Florida Lifts Ban on Smoking Marijuana
Smoking medical marijuana is now legal in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill on Monday lifting a ban enacted in 2017 on smokable cannabis products.
“Over 70% of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016 and today I signed SB182 ‘Medical Use of Marijuana’ into law. I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld,” DeSantis tweeted. “Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state’s appeal and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional.”
While the new law is effective immediately, cannabis flower and other smokable products most likely won’t be available until this summer. The Florida Department of Health must create guidelines for physicians to prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
Under the new law, medical marijuana patients wishing to smoke cannabis flower must sign an informed consent form acknowledging the health risks associated with smoking. Smoking in public spaces or at private businesses subject to a cigarette smoking ban is prohibited.
Patients under the age of 18 are prohibited from smoking marijuana unless the patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness and receives a second recommendation from a pediatrician.
Qualified medical marijuana patients can buy up to a 210-day supply at a time, which amounts to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 35 days.
Florida has nearly 200,000 registered medical marijuana patients, and the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries expect to see an increase in sales in the tens of millions. Marijuana Business Daily estimated that medical marijuana in Florida earned $200 million-$300 million in 2018. Comparably, in 2017, medical marijuana sales were at $20 million-$40 million.
Florida sets a cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate, but that rule is likely to be challenged. According to the Florida Department of Health, 85% of the state’s 107 dispensaries are operated by just five businesses.
In 2016, voters in Florida approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana. Florida’s former governor, Rick Scott, signed a bill in 2017 banning smokable medical marijuana.
New Jersey About to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
The Garden State could legalize recreational marijuana by the end of this month. After a year of negotiations, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with leaders in the state legislature to legalize adult-use cannabis.
Lawmakers are expected to hold a vote on the legislation on March 25, and the governor could sign in the bill into law later the same week. It’s not clear how soon the bill would go into effect.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” said Gov. Murphy in a press release. “After months of hard work and thoughtful negotiations, I’m thrilled to announce an agreement with my partners in the Legislature on the broad outlines of adult-use marijuana legislation. I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities, while promoting public safety by ensuring a safe product and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on serious crimes.”
The agreement includes a plan for expedited expungement of low-level marijuana convictions as well as provisions to encourage women and minorities to open cannabis businesses.
“The prohibition on marijuana has long been a failed policy,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D). “This plan will bring an end to the adverse effects our outdated drug laws have had on the residents of our state. As a regulated product legalized marijuana will be safe and controlled. It is time to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey and this is a well crafted legal reform that will advance social policy in a fair and effective way.”
According the legislation, a five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission will establish rules for marijuana cultivation and distribution. Three members will be appointed by the governor, and the other two will be chosen by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President.
The state will collect excise tax at a rate $42 per ounce of adult-use marijuana, subject to collection at cultivation. Municipalities with cannabis retailers will collect a 3% tax, 2% from cultivators or manufacturers, and 1% from wholesalers.
Legal Cannabis States Facing Supply Shortages
While cannabis may the same across the country, not all legal-cannabis states regulate it in the same way. Ironing out the particulars of marijuana laws isn’t always straightforward, with regulations leaving some states struggling to keep pace with demand.
Recreational cannabis sales haven’t yet begun in Michigan, but it’s the state’s medical marijuana market that’s been experiencing a serious supply shortage.
In 2016, Michigan passed a law that implemented a five-tiered licensing system to grow, process, test, transport, and sell medical marijuana. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board issued licenses to 54 medical marijuana dispensaries but only 31 cannabis growers, leading to a supply shortage. Michigan has 297,515 registered medical marijuana patients.
Before the 2016 change to the medical marijuana program, licensed dispensaries could buy cannabis from more than 40,000 registered caregivers in the state. Under the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008, caregivers could grow up to 72 plants and sell the excess to dispensaries. In 2016, lawmakers changed the system, requiring licensed dispensaries to buy cannabis from licensed growers.
Under emergency rules in effect up until late last year, around 215 unlicensed dispensaries were still able to buy medical marijuana from caregivers, putting licensed dispensaries at a disadvantage. As of Dec. 31, 2018, all unlicensed dispensaries were forced to close, and the shortage of product from growers forced even some licensed dispensaries to shut their doors temporarily.
In an effort to solve the cannabis supply problem and the slow licensing process, newly-elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order to eliminate the state licensing board and create a new Marijuana Regulatory Agency. The executive order will also allow unlicensed cannabis facilities to temporarily reopen and allow them to purchase cannabis from caregivers while new licensing regulations are put in place.
Illinois isn’t currently facing a cannabis shortage, but a new study commissioned by state legislators has found that legal recreational marijuana demand could exceed what licensed growers could supply. The report found that demand for recreational cannabis could be as high as 555,000 pounds of marijuana a year.
Under the state’s medical marijuana program, there are 16 licensed cannabis cultivators. The study found that with the current number of marijuana growers, they could only meet 35 to 54 percent of the demand for recreational marijuana. While shortages are a concern, the report notes that oversupply of cannabis is equally important to avoid.
“Systems that either dramatically fall short of demand or that oversupply the market create public policy challenges,” according to the report. “Avoiding both is an important expectation from the public, from producers, and from public health and public safety officials.”
