Rand Paul set to raise money from marijuana industry

By Sam Youngman

syoungman@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2015 Updated 2 hours ago

GOP 2016 Rand

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is looking for big green from the marijuana industry.

Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to attend a fundraising reception next week at the National Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Denver.

An invitation to the event says it is being hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association’s political action committee, and a spokeswoman for the group confirmed that Paul will be the only presidential candidate in attendance.

However, Paul campaign spokesman Sergio Gor said Friday that the campaign is hosting the event.

"It’s open to anyone willing to support Senator Rand Paul in Denver," Gor said. "Some of the attendees at NCIA agree with Senator Paul’s legislation of medicinal cannabis reform and hemp cultivation reform and we anticipate will join our event."

Paul has not called for the legalization of marijuana, but he has joined Democratic senators in proposing legislation that would end the threat of prosecution for patients who use medical marijuana, a move that won the acclaim of pro-marijuana groups.

Paul thinks the issue of marijuana legalization "is best left to the states," Gor said Friday. "He’s spoken multiple times that Washington should not get in the way of voters who have passed various types of legislation dealing with cannabis."

Paul has said little publicly about whether he has used marijuana, but he did tell WHAS-TV in Louisville that he "wasn’t a choir boy when I was in college."

"And that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid," Paul told the Louisville television station.

But the senator has stopped short of calling for full legalization, as has been done in Colorado, telling the Hoover Institution in 2013 that he isn’t "willing to go all the way to say it is a good idea."

"I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points," Paul said. "I think they lose their drive to show up for work."

The fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/06/26/3919180/rand-paul-set-to-raise-money-from.html#storylink=cpy

Old mining town turns to marijuana after prison, factory close

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WALSENBURG, Colo. – A developer’s plan to build hundreds of cannabis greenhouses could make this tiny southern Colorado town one of the nation’s largest producers of legal marijuana.

The town sold 330 acres of municipal land for more than $1 million to create a campus for growing, processing and distribution, with the marijuana to be trucked 160 miles north to consumers in metro Denver. Walsenburg is a former coal mining town that never recovered when the mines closed by the 1960s, and its population has dropped to fewer than 3,000 residents. In Huerfano County, which is home to Walsenburg, 20% of the population lives below poverty level.

Today, the town’s main street is filled with vacant buildings offered at cheap rent. Most people drive through the historic downtown without stopping, often headed west to Great Sand Dunes National Park or Wolf Creek Ski Area. The marijuana project envisions pumping $1 million monthly into the local economy, giving town officials funds for road and infrastructure repairs, and also offering as many as a 1,000 direct and related jobs.

"The only export we really had was smart kids. Now hopefully this will be able to retain those kids in this community," said Walsenburg Mayor James Eccher.

The Martra Development project proposes having about 500 people working on the site, with each greenhouse rented out separately. That will allow smaller growers to get started while giving them room to expand. Martra officials visited 17 counties in Colorado searching for the right combination of land, water and a business-friendly climate.

"There’s people who are saying, ‘hey, embrace this. And then there are CAVE people – citizens against virtually everything. You’re not going to satisfy everybody. What you have to do is try to do is at least not anger the majority," said county administrator John Galusha.

Today, most marijuana grown in Colorado is grown indoors in warehouses stuffed with high-powered lights to mimic the sun. Industry experts say warehouses in urban areas were simply the easiest place for growers to set up shop, especially for those accustomed to hiding their work.

Indoor marijuana cultivation uses so much energy that Boulder County, Colo., enacted a special fee to offset the power demands by growers running lights for 12 hours a day. With marijuana legal in Colorado, a growing number of developers are erecting special-purpose cannabis greenhouses in traditionally agricultural areas to take advantage of abundant natural sunlight and a long growing season.

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"A cannabis operator, who’s been operating up there (in Denver) with the boot on his neck, just choking to death on his overhead, looks at this model and says ‘when can I have it?" said Brian Trani, Martra’s CEO.

The answer, Trani says, is as soon as October. County officials say the project has been met with some skepticism by locals who say Walsenburg has had its hoped dashed before, including when a nearby privately-run prison and a manufactured-home factory closed.

Count Maria Cocchiarelli-Berger among the skeptics. The curator of the town’s contemporary art museum, she worries Walsenburg is pinning too many hopes on a single project. Still, she admits, the town needs to do something.

"I like to be optimistic, but having lived here for 10 years now, I’ve seen a number of ideas come through that were going to save us. We’ve pinned our hopes on these things … but lots of people just last six months or a year. I do hope it works, but until I see it working, I really am not sure that that’s going to be the key out of the mess we’re in."

A marijuana-growing supply store opened in downtown Walsenburg a few months ago, and co-founder Luara Tank says she’s struggling to keep lights, potting soil and other equipment in stock. On the store counter sits a dish of replacement springs for marijuana-trimming shears, and while the store has been welcomed, some customers still park around back or up the street, she said. Tank moved to Walsenburg to grow, and got tired of making the two-hour round-trip drive to buy supplies.

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"People were guerrilla-growing anyway," Tank said. "It’s pretty perfect here for growing. There’s no jobs here, so you have to make your own job."

Four states have legalized recreational marijuana, along with the District of Columbia, and 23 states and the District have legalized some form of medical marijuana. In many cases, officials levy taxes on the marijuana products to help move the marketplace from the black market to a legitimate business. Colorado reported collecting $10.6 million in legal marijuana taxes and fees in May, twice the amount it collected a year ago, with $91 million collected in the nearly-finished fiscal year.

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At least one owner of a Colorado medical marijuana business raided by federal agents last year has been arrested and another has been indicted.

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DENVER — At least one owner of a Colorado medical marijuana business raided by federal agents last year has been arrested and another has been indicted.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and Diplomatic Security Service carried out several arrests on Friday, said a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver. But prosecutors wouldn’t release their names or describe the nature of the case, saying that was part of a sealed indictment that could become public Monday.

Federal authorities in November raided more than a dozen sites, many of them in medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver and Boulder, confiscating piles of marijuana plants and cartons of cannabis-infused drinks and edibles. Although prosecutors still haven’t disclosed the reasons for them, the raids sent a strong message to Colorado’s marijuana industry in the weeks before the state legalized recreational sales of the drug.

The arrests included that of Denver attorney and dispensary owner David Furtado, who on Friday was seen in video taken by KUSA-TV being led away by agents with his arms behind his back. Neither Furtado nor his lawyer returned calls seeking comment.

An attorney for another targeted dispensary owner, Gerardo Uribe, said his client had been indicted but it wasn’t immediately clear if he was arrested.

Attorney Sean McAllister said he did not know what charges Uribe could face.

“My client continues to assert he conducted his business in a way that was consistent with Colorado marijuana laws,” McAllister said. “He intends to vigorously defend himself.”

Court filings related to the case of Hector Diaz, a Colombian man arrested on a weapons charge during the raids, describe both Uribe and Furtado as “targets in a long-term investigation into marijuana distribution, money laundering and other offenses.” Uribe is further described in the documents as “the head of a marijuana drug distribution organization.”

Diaz had been staying at Uribe’s home in an upscale Denver suburb when he was arrested. Prosecutors said Uribe’s father, Gerardo Uribe Sr., confronted agents at the door “holding a firearm he was slow to relinquish.”

Investigators who searched the younger Uribe’s email found a photo they said shows Diaz posing with two semi-automatic rifles and two handguns while wearing a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency cap, according to the court filings. Diaz’s attorney has asked a judge to dismiss the case against him, saying among other arguments that prosecutors violated his Second Amendment rights.

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