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Growers and farmers take on production, marketing and sales
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Tywonne Crawford, of Martinsburg has admitted to distributing cocaine and heroin, United States Attorney Bill Powell announced.
Crawford, 39, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base. Crawford admitted to conspiring with others to distribute heroin and cocaine base from October to November 2018 in Berkeley County.
Crawford is facing up to 20 years incarceration and a fine of up to $1 million. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Omps-Botteicher is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, investigated.
The investigation was funded by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF). The OCDETF program supplies critical federal funding and co- ordination that allows federal and state agencies to work together to successfully identify, investigate, and prosecute major interstate and international drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.
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Applications for the 2019 Antlerless Deer Season limited permit areas are now available online at www.wvhunt.com. Applications will be accepted until midnight, Aug. 14.
Hunters who apply for a limited antlerless firearms permit must use the Electronic Licensing System at www.wvhunt. com. Applicants must log on, select “Enter Lottery” on the home screen, select “2019 Antlerless Hunt,” then choose the county or wildlife management area (WMA) for which they want to apply.
Hunters also may select a secondary county or WMA. Hunters without accounts can create one at www.wvhunt.com.
“These limited permit areas provide antlerless deer hunting opportunities in counties or areas of the state where wildlife biologists have determined that the deer population exceeds management objectives,” said Chris Ryan, supervisor of game management services for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Issuing limited numbers of antlerless deer permits will help meet our management goals.”
Successful applicants will be notified by mail by the first week of October. Starting Sept. 1, all applicants can see whether they received a permit by logging into their account.
The following wildlife management areas and counties are open for this drawing: Beech Fork, Blackwater, Bluestone, Calvin Price State Forest, Greenbrier State Forest, Hillcrest, Kumbrabow State Forest, Little Canaan, McCausland, Seneca State Forest, Boone, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Mineral, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Wayne and Webster/ A limited number of Class N licenses for residents and Class NN licenses for nonresident hunters will be available. Successful applicants may hunt antlerless deer Oct. 24-27 on private land only, and Nov. 25- Dec.7, Dec. 12-15, and Dec. 28- 31 on private and public land.
Hunters who want to enter as a group must know the other hunters’ DNR ID numbers to enter the lottery. Hunters also may call their local DNR district of- fice for help with the application process.
For complete information on antlerless deer season dates and bag limits, consult the 2019- 2020 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary. It will be available online at www.wvdnr.gov and at West Virginia license agents and DNR offices in July.
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By Anthony Izaguirre Associated Press
A sweeping West Virginia GOP education bill that allows the creation of charter schools violates the state Constitution, according to a teachers union that plans to sue over the legislation.
The West Virginia Education Association released a statement Wednesday saying it has sent a formal letter notifying the attorney general of their intention to sue.
“Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit we wanted to go ahead and get that timeframe started,’’ said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, adding that the group wants to file “as soon as possible.’’
Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure late last month after a gridlocked special legislative session on education drew heavy protests from teachers. His spokesman declined to comment on the potential lawsuit.
The broad-based measure deals with several aspects of the state’s education system, but educators and Democrats fiercely opposed the provision to allow the state’s first charters. They argued that the move to install charters was a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools.
The bill authorizes a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 then letting three more go up every three years after that. It also has a pay raise for teachers, among other things.
Lee said the bill contains a number of Constitutional violations, including the violation of a requirement that bills be limited to a “single object.’’
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican who championed charters throughout the legislative process, said he was confident the measure would hold up in court.
“We’ll win again in court like we’ve already won in the legislative process,’’ he said.
The governor called the special session after lawmakers failed to agree on education following a two-day teacher strike over a similar bill in February. He asked legislators to get input from the public before returning.
Public forums on education were then held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report saying 88% of people who answered a comment card at the meetings opposed the creation of charters.
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In a recent announcment, citizens are being warned about a uptick in “sweep-stakes” scams. According to an advisory given by the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, consumers need to be on guard when notified of winning a sweepstakes, especially those associated with the name of a legitimate company or government agency.
The attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division routinely receives word of the sweepstakes scam circulating in West Virginia, although it has noticed increased activity in recent weeks.
“Consumers can fall prey to sweepstakes scams as the ploy can appear very attractive — who doesn’t want to win money?” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. “However, it is important consumers verify the legitimacy of any win.”
Targeted consumers are told they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but that they must pay the taxes or fees upfront in order to collect the prize. Those who send money lose it, as the impostor disappears and the winnings never arrive.