If market demands were met, the report found that Illinois could bring in at least $440 million in tax revenue annually.
State Sen. Heather Steans (D) and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) commissioned the report ahead of introducing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.
Similar to the medical marijuana situation in Michigan, slow-licensing and expiring temporary permits may cause a recreational marijuana shortage in California. Before the state finalized recreational marijuana regulations last year, most cannabis companies were operating under temporary licenses. Nearly 10,000 temporary licenses are set to expire this year, and the backlog of applications means that some dispensaries and cannabis grows may need to close temporarily before they are issued full annual permits.
Last month, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D) introduced Senate Bill 67 in an effort to keep cannabis companies with temporary permits in operation. The bill would allow the state’s three licensing authorities to extend existing temporary licenses while the bottleneck in licensing is addressed.
In a hearing for the bill, Terra Carver, the executive director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, told lawmakers, “Without passage of this bill, there will be dire consequences, such as the imminent market collapse of hundreds of businesses.”
However, the soonest the bill could pass in the state legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newson (D) won’t be for at least two months.
“Best-case scenario, making it through all policy committees and off the floor of the Senate and Assembly in the next 60-90 days,” McGuire told Marijuana Business Daily. In the meantime, thousands of cannagrows and recreational marijuana dispensaries could be forced to close temporarily.
Denver City Council Makes Social Use Regulations Permanent
Denver’s social cannabis consumption pilot program was set to expire in 2020, but Denver City Council voted 10-1 to remove the sunset date, making the program permanent.
In 2016, Denverites approved Initiative 300, which was designed to allow businesses to establish indoor cannabis consumption areas. Private, invitation-only consumption events were already legal, but I-300 made it possible for businesses like yoga studios, art galleries, hotels, concert venues, and coffee shops to wade into the cannabis industry.
Since I-300 was enacted in 2017, the program has been plagued with problems. The sunset provision made it difficult for cannabis entrepreneurs to secure loans and investors, as well as physical space for their businesses. Leases for commercial buildings are typically three to five years, so before the sunset provision was eliminated, social use businesses would have to commit to a lease that would outlast the regulations.
Additional difficulties include restrictions on where social consumption lounges can set up shop, limiting the number of potential properties available. Marijuana businesses hoping to be licensed for social use must gain approval from nearby neighborhood or business groups, be located 1,000 feet away from schools, daycare facilities, drug treatment centers, city pools, and recreation centers.
Moreover, because of state restrictions, licensed consumption businesses are prohibited from allowing indoor smoking, cannabis sales, or alcohol consumption. Proposed legislation could ease some of these restrictions, making cannabis lounges more viable.
Denver City Council has been looking at ways to improve Denver’s social use program, and removing the sunset provision was the first step.
The only opposition to removing the sunset provision came from Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn. “I don’t believe that simply repealing the sunset, which voters had approved and authors of the initiative included, is going to make any difference in the context of all the other changes that would have to be looked at before this program would take off,” Flynn said. “I don’t see that removing the sunset would result in any new businesses suddenly coming forward, with all the other restrictions that I believe are truly the reason that more of these licenses have not been sought by other business.”
Since I-300 was enacted in 2017, the city has received just five applications. One of those applications was rejected, one was rescinded, one is still under review, and two were approved. The Coffee Joint in west Denver was the first business granted a social use license and is currently the only social pot business in operation. A second marijuana consumption lounge, Vape and Play, closed just a month after opening.
Cannabis Brings New Life to Small Towns
Ten years ago, Smiths Falls in Ontario was a small town in trouble. In the midst of a recession, the main employers in the area, including Canada’s largest Hershey’s chocolate factory, pulled up stakes, taking more than 1,500 jobs with them.
In a community of fewer than 9,000 people, the loss of so many jobs was devastating. Along with their income, people lost their homes and cars, grocery stores closed, and many of the town’s residents chose to move away.
Smiths Falls’ mayor, Shawn Pankow, said, “It was a five-year period there where it was hard to find any good news.”
That all changed in 2013, when Tweed Inc. and its parent company, Canopy Growth Corp. moved into Hershey’s old factory. Initially, the medical marijuana company promised the town about 150 jobs.
“And then Justin Trudeau comes along and says, ‘You know, we should think about recreational cannabis.’ And there was a lot of smiles in this building,” said Jordan Sinclair, vice president of communication for Canopy Grown Corp.
When Canada legalized recreational marijuana in October 2018, the company shipped more than a million cannabis orders in four weeks.
Five years after setting up shop, Canopy is the largest pot company in the world and employees more than 3,000 people globally. And Smiths Falls has gone from a virtual ghost town to the unofficial weed capital of Canada.
Carol Lawrence, who was once a tour guide at the Hershey factory, is now a tour guide for the Tweed visitor center.
“If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be standing working at a cannabis factory, I would look at them and say they’re crazy,” said Lawrence, “And look at me now.”
Smiths Falls isn’t the only small town revitalized by marijuana. Trinidad, Durango, and Cortez are three small communities in southern Colorado near the New Mexico border. Like Smiths Falls, the area was experiencing an economic depression, few jobs, and a falling population.
Nick Cordova, a local restaurant and hotel owner in Trinidad, said, “Before marijuana came here, the town was dead. Half the population was gone. Half the town was abandoned. Half the downtown buildings were abandoned and run down. Without weed, half this town wouldn’t be here. Literally.”
