Connect with us

Politics

Wyoming Cops Accuse Hemp Advocates Of Illegally Growing Marijuana

Published

on

A lawyer “argues there is a pile of evidence that the farmers intended to grow hemp, beginning with the fact that they testified in front of legislative committees in favor of legalizing this agricultural practice in Wyoming.”

By Andrew Graham, WyoFile.com

UPDATE: Laramie County prosecutor David Singleton and attorneys for the defendants questioned Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations Special Agent John Briggs on Thursday during the start of the preliminary hearing. Laramie County Circuit Court Judge Antoinette Williams is presiding over the hearing, which was extended to an as-yet-unannounced date. — Ed.

Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents in November raided an Albin hemp farm, operated by two people instrumental in legalizing the crop in Wyoming, court filings show.

DCI and Laramie County prosecutors are accusing the mother-and-son farmers of growing marijuana with the intent to distribute because the 700-plus pounds of dried plant material law enforcement seized tested slightly above the legal THC-concentration limit of 0.3%, according to a DCI affidavit. Marijuana and hemp are derived from the same plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the chemical in marijuana that gets users high. Its low presence in hemp keeps the crop from being categorized a drug.

The farmers, Deb Palm-Egle and her son, Josh Egle, could face years, even decades, in prison if convicted.

The Egles intended to grow hemp, and their crop tested below the legal limit before the raid, according to documents filed by their attorney, trial lawyer Tom Jubin of Cheyenne.

In the July 6 court filing, Jubin argues there is a pile of evidence that the farmers intended to grow hemp, beginning with the fact that they testified in front of legislative committees in favor of legalizing this agricultural practice in Wyoming.

The case comes up for a preliminary hearing tomorrow in Laramie County Circuit Court. Jubin declined to comment, but his filing indicates he will ask the judge to dismiss the case because his clients did not intend to grow marijuana, which he argues should invalidate all the charges.

The Legislature legalized industrial hemp farming in 2017, though it became law without then-governor Matt Mead’s signature — a sign of his disapproval.

Jubin’s list of expected witnesses includes high-ranking politicians. Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier, a former state senator, along with House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Dan Kirkbride — all proponents of hemp farming who interacted with the charged farmers during legislative hearings on the statutes — are listed as potential witnesses. All three submitted testimony that they believe the Egles intended to grow hemp, not marijuana.

Political proponents of hemp have touted it as a way to diversify Wyoming’s fossil-fuel dependent economy and provide a new crop for the state’s agriculturists.

A photograph of the Egles standing next to Gov. Mark Gordon at the March 6, 2019 signing of a follow-up bill legalizing hemp production and processing is also included in the filing.

Jubin is also arguing that while DCI’s tests found the plants contained above the legal limit for THC, their concentration of the psychoactive ingredient was far too low to be effective as an illegal intoxicant.

DCI agents put the plants through a series of 10 tests, according to the charging documents. In nine of those, the concentration tested higher than 0.3%, according to the charging documents. The highest test level came back at 0.6% THC.

But for someone looking to get high, smoking these plants would be a disappointment. A review of recreational marijuana dispensary websites in Fort Collins, Colorado shows most “flowers,” the smokable buds of the plants, contain 15% THC or more.

“A crop of hemp containing in the neighborhood of .3 percent — or even over one percent, would be entirely unmarketable as marijuana,” Jubin argued in his July 6th filing. Selling such a product “on the illegal black market” could even put the seller at risk of retaliation, Jubin argued.

“Selling such a plant representing it to be marijuana could endanger the seller as it has no significant psychoactive properties, and any purchaser would consider himself duped or cheated,” he wrote. Nor could the farmers sell the crop in the legal marijuana market, because it did not come from a licensed grow operation, Jubin argued.

Prosecutors, however, are leveling serious charges against the farmers. These include conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana; possession with intent to deliver marijuana; possession of marijuana; and planting or cultivating marijuana. All but the last are felonies. The conspiracy and possession-with-intent-to-deliver charges carry prison sentences of zero to 10 years. Possession of a felony weight of marijuana — over three ounces — carries a prison sentence of zero to five years.

Two more people, Brock and Shannon Dyke, who were present at the farm the day of the raid, face identical charges. Brock Dyke was a contractor doing work for the Egles, according to Jubin’s filing.

Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Ann Manlove did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

Tipster led to ‘bust’

The trail to DCI’s raid on the farm in sleepy Albin, east of Cheyenne near the Nebraska border, began on Sept. 4, according to the charging documents. That day, a “reliable source of information” contacted DCI Special Agent J. Briggs and said he was concerned Palm-Egle was growing marijuana. The source said he or she “has known PALM-EGLE for some time,” Briggs wrote in his affidavit. The reliable source said they had seen a new addition on Palm-Egle’s farm and “believed that the new addition was what was described as a ‘greenhouse,’” Briggs wrote. The source “also claimed that he/she, noticed ‘blue lights coming from the greenhouse.’”

The source also said that Palm-Egle, who is in her 60s, talked in conversation about marijuana easing the symptoms of her multiple sclerosis.

More than a month after the tip, on Oct. 28, DCI’s Briggs “attempted to conduct physical surveillance on the residence,” he wrote. He saw car tracks but no people.

On Nov. 1, Briggs returned to the farm with another agent and went looking for someone to talk to. They did not find anyone, even after knocking on doors and entering “open barns” to look “around corners in areas that someone could possibly be, with the inability to hear Agents announcing themselves,” Briggs wrote.

He did not find anyone to talk to, but spotted “what appeared to be raw plant form marihuana” hanging in a barn with no door to hide it. Briggs then did some research, according to his affidavit. An official at the Wyoming Department of Agriculture told him that no hemp licenses had been granted yet. Briggs also found that Palm-Egle was once the registered agent for a Denver-based marijuana company, but the company no longer had a grow license.

The morning of Nov. 4, agents executed a search warrant and raided the farm, where they found the Dykes, along with their two children. Jubin describes Brock Dyke as a building contractor who worked for the Egles.

“My clients are honest small business owners,” Michael Bennett, a Laramie-based attorney representing the Dykes, said. Bennett declined to comment further on the case.

When the agents entered the barn, they found the plants had been taken down and the buds had been placed in “large brown paper bags.”

According to Briggs, Brock Dykes in an interview told the agent the plants were “clones” of marijuana plants Josh Egle had brought from a marijuana grow in Colorado.

According to Jubin’s filing, Dykes told DCI Agent Jason Moon during the raid that the crop was hemp. He provided the agent text messages from the farmers with the results of two previous tests the farmers had a commercial lab conduct on the crop. Both those tests, as well as a third one that is included as evidence in Jubin’s filing, came back below 0.3% THC. Moon shared those results with other investigating law enforcement officers, Jubin said.

Jubin will argue that the fact that the farmers were testing their crop at all suggests they were growing hemp, not pot, he wrote in his filing. This idea is consistent with what “one of the DCI agents on scene at the time of the search has said,” Jubin wrote.

“It is very surprising that this matter has come this far and gotten to this point,” Jubin wrote.

The agents took the plants in the barn, “as well as a small amount of high grade marihuana from inside the residence,” that the Dykes denied ownership of. The agents seized 327,600 grams of plants, according to the affidavit. That’s roughly 722 pounds.

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

Veterans Working In Marijuana Industry Aren’t Automatically Blocked From Home Loans, VA Says

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Politics

Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Officially Takes Effect As Lawmaker Launches Awareness Campaign

Published

on

Marijuana decriminalization took effect in Louisiana on Sunday—and advocates and lawmakers are working to ensure that residents know what they can and cannot do without going to jail under the new law.

Gov. John Bell Edwards (D) signed the legislation in June, and he emphasized that it was “not a decision I took lightly,” but he recognized that criminalization has had significant consequences for families and taxpayers.

Under the law, possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis is now punishable by a $100 fine, without the threat of jail time. The governor has pushed back against the definition of the policy as “decriminalization,” but that’s exactly how advocates define policies that remove the threat of incarceration for low-level possession.

Now, the sponsor of the decriminalization bill, Rep. Cedric Glover (D), is partnering with the advocacy group Louisiana Progress on an awareness campaign to educate people about the new reform.

They’ve already put out a FAQ on the law and will be using social media and other informational materials to inform the public while also engaging in outreach to law enforcement and legislators.

