California Marijuana Industry Faces More Challenges
The roll-out of adult-use sales in the world’s largest cannabis market has been a bit of a mess. Recreational marijuana sales became legal in California as of January 1, and some projections had the state’s cannabis industry generating $3.7 billion in sales this year. However, a whole slew of issues–including steep taxes, licensing delays, challenging regulations, and backlogs in testing–have contributed to the slower-than-expected growth and plenty of frustration.
High prices, taxes driving consumers to the black market
According to a survey commissioned by Eaze Solutions, 1 in 5 Californians have purchased cannabis from the black market in the past three months, and 84% of those same people are highly likely to purchase from the illicit market again in the future. Licensed cannabis retailers are losing out to unregulated cannabis that’s cheaper and without tax. Lack of access to legal cannabis is another factor that causes people to turn to the black market. While recreational marijuana is legal in the state, many local governments have restricted its sale in their municipalities.
Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the California Growers Association, told Ganjapreneur that high tax rates have caused inconsistent and wildly fluctuating prices.
“To have such a high tax burden on the few businesses that are able to make it through this gauntlet at the local level — frankly, there are so many other [unlicensed] businesses out there, consumers don’t need to know the difference. All they know is that over here the products cost half as much,” Allen said.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to convince consumers to purchase cannabis legally. The study found that a 5% decrease in the overall tax rate on cannabis could drive 23% of black-market customers to the legal market. The main draws for people purchasing from licensed-marijuana retailers include safety and potency testing, consistent labeling and product quality, electronic payment options, and customer support.
New testing and childproof packaging regulations took effect on July 1, causing additional financial and logistical challenges for marijuana companies. According to Marijuana Business Daily “testing costs for individual manufacturers and growers can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars monthly.”
Testing regulations will lead to increased consumer safety–all cannabis products, including flower and edibles, must be testing for pesticides, pathogens, and potency. The problem is that there are 31 labs licensed to test cannabis products for more than 400 licensed dispensaries, leading to a bottleneck in the supply chain and causing product shortages.
Nowhere are problems caused by licensing delays more evident than they are in Los Angeles. Licensing has been broken down into three parts. During the Phase 1 licensing period, the city issued 156 retail permits for existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Those 156 retail operations hold a cumulative 950 licenses for medical and recreational retail, cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution.
Because the first round of application approvals were for existing medical marijuana businesses, it would make sense that there would be a well-established infrastructure. After all, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana way back in 1996, so growers, retailers, and manufacturers had already been working together for more than twenty years. Unfortunately, with legal adult-use sales, California prohibited licensed cannabis operators from doing business with unlicensed operators, fracturing business relationships and leading to gaps in the supply chain.
The Phase 2 licensing period runs from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13, and only non-retail cannabis business that have been operating since at least December 2015 will be issued permits. Of those eligible to apply for Phase 2, they’ll also have to meet the requirements for the city’s social equity policy. The policy requires that for every nonequity license, two equity licenses must also granted. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the application process and who is eligible.
“Even though I now put in a couple hundred thousand dollars to make sure it was going to be compliant, I still have no idea if it’s going to pass,” said Jerred Kiloh, owner of The Higher Path, one of L.A.’s 156 licensed retail dispensaries.
“I have no idea if my social equity applicant is really going to pass whatever benchmarks they have. No one knows.”
Everyone who doesn’t meet the criteria for Phase 2 will have to wait for Phase 3, and there’s currently no timeline set. Most local jurisdictions, including LA, require applicants to have physical locations before applying, and given the delays in licensing, that means paying large sums of money for months on end for a space that can’t legally operate.
UK Legalizes Cannabis-Based Prescriptions
The United Kingdom has softened its stance on medical marijuana, and by this autumn, cannabis-derived medication will be available by prescription.
The surprise announcement by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, comes after two severely epileptic children were denied cannabis oil to treat their seizures. Public outcry prompted Javid to announce a formal review of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug last month.
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory. That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription. This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use,” Javid said in a news release.
The review, led by the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, concluded that cannabis has therapeutic value. The Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will define what qualifies as a “cannabis-derived medicinal product.” Approved cannabis products will be covered by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Until last week’s announcement, the UK had no legal medical marijuana program, despite being the world’s largest exporter and producer of cannabis-based medicines. Only approved cannabis-derived medication will be reclassified as Schedule 2 drugs.
Professor Mike Barnes, a physician who petitioned the government to allow cannabis oil use on behalf of his patient, Alfie Dingley, told The Guardian that he hopes the rules around medical marijuana won’t be “too restrictive.”
“I hope medical cannabis will be available very soon to help the many tens of thousands of people who benefit from the medicine but are currently deemed criminals,” he said. “I hope the government will not make the regulations too restrictive but sensibly open up the way to make good quality, safe cannabis available on prescription,” he said.
Legalizing cannabis-derived medicines poises the UK to become one of the biggest marijuana markets in Europe. Prohibition Partners estimates that by 2028 the medical marijuana market in the UK will be worth 8.8 billion euros ($10.2 billion).
California Health Dept. Bans Hemp-Based CBD in Edibles
The California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch (CDPH-FDB) has announced that hemp-derived CBD cannot be used in edibles (both food and drink) for either humans or pets. The rule change is a huge blow to the state’s industrial hemp industry and has left much confusion in its wake.
In the FAQ announcing the policy change, the CDPH-FDB said, “Although California currently allows the manufacturing and sales of cannabis products (including edibles), the use of industrial hemp as the source of CBD to be added to food products is prohibited. Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive or dietary supplement.”