Since recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado in 2014, the population of Trinidad has nearly doubled, and these three small towns bring in the most cannabis sales per capita in the state. Last year, Cortez added $250,000 of marijuana taxes to their city budget, while Durango added around $400,000. Trinidad brought in the most tax revenue by far at an estimated $3 million.
Location is a big reason why these towns have thrived from cannabis dollars–a majority of marijuana purchases are made by people who travel from nearby New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Cannabis is bringing new opportunities and revenue to towns that were in desperate need of hope.
February 2019 Cannabis News Highlights
Canada finalizing rules for marijuana edibles
Canadians have until Feb. 20 to submit feedback to Health Canada before final marijuana edible regulations are released this summer. Canada legalized adult-use cannabis sales in Oct. 2018, but restricted the sale of marijuana edibles, infused beverages, concentrates, and topicals until Oct. 17, 2019.
Unlike regulations in the U.S., the proposed Canadian regulations will limit marijuana edibles and infused beverages to 10 milligrams of THC, regardless of whether it’s sold for medical or recreational use. Some experts in the marijuana industry worry that the low-THC limit will encourage black market sales.
“By limiting the entire packages to 10 milligrams of THC, the regulators will increase the amount of packaging waste associated with edible cannabis products and make legal businesses less competitive against the black-market operators that aren’t restrained on edible potency,” said Jordan Wellington, chief compliance officer at Denver-based Simplifya.
Unlike edibles, the limit for marijuana concentrates and topicals will be significantly higher, allowing up to 1000 milligrams of THC for both medical and recreational use.
Legal marijuana sales reach $6 billion in Colorado
Since legal adult-use sales began in 2014, Colorado has sold $6 billion in medical and recreational marijuana. Recreational cannabis sales in the state have continued to increase, while medical marijuana sales have fallen. According to Marijuana Business Daily, there was a 20% decrease in MMJ sales between 2017-2018, from $416 million to $332 million. Medical marijuana sales reached a market high in 2016, at $445 million.
Recreational sales in Colorado have grown steadily since 2014. Adult-use cannabis sales in 2017 reached $1 billion, while sales in 2018 reached $1.2 billion, an 11% increase. There was a huge leap in cannabis sales between 2016 and 2017 when sales increased by 49%. In 2014, the state sold just $303 million in adult-use cannabis.
European Parliament votes to increase access to medical marijuana
The European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution that would incentivize cannabis research, clinical studies, and access to medical marijuana among European Union countries. The vote follows a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that cannabis should be rescheduled under international drug treaties.
The resolution is non-binding, meaning that it doesn’t actually change any marijuana laws in EU countries, but it does show increased support for ending cannabis prohibition. In addition, the resolution calls for a commission to “define the conditions required to enable creditable, independent scientific research based on a wide range of material to be conducted into the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes” and to “address the regulatory, financial and cultural barriers” that have prevented cannabis research.
Congress holds cannabis banking hearing
Access to banking has long been an issue in the cannabis industry, with marijuana businesses having little-to-no-access to banking services. For the past six years, Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and Danny Heck (D-Washington) have filed the “Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act” (SAFE) that would eliminate restrictions that prevent insurance and federal financial institutions from working with marijuana businesses. On Wednesday, the SAFE Banking Act received its first hearing in the House Financial Services Committee.
For cannabis companies, lack of access to banking creates challenges that companies in other sectors don’t have to tackle. Cannabis businesses are often forced to run cash-only operations, increasing the risk of crime, and regular business transactions like getting a loan, or paying employees and taxes are much more difficult.
Some credit unions have taken on banking for cannabis companies, but the American Bankers Association told the House Financial Services Committee that, “the majority of financial institutions will not take the legal, regulatory or reputational risk associated with banking cannabis-related businesses without congressional action,” and that access to banking services would make cannabis businesses “safer and better regulated.”
World Health Organization Won’t Regulate CBD, Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new recommendations to reschedule cannabis and its chemical components under international drug treaties. WHO also clarified its position on CBD, recommending that cannabidiol containing less than 0.2% of THC “should not be under international control.”
The report, which hasn’t yet been formally released, recommends that whole plant cannabis and cannabis resin should be removed from Schedule IV and be downgraded to a Schedule I substance.
Currently, THC in all forms is included under both the 1971 and 1961 treaties, creating confusion. The new recommendations would remove THC from the 1971 Convention and place it in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention.
Pharmaceutical preparations of THC, including medications like Sativex, would be categorized as Schedule III under the 1961 Convention.
Under international drug treaties, Schedule IV is the most-restrictive category, whereas in the U.S. the most-restrictive category is Schedule I. Drugs in the most-restrictive category are considered to have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse.
Michael Krawitz, a legalization advocate and U.S. Air Force veteran, told Forbes, “the placement of cannabis in the 1961 treaty, in the absence of scientific evidence, was a terrible injustice. Today the World Health Organization has gone a long way towards setting the record straight. It is time for us all to support the World Health Organization’s recommendations and ensure politics don’t trump science.”
Despite acknowledging the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, the WHO recommendations won’t throw open the door to international legalization. As Tom Angell explains, “the practical effects of the changes would be somewhat limited, in that they wouldn’t allow countries to legalize marijuana and still be in strict compliance with international treaties, but their political implications are hard to overstate.”
