Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Morgan Freeman’s honey-kissed baritone has sound-tracked dozens of documentaries and public announcements in the Oscar-winner’s long Hollywood career.

But the 80-year-old star’s tenure in the business probably failed to prep him for the Russian reaction that greeted a two-minute online video he recorded recently for a group hoping to keep alive concerns over Kremlin meddling in the 2016 Presidential election.

Freeman is being portrayed as a tool of the U.S. establishment trying to bring down Trump, and as a man suffering from a “Messianic complex” from movie roles playing God and the president of the United States.

A “#StopMorganLie” hashtag is circulating aimed at discrediting the actor.

In the controversial video’s opening, Freeman dramatically declares: “We have been attacked. We are at war.”

The Morgan Freeman video was put out this week by the Committee to Investigate Russia. Founded by Rob Reiner, the director of comedy classics such as “This is Spinal Tap” and “When Harry Met Sally,” the nonpartisan group is pushing for a more aggressive acknowledgment of the alleged Russian hack. Morgan’s video sets that tone, referring to President Vladimir Putin as an “a former KGB spy” who has “set his sights on his sworn enemy, the United States.”

Story continues below video

“We need our president to speak directly to us and to speak the truth,” Morgan urges. The clip currently has over 264,000 views.

But now the legendary American actor is a pariah in Russia, with Kremlin officials, Russian talking heads, and pro-Putin social media trolls ganging up to denounce Freeman. The all-hands-on-deck response suggests a concerted Russian effort to discredit the actor via social media.

Reiner’s group does boast significant names among its advisory board, including former National Intelligence director James Clapper and conservative never-Trump critic Charles Sykes. (But as ThinkProgress points out, the committee does not boast any actual Russian experts in its governing body).

The moviemaker told Variety this week the committee would be a “one-stop shop where people can come and be made aware” of “what the breaking news stories are today, the various investigations, what stages they are in, but also to the understand the history, and what the Soviet Union and now Russia has been trying to do for many, many years.”

Reiner added: “My concern is people don’t understand the gravity of what they were able to do.”

Russian government officials hit back immediately at the video this week, fixing their crosshairs specifically on Morgan.

Tass, the Russian news agency, published remarks from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova arguing Freeman had been “roped in” to the Russia attack, and likening the video to when former Secretary of State Colin Powell unknowingly lied to the United Nations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

“I believe this is another story about the end justifying the means. However, we will know who is behind this story sooner than we knew about the true contents of the infamous test tube,” Zakharova stated, an apparent reference to Powell’s 2003 United Nations presentation, in which he held up a vial of anthrax to support the claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled chemical weapons.

“Recently it became known that the Obama administration had been wiretapping Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort based on a secret court decision . . . The wiretapping activities continued after the election. Do you understand what Russia has to do with it? Right, the goal is to legitimize the post-election lawlessness.”

This week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also addressed the video, telling reporters Freeman’s comments “can hardly be taken seriously” and arguing the actor was “a victim of emotionally charged, self-exalted status,” according to Radio Free Europe. The official added that “many performing artists easily succumb to becoming victims of emotional strain with no real information about the real state of things.”

Russian media was more wild in its theorizing.

The BBC reported this week Freeman was a frequent topic on Russian television. One station – Rossiya 24 – quizzed a panel of psychiatrists about the actor’s motivations, and the medical professionals reportedly attributed “the performance to a Messianic complex resulting from playing God or the president in several films, not to mention ‘drug abuse.’”

Another TV personality said Freeman was sick from “overwork and marijuana use.” TV Centre claimed the clip was part of an “establishment campaign to oust Trump,” the BBC reported.

Pro-Russian Twitter trolls have also jumped in on the actor, wielding the somewhat awkward hashtag “#StopMorganLie.”

But as commentators have pointed out, the #StopMorganLie trolls seem to all be following the same script – trying to discredit the idea that the U.S. is a democratic nation.

“Freeman’s comments leveled at ‘Russia’s continuing attacks on our [US] democracy’ have created quite a stir on Twitter,” reported RT, the Russian funded news cable network. “People said that the ‘democracy’ statement is pure hypocrisy, as the US has been at war with and interfering in the affairs of many other states, such as Libya, Ukraine and Iraq.