For cannabis retailers licensed through the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the rule change means that they cannot sell hemp-based CBD products, though they will still be able to sell CBD products derived from psychoactive cannabis. Hemp and cannabis are the same species of plant, but hemp contains more CBD and negligible amounts of THC.
The restriction on CBD from hemp makes even less sense considering the overabundance of CBD products available outside of retail marijuana dispensaries. Plus, the US Food and Drug Administration approved CBD-based medication, Epidiolex, to treat seizures earlier this year.
“While I disagree with the state of California’s position and approach to hemp-derived CBD – given that it is the same molecule – the law is clear and the FAQ released by the CDPH-FDB confirms the hemp-derived CBD cannot be lawfully added to a food, food product or dietary supplement,” said Dana Cisneros, an attorney with Cannabis Corporate Law Firm.
“This is devastating for small businesses in California that rely on hemp-derived CBD. This is devastating for patients that cannot afford to purchase cannabis-derived CDB products sold in BCC licensed retail establishments.
“And it is nonsensical,” she said.
Recreational Market Takes Toll on Medical Cannabis
Data compiled by MarijuanaBusiness Daily shows just how much participation in medical marijuana programs has declined in states that also have recreational cannabis markets. Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada have seen their medical marijuana markets undergo dramatic changes over the past few years, and the future of MMJ is anything but certain.
Of the three states, Colorado has fared the best. Since adult-use sales began in January 2014, patient counts have fallen 22 percent. And from 2014 to 2016, annual sales for medical cannabis actually increased each year before falling for the first time in 2017. So far in 2018, the downward trend has continued. Revenue fell 21 percent year-over-year to $165.8 million.
“Since April of 2017, we have observed negative year-over-year comps for medical marijuana sales. These results underscore our view that the overall Colorado marijuana market is at or near maturity and further substantiates our industry thesis that a rec market is disruptive to medical sales,” Green Wave Advisors founder and managing partner Matt Karnes told Benzinga.
In Nevada, MMJ patient counts are declining an average of 5 percent per month. Since recreational cannabis launched in October 2017, patient counts in the state have decreased 32 percent. In June, patient enrollment fell below 17,000 for the first time since March 2016.
Oregon has seen the steepest decline in their medical marijuana program. Since adult-use sales began in October 2015, patient counts have declined 42 percent. The number of registered medical marijuana patients was at an all-time high in October 2015, with 78,045 patients. In 2018, only 45,000 patients are registered under the medical marijuana program.
In addition to falling patient numbers, there are changing demographics in the patient base. In Colorado, the average age of a medical marijuana patient has increased from 41 in January 2014 to 44 as of June 2018. 22 percent of patients in Nevada are older than 65, up from 19 percent of patients in October 2017. The average age of patients in Oregon is up 6 percent from October 2015, with 19.4 percent of patients 65 or older.
More Red & Swing States Legalize Marijuana
Red and swing states that have traditionally opposed marijuana legalization have been slowly coming around, moving the U.S. closer to national legalization.
Last month, Oklahoma became the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana. Oklahoma has long been known as a conservative, “law-and-order” state, so the fact that a medical marijuana initiative passed with a 57% to 43% margin shows just how much public opinion has shifted.
In Missouri, three (and possibly four) medical cannabis measures could make it onto the ballot this fall.
In Utah, where there’s been fierce opposition from cannabis prohibitionists, voters will finally have their say on medical marijuana. The Salt Lake Tribune released a survey last October that found that 75 percent of the state’s registered voters support medical cannabis.
In Maine–a blue state with an independent electorate and a Tea Party Republican governor–the state legislature overturned Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a medical marijuana reform bill. One of the most progressive medical marijuana programs in the country, the bill eliminates requiring qualifying conditions allows physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to recommend medical cannabis at their discretion. Dispensaries in the state will also be allowed to operate more like pharmacies, and patients will be allowed to possess a whopping 8 pounds of cannabis.
Last year, North Dakota voters surprised marijuana advocates by passing a medical marijuana initiative. They may be set to do the same thing this year after the North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative collected more than 18,000 signatures in support of legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older. If state officials verify at least 13,482 of those signatures, North Dakotans will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in November.
The swing state of Michigan could become the ninth state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize recreational marijuana this November. The state legislature took up a citizen-initiated proposal to allow adult-use and commercial sale of cannabis in June but failed to garner enough support. A poll conducted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) conducted a survey in February that polled 600 Michiganders on their support for November’s ballot initiative. The poll showed that 61% backed the proposal, and among younger voters (18-34), support was at 87%.
Join Us: Josh Blue’s Dream Launch Party
Friday, July 6th at 9:30pm
(after Josh’s 7pm show)
(South Landmark location)
21+ free admission – no tickets or RSVP required!
For more than a year we’ve worked with our friend, comedian Josh Blue, who has joined the cannabis community as medical consumer and as an advocate for change. We’re extremely proud of our collaboration: Josh Blue’s Dream Suckers – blueberry, cherry and watermelon suckers infused using our unique process and Josh’s favorite cannabis strain, blue dream.
Come join us for our OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTY celebrating our work together. We’ll have LIVE MUSIC, SNACKS and DRINKS!
Also come see Josh’s show at Comedy Works!
For tickets, visit:
(edit: may already be sold out!!)
See you at the party!
FDA Approves First Cannabis-Based Medication to Treat Epilepsy
On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-derived medication used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The drug, Epidiolex, is made from cannabidiol (CBD) and contains no THC. This is the first time the FDA has approved a cannabis-based medication.
