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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

National News for July 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

                                                 The Fight For Life Insurance
California: Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech Corp. with business interests in marijuana cultivation and retail, is a successful businessman who was recently denied a personal life insurance policy by Mutual of Omaha due to his association with the marijuana industry. While many entrepreneurs of the industry have lost bank accounts due to being involved with federally illegal activities, being refused personal life insurance is not as common. Mutual of Omaha stated in a letter sent to Peterson they were unable to insure him because they “cannot accept premiums from individuals or entities who are associated with the marijuana industry.” According to US News, experts believe the company could be using caution so as not to violate laws concerning money laundering. A spokesman for Mutual of Omaha commented on the rejection saying, “It is our practice not to comment on individual underwriting decisions.”

Backward Steps to Legalization
Delaware: Sen. Colin Bonini claimed, last month, he would sponsor a bill to legalize marijuana in the state. While originally Bonini was not a supporter of full legalization, he feels it would be better than the slow process of decriminalization already taking place as the drug is currently untaxed and unregulated. Bonini told Delaware Online, “The reality is we’ve legalized marijuana in Delaware, and we’ve legalized it through backward steps. I think incrementally pulling away restrictions and by default legalizing marijuana is not the best way to do it. If we’re going to legalize marijuana, let’s legalize marijuana.” Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was decriminalized last year and possession of between one and six ounces was listed as a misdemeanor. Bonini believes lawmakers need to focus on controlling the sale of the drug as well as keeping it out of the hands of those under 21. Gov. Jack Markell, however, has said he will not sign any bill completely legalizing marijuana in Delaware.

One Heavy Load
Georgia: Police were called to a truck storage space in Norcross last month after a man was found near a white van and a tractor trailer. The man, 31 year old Johnny Taylor, was already dead when officers arrived. Police smelled the odor of marijuana while waiting for the medical examiner and began taking inventory of the van for impound after the body was removed from the scene. After an officer opened a box containing sealed bags of marijuana, police obtained a warrant and found several hundred pounds of marijuana. Officers estimate the find to be worth around $12 million. Taylor is believed to have died from natural causes while moving the marijuana from the back of the van to the back of the tractor trailer as no signs of trauma were detected on the body. A man, who dropped off the supposedly empty tractor trailer, was interviewed by police in connection with the drugs but was not arrested after claiming he had no idea what would be loaded into the back of the truck. Police are still investigating whether the tractor trailer was empty when it was brought onto the lot.

Legalization Lowers High School Students' Usage
Colorado: A study conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has found, contrary to common anti-legalization claims, the percentage of high school students using marijuana has decreased since legalization in the state and is lower than the overall national average. The survey reports about 21.2 percent of high school students had used marijuana in the past 30 days, which is down from 22 percent in 2011, while nationally 21.7 percent of students admit to using the drug. Scientific American states the department found, ‘’...marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.” However, a member of SMART Colorado, an organization pushing for tighter regulations to keep marijuana out of the reach of children, claims a federal survey by the Department of Health and Human Services actually shows Colorado ranking first in the nation for marijuana use by minors between the ages of 12 and 17. Also believing the data to be “deeply concerning” as marijuana use at a young age could have lifelong consequences. 

Medical Marijuana Patient Fired for Off-Duty MMJ Use
Oregon: An arbitrator ordered a Lane County employee to be reinstated to his position and paid $22,000 in back pay due to being fired for off-duty medical marijuana use. Michael Hirsch, a senior programmer and systems analyst, was fired by Lane County after a co-worker reported smelling marijuana on his clothing. Hirsch had a doctor recommendation to use the medication to alleviate side effects he was experiencing from his treatment for prostate cancer. A spokesman for the county stated the ‘county relies on maintaining a “drug-free” workplace to receive federal funds’. Arbitrator Jeffrey Jacobs ruled in the favor of Hirsch after finding the county couldn’t provide evidence that Hirsch had used his medication at work or that it impaired his performance while on the job. 

Toddler Dies After Consuming Synthetic Marijuana

Indiana: A 20 month-old toddler was found dead on May 11th of this year and a newly released report from the coroner’s office is reluctant to explain how she died. The inquest report listed the child’s cause of death as “streptococcal sepsis with contributing synthetic cannabinoids”, but the official cause of death has been reported as “undetermined” because “of the unknown effects of K2 on a child”. Sepsis usually develops after an infection, but it is unclear what role the K2 played in her death. As of late last month no criminal charges have been filed, but as the toddler did have synthetic marijuana in her system police are continuing to investigate the case.

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