Montanans voted to legalize in 2020, then things got complicated.

As a sign of the changing times, voters in conservative Montana approved recreational marijuana in November 2020. Now the state's dispensaries are preparing for recreational cannabis sales expected to create a $325 million adult-use cannabis market in just three years.

Sales started on January 1, 2022. But they won't happen in every county—at least not initially. Montana lawmakers have decided that counties where voters did not support legalization, must hold a separate referendum to make sales legal in their county.

Still, state leaders expect big sales in so-called "green counties" where voters supported the referendum, especially in areas where tourism is a large part of the economy. In 2020, more than 11 million tourists visited Montana, a state with just over one million residents.

The start of legal sales adds Montana residents to the growing list of millions of Americans with access to recreational cannabis. The MJBizDaily Factbook projects $90 million in recreational marijuana sales in 2022 and $325 million by 2025

The interesting twist in legalization

For consumers in Montana, the new law allows all state residents at least 21 years old to possess and use up to one ounce of cannabis without criminal penalties. The state prohibits cannabis use in public places and on federal land and waters. As with every state, driving under the influence also is illegal.

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Oklahomans could see on the ballot this year competing state questions to legalize recreational marijuana. 

A second initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana use in Oklahoma for anyone 21 years or older was filed Tuesday with the secretary of state's office.

Campaign spokeswoman Michelle Tilley said this measure is a new version of a recreational cannabis initiative petition she helped with two years ago. That petition, State Question 807, didn't make it on the statewide ballot partly because the start of the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to collect signatures. 

"This is an effort that started several years ago but has grown," she said.

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A firefighter was arrested after a fire engine struck two vehicles on a highway in Livingston Parish, leaving an elderly woman dead. The Denham Springs Police Department confirmed Thursday that Cody Kahl, 24, was arrested for the deadly crash, which happened June 13 on Pete's Highway. Investigators said Kahl was driving the fire engine behind a pickup truck towing a trailer and failed to slow down as traffic was coming to a stop. The truck rear-ended the corner of the trailer and then crossed into the opposite lane, striking another vehicle head-on. The driver of the vehicle hit head-on, 83-year-old Gail Rippel, died in the hospital shortly after the crash.

An arrest warrant said bloodwork showed Kahl had marijuana in his system at the time of the wreck.

"This was very unnecessary," Mark Lachney, a passenger in the truck Kahl first hit, said.

"I don't feel that that guy should have ever been driving that fire truck. There's no way he should have been driving that fire truck. Nobody will ever make me believe." 

Kahl was booked on charges of vehicular homicide and reckless operation. 

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is set to pledge $200 million to support social equity applicants within the state’s burgeoning marijuana market.

On Wednesday, Hochul revealed an extensive State of the State book, laying out the plan for 2022, including policies she will pursue as well as her intentions to promote equity and economic justice in the cannabis industry.

“Together these actions will help ensure that as New York’s cannabis industry thrives in the year ahead, more New Yorkers can reap the rewards,” the book says.​​​​​​​

Hochul emphasized that creating “opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,” is important now that the market stands to generate billions of dollars.

Though marijuana legalization was signed into law last year by her predecessor Andrew Cuomo, marijuana business licenses have yet to be approved.
 
“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the document says.
 
“The fund will provide direct capital and startup financing to social equity applicants as the state takes meaningful steps to ensure that New York’s cannabis industry is the most diverse and inclusive in the nation.”
It continues, “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”

In addition, 50% of all licenses will be awarded to equity applicants, including individuals from impacted communities, as well as minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), distressed farmers, justice-involved individuals and service-disabled veterans.