The FDA approved Epidiolex to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome causes multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between the ages of 3 and 5. Dravet syndrome causes seizures due to a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain. The medication is approved to be administered to patients 2 and older twice daily as an oral solution.
“Today’s announcement gives individuals with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and their families much-needed hope,” said LGS Foundation Executive Director Christina SanInocencio.
Dravet Syndrome Foundation Executive Director Mary Anne Meskis agreed with SanInocencio.
“We are very pleased to see the approval of Epidiolex for Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. While each of our disorders are different in terms of etiology, both of our communities suffer from intractable seizures, an increased risk of mortality and many devastating co-morbid conditions that significantly affect quality of life.”
CBD can be found in both hemp and marijuana, and unlike other cannabinoids, like THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects. Cannabis, including CBD, is still considered a Schedule I drug under US law.
In a statement Monday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said, “This is an important medical advance. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”
“This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies,”
Epidiolex was developed by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, who also manufacture Sativex, another cannabis-based medication used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
Canada Becomes 2nd Country to Legalize Marijuana
Canada legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, becoming the second country in the world to end cannabis prohibition. The Cannabis Act legalizes marijuana possession, home growing, and adult-use sales. The law will enable adults 18 years-and-older to possess and share up to 30 grams of cannabis in public and to cultivate up to four plants.
Unfortunately, Canadians will have to wait a couple of months until they can legally buy recreational marijuana. Provincial governments will set their own regulations regarding cannabis sales and distribution, and they have set an expected roll out date of October 17th. Initially, legal cannabis sales were hoped to begin July 1.
Independent Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, “We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked.”
The Cannabis Act was passed after months of back and forth between the Senate and the House of Commons. The bill was first introduced on April 13, 2017, and passed at the House of Commons in November. The Cannabis Act was finally approved in the Senate with a vote of 52-29.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize weed in December 2013.
Cannabis availability will vary across Canada. In Ontario, only 40 state-run shops will be able to sell recreational weed, while in Alberta, cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers. In Newfoundland and Labrador, cannabis will be sold at grocery stores.
During his campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize cannabis to reduce underage consumption and black market crime.
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate,” Trudeau tweeted yesterday.
Bi-Partisan STATES Act Would Protect States’ Rights to Legal Cannabis
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) have teamed up to create marijuana reform legislation called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES).
In a statement, Gardner said, “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”
The bipartisan effort would not legalize cannabis, but it would give additional protections to states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make it illegal for the federal government to prosecute people who are complying with local, state, or tribal cannabis laws. The bill also spells out that marijuana transactions operating within the law should not be considered trafficking, potentially opening up banking to the cannabis industry.
In a joint press conference with Gardner, Warren explained, “The science is clear: Medical marijuana treatments are effective. There is absolutely no reason patients should be prevented from seeking scientifically approved care, but right now, that is the reality for millions of people across the country. These archaic laws don’t just hurt individual people. They also hurt businesses that are in the marijuana business from getting access to banking services. That forces a multi-million-dollar industry to operate all in cash. That’s bad for business and bad for safety.”
In addition to access to medical marijuana and banking services, Warren wants to reform drug laws that have resulted in “widespread discrimination these policies foster across our communities…that have devastated communities of color.”
Gardner primarily sees marijuana issues from a states’ rights perspective, but he also believes that it’s time to legitimize the marijuana industry. “It’s time that we take this industry out of the shadows, bring these dollars out of the shadows and make sure we hold these people accountable for an industry that states are moving forward with regardless of the pace of business in Washington, D.C.”
The STATES bill would also remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances prohibited under the CSA.
Read a STATES Act Fact Sheet here.
Hickenlooper Vetoes 3 Bills; Gives OK For School Nurses to Administer Medical Cannabis
Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed several cannabis bills this week including one that would have allowed customers and patients to sample edible and vaping products at dispensaries in “tasting rooms.”
The bill would have limited purchases in tasting rooms to 10 milligrams active THC in an infused product or one-quarter gram of marijuana concentrate. Smoking flower in tasting rooms would not have been allowed under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. The bill passed in the Senate in April with a 22-12 vote and was approved in the House in May with a 57-8 vote.
In his veto letter, Hickenlooper wrote, “Amendment 64 is clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’ on ‘in a manner that endangers others. We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement.'” The governor also expressed concern that tasting rooms could lead to impaired driving.
The veto has earned widespread criticism among cannabis advocates. In a response statement, Chris Neville, owner of Terrapin Care Station, slammed the governor’s decision.
“Hickenlooper’s veto ensures continued gray market activity when it comes to public consumption, an odd choice for an administration that has focused heavily on marijuana gray market enforcement,” the statement read. “It also ensures that people will continue to smoke cannabis in unregulated indoor clubs, also a strange choice for a governor who has been adamant that public consumption should not include smoking. Hickenlooper’s veto also sets the state back in regulating and curbing drugged driving.”
In addition to the tasting rooms, Hickenlooper also vetoed a bill that would allow autism to be added to the list of medically accepted conditions for cannabis and a bill that loosened restrictions on investments in cannabis businesses.
On a positive note, Hickenlooper signed a bill that allows school nurses to administer medical marijuana if parents give permission. Kids with a medical marijuana card are already allowed to receive medical cannabis at school, but parents were required to go to the school and administer the medicine themselves.