The biggest implications for WHO’s recommendations are for CBD. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a memo recommending removing CBD from the Controlled Substances Act. However, international drug treaties that require the regulation of cannabis, including CBD, prevented the change.
However, in the memo, the FDA noted that “if treaty obligations do not require control of CBD, or if the international controls on CBD change in the future, this recommendation will need to be promptly revisited.”
WHO’s recommendations were expected in December, but its release was delayed. Members of the United Nations could vote on the recommendations in March, but the delay in the release of the report could mean that the vote is pushed back until 2020.
Colorado Legislature to Add Autism to Medical Marijuana Conditions
Autism could soon be added to the list of qualifying medical conditions eligible to be treated with medical marijuana in Colorado.
HB 1028 would enable children under the age of 18 with autism to be treated with medical cannabis, provided they have the approval of two physicians. However, the bill would eliminate the current requirement of a diagnosis from a primary care pediatrician, family physician, or psychiatrist.
Recent research suggests that cannabis can be therapeutically beneficial in treating symptoms of autism, including epileptic seizures, rage attacks, tics, and restlessness. A study published in the journal Nature on January 17, “Real life Experience of Medical Cannabis Treatment in Autism: Analysis of Safety and Efficacy,” found that “cannabis in ASD (autism spectrum disorder) patients appears to be well tolerated, safe and effective option to relieve symptoms associated with ASD.”
Exactly why cannabis is effective at treating patients with autism isn’t clear, though it may have to do with helping to regulate the endocannabinoid system. The study also found that patients treated with THC saw improvements in interpersonal communication and anxiety levels as well as a reduction in nocturnal motor activity, violence, behavioral and severity of behavioral disorders.” The study found that treatment with CBD could also lead to an improvement of behavioral symptoms.
The authors of the study caution that this was an observational study with no control group, and that further research is needed.
In November, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment awarded $1.35 million to the Colorado Children’s Hospital for a three-year study on how CBD affects children and adolescents with autism.
However, many parents with children who have severe autism symptoms don’t need to wait for more research to tell them what they anecdotally know: medical cannabis is a safe, effective treatment. Jamie Gomez, who has a 3-year-old son with severe autism, testified at the health committee hearing. She told CBS4, “We have already tried multiple medications that have not worked for him.”
HB 1028 passed the health committee 10-1 and will now head to the House floor for debate. Jared Polis, the new governor of Colorado, has indicated that he would sign the bill into law. Last year, a similar bill was vetoed by then Governor John Hickenlooper.
Mountain High Suckers Receives Better Business Bureau A+ Rating
Mountain High Suckers is extremely proud to announce that we have joined the latest group of cannabis based businesses to become A+ accredited by working with the Better Business Bureau through their new cannabis program. The Better Business Bureau has been working closely with Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division to properly vet cannabis businesses including verifying licensing info and communicating directly with businesses regarding complaints. The BBB says it decided to move forward in working together with cannabis businesses due to positive input from cannabis business owners and industry leaders.
Speaking on behalf of Mountain High Suckers in the latest press release from the BBB, our Director of Operations Mike Erdman said, “For us it’s about perception. We’ve been in business almost 10 years and never been able to operate as a normal business would. The inability to have the same services under the same day-to-day practices as other businesses is pervasive throughout every aspect of the cannabis industry, and we’ve struggled against it daily just by the nature of who we are and what we do.”
“We’ve always been honest people doing an honest day’s work and providing an honest product and this brief glimpse of normality in BBB offering accreditation provides legitimacy we are desperately trying to achieve. It’s an important step forward.”
Consumers can now visit the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.bbb.org directly to look up other accredited cannabis businesses, their ratings and their reviews. Note that the BBB doesn’t make any judgement related to the products themselves; the reviews will be solely focused on how cannabis businesses interact with other businesses and how they handle complaints. The BBB also only covers cannabis businesses operating within legal states where an accreditation system is in place.
About the Better Business Bureau
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit www.bbb.org for more information.
Colorado Cannabis Dollars at Work
There’s a new session of the Colorado General Assembly, and that means a slew of new bills about how cannabis revenue in the state is spent. Here are some of the ways your cannabis tax dollars could be used for good in the year ahead:
- HB 1031, introduced by Representative Matt Gray, would allow medical marijuana patients under the age of 18 to have more than one primary caregiver at a time. The bill would make a big difference to families with children who use CBD oil to treat epileptic seizures or other medical conditions. Currently, the law allows only one parent or guardian to administer and purchase medical cannabis.”This is a common-sense idea. The idea that one parent can give their kid medicine and the other can’t is kind of ridiculous,” Gray told Westword.
- HB 1096, the “Colorado Right to Rest Act,” would prohibit discrimination based on housing status as well as establishing basic rights for those experiencing homelessness, “including but not limited to the right to rest in public spaces, to shelter themselves from the elements, to eat or accept food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their property.”The bill is sponsored by Representative Jovan Melton and would seek up to $10 million in marijuana tax revenue over three years.
