Cannabis Church Co-Founder Found Not Guilty in 4/20 Case From 2017

The fight between the International Church of Cannabis and the City of Denver may finally be over, but which side really won? Over two months after one of the church’s co-founders, Steve Berke, was found guilty of public pot consumption violations for his role in a 2017 4/20 party, another church co-founder was found not guilty of the same charges.

Lee Molloy — who, along with co-founders Berke and Briley Hale, was charged with allowing public pot consumption and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act during the church’s inaugural 4/20 party in 2017 — was found not guilty by Denver County Judge Johnny Barajas on Friday, April 19.

Earlier, a jury had found Berke guilty on the same charges; a judge denied his motion for a mistrial. After that, Hale accepted a plea that would dismiss the charges against her if she completes 24 hours of community service and complies with six months of unsupervised probation.

All of the charges stemmed from the church’s inaugural 4/20 event in 2017, during which undercover Denver police officers say they were able to freely enter the consumption-friendly portion of the celebration; the church’s co-founders and their attorneys argued that the consumption portion of the event was private and required an invitation to get inside. Although none of the founders themselves were caught smoking marijuana that day, the trio was charged with public consumption: The Denver City Attorney’s Office argued that they were complicit in allowing attendees to consume publicly under their watch.

After a juror in Berke’s case told him that she felt pressured to find him guilty (a conversation that occurred outside of the courtroom immediately following the trial), Molloy’s attorney, Warren Edson, thought that waiving the jury and instead asking the judge to determine the verdict would help his client’s chances.

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“There are very few times when I’ve waived a jury, but this time we were getting very specific about issues with the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, hemp versus marijuana, and issues and with their complicity defense,” Edson explains, adding that the details of Molloy’s case might have varied from those of Berke and Hale.

“The judge put a lot of emphasis on the fact that Lee himself appeared to take a lot of affirmative steps to make sure this was a private event,” Edson says. “Under the complicity statues, he didn’t find Lee had knowledge or intent to break the law, or let anybody inside who wasn’t abiding by the rules and regulations of the service.”

Although the maximum penalty that Molloy faced over the misdemeanor charges was $ 300 in fines and 24 hours of community service (Berke’s punishment, levied by Barajas, was a $ 50 fine and nothing more), Edson is still upset over the city’s use of resources. He believes that the Denver City Attorney’s Office was trying to make a point against the church over social pot use — an issue that’s been the focus of several fights between the city and venue owners and event organizers.

“This happened literally two years to date on April 20,” he noted after Molloy’s verdict came down on April 19. “I’ve been involved with this case for about twenty months. Even before our motions hearing, the city attorney spent over 100 hours on this case. Then we had more hearings, numerous trial appearances, a mistrial, and then we had more appearances. They had a full three-day trial with Steve, and now they had another trial today? They’ve got to be at 400 or 500 man hours right now. That’s an incredible amount of resources and police effort.”

Despite the long legal battle, Molloy was just happy to move on — and it wasn’t lost on him that his verdict came in the day before April 20.

“It’s just a wash of relief, really. Its 4/20, so now I get to go home, clean up and celebrate,” he said shortly after the verdict was handed down. “It’s a victory for our church, but it’s also a victory for Coloradans who supported cannabis legalization. Hopefully, this will start moving things in the right direction.”


Toke of the Town

Tick-Borne Diseases Set U.S. Record in 2017

Nov. 15, 2018 — Tick-borne diseases are once again on the rise in the United States, and the reasons aren’t clear, the CDC says.

In 2017, state and local health departments reported a record number of cases of tick-borne diseases to the CDC, according to surveillance data. Cases of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan virus, and other tick-borne illnesses increased from 48,610 cases in 2016 to 59,349 cases in 2017.

The numbers are probably higher, the CDC says, because many cases of tick diseases are never reported.

The 2017 increase mirrors a rise in tick-borne diseases reported in the United States. Between 2004 and 2016, the number of cases doubled, and researchers discovered seven new tick-borne disease-causing germs.

U.S. Not Ready for the Threats

Although the reason for the increase in tick-borne disease is unclear, the CDC says several things can affect tick numbers each year, including temperature, rainfall, humidity, and host populations, such as mice and other animals. In any year, tick numbers vary by region, state, and county. Heath care provider awareness, testing, and reporting can also play a role.

In a report released in May, the CDC said diseases caused by mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than tripled from 2004 and 2016. It concluded that the United States is not fully prepared to control these threats.