The bill included new guidelines on the transportation, handling, and storage of medical cannabis, including requiring that the medicine is stored in a locked container. In addition, parents must provide a doctor’s note with dosing instructions and sign an agreement with the school principal. Children are not allowed to bring medical cannabis on the school bus or to the nurse’s office.
In a letter, Hickenlooper said, “The critical protections are key to ensuring that schools can administer this medication with efficacy while providing latitude for both districts and personnel to make their own determination on whether to administer medical marijuana.”
“Right to Try” Law Allows Terminal Patients Access to Medical Marijuana
On Wednesday, President Trump signed the “Right to Try” bill into law. Legislation was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March.
The new law allows terminally ill patients to try experimental treatments and drugs that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–including medical marijuana.
According to Forbes, terminal patients wishing to access medical cannabis must be in “a stage of a disease or condition in which there is reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months, or a disease or condition that would result in significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death.”
In addition, patients would need to have “exhausted approved treatment options” and not be eligible to otherwise participate in ongoing clinical trials on the drug because they don’t meet inclusion criteria or live within geographic proximity of where the study is taking place.
In order for a drug to qualify under the new law, it must have completed a Phase 1 clinical trial. Luckily, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been studying cannabis since 2010 and marijuana is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials.
In an interview, Brad Burge, the director of strategic communications for MAPS, said, “Making medical marijuana available for terminally ill patients would certainly be a significant step forward for federal policy. If MAPS’s current Phase 2 clinical trial of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in military veterans qualifies marijuana for use under the proposed Right to Try Act, then the trial will already have helped a lot of people.
“Still, only making marijuana available for those on the verge of dying isn’t nearly enough, and the best thing the federal government can do for patients is to end the federal monopoly on marijuana for research currently being upheld by Jeff Sessions.”
United Kingdom May Be World’s Largest Exporter of Cannabis
According to the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the United Kingdom is the biggest producer and exporter of cannabis in the world.
Alcohol has long been the UK’s drug of choice, and cannabis remains banned under UK law, so the report from the INCB that the UK produced 95 tons of legal cannabis in 2016–much of which ended up in the United States–comes as a surprise. The UK’s cannabis production now accounts for 44.9 percent of the world total.
The report puts Canada in second place with 80.7 tons produced.
However, cannabis production in the UK is almost entirely geared towards pharmaceuticals. GW Pharmaceuticals produces and exports two cannabis-based medications, Sativex and Epidiolex.
Sativex is used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. Epidiolex is a CBD-based medicine currently under review for the treatment of two rare forms of uncontrollable epilepsy and is expected to be approved for use in the US by the FDA.
Cannabis advocates in the UK have been quick to point out the double standard.
Steve Rolles, Transform’s Senior Policy Analyst, said, “It is scandalous and untenable for the UK government to maintain that cannabis has no medical uses, at the same time as licensing the world’s biggest government approved medical cannabis production and export market. UK patients are either denied access and suffering unnecessarily, or are forced to buy cannabis from the criminal market.
“It is profoundly unethical, and a violation of the fundamental right to health, to deny people access to medicines that are prescribed by their doctors,” he added.
An estimated 1 million people in the UK buy marijuana from the black market. There’s been recent controversy in the UK over a six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who suffers from a rare and treatment-resistant form of epilepsy. His family wants access to cannabis oil to treat Alfie’s severe seizures, but the request has been denied by the UK government.
Pennsylvania Universities Approved for Cannabis Research
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Monday that eight universities in the state have been licensed to begin studying medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is just three months old, with the first dispensaries opening their doors to patients in February.
In a press conference announcing the colleges awarded the research permits, Gov. Wolf said, “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”
The universities awarded research permits include the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, the Drexel University College of Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.
Research of cannabis has been limited, mostly because the plant is still illegal under federal law, and the research that has been approved by government agencies so far uses notoriously poor quality cannabis from the University of Mississippi. However, the universities involved in the research program in Pennsylvania will use cannabis from the state’s licensed medical marijuana producers.
“It is important to note that Pennsylvania is the first and only state in the country to institute such a program, and we believe that the research that will be conducted by the School of Medicine in collaboration with [University of Pennsylvania Medical Center] will be of great importance in determining the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases,” Pitt School of Medicine officials said in a statement Monday.
The eight available clinical registrant permits for growers/producers of medical marijuana have not yet been granted. Applications will be available through the Pennsylvania Health Department as of May 24 and must be filed no later than July 12.
FDA-Approved Cannabis PTSD Study Almost Complete
There’s loads of anecdotal evidence that cannabis is effective in treating PTSD in veterans, but the Department of Veterans Affairs is not having any of it. Physicians in the VA are still prohibited from recommending cannabis to their patients, leaving veterans struggling with symptoms and addictive medications.
However, there is hope for veterans struggling to access medical marijuana. The first FDA-approved study on the effects of cannabis in treating veterans’ PTSD is nearly complete, and we could be one step closer to federally legalizing cannabis as a treatment.
The study, now in its third year, is being conducted by Dr. Sue Sisley and is funded by a $2.15 million grant from the University of Colorado. Sisley fought for seven years to get approval from federal officials to study the effects of marijuana, and while she may be well known as a marijuana advocate these days, she wasn’t always a fan.
“I was dismissive and judgmental, then I started losing a lot of vets in my practice to suicide, and it became a big wake-up call. The veteran community has a higher rate of prescription drug overdose, and many vets discovered they can substitute cannabis for the more addictive medications they’ve been prescribed, which is how we started to examine this,” Sisley told Healio.