- A bill to Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment Pilot Program, SB 001, would continue and expand a bill enacted in 2017 that created a two-year medication-assisted treatment (MAT) pilot program. The 2017 bill is administered by the University of Colorado College of Nursing and expanded access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence to Pueblo and Routt counties. SB 001 would expand the pilot program to include counties in the San Luis Valley and two additional counties. Responsibility for administering the program would shift to the Center for Research into substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery and support strategies.Annual appropriation funds would increase to $5 million for the 2019-’20 and 2020-’21 fiscal years as well as extending the pilot program for an additional two years. The bill is sponsored by Senator Leroy Garcia.
- Senator Nancy Todd and Representative Bri Buentello introduced SB 066, a bill that would create a trust fund for high-cost special education “to be used for high-cost special education trust fund grants to public school special education administrative units that have made significant expenditures in providing special education services to a child with a disability.”The bill would have an annual appropriation equal to 2 percent of the amount available for appropriation from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.
- Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools (SB 010), sponsored by Senator Rhonda Fields, Representative Barbara McLachlan, and Representative Donald Valdez, allows “grant money to be used for behavioral health care services at recipient schools and specifies that grants may also fund behavioral health services contracts with community providers.” SB 010 doesn’t actually request additional funding for grans, but the General Assembly does have the option of appropriating additional funds from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.The Department of Education would be required to prioritize grant applications based on the school’s need for additional health professionals and would allow school districts to enter into agreements with ” specified groups to implement evidence-based, school-wide behavior supports and strategies to build and support positive school climates, including providing behavioral health services and support; implement strategies to reduce the incidence of suspension and expulsion; and implement alternatives to suspension or expulsion.”
- HB 1008 would amend the existing “Building Excellent Schools Today Act” to include grants to support career and technical education in public schools. The bill would include funding to support:
- New construction or retrofitting of public school facilities for certain career and technical education programs; and
- Equipment necessary for individual student learning and classroom instruction, including equipment that provides access to instructional materials or that is necessary for professional use by a classroom teacher.
Funding for the bill wouldn’t be funded exclusively from marijuana tax dollars. Instead it would come from a combination of State Land Board proceeds, Colorado Lottery spillover funds, and interest accrued in the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. Matching funds from grant recipients would be required. HB 1008 is sponsored by Senator Nancy Todd, Senator Paul Lundeen, Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp, and Representative Colin Larson.
H.R. 420 Would Regulate Cannabis like Alcohol, Deschedule Marijuana
On Jan. 9, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or) introduced a bill, H.R. 420, that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Dubbed the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,” the bill would allow state governments to regulate cannabis.
“While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious,” said Blumenauer in a press release. “Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives. Congress cannot continue to be out of touch with a movement that a growing majority of Americans support. It’s time to end this senseless prohibition.”
Responsibility for enforcement of marijuana laws would be moved from the US Drug Enforcement Administration to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Marijuana, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Cultivating, packaging, selling, and importing cannabis would be regulated with federal permits.
Blumenauer, who is co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, picked up the legislation from former Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Colorado’s newly sworn-in governor. When Polis sponsored a version of the bill during he last Congress, the bill gained the support of 26 cosponsors.
The support for ending cannabis prohibition is higher than ever. In an Oct. 2018 Gallup poll, 2 out of 3 Americans support national legalization.
Descheduling cannabis would allow federal funding of cannabis research, as well as allowing cannabis businesses to access banking services.
The legislation would potentially allow selling cannabis across state lines, which would help states with a surplus of cannabis. However, selling or transporting marijuana would be prohibited for states that have not legalized cannabis.
H.R. 420 is the third piece of cannabis legislation filed so far in the new Congress. Even if H.R. 420 fails to gain traction in Congress, the Congressional Cannabis Caucus has a plan to move marijuana legalization forward in 2019. They recently release a step-by-step plan to end federal cannabis prohibition.
“The Cannabis Caucus was the first of its kind to create a forum for elected officials to collaborate on ways to address our outdated federal marijuana laws,” Blumenauer said in a public statement. “Congress is clearly out of step with the American people on cannabis when national support for federal marijuana legalization is at an all-time high and we saw several states move toward legalization last November.”
2018: The Year in Weed
Another year, more legal cannabis! 2018 saw a ton of changes in the cannabis industry and support for legalization is at an all-time high.
These were some of the biggest cannabis stories of 2018:
California Adult-Use Sales
On January 1, recreational marijuana sales officially began in California. The state is home to nearly 40 million people, and the potential cannabis revenue is in the billions. Changing regulations, licensing delays, high taxes, local cannabis bans, and testing snafus caused a less than smooth roll-out of adult-use sales in the state. California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), charged with issuing licenses to retailers and distributors, initially issued businesses licenses to eighty-eight stores in 34 cities. As of December, the BCC has issued 547 temporary licenses to recreational marijuana dispensaries, still on the low end to supply the market adequately. Only 70 of California’s 482 cities allows recreational cannabis retail stores, but recent changes in regulations will allow cannabis deliveries throughout the state.
Massachusetts also began adult-use sales this year, with the first recreational dispensaries opening in November.
FDA Approves Cannabis Epilepsy Medication, Pushes to Deschedule CBD
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived medication used to treat certain forms of epilepsy, in June. Epidiolex, developed by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, is made from CBD and contains no THC.
