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High profile: Cannabis chemical delta-8 gains fans, scrutiny

High profile: Cannabis chemical delta-8 gains fans, scrutiny

NEW YORK — A chemical cousin of pot’s main intoxicating ingredient has rocketed to popularity over the last year, and the cannabis industry and state governments are scrambling to reckon with it amid debate over whether it’s legal.The chemical, called delta-8 THC, is billed as producing a milder high than the better known delta-9 THC, and delta-8 is often marketed as being legal even where marijuana is not. That argument stems from the fact that most delta-8 is synthesized from CBD, a popular non-intoxicating chemical that’s prevalent in hemp, a form of cannabis that Congress legalized in 2018.Delta-8′s rise is “a phenomenon that has taken the industry quite by storm,” says John Kagia of cannabis industry analysis firm New Frontier Data, and it offers “fascinating insight into some of the growth and growing pains.”There are no hard-and-fast statistics on sales of delta-8, which is available in vapes, gummies and other forms. It has been the fastest-growing segment of the market for hemp chemicals for roughly the last year, after wholesale CBD prices plummeted amid oversupply and other issues, says Ian Laird of data analytics company Hemp Benchmarks.After a few years in the CBD business, William Goodall and partner Katiana Kay began selling delta-8 products through their online shop Bay Smokes in December. It quickly became a main source of revenue.Goodall said that after talking to lawyers and suppliers’ chemists, he’s confident Bay Smokes products are safe and federally legal (other attorneys divide on how risky it is to sell delta-8). But the Miami-based company has had to filter out customers from a growing list of states that are prohibiting delta-8.Still, he’s sticking with it, figuring that legal markets for it will endure at least in states where marijuana is permitted.“Ultimately, I think delta-8 is a great product,” he says.But some other hemp businesses are steering clear.“The easy money is tempting, but that’s not an avenue we wanted to go down,” says Gair Laucius, the chief scientific officer of Southbridge, Massachusetts-based CBD producer High Purity Natural Products. “There were too many unknowns.”The 2018 federal law that OK’d hemp products said they couldn’t be more than 0.3% delta-9, but it said nothing about delta-8.Enthusiasts interpret that silence as a green light for delta-8, and some officials also see an opening for it. Wisconsin’s Legislative Council, a research service for lawmakers, concluded last year that delta-8 products may qualify as hemp if they’re below the delta-9 threshold, though the council cautioned it wasn’t giving legal advice.But within the last year, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has said that “synthetically derived” THC and delta-8 specifically are top-level controlled substances — effectively illegal, except for strictly limited research.There’s not much research on delta-8, especially in people, though a small 1995 study said it showed promise as an anti-nausea treatment in child cancer patients. But officials in states such as Colorado and Washington worry that converting CBD to delta-8 could produce harmful byproducts, at least in some cases.This spring, regulators in Washington said producing or selling synthetically derived delta-8 is against state law, while Colorado said manufactured delta-8 isn’t allowed in food, dietary supplements or cosmetics and doesn’t qualify as hemp. Kentucky and Vermont told hemp growers that selling delta-8 risks criminal prosecution.Over 10 other states’ controlled substance lists include delta-8, sometimes under a different name. Lawmakers in more than a dozen other states, from Alabama to Hawaii, have made or considered some move on delta-8 this year.Some sought effectively to ban it. Others aimed to allow but regulate it much like their legal marijuana markets, concerned that intoxicating delta-8 items were being sold at gas stations, convenience stores and elsewhere without the same standards and limits that apply to pot dispensaries.“It is still a form of cannabis that can get you high, and it is unregulated and untested,” says Jacqueline McGowan, a California cannabis licensing consultant and candidate for governor. Proposed legislation in California would require testing and taxation of consumable “noncannabis cannabinoids,” including delta-8.In Oregon, newly passed legislation gives the state Liquor Control Commission authority to limit THC — of any kind — in products sold to minors, among other provisions. Commission research director TJ Sheehy says it will ensure consumer safety without outlawing delta-8 for adults.Texas lawmakers hit an impasse this spring over a measure that producers said would have barred delta-8 from consumable hemp products.House sponsor Rep. Tracy King, a Democrat from a rural district, says he “just wanted to do something to help the growers and the processors” by stripping that measure out of proposed hemp legislation that was heading toward passage. It ultimately stalled as the legislative session ended.The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry group, fears that portraying delta-8 products as hemp with a high could jeopardize the plant’s hard-won federal legal status. But another group, the Hemp Industries Association, worries that lawmakers are rushing to crack down.Delta-8 is getting onto law enforcement’s radar, too, prompting raids of shops in multiple states.In Wisconsin, Waukesha County authorities alleged in April that a CBD shop was offering products labeled as delta-8 THC that actually contained illegal amounts of delta-9. Authorities say they started investigating after two children accidentally ingested products their parents got at the Superstar Buds store in Menomonee Falls, near Milwaukee.Shop owner Chris Syrrakos denies the allegations and says authorities haven’t given him detailed testing results. No criminal charges have been filed to date, though prosecutors have brought a civil forfeiture case involving about $14,000 seized in the probe.“Delta-8 came to the rescue and saved our life” as a business, enabling six new hires, Syrrakos said. “Then, all of a sudden, everything came crashing down with the police raid.”He has since closed the shop but opened a new one in Milwaukee.———Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed from Madison, Wisconsin.———Peltz is a member of AP’s marijuana beat team. Follow AP’s complete marijuana coverage: https://apnews.com/Marijuana.