The phase 2 study aims to provide more than anecdotal evidence through a controlled clinical trial. The study is triple-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled. After a familiarization stage, veterans are given cannabis to take home and self administer. Subjects are randomly assigned to receive either high THC, high CBD, an equal THC/CBD mix, or placebo and asked to administer the medication at their own discretion for three weeks, followed by two weeks with no cannabis. Researchers monitor PTSD symptoms throughout the process.
In addition to PTSD, Sisley and her colleagues are also assessing biomarkers for inflammation and anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis.
Sisley said that only 19 additional veterans are needed to complete the dataset, and she hopes that the FDA will approve a phase-3 trial.
While that’s all good news, there is a potential hiccup in the research, and it has to do with the notoriously low-quality weed supplied by the government. The flower used in the study is grown at the University of Mississippi, and in addition to being full of stems and seeds, some samples also contain mold and lead.
“If half is extraneous nonmedical plant material, it could be sabotaging efficacy studies, meaning that if you’re trying to measure effectiveness of cannabis and you’re forced to use a very sub-optimal plant material, this could harm the outcome of tests looking at how effective cannabis is at treating a certain illness,” Sisley said to Healio.
Majority of Americans Support States Rights to Legal Weed
According to a new poll released by Qunnipiac University, 63 percent of Americans think that marijuana should be legalized nationwide. To date, that’s the largest level of support for legal cannabis measured by the Qunnipiac survey. That’s up from 2012, when 51 percent of surveyed voters supported legalization.
“Voters are more favorable to legalizing marijuana than in any previous Quinnipiac University survey, and do not see its use as a gateway to more serious drugs,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The numbers are even more dramatic when it comes to support for protecting states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Voters oppose 70 -23 enforcement of federal laws in states with legalized cannabis, and support 74 – 20 percent a bill protecting states that have ended marijuana prohibition.
The 11 marijuana-related survey questions were included as part of a federal bill query and represent the largest number of cannabis-related questions on a single Quinnipiac poll.
Below are the marijuana poll results:
Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, or not?
- Yes: 63%
- No: 33%
- DK/NA: 4%
Do you support or oppose allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it?
- Support: 93%
- Oppose: 5%
- DK/NA: 1%
Keeping in mind that your answers are confidential, have you ever recreationally used marijuana or not?
- Yes: 43%
- No: 54%
- DK/NA: 2%
If you agreed with a political candidate on other issues, but not on the issue of legalizing marijuana, do you think you could still vote for that candidate or not?
- Yes: 82%
- No: 13%
- DK/NA: 5%
Would you support or oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana?
- Support: 23%
- Oppose: 70%
- DK/NA: 7%
Is recreational marijuana legal in the state in which you live, or not?
- Yes/Legal: 22%
- No: 72%
- DK/NA: 5%
(If yes/legal) Do you think that legalizing recreational marijuana has been good for your state or bad for your state?
- Good: 48%
- Bad: 25%
- DK/NA: 26%
As you may know, legalizing recreational marijuana allows states to tax the sale of marijuana, which can result in increased revenue. Do you think that increasing revenue in your state is a good reason or a bad reason for recreational marijuana to be legalized?
- Good reason: 54%
- Bad reason: 42%
- DK/NA: 4%
Do you consider marijuana a so-called “gateway drug”, or not?
- Yes/Gateway drug: 31%
- No: 61%
- DK/NA: 8%
Do you think that legalizing marijuana will make people more likely to use opioids, less likely to use opioids, or don’t you think legalizing marijuana will have much impact either way?
- More likely: 20%
- Less likely: 20%
- Not much impact: 56%
- DK/NA: 5%
1,193 voters were surveyed nationwide between April 20 -24, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, including the design effect. Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones. Keep in mind, some results are also from states without legal marijuana laws.
Millennials: The Generation That Ends Cannabis Prohibition?
Millennials are blamed for all sorts of things, from declining beer sales to shuttered chain restaurants to the end of bar soap. But there’s one thing we can definitely thank millennials for: their love of cannabis. And if the much-maligned generation has anything to say about it, the days of marijuana prohibition are numbered.
According to online pollsters The Tylt, the majority of millennials support cannabis legalization. In a poll of over 6,000 millennial-aged respondents, 84% believe that cannabis should be legalized.
On their website, The Tylt describes themselves as “the largest and fastest growing social polling and opinion platform among millennials.”
The Tylt’s polling data is in line with other surveys gauging generational support for legal weed. A 2017 CBS News poll found that 61% of Americans of all ages support marijuana legalization, a five-point increase from 2016. The same poll found that 76% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 support legal cannabis use.
So how much do millennials love pot? Here’s some more insight from The Tylt’s polling:
- 87.6% of millennial respondents think that marijuana is safer than alcohol
- 85.6% say cannabis is good for your health
- 81.2% believe criminals arrested for non-violent marijuana offenses should be released
- 93.2% of millennials believe athletes should have access to cannabis as an alternative to painkillers and opioids
- 89.2% think that cannabis should be allowed in all sports
- 54.4% of millennials support public cannabis consumption
- 73.8% of millennials support banning marijuana drug testing in the workplace
Cannabis is about more than getting high, and this growing industry is generating billions of dollars in revenue and creating thousands of jobs. When it comes to cannabis, the millennial generation are enthusiastic supporters, and it’s only a matter of time before this is reflected in our country’s legislation.
Marijuana Taxes May Ease Denver Housing Crisis
Colorado has been in the midst of a housing crisis for the last several years, with rent in Denver increasing more than 48 percent from 2010 through the end of 2017. But if a proposal to use sales tax proceeds from recreational marijuana sales is passed by city council, it could help bolster funds used for affordable housing in the city.
The proposal unveiled by Mayor Michael Hancock and other city officials would increase the number of income-restricted apartments from 3,000 to 6,400 over the next five years, as well as doubling money to the Affordable Housing Fund from $15 million per year to $30 million per year. Partnering with the Denver Housing Authority, the city would issue $105 million in bonds to subsidize affordable housing.
Hancock’s proposal would increase Denver’s 3.5 special tax on recreational cannabis to 5.5 percent, bringing the total state and local taxes to 25.25 percent. Denver voters wouldn’t have a say in the increase since the 2-percentage point increase requires only city council approval.
Marijuana industry members have largely supported the proposed tax increase. Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said that her organization “has been a long-time advocate with better aligning marijuana tax revenue with the positive impact of the communities in which we live and operate.”
Kelly said that the tax increase would equate to about a dollar on a $50 purchase, and that she wasn’t concerned that the increase would drive consumers to the black market.
While briefing reporters on the proposal, Hancock said, “We must thank our marijuana industry for stepping up to say we want to be part of the solution.”
According to the Denver Post, an estimated 80,000 households in Denver spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent and housing costs. Officials say that increased housing for low-and-moderate income families, as well as the homeless, would be a priority.
FDA Seeks for Public Opinion About Descheduling Marijuana
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comment (yep, that means you) regarding the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance under both U.S. law and international drug agreements. The FDA is putting together a recommendation for the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is currently reviewing the international classification of cannabis, including THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.
Cannabis was listed in the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a Schedule I drug in 1961, and the WHO says that cannabis is “the most commonly used psychoactive substance under international control.” Schedule I drugs include LSD and heroin–drugs that are considered high risk for abuse and addiction and that have no currently accepted medical use.
The FDA is specifically looking for input regarding the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of” marijuana. The FDA will forward public comments to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO). Recommendations from the WHO are used to inform public health policy and drug laws.
In December, the WHO released a preliminary review of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, that said CBD should not be scheduled as a controlled substance. They concluded that CBD has a low potential for abuse and that it “has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials” and “is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”
The preliminary review also found that “there is no evidence of…any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
The deadline to submit public comments to the FDA is April 23.
Want to support the declassification of cannabis, but you don’t know where to start? NORML has posted a pre-drafted comment on their website, and they will be hand delivering all comments to the FDA.
Things to Do in Denver for 4/20 Week
Cannabis has come a long way since Denver held its first annual 4/20 Rally back in 2007. In the eleven years since the rally began, much of the nation has embraced marijuana–thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have legal cannabis in some form. And along with the growing acceptance of cannabis, the celebration of cannabis culture in the Mile High City has grown from one annual rally to a week chock full of 4/20 events.
Check out this listing of some of our top events this April:
Mile High 420 Festival – April 20
When it comes to weed in 2018, there’s less to protest and more to celebrate–so it makes sense that this year’s 4/20 revels at Civic Center Park have been dubbed a festival, rather than a rally. The festival is free and will feature live music, comedy, yoga and other wellness activities, food trucks, cannabis craft vendors, and more than 20 local charities. Festival headliners include Lil Wayne, Lil Jon, Inner Circle, and The Original Wailers.
RiNo Cares: Cannabis Health and Wellness Fair – April 15
This first-time event will offer health screenings, medical marijuana provider sign-ups, culinary demonstrations, industry panel discussions, and more. Event organizers describe the fair as supporting independent businesses and creatives in Denver’s River North (RiNo) Art District, and 30% of vendor booth fees will be donated to provide care, resources and support for Veterans in Colorado. The free, 21-and-up event will take place at Cultivated Synergy.
TedxMileHigh: Colorado’s Cannabis Conversation – April 18
Furthering the conversation around marijuana, speakers at this event will discuss topics ranging from the commercialization and medical uses of cannabis to pop culture and politics. Speakers include Dr. Doris Gundersen, an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, lawyer Christian Sederberg, Esq., a founding partner in a law firm described by Rolling Stone Magazine as “the country’s first powerhouse marijuana law firm,” and Wanda James, who along with her husband, Scott Durrah, was the first African-American to own a dispensary and edible company.
Sensi Night Colorado at Temple Nightclub and Club Vinyl – April 19
Hang with cannabis industry workers and enthusiasts at Sensi Magazine’s second annual event. There will be over 120 Colorado companies on site to answer all your product and brand questions. The free, 21-and-up event will take place at two locations on Broadway. Register here.
107.9 KBPI Presents Afroman at The Gothic – April 20
“Because I Got High” isn’t just a song by rapper Afroman, it’s also an excellent, all-purpose explanation for stoner mistakes. Afroman is performing at the Gothic for an early 5:30 pm show, along with David Frederick and SwizZy B.
Red Rocks Amphitheater 4/20 weekend – April 19-21
Colorado’s legendary music venue is host to three nights of concerts in honor of the stoner holiday. See 311, Method Man & Redman on April 19, followed by Flosstradamus on April 20. On April 21, see Opuio + SYZYGY Orchestra and Sunsquabi.
Snoop’s 420 Wellness Retreat – April 20
The first stop of Snoop’s four-city tour is an all-ages event at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, Snoop co-headlines with Migos and other performers include Lil Pump, Rob Stone, and Tiara Thomas. Get tickets here.
420 on the Block – April 20-22
The three-day music fest sponsored by The Green Solution, will feature headliner Action Bronson, along with Matisyahu, Michael Menert, Break Science, Washed Out, and more at the Fox Street Compound. Purchase tickets for the event here.