In October, the FDA released a memo advising the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that CBD has “negligible potential for abuse,” “currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and that any abuse “may lead to limited physical dependence.” As a result, the FDA recommended that the DEA reschedule CBD under its least restrictive category, Schedule 5.
Canada Legalizes Marijuana Nationwide
On October 17, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize adult-use cannabis. Uruguay was the first country to legalize cannabis in 2013. In June, the Senate and House of Commons passed the Cannabis Act, making it legal for adults 18 years-and-older to purchase, possess, and grow cannabis. Canadians will be able to cultivate up to four plants and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public. There’s no limit to the amount of cannabis residents can possess in their homes.
November’s mid-term elections resulted in huge wins for adult-use and medical marijuana legalization. Michigan was the first state in the Midwest and the 10th in the country to approve recreational marijuana. The first recreational dispensaries are expected to open in 2019 or 2020.
In Missouri and Utah voters were in favor of medical marijuana, a watershed moment in states that have traditionally opposed marijuana use. Missouri had three medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot, but Amendment 2 was the only one to pass with 65 percent approval. In Utah, Proposition 2 met voter approval, despite opposition from the Mormon Church.
Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp
The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, legalizing its use as an agricultural product. While the bill didn’t deschedule CBD, it did legalize CBD extraction from hemp. The bill will enable farmers to grow, sell, and export industrial hemp, and opens the door for researchers studying CBD and other cannabinoids. Moving hemp to legal status will make banking and advertising in the industry more accessible, and this could be another step closer to nationwide cannabis legalization.
California Allows Cannabis Delivery, Sets Final Marijuana Regulations
After months of tweaks, regulators have finalized rules for California’s recreational marijuana industry. The regulations were drafted by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and must receive approval from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) before becoming permanent.
Here are some of the key regulations:
Cannabis delivery statewide
One of the most debated regulations involved cannabis delivery in the state. The California League of Cities and law enforcement groups were opposed to statewide deliveries, arguing that it would undermine local government control and increase crime. However, the BCC decided that the language of Proposition 64 permits statewide deliveries, even if the local municipality bans cannabis.
Packaging and exit bags
Packaging headaches seem part and parcel of the cannabis industry, and California cannabis manufacturers should expect more “regulatory whiplash.” Cannabis manufacturers and growers have until 2020 to ensure their packaging is child-resistant. Until then, dispensaries and retailers will need to place cannabis products in resealable exit packaging.
Revised testing requirements
As of July 1, mandatory testing of all cannabis products, including flower and edibles, were required to undergo testing for pesticides, pathogens, and potency. In the first two months of testing, there was a 20-percent failure rate, which has since dropped to 14 percent. Of the 23,864 products tested between July and November, 2,100 products didn’t make it to shelves because the label overestimated the amount of THC.
Sequoia Analytical Labs surrendered its testing license after state regulators discovered that the company was falsifying test results and not testing for pesticides and other contaminants.
Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association said that it’s an “open secret” that some cannabis manufacturers have paid testing companies for favorable results.
“We don’t want to create a pay-to-play system with our testing labs,” said Drayton. “We do need to make sure we get standard operating procedures.”
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and voters approved Proposition 64 legalizing recreational cannabis in 2016. Adult-use sales began Jan. 1, 2018. Cannabis research firms ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics estimate that California will generate $4.7 billion in recreational cannabis sales and $300 million in medical marijuana sales in 2019.
Farm Bill Allows Cultivation of Hemp & CBD
The Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill 87-13 on Tuesday, a huge step towards legalizing hemp cultivation. The bill would remove industrial hemp from the federal government’s list of controlled substances and categorize it as an agricultural product. The bill would also allow CBD and other cannabinoid extraction.
The Hemp Farming Act was originally introduced by Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden before being included in the 2018 Farm Bill by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Not only will farmers be able to grow, sell and export industrial hemp, it will also make it easier for researchers who want to study hemp oil products, CBD, and other cannabinoids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will oversee hemp production, but states will be in charge of regulating and testing industrial hemp.
Any CBD extracted from hemp must be below 0.3 percent THC. Hemp producers whose plants exceed the THC threshold will not be subject to drug charges, but they must submit a plan to correct the “hot” hemp.
Legalizing hemp will open the door for banking, advertising, and insurance, access to which has long been a hurdle in the cannabis industry.
Other key elements of the bill include:
- Allowing the sale and transportation of hemp and hemp-derived CBD across state lines.
- Placing no restrictions on how hemp can be used, including for CBD and other cannabinoid extraction.
- Hemp cultivation will be legal in all 50 states and overseen by the USDA; however, individual states will be the primary regulators. The USDA must consult with the U.S. attorney general before creating rules applicable to hemp production.
- Unlike the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp cultivation will be allowed in U.S. territories and on Indian tribal land.
- Hemp companies will be able to apply for patents, trademarks and other intellectual property protections under federal law.
- Allowing access to federally-backed farm support programs like federal water access, crop insurance, and low-interest loans for new farmers.
The bill will need to pass in the House and be signed by President Trump before it becomes law.
Researchers Discover How Marijuana and Hemp Evolved Separately
Researchers at the University of Toronto have completed mapping the cannabis sativa genome and have discovered how CBD and THC evolved in hemp and marijuana.
