Louisiana Medical Marijuana Licenses Heat Up!

•March 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Hell has frozen over! 10 exclusive licenses are up for grabs to distribute medical marijuana to patients throughout Louisiana. Pharmacies around the state could open in the next few months if the Louisiana Board of  Pharmacy hands out licenses at the late March meeting. In January, a selection committee interviewed the applicants for all nine of the regions. A tenth license will be handed out in a high demand area.

In 2015/16, Louisiana passed laws authorizing a highly regulated medical marijuana program. The Southern University and LSU agricultural centers are partnering with private firms to grow the plant and dispense the drug in nonsmokable forms.

RX Greenhouse is the leading candidate for  the New Orleans area, which is owned and operated by Dr. Sajal Roy,who operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Maryland. Roy’s dispensary will be located at 3131 N. Interstate 10 Service Road, Suite 100. The building already houses a specialty pharmacy owed by Roy, and there are other businesses at that location.

 

The highest ranking North Shore applicant is Willow Pharmacy, owed by David Brown , a longtime medical marijuana supporter, among others. Their existing pharmacy in Madisonville will be converted in a dispensary. The top ranked applicant in the Capital Region, which includes East Baton Rouge and a few surrounding parishes, is Capital Wellness Solutions. The former head honcho of the Baton Rouge Police Department , Carl Dabadie,  is listed as security chief for Capital Wellness. They have leased a 4,300 square foot building at 7941 Picardy Avenue for the medical pot business. Primarily owned by Randy Mire, who is CEO of Gem Drugs, has 2 locations. T.J. Woodard, owner of downtown Baton Rouge drugstore Prescriptions on the Go, co-owns the business with 2 others.

Given the amount of information in some of the applications, it is possible the members may opt to recess in order to have the time to review that information and then reconvene at a later date to deliberate and make their selection, said Malcolm Broussard, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. No licenses have been granted to date.

In the Acadiana Region, which includes Lafayette, Evangeline, Iberia, Acadia, St. Mary, St. Landry, and Vermilion parishes, there was a tie between Acadia Therapeutic Remedies and the Apothecary Shoppe.  Acadiana  Theraputic is working with Helen Cobb and Jacob Irving, who have backgrounds in medical marijuana. The firm is leasing space in a retail center at 1015 Kaliste Saloom Road.

 

 

Sergeant Green Leaf Wellness Center operates from this small building in Georgetown, Colorado, which has a population of 1,023 people. But the dispensary is conveniently located near an on-off ramp for Interstate 70, less than an hour from Denver and on the way to the popular ski areas of Breckenridge and Vail. (STAFF PHOTO / MICHAEL POLLICK)

A number of well known public officials are backing the group of physicians, including former Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry; House Speaker Taylor Barras; Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robineaux. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy wrote a letter supporting co-owner Dr. Matt Mitchell, Eric Vidrine, Brian Ruden, David Mayer, Dr. Brett Casey are co owners of the Apothecary Shoppe. Ruden was an early supporter of medical marijuana in Colorado and founder of Starbuds, which has eight dispensaries in the state and three more under construction. Vidrine is the CEO and founder of  Professional Arts Pharmacy.

 

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Mayfield and Markham Plead Not Guilty in Federal Court!

•January 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’ve already stated that Irvin Mayfield, the celebrated and not so celebrated New Orleans trumpeter, along with his co-defendant Ronald Markham will serve time (that’s my opinion), and his plea of not guilty isn’t going to stand up in court. Markham and Mayfield were indicted December 14 in New Orleans.

            Ronald Markham

Irvin is a Grammy winner and has pleaded poverty in court, even though he has earned millions of dollars in the last decade as his career matured. Mayfield and Markham are charged with one count of conspiracy, 11 counts of money laundering and aiding/abetting, 4 counts of wire fraud, one count of obstruction of justice. Mayfield is facing one charge alone, a solitary mail fraud charge.

Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles mentioned that both men had no legal records, so he offered an unsecured appearance bail of $25,000 each.  Both defendants won’t have to put up money for bail unless a court appearance is missed.