Ganja Guru Yoga Brunch – April 22
After a busy week of 4/20 festivities, chill out with this 21-and-up, yoga-meets-cannabis brunch event. Hosted by Urban Sanctuary Yoga, there will be space for consumption (make sure to bring your own weed), a healthy breakfast, and an uplifting vinyasa yoga class, followed up by CBD massages.
Good Vibe Mafia Charity Yoga Event – April 28
The Good Vibe Mafia will be gathering at Rino Yoga Social on April 28th at 2 p.m. for a mindful yoga class lead by Amanda Learned. All proceeds will benefit The Food Bank of the Rockies; a local Denver based charity providing food for those in need.
The Mile High City Brings Bulk of Cannabis Revenue in Colorado 2017
We know that Colorado raked in tons of money in cannabis revenue in 2017, but new numbers released by the Colorado Department of Revenue show that Denver accounted for a sizable chunk of that number. The Mile High City accounted for over a third of the state’s total cannabis revenue, totaling $577.5 million, according to Westword.
Previous numbers released by the DOR in February reported that the state made $1.5 million in cannabis sales last year. When added to the total revenue since legal recreational cannabis sales began in 2014, that amounts to nearly $4.5 billion in sales. Data including sales from the entire state show that overall dispensary sales rose in December for the first time since August 2017. That’s a 7 percent increase in revenue from November (119.56 million) to December ($128.27 million). Numbers from recreational marijuana sales in December 2017 accounted for approximately $96.34 million. Medical sales amounted to $31.92 million.
The data shows a trend for seasonal sales differences. Cannabis sales spike during the warm summer months and decline beginning in September. In August of last year, Denver dispensaries brought in over $53.6 million, with recreational pot accounting for $35 million. February is the slowest month for cannabis sales in Denver, with just over $29.5 million in sales in 2017.
The numbers released by the DOR in March show that Denver dominates marijuana sales in Colorado with more dispensaries than any other Colorado city. Denver has nearly 1,150 active cannabis business licenses within city limits, 364 of which are for dispensaries. The number of dispensaries in Denver is triple that of those found in Colorado Springs, the state’s runner-up in the number of shops selling legal cannabis.
Only 25 of 64 Colorado counties currently allow recreational marijuana sales. Arapahoe and Douglas counties prohibit retail cannabis sales; however, Aurora, which is part of both counties, does allow recreational sales. Adams and El Paso counties either limit or outright ban retail marijuana.
CBD Continues to Make Progress in Fight to End Cannabis Prohibition
While the end of marijuana prohibition is spreading across the U.S., there are still some states that are reluctant to enter into the brave new world of cannabis. But data compiled by Marijuana Business Daily shows even in states with restrictive cannabis laws, there are still signs of progress–especially when it comes to CBD.
- In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) dropped the list of qualifying conditions for low-THC cannabis, instead allowing physicians to recommend cannabis for any ailment. Before Northam signed the legislation, medical practitioners were only allowed to prescribe cannabis for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of intractable epilepsy.
- A bill that would regulate the distribution and sale of CBD oil was approved unanimously in the Utah Senate and passed in the state House on a 49-20 vote. The House sponsor of the bill, Brad Daw (R), said, “This bill solves an immediate problem where we have a lot of fake product on the shelves right now. I think this bill fulfills our duty to protect consumers, and make sure what they are buying is what they think they are buying.”
- Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is expected to sign a bill that would legalize CBD oil in Indiana. When the bill is signed into law, it will expand CBD access from patients with epilepsy to all adults. While cannabis advocates say the bill is a win for cannabis, many of them are frustrated that the bill requires burdensome labeling that they say will prevent manufacturers to sell their products in the state.
- In Iowa, seven companies have applied to sell low-THC medical cannabis at 21 separate locations. The state is expected to approve licenses for five locations next month. Iowa’s medical marijuana program is in its infancy, and existing rules prohibit marijuana products from being smoked or eaten, and THC potency is limited to 3%.
While access to CBD and cannabis is still quite limited in a number of states, there is movement and incremental change.
Diversity Summit Looks to Empower Minority Cannabiz Leaders
Despite ending marijuana prohibition five years ago, less than 1 percent of licensed cannabis businesses in Colorado are minority-owned, according to the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA). Hoping to change that statistic, the MCBA has partnered with the Hoban Law Group to organize the first annual Cannabis Opportunity Summit. The three-day event will take place March 22-24 in Denver.
Kayvan Khalatbari, Denver mayoral candidate and MCBA board member, said in a press release, “This event recognizes the consequences of the War on Drugs, and outlines best practices to move burgeoning entrepreneurs and businesses forward as we work together to mold the nascent cannabis industry into a better and more equitable industry, not just another industry.”
Event organizers say the summit aims to provide resources, information, and connections to cannabis businesses. The Cannabis Opportunity Summit will include speaker sessions and interactive workshops covering a wide range of topics, including market and opportunity analysis, operational differentiators, community reinvestment, cultural integration, advocacy and lobby training.
It will also feature the launch of MCBA’s expungement and record-sealing clinics in Colorado, which will aim to remove or seal non- violent drug offenses from the permanent records of people looking to gain fairness in employment, housing, and more.
The keynote speaker will be former Denver Broncos and two-time Superbowl champion Terrell Davis.
“As an entrepreneur myself, I am well aware of the struggles that people of color face in the business sector,” Davis said. “And as a professional football player, I’ve seen first-hand how teamwork and collaboration benefit from adopting inclusive hiring practices and policies.”