The agency has encouraged state and local public health agencies to:

  • Build and sustain public health programs that test and track germs and the mosquitoes and ticks that spread them.
  • Train staff on ways to prevent and control carriers of disease.
  • Educate the public about how to prevent bites and control germs spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas in their communities.

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© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


WebMD Health

Over 70,000 Illegal Weed Plants Pulled From Colorado Public Land in 2017

Various law enforcement agencies collaborated on a network of raids on illegal marijuana grows in at least five towns and two counties on August 9, as first reported by the Denver Post — and the marijuana seized from the raids could be small potatoes compared to what’s happening on public land in Colorado.

“Public lands are just that — they’re public and belong to all of us,” says U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer, who oversees the District of Colorado. “These black marketers abuse our land, our water, our animals and plants. With these prosecutions, we motivate black marketers to make less harmful occupational choices.”

The seven investigations resulted in the arrests of thirteen people, who received sentences ranging from one to five years in prison; a court case is still pending for one individual. Although one case involved 100 plants grown by a homeless man in Whitewater, the six other grows each involved thousands. A single raid in near Rye seized approximately 14,000 plants.

Four of the seven grows were located in the San Isabel National Forest, which spans over 1 million acres. The 9,100 plants seized from two islands on the Colorado River were not included in the federal tally of seized plants, although federal authorities did participate in the raid.

“Illegal marijuana grows on public lands pose safety and environmental risks to all of us,” BLM special agent in charge Gary Mannino says in a statement. “We will continue to work with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that the public is safe when they recreate on their lands, and that we protect the natural resources in our care.”

Here’s the DOJs breakdown of each case:

United States v. Santos Ramirez-Alvarez and Santos Ramirez-Carrillo
On two islands in the Colorado River near DeBeque, approximately 9,100 marijuana plants were found growing on BLM land. Water from the Colorado River was diverted to irrigate the grow, while money derived from the grow went to individuals in Sinaloa, Mexico. Two defendants were arrested, charged and pled guilty to a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They were sentenced to 57 months and 60 months in prison, respectively.

United States v. Fernando Esquivel Herrera
In the White River National Forest, near Placita, approximately 2,700 marijuana plants were found growing on about eight acres of public land, with another 3,000 plants already harvested. Multiple bottles of WD-40 were found at the site. The defendant was charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana plants, along with other crimes. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison.

United States v. Neil Andrew McKay
On BLM land near Whitewater, approximately 100 marijuana plants were located. The defendant, who was homeless, was found with a loaded handgun in his possession. He was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in prison.

United States v. Vincente Medrano Duque,
In the San Isabel National Forest near Rye, approximately 7,500 plants were located on a grow affecting approximately four acres. The defendant was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana plants, land depredation and illegal reentry. Sentencing is scheduled for the end of August.

United States v. Danilo Jemenez-Lopez and Margarito Yepez-Sanchez
In the San Isabel National Forest near Rye, approximately 14,000 marijuana plants were located on a grow affecting approximately twelve acres. Two defendants were charged, and one pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess marijuana, as well as land depredation. The case against defendant Jemenez-Lopez is still pending.

United States v. Cutberto Reyes-Martinez, Gildardo Mendez-Arizmendi, Martin Sandoval-Arizmendi and Pedro Fernando Segovia Rosales
In the San Isabel National Forest near Salida, approximately 4,000 marijuana plants were located on a grow affecting approximately seven acres. Four defendants were charged and pled guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana plants. Two defendants were also charged and pled guilty to illegal reentry. The defendants were sentenced individually to 20, 24, 60 and 24 months in prison.

United States v. Virgilio Alain Reyes Cervantes and Erik Pimental Magana Plata
In the San Isabel National Forest near Rye, approximately 9,000 marijuana plants were found on a grow affecting approximately seven acres. Two defendants were charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. They were sentenced to 15 and 21 months in prison, respectively.

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Colorado Sold 665,134 Pounds of Legal Pot in 2017; How Much Did It Consume?

Not counting the budding behemoth in California, it’s tough to match Colorado’s pot-smoking prowess, which was put on full display in the state’s recent Marijuana Enforcement Division‘s 2017 market-demand study.

According to the MED, Colorado’s legal marijuana market demanded 665,134 pounds of pot in 2017, accounting for over $ 1.5 billion in total earnings. That’s a 31 percent rise from 2016, the study shows, and a 130 percent rise since 2015, when the MED began tracking the data.