It has left some experts like Rols Fredheim, an analyst at NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, wondering whether the anti-Freeman blowback was less of an organic reaction than a Kremlin scheme.

“It does look very highly coordinated, because you’re seeing something on multiple platforms at the same time communicating the same message,” Fredheim told Radio Free Europe this week.

“It’s more than just a teenager in the basement. It could be many teenagers in many basements. But it could also be something more sophisticated than that . . . the St. Petersburg troll factories, for instance. It could be an example of some kind of Russian troll-farm output.”

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:32:07 +0000

DOJ secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

DOJ secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

The U.S. Department of Justice is secretly using the Internal Revenue Service to conduct criminal investigations into otherwise legitimate marijuana businesses in Colorado under the guise of tax audits, lawyers for the companies say in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

The IRS called the allegations baseless and illogical, saying inquiries it is making for information from Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division are simply part of its efforts at verifying financial records in determining if businesses owe more tax.

The case in U.S. District Court filed by the owners of Rifle Remedies, a medical marijuana business in Silt, is one of several that challenge IRS subpoenas to MED seeking information about how much pot they’ve grown, to whom they’ve sold it, and when. The IRS said it has resorted to the tactic because businesses have refused to offer the information voluntarily.

Though properly licensed in Colorado to sell the drug, in the view of the IRS the companies are traffickers that violate the federal Controlled Substances Act that lists marijuana as an illegal narcotic. As such, the businesses cannot deduct expenses as other companies can, but before the agency can make that assessment, it must first determine the companies are actually selling pot.

Filings in the Rifle Remedies case allege a deeper conspiracy involving at least three federal agencies.

Lawyers for the companies did not immediately return messages, but have said in recent court filings they suspect the IRS is overstepping its auditing authority by conducting investigations for the DOJ. They claim the Drug Enforcement Administration has trained tax agents on how to investigate drug operations.

“The IRS is working jointly with the Department of Justice to investigate purported criminal activity of the taxpayers,” the lawyers — Greenwood Village attorneys James Thorburn and Richard Walker — wrote in a recent filing. “To this end, the IRS has converged on Colorado and is conducting mass audits of those it has determined to be unlawfully trafficking in controlled substances … dishing out summonses like candy …”

They say their clients would happily give the IRS what it wants, but only with a grant of immunity from prosecution.

They say the DEA and IRS held training sessions in March 2016, “where (IRS) agents were trained in criminal drug law investigator (sic) techniques,” but efforts to learn what actually transpired have been rebuffed.

“The depths of the IRS and DOJ joint effort is shrouded in secrecy,” they wrote, noting responses to their requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act have been repeatedly stalled.

The lawyers assert the conduct is the result of a 2016 law in which Congress prohibited the use of DOJ funds to prevent implementation of state medical marijuana laws. So because the DEA can’t conduct such an investigation, it is working through the IRS in the U.S. Treasury Department.

The IRS, DEA and MED do not comment on pending litigation and will not confirm the existence of any investigation.

The IRS called the assertion “baseless,” saying Rifle Remedies “appears to sell marijuana for recreational use,” and that the DEA doesn’t need the help.

“That the DEA is using the IRS to investigate … defies common sense,” the government said in a court filing. “If prosecution were truly the goal, it would be far simpler — and likely more effective — for the DEA to send a plainclothes agent to purchase marijuana from (Rifle Remedies) than to co-opt the IRS into issuing summons to MED for information about past years’ marijuana sales. (Rifle’s) underlying theory of this case lacks not only evidence, but logic.”

The IRS is trying to get its hands on Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance system, or METRC, which follows every marijuana plant from seed to sale. The agency wants annual gross sales reports for 2014 and 2015, but apparently also information about who is buying from Rifle Remedies.

Until now, the IRS relied on pot businesses — growers, distributors and manufacturers — to concede they are selling the drug, which the lawyers say is tantamount to admitting to a federal crime. Once done, the IRS uses section 280E of the Revenue Code in denying any business tax deductions, a move that raises the business’s tax bill by multiples.

