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US FL: Sarasota OKs Marijuana Dispensaries Within City Limits

MAP Drugnews - Top Stories - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 00:00
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 07 Feb 2018 - After a unanimous vote of support by the Sarasota City Commission, medical marijuana dispensaries will now be operational in the city and those with prescriptions will be able to utilize them immediately. State legislation had preempted the city's ability to regulate the dispensaries, which led to commissioners placing a temporary ban on them until a solution could be found.
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Canada: Pot Plan On Track: Feds

MAP Drugnews - Top Stories - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 00:00
Winnipeg Free Press, 07 Feb 2018 - Liberals insist recreational marijuana will be legal in July OTTAWA - The Trudeau government insists it's on track to legalize recreational pot in July - but whether that means it will actually be on sale by then is uncertain.
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The U.S. Bombing Campaign Against 'Taliban Heroin Labs' Is Bad Drug War Theater

Alternet - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 23:49
Click here for reuse options! Feel-good macho posturing in Afghanistan isn't likely to end well.

On the night of November 19, small-time Afghan opium trader Hajji Habibullah finished his day's business at the local opium bazaar in Musa Qala, in Helmand province, and headed home to his family. He never saw the sunrise.

Helmand province is a poppy-growing powerhouse that for years has been hotly contested terrain in the battle between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government and NATO forces. Under new authority from the Trump White House allowing the U.S. military to "attack the enemy across the breadth and the depth of the battle space, and also functionally, to attack their financial networks, their revenue streams," U.S. and Afghan warplanes mounted bombing raids on "Taliban drug labs," targeting three districts in Helmand. That night, Musa Qala was target one in a dramatic escalation in U.S. Afghanistan policy.

In a press briefing two days later, Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, guided reporters through videos documenting the attacks, with bomb blasts destroying small structures as the general narrated strikes by U.S. B-52s and F-22 Raptors. The raid in Musa Qala destroyed "millions" in "opium cooking at the time of the strike," repeatedly emphasizing how careful the raids were to minimize "collateral" casualties.

But the first bombs to fall on Musa Qala didn't fall on a "Taliban narcotics production facility." They fell on Hajji Habibullah's house, killing him, his wife, his seven-year-old daughter and four sons aged between three and eight, as well as a visiting adult daughter and her year-old daughter. Only the son-in-law sleeping in a guest house on the property survived.

That's according to on-the-scene field research contained in a report released last month by the London School of Economics International Drug Policy Unit. The analysis, written by Dr. David Mansfield, who has been conducting research on rural economies and poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for the past two decades, is sharply critical of the Trump administration's aggressive new turn. Mansfield isn't the only one sounding alarms. Warnings that the policy is expensive and unlikely to achieve its objectives while having serious negative consequences are coming from other academic analysts, too, and even from the watchdog agency charged with overseeing the U.S. Afghan war.

Last month, in a Pentagon briefing, spokesmen claimed the campaign of airstrikes, which have continued after that first attack in November, was crippling the Taliban's ability to fund itself through the drug trade. Defense officials claimed the raids had destroyed $80 million worth of heroin, resulting in a $16 million loss for the Taliban, which makes money taxing the trade.

But Mansfield demolishes that claim:

At current prices for heroin, the losses USFOR-A refer to would amount to almost 73 metric tons of heroin, that’s nearly 3 metric tons of heroin in each lab destroyed.

With a conversion rate of between 9 and 13.5 kilograms of fresh opium per kilogram of heroin, this would require between 27,000 and 40,500 kilograms of fresh opium per lab. It would mean that the 25 labs destroyed were responsible for converting between 8 to 11 percent of the entire 2017 crop of 9,000 metric tons. There is little evidence from the nine buildings destroyed in [Musa Qala] to support such a claim.

Going on the tax rates levied on the [Musa Qala] labs, were the aerial campaign to have actually destroyed 73 metric tons of heroin, the loss in revenue to the Taliban would have been around $1.2 million, considerably less than the amount reported by USFOR-A.

Were the air attacks to have destroyed a series of houses rented out to cook opium in much smaller batches, as the case would appear to be in [Musa Qala], the loss in revenue to the Taliban would have been negligible. In fact, the 50 barrels of opium cooking at the time of the strike that [USFOR-A commander] General Nicholson referred to as being worth ‘millions of dollars’ would have been worth at most $190,750 if converted to heroin and no more than $2,863 to the Taliban.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and an expert on international and internal security threats who has done fieldwork and research in Afghanistan, was also skeptical.