Mayfield is accused of stealing $1.4 million from the Library Foundation. Both men served on the board from 2011 to 2013. Irvin had been building his stellar reputation for well over a decade. Former mayor Ray Nagin gave $1.4 million in grant money to Mayfield for his Jazz Orchestra. After Nagin left office, this revenue source dried up, leaving Mayfield short over a million dollars. This is when the Library Foundation funds went missing.

Mayfield and Markham are accused of making up board minutes after stealing the Library funds to erase the theft. That is called covering up a crime. Among the perks paid for with stolen funds are trips to Harrah’s casino, a gold plated trumpet for Mayfield, and rooms at the Ritz Carlton and Park Central hotels.

Mayfield won a Grammy in 2009 for best large jazz ensemble. As he is pleaded poverty in court this week (after earning millions), he was appointed a seasoned public defender, Claude Kelly. Markham is represented by attorney Sara Johnson.

                                  New Orleans’ Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield

The trumpeter is claiming he earns only $800/month, and that his bills amount to more than that.  I sincerely believe that Mayfield is currently earning way more than $800/month.  Mayfield’s lifestyle is an expensive one.

Kelly filed a motion to dismiss, due to the alleged leaks.  He says he has evidence pointing towards the U.S. Attorney’s Office as the leakers of grand jury testimony. This ploy occasionally works, but I doubt it will here. The prosecution’s case appears to be quite strong.

Irvin Mayfield is Indicted!

•December 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

How the mighty have fallen! What a wonderful crooked pair Irvin Mayfield and Ray Nagin make. That’s a dream pairing if I ever heard of one. One is in jail and the other will be there soon.  Nagin made Mayfield New Orleans’ cultural ambassador, and Nagin paid Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra  $1.6 million over two years. That’s a lot of misdirected cheddar. I don’t see how Irvin can keep out of jail as he stole big bucks from the people of New Orleans. Ray is currently serving his 10 year sentence for corruption.

Mayfield is a talented man who lost his big revenue source and resorted to stealing. Where was his moral compass?  Nowhere in sight.

New Orleans’ Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield in Happier Days

The indictments make the argument that Markham made – that the funds went to pay for the brand new New Orleans Jazz Market in central city- completely false. The indictment accused Mayfield and Markham of conspiracy; four counts of wire fraud; a money laundering conspiracy; an obstruction count for allegedly falsifying Library Foundation board minutes; and 11 counts of money laundering.

They are linked again in the fraud indictment handed down this week. Mayfield’s ethics began to change when mayor Mitch Landrieu took office. The $1.6 million vanished with Landrieu in charge. The indictment mentions Mayfield and fellow library foundation board member Ronald Markham, a long term friend of Mayfield and co-defendant.

His jazz orchestra was losing a lot of money, probably due to bad management.  He needed an influx of cash fast. It didn’t take Mayfield long to start moving money from the library’s coffers to his own- he made 17 money transfers. That is really cold. To rip off the library board? Really doesn’t speak well of Mayfield as a man with good judgement.

Some of bills Mayfield paid with the stolen funds are- a $20,000 shopping trip at Saks Fifth Avenue; $2,000 visit to Harrah’s Casino; stays in fancy high priced New York City hotels; and $64,000 for a Mayfield produced show at one of the best known halls anywhere, New York’s Carnegie Hall; and $20,000 for Mayfield Productions.

ELIOT KAMENITZ / THE TIMES PICAYUNE
Edouard Quatrevaux, Inspector General for the City of New Orleans, Tuesday, November 10, 2009 .

Several more illegal acts were saved for the cover up. Mayfield made false statements to auditors; submitted phony board meeting minutes; and made false statements in memos to other board members.

Mayfield faces another charge, this time an added mail fraud count for taking delivery of a 24 karat, gold-plated trumpet, supposedly paid for with $15,000 in Library Foundation funds routed through the Youth Rescue Initiative.

Nagin did all he could to aid Mayfield’s career. In 2009, Nagin attempted to give Mayfield a no-bid contract to redevelop the still trashed Municipal Auditorium after Hurricane Katrina, but the deal was killed by Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux after he called the deal improper.

 

Louisiana’s Debtors Prison Found to be Unconstitutional!

•December 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s 2017, and we would hope that debtors prisons would have been abolished around the world, but here at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, that’s not so. U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance has stated, So long as the judges control and heavily rely on fines and fees revenue…the judges’ adjudication of plaintiffs’ ability to pay those fines and fees offends due process.  This is a landmark ruling, way overdue.