Cultivators supplied about 750,000 pounds of marijuana in 2017, the MED says, while industry consumers smoked, vaporized and ingested around 460,000 pounds of pot, according to federally funded surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The discrepancy in marijuana cultivated and marijuana sold was largely attributed to a 72,000-pound inventory of marijuana that businesses held on to at the time of the survey, as well as destruction of marijuana that failed quality-assurance standards, inventory shrinkage and losses during harvest, trimming and extraction processes.

And what about the wide difference between marijuana demanded by consumers and marijuana that was actually consumed in Colorado? The report says that disparity is caused by several factors:

  • At-home consumer inventory
  • Purchases that are consumed out of state
  • Demand from the under-21 population
  • Under-estimated demand or waste by visitors
  • The inclusion of edible and concentrate products that were not fully considered in federal surveys

While marijuana consumption increased in Colorado from 2014 through 2016, the MED says consumption rates plateaued from 2016 to 2017, with a small drop in use from Colorado residents mostly offsetting a slightly larger rise in tourist consumption. However, the findings from studies it cites might conflict with research from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The federal studies used in the MED report found a drop from 2016 to 2017 in past-month use of marijuana among Colorado residents, but recently released CDPHE findings show that daily marijuana use rose nearly 2 percent for adults eighteen-and-up from 2016 to 2017.

Other interesting findings from the MED’s annual report include rising potency trends among flower and concentrates. In 2014, the average amount of THC found in marijuana flower sat at 16.4 percent, according to MED-approved testing labs, while concentrates averaged out at 56.6 percent THC. In 2017, the average bud tested out at 19.6 percent THC, while the average concentrate rose to 68.6 percent.

Colorado Sold 665,134 Pounds of Legal Pot in 2017; How Much Did It Consume?

Marijuana Enforcement Division

The MED also notes that the industry’s top ten operators control over 23 percent of the total market, which it touts as sign of a “highly competitive market.”

None of that competition was at play in the east and southeast regions of Colorado, where Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Douglas, Elbert, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln and Prowers counties all ban retail marijuana sales. However, the counties with the highest rates of adult sales per capita in 2017 sat right next to many of those communities, with Huerfano, Las Animas and Otero counties — not Denver County – leading the state in that category.

The report was authored with the help of of the Marijuana Policy Group and University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business. According to MPG co-founder Adam Orens, there were a number of “firsts” in the reports. “Colorado is the first state to use inventory tracking data to understand market dynamics; the first to use flower equivalent measures; and the first to compare supply, demand and consumption to monitor regulatory performance,” he says in a statement.

Find the entire report below.

Upda

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Denver Dispensaries Collected Over Half a Billion Dollars in 2017

Denver accounted for a major portion of the $ 1.5 billion worth of legal cannabis sold in Colorado in 2017. Over a third of the state’s total sales were made in the Mile High City, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The DOR breaks down revenue data monthly for each county; totaling the take from last year, Westword determined that dispensaries located in Denver County sold $ 577.5 million worth of cannabis and cannabis produces in 2017.

Denver has nearly 1,150 active cannabis business licenses within its jurisdiction, 364 of which were for dispensaries as of February 2018, according to the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. Although many individual dispensaries carry two licenses — one for medical sales and one for retail — Denver still has the most pot shops of any Colorado locality by far, beating its closest competitor (Colorado Springs) by triple figures. With such a concentration of pot shops in Denver, and Adams and El Paso counties limiting or outright banning retail pot, it’s no surprise that Denver dominates the recreational pot trade.

Mile High sales trends largely mirror the state’s, the data shows, with revenue peaking in summer months and dipping slightly as the weather gets colder in September. In August alone, Denver dispensaries collected over $ 53.6 million, with over $ 35 million of that coming from the recreational side. February was the city’s lowest-earning month in 2017, totaling just over $ 29.5 million.

Both Denver and Colorado as a whole have enjoyed rising cannabis sales since retail operations opened in 2014, but 2018 represents the first year of legitimate regional competition. Nevada began recreational pot sales in July 2017 and California went online in January 2018, while multiple states on the East Coast are loosening their cannabis prohibition laws as well.