"The Pentagon has made various claims about the size of the impact on Taliban finances, but that is all highly speculative," said Felbab-Brown. "The logic is that a certain amount of heroin is destroyed per target and that heroin is assigned that same value per unit price, but we can't assume that. It could be there was no processed heroin there at all, only opium. The only value might be that it eliminated one Taliban financier who happened to be present, or maybe disrupted one link in the trade, but we can't even assume that."

"By and large, the campaign will not make a significant dent in Taliban financing," argued Felbab-Brown. "They will have to be extremely lucky to destroy large portions of opium stockpiles that have been growing for years. And the Taliban has different local arrangements—sometimes they tax the labs, sometimes they're further downstream—so I don't expect any significant financial losses for them."

In its latest quarterly report, issued January 31, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a government watchdog agency, also took issue with the military's claims about the damage it was inflicting on Taliban finances—and questioned the cost-effectiveness of the campaign.

In a special section on the drug lab bombing campaign, SIGAR says that the methodology the military uses to assess the value of the labs it destroys leaves it "unclear whether the DOD figure is an accurate estimate of how much revenue is eliminated by air strikes on drug labs."

What is known, SIGAR reports, is how much it costs to fly the planes dropping the bombs:

According to the latest DOD financial management report, an F-22 costs between $35,294 and $36,799 per hour to operate; a B-52 between $32,569 and $34,341 per hour; and an F/A-18 between $9,798 and $16,173 per hour, depending on the model. By contrast, the labs being destroyed are cheap and easy to replace. Afghans told Reuters it would take three or four days to replace a lab in Afghanistan. According to UNODC, the morphine/heroin labs need only simple equipment such as a stove, iron barrel, and locally made pressing machines.

SIGAR was also cognizant of the potential political risks involved in dropping bombs in the middle of settlements: "One danger of a sustained air campaign is civilian casualties, which could erode support for the Afghan government and potentially increase support for the insurgency," the report noted.

That was the case in Musa Qala, where Mansfield noted that Helmand members of parliament had voiced objections and where a local informant angrily declared: "These are not Taliban. They killed women and children, NATO killed them."

In rural Afghanistan, where opium is the backbone of the economy, it isn't just the Taliban involved but peasant farmers and field-workers, traders and middlemen, local officials and warlords. That makes using military force to attack what is essentially a criminal problem especially problematic.

"That's one of the challenges of the campaign," said Felbab-Brown. "The military can go after 'Taliban-linked' targets, but what does that mean? In some cases the lab might belong to a trader, a local criminal actor, but in other cases, it will be operated by peasants. The tendency in the drug markets is to move away from very large labs and have many dispersed labs precisely to prevent significant disruption. These are mainly small labs operated by low-level peasants who have acquired the skills to do the processing," she added.

"There is a very significant risk of hitting a lot of very low-level people, while those with political connections get away with it," the Brookings scholar pointed out. "The risk is of pushing people into the hands of the Taliban and making them more dependent on the Taliban."

The Trump White House is pressing the "Taliban heroin lab" bombing campaign because things aren't going so well in Afghanistan, in terms of either counter-narcotics or counterinsurgency. Nearly 17 years after the U.S. first invaded to drive the Taliban from power, the insurgency is stronger than ever, with Taliban reportedly controlling more than a third of the population, rising civilian and military death tolls, and a U.S.-backed government in Kabul seemingly incapable of either fighting or governing effectively.

"Afghan government control or influence has declined and insurgent control or influence has increased overall since SIGAR began reporting control data in January 2016," the watchdog said in its report, while also noting that for the first time, the Pentagon prohibited it from publicizing the full district and land area under the control of the government and insurgent groups or reporting on the strength and capabilities of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Similarly, the war on drugs in Afghanistan isn't exactly being won, either. Since 2002, SIGAR reported, the U.S. has spent $8.7 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in the country, only to see it remain responsible for the great bulk of the world's opium production throughout the period. Last fall, just before the bombs began falling on the labs, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported in its Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017 that opium planting was at an all-time high, up 63% over 2016, with strong increases reported in almost all poppy-planting provinces.

For the Trump administration, going after opium and the Taliban seems like a natural, and going aggressive fits with Trump's militaristic bent, but all the sound and fury is unlikely to accomplish much.