This court case began 2 years ago when a few New Orleanians were jailed after failing to pay fines imposed for criminal convictions. Other plaintiffs were jailed for days or longer without ever receiving a hearing on their ability to pay. The stage is set to possibly end the “user pays” system that New Orleans utilizes to fund its criminal courts.

This would leave a large hole in the Criminal Court operating budget. Without an immediate influx of cash, that hole could become unmanageable quickly.

Roughly $1 million/year is spent by Criminal District Court judges that comes from fines and fees that are foisted upon those found guilty to round out their budget. Most of these defendants are too poor to hire an attorney, relying instead upon the overworked public defenders.

The judges can appeal the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. What is under attack here is the method of payment that has been in place for decades. The judges may have to before the City Council or legislature for some funding.

                                                                             U.S. District Judge Sara Vance

According to Vance, This conflict of interest exists by no fault of the judges themselves. It is the unfortunate result of the financing structure, established by governing law, that forces the judges to generate revenue from the criminal defendants they sentence.

Understandably, the judges would like to see this lawsuit go away. But they have not done enough to show institutional change, he said.  He also said the judges’ corrective efforts are so riddled with exceptions and omissions as to cast doubt on the sincerity of their actions. 

Alec Karakatsanis, the executive director of Civil Rights Corps, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit law firm which helped file the landmark suit says, It’s a monumental ruling.  For so long, the court system’s been operating in New Orleans in violation of the most basic principles of justice and human dignity.

 

 

 

State Police Cheating the Public? Say it isn’t so!

•December 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It is so, with some all around horrible behavior by former Louisiana’s top cop, and it all begins with former State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, who retired in 2017 amid a whirlwind of controversy which has grown since his retirement. Edmonson enjoyed a very good reputation as a Superintendent before his rather precipitous fall from grace.

Edmonson was top cop for nine years but retired after four of his top officers took an inappropriate trip to California to watch Edmonson receive a national award. One of the officers took his wife with Edmonson’s permission. They took a side trip to Las Vegas, also on the taxpayer’s dime.  Edmonson is big legal trouble, and his lawyer is going to do well here.

There is lots more corruption attributed to Mr. Edmonson and his wife.  State auditors recently discovered the Edmonsons were using trustees to walk the family dog and clean their house for them. He charged the state for a shoe closet built for Mrs Edmonson as well as electricity, internet service, flowers and cleaning supplies for his family.  Apparently, Edmonson has been living with his brood the past nine years in the State Police compound rent-free. That is the definition of brazen public corruption. The approximate bill for nine years of free housing? $430,000. Edmonson also neglected to inform the IRS about this income.

Without counting overtime or the officer’s regular salaries, the conference cost the State Police at least $33,000 for airfare, meals, lodging, registration fees and other expenses, according to a review by The Advocate of more than 200 pages of receipts and travel statements.

                                                                                                         Mike Edmonson

Others in Edmonson’s inside circle have been living in VIP housing at State Police training facilities at no charge for months at a time. Other troopers took advantage of the free services Edmonson was enjoying. Edmonson’s chief of staff, Charles Dupuy, told state investigators he stayed at the Training Academy while going through a divorce. 

Edmonson utilized his state credit card to pay thousands of dollars in questionable restaurant bills. He enjoyed many meals at the department cafeteria over years of service without paying, while regular officers were paying for everything on their trays. He also got troopers to ferry him and his wife around Louisiana.  His vehicles were worked on at the department’s Fleet Operations center.

I’ll say it again, Edmonson was a very all inclusive bad employee. If there was a state service Edmonson could take advantage of, he did his absolute best to do so. He is one corrupt felon to be.

I find it interesting that Edmonson has responded to all this criticism by stating he takes umbrage with all.  These are strong criticisms that stand the test of time.

Should OPP Have a Cap on the Number of Prisoners?

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Yes, there should be an absolute ceiling as to the number of inmates in Gusman’s cages at one time. Deaths within the jail have spiked again, giving Gusman’s critics a big hole once more to criticize Marlin.  2 inmates died separately in November, both deaths occurred with no explanation. One perished in the satellite Temporary Detention Center and the other at the main Orleans Justice Center.