“When I saw two city council members in my hometown of Shreveport—one conservative and one progressive—come together to decriminalize personal-use marijuana possession there, I knew it was time to take this reform to the state level,” Glover said. “Criminalizing marijuana possession is harmful to the people of Louisiana in so many ways, but it’s been particularly harmful for Black and Brown communities, lower-income folks, and young people. My fervent hope is that this new law will finally bring some relief and a feeling of freedom to those communities.”

Louisiana Progress says lawmakers shouldn’t stop at simple decriminalization and should enact broader cannabis legalization in an upcoming session.

“Marijuana decriminalization is an important victory for criminal justice reform in Louisiana, especially for the traditionally marginalized communities that have been disproportionately criminalized under prohibition,” the group’s new FAQ says. “But we need to keep fighting to end marijuana prohibition altogether. Doing so could be hugely beneficial, including bringing dozens of new small businesses and hundreds or even thousands of new jobs to Louisiana.”

Meanwhile, national advocates are cheering the new law’s taking effect.

“This is a much-needed policy change for Louisiana,” NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said in a press release. “The enactment of this legislation is great progress toward ending the racially discriminatory policy of branding otherwise law-abiding Louisianans as criminals for minor marijuana possession offenses when law enforcement should instead be focusing on fighting legitimate crime.”

Separately, the governor also signed a bill in June to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The legislation marks a notable expansion of the state’s limited medical marijuana program. As it stands, patients are able to vaporize cannabis preparations via a “metered-dose inhaler,” but they cannot access whole-plant flower and smoking is not allowed.

While the governor has made clear his willingness to approve more modest reforms, he predicted that he would not be the one to sign adult-use legalization into law before he leaves office in early 2024—even though he does expect the policy change to happen in his state at some point.

An effort in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize recreational cannabis stalled in the House this session after the chamber failed to pass a complementary measure on taxing adult-use marijuana. Edwards also said in May that he believes the reform “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.”

“It’s on the march, and that certainly might happen here in Louisiana,” he said last week. However “I would be surprised if there’s a consensus in the legislature to do that while I’m governor.” (Edwards is term-limited and cannot run again in 2023’s upcoming gubernatorial election.)

In April, the governor also said that he had “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.

Last year, the Louisiana legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

Edwards signed the measure in June 2020 and it took effect weeks later.

The developments on various cannabis-related legislation come after recent polling showed that constituents in some of the most firmly Republican districts in the state support legalizing marijuana.

Two other recent polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—have found that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.

Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Aims To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Aims To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries

Published

on

Senate leaders released a massive and long-anticipated infrastructure bill late on Sunday—and after weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the legislation includes provisions that aim to allow researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis.

The bill also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.

The language on scientists’ access to retail cannabis products was attached to an earlier version of infrastructure legislation in a Senate committee, and it’s substantively the same as a provision included in a House-passed infrastructure bill.

The measure makes it so the transportation secretary would need to work with the attorney general and secretary of health and human services to develop a public report within two years of the bill’s enactment that includes recommendations on allowing scientists to access retail-level marijuana to study impaired driving.

The cannabis provision stipulates that the report must contain a recommendation on establishing a national clearinghouse to “collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”

It specifies that scientists from states that have not yet enacted legalization should also be able to access to dispensary products that are being sold in jurisdictions that have ended prohibition.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) sponsored the committee amendment that contains these reforms, and he argued that the changes are necessary in order to promote research into impaired driving and create a national standard for addressing such activity.

Advocates have been waiting to see whether the committee-approved language would make it into the bipartisan negotiated bill. And the fact that it did stay intact following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who worked to craft the deal is significant. The Senate is expected to take up the bill on the floor this week.

If it passes, the amended legislation would then need to go back to the House for consideration before heading to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The bill says the cannabis research report must also broadly examine “federal statutory and regulatory barriers” to studies on marijuana-impaired driving.

The transportation legislation also contains a separate section that would require legal marijuana states—and only those states—to consider methods of educating people about and discouraging impaired driving from cannabis. Advocates take issue with that language simply because it targets legalized jurisdictions while ignoring the fact that marijuana-impaired driving takes place regardless of its legal status.

An earlier version of the transportation bill cleared the House last Congress with identical marijuana provisions but did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Since its initial introduction last year, some steps have been taken to resolve that issue. Most notably, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently notified several companies that it is moving toward approving their applications to become federally authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.

