Scientists to Study How Hemp Reacts in Space
Hold on to your CBD-infused lattes, because cannabis is going to space.
Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural technology company, has partnered with the University of Colorado, Boulder to send 480 hemp and coffee plant cultures to the International Space Station (ISS).
“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” said Dr. Jonathan Vaught, Co-Founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences in a press release. “There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications.”
The goal of the experiments is to see if zero gravity and radiation will mutate or genetically alter the coffee and hemp plants. Scientists will be able to see how the plants react to the stress of space travel. The research could help scientists develop plants that can endure drought and cold. On Earth, that could mean developing more resilient crops that can be grown in environments that don’t normally support hemp growth.
“We envision this to be the first of many experiments together,” said Louis Stodieck, Chief Scientist of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off. This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”
The hemp and coffee cultures will travel to the ISS aboard SpaceX CRS-20 in March 2020. The incubated cells will spend a month is space before returning to Earth to be analyzed by Front Range Biosciences.
“In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle, so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off,” Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a statement. “This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp as a Schedule I substance, legalized the production of hemp, and removed barriers to federal research. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC and has a variety of uses, including in textiles, bioplastics and biofuel, food, and insulation.
Hemp also contains high concentrations of CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids.
While scientific research on hemp in space is in its early stages, it’s not the first time cannabis has left Earth. Earlier this year, Space Tango sent hemp seeds to the ISS for a series of experiments. The hemp seeds were sent back to Earth and planted for another series of experiments. The results have not yet been published.
Adult Cannabis Markets in Michigan, Illinois, and Massachusetts Show Huge Potential
Recreational marijuana officially lit in Michigan
On Dec. 1, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to allow recreational marijuana sales.
On the first day of sales, the state’s three licensed retail marijuana shops generated more than $200,000 in cannabis sales and an estimated $36,000 in tax revenue.
“The consumer demand was off the charts,” said Rick Thompson, who serves on the Michigan NORML board. “Each of the provisioning centers had lines out the door and around the block. Most had police officers on hand to ensure people were safe from traffic.”
Michigan voters approved Proposal 1 to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2018. Sales were originally slated to begin Jan. 1, 2020, but the state moved up the date in an effort to reduce black market sales.
1,400 of Michigan’s 1,800 cities and townships do not allow marijuana sales. Detroit has delayed recreational sales until Jan. 31.
Adults 21 and older can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of flower, including up to 15 grams of concentrate.
Marijuana Industry Daily projected that marijuana sales in Michigan are expected to reach $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion per year when the market reaches maturity.
Illinois to ring in the new year with legal adult-use cannabis
Jan. 1, 2020, will mark the beginning of more than just a new decade in Illinois as the state’s first recreational marijuana dispensaries are set to open on New Year’s Day.
Illinois was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than through a voter-approved ballot initiative.
“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy—a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” Pritzker said. “Legalization of adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”
In June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill that allows adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis. In addition to legalizing adult-use cannabis, the new law includes provisions to expunging prior marijuana convictions and the creation of social equity programs.
Recreational marijuana will have a graduated tax rate according to the THC content:
- Flower and cannabis-infused products with less than 35% THC will be taxed at 10% of the purchase price
- Cannabis-infused products and edibles with more than 35% THC will be taxed at 20% of the purchase price
- Flower with more than 35% THC will be taxed at 25% of the purchase price
“The most historic aspect of this is not just that it legalizes cannabis for adults but rather the extraordinary efforts it takes to reduce the harm caused by the failed war on marijuana and the communities it hurt the most,” said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D).
Illinois is the eleventh state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Massachusetts sells $400 million in marijuana during first year of recreational sales
During its first year of legal recreational marijuana, Massachusetts raked in nearly $400 million in sales despite having only 36 licensed retail shops.
For comparison, during the first year of its recreational marijuana market, sales in Colorado amounted to $300 million with 306 licensed retailers.
Data released from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) shows that daily sales regularly exceed $1 million, and often exceed $2 million. At its current pace, adult-use sales could exceed $1 billion by 2021.
The lack of marijuana dispensaries in the state is something CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman says the Commission is planning to address.
“I have no expectation there will be a retail store on every corner, but we have a lot more geographic expansion to do,” Hoffman said. “That’s the biggest part of our job.”
The CCC has approved an additional 53 provisional licenses for cannabis retailers, with another 166 applications pending.
MORE Act to Federally Legalize Marijuana Headed for House Vote
The House Judiciary Committee voted this week on a bill that would deschedule cannabis, expunge marijuana convictions, and create reinvestment programs in communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) ACT was introduced by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 to approve the bill and send it to the full House floor for a vote. So far, the bill has 55 co-sponsors.
“This will remove a stain on people’s record but really a stain on the United States of America,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN).
Some key elements of the MORE Act include:
- Remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances
- Require federal courts to expunge past marijuana convictions and criminal records
- Allow states to set their own marijuana policy
- A 5 percent federal tax on marijuana would fund programs that provide job training, legal assistance, treatment for substance abuse, and provide loans for cannabis businesses owned by people who are socially or economically disadvantaged
- Create the Cannabis Justice Office within the Department of Justice
- Prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances because of marijuana use
- Prohibit denying citizenship to immigrants based on a marijuana conviction
“Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote,” Nadler said in a press release. “Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana. It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws.”
Additionally, removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act would allow veterans access to medical marijuana through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
While the bill is likely to pass in the House, its future is less certain in the Senate.
“The Senate will take its own time, but then the Senate always does,” said Nadler. “The energy and the political pressure from the various states is growing rapidly. The Senate is subject to that, too. We’ll accomplish this.”
Students with Drug Convictions Could Get Access to Financial Aid
The House Education & Labor Committee approved a bill that would repeal a law that prevents students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) sponsored the Financial Aid Fairness for Students Act with over 30 co-sponsors.
In 1998, Congress amended the Higher Education Act by adding the Aid Elimination Penalty (AEP), cutting off students with drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid.
As a result of the change, a question about past drug convictions was added to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students looking for help paying for college must fill out a FAFSA to be eligible for loans, grants, and work-study programs. After the drug offense question was added to the form, more than 41,000 students were denied financial aid each year, not including students who didn’t bother applying because of marijuana or other drug offenses.
“The best possible intervention for a young person struggling in their relationship with drugs is a quality education,” Betty Aldworth, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), said in an interview with Forbes. “Evidence demonstrates that denying them access only harms the students and their communities.