Hemp and cannabis are both species of the Cannabis sativa family, but while they share 85% of the same proteins, the two strains evolved distinct chemical properties. Hemp produces an abundance of the cannabidiol CBD while cannabis contains more of the psychoactive cannabidiol THC.
By mapping the cannabis genome, researchers discovered that marijuana and hemp evolved into separate species of the same plant through the action of virus-like DNA segments called retroelements. About ten million years ago, one of these virus-like infections spread through the Cannabis sativa species, changing the DNA of the plant and replicating itself into what scientists call “junk DNA.” The mutation changed the chemical compounds the plants created, and selective breeding by humans reinforced these characteristics.
“The researchers believe that gene duplication of the ancestral synthase gene and expanding retroelements drove ancient cannabis to split into chemically distinct types. Humans subsequently selected for plants containing desirable chemistry such as high THC,” according to U of T News.
Other findings in the study included the discovery of the gene responsible for producing a cannabinoid called cannabichromene (CBC), which may also have some psychoactive properties. There are hundreds of cannabinoids, many of which are still unknown. Mapping the cannabis genome means that more cannabinoids can be discovered and studied, leading to “new strains with desired medical properties as well as varieties that can be grown more sustainably, or with increased resistance to diseases and pests.”
Until now, producing cannabis plants that do not produce any THC has been unsuccessful. However the chromosome map “should make it possible to separate them during breeding to grow plants without THC.”
Tim Hughes and researchers at the University of Toronto, Jonathan Page of Aurora Cannabis and the University of British Columbia, and Harm van Bakel of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai collaborated on the research. The study was published in the Journal of Genome Research.
A first draft of the study was originally released in 2011; however, it was still incomplete, something the researchers blame on restrictions in cannabis research.
“Mainstream science has still not done enough because of research restrictions,” says Page. “Legalization and looming ease of research regulation really provide for opportunities for more research to be done. And Canada is leading the way.”
Marijuana Business Con Draws Record Attendees
MJBizCon in Las Vegas had its biggest year yet, with a record-breaking 27,000 people attending the annual conference aimed at marijuana professionals and investors.
Jeanette Horton, a vendor at the conference and VP of Global Marketing Communications, said, “It’s surreal. It’s so buzzy and energetic. It’s hard to believe how fast it’s grown.”
Since the first MJBizCon in 2011, the annual cannabis conference has grown immensely. According to Trade Show Executive Magazine, MJBizCon is the fastest-growing retail trade show in the United States.
- The number of attendees at this year’s conference represented an increase of 52 percent from the 2017 convention. In 2017, 18,000 cannabis professionals attended the convention, an increase from 2016 of 67 percent.
- Canada represented the largest number of attendees from outside of the U.S, accounting for just under 70 percent of non-U.S. attendees. About 13 percent of the conference attendees were from outside the U.S, and there were attendees from 70 different countries.
- 1,028 cannabis companies exhibited at MJBizCon, a 38 percent increase from 2017. Last year, a total of 678 marijuana businesses attended the conference, up from 321 exhibitors in 2016.
- Companies involved in the cannabis industry span many different business sectors, including manufacturing, grow and cultivation, investing and marketing, legal services, technology, and consulting. Speakers and panels covered topics like investment, data analytics, branding, compliance, minorities and women in cannabis.
The growth of MJBizCon reflects the increasing number of states in the U.S. legalizing medical and adult-use cannabis. Last month, voters in Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and voters in Missouri and Utah legalized medical cannabis. Adult-use cannabis is legal in ten states plus Washington, D.C. and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.
Chris Walsh, the founding editor and vice president of Marijuana Business Daily, who hosts the event, said at the conference, “I’ve been chronicling and analyzing this industry for the past seven-plus years, and for the first time I can potentially see a federal change coming within the next year.”
“There will be a big crack in the marijuana legalization dam in the U.S.,” Walsh said. “So much pressure is building up in significant areas – in the business community, in the investor world, in the general population, in this global movement – that lawmakers must start to pay more attention.”
Massachusetts Begins Adult-Use Cannabis Sales
Voters in Massachusetts legalized adult-use marijuana back in 2016, and two long years later, the state’s first recreational dispensaries opened Tuesday.
Adult-use pot shops opened in Leicester and Northampton, making them the first retail stores on the East Coast to have legalized recreational sales. The first customer at the dispensary in Northampton was Mayor David Narkewicz, who said that he would be displaying his purchase “because it is historically significant.”
“There has been marijuana use going on in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a long, long time. What’s changing is it’s now being regulated. It’s now being tested. It’s now being strictly monitored. That’s really the major change that’s happening,” Narkewizc said.
The first customer at Leicester’s recreational marijuana shop was Stephen Mandile, a disabled Iraq War veteran treating PTSD, a traumatic brain injury and chronic pain with cannabis.
“It’s an honor, something amazing. I probably dreamed about it back in high school that this day would happen sometime. I’ll be smoking some history later on today,” Mandile said.
Under Massachusetts law, adults 21 and older can buy up to an ounce of flower or its equivalent in concentrate, or 20 servings of edibles. Edibles can contain no more than 5 milligrams of THC for a single serving, and a package of edibles can contain no more than 20 individual servings.
Recreational marijuana is subject to a 6.25% state sales tax, 10.75% state excise tax, and 3% local tax. Medical marijuana is untaxed in Massachusetts.