"There is action for the sake of action because the White House and Sessions want to see action," said Felbab-Brown. "There is this domestic image being created about opiates, and various government officials and Republicans have been obliquely linking the U.S. opiate epidemic to global markets, but there is no evidence whatsoever that the U.S. market is in any significant way supplied by Afghanistan. Still, the Pentagon had to demonstrate that it was doing something, and the thing it can do most easily is bomb interdiction sites, those so-called heroin labs."

Although the country accounts for around 90% of the global opium supply, very little Afghan opium ends up as heroin consumed by American drug users. According to the DEA's annual 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment, only about 1% of heroin in the U.S. comes from Afghanistan. Instead, Mexico accounts for 80% and Colombia and Guatemala make up the remainder.

"There is far more pressure from Trump on actors in Afghanistan to demonstrate results and far less comprehension that demonstrating results for its own sake with significant negative side effects is counterproductive," said Felbab-Brown. "Obama had much more comprehension of the risks of things like eradication, and Trump is far more determined to revive doctrinaire old counter-narcotics approaches, many of which harken back to the drug dogma of the 1980s and 1990s."

But trying to suppress the Afghan opium economy is a loser's game for the foreseeable future, she argued.

"There are real limits on what interdiction or eradication can do. There is much greater insecurity than at any point since 2002-2003, there are fewer U.S. troops available for ground action, and that Afghans can't provide adequate security for U.S. personnel on ground interdiction, much less an air interdiction campaign that can demonstrate some numbers," she said. "There can never be a winning situation with respect to drugs unless and until conflict has ended and the state has a presence throughout the country," said Felbab-Brown. "It's extraordinarily difficult to replace a vast illicit economy, and in Afghanistan, where the opium trade accounts for 30% of GDP, it would be an enormous undertaking."

Effectively going after the opium economy would involve going after people other than the Taliban, she pointed out.

"We should think about interdiction in the same way we think about interdicting high-value targets," she said. "Use it to target those who pose the greatest threat to the Afghan state, and that's not just Taliban actors. There are Afghan politicians clamoring to bring down the government, and they have heroin assets. Interdiction shouldn't be seen just as a tool of limiting the Taliban, but as a broader stabilization tool. But that would require far greater authorization, which the U.S. military doesn't currently have—it can only go after Taliban financing."

The situation is unlikely to get better in the medium term, with the Taliban and other insurgent groups seemingly striking at will, the Afghan military seemingly unable to stop them, and the Afghan government focused on hotly contested presidential elections set for next year and oft-postponed parliamentary elections set for later this year.

"Things could become much worse," said Felbab-Brown, "and with any significant instability it will become that much more difficult to conduct counter-narcotics operations."

But that's where U.S. policy in Afghanistan appears to be heading.

"Trump and Sessions have the inclination and the desire for many of the same doctrinaire drug war policies both domestically and internationally," she said. "There is huge pressure from them on Colombia to ramp up coca eradication, and we could get in a situation where there will be huge pressure from the White House to conduct aerial spraying of opium poppies. That would be the last nail in the coffin of Afghan counterinsurgency." 

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Washington pot-tracking system, already dogged with problems, was hacked, state says - Seattle Times

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 19:46

Leafly

Washington pot-tracking system, already dogged with problems, was hacked, state says
Seattle Times
... hack were discovered Saturday by MJ Freeway, the company providing the data service and pot-tracking software. On Monday, the company identified the problem as a “possible security incident” and notified the LCB, according to a message that went ...
Washington Regulators: 'Security Incident' Caused Cannabis-Tracking WoesLeafly

all 3 news articles »
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Texas' first cannabis dispensary has opened near Austin, but don't expect to find pot brownies - Dallas News

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 19:01

Dallas News

Texas' first cannabis dispensary has opened near Austin, but don't expect to find pot brownies
Dallas News
Texas' first cannabis dispensary opened Thursday, but it looks nothing like the ones in states where recreational marijuana is legal. At Compassionate Cultivation's dispensary near Austin, customers won't find marijuana to smoke or pot brownies and ...
2-Year-Old Boy Among First To Get Medical Marijuana In TexasCBS DFW
Lawmaker wants to expand medical cannabis, as first dispensary opens in TexasWFAA
First medical marijuana dispensary opens in Texas: What you need to knowKPRC Click2Houston
KTRK-TV
all 16 news articles »
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Jeff Sessions Makes False Link Between Marijuana and the Opioid Crisis

Alternet - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 18:07
Click here for reuse options! Some argue that marijuana may be a key part of the fight against opioid abuse.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions hates marijuana—that much is clear. He once said at a Senate hearing that the drug is a "very real danger" and that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

This week, Sessions doubled down on his dislike of marijuana with comments that not only contradict the available evidence but may undermine potentially life-saving public health efforts.