In 2006, Congress amended the AEP to only cut off financial to students convicted of drug offenses while receiving aid. Students convicted for possession are denied aid for one year for the first offense, two years for the second offense, and permanently for the third offense. Students convicted for selling are denied aid for two years for the first offense, and indefinitely if there is another offense.
The change to the AEP rules reduced the number of rejected applications to about 1,000 per year, though the question about past drug convictions is still on the FAFSA application.
If the Financial Aid Fairness for Students bill is approved by Congress, it would remove the question about past drug convictions from the FAFSA entirely.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “This policy unfairly targets poor and minority students and costs society more in terms of crime and lost economic productivity.”
Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU’s Drug Law Reform Project, says punishing students for drug offenses is discriminatory and furthers inequality. “If a student is convicted of a drug offense and her family can afford to pay for college, she will be unaffected by the legislation, while those who are already in danger of being forced to society’s margins will be further disempowered,” he said.
Aldworth says that denying financial aid to students convicted with marijuana or other low-level drug offenses is part of a larger problem. “Young people of color are disproportionately impacted by these policies just as people of color are disproportionately targeted for enforcement of drug laws in general,” Aldworth said. “This is one part of a massive system of systemic discrimination against communities, with collateral consequences that reach far beyond a single person’s education.”
USDA Releases Draft Hemp Regulations for Public Comment
This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released draft rules for hemp regulation. There will be a 60-day public comment period before the rules are finalized.
“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said Secretary Perdue in a press release. “We have had teams operating with all-hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent, and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program.”
The USDA drafted the regulations as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill that descheduled and legalized hemp. Under the draft rules, the THC content must be under 0.3%, and any hemp found to exceed that amount would be destroyed. Other key elements of the new regulations include:
- Industrial hemp must be tested in a Drug Enforcement Administration-registered laboratory.
- Hemp flower must be tested by a USDA-approved sampling agent 15 days before the anticipated harvest.
- Guidelines for licensing, locations where hemp can be grown, and testing procedures.
- A 10-year ban on participation in the hemp industry by “key participants” with a direct financial interest in the business who have felony drug convictions.
States and American Indian tribes will have some say in setting their own hemp regulations (as long as they don’t violate USDA guidelines), and the USDA must evaluate these plans within 60 days of submission. In states where hemp production is illegal, such as South Dakota, farmers will not be able to cultivate hemp unless state law changes.
Not everyone is happy with the proposed rules. Hemp farmers say that the USDA regulations will make producing high-quality CBD impossible.
“We’re going to be forced, if we want to continue farming CBD, to be harvesting in week four to week six of flower time, where we’re typically not starting our harvest until seven or eight,” Phoenix-based hemp farmer Adam Harris told KTVL News10.
Hemp farmers say that the window between testing, receiving results, and harvesting is too narrow and will hurt the quality of their harvest.
“Most scientific research to date is indicating that the most medicinal benefits are with that full-spectrum CBD. These new USDA regulations make it so we can’t even take in the harvested material to take in those full-spectrum extracts the way that we have been,” said Mitra Sticklen of Om Farms LLC, a hemp company based in Jacksonville.
Worry Over THC-dosed Halloween Candy is Bunk
Every October, police departments and public health officials issue warnings about cannabis edibles masquerading as Halloween candy.
This year, police in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, issued a safety warning with pictures of marijuana edibles packaged as Nerd Ropes.
“We urge parents to be ever vigilant in checking their children’s candy before allowing them to consume those treats,” the post said. “Drug-laced edibles are package [sic] like regular candy and may be hard to distinguish from the real candy.”
The candy was seized as part of a raid where authorities seized 60 pounds of marijuana and 394 packages of Nerd Ropes. The edibles clearly warn to keep out of reach of children and animals, and that each rope contains 400 mgs of THC.
As reported by Rolling Stone, none of the local media reporting indicated that the edibles were intended to be given to children, and when Johnstown Police were questioned, Captain Chad Miller said that there was “absolutely no evidence” that the edibles were intended to be given out to trick-or-treaters. Despite implying that the Nerd Ropes would be given to children, Miller said the department was just trying to raise awareness.
“In Pennsylvania, marijuana is still illegal. We don’t have edibles. There is no education. We just want to make sure everyone is aware this is out there,” Miller said.
The problem with stoking parents’ fears is that there hasn’t been a single case, not one, of a kid being handed a cannabis edible while trick-or-treating. Think of it as this generation’s Halloween urban myth, akin to poisoned or razor-blade laced candy.
From a practical standpoint, it seems unlikely that pranksters would waste their edibles (and their money) drugging unsuspecting kids. Packaging laws in legal states make distinguishing marijuana-dosed candy from regular candy obvious. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington require candy to be stamped with a marijuana symbol or leaf. Cannabis edibles aren’t packaged in easy-to-tear wrappers but come in thicker plastic or child-resistant packaging.
Joel Best, who has tracked instances of “Halloween sadism” since 1985, said, “I don’t know of anybody who’s been hurt from drugs in Halloween candy.”
In fact, Best says, the things most likely to send kids to the ER on Halloween have nothing to do with marijuana edibles, but are instead “related to sending kids into the dark, getting hit by cars, and tripping over costumes.”
Parents should always check their kids’ trick-or-treating haul, but fears over marijuana edibles being slipped in are overblown.
Medical Marijuana Programs Take a Hit in States with Legal Recreational Market
In a new analysis of data from states with both medical and recreational marijuana programs, Marijuana Business Daily found that legalizing adult-use cannabis had a big impact on the number of registered MMJ patients.
Currently, the only states that have legalized both medical and recreational cannabis are Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Oregon. Each state’s medical marijuana program saw a decrease in registered patients once the adult-use market launched.
However, the rate at which patients are registering isn’t the same in all states. Colorado and Nevada have seen decreases in patient counts but at a much lower rate than in Oregon. From July 2018 to July 2019, patient counts fell 1% in Colorado and actually increased by 2% in Nevada. In Oregon, patient counts have fell 65% from October 2015 to July 2019.
Marijuana Business Daily attributes the difference in patient registration to how much it costs to renew medical marijuana cards annually. In Nevada and Massachusetts, patients pay a $50 annual fee, while in Colorado, the fee is $25. In Oregon, patients pay $200 annually.
In Colorado, changes to medical cannabis rules that take effect in November could lead to an increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients. Autism spectrum disorder was added to the list of qualifying medical conditions, and more medical professionals will be able to recommend cannabis. Doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis instead of opioids with short-term MMJ cards valid for 60 days. Plus, medical marijuana delivery will begin on Jan. 2, 2020.