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When I took my deep drag yesterday morning on the Legislature’s big marijuana bong, I noted in passing that Representative Will Mortenson’s Republican friends (and Republicans are the prime sponsors of all 26 marijuana bills in the hopper) appear to be ignoring his advice to leave marijuana policy alone until after voters get their say on the marijuana initiative that he is sure will make the November ballot. Mortenson expressed this wish even though marijuana initiative organizers had not at the time of his writing over a month ago yet submitted their initiative petition for a repeat vote on legalizing marijuana. Those organizers still have not submitted their petition; South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws continue to collect signatures, as evidenced by their advertisement on this blog. Republicans could still halt their efforts the moment SDBML submits its petition to the Secretary of State—What? Steve got the petition, and it has 20K+ good signatures? Whoa, horse! Withdraw all of our bills! Let the people decide!—but I find that prospect highly unlikely. I’d suggest it’s more likely that marijuana advocates will pack the committee rooms and lobbies this winter to shape those 26 marijuana bills, and if they get what they want, they’ll call off the drive for another statewide vote.

Arguably, Mortenson’s Republican friends are deferring to the people by recognizing that all this petitioning signals that South Dakotans want legal marijuana and proposing Senate Bill 3 to codify that popular want. But I won’t make that argument, because if legislators really tuned their lawmaking to popular initiatives, they’d have Medicaid expansion right alongside marijuana legislation.

Consider that while one group is circulating a marijuana petition, two groups have been pushing Medicaid expansion initiatives. Rick Weiland’s Dakotans for Health has been engaging grassroots circulators around the state since November 2019 in circulating petitions to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot. The hospital lobby put together South Dakotans Decide Healthcare for the same purpose and placed a Medicaid expansion amendment (Amendment D!) on the November 2022 ballot.

The voters are sending at least as strong a signal with Amendment D (not to mention every poll I can find on the subject) that they want to expand Medicaid. Plus, the policy evidence from every state that has expanded Medicaid is paints a far more uniformly positive picture of the policy impacts of expanding Medicaid than we get from various states’ experience with legalizing marijuana. Expanding Medicaid saves lives, boosts state budgets, and stimulates the economy. Legalizing pot just means we stop putting people in jail and start taxing them for an already widespread activity of questionable value.

Helping 42,500 South Dakotans get affordable health insurance is a great social good. Adding another sin tax to South Dakota’s budget gimmicks is at best a shrug at behavior of little social value.

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The new legislative session began on Tuesday. At the top of the list for state lawmakers to discuss is the medical marijuana program.

Across Mississippi, people who support medical marijuana have been vocal over their frustrations with state leaders to approve the program that was passed by an overwhelming 74 percent of voters in 2020. One of the state’s advocates in launching a medical marijuana program is Conner Reeves, a Jackson attorney who has previously served as general counsel for the Mississippi State Medical Association and as the medical policy advisor for the Medical Marijuana 2020 Campaign, which successfully saw a citizen-initiated ballot measure get passed. WLOX’s David Elliot spoke with Conner Reeves on Wednesday about the medical marijuana program and the bill currently set to be discussed in Jackson.

“The state of Mississippi really turned out strong last fall. Initiative 65 was overwhelmingly supported in our state. Unfortunately, that was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier last year. So now it’s up to the legislators to pass a program,” explained Conner Reeves.
 
Legislators spent the past summer negotiating a new medical marijuana bill to take the place of Initiative 65. After months of negotiation, the House and Senate came to an agreement on the bill, which is more than 100 pages long.
 
“Last year, we saw the legislators come together in the off season to draft a bill, which is a really great bill. There is a lot of really great revisions in there that will make a strong medical marijuana program and would really track with what the people of Mississippi already wanted,” said Conner Reeves.
 
The newly drafted bill was sent to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk in early October. He, however, refused to sign it, saying the amount of marijuana a person can receive under the program is still out of his comfort zone. Lawmakers want to allow patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams, or an eighth of an ounce, while the governor supports limiting purchases to 2.8 ounces. A total of 36 states and the District of Columbia have all passed medical marijuana programs, with most of those allowing upwards of two ounces a month.
 
“No state that has ever passed medical marijuana has reversed it. Every state that has done so has kept it. It’s in the majority of the states, even some of our surrounding southern states,” said attorney Conner Reeves.
 
