Reference Library – USA – Minnesota
New York’s medical marijuana program was a boom for lobbyists firms. Yet 17,000 patients out of 200,000 that are eligible have been certified for the program, lohud’s David Robinson reports. Ricky Flores/lohud
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
Desperate criminals made a daring smuggling run from Minnesota to New York in an armored SUV packed with $500,000 of marijuana oil. Or
Highly respected corporate officers quietly transported state-licensed medical marijuana from a Minnesota-based company to its affiliate in New York. These are the drastically different stories behind a high-profile Minnesota legal battle involving Vireo Health, the parent company of the medical marijuana dispensary in downtown White Plains.
Prosecutors have accused Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, the company s former chief medical officer and security officer, of smuggling the drugs 1,200 miles to rescue Vireo from missing a deadline to open up shop in New York in 2016. On the other side, Paul Engh, the attorney for Bultman, has disputed that Minnesota s marijuana law bans shipping the drug across state borders, The Journal News/lohud has learned from court documents, and shifted focus onto why medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law despite being allowed in 28 states.
Engh s stance is detailed in a 12-page report urging a court to toss the felony drug charges against Bultman. It boils down to one question: How is it illegal for a licensed company’s officer to provide a drug to patients as defined by state law?
We believe the law is with us and are hopeful that the court agrees, Engh said, addressing the court documents in response to an inquiry by The Journal News/lohud. Other defense arguments in Engh’s filing touch on everything from a company’s definition as a person under Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that gave corporations protected rights, to a lack of clarity in Minnesota’s marijuana law.
“Any ambiguity as to the law s language and its application is to be resolved in Dr. Bultman s favor,” Engh wrote in court documents.
Still, the Vireo case has underscored why federal lawmakers idleness and a patchwork approach to state marijuana laws have muddled efforts to treat thousands of patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer and epilepsy. Nick Zerwas, a state representative in Minnesota, described the Vireo scandal as a flaw in that state s law.
When this (law) was moved through several years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the methods of delivery and how many dispensaries, he said, but not nearly enough discussion on insufficient legal leverages necessary to regulate and investigate and hold accountable this industry. Zerwas, who voted to legalize marijuana sales in 2014, has pushed new legislation seeking to tighten the law in the wake of the Vireo case.
The looming threat of the U.S. Justice Department closing down Minnesota s marijuana program also influenced Zerwas reform push.
It s incumbent upon us to act swiftly and signify that the state of Minnesota can handle this, Zerwas said. Vireo Health executives have said little about the situation. Andrew Mangini, a company spokesman, noted medical marijuana sales continue in New York, including a recent launch of a home delivery service to eligible patients in New York City.
We take our legal obligations and regulatory responsibilities in this area very seriously, he said. And will cooperate with the relevant agencies while maintaining our focus on patients who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases like cancer and ALS, and who deserve best-in-class medical cannabis products and compassionate care.”
While federal authorities at the Justice Department would not say if they are investigating the Vireo case, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno spoke to its prior hands-off approach as state marijuana laws piled up since 2013.
The Cole Memo
Traditionally, the DEA has targeted eight criminal activities by marijuana businesses under a policy that says no to drugged driving, sales to minors, interstate smuggling, and using cannabis-based profits in connection to other crimes.
You have seen over the last few years there have continued to be raids on dispensaries in California and Colorado because they had to do with these eight things, said Carreno. It all stemmed from a 2013 policy, commonly called the Cole memo, and named after a former Justice Department lawyer, James Cole, who established federal law enforcement s approach to the states that legalized marijuana, for medical and/or recreational use.
Cole s memo remains in place as feds await the newly appointed attorney general s marching orders for an apparent federal crackdown on marijuana. At a law enforcement gathering in February, Sessions cited the increased legalization of marijuana, an issue he long railed against while an Alabama senator, as contributing to a culture of acceptance, USA Today reported.
“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if (marijuana) is being sold from every corner grocery store,” he said. Some medical marijuana advocates have voiced concerns about Sessions apparent attempt to lump together medicinal and recreational uses of the drug, despite his lack of policy details and Congress effectively banning raids on state-approved medical marijuana in 2014.