Overall, cannabis sales in Colorado continue to break state records. In August, customers bought $173 million worth of medical and recreational cannabis, a 23 percent increase over sales in 2018.
It’s still too soon to tell how patient counts will be impacted by the recreational market in Massachusetts, but their lower registration fee could put them on a similar trajectory as Nevada and Colorado.
October Cannabis Industry News Highlights
Senators urge FDA to speed up CBD regulation
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and five other senators are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue guidance on CBD within 90 days.
“Consumers need and deserve guidance. So do manufacturers and hemp growers. That is why I am calling on the FDA to establish a regulatory framework as it has promised to do for these products,” said Blumenthal.
Hemp-derived CBD was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, but since then, the FDA hasn’t issued any rules for cannabis companies selling CBD products.
“Consumers rely on the FDA to conduct timely and appropriate oversight of new and emerging ingredients, and guidance from the FDA would also help manufacturers to develop safer, more effective, and more credible products for consumer use,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the FDA. “The market for CBD products is rapidly outpacing the FDA’s current regulatory efforts, and your agency clearly must expedite its efforts to promote accuracy and transparency within the CBD industry.
Along with Sen. Blumenthal, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) signed the letter addressed to the FDA.
Teen cannabis use in Washington declined after legalization
One of the arguments against legalizing marijuana was that it would increase teen drug use, but in Washington and other states that have ended cannabis prohibition, the opposite is true.
According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control, marijuana use “decreased or remained stable through 2016 among King County students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12. Among grade 10 students, the decline in use occurred among males while the rate among females remained steady. Use of alcohol or other substances was four times as frequent among marijuana users as among nonusers.”
Washington saw its first decline in teen marijuana use in 2012, the year it legalized cannabis. The researchers noted that the decline in youth marijuana use after legalization was consistent with trends reported in both Colorado and Oregon.
“Although the relationship between legal adult recreational use and youth use is not well understood, two possible reasons for the observed decline in youth use include reduction of illicit market supply through competition and loss of novelty appeal among youths,” according to the study. “Furthermore, it would be important to monitor the long-term role legalization might play to foster a permissive use environment given observed strong associations with use and individual and family factors that influence youth use.”
Study finds marijuana legalization doesn’t lead to increased crime
A federally funded study published in Justice Quarterly found that violent and property crime rates in Colorado and Washington did not increase after recreational marijuana was legalized. The crime rates stayed close to the average of other states where adult-use cannabis isn’t legal. Plus, since Washington legalized marijuana, burglary rates have actually declined more sharply than in states that haven’t legalized.
“Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington,” according to researchers. “We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states.”
Researchers looked at crime rates in Colorado and Washington from 1999 to 2016 and compared the data to 21 non-legal states. The study used crime statistics from the FBI.
“As the nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences of legalization for crime continues, it is essential to center that discussion on studies that use contextualized and robust research designs with as few limitations as possible,” said Dale Willits, one of the study’s co-authors. “This is but one study and legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, but by replicating our findings, policymakers can answer the question of how legalization affects crime.”
House Passes Marijuana Banking Bill
Last week the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, which could finally make access to banking and financial institutions a reality for the cannabis industry.
The SAFE Banking Act would protect banks that work with the cannabis industry from being penalized or from violating federal anti-money laundering and illicit finance laws. For years the cannabis industry has struggled to gain access to even the most basic banking services.
“We applaud the House for approving this bipartisan solution to the cannabis banking problem, and we hope the Senate will move quickly to do the same,” said Neal Levine, chief executive officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which lobbied in support of the bill.
“This vital legislation will have an immediate and positive impact, not only on the state-legal cannabis industry but also on the many communities across the nation that have opted to embrace the regulation of cannabis. Allowing lawful cannabis companies to access commercial banking services and end their reliance on cash will greatly improve public safety, increase transparency, and promote regulatory compliance.”
This is the first time that the House of Representatives has passed standalone marijuana legislation. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) sponsored the SAFE Banking Act, and it passed with a vote of 321-103. All but one Democrat and 91 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, giving it broad bipartisan support.
The bill still needs to pass in the Senate, and it’s unknown if or when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will call it to a vote. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that he wants to vote on cannabis banking legislation by the end of the year.
Despite being a multibillion-dollar industry, marijuana businesses have largely been given the cold shoulder by banks and credit unions, leaving them holding literal bags of cash.
“If someone wants to oppose the legalization of marijuana, that’s their prerogative, but American voters have spoken and continue to speak, and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Prohibition is over,” Perlmutter said while speaking in support of the legislation. “Our bill is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safe, and only Congress can take these steps to provide this certainty for businesses, employees and financial institutions across the country.”
While some cannabis advocates and legislators see the bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act as a step closer to federally legalizing cannabis, others would prefer comprehensive cannabis legislation that includes social and criminal justice reform.
“I am proud to bring this legislation to the Floor, but I believe it does not go far enough,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said. “This must be a first step toward the decriminalization and de-scheduling of marijuana, which has led to the prosecution and incarceration of far too many of our fellow Americans for possession.”
New Social Equity Cannabis Business Licenses Coming to Colorado in 2020
Colorado is launching a new social equity program for cannabis business licenses in 2020. The new licenses will be reserved for low-income demographics and are meant to increase diversity in the cannabis industry, while also providing opportunity for businesses that may not have access to traditional funding and training.
The program is part of an overhaul of the state’s medical and recreational marijuana regulations under Senate Bill 224, which was signed into law earlier this year. Known as micro licenses, the new permits will be limited to applicants from low-income areas identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
New businesses granted one of these micro licenses would be required to use the facilities of established marijuana companies as they research and manufacture their own cannabis products. Licensees would be allowed to cultivate, extract, and manufacture infused products, but would not be able to operate dispensaries.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) met earlier this month to establish the criteria for applicants.
“People from around the world look to us as an example on how to do things right,” MED director Jim Burack said. “What exactly is this relationship between endorser and accelerator? How do we ensure this business relationship is mutually beneficial?”
While the program is meant to increase diversity in the cannabis industry, marijuana lobbyist Shawn Coleman, who helped write define the new licenses explained, “If you’re white and you grew up in a trailer and your dad went to jail for ten years for selling meth, I can see why you’d think you’d be fit for this. This isn’t exclusive to any certain group.”
Getting established cannabis companies to participate is part of the challenge of the new social equity program. While the details are still being finalized, some of the potential incentives include reduced licensing fees, excise-tax credits, and giving priority designation for licensing transfers and updates.
