PUEBLO, Colo. — After 30 raids for illegal marijuana cultivation in Pueblo County last year, the sheriff’s department says people are getting the message, and deputies have made only one bust this year.

The Pueblo Chieftain reported Sunday deputies arrested a total of 41 people in last year’s raids, mostly from March through May.

This year’s lone raid brought three arrests.

Undersheriff JR Hall says many people didn’t understand the rules last year, but now they do.

On March 30 last year, deputies seized more than 1,900 illegal plants in five homes. Authorities estimated the street value of the plants was $7.5 million.

They say also seized weapons and $250,000 worth of equipment for making hash oil.

Hall says after those raids, the sheriff’s department began getting more tips from the public.

— Associated Press

BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A former Dow Chemical factory in Maine could become a home for medical marijuana.

Officials in Bangor Township say they’ve been asked to support the project. The Bay City Times says the plan involves growing medical marijuana for dispensaries around the state.

More than 100 people could be hired. The township isn’t identifying the potential owner, who might invest millions of dollars.

A new law requires local government approval if businesses want to grow or sell medical marijuana. State approval is also necessary.

Bangor Township Supervisor Glenn Rowley says he supports the proposal. He says it’s no different than going to a pharmacy for a prescription. He says it’s not a “Cheech and Chong movie.”

Some discussion is expected at a public meeting Tuesday.

Associated Press

NEWS IN PHOTOS: Marijuana legalization protests

  • Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga political party, takes pictures as a crowd of about two thousand people march through the city centre to call for the complete legalisation of marijuana (locally known as dagga) in Cape Town on May 6, 2017. A recent South African High court case made it legal to smoke and cultivate marijuana in one's home, but not in any public place. / AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCHRODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images

Maryland’s medical marijuana regulating agency skirted state contracting rules and may have overcharged taxpayers when it hired an outside group to review applications to open cannabis businesses, a legislative audit found.

It’s the latest black eye for a state agency that has been criticized by state lawmakers, businesses and medical marijuana advocates for struggling to get the program off the ground.

Last year, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission gave preliminary authorization to 15 companies to grow medical marijuana, 15 companies to process the drug into medicinal products and 102 to open dispensaries. The businesses may open as early as this summer.

To choose these companies, the commission contracted with the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University to oversee the review and scoring of business applications with the help of outside experts.

But the Office of Legislative Audits found numerous problems with this arrangement.

Auditors determined that the arrangement was “artificially split” into different agreements for the separate types of cannabis licenses, shielding it from additional scrutiny from other state agencies and the Board of Public Works, which typically approves significant state spending.

Also, commission officials underestimated the cost of reviewing the applications, which ballooned from an initial estimate of $545,000 to $2.4 million, as The Washington Post reported last year.

Agency officials blamed the spike in costs on an unexpected flood of applications. But auditors said the commission failed to ensure that the increased costs and overhead were documented and reasonable.

In a written response to the audit, the commission said its arrangement with Towson “does not reflect any intent to circumvent state law.” It agreed with auditor recommendations to change how it handles future contracts.

Hannah Byron, the commission’s former executive director, defended her handling of the deal with Towson, saying that she followed proper channels and that it was a better alternative than waiting as long as a year to find a private company to oversee the review of applications.

“There had been enormous pressure to get this program off the ground, and there were a lot of hiccups along the way,” Byron said in an interview. “We felt that this was the most expedient way of doing that.”

Several companies are suing the state over the process for awarding licenses, and Maryland state lawmakers are weighing whether to reconvene to take up legislation overhauling the state’s medical marijuana program.

Black lawmakers have insisted on authorizing new cultivation licenses for minority-owned companies to ensure racial equity in the profits of a new state-created industry. Legislation that would have done so failed in the final seconds of the General Assembly session that ended in April.

— Washington Post

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