“It’s incredibly popular across the country and, like I said, the people of Mississippi have already voted on this. The legislators should have full support while they’re in Jackson knowing their constituents have already approved this.”
 
The governor said the current bill, if passed, would theoretically allow more than a billion legal joints to be sold in Mississippi each year. His fear, he said, is that it would put too much marijuana on the streets of the Magnolia State, leading ultimately to a recreational program, which he does not support. Attorney Conner Reeves said he thinks the primary focus needs to be on the people who need medical marijuana and the voters who supported it.
 
“Go ask all of the patients of Mississippi who would greatly benefit from this. They are real Mississippians with medical conditions that would benefit from having this program. They have been waiting a long time for this to happen. Some of them have already left the state to go somewhere else to get relief. Call it what you want but there are real people with real medical conditions that could benefit.”
 
He continued: “Patients are going to get the products they need. It’s better to do it through a regulated program where they can get high quality products that are overseen by the state of Mississippi through licensed establishments. So that’s the way it needs to be set up. That’s the program we got in this bill, and I think the people of Mississippi are ready for it,” said Conner Reeves.
 
WLOX spoke with Rep. Lee Yancey last week, who helped negotiate the new bill in the House. He believes the current bill will pass in both chambers, which requires a an approval vote of 60 percent or more. A vote of 67 percent or higher would be enough to override the governor if he decides to veto the bill presented to him.
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Police probe into other drugs leads to the discovery of 15 kilograms of cannabis.

A false wall and a bunch of mess weren’t enough to prevent police in the U.K. from discovering 15 kilograms of cannabis hidden inside a West Derby home.

 

Officers with the Hampshire Police found the illegal cannabis during a search of the home at about 4 p.m. on Jan. 4, according to the Merseyside Police. Hidden behind a false wall, they discovered 15 kilograms of cannabis.
 
Like many other drugs, recreational cannabis — a Class B substance that also includes speed, ketamine and some amphetamines — continues to be illegal throughout the U.K. Possessing a Class B drug carries a top penalty of as long as five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Chief Inspector Paul Sutcliffe of the Merseyside Police reports that the three large packages of cannabis found behind the wall were “disguised with clutter.”

Hampshire Police made the find after arresting a 65-year-old man from Liverpool on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. These include substances such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.

 

The man has since been taken to a police station in Merseyside for questioning and remains in custody, the police statement notes.

“This was a fantastic find by our officers after a lengthy and thorough search,” Sutcliffe notes.

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A push in the legalization of marijuana faces another hurdle after not submitting enough valid signatures to bring to the Ohio General Assembly

But the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol (CRMLA) says more signatures are coming soon.

The petition fell 13,062 signatures short of the 133,877 needed to head the legislature. Now the CRMLA has until January 13 to submit additional signatures.
 
“We know that it’s a priority of Democrats in Congress and a priority of the Biden Administration to deschedule marijuana,” Tom Haren, Spokesperson for CRMLA said.

“If that happens, that means that it’s descheduled under federal law and it’s automatically descheduled under Ohio law.”

If the federal government does deschedule marijuana, it would be available and can be sold by anyone. It would be untaxed and unregulated.

“That’s a really bad policy outcome,” Haren said.

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A new city law bars many employers from testing job applicants for cannabis use, but there are several exemptions to the ordinance.

If you’re looking for a job in Philadelphia, you may no longer need to pass a drug test for marijuana. A new city law bars many employers from testing job applicants for cannabis use. It took effect Jan. 1.

But there are several exemptions to the ordinance and questions about enforcement. If you’re a job applicant or hiring manager, here’s what you need to know about the city’s ban on pre-hire marijuana testing.

Why did the city pass this law?

Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but some people who are prescribed cannabis have a hard time landing jobs because of drug screenings. City Councilmember Derek Green introduced the bill after specifically learning of people with autism spectrum disorder who struggled to find work due to their medical marijuana use.

“It just seemed to be contradictory that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is allowing this product to be used for individuals to help improve their quality of life,” said Green, a Democrat.

“But then that’s also restricting their ability to improve their life by getting gainful employment.”

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The cases against two area residents who were reportedly caught growing marijuana in the front yard of their residence in Redbank Township moved forward in court on Tuesday.

Court documents indicate the following charges against 47-year-old Robert Jason Smyers and 42-year-old Katie Joleen Shreckengost, both of Summerville, were waived for court on Tuesday, January 4, 2022:

– Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, Felony (two counts)
– Intentional Possession of Controlled Substance by Person Not Registered, Misdemeanor

– Use/Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Misdemeanor

The charges have been transferred to the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas.

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In the last year, a new product popped up in stores across Ellis County.

Found on shelves in local convenience and liquor stores, Delta-8 products were being sold in a variety of forms, from edible to vape-based.

Often found near CBD or nicotine-based products, Delta-8 has been readily available for months across the state.

But while the product was being openly purchased and consumed, recent guidance from the Ellis County Attorney and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt clarified Delta-8 is illegal to sell and possess in Kansas.

After informing area businesses of the new clarification, most shops in the county have removed the product from their shelves, but now Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson, warned those that continue to sell or possess the product are now in clear violation of the law.

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The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in 2020, but it stalled in the Senate.

The Kentucky General Assembly convened for the first day of the 2022 legislative session Tuesday and legalizing medical marijuana in the Commonwealth is one issue that will likely be up for debate. 

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he remains open to discussing the issue but personally has concerns about advancing legislation. 

Stivers said has seen studies about the therapeutic benefits of medicinal marijuana, but said the ones he’s seen have had small sample sizes or were conducted over a short period of time.

“This is not a drug that's a panacea to cure everything, but if there were more studies and the FDA or John Hopkins or somebody like that would come out and show how it should be used for medicinal and therapeutic values, then I think it would be an easier path forward," Stivers said.

He also is worried about how legalizing marijuana for medicinal use could impact Kentucky’s crime rate.

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The deadline has passed for municipalities in New York State to opt out of recreational marijuana sales and consumption. Over 600 have said no to dispensaries, and over 700 say they will not allow consumption sites as of now.

Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel said his city has not opted out of either opportunity, and he is excited about the economic growth recreational marijuana will bring.

“We are a city that doesn’t have a lot of economic type business that fosters a lot of taxes for us, so something like that probably would,” he explained, “especially a growing facility.”

In August the city council approved for a former storage facility to be a marijuana cultivation and manufacturing plant. While the city hasn’t opted out of consumption sites, Stammel believes focusing on growing is more important. Now, he is waiting for the state to get the ball rolling more quickly on opening up the market.

Heather Trela from the Rockefeller Institute of Government has been working on a database that keeps track of which municipalities across the state are opting out. For those choosing “no,” Trela believes more information from the state might change their minds to opt in at a later date.

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A fugitive was taken into custody Sunday after officials learned he was wanted across multiple states while he was taken into medical care.

According to an arrest warrant, officers responded to West Trinity Lane after Kenneth Johnson, 29, reported he was feeling ill due to smoking marijuana. Officials said he was taken to TriStar Skyline Medical Center where he was treated.

During this time, police said a records check of Johnson’s name and social security number showed he had two outstanding failure to appear warrants, and that he was wanted by U.S. Marshals in Arlington, Virginia.

After being discharged from the hospital, police said they searched Johnson and found 7.3 grams of marijuana in his pocket.

He is now faced with four separate charges.

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A race starting in Houstonians' livings rooms could set the stage for one of the state's most expensive gubernatorial races ever.

At a crowded rally in downtown Austin, Beto O'Rourke ticked off his usual laundry list of campaign promises: stabilizing the power grid, rolling back the state's new permitless carry law and expanding health care access.
But the El Paso Democrat got some of the loudest cheers of the night when he promised to legalize marijuana in Texas, something he said "most of us, regardless of party, actually agree on."
 