That marks a significant development—and one of the first cannabis-related moves to come out of the Biden administration. There is currently a monopoly on federal cannabis cultivation, with the University of Mississippi having operated the only approved facility for the past half-century.

But that move from DEA would still not free up researchers to access marijuana products from state-legal retailers in the way the transportation legislation would encourage if enacted.

While advocates are supportive of measures to reduce impaired driving, some have raised issues with the implication that legalizing cannabis increases the risk of people driving while under the influence. Research isn’t settled on that subject.

A federally funded study recently promoted by the National Institute of Justice also found that the amount of THC in a person’s system after consuming marijuana is not an accurate predictor of impairment.

Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

Published

on

A Colorado campaign appears to have submitted enough signatures to place a ballot initiative before voters in November that would raise marijuana taxes to fund programs that are designed to reduce the education gap for low-income students.

The Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) measure would give low- and middle-income families a $1,500 stipend to have school-aged children participate in after-school programs, tutoring and summer learning activities.

The state excise tax on sales adult-use cannabis products would increased from 15 percent to 20 percent to fund the effort.

Supporters say this policy is especially needed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated income-related learning gaps for students. But some marijuana industry stakeholders—and even the state’s largest teachers union—have expressed concern about the proposal.

In any case, the LEAP campaign turned in about 200,000 signatures for the measure to the secretary of state’s office on Friday. It only needs 124,632 valid signatures to qualify.

Monica Colbert Burton, a LEAP campaign representative, told Colorado Public Radio that the sizable signature turn-in “really demonstrates the broad support around the state for this issue.”

“The learning loss that we’ve seen during the pandemic is so much higher than we’ve ever seen before particularly for our low-income families and our students that don’t have access to the same resources,” Colbert Burton said.

Beyond imposing the extra five percent tax on cannabis, the initiative also calls for a repurposing of state revenue that it generates from leases and rents for operations held on state land. Advocates estimate that the measure would translate into $150 million in additional funding annually.

But according to an analysis from Westword, adding the tax to the existing 15 percent special tax would’ve only created $80 million in added revenue based on 2020 sales figures.

Some stakeholders and cannabis advocates have come out strongly against the proposal.

“That this initiative is being pushed at a moment in Colorado when the cannabis industry is trying to create more equity and bring economic growth to marginalized communities harmed by the racist Drug War is especially tone deaf,” Hashim Coates, executive director of the trade group Black Brown and Red Badged, said in a press release. “But that is to be expected when the backers of this measure are affluent white men.”

“Let’s just be perfectly clear: this is a regressive tax—which always harms Black and Brown consumers the most. This is going to a voucher program—which always harms Black and Brown communities the most,” Coates said. “And it’s targeting the marijuana industry as a magical bottomless piggy bank—which will devastate the Black and Brown owned cannabis businesses the most. Can we just let the black community breathe for a moment after this pandemic before we start taxing them to death?”

The measure is being endorsed by a two former governors, about 20 sitting state lawmakers, several former legislative leaders and several other educational organizations.

But in June, the Colorado Education Association withdrew its support for the proposal over concerns about how it would be implemented.

The next step for the initiative is for the secretary of state’s office to verify that there are enough valid signature in the batch LEAP supporters turned in.

This development comes days after Colorado officials announced the launch of a new office to provide economic support for the state’s marijuana industry.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The division, which was created as part of a bill signed into law in March, is being funded by cannabis tax revenue. It will focus on creating “new economic development opportunities, local job creation, and community growth for the diverse population across Colorado.”

Gov. Jared Polis (D) had initially asked lawmakers back in January to create a new a new cannabis advancement program as part of his budget proposal.

Beyond this program, the state has worked to achieve equity and repair the harms of prohibition in other ways.

For example, Polis signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.

The governor signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.

Funding for the new office is made possible by tax revenue from a booming cannabis market in the state. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the state saw more than half a billion dollars in marijuana sales.

The lack of access to federal financial support for marijuana businesses became a pronounced issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Small Business Administration saying it’s unable to offer those companies its services, as well as those that provide ancillary services such as accounting and law firms.

Polis wrote a letter to a member of the Colorado congressional delegation last year seeking a policy change to give the industry the same resources that were made available to other legal markets.

California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment