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Travis Outlaw indicted for felony possession of marijuana in Mississippi

Travis Outlaw indicted for felony possession of marijuana in Mississippi


Former NBA player Travis Outlaw, 31, has been indicted by a grand jury for felony possession of marijuana in Starkville, Mississippi. 

The indictment revealed that Outlaw was in possession of greater than 250 grams of marijuana but less than one kilogram on July 23, 2015.

According to The Dispatch, Outlaw was arrested and booked at the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department for possession of a controlled substance. He was released that same day after posting a $ 10,000 bond.

The 6-foot-9 forward played for the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets and Sacramento Kings during his 11-year NBA career. He lasted played for Sacramento in 2014.

The Blazers selected Outlaw out of Starkville High School with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He had his best year with Portland in 2007 when he played in all 82 games, posting career-high averages in points (13.3), rebounds (4.6) and assists (1.3).

The Blazers traded Outlaw to the Clippers as part of a package deal for center Marcus Camby in 2010.

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Marijuana has no medical value, will stay classified as dangerous drug, DEA rules

Marijuana has no medical value, will stay classified as dangerous drug, DEA rules

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday rejected requests to reclassify marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug, though it will allow expanded production to support medical research.

The agency said it consulted with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department before making its decision. The review came in response to requests from the governors of Rhode Island and Washington, who asked the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule I substances. 

That category of drugs, which includes heroin, is defined as substances that have a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”

The DEA concluded that’s where marijuana, a drug used by one in 10 Oregonians, belongs.  

The agency said cannabis “does not meet the criteria for currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” that there is a lack of “accepted safety for its use,” and it has “a high potential for abuse.”

The announcement disappointed cannabis legalization advocates in Oregon and nationwide who pressed the Obama administration to remove marijuana altogether from the federal government’s schedule of controlled substances. 

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, said he welcomes the policy shift that allows for increased medical research, but he slammed the federal government’s decision to maintain marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug. 

“This decision doesn’t go far enough and is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it,” said Blumenauer, who has been an outspoken proponent of reforming federal marijuana policy.

Retaining the drug’s status, he said in a statement, “continues an outdated, failed approach — leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws.”

Thursday’s decision does nothing to address issues confronting marijuana businesses operating in states like Oregon and Washington where the drug is legal. Legal marijuana producers and retailers, for example, have trouble accessing banking services because of the federal prohibition on marijuana.

Oregon is among 25 states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use.  

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, called the decision “largely a political one and not a scientific one.”

“That the decision by the DEA fails to acknowledge the scientific evidence and the emerging public policy that is now in place in a majority of this country is simply an act of willful ignorance,” Armentano said.

Although the federal government decided to maintain marijuana prohibition, it also relaxed rules for producing cannabis for medical research. The government currently allows research on cannabis, but the approval process is especially complicated and involves marijuana produced under a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The product is cultivated at a government-run facility based at the University of Mississippi.

The DEA said marijuana producers who meet agency requirements may register with the agency to supply researchers, as well as “strictly commercial endeavors” that would allow for the development of pharmaceutical products.

The announcement makes clear that the agency will register a limited number of licenses to producers of research-grade cannabis. 

Dr. Colin Roberts, a pediatric neurologist and director of the Doernbecher Childhood Epilepsy Program at OHSU, said the prospect of an expanded supply of cannabis is promising.

Roberts’ program is participating in several active clinical trials on pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol produced by Insys, a pharmaceutical company. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a component of the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, cannabidiol does not have psychoactive properties.  

While the federal government’s announcement does little to ease the thicket of red tape for researchers, it could lead to a wider variety of strains and products for scientists to work with. He said it’s possible that OHSU may pursue an effort to produce cannabis for research. 

“It depends on do we have enough people interested in doing the research with those products?” he said. “I know there is a lot of interest in the state because we have a lot of people who feel they can produce high quality products.

“Our ability to take those products from them and use them for for research — we can’t do that now,” he said.

Mowgli Holmes, a biologist whose Oregon company is focused on cannabis genomics, said the federal decision to increase sources of research-grade marijuana “is a pretty small bone to throw at us.”

Holmes served on a state task force that earlier this year recommended the creation of an independent marijuana institute to support and conduct world-class research into the drug’s medical and public health benefits.

He said the new stance does nothing to address the bureaucratic burdens facing researchers who want to investigate marijuana. And it doesn’t allow for agricultural research into the plant.

“All the basic agricultural research that needs to be done still can’t be done under any circumstances,” Holmes said.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants

In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants

The Oregon State Fair celebrates oddities like the “curviest vegetable” and the “most misshapen fruit.” Fairgoers can marvel over award-winning onions and pumpkins and snap photos of the top pig and llama.

This year, the state fair is adding a new attraction: prize-winning marijuana plants. For the first time, Oregon’s marijuana crop will be on display at the annual event, which runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 5.

Don Morse, chairman of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, the sponsor of the marijuana exhibit, said nine plants will be displayed in a greenhouse that will have its own entrance and exit. The area will be monitored by a security guard. Only people 21 and older will be allowed in.

Fair officials said the inclusion of cannabis plants is a nod to the newly legal status of the crop.

“This is really a reflection of where Oregon is now as a state,” said Dan Cox, spokesman for the fair.

He said the state fair is an “inclusive sort of forum,” especially when it comes to agricultural commodities. He said the fair is moving in the “direction that the entire state is moving.”

Morse said the plants will have ribbons just like any other prize-winning crop. The plants will come to the fair having already been judged by a panel of marijuana growers, including Ed Rosenthal, a well-known author and cannabis expert.

“We are doing it 4H style,” he said. “You get a blue, purple or yellow ribbon. We are celebrating the plant as a farm crop from Oregon.”

Fairgoers hoping for a sample will be disappointed, Morse said.

“We are not promoting the use of cannabis,” he said. “We are there to show plants to people over 21 what award-winning cannabis plants look like.”

— Noelle Crombie
ncrombie@oregonian.com
503-276-7184
@noellecrombie

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Sockeye, a Portland ad company, takes on marijuana client

Sockeye, a Portland ad company, takes on marijuana client

After working quietly for three years with a marijuana company, a well known ad firm in Portland came out Friday with its first video advertising campaign.

It features a cannabis-infused drink, but the actors could just as well be drinking beer.

The ad, which features a casual backyard party where people sip the marijuana-infused soda, underscores how much cannabis has merged into mainstream culture, at least in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

At first, Andy Fraser, Sockeye CEO, was cautious about working with the marijuana market. After all, the company’s high-profile accounts include Oregon Health & Science University, the Portland Children’s Museum and the University of Oregon. Sockeye has also done work for The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“We were raised with, ‘This is wrong,’ and it’s hard to shed that predisposition,” he said.

But when his friend Adam Stites, an entrepreneur with experience in e-commerce, came to him with an idea for the marijuana edibles market, Fraser was intrigued.

“There is no question there was some hesitation,” he said. “It’s a polarizing subject matter, but we have just taken the approach that here is a great entrepreneur making a great product and doing it really well.”

Fraser said Sockeye helped Stites research the market to figure out which new product might appeal to consumers. Marijuana consumers already have plenty of cookie and candies to choose from so Sockeye and Stites came up with the idea for a sparkling soda.

The name of the drink: Legal.

The product launched in Washington’s recreational marijuana market in 2014 and is now available to consumers 21 and older in Oregon.

With help from Portland filmmaker James Westby, Sockeye produced a video for Legal featuring a scene that could have unfolded in any Portland backyard. A band, with Westby as frontman, plays on a patio for a dozen or so friends who appear to be unwinding after the work week.

The catchy jingle highlights a new type of soda, whose retro label and stubby brown bottle could easily be mistaken for the latest kombucha or craft beer. The ad doesn’t feature pot leaves, green crosses or bikini-clad women, some of the more common images associated with marijuana.

The idea, said Fraser and Westby, was to pitch the drink like wine or high-end tea.

Aimee Huff, an assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University who has studied marijuana advertising in Colorado, said Sockeye’s ad targets consumers new to cannabis or people who don’t want to smoke. She said the ad, which echoes alcohol advertising, is clearly an effort to give the product mainstream appeal.

“Nothing they are doing is groundbreaking or edgy,” Huff said. “You see a range of different body types, ethnicities and genders. They are normal people doing what normal people do on a Friday night: relaxing at a barbecue.”

That was the point, said Stites, whose company is called Mirth Provisions.

“We wanted to break some of the stigma that’s common in cannabis, the stoner mentality,” he said.  

Fraser isn’t clamoring for more cannabis accounts. He’s already turned down prospective clients, worried that their products lack broad appeal.

Said Fraser: “We want to make sure that if we are going to work with cannabis brands, we are going to do it with one that is doing it right, that they are super careful about how they are doing it.”

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Marijuana as a sex aid? Pot sellers hope so

Marijuana as a sex aid? Pot sellers hope so

Here’s the thing: When you’re writing about pot-infused products aimed at making sex more fun, there’s going to be nervous laughter and possibly blushing. There will be awkward pauses, and maybe a few too many “ums,” as the mind searches for the right words.

Or maybe that was just me.

During the past year or so, sensual oils have materialized on Oregon’s marijuana dispensary shelves, adding to the surprising ways pot is marketed. Entrepreneurs have come up with pot treats to ease your aging pet’s arthritis, tinctures to slip into your morning tea and balms that offer a buzz while soothing chapped lips.

It was only a matter of time before someone came up with a way to put pot to an especially intimate use.

These products, which typically include coconut or almond oil, essential oils and a potent dose of cannabis, are typically aimed at women who are told to apply the oil before sex and, well, enjoy.

Trista Okel says people probably won’t get high using her Portland company’s Empower 4Play oil. They may just feel a different sort of sensation.

“It’s not numbing,” she said. “It’s not like that. It’s slightly tingly and warm.”

The product tagline: “Put it where you please.”

But be advised: These oils can degrade latex condoms.

And that’s a worry for people trying to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, said Kim Jones, a professor of nursing at Oregon Health & Science University and a nurse practitioner. What’s more, there’s no research to support their safety, she said.

“You are putting these products in an intimate part of your body,” she said. “If you are willing to try something that has no science to back it up – these products would be in that realm.”

Data out of Colorado and Washington show that topical products, like salves, lotions, bath salts and personal lubricants, make up less than 1 percent of sales, according to BDS Analytics, a Colorado-based firm that tracks cannabis sales and market data. Personal lubricants and oils make up a sliver of the tiny topical market.

Claire Kaufmann, a regional director for BDS Analytics, said topical products and others like marijuana-infused edibles still need to address key issues like consistency and efficacy before they take off with consumers.

“Novelty products will always have a place in cannabis, whether or not that particular market category will see aggressive growth, only time will tell,” she said. “It will come down to whether these products consistently deliver for the consumer.”

As with many aspects of marijuana, the evidence on effectiveness of pot-infused sensual oils is anecdotal. Some consumers say the products made a good experience better. Others said they didn’t add much.

Emma Chasen, a budtender at Farma on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, put it this way:

“It felt really good, but it usually feels good. I honestly can’t say the cannabis made it so amazing.”

Angela Bacca, a Portland writer and editor, said she was disappointed at first. And then one product delivered.

“It definitely heightened the sensation,” said Bacca, who wrote about her experience in a blog post she called “How I finally got my vagina high” for a marijuana culture site called Merry Jane. “For a lot of women, it’s hard to focus on things. It’s easy to get distracted. When you are that much aware of the feeling, it’s hard to get distracted.

“It definitely improved sex,” she said.

Others said they prefer cannabis oils over drugstore lubricants not because they experienced a difference but because the ingredients were familiar.

“For me, it makes it more appealing if it’s safe for me to eat,” said Zoe Wilder, a Portland writer and former budtender. “Then I know it’s safe for me to put in my sensitive areas.”

Sally Alworth, an owner of Portland-based Luminous Botanicals, heard from consumers who were using her medicinally focused cannabis oil for sex. Intrigued, Alworth and her business partner conducted their own experiments.

“Individually, with our own partners, we gave it a try, and we both had great reactions to it,” she said.

So they decided to market a separate product as a sensual oil.

“It’s packaged a little differently,” she said. “It has a different essential oil blend to make it feel more bedroom-oriented.”

At first, Adrian Brown, a longtime marijuana enthusiast, was skeptical. Then he gave the products a try.

Now, he’s a fan.

“I can get into further detail if you need,” he offered generously.

Nah, we’re good.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Marijuana labs prepping for regulation and oversight; no lab licenses issued yet

Marijuana labs prepping for regulation and oversight; no lab licenses issued yet

Starting Oct. 1, new products headed to marijuana dispensary shelves will have to undergo a battery of tests that assess potency and look for biological contaminants such as E. coli, residual solvents from the extraction process used to make oil, and dozens of pesticides.

The policy shift transforms Oregon’s marijuana labs from an unregulated cottage industry into a central part of the state’s regulated market. Yet while hundreds of prospective marijuana producers have flooded the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with applications for licenses, only eight testing labs have applied so far. None has received a license yet.

That trickle of applications worries state officials who hope to license at least three labs by late summer. Without enough labs to test a large volume of samples, growers risk not getting their products tested and onto the market.

“No product will flow through retail without having labs in the process to do the testing,” said Steven Marks, executive director of the liquor commission.

Officials don’t know exactly how many samples will need to be processed weekly to keep stores stocked. Already the state has issued more than 130 producer licenses, most of them to large-scale operations. The liquor commission’s own analysis estimates that labs will test about 2,500 samples each month to meet demand, figures based on the experience in Colorado and Washington.

Marks said licensed marijuana growers who got an early start on production may see delays getting their goods into stores if labs aren’t ready.

“The problem with our early growers is if there is no lab capacity,” said Marks, “they will be landlocked with their product.”

States with regulated marijuana markets have grappled with how to deal with testing. Connecticut, Nevada and Washington require routine pesticide screening for medical marijuana. Currently, Colorado does not require regular pesticide testing for cannabis. 

Under Oregon’s new rules, labs must meet the same stringent standards as the environmental laboratories that test water and soil. They have to undergo a state accreditation process and obtain a license from the liquor commission. For labs, the requirements mean buying additional equipment and hiring experienced staff.

Part of the accreditation program, which is overseen by three state agencies, involves running blind tests on pesticide-spiked samples provided by an outside company. Those tests help confirm that a lab’s equipment can detect certain chemicals. Labs have to run the tests on all 59 pesticides on the state’s list. Similar tests are required for solvents and potency before labs can be accredited.

Shannon Swantek, a compliance specialist with the division that accredits labs, said she’s received 34 partial applications from labs and three complete ones. She estimates 10 to 15 labs will be accredited by Oct. 1. Those labs must then undergo a separate licensing process through the liquor commission before they can begin testing for the new market.

Alex Hoggan, who has spent about $ 750,000 to equip his Milwaukie lab, Chemhistory, said he and his employees are focused on accreditation. He has not yet applied for a state license.

“We think we can do it, but it’s going to be right to the edge,” Hoggan said.

He said the new approach to testing is likely to have a broad impact. He predicted growers and processors will see two major shifts: The price of tests will rise because they are more sophisticated and comprehensive than what’s in place now and concentrate makers will see a high failure rate among their products.

Those products, which include butane hash oil, tend to concentrate not just THC but pesticides. For instance, a flower that passes the state’s pesticide screen may flunk once it’s processed into oil.

“It’s really hard to find clean cannabis at the moment,” Hoggan said. “If we were testing to the new (recreational) law, which we will be doing in a couple months, there will be a lot of fails. I mean a lot. The question is: Have the growers had enough time to figure out their pesticide use?”

Rodger Voelker, lab director at OG Analytical in Eugene, has long pressed the state to tighten its lab standards and oversight. He said he, too, is working on getting his lab through the accreditation process and has not yet applied for a license.

“It’s all good stuff, but it takes a lot of time,” he said. “We certainly are trying, but it’s a complicated process. I knew it would be, but until you get into it you don’t appreciate how complicated it gets.”

Jeremy Sackett, co-founder and director of operations for Cascadia Labs, said food safety and pharmaceutical laboratories typically get a year or longer to adapt to major regulatory shifts; marijuana labs were given the state’s final rules this year. Still, he expects his two labs, one in Portland and the other in Bend, to be ready to take samples by early fall.

That’s good news for growers like Laura Rivero, operations manager for Yerba Buena, a licensed recreational producer in Washington County. Rivero said her facility has already had its first harvest. By October, she expects the large-scale operation to have as many as 10 more.

“We were prepared to flip the switch the day we got our license, and that is exactly what we did,” she said.

She said if labs aren’t ready to take Yerba Buena’s product, she’ll end up stockpiling it.

“We don’t have much of a choice,” she said. “We can’t transfer it to anyone who is not licensed. It creates a major storage issue for us.”

Even if there’s a lag in getting product into the new recreational market this fall, consumers may not see much of a difference.

Marks expects a gradual transition from medical dispensaries to recreational shops starting in October. Dispensaries may have inventory they want to sell before they switch to the system overseen by the liquor commission. Shops have until the end of December to make the switch if they plan to sell on the recreational market.

Long term, Marks said his chief concern isn’t a limited supply of marijuana. He worries about having too much. The state didn’t cap how many licenses the liquor commission can issue; more than 1,100 applications have already been filed, about 760 of them from producers.

“We will have a lot of production in our system,” he said. “That’s what I worry about more — when the market experiences this heavy supply of marijuana and Oregonians can’t find their way to consume any more and people are stuck with all this production.”

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Portland signs off on marijuana festival featuring free samples

Portland signs off on marijuana festival featuring free samples

It’s legal to possess, grow and buy marijuana in Oregon, but state clean air laws and local rules have put a damper on public festivals featuring giveaways and consumption.

The Oregon Cannabis Association has found a way to host a summer fair where members of the public — as long as they’re 21 and older — can take home free samples. 

The Summer Fair, featuring dozens of Oregon producers and processors, will be held July 24 at the North Warehouse in Portland. 

Amy Margolis, a Portland lawyer with the cannabis association, said the event is designed to showcase Oregon’s marijuana industry and give consumers a chance to learn more about products sold in dispensaries. 

“It’s a way to meet new people who are interested in this market,” she said.

The association addressed the city’s rules by not charging admission, Margolis said.

Portland officials have made clear they plan to crack down on events that allow consumption or hand out samples at events where people pay to get in. The city views paid admission to a fair where marijuana is handed out as similar to selling pot – something only licensed marijuana businesses can do under the law.

Public cannabis consumption is also prohibited so people who collect free samples at the Summer Fair won’t be allowed to smoke or vape on site. 

Victor Salinas, the city’s marijuana policy coordinator, said Thursday that the city has advised organizers to check photo identification of attendees, as well as hire “enough security to monitor the perimeter to make sure no one is entering other than by the established entrance and exit.”

City officials earlier this year said they would ramp up pot-related enforcement efforts with the addition of four compliance officers, whose salaries come out of marijuana licensing fees. Salinas said those officers may visit the fair to ensure compliance with city rules.

Organizers or promoters of the events who violate the rules — and owners of the property where they are held — can face fines of as much as $ 5,000, according to city officials.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Marijuana activist with Portland ties tapped as interim NORML director

Marijuana activist with Portland ties tapped as interim NORML director

Randy Quast, who helped start local chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, including one in Portland, will serve as interim director of the national group.

Quast, 56, replaces Allen St. Pierre, NORML’s longtime director. St. Pierre announced this month that he would step down to devote time to his family. He and his wife recently had their first child.

“As a new father-at-fifty the frenetic workload and travel schedule that I’ve maintained for so long at NORML/NORML Foundation — compounded by low pay and no genuine prospects to increase one’s compensation after twenty five years at the non-profit organization — to be the father that I’ve always aspired to become does not at all comport with continued full time employment at NORML/NORML Foundation,” St. Pierre wrote in a post published on the NORML site this week.

He said he recruited Quast in 2013 to serve on the organization’s board of directors. He noted that Quast, who sold his successful trucking business in the late 1990s, “has selflessly donated over half a million dollars in support of Minnesota, Portland and national NORML.”

Quast remains active in Minnesota NORML and serves as treasurer of Portland NORML. He maintains a home in Southwest Portland. He said he plans to shuttle between Washington, D.C., and Portland to meet the demands of his new position.

Quast, meanwhile, is involved in a legal battle with Travis and Leah Maurer, two marijuana activists who were deeply involved in the campaign to legalize pot in Oregon. He sued the couple this year in Multnomah County Circuit Court seeking $ 1 million in damages. 

In his suit, which is pending, Quast accuses the Maurers of breach of contract, defamation, negligence and fraud. The suit alleges that he entered into a business arrangement with the Maurers to grow and sell cannabis commercially. He claims he gave them nearly $ 700,000 to build the business and that they used $ 340,274.94 to cover personal expenses and debts. Travis Maurer has denied Quast’s allegations.

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Portland pot dispensary targeted in Oregon marijuana industry’s first fraud investigation

Portland pot dispensary targeted in Oregon marijuana industry’s first fraud investigation

The letter from a top Oregon regulator delivered good news: Tisha Siler had won approval of her application for a medical marijuana dispensary license.

Siler, a California pot grower, would be a “valuable asset” to Oregon, the letter gushed.

There was more. The notice offered, in essence, to hand over a total of seven dispensary licenses without bureaucratic hassle, giving Siler a competitive advantage in Oregon’s expanding cannabis trade.

Problem was the October 2014 letter, right down to its official-looking letterhead, was fake.

The letter plays a key role in a state investigation into Siler, CEO of Cannacea, a dispensary that opened last fall in Northeast Portland. The fraud inquiry is the first of its kind in Oregon’s marijuana industry.

Investigators also are examining the role of a company that Siler hired to help attract investors. The firm, Green Rush Consulting, worked with a felon previously convicted in a financial scam.

Cannacea soon had a group of backers who were drawn to the state’s new recreational pot trade and the tantalizing prospect of sharing in a booming market expected to generate an estimated $ 181.2 million this year.

That vision of wealth unraveled. Relationships soured between Siler, a self-described herbalist and holistic counselor, and many of those she hoped would bankroll her operation. The venture spiraled into nasty accusations, multiple court claims against Siler and her dispensary and demands from investors that she return their money, according to court documents and the state’s investigative file on the case released to The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to a public records request.

No one disputes that the letter was fake. But no one admits to writing it and state investigators can’t pinpoint the author.

A Canadian entrepreneur said he invested $ 168,000 after one of Siler’s associates showed the letter to him. At least three other investors had material that included false claims about the business; it’s unclear how many of them made investments based on the bogus information, the state’s investigation indicates.

Siler, 45, who sells marijuana products she billed as treatments for chronic illnesses, has denied wrongdoing.

She told investigators that the Green Rush consultant fabricated the letter without her knowledge. In a statement, Siler described herself as the unwitting victim of people who tried to exploit her vision so they could turn a quick profit.

“There are people getting into the cannabis industry who were essentially run out of their last business and trying to reinvent themselves as cannabis industry specialists,” Siler wrote.

Regulators in Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, have so far seen only a few financial fraud investigations related to their new markets, but securities law experts caution that the pot industry, viewed by some as “the next big thing,” is ripe for deception.

The federal prohibition against marijuana keeps most banks from working with sellers and producers, in turn giving potential investors few avenues to assess a company, said Keith Ketterling, a Portland attorney whose practice focuses on securities law.

“It makes it really hard to look at these operations,” he said, “and figure out financially where they really are and what they have really done.”

Officials with Oregon’s Office of Consumer and Business Services declined to comment on their investigation into Siler and Green Rush Consulting. Speaking generally, however, agency spokesman Jake Sunderland advised pot investors to do their homework.

“Anytime there is a hot new industry, there is always room for bad actors to take advantage of the excitement around it,” Sunderland said. “The key thing is to be aware of things that sound too good to be true.”

***

In 2014, Siler said, she searched online for an adviser to help her raise money for a Portland dispensary. She found Green Rush Consulting, an Oakland, Calif.-based company that offers to help people get business licenses for marijuana enterprises around the country. (The company is not affiliated with the Portland-based Green Rush Advisory Group.)

Siler said she paid about $ 25,000 for its services, which included drafting materials to solicit investors.

Email records show Siler began working with David Jacobs at Green Rush. He identified himself on emails to potential investors as director of development services for the company.

In 2005, Jacobs was sentenced to prison by a federal judge in Oklahoma for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for accessing victims’ bank and credit card information to obtain between $ 15,000 and $ 20,000, court records show. He was released in 2013, federal officials said. By August 2014, he was working with Siler, according to emails included in the state’s file.

It was Jacobs and later Canadian businessman Paul Mann, Siler told state regulators, who created materials for investors that promoted her unique reputation among state officials and the multiple medical marijuana dispensary licenses she would receive — elements that also ended up in the letter.

Those weren’t the only suspect claims. The materials were riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods, including academic degrees Siler never earned and prestigious honors she never received.

“Tisha Siler,” one of the documents noted, “can demonstrate a direct connection to state officials who want her working in their state.”

At one point, according to emails in the state’s file, Siler blasted Jacobs for including an award in investment materials that she said she didn’t receive.

She said she gave him only “basic information” about her work, though at least one resume she appears to have emailed to Jacobs includes an associate’s degree from Corpus Christi State University; the institution, since renamed Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that it has no record of anyone named Tisha Siler ever having attended.

At least four investors ended up giving money to Siler.

Brian Fox, a St. Louis investor, told a state investigator that he didn’t recall whether Siler or Green Rush gave him the information about Siler’s company, Cannacea.

Fox told the investigator that he was more inclined to invest if Siler had the licenses she claimed but said it wasn’t “a huge factor” in his decision. He said the letter strengthened his interest in the company, but he would have invested $ 50,000 anyway because Siler was a friend.

Another investor, Ryan Carstens of Sanibel, Florida, told investigators he decided to invest on the advice of Fox, who he said was a friend. He told investigators he wouldn’t have invested had he known the claims about Siler and Cannacea were false.

Fox and Carstens didn’t respond to telephone messages for comment.

A Pennsylvania woman, Wendy Baur, told investigators she met with Jacobs and Green Rush owner Zeta Ceti. She said Jacobs emailed what she described as “Cannacea documentation,” which she reviewed before she invested $ 45,000.

It’s not clear what information Jacobs emailed her and whether it contained the false information about Cannacea, but she told an investigator that she understood Siler was “tied into” Oregon’s marijuana program.

At some point in fall 2014, the Green Rush owner fired Jacobs, according to emails in the state’s file. Ceti then began working directly with Siler.

The emails indicate Siler played an active role in reviewing at least some versions of materials produced by Green Rush.

“Forwarding you back the draft (which is looking EXCELLENT!!) with notations in red,” says one email to Ceti dated Nov. 20, 2014. Siler promised to reply soon with additional information Ceti requested. “Believe me, I am on it.”

In another, she appears to have forwarded a photographed copy of the phony letter to Ceti. The email is signed by Siler.

“I have scanned in a copy of the letter that was actually sent to me in Cali from the chief operating officer of the OHA,” states the email dated Oct. 27, 2014. “As it is a physical letter, I have scanned it and sent as a pic. … Let me know if you need anything else.”

Siler, in a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, said she “did not compose” either email. She said someone faked them, but she didn’t know who.

Jacobs, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records, returned to federal prison last year for violating the terms of his post-prison release. Jacobs said he was sent back to prison because he left New York and headed to California without first getting approval from probation officials and then failed to check in with them while he was there. He said his return to prison had nothing to do with his role at Green Rush. 

He denied creating the fake letter and said the information in the material drafted for potential investors came from Siler. She was deeply involved in preparing the material and the two were in in touch numerous times a day, he said.

“I didn’t have any reason to question it,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview this week from prison in Kentucky. “I took whatever information she gave me to be acceptable. I didn’t go through and personally vet everything she told me.”

Siler personally told him of her special relationship with Oregon regulators and the prospect of multiple dispensary licenses with limited red tape, Jacobs said. He was present when Siler made the claims while wooing backers – that she would have “favored nation status, that she could acquire additional licenses, that she would have first dibs,” he said.

He became associated with Green Rush, he said, after answering a Craigslist job ad. He said he didn’t know if Green Rush’s owner was aware of his criminal history, saying there was “no reason why he should have been.”

Green Rush is cooperating with the Oregon investigation, said Katy Young, a San Francisco-based attorney representing the company. She declined to answer questions about what Green Rush knew about Jacobs’ criminal past when it arranged for him to work with Siler, citing the investigation.

***

Mann, the Canadian businessman, said it was the letter that prompted him to invest in Cannacea in the first place.

He said he first saw it in late November 2014 during a meeting with one of Siler’s early associates in Cannacea, Brian Dawe.

Mann said in an interview that he knew Dawe from their work in the prison industry. Dawe worked with an association of correctional officers. Mann said he owns a company that sells protective equipment to corrections agencies.

Mann recalled meeting with Dawe at a Nashville hotel, where a corrections conference was being held. He said Baur, the investor from Pennsylvania, also was in the room.

Mann said Dawe showed him the letter and described Siler as an experienced cannabis grower with a popular following among medicinal consumers. Mann was impressed.

Dawe, in an email responding to questions about his role in Cannacea, said he planned to help Siler start her marijuana business. He said Mann was looking for opportunities for “investor friends in New York.”

“He said he thought he might be able to help us in Portland and asked if I would introduce him to Tisha Siler,” Dawe wrote. “He never offered to invest a penny of his money, only of others, and I never asked him to.”

Mann said he met Siler for the first time the following month, in December, and remembered how she “made a point of the fact that she managed to get these six (other) licenses and no one else had.”

Siler told him, Mann said, that Oregon officials “had approached her” about setting up her business in the state.

He decided to loan Siler about $ 168,000 to finish construction on the dispensary and cover other expenses, he said. He began as an investor and eventually became Siler’s business partner involved in daily operations, he said.

He saw Oregon’s new market as a potentially lucrative one. State lawmakers allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell to anyone 21 and older starting last fall, kicking off recreational marijuana sales.

Mann said he incorporated the claims about multiple licenses and Siler’s reputation among regulators in a presentation he made to six investors in early 2015; five did not invest, he said.

But he said a broker he showed it to shared it with representatives of Harvard Properties U.S., another Canadian company.

Mann said Harvard representatives came to Portland to meet Siler. In 2015, Harvard Properties bought the Northeast Portland building for Siler’s dispensary and the 13-acre property in rural Clackamas County for a marijuana cultivation operation, according to court and property records.

In all, Harvard Properties, paid more than $ 3 million for both parcels, court records show.

Mann said he never questioned the veracity of Siler’s claims or the letter. He made no effort to contact the state to verify the letter’s authenticity.

“Without that letter,” Mann said, “I would not have gotten involved. There is no question.”

***

Oregon officials first learned about the letter in July 2015 when an investor, Baur, called the Oregon Health Authority to ask about the status of the six additional medical marijuana licenses she assumed the state planned to issue Siler. The agency regulates medical marijuana dispensaries.

By then, Baur had split with Siler and Cannacea, according to records in the state’s file. Baur’s money was refunded. She signed a nondisclosure agreement, prohibiting her from discussing what happened.

However, documents included in the state’s file show Baur believed she “had been taken advantage of” by Siler.

Baur emailed a copy of the letter to Margaret Lut, a compliance specialist with the medical marijuana program.

“I’m sorry to say but the letter appears to have been created by someone,” Lut wrote to Baur on June 30, 2015. She went onto say that the state official whose name appears on the letter never signed documents for the medical marijuana program.

The agency forwarded the letter to the state Department of Business and Consumer Services, which opened a fraud investigation into Siler.

On Oct. 15, about a month after the agency opened its investigation, two officials from that department made an unannounced visit to Cannacea. They wanted to know what Siler knew about the letter.

Siler was already on the state’s radar after she allowed a vendor to give away marijuana concentrates and joints in the dispensary parking lot on the opening day of recreational marijuana sales, violating state rules. She paid a $ 2,500 fine, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Siler told the regulators that the letter was fake, according to investigator Dwayne Edsinga’s notes of the meeting. She said Jacobs had written it based on some questions he’d asked her. It isn’t clear from Edsinga’s notes what those questions were or how she responded to them.

She told the regulators that she didn’t use the letter to drum up investors.

Mann, who sat in on the meeting, said he was stunned by Siler’s statement. If the letter was fake, he wondered, why did she share it with him?

Once the meeting was over, Mann said he talked with Siler about the letter. He said she “did not have a good explanation” of what happened. He said he told her he would no longer try to find investors. He said he alerted an attorney for Harvard Properties, the company that had bought the properties for Siler’s business.

He said he’d tried ever since to get his original $ 168,000 investment back. He said Siler also owes him about $ 125,000 for professional services he provided.

***

In April, Harvard Properties filed lawsuits in Multnomah and Clackamas County circuit courts against Siler and Cannacea, trying to eject them from the dispensary and the growing operation. The complaint alleges Siler lives on the Clackamas County property in Mulino, which, according to the original real estate listing, includes a custom-built, two-story home featuring a chef’s kitchen and “awe-inspiring entry.”