"I've been warned that this may or may not be a popular thing to say in Austin, Texas," O'Rourke said to the crowd gathered in Republic Square Park in December.
 
"But when I am governor, we are going to legalize marijuana."
 
The support is nothing new for the gubernatorial candidate. O'Rourke has championed legalization efforts throughout his political career, ever since his time as a member of the El Paso city council. He also nodded at the policy throughout his failed campaigns for U.S. Senate and for president.

But in his early run for governor, O'Rourke, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has repeatedly mentioned legalizing marijuana on the campaign trail across Texas. Advocates hope the increased attention will give momentum to legalization efforts in a state with some of the harshest penalties and highest arrest rates for marijuana possession.

O'Rourke's advocacy around the issue dates back at least to his time on the El Paso City Council in 2009 when he pushed for a resolution calling on Congress to have "an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition" of marijuana.

Despite unanimously passing the city council, then-Mayor John Cook vetoed the nonbinding measure. Cook got some help from then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who warned council members the city could lose federal funds if they continued with their effort.

O'Rourke went on to challenge and defeat Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary for his congressional seat. During that race, Reyes released an ad attacking O'Rourke's position on marijuana legalization.

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According to the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland, some 45,000 people between the ages of 15 and 34 meet the criteria for marijuana dependence.

In 2021, fewer people in Ireland were charged or issued a summons for possessing drugs following the introduction of a new scheme that allows for cannabis possession to be treated with a warning, reported The Irish Times.

According to Garda Press Office’s figures, as of December 14, 2021, up to 5,957 people were either charged or issued a summons in connection to drug possession for personal use compared to 11,127 in 2020 and 9,923 in 2019. This means that the number of people charged was nearly halved.

The expansion of the Adult Cautioning Scheme covering section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (regarding possession of illegal drugs) only covered simple marijuana possession. The cautioning scheme is run by An Garda Síochána (the Irish police dept.) along with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was extended across possession of cannabis for personal use, trespassing, trading without permission and laws relating to specific events, according to the Times.

These changes in the number of people charged for possessing marijuana come “against an international trend towards legalization, but also warnings from the psychiatric profession as to the harmful effects of the drug.”

When it comes to Europe, last year, Malta became the first country in the EU to legalize marijuana, Germany recently announced plans to legally allow weed sales, which will establish the biggest EU market with $3.5 billion in expected annual tax revenue. Switzerland launched a legal adult-use cannabis market trial to study for future regulation.

 

Irelands’ Psychiatrists Warn About Potency 

In 2021, the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland warned that increasingly high potency of marijuana and widespread belief the plant is harmless was generating “devastating effects.”

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Marijuana reform in Missouri has been a hotly contested topic since at least 2016, as thousands of entrepreneurs and commercial entities have competed for access to commercial licensing.

In 2018, the New Approach Missouri campaign won the support of 66% of Missouri voters to put a medical marijuana program into the state’s Constitution. In 2020, controversy erupted as roughly 85% of 2,200 medical marijuana commercial licenses applications were denied. Some applicants lost tens of thousands of dollars in application fees to the state and hundreds of thousands of dollars to consulting firms promising top-tier application writing services. 

To me this whole system seems irredeemably inefficient and corrupt. Worse, the New Approach Missouri campaign — now calling itself Legal Missouri 2022 — is proposing a similar approach to recreational marijuana licensing.

While others have discussed the licensing issues at length, I have an unique perspective on why these approaches are nonsensical — I’m licensed to legally grow cannabis in Missouri under the agricultural hemp law passed in 2018. 

Under federal law, hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (aka delta-9 THC), and marijuana is cannabis with more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. In 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and created a regulatory architecture that allowed states to run their own hemp programs under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

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You may have noticed both U.S. political parties are currently haunted. The apparitions? Ghosts of elections past.