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North America’s 25 Trending Marijuana Strains of 2017

Popular marijuana strains of 2017 were potent, tasty, and legally available in more than half the states, plus the District of Columbia. While perennial winners like Blue Dream, GG4 (Gorilla Glue #4), GSC (Girl Scout Cookies), and Sour Diesel were perpetually elevated on Marijuana.com’s monthly Top 25 Most Popular Strains during 2017 – several lesser-known […]
Marijuana

The Biggest International Marijuana Stories of 2017

This was an incredible year for international cannabis reform, with many governments realizing the futility of prohibition and actually doing something about it. Countries big and small on almost every continent made strides with decriminalization and legalization for both medical and recreational marijuana. Marijuana.com was there to cover it all in 2017. So without further […]
Marijuana

‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Star Wars’ Top 2017 Box Office

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Tales as old as time are still as popular as ever. As 2017 draws to a close, it’s clear to see that Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and the latest chapter of Star Wars are the top movies at the box office in the U.S. Directed by Bill Condon, Beauty and the Beast has grossed  $ 504,014,165 stateside, with a worldwide cume of $ 1,263,521,126. Sitting at No. 2 is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with a total of $ 423,361,767 stateside (as of Dec. 26) and a global take of $ 870,261,767 after less than two weeks at the box office.

The most popular animated movie of the year was Universal/Illumination’s Despicable Me 3, which earned $ 264,624,300 in the U.S. and $ 1,033,508,147 worldwide. And yes, in case you were wondering, Illumination has plans for Despicable Me 4, which is slated for a 2024 release. But that’s way in the future, since the studio still has The Grinch set for Christmas 2018, The Secret Life of Pets 2 for 2019, Minions 2 and Sing 2 for 2020 and The Cat in the Hat for 2021.

Sony had three titles (The Emoji Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, The Star), while Pixar had two (Coco, Cars 3), Warner Bros had two (The LEGO Batman Movie, LEGO Ninjago Movie), and DreamWorks also placed two (The Boss Baby, Captain Underpants) in the top 10.

Top 10 Animated Movies of the Year

1. Despicable Me 3 (Universal/Illumination) $ 264,624,300
2. The LEGO Batman Movie (Warner Bros.) $ 175,750,384
3. The Boss Baby (Fox/DreamWorks) $ 175,003033
4. Coco (Disney/Pixar) $ 167,054,710
5. Cars 3 (Disney/Pixar) $ 152,901,115
6. The Emoji Movie (Sony) $ 86,089,513
7. Captain Underpants (Fox/DreamWorks) $ 73,921,000
8. The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Warner Bros.) $ 59,281,555
9. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) $ 45,020,282
10. The Star (Sony) $ 38,641,925

 

Top 10 VFX Movies of 2017

1. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) $ 504,014,165
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney) $ 423,361,767
3. Wonder Woman (Warner Bros.) $ 412,563,408
4. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Disney) 389,813,101
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony) $ 334,201,140
6. It (Warner Bros.) $ 327,481,748
7. Thor: Ragnarok (Disney) $ 309,784,671
8. Logan (Fox) $ 226,277,068
9. The Fate of the Furious (Universal)) $ 225,764,765
10. Justice League (Warner Bros.) $ 223,573,455

Source: Boxofficemojo.com; 12/26/2017

Beauty and the Beast and Minions

Beauty and the Beast and Minions

Animation Magazine

Top Tech Tools and Trends of 2017

Cryptomatte

Cryptomatte

As we count down the days to the beginning of the new year, it’s a good time to look back at some of the top tech tools of 2017. Some are new, and some have evolved or pivoted into something newer and more exciting. Some of them are simply becoming more embraced in the industry, so their importance to what we do every day has increased:

Atom View. This effect tool takes point data and drives it through game or VR systems to provide real-time and high-fidelity feedback for 3D models. nurulize.com/atom-view

Atom View

Atom View

Allegorithmic Substance Designer/Painter. Has been around for a few years, but with its PBR (physically-based rendering) shaders and display, lookdev and texturework has never been so fun — or fast. More and more visual effects companies have embraced the workflow. allegorithmic.com

Allegorithmic Painter

Allegorithmic Painter

X-Rite TAC7 Ecosystem. This useful scanner captures and stores color, texture, gloss and other surface appearance characteristics of physical material samples and helps out in the entertainment business as well. xrite.com/categories/appearance/tac7

GPU Rendering (again). Clarisse and RedShift just keep getting more and more involved in speed- ing up our rendering (and making clients think our job is easy). Throwing rendering to the graphics cards is a thing now — especially when the tools are becoming platform agnostic. redshift3d.com and isotropix.com

Little Chef by RedShift

Little Chef by RedShift

Universal Scene Description. Developed by the smart people at Pixar and adopted by other smart people everywhere, USD is a system of assembling assets (models, lights, cameras, etc.) into a scene, and then allowing that scene to be read by multiple applications. It also is flexible enough to generate master scenes, that can then be adjusted per shot with overrides. graphics.pixar.com/usd

Universal Scene Description

Universal Scene Description

MaterialX. This one was developed by the smart people at ILM, and then shared with everyone as a way to have transferrable shaders between platforms. It’s good to see this sharing trend! materialx.org

Material X

Material X

Computer Vision and Machine Learning (CVML). This concept uses deep learning to calculate the incalculable — how the human brain sees and identifies things.