"We think a lot of this [opioid abuse] is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too," Sessions said at a Heritage Foundation event this week. He also seemed to downplay the DEA's estimation that about 80 percent of heroin abusers start with prescription drugs.

Sessions' belief that marijuana is feeding the opioid crisis flies in the face of evidence. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014 found that the 10 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010 saw significantly fewer opioid deaths compared to states that completely outlaw pot. And in a report published just this week by the Rand Corporation, the 2014 findings were confirmed, though the new study found that the reduction in opioid deaths was the strongest in states that permitted medical marijuana dispensaries to open up.

Far from indicating that pot use may pave the way for opioid abuse and overdoses, these studies and others suggest the opposite—that marijuana may help people avoid the trap of opioid addiction.

Some even argue that marijuana could be a key part of the fight against opioid abuse. There are skeptics of this approach, and it's important to recognize we're unlikely to find a single panacea to wipe out the problem. But a knee-jerk response to marijuana is not helpful.

Sessions is peddling the tired canard that medical marijuana is a "gateway drug." He even recently endorsed Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" approach to drug addiction. But the gateway-drug concept has long been highly dubious

As of now, reliable studies suggest marijuana isn't making the opioid crisis worse and that it may even help to fight it.

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Provinces push ahead despite later possible end to marijuana ... - The Globe and Mail

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 17:25

The Globe and Mail

Provinces push ahead despite later possible end to marijuana ...
The Globe and Mail
Most provinces say they will continue crafting the numerous regulations needed to meet the original timeline of July.

and more »
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What Are Cannabis Flavonoids and What Do They Do? - Leafly

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 16:11

Leafly

What Are Cannabis Flavonoids and What Do They Do?
Leafly
Flavonoids are not unique to the cannabis plant. Scientists have identified thousands of them all throughout nature, from flowers to fruits and vegetables. However, there are some that are known to be found only within cannabis. These are known as ...

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Liberty Twp. puts block on marijuana dispensaries - Cincinnati.com

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 15:14

Cincinnati.com

Liberty Twp. puts block on marijuana dispensaries
Cincinnati.com
LIBERTY TWP. – Businesses related to the medical marijuana industry will not be allowed in Liberty Township. Trustees this week adopted changes to the township zoning code that define medical marijuana and related uses – and then prohibits them in all ...

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Aurora sees cannabis revenues soar on German exports | Financial ... - Financial Post

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 14:45

Financial Post

Aurora sees cannabis revenues soar on German exports | Financial ...
Financial Post
Aurora Cannabis Inc. saw revenues jump more than 200 per cent year-over-year in the second quarter, buoyed by strong patient growth and increased sales into Germany. In the three months leading up to Dec. 31, Aurora, the second-largest Canadian ...

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Pot consumers paying less than $7 a gram, Statistics Canada survey finds - CBC.ca

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 13:37

CBC.ca

Pot consumers paying less than $7 a gram, Statistics Canada survey finds
CBC.ca
Canadians pay an average of less than $7 a gram for pot, according to Statistics Canada data collected through a crowdsourcing pilot project. More than 15,000 Canadians have participated in StatsCan's online survey since Jan. 25, exceeding expectations ...

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Seattle Moves To Dismiss Marijuana Misdemeanors - NPR

Google - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 13:20

NPR

Seattle Moves To Dismiss Marijuana Misdemeanors
NPR
Seattle's mayor and city attorney announced plans to ask the courts to vacate all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before it was legalized in Washington state in 2012 — a move that could affect the records of hundreds ...
Seattle to vacate hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana convictions ...Seattle Times
Seattle Is Looking to Drop Old Marijuana ConvictionsJezebel
Seattle announces plan to vacate old marijuana convictionsThe FADER
HuffPost -Q13 FOX -The Cannabist -TheStranger.com
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Opioid Crisis Hits Hardest in Areas Hit by Climate Stress, Declining Farm Incomes

Alternet - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 11:55
The crisis is linked to several factors that rarely come up in conversations about drugs.

The overprescribing of opioid-based painkillers may be the main, but not sole, driver of the increased abuse of opioids in rural America.