Businesses are able to deduct their cost of producing goods from the revenues generated, just like other businesses can, but cannot do more than that, a massive liability that leaves them with huge tax bills.

No hearings have been set on the case.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:44:54 +0000

DOJ secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

DOJ secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

The U.S. Department of Justice is secretly using the Internal Revenue Service to conduct criminal investigations into otherwise legitimate marijuana businesses in Colorado under the guise of tax audits, lawyers for the companies say in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

The IRS called the allegations baseless and illogical, saying inquiries it is making for information from Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division are simply part of its efforts at verifying financial records in determining if businesses owe more tax.

The case in U.S. District Court filed by the owners of Rifle Remedies, a medical marijuana business in Silt, is one of several that challenge IRS subpoenas to MED seeking information about how much pot they’ve grown, to whom they’ve sold it, and when. The IRS said it has resorted to the tactic because businesses have refused to offer the information voluntarily.

Though properly licensed in Colorado to sell the drug, in the view of the IRS the companies are traffickers that violate the federal Controlled Substances Act that lists marijuana as an illegal narcotic. As such, the businesses cannot deduct expenses as other companies can, but before the agency can make that assessment, it must first determine the companies are actually selling pot.

Filings in the Rifle Remedies case allege a deeper conspiracy involving at least three federal agencies.

Lawyers for the companies did not immediately return messages, but have said in recent court filings they suspect the IRS is overstepping its auditing authority by conducting investigations for the DOJ. They claim the Drug Enforcement Administration has trained tax agents on how to investigate drug operations.

“The IRS is working jointly with the Department of Justice to investigate purported criminal activity of the taxpayers,” the lawyers — Greenwood Village attorneys James Thorburn and Richard Walker — wrote in a recent filing. “To this end, the IRS has converged on Colorado and is conducting mass audits of those it has determined to be unlawfully trafficking in controlled substances … dishing out summonses like candy …”

They say their clients would happily give the IRS what it wants, but only with a grant of immunity from prosecution.

They say the DEA and IRS held training sessions in March 2016, “where (IRS) agents were trained in criminal drug law investigator (sic) techniques,” but efforts to learn what actually transpired have been rebuffed.

“The depths of the IRS and DOJ joint effort is shrouded in secrecy,” they wrote, noting responses to their requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act have been repeatedly stalled.

The lawyers assert the conduct is the result of a 2016 law in which Congress prohibited the use of DOJ funds to prevent implementation of state medical marijuana laws. So because the DEA can’t conduct such an investigation, it is working through the IRS in the U.S. Treasury Department.

The IRS, DEA and MED do not comment on pending litigation and will not confirm the existence of any investigation.

The IRS called the assertion “baseless,” saying Rifle Remedies “appears to sell marijuana for recreational use,” and that the DEA doesn’t need the help.

“That the DEA is using the IRS to investigate … defies common sense,” the government said in a court filing. “If prosecution were truly the goal, it would be far simpler — and likely more effective — for the DEA to send a plainclothes agent to purchase marijuana from (Rifle Remedies) than to co-opt the IRS into issuing summons to MED for information about past years’ marijuana sales. (Rifle’s) underlying theory of this case lacks not only evidence, but logic.”

The IRS is trying to get its hands on Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance system, or METRC, which follows every marijuana plant from seed to sale. The agency wants annual gross sales reports for 2014 and 2015, but apparently also information about who is buying from Rifle Remedies.

Until now, the IRS relied on pot businesses — growers, distributors and manufacturers — to concede they are selling the drug, which the lawyers say is tantamount to admitting to a federal crime. Once done, the IRS uses section 280E of the Revenue Code in denying any business tax deductions, a move that raises the business’s tax bill by multiples.

Businesses are able to deduct their cost of producing goods from the revenues generated, just like other businesses can, but cannot do more than that, a massive liability that leaves them with huge tax bills.