Computer Vision and Machine Learning (CVML)

Computer Vision and Machine Learning (CVML)

ARKit. This development platform on OSX through xCode creates Augmented Reality content on your favorite iOS devices. Yes, it was hugely responsible for the Pokémon GO epidemic. developer.apple.com/arkit

ARKit

ARKit

Pinscreen’s Facial Tracking/Avatar Rebuilding. It drives the Animoji on the new iOS (for better or worse), and potentially places tech into consumers’ hands to transfer their performance onto their (or another character’s) face. Leading to way for how we will interact in VR or AR.

Pinscreen’s Facial Tracking/Avatar Rebuilding

Pinscreen’s Facial Tracking/Avatar Rebuilding

glTF 2.0. GL Transmission Format may not be the most intuitive name, but this unified exchange program developed by Khronos Group is an effective way to represent 3D assets in web space or apps. The 2.0 version incorporates PBR rendering (à la Allegorithmic material mentioned above). khronos.org/gltf

glTF 2.0

glTF 2.0

Eddy for Nuke. We now have fluid dynamics system in Nuke! This plugin simulates gaseous phenom inside Nuke, making it possible to work with smoke, fire and similar fluid sims fast and interactively. It’s also a physically based volume renderer and compositing system! Woohoo! vortechsfx.com

Eddy for Nuke

Eddy for Nuke

Cryptomatte. Mattes made easy through a set of object IDs, supporting transparency, depth of field, etc. github.com/psyop/cryptomatte

Cryptomatte

Cryptomatte

For those of you who would like to take a deeper peek into the future of computer graphics, I recommend checking out the SIGGRAPH White Papers every year. Put together by super star academics around the world, these papers reveal the science that what will be implemented into the software and practical workflows in the next two years. s2017.siggraph.org/technical-papers. Happy new year, everyone!

Animation Magazine

Canna Claus Survival Guide: Buds, Dabs, and Oils for Christmas 2017

Canna Claus will be busy packing mom and dad’s stockings with something new this year on Christmas Eve, sparking joy with the gift of marijuana and her intoxicating derivatives. Marijuana dispensaries in Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Washington State will most likely witness their average per-person sales increase by double digits the week before […]
Marijuana

Our Ten Most-Read “Ask a Stoner” Questions of 2017

The curiosity and unfamiliarity surrounding cannabis never ceases to amaze me. Questions about smoking melted edibles and boofing pot up one’s rectum are always good for a laugh, but some readers bring up significant issues and points of views that I’ve never considered.

Compelling questions about CBD products showing up on drug tests, age requirements to buy CBD products and many more CBD-related inquiries dominated our most popular questions of 2017, but that wasn’t all: Acid reflux, THC distillate and smuggling herb through the mail were also hot-topic issues. Read below for our ten most popular Ask a Stoner questions of 2017 — and feel free to leave us a question if inspired.

Toke of the Town

Colorado’s Most-Read Marijuana Stories in 2017

Approved by Colorado voters in November 2012, legal marijuana is now becoming mainstream in Colorado – but not without its fair share of controversy. New laws and regulations surrounding medical and recreational pot, a recent rise in legalization opponents thanks to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s fear-mongering actions, and consolidation in Denver’s dispensary scene have all generated plenty of buzz. For a rundown of what cannabis issues people have been talking about most this year, check out our ten most-read pot stories of 2017:

A slab of shatter, a popular cannabis concentrate.

A slab of shatter, a popular cannabis concentrate.

Lindsey Bartlett

1. “Concentrate! Here’s the Difference Between Shatter, Budder, Crumble and More”

There used to be just a few varieties of concentrates, and now there are many, many more. Read more here.

2. “Dear USA Today: Marijuana Hasn’t Devastated Colorado”

In August, USA Today published an op-ed titled “Marijuana Devastated Colorado, Don’t Legalize It Nationally,” written by Jeff Hunt, the vice president of public policy at Colorado Christian University, who continues to advocate against pot. Read more here.