For Republicans, the specter of 2020 has been very publicly conjured by a presidential candidate who will not admit defeat. Meanwhile, Democrats are more quietly suffering visions from 2010, when the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a historic yet complex technocratic achievement—much like the recent infrastructure bill—was followed closely by devastating midterm losses. 

As it stands today, Republicans are doing the better job of exorcising their electoral demons, with Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia as perhaps the most stunning example. The challenge now is President Biden’s, to deliver a common sense, easy-to-understand victory for the American people in time for 2022. He has a clear opportunity in cannabis legislation. 

If we could, like Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, make phantom visits to the dinner tables of present-day voters, we would see how average Americans are struggling with the contradictions of today’s cannabis policies. 

We’d hear the confusion. How can nearly half the U.S. population live in states with legal access to cannabis, while 66 million Americans still suffer the enduring consequences of cannabis-related arrest records?
We’d hear the frustration. Why can a seriously ill individual get relief from medical cannabis at home, but not legally take their medical supply on holiday to one of the remaining restrictive states? With Alabama recently becoming the 36th state to permit medical cannabis, why can’t the nation admit the debate is essentially over? 
 

We’d hear the outrage. How can this nation continue to tolerate the impacts of unfairly targeted cannabis enforcement, which falls heavily on people of color and undermines their employment, education, and housing opportunities—often forever?

But mostly, we’d hear the anger at Washington. Why can’t leaders deliver a rational, consistent, nationwide cannabis policy? Why the constant gridlock? Why the harmful holdup? Both parties would be rewarded for achieving cannabis reform.

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Ramone Marcio Martinez, 39, of Salt Lake City, carved the number 6 into the woman's left hand to remind her she had 6 months to 'love him or be killed'

A self-proclaimed Utah “millionaire” is accused of kidnapping a woman and holding her captive in his home for weeks. He reportedly beat her repeatedly and carved the number six into her hand — a reminder that the victim had a six-month deadline to “love him or be killed.”

On December 29, Ramone Marcio Martinez, 39, of Salt Lake City, was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping, assault, and five counts of aggravated assault in the case, which is being classified as domestic violence, according to local reports. The unidentified victim managed to escape with a single text message to her friend saying she was being held captive. An investigation was launched after the friend alerted the police.“The victim had texted him begging for help and that she was scared for her life,” according to a police booking affidavit, obtained by ABC 4.

Who is Ramone Marcio Martinez?

A LinkedIn profile shows that Martinez is the CEO of Truu Med, a medical cannabis doctor referral service. The company connects patients with doctors that will write a letter on behalf of the patient. Last year, he appeared on a local news outlet to discuss his business.

In 2019, he gave an interview to CBS affiliate KUTV regarding the regulation of the medical cannabis industry in Utah. "We welcome the regulations to come; we don't mind the oversight whatsoever," he said at the time. Martinez is being held in the Salt Lake County jail. 

Martinez tortured victim for weeks

When the police responded by going to Martinez's home in the Poplar Grove neighborhood, he reportedly "had his hand in his hoodie pocket and I could see the outline of a handgun which he was holding onto."

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Court documents indicate Marienville-based State Police filed criminal charges against 55-year-old Terry Hubert Webb. According to a criminal complaint, around 5:20 p.m. on December 4, Marienville-based State Police initiated a traffic stop after observing a vehicle making a traffic violation.

One of the passengers in the vehicle, identified as Terry Hubert Webb, was subsequently found to be in possession of a white powder substance in a plastic baggie. When asked about the substance, Webb reportedly stated it was cocaine, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Webb was also found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana, three plastic containers with marijuana residue, a white and blue metal container, a black metal smoking device with marijuana residue, and a red plastic straw with white residue.

The following charges were filed against Webb through Judge Daniel L. Miller’s office on December 29, 2021:

– Possession of Controlled Substance, Misdemeanor
– Marijuana-Small Amount Personal Use, Misdemeanor
– Use/Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Misdemeanor
– Disorderly Conduct Hazardous/Physical Offense, Summary

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