While there are contests that do award prizes, consumers must carefully verify the legitimacy of any win.
For instance, Publishers Clearing House, state lotteries and government agencies never require winners to pay money to receive their prize. That means potential winners should never agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card or bank account.
Furthermore, Publishers Clearing House does not notify winners by phone, but instead by in-person visits or certified mail.
Winning a sweepstakes the consumer didn’t enter, being asked to pay upfront fees or taxes and being pressured to act immediately should all be red flags.
Consumers with questions or think they may have been victim to a sweepstakes scam can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.
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West Virginia wildlife officials are hoping to bring back the bobwhite quail, which disappeared from the state in the late 1970s thanks to a combination of habitat destruction and harsh winters.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports wildlife officials think the birds are a good candidate for reintroduction at the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area - a 32,000 acre tract of former surface-mined land in Logan and Mingo counties acquired by the state Division of Natural Re- sources in 2015.
Quail need grassland and brushland to survive, and Tomblin has an extensive mosaic of grassy savannas that are a byproduct of the mine-reclamation process.
The agency reintroduced elk to the area in 2016. Now they are working to make a suitable habitat for quail.
“We noticed we were lacking in brood-rearing habitat,’’ said Wildlife Manager Logan Klingler. “A lot of the land here is covered with sericea lespedea, which is not good habitat for any kind of wildlife.’’
To thin out the dense growth, Klingler and his coworkers have sprayed sericea-infested fields with an herbicide designed to kill the invasive plant but leave other, more beneficial plants and grasses. In other areas, DNR workers have simply bulldozed undesirable vegetation and replaced it with clover, winter wheat and cold-season grasses, which provide good habitat for young quail.
To add food variety for the birds, Klingler said he wants to plant warm-season grasses like switchgrass, little bluestem and big bluestem.
Klingler also plans to plant blackberries as a place for the quail to escape predators.
“The blackberry bushes will grow up and form hedgerows that break up the big fields and provide great escape cover for quail,’’ he said.
Wildlife officials have a tentative agreement with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to trade wild turkeys, which West Virginia has in abundance, for wild quail.
The earliest the birds could arrive would be next spring. Even then, they will be kept off limits to hunters until a self-sustaining population is established.
Klingler is optimistic about the project.
“We think we’re going to have some really nice quail habitat here,’’ he said. “At the moment we’re working on about 50 acres. Eventually, we’d like to have about 500.’’
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Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced his office has affirmed concealed carry recognition with Virginia and six other states.
This means Virginia will continue to recognize concealed handgun licenses issued to West Virginians who are age 21 and older.
“Mountaineers are always free, and that includes the freedom to exercise their Second Amendment rights when traveling to other states,” Morrisey said. “This is a victory for gun owners and shows respect for concealed carry licenses between states.”
Each year, the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office engages in discussions with every state to ensure continued recognition of West Virginia’s concealed handgun licenses and explore the potential for expansion.
In addition to Virginia, the attorney general’s office also recently affirmed concealed carry reciprocity or recognition with
Alabama, Arizona, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah.
Recognition in Virginia, Arizona and Nebraska is limited to concealed carry licenses issued to adults age 21 and older. Those states do not recognize West Virginia’s provisional licenses as issued to ages 18 to 20 – a matter consistent with past years.
Provisional licenses are recognized in Alabama, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah.
Recognition from these states underscores the benefit of having a concealed carry license, as many states that allow West Virginians to carry concealed within their borders do so only on the basis of the person having a West Virginia concealed carry license.
Those wishing to obtain a concealed handgun license can do so by contacting their local sheriff’s office. For a full list of states and more information regarding West Virginia concealed handgun licenses, visit the gun reciprocity page at www.wvago.gov.
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By Dave Mistch
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Despite legislation from 2017 that allowed cannabis to be legal for medical use on July 1 of this year, West Virginia officials say they’re still years away from the first sale. That’s - at least in part - because of a hangup with finding a banking solution to get around federal law. State health officials say they also have to implement permitting and licensing for patients and those who want to start businesses within the industry.
Late last month, the West Virginia Treasurer’s Office released a statement indicating that they were canceling and then reissuing a request for proposals for a depository associated with the medical cannabis program. An initial bid returned five applications, but none of the prospective banking vendors met all of the requirements.