Bipartisan Lawmakers Urge FDA to Speed up CBD Regulation
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of Congress are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up its guidance on hemp-derived CBD products. Specifically, Congress wants the FDA to issue formal “enforcement discretion” regarding CBD.
Hemp was legalized last year thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which made CBD legal as well. However, without guidance from the FDA, hemp and CBD are in a regulatory gray area. Lawmakers say that the FDA’s current approach to CBD has “created significant regulatory and legal uncertainty for participants in this quickly evolving industry.”
Currently, the FDA prohibits adding CBD to food or drinks marketed beyond a single state or to be added to food as a dietary supplement. Because of the regulatory confusion, some local governments have insisted that CBD is illegal in their state.
“Given the widespread availability of CBD products, growing consumer demand, and the expected surge in the hemp farming in the near future, it’s critical that FDA act quickly to provide legal and regulatory clarity to support this new economic opportunity,” lawmakers wrote.
The FDA has said it could take years to finalize CBD regulations. Congress isn’t waiting, and the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture is working on guidelines to submit to the FDA. According to U.S. Hemp Rountable, Congress is working on rules that would require the FDA to:
- Within 90 days, provide Congress a report outlining its efforts to develop an enforcement discretion policy on hemp CBD;
- Within 120 days, issue its formal enforcement discretion policy on hemp CBD;
- Keep the enforcement discretion policy in effect until the agency has implemented its final regulatory process; and
- Ensure that going forward, CBD manufacturers would be able share safety data through existing FDA notification procedures to be fully compliant with federal law and policy.
Lawmakers wrote that they appreciate that the FDA has pursued “enforcement actions against the worst offenders,” but that “it can do so while eliminating regulatory uncertainty for farmers, retailers, and consumers.”
“Without a formal enforcement discretion policy, anyone participating in the growing marketplace for legal hemp-derived products will continue to face significant legal and regulatory uncertainty.”
McConnell, who has been supportive of the hemp industry, does not support ending marijuana prohibition. Asked to comment of legalizing hemp but not cannabis, McConnell said that hemp is “a different plant. It has an illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace.”
Mountain High Suckers – September Q&A Session
Learn how the cannabis industry has changed over the last ten years in this Q&A with Chad Tribble and John Garrison. Chad and John founded Mountain High Suckers 2009, and as pioneers of CBD-infused cannabis edibles, they have a unique perspective on where the industry has been and where it’s going.
How Did You Get Started?
Chad and John both moved to Colorado in 1996 to pursue an outdoor lifestyle. They met while working for a painting contractor and bonded over rock climbing and other outdoor activities.
John was the first to develop an interest in cannabis. He started growing and registered as a caregiver, providing cannabis to some of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado.
“One day John had me over to his house, and I hadn’t been over there in a while,” Chad explains. “John had a room dedicated to [growing]. He had all the patient names on the wall.”
The idea of providing for patients and growing cannabis appealed to Chad, so he started growing cannabis as a caregiver, too. While visiting dispensaries to sell his flower, Chad would see patients come in with cookie trays. They didn’t know how strong the cookies were, but they would trade the cookies for flower from the dispensary.
It clicked for Chad that there was more to cannabis than smoking flower, and he saw the potential for a whole range of cannabis products for patients. He went to the bookstore and bought a book on candy-making.
“Hard candy was stuck in my mind. I saw this picture of this really clear sucker, and I said, ‘How do you get an extraction or something into this sucker and have it still be a sucker?’
From there, Chad started learning more about the ethanol extraction process. “I learned it in my backyard like a lot of guys did, and we’ve taken it to a different level now. We know the science behind making a great extraction for what we’d like to keep in it versus what we’d like to remove…we try to keep it all whole plant and all together.”
What has been the key to your success after ten years in the cannabis business?
Mountain High Suckers has 34 flavors, each of which we worked on and perfected before they went anywhere near store shelves. The quality and consistency of our suckers is something that patients and consumers can count on.
More than anything, say John and Chad, “We’re a caring company.”
How has the industry changed from when you started vs. now?
“When we first started, there was no CBD on the market at all,” says John. “We were the very first company in America to have a THC-, CBD-infused product. Getting the word out was a little difficult.”
John explains how they used to try to educate doctors who were licensed to prescribe medical marijuana. “It was trying in the beginning. It took a couple of years to catch on. Now, of course, CBD is everything, everywhere.”
In the beginning, John says, “We were wondering if the FBI was going to be hitting us on the shoulder…to [now] having a bright future for our company.”
Rules and regulations have changed a lot in the last ten years, and it’s affected how cannabis companies like Mountain High Suckers interact with dispensaries and budtenders.
“In the beginning, it was a lot easier to get samples to people,” Chad says. “We do appreciate regulation, but obviously, there are pluses and minuses about how you can get things streamlined to people. It was a lot more fun back in the day. We could go to a dispensary with a delivery, ask how many employees were on staff that were brand new…and give samples out the same day and get a lot more response. It’s hard to get samples into places these days.”
What do you think is next for the future of cannabis?
“When it’s descheduled, big pharma is gonna come in and break it all apart and figure out what [cannabinoid] helps with each disorder,” John predicts. “On the rec side, I see a very fruitful, awesome future all around the world.” Medical and recreational cannabis are “always going to be separated, in my opinion.”
Chad says, “The future is bright. I feel the information that’s being provided to people today is very helpful. Back in the day, there was a lot of misunderstood information being put out there about cannabis. Back then, you wouldn’t have heard about its benefits. You’d only hear the negative propaganda.
“We’ve come so far: 10 years under our belt in Colorado, and that’s without true trials, but the testimonials and the data we’ve collected prove cannabis to be more beneficial than it is negative. I feel like that’s why the world is really starting to rally around cannabis.”
What’s next for Mountain High Suckers?
“We’re continuing to grow. Our footprint isn’t just Colorado anymore. We’ll be in a few different countries. We’ll be in a multitude of states and have larger brand exposure. The plan is to continue to make great products and expand around the globe.”
“I see next year being a big turning point for Mountain High Suckers,” says John. “HB-1090 just passed, allowing outside corporate money to come into the state to start buying up dispensaries and grows and whatever they want, so there’s going to be a significant consolidation and acquisitions.”
Have questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you for our next video sesh!
Come see Mountain High Suckers at one of our next events and ask for us by name at your dispensary!
