Obituary: Medical Cannabis Pioneer And Seattle Icon JoAnna McKee Has Passed

WASHINGTON:  JoAnna McKee, Medical Cannabis Pioneer and Seattle Icon, has passed away. JoAnna cofounded Green Cross Patient CO-OP with her partner Stich Miller in 1993, after seeing a news report mentioning a medical cannabis dispensary in Seattle but not being able to locate an active dispensary.

When JoAnna and Stich spoke with the Seattle AIDS Support Group, a patient said he was looking for a dispensary in order to help combat wasting syndrome, and JoAnna said they were looking for a dispensary to donate medical cannabis to.

That night, Green Cross Patient CO-OP was born.  The organization would request that patients get a note from the Doctor stating they know the patient is using medical cannabis, and JoAnna would call the doctor’s office to verify the doctor’s signature.

In 1995, JoAnna made the news by collecting signatures for a medical cannabis initiative. A local DEA agent saw the news and had a Kitsap County Sheriff raid their home in which they confiscated 140 pot plants; however, inside the home the sheriff deputies hid the medical cannabis that was packaged in bottles around the house. The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence – this would be the first Medical Cannabis Dispensary Raid in the U.S.

In 1997, Green Cross National Safety Council filed a lawsuit against Green Cross Patient CO-OP for copyright infringement, because of the similarity in name and the green cross logo. JoAnna contacted them and brokered a deal in which they agreed JoAnna could use the name Green Cross, but it had to include Patient CO-OP, and she was required to make minor edits to her logo. This would be the first copyright infringement case involving cannabis.

Colorado Set To Prohibit Marijuana Co-Op Growing Operations

By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

COLORADO: Colorado was set Monday to outlaw marijuana growing co-ops soon after the state Senate unanimously approved a bill making it a crime for people to cultivate recreational pot for other people.

The bill supported by the office of Gov. John Hickenlooper passed 35-0 but it was unclear when he would sign it. There are no state estimates on how many collective recreational marijuana growing operations exist in Colorado, though they are popular among users who share the cost of electricity, water and fertilizer to grow their pot.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but it has a nagging black-market problem. Law enforcement and state lawmakers attribute the black-market problem in part to weak restrictions on who can grow pot.

The Colorado state constitution authorizes people over 21 to grow their own pot, or to assist someone else in growing pot. That language allows groups to designate a single “farmer” to care for their marijuana plants, allowing them to avoid pot taxes that approach 30 percent, depending on the jurisdiction.

But police groups and Hickenlooper, a Democrat, have called on lawmakers to curb the practice of assisting other recreational pot users.

The bill had already passed the House.  The governor plans to sign another bill this week in the state’s pot crackdown. It limits the number of marijuana plants that can be grown in a home to 12 plants, which would force medical marijuana users authorized to grow more than 12 plants to grow it in agricultural or commercial locations or to buy it from dispensaries that tax marijuana.

Hickenlooper plans to sign that bill this week, his office said.  The bill passed Monday also provides $6 million a year in marijuana tax revenues to give law enforcement agencies more money to investigate illegal pot growing operations.

Colorado House Backs Down, OKs Hemp-Farmers’ Access To Financial Co-Op System

COLORADO: Backing down from a five-hour fight over whether industrial hemp farmers should be able to access a new credit union-like arrangement for marijuana businesses, the state House narrowly passed a bill that would create the first cooperative of its kind.

Acquiescing to Senate insistence that hemp farmers be allowed to join the cooperatives, representatives voted 33-31 for House Bill 1398, sending it to Gov. John Hickenlooper‘s desk for approval and, ultimately, a showdown with federal banking regulators.

The cooperative setup requires approval by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which regulates the nation’s banking system.

The vote was the ultimate compromise for legislators who wanted to keep the cooperatives limited to marijuana businesses.

Marijuana Co-Op Finance Bill Refuses To Die In Colorado Statehouse

COLORADO:  A late bill to create co-ops to finance the marijuana industry has come back from a near-death experience.

House Bill 1398 got off to a strong start Thursday in the House Business Committee, only to get gutted late that evening in the House Finance Committee before House Appropriations restored the original version Friday morning and sent the measure to a vote on the House floor.

The bill puts a twist on the credit-union model by creating cannabis credit co-ops for licensed pot businesses and their affiliates who are currently blocked from the traditional banking system because of federal prohibitions on marijuana.

“This sets up a structure of a new type of financial structure to the gap we’re seeing between banking and the marijuana industry,” testified sponsor Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Boulder. “It’s the only solution we see.”