Economists say that other factors, including declining farm income, extreme weather, and other natural disasters, may affect this crisis that is killing thousands of citizens and costing the country billions of dollars.

In a study of relationships among socioeconomic variables and opioid-related drug overdoses, researchers found several correlations that don’t often come up in the current conversation about the nation’s deaths of despair, which include opioid overdoses, says Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

For example, a higher number of natural disasters experienced historically in a county is correlated with an increase in opioid overdoses, according to the researchers. They used presidentially declared disasters by county from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to determine the effect of natural disasters on opioid deaths. These disasters primarily include weather-related events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

If climatologists’ warnings are correct, a changing climate could produce more extreme weather patterns, which could then have an effect on opioid overdoses and deaths, says Goetz, who worked with Meri Davlasheridze, assistant professor in marine sciences at Texas A&M at Galveston.

Income also matters, according to the researchers. For each $10,000 reduction in net income per farm, opioid overdoses rose by 10 percent from a national average of 10.2 deaths per 100,000 people to 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people. Opioid-related deaths are also increasing in rural counties, they add.

“Our results confirm that economic factors, including income especially and unemployment, as well as population density—or rurality—are important,” says Goetz. “As we are controlling for economic factors, population density appears to play an independent role in accounting for the disparate death rates.”

Scope of the crisis

Goetz adds that it is important to use caution when interpreting this data.

“We are giving each county the same weight in our statistical analysis and the farming population is not that big—it’s about one or two percent of the US population,” says Goetz. “But, there could be a spillover effect—if the farm income declines, the rest of the rural economy suffers.”

Estimates indicate that opioid-related drug overdoses cost the country $432 billion in 2015, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at a recent meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Philadelphia.

3 harmful myths about the opioid epidemic

“To give some sense of this, the opioid crisis is a problem that is orders of magnitude larger than the costs associated with weather-related disasters in 2017,” says Goetz. “This is a far-reaching problem—and it cuts across social, economic, and political lines.”

Signs of hope

There are some glimmers of hope in the research, Goetz says. For example, overdoses among younger people seem to be declining, Goetz says. The highest rates of overdose are among people in the 45- to 64-year-old range.

Because the self-employed have lower rates of overdose, the researchers suggest that self-employment also seems to be a deterrent against the opioid crisis.

“Sometimes we think of the self-employed, or entrepreneurs as more stressed and as people who might be looking for an escape from those pressures, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in opioid use,” says Goetz.

The researchers theorize that one reason this wave of opioid deaths may be higher in rural counties is because of the low number of mental-health treatment facilities in those areas and, perhaps, the stigma attached to seeking help in those facilities.

Why rural women miss out on mental health care

“There are far fewer mental-health treatment facilities, so if you have a problem, you might not know where to go for help,” Goetz says. “We’re thinking that one of the things we need to investigate in the future is whether awareness is the problem or is there a stigma? These are all important issues to consider and they could be addressed through educational or other programs.”

The United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this work.

Source: Penn State

 

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AK: Marijuana tax collections in Alaska tumble again - Petersburg Pilot

Bot - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 00:32
petersburgpilot.com (US) The tax is imposed when marijuana is sold or transferred from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail pot shop or ma... (Thu Feb 08 18:32:08 2018 PST)
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AK: Top Video - KTVA 11 - The Voice of Alaska

Bot - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 00:27
ktva.com (US) Mother's connection with UAA addiction mural UAA students unveil addiction mural HB316 seals some marijuana crime records (Thu Feb 08 18:27:46 2018 PST)
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AK: A marijuana based business may soon start in Bells Flats - KMXT 100.1 FM

Bot - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 00:21
kmxt.org (US) Egle is hoping to plant his first seeds around April and harvest his first batch of marijuana later this summer. (Thu Feb 08 18:21:04 2018 PST)
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AK: Newsflash Archives - KMXT 100.1 FM

Bot - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 00:21
kmxt.org (US) A marijuana based business may soon start in Bells Flats Greg Egle hopes to sell his marijuana to dispensaries around the state. (Photo courtesy of Marihuanay Medicina/Flickr) Mitch Borden/K... (Thu Feb 08 18:21:04 2018 PST)
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TOP: Kershaw County, SC heroin, crack, cocaine seized in drug raid - The State

Bot - Cannabis - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 00:19
thestate.com (US) Was charged with trafficking heroin (28 grams or more). Was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of crack cocaine. (Thu Feb 08 14:19:46 2018 PST)
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