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MAR 17 - MAR 24, 2015

County Legislature to Back Local Marijuana Production Proposal

By Frank Parlato & Mike Hudson

March 17, 2015

Herbal Agriculture's State of the art greenhouse that may soon be growing Charlotte's Web and other strains of medical marijuana.
Charlotte Figi became the poster child for medical marijuana and especially the strain that bears her name-- Charlotte's Web. Happily, for Niagara County residents, the only company in the state that is licensed to cultivate Charlotte's Web is Herbal Agriculture of Lewiston.
County Legislator Kathryn Lance, a cancer survivor, understood the need for people to have the best opportunities for healing and health. She co- sponsored the county resolution to endorse Herbal Agriculture and its operations in Lewiston NY.

The Niagara County Legislature has proposed and is likely to pass.

They want it so bad they can taste it.

Last Tuesday, the National Indian Cannabis Coalition, an organization just formed a few weeks ago in Washington State, held a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stated goal of the organization is to position Indian Tribes across the country to get in on the ground floor of the rapidly expanding, multimillion dollar medical marijuana growing industry.

Robert Odawi Porter of Odawi Law PLLC, a former President of the Seneca Nation of New York who was central in spearheading the effort to allow for Native American gaming in New York State during the late 1900s, has now taken up the marijuana growing cause, and was a chief figure in the formation of the National Indian Cannabis Coalition.

All of this has serious ramifications on the Niagara Frontier and Niagara County in particular, where at least one private company have announced their desire to get into the market.

This Tuesday, the Niagara County Legislature is expected to approve what is in effect a symbolic resolution endorsing the new medical marijuana law in New York, and encouraging the state to select, as one of five statewide growers, a company called Herbal Agriculture LLC, which is a subsidiary of Lewiston Greenhouse LLC, -- some of whose investors are the owners of Modern Disposal.

Modern's Chief Operating Officer, Gary Smith, has been the main spokesperson to date for Herbal Agriculture LLC. The company plans to convert Modern Disposal's current tomato production facilities into what is hoped to be the far more profitable cultivation of medical marijuana.

The Niagara County resolution - which is seen as helpful for the upcoming state application process, since it evidences local support - notes that medical marijuana has been found effective in the treatment of pain associated with cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, and other afflictions.

It is also sound fiscal policy for Niagara County, if Herbal Agriculture, of Lewiston is selected to grow medical marijuana, the county resolution points out.

"The awarding of a license to grow medical marihuana to Herbal Agriculture LLC will have significant economic development benefits to the county and its taxpayers, as counties where medical marihuana is grown in New York will receive 22.5 percent of the state's 7 percent excise tax charged for medical marihuana," the resolution states.

Herbal Agriculture intends to convert a 12.5 acre state of the art greenhouse on Pletcher Road to cultivate, among other strains of medical marijuana, Charlotte's Web, a variety of marijuana so weak it wouldn't get you high if you smoked it.

Charlotte's Web s processed into a marijuana extract that does not induce the psychoactive "high" associated with recreational marijuana strains high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

But Charlotte's Web is widely believed to have cured hopeless cases of Dravet's Syndrome - most famously of five year old Charlotte Figi, after whom the strain is named.

She was in hospice - with a no resuscitation order - her 300 seizures per week were killing her by the moment - when her desperate parents turned to medical marijuana and the strain that now bears her name.

Her 300 seizures dropped to three per month and mostly in her sleep - after just a few doses of this strain of medical marijuana.

Charlotte went home to her parents with whom she lives today, living a normal life, because of medical marijuana - when, without it, she would not be with us today.

Other children have been cured- and there is now a waiting list for Charlotte's Web.

Which Herbal Agriculture of Lewiston hopes to help alleviate.

Charlotte's Web has become, in the annals of medical marijuana's fight for legality, and respectability, the most famous strain of medical marijuana in the nation. It is the gold standard.

While medical marijuana remains illegal in Florida, the state passed the "Charlotte's Web" law on June 6, 2014, a law designed to limit the government's ability to prosecute those in possession of Charlotte's Web and other low THC/high CBD strains of marijuana - which can be used to cure children of otherwise hopeless diseases.

On July 28, 2014 the Federal government introduced bill H.R.5226, also known as "The Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014" which would amend the Controlled Substances Act -- to exempt Charlotte's Web and other plants with a low THC, the chemical that makes users high.

It should duly be noted - and certainly gives pause - that only Herbal Agriculture LLC, of Lewiston is licensed by the developers of Charlotte's Web - the Stanley Brothers of Colorado, to sell Charlotte's Web in New York State - pending, of course, approval from the state to grow medical marijuana.

If Herbal Agriculture is not approved for a New York license, Charlotte's Web will not be sold in New York State.

The Niagara County resolution endorsing Herbal Agriculture was sponsored by Clyde L. Burmaster R-Ransomville,and Kathryn L. Lance R-Wheatfield, and is expected to easily pass tonight. It has bipartisan support.

The Lewiston Town Board is expected to pass a similar resolution in the near future.

Its members, Ron Winkley, Alphonso Bax, William Conrad and Beth Ceretto, have all expressed support for the Herbal Agriculture proposal, along with Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey. State Rep. John Ceretto is also behind the initiative.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's medical marijuana law, universally acknowledged as the strictest in the country.

In California, Colorado and a number of other states, the holder of a medical marijuana prescription has merely to go into one of the ubiquitous smoke shops that sprung up in the wake of legalization and purchase as much as an ounce of pot a day. In Colorado, where the recreational use of marijuana is also permitted, the state raked in a whopping $69 million during the year following legalization.

Under the Cuomo law, just five sites around the state will be chosen for cultivation, the cannabis sold must come in the form of a pill, a topical salve, or oil for vaping.

Doctors have little discretion in determining what conditions may be treated using marijuana therapy. In California, simple depression or insomnia is enough to get a prescription; in New York suffering from frequently fatal illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and Parkinson's Disease or some traumatic condition like a spinal cord injury is required.

Unlike California and Colorado, where legalization put a significant crimp into the black market in marijuana, because in effect almost anyone who wants to smoke, can get it legally there, Cuomo's law will have little effect on the underground market.

Cuomo meant to keep medical marijuana just that - medical, with substantive proof that it can ease suffering and heal patients.

Meanwhile the Indians, spurred by a federal Justice Department memo in December essentially telling prosecutors to stand down on instances of marijuana cultivation on Indian Reservations around the country, are hoping for a windfall similar to that they enjoyed with casino gaming.

The Niagara County Legislature is hoping they don't get it.

It remains to be seen whether the Indians will attempt it in New York and whether they will defy the thoughtful strictures that Gov. Cuomo hopes to impose and simply grow and sell it in bags or bundles or doobies or joints and try to find black market stoner customers.

While the Indians perhaps may grow it, the residents of New York cannot legally buy it. Their use of marijuana legally requires that they follow the rules and the regulations of the New York State Medical marijuana law.

Given the governor's reluctance to open the floodgates of marijuana use for all occasions, and for any trifling ailment - as long as the user gets 'high,' a serious proposal, by a company like Herbal Agriculture, and their brand - Charlotte's Web - from which one cannot get 'high' conforms perfectly with the objectives of this governor - which is to make this state one where the medical aspects are recognized and honored.

One can get a Rocky Mountain High in Colorado.





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