Mexico, New Zealand May End Cannabis Prohibition
Mexico’s supreme court orders regulation of medical marijuana
After two years of delay from the health ministry, Mexico’s supreme court has ruled that the agency must issue medical marijuana regulations within six months. Medical marijuana was legalized in Mexico in 2017, but there’s been no movement on regulations, leaving patients’ access to medical marijuana in limbo.
The ruling was in response to a suit brought on behalf of a child with epilepsy who needs medication derived from cannabis to treat her condition.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known in Mexico as AMLO, campaigned on marijuana reform and has proposed legislation for both medical and recreational marijuana. One proposal put forward by AMLO’s Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero would establish the Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis, which would handle cannabis licensing and regulation. The plan would ban marijuana advertising but would allow individuals to grow up to 20 cannabis plants, as well as allow groups to create cannabis cooperatives of up to 150 members.
This isn’t the first time that Mexico’s supreme court has ruled in favor of cannabis. Last year, they ruled that marijuana prohibition infringes on an individual’s right to develop their personality and gave legislators until October 2019 to pass legislation to regulate both medical and recreational marijuana.
2020 could be the year New Zealand legalizes marijuana
New Zealand will hold a referendum on legalizing and regulating cannabis in 2020. Ending cannabis prohibition has been gaining momentum in the country, with even former prime minister Helen Clark urging voters to legalize marijuana.
In an editorial for The Guardian, Clarke wrote, “The time has come for New Zealand to face up to the widespread use and supply of cannabis in the country and to legalise it and regulate it accordingly. No useful purpose is served by maintaining its illegal status. A ‘yes’ vote in the 2020 referendum will be positive for social justice and equity, contribute to reducing the country’s excessively large prison population, and enable those health issues associated with cannabis to be dealt with upfront.”
New Zealand may have a reputation as a laid-back country, but their cannabis laws are definitely not chill. Under the country’s Misuse of Drugs Act, cultivating or supplying cannabis is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and possession can land you a sentence of up to three months behind bars.
Even medical marijuana is highly regulated, with only Sativex approved for the use of treatment of multiple sclerosis. All other medical cannabis is banned without ministerial approval.
Despite hardline cannabis laws, by age 25, 80% of New Zealanders will have tried cannabis at least once–clearly, prohibition isn’t working.
This week, the Helen Clark Foundation released a report with recommendations on cannabis legalization that would include limits on advertising, age limits, and expunging minor cannabis offenses.
“Our solution would be to be much more regulated than places like Colorado because of our experiences with tobacco and alcohol,” Clark said. “You don’t want to create another big tobacco and big alcohol [industry] that’s going to promote things that obviously have some potential for harm.”
DEA allows licensing of cannabis grows for medical research
After years of delay, researchers may soon have access to potent, high-quality cannabis for research and testing. A lawsuit brought by cannabis researcher Dr. Sue Sisley has forced the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to move forward with processing applications to cultivate marijuana for scientific research.
More than 30 organizations have filed applications to grow cannabis for research purposes since August 2016. Sisley filed one of those applications three years ago, but since then it’s been lost in bureaucratic limbo. None of the applications submitted to the DEA have even been processed, much less approved.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. Attorney General is required to publish a notice of application within 90 days of receiving an application and the associated fee. In Sisley’s lawsuit, her attorneys argue that the DEA is violating the law by holding up the process.
“We are also suing the Attorney General, not just the DEA because my gut tells me that the DEA is not responsible for impeding this,” said Sisley, who leads the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona.
Cannabis research has been difficult, if not impossible, for researchers who want to study marijuana’s effects in controlled experiments and clinical trials.
“On the one hand, you can’t do the research with good, high-quality cannabis because it’s a Schedule 1 drug. On the other, it’s a Schedule 1 because nobody can really do the research,” said Matt Zorn, who represents the Scottsdale Research Institute in the lawsuit.
Since 1968, the only way researchers have been able to gain access to cannabis was through the University of Mississippi, which is notoriously bad. It’s moldy, full of seeds and stems, and less potent than cannabis available through the medical or recreational markets.
“Scientists need access to options and we are handcuffed by a government-enforced monopoly that has only allowed me to study this really suboptimal study drug from Mississippi,” said Sisley. “The scientific community is concerned this is harming our data — our outcomes.”
The news that the DEA will begin processing applications for clinical-grade cannabis is welcome news, but many in the cannabis community are skeptical that the DEA will follow through.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, and this is a positive first step,” said Zorn. “But it took Dr. Sisley three years and a lawsuit just to get to this point, so I wouldn’t say the case is closed.”
Even if the DEA picks up the pace on approving research-grade cannabis grows, it will likely be several years before researchers have access to it.
“We haven’t really won anything until scientists are finally utilizing real-world cannabis flower in their clinical trials,” Sisley said.
Mountain High Suckers Invests in Sustainable Cannabis Packaging
The lack of sustainable packaging in the cannabis industry is becoming more of a concern as access to legal cannabis expands across the country. Marijuana-packaging regulations force cannabis manufacturers to be not only purveyors of weed but purveyors of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.
In an effort to attract customer attention, many cannabis brands have gone beyond child-resistant packaging requirements and embraced the “unboxing” experience, creating complex packages that generate even more waste. Plus, there are all of those pre-rolls in plastic tubes, 1/8ths in plastic pop-top containers, vapes in multi-layer, mixed-material boxes, and, yes, individual sucker packaging — most of which ends up in the trash.
All of that cannabis packaging adds up. Roughly 36 million tons of packaging waste goes to landfills every year. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of throwing out your bodyweight in packaging every 30-40 days.
What is Sustainability?
The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Basically, if humans want to have water, materials, and natural resources into the future, we need to address how we produce and consume what we have now.
The idea of sustainable packaging is to reduce the waste. This can involve increasing the life cycle of the packaging, creating more functional packaging, using materials that are more recyclable, and investing in future technologies that are eco-friendlier.
Impact of Packaging on the Environment
Since 1950, the production of plastic has skyrocketed, creating 8.3 billion metric tons of waste, most of which ends up in landfills or the ocean. That plastic pre-roll tube you picked up at the dispensary? It’ll take more than 450 years to degrade. Plastic that makes it into the ocean never fully biodegrades, breaking down into microplastics that fish and other marine life mistake for food. A recent study found that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
You Asked, We Listened
Mountain High Suckers doesn’t want to be part of the packaging problem. We value feedback from our customers, and you’ve told us that sustainable packaging is important to you. Trust us, we’ve seen it too. Trash cans overflowing with single-use paper and plastic wrappers and containers aren’t an uncommon sight at cannabis events and social consumption lounges.