In its Clackamas County complaint, Harvard Properties is asking for nearly $ 70,000 from Siler, claiming she hasn’t paid rent since September 2015.

The company filed a similar claim in Multnomah County for about $ 87,000 related to the dispensary property in Northeast Portland. In that case, Harvard claims it has repeatedly asked for rent and has received nothing.

Paul Hill, chairman and CEO of the Hill Companies, the parent company for Harvard Properties, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the company isn’t doing business with Siler or Cannacea at this point; the company said in court records that it had tried to negotiate a business deal with Siler, but those talks fell apart.

Hill said the Oregon venture was “too far away, too complicated.” The company plans to sell both properties.

Siteworks Design Build, a Portland design and construction company, has also filed a lien against the Northeast Halsey Street property, citing unpaid work amounting to nearly $ 64,000. The lawsuit asks the court to order that the property be sold so Siteworks can be paid what it is owed.

Siler, meanwhile, notified the Oregon Health Authority on June 17 that she planned to temporarily close Cannacea due to a dispute with her “partners.” She said she plans to reopen by July 15.

***

The state’s investigation into Siler and Green Rush continues.

The records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive, which include more than 1,000 pages, show extensive negotiations between Siler’s former attorney and the state over what role Siler played in creating and distributing sham investor material and whether Siler should pay in civil fines.

The state can issue a proposed order spelling out the wrongdoing and imposing a fine. The parties can either negotiate a resolution, which typically involves agreeing to a set of findings and paying a fine, or the case goes before an administrative law judge.

The person involved could potentially sign the order but not agree to the findings or deny them. The state could also conclude that no wrongdoing occurred.

In March, William Caffee, Siler’s lawyer then, questioned the state’s ongoing interest in Siler and Cannacea. He emailed Dorothy Bean, a lawyer for the state, claiming Siler “made honest albeit naive mistakes of judgment” in working with certain people. He blamed Jacobs and Mann for creating misleading investor materials and pointed out that ultimately no Oregonians invested in the business.

Bean, who went back and forth with Caffee for months over Siler’s role, pushed back.

“Rather than monitoring her business properly,” Bean wrote, “Tisha buried her head in the sand and allowed blatant, irresponsible misrepresentations and forged documents to form the ‘mix of information’ that a reasonable investor would consider in making a decision to invest in Cannacea.

“Ignorance,” she wrote, “is not a defense, nor is reliance on professionals.”

Caffee, in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive in June, said he no longer represents Siler. He declined to say why.

Mann, who said he had no experience with the marijuana industry until he came to Portland and got involved in Cannacea, said he just wants his money back.

“I have some damaged relationships within my own money network,” he said, adding, “I am a big boy. That’s business for you.”

— Noelle Crombie

ncrombie@oregonian.com

503-276-7184; @noellecrombie

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Upcoming marijuana use prevention campaign to target Oregon youth

Upcoming marijuana use prevention campaign to target Oregon youth

Oregon health officials are launching a campaign this month aimed at persuading young people to stay away from marijuana — or at least put it off until they are of age.

The Oregon Health Authority, armed with nearly $ 4 million from the Oregon Legislature to develop and evaluate the pilot program, is attempting to raise awareness among Oregonians 21 and younger about the health effects of marijuana use, policy specialist Kati Moseley said Friday afternoon.

In the year since Oregon became one of a handful of states that allows anyone 21 and older to possess pot and grow it in their backyard, the public health concern at hand is how legalization “changes the social norms around its use,” Moseley said, and subsequently affects the attitudes and actions of young people

“[These young people] are more likely to see it normalizing in society,” she said.

Moseley said that in developing the media campaign, it was important to find a way to present this information to young people in a way that is “palatable, believable and motivating.”

In order to do so, the public health division drew on focus groups of people aged 12 to 20 all over the state to inform the campaign.

“This age group is tricky to market to because they are so heavily marketed to,” she said. The agency was careful in choosing messages that would resonate with this group, she said.

Their research found that two core messages resonated most with their audience: brain development isn’t complete until your 20s and young people have the best chance to reach their full potential if they don’t use marijuana to get high during their youth; and being high will impair your ability to drive, bike, play sports and do other activities, she said.

These two messages formed the “bedrock” of creative component of the campaign, she said.

The campaign, which will include print ads, videos, social media and a micro-website or “microsite,” will go live July 11, she said.

Moseley said that one major difference in getting through to young people compared with adults is that television isn’t as effective in reaching younger audiences, the organization found. Similarly, they found that teenagers and young adults are less likely to go to a website for more information and more likely to go to social media.

“I’m confident that the campaign will be well-accepted with our target audience,” she said.

— Francesca Fontana

ffontana@oregonian.com

503-294-4009

@francescamarief

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