Nov 16, 2019 12:00 AM

Drug charges dropped against Kansas CBD store owner

Posted Nov 16, 2019 12:00 AM

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped felony drug charges against the owners of a Kansas CBD store for selling hemp flower, which looks and smells like marijuana but contains only trace amounts of THC, the compound that gives pot its high.


Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office said in a brief statement Thursday that charges against Annie Martin, her fiancé, Sean Lefler, and an employee of their Free State Collective store in Lawrence were dropped without prejudice — meaning they can be revived — “pending further review.” It offered no explanation.


Prosecutors had been scheduled to present their case against the couple on Friday.


Just weeks earlier, Branson announced his office would stop filing criminal cases for simple marijuana possession offenses.


Martin, a former elementary school teacher who could have faced more than 17 years in prison if convicted, says she’s “relieved,” and that she believes the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which twice raided the store, misunderstood the distinction between marijuana and hemp, which is a legal crop in the United States.


Martin said the case has cost her family upward of $100,000 in legal fees and that law enforcement seized equipment, inventory and cash.

“It’s been a complete and total nightmare,” she said. “I never in my wildest imagination would have thought this could turn into what it did.”


The store had lab reports from manufacturers showing their products contained only tiny amounts of THC. KBI documents showed some of the store’s products contained none at all. Other products were shown to contain some THC, but no testing was done to determine the actual percentage of THC, said Sarah Swain, the couple’s defense attorney.


Branson’s office declined to answer The Star’s questions in August about whether it distinguishes between marijuana and hemp in prosecuting cases. A representative said only that charging documents “reflect our position that marijuana was being sold at a CBD product store.” Those charging documents allege the pair possessed products containing more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of THC.


Lefler said the couple plans to close the Lawrence store this month and open a business in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Nov 16, 2019 12:00 AM
US proposes tougher rules on work permits for asylum-seekers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has proposed making it tougher for asylum-seekers to obtain permission to work in the United States while their cases are pending, a move that immigrant advocates say would unfairly punish those who need humanitarian protection the most.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said this week a proposed rule would double the time asylum-seekers must wait for a work permit to a year and bar those who crossed a border illegally from applying for work permits at all.


The new rule aims to discourage immigrants who don’t qualify for asylum from seeking it to “restore integrity to the asylum system and lessen the incentive to file an asylum application for the primary purpose of obtaining work authorization,” Ken Cuccinelli, the agency’s acting director, said in a statement.


The proposal is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration aimed at deterring immigrants from seeking asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border and in limiting immigration to the United States.


There are hundreds of thousands of asylum applications pending in U.S. government offices and immigration courts. Some were filed by immigrants who were already in the country and others by people arriving in airports, at ports of entry, or stopped on the U.S-Mexico border.


Currently, asylum-seekers can obtain permission to work in the United States once their cases have been pending for six months.

Immigrant advocates decried the proposed rule and said it would fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable immigrants, who are often those who flee their homes at a moment’s notice in search of safety.


“Those with strongest claims are the ones least likely to be able to support themselves because they had to leave everything behind,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council.


Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First, said asylum-seekers often struggle to feed and house themselves and their families during the current six-month wait period. Making that longer, she said, would worsen their lot and place an additional burden on their communities.

The public can comment on the proposed rule until Jan. 13.