Officials from the Treasurer’s Office say they are now in a black- out period and cannot comment on the bidding process until a banking vendor has been selected.
Del. Mike Pushkin, a Democrat from Kanawha County who has championed the legalization of cannabis, says the banking solution - which was spurred along through legislation that cleared in May - should push back the timeline another few months.
“It’s not such a big deal. These things happen a lot when we’re bidding out to vendors in state government - that people don’t meet all of the mandatory requirements of that bid. It’s not uncommon,’’ Pushkin said. “What’s uncommon is that it’s a bid that we’re watching so closely.’’
DHHR says first medical cannabis sale still two years away
But even if a banking vendor is awarded a contract in the next few months, officials from the state Department of Health and Human Resources say it could still be some time before cannabis is sold to patients.
“So, the Office of Medical Cannabis, or the OMC, continues to have a goal of two years from the time a banking solution is in place for patients with a serious medical condition to be able to obtain medical cannabis,’’ Office of Medical Cannabis director Jason Frame said.
Frame also points out that July 1 wasn’t a deadline or mandatory “go live’’ date for medical cannabis in West Virginia, but rather a statutory marker that opened the door for the program. He also said DHHR has its own work to get the program off the ground.
“We’re going to have a web-based permitting system,’’ Frame said. “We’re in contract right now, for the design of that system. We’re hiring staff, we’re implementing policy and procedures and designing those procedures.’’
Frame also said there’s other work to do to get products in the hands of patients.
“Industry is going to be built out. Physical buildings are going to be put in place. Of course, crops will have to be grown,’’ he said. With West Virginia’s medical cannabis law currently only allowing oils, creams and other non-smokable forms of the plant, Frame said it will take some time to process the active ingredients to be consumed within the scope of the law.
“They’ll have to be then processed into sellable products,’’ Frame said. “Patients won’t be able to buy the leaf form a medical cannabis - that’s part of the Act. So everything that’s grown will be processed into a sellable product.’’
Cannabis advocates question the program
But some advocates for the program say West Virginia’s medical cannabis law is weak.
Rusty Williams is the patient advocate on the program’s advisory board. The group - made up of health officials, law enforcement and others - reports recommendations to the Legislature and governor’s office.
Williams has a personal connection to his role on the advisory board. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer, he sought out medical cannabis as medicine for pain relief.
“We were tasked to look at whether or not to add conditions - add or remove conditions - to the accepted conditions list. We were charged with looking at whether or not to allow patients to be able to access whole plant flower,’’ Williams said of the medical cannabis advisory board. “And we were tasked with whether or not to allow businesses to vertically integrate. We met those charges two years early.’’
As Williams points out, the only recommendation that has been codified by lawmakers has been the vertical integration provision, which allows a single business to act as a grower, a processor and a distributor. An earlier version of the law would have limited that type of operation within the industry.
But, Williams says small improvements to a fundamentally flawed program haven’t been enough.
While he’s called for patients to be able to grow cannabis at home and use it how they see fit, he’s frustrated that what West Virginia law does allow hasn’t yet come to fruition.
“Why our lawmakers chose to go the route of, you know, pro- cessed pharmaceutical versions of cannabis? I have no idea. I can’t answer that,’’ he said. “It makes no sense to me, especially with the problems that we do have here with pharmaceuticals.’’
Legalization’s Vocal Opponent in West Virginia
Williams has also been bothered by what he considers obstructionist rhetoric from one of West Virginia’s federal prosecutors.
“It’s frustrating to know that there’s only one state in the country where we have a federal prosecuting attorney actively going after the cannabis industry,’’ he said.
Williams is referring to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Mike Stuart.
The Trump-appointed prosecutor has been a vocal opponent of the legalization of cannabis, arguing that research is unclear on the drug’s potential benefits and drawbacks in a medical or recreational setting. But Stuart says he doesn’t make the law, he simply enforces it.
“I think, on this whole issue of marijuana, it’s pretty clear this is an issue of public policy that’s going to be solved by public officials - whether that’s Congress or other folks who have the authority to do that. My job as a U.S. attorney is to enforce federal law,’’ Stuart said.
But last month, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment to a federal appropriations bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state cannabis programs. The bill still needs to clear the Senate, but since December 2014 Congress has blocked the Justice Department from targeting businesses and individuals in states where cannabis is legal.
Still yet, Stuart says he will look at things on a case by case basis and would prosecute as necessary.