While reduce, reuse, recycle is important, we know it’s about more than what happens to a container after it’s used–it’s about using more environmentally sustainable packaging in the first place. That’s why Mountain High Suckers has partnered with Calyx Containers.
- Calyx Containers use plastic treated with organic additives that speed up the biodegradation rate of the containers after they’re exposed to a landfill’s microbial ecosystem.
- Calyx Containers use less material and take up less space than traditional cannabis packaging, plus all of their containers are fully recyclable.
- Calyx plastic begins to break down as soon as it enters biologically active landfills, as opposed to going through a decomposition cycle that would normally take significantly longer.
Our starting point will be with new packaging our lozenges and sweet pieces products. Look for them with a new style on shelves soon! We’re also currently looking into options to improve the recyclability of our single serving sucker packaging too.
Moving toward sustainability is definitely a huge task and it requires everyone moving toward a more balanced environment. We aim to encourage our partners and competitors to make the choice to switch to more recyclable materials. Live free, be well!
MHS & Josh Blue @ the 10th Annual Clinic Charity Classic
In its tenth year of raising money for multiple sclerosis research, The Clinic’s Annual Charity Classic is happening this Friday.
“Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body,” according to the National MS Society. While MS is not necessarily fatal, it decreases life expectancy by an average of seven years because of complications from the disease.
The tournament will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center. Registration for a 9-hole scramble is $1,250 per foursome, and single-golfer tickets are $325. The event includes breakfast, catered lunch, open bar, open practice range, and access to the after-party. Tickets for tee times are sold out, but interested in the after-party? No problem. Buy a ticket to the party for $175/person.
There will be a $10,000 prize for a putting challenge, a silent and live auction, as well as games and other entertainment during the tournament. The after-party will feature music from the Denver band The Motet and stand-up comedy from Josh Blue.
The Motet recently teamed up with the Clinic to release a band-themed strain, Starmatter 303. In 2017, Josh Blue partnered with Mountain High Suckers to produce a line of CBD-infused suckers called Josh Blue’s Dream.
“It’s always been important to us that we help people, and we saw a critical need to help those with MS by funding research,” said Clinic CEO Max Cohen. “We are gearing up for the most successful Charity Classic yet, with our very first after-party including live music and comedy from fantastic performers like Josh Blue.”
Over the past nine years, The Clinic’s annual golf tournament has raised over $700,000 for MS research, and the National MS Society named them one of their Top 100 Corporate Team of total historic fundraising in the country.
The Clinic Charity Classic will take place Friday, August 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Arrowhead Golf Club in Littleton.
Cannabis Regulations, Laws & News: July 2019
Alaskan capital says yes to on-site marijuana edible consumption, outdoor cannabis smoking areas
A city ordinance passed by the Juneau Assembly will allow customers to consume cannabis edibles inside licensed dispensaries as well as smoke in designated outdoor areas. The ordinance was approved 6-2, and an amendment that would have allowed only vaping in outdoor smoking areas failed.
Local cannabis business owner John Nemeth approved of the Assembly’s decision.
“This is a great step in the right direction,” Nemeth said. “It’s something we never thought we’d see here in Juneau and it’s giving people a safe place to consume.”
Medical marijuana could hit shelves in Louisiana next week
It’s been four years since Louisiana lawmakers legalized medical marijuana, and next week patients could finally have access to therapeutic cannabis.
“If there are no problems, no contamination, and we don’t expect any, then hopefully by the end of the week or early next week, there will be products moving to the market. That’s kind of the timetable,” said Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.
Only cannabis grown at Louisiana State University and Southern University is authorized for use in the state’s medical-marijuana program, and nine pharmacies will dispense cannabis in liquid form. Patients can use liquid cannabis applied as drops under the tongue, or into an inhaler. Louisiana also plans to allow patients access to cannabis oils, pills, and topical applications.
Oklahoma dispensary owners sue Facebook
Seven medical marijuana dispensaries have filed a suit against Facebook for putting them in “Facebook jail” for posting about their businesses. The owners say that Facebook has “a pattern of targeting the Oklahoma medical marijuana industry” and that the social media giant is censoring their business pages.
“Facebook jail” is when a page or profile is temporarily disabled for allegedly violating standards.
The petition claims that “Facebook has an arbitrary, subjective, discriminatory and archaic policy and their policy does not apply to all. It is just random. Or at least it appears to be random. There is no way for an individual or a business to contact anyone within Facebook to get assistance. They hide behind their keyboards and mete out whatever punishment they feel if they find that you have committed an infraction to their subjective community standards.”
The marijuana business owners are seeking a court order preventing Facebook from censoring their bushiness pages, as well as more than $75,000 for the “economic harm” caused by the censorship.
Short-Term MMJ Cards Will Expand Access to Medical Marijuana in Colorado
Governor Jared Polis, a vocal cannabis advocate who campaigned on supporting the marijuana industry, has made big changes to cannabis regulations in Colorado since he was sworn in back in January.
In May, Polis signed several cannabis bills into law: autism spectrum disorder was added to the state’s list of qualifying MMJ conditions, cannabis delivery to private residences was given the green light, and tokers will finally have a place for social consumption in hospitality establishments.
Polis also signed a bill that will allow doctors to prescribe cannabis instead of opioids for acute medical conditions, as well as allowing more medical professionals to prescribe medical marijuana. So, for instance, if you have your wisdom teeth removed, your dentists could recommend medical cannabis instead of addictive opioid pain medication.
“Adding a condition for which a physician could recommend medical marijuana instead of an opioid is a safer pain management tool that will be useful for both our doctors and patients,” said Ashley Weber, executive director of Colorado NORML.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has been resistant to adding new medical conditions to the MMJ program, but the new law circumvents the CDPHE board. The board met on July 17 for an emergency rulemaking session ahead of the law’s implementation. One of the rules up for debate was whether short-term medical marijuana cards should be valid for 30 or 60 days.
According to Westword, at least one board member thought sixty days for a short-term MMJ card was too long, especially in cases where an opioid would only be prescribed for seven days. Anna Weaver-Hayes, who testified at the meeting on behalf of the Colorado Psychiatric Society and Children’s Hospital Colorado, also recommended a shorter prescription window of thirty days.
Cannabis Clinicians Colorado director Martha Montemayor argued for a sixty-day short-term MMJ prescription, explaining that patients on the Western Slope often have to apply for their cards by mail and that “By the time they get their approval back in the mail, more than half of their recommendation could be done already,” she said. “We can’t forget those people.”