3. “Eleven States Considering Pot Laws In 2017”

Four states legalized recreational marijuana during 2016, leading at least eleven to consider changing their laws this year. Read more here.

4. “Legal Cannabis Opponents Unite at Colorado Christian to Fight Pot Industry”

Coloradans against the legalization of cannabis found their collective voice at a symposium of the Centennial Institute and Colorado Christian University on October 6, 2017. Read more here.

Buddies Wellness had plants riddled with mites and mold in July 2017, according to the Denver Department of Environmental Health.

Buddies Wellness had plants riddled with mites and mold in July 2017, according to the Denver Department of Environmental Health.

Denver Department of Environmental Health

5. “Six Places to Buy Marijuana Late at Night in the Denver Metro Area”

Before May 1, 2017, Denver dispensaries were only allowed to be open until 7 p.m. In spring, 10 p.m. became the new deadline. Read more here.

6. “Op Ed: Keep Your Hands Off Marijuana, Jeff Sessions”

A Colorado mother tells her story of how cannabis helped her daughter in a letter directed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Read more here.

7. “The Six Largest Dispensary Chains in Colorado”

There are about 500 retail dispensary licenses in the state, with more than a third of those having addresses in Denver. Read more here.

8. “Jeff Sessions Finally Replies to John Hickenlooper’s Marijuana Letter”

On April 3, 2017, the governors of four states with recreational cannabis businesses up and running at the time sent a letter to Jeff Sessions. In August, he replied. Read more here.

9. “Denver Issues First Recall for Mite-Infested, Moldy Marijuana”

Buddies Wellness LLC had two recalls within a week in July. Read more here.

10. “Two of Colorado’s Largest Dispensary Chains Continue to Grow”

Native Roots and the Green Solution continued to grow by opening new stores before the holiday season. Read more here.

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From Covfefe to Hollyweed: Weird news grabs headlines in 2017

NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s Oval Office style dominated U.S. headlines in 2017, but readers were particularly perplexed by his use of the word “covfefe,” in what turned out to be one of the oddest news stories of the year.

A late night Tweet is seen from the personal Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump May 31, 2017. The Tweet reads, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe”. Donald Trump/Twitter/Handout via REUTERS

A tweet by Trump in May read simply: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”

White House officials batted away questions about what the word meant and even the dictionary company Merriam-Webster drew a blank. Trump left it up to the reader to divine his meaning, with a follow-up: “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!”

But he was not alone in leaving readers scratching their heads. Even outside Washington, the year produced a spate of weird news, including odd pranks and poorly considered crimes.

Los Angeles residents awoke on New Year’s Day to find the four-story white letters of the world-famous “Hollywood” sign had been altered to read: “Hollyweed.” The prank came just two months after California voters approved the recreational use of marijuana despite a federal ban.

Austin, Texas, police were tipped off to an illegal brothel when hundreds of condoms clogged a city sewer pipe in March. The blockage at Jade Massage Therapy was the smoking gun that led to the arrest of two people for prostitution and money laundering.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were spared a spine-chilling surprise when a California man was arrested in July for trying to smuggle three highly poisonous king cobra snakes hidden in potato chip canisters.

FILE PHOTO: A late night Tweet is seen from the personal Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump, May 31, 2017. Donald Trump/Twitter/Handout via REUTERS

Crooks had planned the latest haul of snakes in a can after all 20 king cobras in a previous shipment died in transit, authorities said.

Back in the political arena, an octogenarian ex-con New Jersey politician revived her burlesque act at a May fundraiser – although she kept her clothes on.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during his visit at the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S. December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, who is in her early 80s and danced as “Hope Diamond,” performed in a gown and feather boa to raise cash for a non-profit dance company, three years after being released from prison following a bribery conviction.

Animal stories also captured the public’s attention.

Millions watched via webcam as April, a giraffe, gave birth to a 6-foot-tall (1.83-meter) male calf. From around the globe, her fans watched her endure the conclusion of a 16-month pregnancy at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York – in April, of course.

Months earlier, a small moth with a yellowish-white coif of scales was named for then-President-elect Trump, who wears a similar hairstyle, researchers told the scientific journal ZooKeys.

The new species of insect, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, is native to Southern California and Mexico’s Baja California, and is likely capable of flying over the proposed border wall with Mexico that was a central promise of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters: Oddly Enough