“It’s not as simple as saying ‘Because it’s related to medicinal marijuana, there’s no enforcement, prescription pharmaceuticals are legal,’’’ Stuart said.
“Oxycontin under the right circumstances is illegal. It is legal - however, if there is a pharmacist or a doctor that is misprescribing those drugs in a way that is not medically necessary or medically ethical, we prosecute those folks all the time. So, there’s no area of the law that says that there won’t be enforcement when there are abuses,’’ he added.
DHHR, treasurer’s office move forward, but advocates want quicker rollout
Regardless of Stuart saying he will keep a close eye on the rollout of the medical cannabis program, the state treasurer and the DHHR appear to be moving forward. Pushkin, though, says he hopes health officials get to work quickly in terms of permitting and licensing.
“I don’t understand why they would have to wait for the banking program to be in place for them to at least put out the applications, start issuing cards to patients,’’ Pushkin said. “We put something in that bill that would allow for reciprocity for patients - foreseeing that there could be some hiccups along the way.’’
For now, patients here can legally acquire medical cannabis in other states - but only the acceptable forms under the West Virginia law.
Frame and others at DHHR say they are working diligently to get their processes in place for those who want to enter the industry or use cannabis for medical purposes without traveling out of state.
“We are definitely sympathetic to their concerns. And we appreciate the support from the governor’s office - and also the hard work that’s been done in the legislature to put a workable form of the medical cannabis act out there,’’ Frame said. “However, it is complicated. There’s a lot of provisions and a lot of complications that go along with that process. But everyone involved has been working hard to roll out products as soon as possible.’’
The state treasurer’s office says they have shortened the bidding timeline for potential banking vendors from six weeks to four and a half weeks to expedite the process.
Bids will be accepted through July 31.
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First Lady Melania Trump visited West Virginia last Monday to learn how Huntington, a city at the center of the nation’s opioid epidemic is grappling with the crisis.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hosted the first lady and Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan to show how West Virginia is developing innovative solutions to fight the opioid epidemic.
Joining them was U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) who participated with them in a roundtable discussion with community leaders and federal, state and local officials at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. “I am here to give you my support,’’ Trump told participants in the roundtable discussion.
West Virginia has the country’s highest fatal opioid overdose rate and has struggled, like many other states, to confront the many aspects of the problem. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams characterized it as a grim task.
“If not another gram of heroin is distributed, if not another gram of heroin is sold, we will be dealing with this issue for the next four or five decades,’’ he said.
Huntington is the epicenter of America’s opioid epidemic. With only about 50,000 residents, Huntington and Cabell County experienced 1,831 overdoses in 2017 with 183 of those overdoses resulting in death. Since then, after the hard work of local, state and federal officials, Huntington has seen a 50 percent drop in overdose deaths.
The First Lady asked how the crisis is hurting children and was told about research on babies born addicted to opioids and about addicted teens who need a different system of care. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin described the challenges that arise when kids are taken from addicted parents and placed into foster care.
The First Lady also spoke separately with a small group that included the city’s fire chief and the head of a medical center that specializes in caring for babies born addicted to drugs.
“We are looking forward to working on the problems West Virginia is facing with the opioid crisis,’’ she told them.
Later in the day they met with Cabell County drug court participants and administrators and toured the Marshall University Digital Forensic Lab. The lab provides critical forensic testing services to criminal justice systems in West Virginia and throughout the country.
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Following a lengthy drug investigation conducted by Sheriff B. Ours, James Clark Long, 42, of Petersburg was indicted for drug distribution.
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"Dismissed with prejudice."
A legal complaint filed against the Grant County Circuit Court and the Grant County Commission concerning the public’s access to files was dismissed last month; however, the complainant did get his $5 back.
The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief was filed by Jay Lawrence Smith who, in his filings, referred to himself as a “freelance legal researcher and journalist” out of Charleston.
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During last week’s Grant County Commission meeting, Eastern Allegheny Council for Human Services (EACHS) Head Start discussed a plan to further increase student safety by linking their security system cameras to the Grant County 911 Center.
Gary Redman of the EACHS program appeared before the commission to address how best to move forward with the partnership between the local emergency management and 911 office and to request support from the commission to link the security systems.
The EACHS Head Start is a federally funded education program that operates in the region, serving approximately 267 children. The program focuses on providing support for low income families but serves a broad range of preschool age children. Redman explained that the program works closely with the schools in the area, including Grant County schools, but is a separate entity from any of the county systems.