The MCBA was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization. The group has members in Colorado and across the country. The MCBA aims to bring together minority cannabis entrepreneurs, workers, patients and consumers and to increase diversity within the cannabis industry.
The summit will take place and the Daniels School of Business in Denver, and tickets to the event cost between $25 and $119.
11-OH-THC Responsible for Making Edibles More Potent
Ever wonder why the high produced from smoking versus ingesting cannabis feels different? Look no further than cannabinoid 11-OH-THC.
Most people familiar with marijuana know about the rockstars of the cannabinoid world–THC and CBD–but there are more than 100 other cannabinoids produced by marijuana, including 11-OH-THC. And while THC is known for its psychoactive effects, there’s evidence that 11-OH-THC is more potent than THC.
What does that have to do with smoking versus eating cannabis? That requires a bit of background on cannabinoids and how they’re formed.
Most cannabinoids aren’t actually present in the cannabis plant, but are the result of chemical interactions between our bodies and cannabis. And the way we consume marijuana affects the type and concentration of cannabinoids produced.
When we smoke cannabis, it’s metabolized through the lungs and the absorbed cannabinoids are distributed throughout the body. Smoking cannabis results in only a very small amount of cannabinoids metabolized by the digestive system.
Ingesting cannabis, on the other hand, metabolizes cannabis through the digestive system. The liver breaks down THC molecules, converting them into other molecules to be eliminated from the body. One of the metabolites created during this process is 11-OH-THC. When THC is converted to 11-OH-THC, it becomes more potent.
According to the Prof of Pot:
“The levels of 11-OH-THC in your blood after smoking cannabis are only about 5% of THC levels. This is probably not enough to feel any effects from the 11-OH-THC.
However, after taking cannabis orally, the average levels of 11-OH-THC vary from 25% of THC to more than 300% of THC levels…so some people will have well over 3 times more 11-OH-THC in their body than THC after ingesting cannabis!”
The different levels of THC and 11-OH-THC are probably responsible for the different qualities of high produced from smoking or ingesting marijuana.
Citing a study that compared the potency of THC vs. 11-OH-THC, the Prof of Pot explains, “With this molecule )11-OH-THC), subjects reached nearly an 8 out of 10 on the highness scale, vs. only about a 3 out of 10 for THC.”
Cannabis DNA: Mapping the Genome
Cannabis is credited with a whole host of therapeutic benefits and is effective at treating numerous medical conditions. But, it’s still early days when it comes to testing and researching marijuana, making the benefits of cannabis anecdotal evidence.
Scientists around the country are researching cannabis, hoping to expand our knowledge of the plant. Last month, two Colorado companies announced that they had mapped the cannabis genome. Sunrise Genetics, based in Fort Collins and Boulder-based CBDRx/Functional Remedies teamed up to map cannabis’ 10 chromosomes. Functional Remedies provided cannabis plants for Sunrise Genetics to study.
Understanding the genetic makeup of cannabis will make targeting specific desired effects, like making a consumer feel focused or relaxed, as well as treating specific symptoms, like muscle spasms or insomnia. Much of the current research around cannabis is focused on its medical uses, but there’s also increased focus on the uses of industrial hemp.
CJ Schwartz, chief executive officer of Sunrise Genetics, told Bloomberg, “DNA, of course I’m biased because it’s what I do, but it doesn’t lie. It really is a way to just sort of clear a lot of the b.s. The excessive claims are really doing a disservice to the plant or the potential of the plant and the science surrounding that.”
Matt Gibbs, president of Sunrise Genetics, told Biz West, “In this emerging industry, we all play a role in its success, and finding innovative and forward-thinking partners right here in Colorado has made the benefits of a joint effort to advance the science that benefits the hemp industry that much greater. Together, we look forward to continued expansion upon the map, expansion upon research opportunities,” he said, “and continuing to make better hemp and cannabis genetics.”
The full cannabis genome was presented at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego in January.
Olympic, MMA & NFL Athletes are Fighting for Legal Cannabis
Canadian Ross Rebagliati won gold at the first Olympic snowboarding competition in 1998, but he was stripped of his medal after testing positive for marijuana. Happily for Rebagliati, his medal was returned to him after it was discovered that cannabis wasn’t on the banned substances list and there was no provision in the IOC’s rules for marijuana testing. The committee banned marijuana in 1999.
No one in 1998 could have predicted it, but twenty years later there’s been a sea-change when it comes to cannabis. Last September, the Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that it would remove cannabidiol (CBD) from its 2018 prohibited substances list.
WADA develops the drug code for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as well as 660 other sports organizations, so the decision has significant reach.
But could the ruling by WADA influence the NFL Players Association and other professional sports associations to change their stance on CBD and/or cannabis?
CBD is one of the 60+ compounds found in cannabis, and it produces little to no psychoactive effects. CBD has numerous therapeutic benefits, including relieving pain and inflammation, reducing anxiety, and even preventing and treating traumatic brain injury.
Changes in marijuana laws across the U.S. have helped normalize cannabis use, and there are an increasing number of athletes who want an alternative to opioids and painkillers, and anti-inflammatories.
“CBD can help these athletes feel better during their career, ultimately prolonging it. Then, when their career is over, they don’t leave the game with any addiction or health issues,” said former NFL defensive end Marvin Washington.
In 2016, UFC fighter Nate Diaz received a public warning from the USADA after using a CBD vape after a match. “It’s CBD,” said Diaz. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”