No hearings have been set on the case.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:44:54 +0000

DOJ is secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

DOJ is secretly using IRS to investigate Colorado marijuana businesses, lawsuit says

The U.S. Department of Justice is secretly using the Internal Revenue Service to conduct criminal investigations into otherwise legitimate marijuana businesses in Colorado under the guise of tax audits, lawyers for the companies say in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

The IRS called the allegations baseless and illogical, saying inquiries it is making for information from Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division are simply part of its efforts at verifying financial records in determining if businesses owe more tax.

The case in U.S. District Court filed by the owners of Rifle Remedies, a medical marijuana business in Silt, is one of several that challenge IRS subpoenas to MED seeking information about how much pot they’ve grown, to whom they’ve sold it, and when. The IRS said it has resorted to the tactic because businesses have refused to offer the information voluntarily.

Though properly licensed in Colorado to sell the drug, in the view of the IRS the companies are traffickers that violate the federal Controlled Substances Act that lists marijuana as an illegal narcotic. As such, the businesses cannot deduct expenses as other companies can, but before the agency can make that assessment, it must first determine the companies are actually selling pot.

Filings in the Rifle Remedies case allege a deeper conspiracy involving at least three federal agencies.

Lawyers for the companies did not immediately return messages, but have said in recent court filings they suspect the IRS is overstepping its auditing authority by conducting investigations for the DOJ. They claim the Drug Enforcement Administration has trained tax agents on how to investigate drug operations.

“The IRS is working jointly with the Department of Justice to investigate purported criminal activity of the taxpayers,” the lawyers — Greenwood Village attorneys James Thorburn and Richard Walker — wrote in a recent filing. “To this end, the IRS has converged on Colorado and is conducting mass audits of those it has determined to be unlawfully trafficking in controlled substances … dishing out summonses like candy …”

They say their clients would happily give the IRS what it wants, but only with a grant of immunity from prosecution.

They say the DEA and IRS held training sessions in March 2016, “where (IRS) agents were trained in criminal drug law investigator (sic) techniques,” but efforts to learn what actually transpired have been rebuffed.

“The depths of the IRS and DOJ joint effort is shrouded in secrecy,” they wrote, noting responses to their requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act have been repeatedly stalled.

The lawyers assert the conduct is the result of a 2016 law in which Congress prohibited the use of DOJ funds to prevent implementation of state medical marijuana laws. So because the DEA can’t conduct such an investigation, it is working through the IRS in the U.S. Treasury Department.

The IRS, DEA and MED do not comment on pending litigation and will not confirm the existence of any investigation.

The IRS called the assertion “baseless,” saying Rifle Remedies “appears to sell marijuana for recreational use,” and that the DEA doesn’t need the help.

“That the DEA is using the IRS to investigate … defies common sense,” the government said in a court filing. “If prosecution were truly the goal, it would be far simpler — and likely more effective — for the DEA to send a plainclothes agent to purchase marijuana from (Rifle Remedies) than to co-opt the IRS into issuing summons to MED for information about past years’ marijuana sales. (Rifle’s) underlying theory of this case lacks not only evidence, but logic.”

The IRS is trying to get its hands on Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance system, or METRC, which follows every marijuana plant from seed to sale. The agency wants annual gross sales reports for 2014 and 2015, but apparently also information about who is buying from Rifle Remedies.

Until now, the IRS relied on pot businesses — growers, distributors and manufacturers — to concede they are selling the drug, which the lawyers say is tantamount to admitting to a federal crime. Once done, the IRS uses section 280E of the Revenue Code in denying any business tax deductions, a move that raises the business’s tax bill by multiples.

Businesses are able to deduct their cost of producing goods from the revenues generated, just like other businesses can, but cannot do more than that, a massive liability that leaves them with huge tax bills.

No hearings have been set on the case.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:44:54 +0000

Federal bills from Colorado legislators seek to shield state marijuana laws, open banking

Federal bills from Colorado legislators seek to shield state marijuana laws, open banking

Colorado federal lawmakers this week amplified efforts to protect state-enacted marijuana laws and cannabis businesses.

Reps. Diana DeGette and Mike Coffman on Thursday introduced the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017, which would add a provision to the Controlled Substances Act that would prevent federal preemption of state law. A day earlier, Colorado’s two senators threw their support behind banking legislation for the marijuana industry.