A 27 year old inmate died last month at the Detention Center.  His death is unexplained. Limiting the number of overall prisoners would be a big step forward. Jefferson Parish already has this policy on the books. What’s up with ‘unexplained’  or ‘no explanation’ excuses? There are cameras all over most jails today, and Gusman and his staff are saying these 3 deaths occurred in some camera dead zone? That is extremely hard to believe.

                                                                             Overcrowded Jail in Argentina

As of yesterday, 1,107 prisoners were locked up in the Orleans Justice Center. while the legal capacity is listed for 1,438 beds, however in actuality the facility’s capacity is far lower.

The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition is leading the charge for an OPP prisoner limit. When that limit is surpassed, mostly misdemeanor prisoners would be released in equal numbers, to maintain the prisoner limit. The Coalition wants the City Council to pass this limit. The Coalition pinned the blame on Gusman for illegally housing hundreds of inmates in a temporary facility. The sheriff claims he has a special permit from the City Council allowing this facility to house prisoners.

The group claims Gusman is illegally operating the Temporary Detention Center, a relic from the post Katrina era to replace storm-damaged and destroyed buildings. 221 prisoners were logged into the Center as of last week. Adina Marx-Arpadi, a coordinator with the Prison Reform Coalition, stated,  We are not willing any longer to allow the city to break the law to incarcerate people accused of breaking the law. Nobody should die in jail, let alone in a facility that is being operated illegally.  

                                             Overcrowding at Elmore Correctional Facility in Alabama

LA State Police’s Reputation Sinks to Historic Low as Corruption Runs Rampant!

•December 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Other historic scandal years pale in comparison to 2017. In this year, the former longtime superintendent, Mike Edmonson, is awaiting prosecution. He is accused of erasing text messages from a Las Vegas pleasure trip which the taxpayers paid for. He is also accused utilizing state police for personal gain.

Four troopers are also accused of taking the illegal Las Vegas trip with Edmonson. These troopers were violated state travel policy.

One state trooper was paid an unbelievable $147,000 in overtime pay in 2016. In October 2017, the State Police officially prohibited a highway traffic enforcement program and began a criminal investigation into three troopers who filed pay sheets claiming false travel amounting in one case to $147,000 in overtime in last year.

A legislative audit still to be released learned that Edmonson often took a variety of  handouts during his nine year career as superintendent.  He lived rent-free, trustees served his family and ordered state troopers to drive his wife around Louisiana. Utilizing prisoners for personal gain brings in the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

According to the president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Rafael Goyeneche, he has never seen anything like this during his 35 year career in law enforcement. Says Goyeneche, This was rot – not from the core but from the top – and it was infiltrating down into the organization.

I fully expect the best is yet to come. There are federal and state investigations into the Louisiana State Troopers Association. The troopers group collects dues from its members and acts as a benevolent group to help troopers in need.

One of the worst of this litany of public wrongdoing is the agency’s own report that Edmonson deleted text messages from a trooper’s phone which bootstrapped an internal investigation he had ordered into the detour troopers took to Las Vegas on the way to a California law enforcement conference.

Col. Kevin Reeves, Edmonson’s quiet successor and the rest of the State Police brass are struggling to contain a serious crisis in public confidence due to the public’s perception the State Police are abusing their power and are arrogant as well. This indicates a fall from the public’s grace, not a good place for the State Police to be in. Who is responsible for policing the police?

It appears things are changing for the better, in this problem area. Previously, trooper discipline was the responsibility of the State Police Superintendent; now, Reeves has instituted a round table methodology where Reeves and his senior command staff consider these cases jointly.  This move effectively takes the Superintendent  off the hot seat here.

Reeves has said, I don’t have all the right answers and I can’t sit here and tell you that I know, in every disciplinary case, what the right thing to do is. It also ensures that I cannot, in good faith, give one person discipline one way and have another employee who does virtually the same thing receive a harsher or lesser discipline. 

Reeves is a forward thinking leader. His administration is pursuing the purchase of an $11 million computer system which would allow the agency to track the location of troopers in real time.

According to Reeves, a computer-aided dispatch system would not only enhance officer safety and allow for more efficient dispatching. It will also hold us accountable, he said, It would truly be a plus, and I would say it’s a necessity for our agency.