The board unanimously voted to approve a sixty-day minimum for short-term MMJ cards. Final rules will be decided by the board in September.
Summer Fun with Mountain High Suckers
Happy Summer edibles fans! We can’t believe this season is going by so fast….
This month, come check out one of our biggest events of the Summer that we’re always proud to sponsor:
The 10th Annual Clinic Charity Classic
Friday August 9th @ Arrowhead Golfcourse.
Every year the Annual Clinic Charity Classic Golf Tournament at Arrowhead Golf Course benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society + Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center.
Last year, the event raised $250,000, and since 2019 will mark the 10th year of this event, we want to swing big and with your help hit a goal of $500,000. This year, there are some exciting changes!
A 9-hole scramble format with after party featuring
- Stand-up comedy with our friend, comedian Josh Blue
- Music performances by Colorado’s own The Motet
- Full Open Bar to keep everyone refreshed
- Catered Food by a Colorado based restaurateur
- $10,000 putting challenge
- Silent & Live Auction
- Games and activities provided by our partners to keep everyone entertained
Sponsorships are already filled but tickets are still available to the public at:
We hope to see you there!
More on Location, In Dispensary Pop-Ups
This Summer, we’ll also be upping our pop-up game!
Come check us out with some of our brand new marketing at LivWell Dispensaries for DEALS across Colorado on the following dates:
8/15 Broadway 3-5pm
8/16 Garden City 3-5pm
8/17 Ft Collins 1-3pm
8/23 Larimer 1-3pm
8/24 Pearl 3-5pm
9/14 Stapleton 1-3pm
9/20 Franklin 3-5pm
9/21 South Pueblo 1-3pm
9/21 North Pueblo 4-6pm
9/27 Evans 3-5pm
See you around the scene!
Teen Cannabis Use Drops in States with Recreational Legalization
Cannabis use among teens has declined in states with legal recreational marijuana, according to a new paper published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers found that in states with legal adult-use cannabis, there was an 8% drop in the number of youths who said they used marijuana within the last 30 days and a 9% drop in the number of high-schoolers who said that they had used at least 10 times in the past 30 days.
The research was led by D. Mark Anderson, an economist at Montana State University, along with colleagues from the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, and San Diego University. Researchers analyzed data that spanned 25 years, from 1993 to 2017, that included data from about 1.4 million high school students. The data was collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which are administered to students every two years.
Researchers did not find a significant decrease in teen marijuana use in states with legal medical cannabis.
“Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported [by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys] showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes.”
The researchers acknowledged that while there’s an association between legal adult-use marijuana, there isn’t a causal connection.
“Because many recreational marijuana laws have been passed so recently, we do observe limited post-treatment data for some of these states,” Anderson said. “In a few years, it would make sense to update our estimates as more data become available.”
One possible reason for the decline in teen pot use is that a regulation cannabis market reduces the availability of black market marijuana. In states where recreational marijuana is legal, “it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”
Nationally, teen cannabis use has increased from 0.6% in 1991 to 6.3% in 2017, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
California Launches Social Media Campaign to Combat Cannabis Black Market
California is launching a new campaign to combat black market cannabis and support the legal marijuana industry.
The campaign, dubbed “Get #weedwise,” is meant to encourage cannabis consumers to buy their marijuana from licensed dispensaries.
“This public education campaign is the first to focus on educating consumers about the differences between cannabis purchased from licensed retailers and that from illegal businesses,” said Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Consumer safety is a big part of the campaign since unlicensed cannabis doesn’t undergo the same safety and quality control process as licensed cannabis retailers. Illegal cannabis is often tainted by heavy metals, mold, pesticides, and even human waste. Unlicensed grows regularly use banned or restricted pesticides, and it’s led to increased pollution and toxic waste.
U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar, who has been a lawyer on multiple marijuana-related environmental damage cases, said many of these illegal grows “are like superfund sites.”
“We believe that this campaign will directly impact consumer safety by clarifying that only cannabis purchased from licensed retailers has met the state’s safety standards, while sending a clear message to unlicensed businesses that they need to get licensed or shut down,” said Ajax.
The black market is a huge problem in California that’s undermining the regulated cannabis market and costing the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. According to New Frontier Data, as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in the state comes from the black market. The company estimated that California’s black market marijuana is worth $3.7 billion, more than four times the size of the legal cannabis market.
“We are going to start having a more aggressive enforcement stance to come after the illegal market,” said Ajax.
The two-year campaign will include $113 million in state funds to enforce state marijuana laws, crack down on illegal cannabis operations, and encourage unlicensed businesses to enter the regulated market. California will spend an initial $1.7 million on a series of ads on social media and billboards to encourage cannabis consumers to check if a shop is licensed at CApotcheck.com.
Colorado Cannabis Sales Generate $1 Billion in Tax Revenue
Since recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado in 2014, the state has collected $1.02 billion in tax revenue, according to the latest numbers released by the Colorado Department of Revenue. Adult-use cannabis sales in the last five years have exceeded $6.56 billion. Legal cannabis has created jobs for 41,076 people who work in the industry, and there are currently 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses in the state.
“Today’s report continues to show that Colorado’s cannabis industry is thriving, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We can and we must do better in the face of increased national competition. We want Colorado to be the best state for investment, innovation and development for this growing economic sector,” said Governor Jared Polis (D) in a press release. “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction.”
Colorado and Washington state were the first states to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2012 (with the first recreational dispensaries opening in 2014), but since then 11 other states have fully legalized cannabis as well. That means increased competition from states with larger populations and fewer regulations. Cannabis sales in Colorado have begun to level out, in part due to a decline in medical marijuana sales. In 2018, recreational marijuana sales were up 11%, but medical cannabis sales were down 20%.
Governor Polis told CNBC being the first state to sell recreational cannabis has been an advantage for Colorado, something that he hopes to leverage in the coming years.
“We are always going to be relatively small potatoes on the actual sales. … We are just not going to be as big as states like California or New Jersey. … We want to make sure that 10 years from now, point-of-sales systems, chemistry, genetics — all those pieces — are housed here in Colorado with successful companies that power a multibillion national industry.”
California is Still Cracking Down on Illegal Cannabis
California police carried out multiple raids on illegal marijuana grows Wednesday in an ongoing effort to tamp down on black market cannabis. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department served 80 search warrants in Anza Valley and made several arrests. They seized an estimated 140,800 plants valued at $189 million, along with 3,00 pounds of processed marijuana, 17 rifles, and 10 handguns.
