling a marijuana brownie, and witness tampering, began late last month. Julieane Joblonski has been charged with illegally transferring a marijuana concentrate and witness tampering after selling a pot brownie to her son’s roommate, then telling him to lie about where he got it after speaking to police. According to police reports, Joblonski’s son, Austin Essig, consumed the brownie, bought from his mother by his roommate, before jumping from a third story window. Essig suffered serious injuries in the fall but survived. The defense argues that while she did buy and supply the marijuana, she never told the teenager to lie on her behalf. Joblonski plans to take the stand in her own defense, if convicted she could face prison time

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