R. Kelly lawyers: We'll fight bid to add claims to trial

R. Kelly lawyers: We'll fight bid to add claims to trial

R. Kelly’s lawyers say they’ll fight prosecutors’ bid to tell jurors about allegations beyond the actual charges at his upcoming federal sex trafficking trialBy JENNIFER PELTZ Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 7:18 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — R. Kelly’s lawyers said Monday they would fight prosecutors’ bid to tell jurors about allegations beyond the actual charges at his upcoming federal sex trafficking trial.“This is nothing more than a veiled effort to pile on to further shape the public’s perception in this case, ignoring that Mr. Kelly is presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” Kelly lawyer Nicole Blank Becker said by email, adding that his attorneys would “vigorously oppose” the government’s request.“As the trial nears we are looking forward to the truth prevailing,” she wrote.Jury selection is due to start Aug. 9 in a New York federal court for the Grammy Award-winning R&B star.He’s charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees. Prosecutors say the staffers helped Kelly to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise a lot of control over them.The charges involve six different women and girls.Prosecutors now also want jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people who allege Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated them. The claims include an allegation that he had sexual contact with an underage boy.Kelly denies ever abusing anyone.The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.He also faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota and has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors air more claims in R. Kelly case; 1 involves boy

Prosecutors air more claims in R. Kelly case; 1 involves boy

Federal prosecutors in R. Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex trafficking trial to hear those claimsBy JENNIFER PELTZ Associated PressJuly 24, 2021, 7:06 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Federal prosecutors in R. Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an underage boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex trafficking trial to hear those claims.Prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations — but not new charges — against the R&B star in a court filing Friday. Jury selection is due to start Aug. 9 in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.A message was sent Saturday to his lawyers about the additional allegations.The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise a lot of control over them.The charges involve six different women and girls, who aren’t named in court filings.Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio. After asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still underage, according to prosecutors’ court filing.And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy,” prosecutors wrote.The filing doesn’t say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later. Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern.”The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit “I Believe I Can Fly” and the cult classic “Trapped in the Closet,” a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.Kelly’s sex life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.