Sessions general tougher-on-crime stance, however, suggests a drastic turnaround from recent efforts to remove marijuana from the discussion of more dangerous narcotics.
“We don’t need to be legalizing marijuana, and we need to be cracking down on heroin,’ Sessions said.
Read or Share this story: http://lohud.us/2q4mFh1
- ^ VIREO HEALTH: Marijuana smuggling scandal (www.lohud.com)
- ^ MONEY TRAIL: New York’s marijuana lobbying dollars top $2 million by applicants (www.lohud.com)
- ^ LIST: What lobbying firms got from New York’s medical marijuana applicants (www.lohud.com)
- ^ USA Today reported. (www.lohud.com)
The secret source for cyber hires
Government agencies are often at a disadvantage when trying to hire cyber talent because they simply can’t match the salaries private companies can offer. And while top federal agencies can stress their national-security angle and cutting-edge missions, the average state or local job is usually not nearly as sexy. When it comes to recruiting recent graduates, however, governments at all levels have a little-known tool at their disposal: the federal government’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program gives participating four-year colleges and universities scholarship grants to attract both undergraduate and graduate students to the cybersecurity field. Scholarship recipients then commit to a year of government employment for each year of the scholarship — effectively giving interested agencies an exclusive talent pool from which to recruit.
Minnesota Chief Information Security Officer Christopher Buse, who spoke about the program on April 25 at the National Association of State CIOs conference in Arlington, Va., said that currently, “almost all those individuals go to federal agencies to work to fulfill their grant requirements.” But employment at the state, local and tribal government level counts too, so the scholarships and their public-service requirements serve as a free workforce benefit for agencies that choose to take part. It’s a great deal for students as well: The average scholarship recipient gets an average of $50,000 per year, Buse said — a figure that includes a stipend as well as covering tuition, room and board.
Some students begin that work while still in school. Buse pointed to one of his hires as an example: The student is a full-time employee, working nights and weekends for the state with a salary of more than $60,000. As a SFS student, meanwhile, the individual is getting a free education, housing and a $25,000-per-year stipend. “That’s a hundred-thousand-dollar college student,” Buse said. Not surprisingly, such a generous program attracts significant interest among students — Buse said participating schools generally get 15 applicants for every scholarship granted. That highly competitive process helps the hiring agencies, he noted, as only the best students make it into the program. “The people we have coming out are phenomenally talented,” he said.
Government participation is not nearly so robust. The program holds an in-person career fair each January, Buse said. Last year, Minnesota and Iowa were the only states to recruit there — and Buse had personally persuaded his Iowa peer to go. Government agencies must apply to participate in the program, and a handful of other states are registered to recruit Scholarship for Service students. But as Connecticut CIO Mark Raymond said at the event, “you get out of it what you put in.”
“It s kind of sad that we don t have more participation in the program,” Buse said. “It s a good thing from my perspective, though– I had 200 resumes from top students that all had master s degrees, multiple programming languages. You re picking from the cream of the crop.”
There are nearly 70 accredited schools that take part in the SFS program, which means there are pipelines of graduates seeking government work scattered across the country. Four schools near Minneapolis/St. Paul take part, Buse said, and he’s found that many graduates are interested in staying close to home.
“It s like shooting fish in a bucket,” he said. Since so few non-federal agencies hire from the program, “there s just not a lot of competition. … Not everyone wants to go work inside the Beltway.”
About the Author
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN. Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) – An Avon police officer who shot and killed an attacker at a central Minnesota mall last September has been honored by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. Officer Jason Falconer received the association s Officer of the Year award Monday night. Falconer, a firearms instructor and competitive shooter, was off-duty and shopping at Crossroads Center in St. Cloud when Dahir Adan, dressed in a security guard uniform, stabbed and injured 10 people at the mall. Falconer shot Adan after Adan lunged at him with a knife.
Avon Police Chief Corey Nellis tells WJON-AM (http://bit.ly/2q2444S) Falconer absolutely saved lives that night.
Less than a month after the attack, Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall announced that Falconer would not face any criminal charges in the shooting.
Information from: WJON-AM, http://www.wjon.com