DeGette, a Democrat, and Coffman, a Republican, said in interviews Thursday that they resurrected their legislation — it previously was introduced in 2012, 2013 and 2015 — because of the saber-rattling that’s coming from the new administration around drugs, crime and marijuana enforcement.

“It’s really important right now, obviously, because it would clarify what the federal law is,” DeGette said. “What would flow from that, I think, would be letting people have their bank accounts and ensuring (Attorney General) Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice aren’t going to come down and enforce the federal laws on states that have exercised their right.”

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance — the strictest of classifications, defined as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.

DeGette and Coffman’s bill aims to clarify congressional intent within the CSA by inserting a provision about federal preemption:

“(b) SPECIAL RULE REGARDING STATE MARIHUANA LAWS.–In the case of any State law that pertains to marihuana, no provision of this title shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates, including criminal penalties, to the exclusion of State law on the same subject matter, nor shall any provision of this title be construed as preempting any such State law.”

Related: Why the federal government still calls cannabis “marihuana”

That list of states has increased significantly since DeGette and Coffman first broached this issue in 2012, when Colorado voters decided to legalize adult-use marijuana. Currently, 29 states, a number of U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana laws; eight states have recreational marijuana laws; and several others allow the limited use of non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD).

The support in Congress has grown as well, DeGette said.

“More states are legalizing either recreational or medicinal marijuana and their representatives are recognizing that this is creating some unique challenges that need to be addressed,” she said.

However, the federal marijuana bills may never see the light of day because of staunch opposition from committee chairs, Coffman said.

“I worry that we’re not where we need to be,” he said.

But Coffman, who opposed Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana, said it’s a matter of states’ rights and a matter of fighting for his constituents.

“I think in terms of getting the administration to back off, this is really important,” he said. “Even if this legislation doesn’t pass, it sends a signal to the administration to watch it when it comes to coming down on states that have made the decision for medical and/or recreational marijuana.”

(Story continues below video)

The resurrection of the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017 came a day after Colorado’s senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, announced their sponsorship of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2017, the Senate companion bill to legislation introduced a few weeks back by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado.

The initial sponsors of the Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act include Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Rand Paul, R-Kentucky; Patty Murray, D-Washington; Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada; and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

“Conflicting federal and state marijuana laws make it difficult for legitimate businesses to use the basic financial services they need access to and this bipartisan legislation gives them that access they need,” Gardner said in a statement. “We must also take into account the risk to public safety as these businesses are being forced to carry around bags of money to pay for their employees and rent. Legal businesses should not be treated like this, and I’m glad that Republicans and Democrats are working together to address this issue.”

The bill’s primary aims are as follows, according to Gardner’s office. The legislation would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as a lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses;
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.

Other provisions include:

  • Creating a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services;
  • Requiring banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.

Denver Post staff writer Mark Matthews reported from Washington, D.C.


The Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017

Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2017 federal bill (Text)

(Why?)

Published at Thu, 18 May 2017 18:59:10 +0000

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam.
Our Vapebuster Tim, vapes a variety of herbs at one of the oldest Herb & Spice stores in Amsterdam – Jacob Hooi

Published at Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:02:56 +0000

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam.
Our Vapebuster Tim, vapes a variety of herbs at one of the oldest Herb & Spice stores in Amsterdam – Jacob Hooi

Published at Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:02:56 +0000

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam.
Our Vapebuster Tim, vapes a variety of herbs at one of the oldest Herb & Spice stores in Amsterdam – Jacob Hooi

Published at Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:02:56 +0000

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam.
Our Vapebuster Tim, vapes a variety of herbs at one of the oldest Herb & Spice stores in Amsterdam – Jacob Hooi

Published at Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:02:56 +0000

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam

Vaping Herbs at Jacob Hooi, the oldest Pharmacy in Amsterdam.
Our Vapebuster Tim, vapes a variety of herbs at one of the oldest Herb & Spice stores in Amsterdam – Jacob Hooi

Published at Fri, 10 Jun 2016 08:02:56 +0000