“There are legitimate concerns in Northern California particularly as it relates to illegal cannabis grows. They are getting worse, not better,” Governor Gavin Newsom said.
California has a comprehensive regulatory framework for legal marijuana, and cannabis growers are required to go through a step-by-step licensing process, including background checks. However, according to New Frontier Data, as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in the state comes from the black market. The company estimated that California’s black market marijuana is worth $3.7 billion, more than four times the size of the legal cannabis market.
A report from the state Cannabis Advisory Committee found that “Lack of enforcement is creating a thriving environment for the unregulated ‘underground market.”
The problem isn’t just limited to marijuana grows. The state Bureau of Cannabis control has sent 2,842 cease-and-desist letters to cannabis shops operating without state licenses.
“It’s difficult to say how many of those letters resulted in action,” Bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said. “Businesses could shut down and relocate.”
In June, local law enforcement raided five properties in Sonoma County that were producing medical marijuana oil. The owner of the company was using “illegal and hazardous production methods” in addition to breaking a number of city ordinances.
Cannabis is easy to get in the state: 1 in 5 Californians have purchased marijuana from illegal sources in the last three months, and 84% of those people said that they were highly likely to purchase cannabis from the same illicit source again.
In order for a regulated cannabis market to thrive and for consumers to get safe, high-quality cannabis, enforcement of marijuana regulations, and convincing non legal operations to go through the licensing process is essential.
“We believe that this governor is committed to addressing our concerns, and he has a Legislature that is showing their willingness to author bills that will strengthen the regulated market while minimizing the illicit market,” said Josh Drayton, a spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association.
Colorado Legalizes Cannabis Social Use Venues & Marijuana Delivery
Cannabis consumption in hospitality establishments
Five long years after the state’s first recreational dispensaries opened, Colorado tokers will finally have a place to consume cannabis publicly. Governor Jared Polis (D) signed HB 1230 into law on Wednesday, legalizing licensed marijuana hospitality spaces in which cannabis can be consumed on site.
Before signing the social consumption bill into law, Polis said, “Colorado has many tourists and residents who choose to participate [in legal cannabis use]. Up until this bill, there’s been no way to have safe public consumption. I’ve smelled it walking my dog. For many of us with kids, we want to make sure we don’t have that in our neighborhoods.”
The new rules open the door for a variety of businesses to cash in on cannabis consumption, including hotels, spas, art galleries, cafes, lounges, and more. After purchasing medical or recreational cannabis at a dispensary, tourists and residents will be able to try out their purchases at on-site marijuana tasting rooms. The law will make an exception to the Colorado Clean Air Act, which prohibits indoor smoking.
The law won’t go into effect until 2020, and cities and counties have the option of banning social-use establishments. Local governments will have the option of adjusting the regulations to allow vaping, for example, but not smoking.
House Bill 1230 passed in the state legislature on May 2 and was signed into law on May 29. Last year, then-Governor John Hickenlooper (D) vetoed similar legislation.
Don’t leave home, get your marijuana delivered
Polis had a busy day of signing marijuana legislation into law Wednesday, including HB 1234, which allows licensed marijuana dispensaries to deliver cannabis to private residences.
Medical marijuana deliveries would be allowed to begin starting Jan. 2, 2020, and recreational cannabis deliveries would be allowed to start on the same date in 2021. Deliveries cannot be made to college campuses, and private residences can only have cannabis delivered once per day. A $1 surcharge will be added to each delivery and go towards local law enforcement costs related to marijuana enforcement.
Licensed transporters will undergo marijuana delivery training and will be protected from criminal prosecution for making cannabis deliveries.
The sponsors of HB 1234 argued that the bill would help stamp out black-market cannabis delivery as well as help patients who can’t always leave home for medical marijuana.
“This is a bill of compassion [for medical marijuana patients],” said Polis.
May Cannabis Industry & Legalization News
Colorado bomb cyclone causes a spike in cannabis sales
In Colorado, preparing for a blizzard isn’t complete without hitting up a marijuana dispensary. Ahead of the bomb cyclone that hit the state in March, cannabis sales in both medical and adult-use retailers spiked. Medical marijuana dispensaries saw an increase in sales of 27% on March 11, and 25% on March 12. Sale of flower on those days increased by 14% and edible sales increased by 10% above average.
Total cannabis sales saw a 22% increase overall on March 11 and a 4% increase in the average transaction amount, from &62.23 to $64.95. On March 12, sales were up 25% higher, with the average transaction amount slightly increasing from $64.04 to $64.51. Altogether, statewide sales on March 11-12 increased by 21%.
Nebraska legislature nixes medical marijuana bill
Hopes for medical marijuana in Nebraska were dashed after a bill failed to garner enough support from state legislators. Sen Anna Wishart (D) sponsored the medical cannabis bill and agreed to all of the amendments proposed by opponents of the legislation, including prohibiting patients from smoking cannabis or home-growing marijuana plants. Another proposed amendment would have prohibited cannabis edibles, and Wishart said she would have supported that too. Despite those compromises, state senators rejected the bill.
“Honestly, this was my colleagues’ chance to do something, and I was giving them the decision on whether they wanted to take action or not,” Wishart said.
Opponents of the bill argued that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to pressure to legalize recreational cannabis use. They also argued that cannabis remains federally illegal and lacks approval from the FDA.
While the bill was up for debate, Wishart pointed out that cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and supporters of the bill referred to marijuana’s effectiveness in treating conditions like epilepsy.
“Why not just deal with a practical reality, where instead of doing it in the dark, they can go through a highly regulated medical system. Go through a doctor and make the right choice if cannabis is right for them,” Wishart said.
Industrial Hemp, CBD Coming to Texas
Texas lawmakers have approved a bill to legalize industrial hemp production and hemp-derived CBD that contains less than 0.3% of THC. The bill was introduced by Rep. Tracy King (D) and the Senate voted unanimously in favor of it. Next, the bill will head to the House for any amendments and a vote.
King’s bill would task the Texas Department of Agriculture to enact regulations in accordance with the Farm Bill that Congress passed last year, including a licensing and inspection process.
Some senators were concerned that legalizing hemp would be a slippery slope to marijuana use.
“Can this stuff be smoked?” asked state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D).
“No, sir,” said Sen. Charles Perry (R). “I guess you could theoretically smoke it; you’d get no effect from it, and the bill specifically prohibits manufacturing for the purpose of smoking.”
“Nowadays people can smoke anything,” Hinojosa said.