NYC temporary morgue lingers, a reminder of pandemic's pain

NYC temporary morgue lingers, a reminder of pandemic's pain

NEW YORK — On a sun-soaked morning last month, a dozen mourners gathered by a freshly dug grave to bury four people who were cast into limbo as New York City contended with COVID-19.Each was among hundreds of people whose bodies have lingered in a temporary morgue that was set up at the height of the city’s coronavirus crisis last year and where about 200 bodies remain, not all of them virus victims.The fenced-off temporary morgue on a pier in an industrial part of Brooklyn is out of sight and mind for many as the city celebrates its pandemic progress by dropping restrictions and even setting off fireworks. But the facility — which the city plans to close by the end of the summer — stands as a reminder of the loss, upheaval and wrenching choices the virus inflicted in one of its deadliest U.S. hotspots.James Brown, George Davis, Diane Quince and Charles Varga died of various causes between three and nine months before their mid-June burial in Staten Island’s airy Ocean View Cemetery. Officials found no next of kin.“But we know that they lived, not friendless, but with friends and family,” Edwina Frances Martin, Staten Island’s public administrator of estates, told a handful of Brown’s friends and volunteers who attend such funerals. “Because now they’re all part of our family. And we’re a part of theirs.”Some New Yorkers are troubled that hundreds of others at the morgue still wait to be laid to rest.“Still these bodies wait — for what?” asks Kiki Valentine, a Brooklyn minister and funeral services assistant. She wrote to officials to seek an explanation and propose steps she feels could help, such as publishing public obituaries for the deceased.Virus deaths alone peaked above 800 a day citywide at one point in April 2020 — deaths from all causes usually average about 150 — and overwhelmed funeral homes, cemeteries and hospital morgues. The temporary morgue was established that month to give families more time to arrange funerals after the city shortened its timeframe for holding remains before burying them in a public cemetery on remote Hart Island. There is no rule for how long bodies can stay at the temporary facility.“There was way too much death for the system to handle,” recalls Amy Koplow, the executive director of the Hebrew Free Burial Association, which is interring some Jewish people who were at the temporary morgue.“We feel really good that we are able to bury these people who have been unburied and in limbo for so long,” she said.Still, Koplow feels the medical examiner’s office did its best in a maelstrom. Many cases require considerable searching for relatives, a will or other indications of the deceased’s wishes, she noted.As the medical examiner’s office prepares to close the temporary facility, the agency has stopped taking newly deceased people there, and investigators are working to contact relatives and determine final arrangements for the roughly 200 whose remains are left, spokesman Mark Desire said via email last week.That’s down from 750 when the agency briefed City Council members in early May, saying investigators had found relatives in most cases but was awaiting their decisions or had stopped hearing back from them.Desire didn’t respond to questions about where bodies removed from the facility have been taken, why the temporary morgue stayed in use after the 2020 surge subsided or how many of the deceased there are virus victims.Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral hopeful Eric Adams has asked City Hall to ensure that every effort is made to reach relatives of the deceased and help with applications for government-paid funeral reimbursement, spokesman Ryan Lynch said. (The city can provide up to $1,700, and a federal program specific to COVID-19 deaths allows up to $9,000. Burial on Hart Island is free.)Meanwhile, Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips — who has organized volunteers to keep at-home vigils for the dead around the world, especially the unclaimed and unnamed — ventures periodically to an unobtrusive spot near the temporary morgue. She goes to bear witness “to what is not seen, and those who are not named,” she says.The pain surrounding the facility’s creation and continued use “highlights the difficulties of how we honor the dead,” she says.The group at the Ocean View cemetery on June 17 was there to bear witness, too.“We don’t want them to go to their final resting place alone,” said Diane Kramer, a volunteer with a charity called the Foundation for Dignity. It works with Martin’s office, which arranged the burial at the private cemetery.Little information could be confirmed about Davis, who was 76, and Quince, 62.Varga, 81, had a background in information science and business consulting, spoke four languages and worked in recent years on a documentary film about homelessness, according to his social media profiles.He was in poor health, said friend Sandra Andrews, who said he was estranged from his relatives but became a father figure to her after they met in 2010. She said she tried to find out what happened to him after he was hospitalized in February but learned of his Feb. 2 death only from The Associated Press.“I didn’t get an opportunity to properly say goodbye to him,” she said by email.Brown, 51, was a taxi driver and dispatcher on and off for 30 years, according to co-worker Desereeanne Fisher and boss Anton Kumar.They said Brown was hardworking and sometimes even slept in the office, where co-workers still have his beloved bowling ball.He told friends he’d been disconnected from his family since childhood, but he was “a friend to everybody,” Fisher said, wiping tears. “Anything you needed, he would do for you.”Brown fell and hit his head at a convenience store this past March 2 and was found dead in his van minutes later, killed by a blood clot, Fisher said. She said his colleagues wanted to arrange and chip in for a funeral but hit roadblocks because they weren’t relatives.“It’s been no closure” since his death, she said, relieved to know he’d finally been buried in a shady plot, with a plaque dedicated by his friends.“He might not have had family,” she said, “but he had a lot of people that loved him.”———Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.