The rollout licensed adult-use dispensaries in Massachusetts will continue to be slow. Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission issued licenses to two more dispensaries in Salem and Easthampton, and a third dispensary is expected to open in the near future in the town or Wareham near Cape Cod. More than half the state’s population lives in the greater Boston area, but as of now, there are no retail cannabis shops nearby.
Cannabis Wins Big in Midterm Elections
Election Day is finally behind us, and there were big wins for marijuana legalization. Three of the four states that had cannabis on the ballot voted to end cannabis prohibition. Here’s how the votes played out in Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri, and Utah:
Michigan is the first state in the Midwest and the 10th in the country to approve recreational marijuana. Voters approved Proposal 1 by a 56-44 percent margin. Michiganders 21-and-older will legally be able to possess 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana or 15 grams of concentrate, grow up to 12 cannabis plants and store up to 10 ounces from those plants. There will be a 10% tax on adult-use marijuana sales, with revenue going towards regulatory and implementation costs, as well as to municipalities, clinical research, schools, and roads.
The measure takes effect ten days after election results are certified, but don’t expect to buy adult-use marijuana at the store until 2019 or 2020.
North Dakota was the only one of four states with cannabis initiatives to on the ballot to vote against marijuana legalization. Measure 3 was unlike other proposed cannabis legislation in that it would not have set limits on how much an adult 21-and-over could grow or possess and did not include language regarding regulation and taxes. Marijuana convictions would have been expunged.
The initiative was rejected by a 41-59 percent margin. Medical marijuana is already legal in North Dakota.
In Missouri, voters approved Amendment 2, which will amend the state constitution to allow medical marijuana. Amendment 2 was one of three medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot and passed with 65 percent approval. The other two initiatives, Amendment 3 and Proposition C, did not garner enough votes to pass.
Amendment 2 will allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for ten qualifying medical conditions and patients will be able to cultivate up to six plants. Medical marijuana in the state will be taxed at 4%, with tax revenue going toward regulatory costs and healthcare services for veterans.
Despite the Mormon church’s opposition to passing medical marijuana legislation in Utah, voters in the state approved Proposition 2. The approval of the initiative will allow adults with qualifying medical conditions (including PTSD, cancer, HIV, epilepsy, chronic pain, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS) to consume cannabis. Smoking marijuana will not be permitted, however, and all cannabis consumption must be in the form of edibles, tinctures, oils, or vaporizers.
Proposition 2 passed with a 53-47 percent margin and may have brought more Utahns to the polls. According to a poll released in October, 1 of 5 respondents cited the cannabis initiative as their primary motivation for participating in the election.
California Dispensary Group Files Trademark for the Word ‘Cannabis’
California-based MedMen Enterprises has filed a federal application to trademark the word “cannabis” for use on t-shirts and other clothing, according to Marijuana Business Daily. The application was submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Oct. 3.
MedMen has previously been granted a trademark for a marijuana leaf design for t-shirts in 2017. However, unlike the word “cannabis,” MedMen’s cannabis leaf design is stylized, not a generic image.
If the USPTO grants MedMen the trademark, other cannabis firms wouldn’t be able to use “cannabis” on t-shirts or other clothing without infringing on the trademark.
Frank Herrera, a managing attorney of H New Media Law in Florida, expressed doubt that MedMen would be granted the trademark.
“There are several (trademarks) that include cannabis for clothing, but they all are used in connection with other terms and/or are stylized,” Herrera told Marijuana Business Daily.
“Simply attempting to register the word cannabis alone and not stylized (with logos or a design, for example) for clothing will not work, in my opinion.”
Herrera said that the USPTO “will most likely reject the application” because the word “cannabis” is in common use, and that there are likely other companies who have been using “cannabis” on clothing that could have senior common law rights.
Brian Frye, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, told Leafly that even if MedMen is granted the trademark, they might have a hard time enforcing it.
“The problem is that [registering ‘cannabis’ for use on clothing] is a very weak mark, and is almost certainly unenforceable,” he said. “Why? Because consumers are very unlikely to form associations with the mark ‘cannabis’ as used in a t-shirt, and certainly haven’t yet.”
“This is to say” he added, “that even if MedMen’s registration application is approved—and I think that is a tossup, at best, as it is very weak with little or no evidence of current distinctiveness I know of—it will be very difficult or impossible to enforce as registered.”
Cannabis at the Ballot Box: Which States Will Legalize?
Four states have marijuana initiatives on the ballot this November, two to legalize recreational marijuana and two to legalize medical marijuana. With voting less than a week away, here’s everything you need to know about which states could legalize cannabis.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and MI Legalize are the main backers of Proposal 1, the ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older. Should the initiative pass, anyone meeting the age requirement would be able to “possess, use, transport, or process 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana or 15 grams of marijuana concentrate.” It would also be legal to “share or transfer without payment” up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to another person over 21 years old. Individuals would be able to grow up to 12 cannabis plants and store up to 10 ounces from those plants. A 10% tax would apply to all adult-use marijuana sales and would go toward regulatory and implementation costs, as well as to municipalities, clinical research, schools, and roads. Unlike some other states, individuals with previous marijuana convictions would not be pardoned or expunged.
A poll conducted in May by Victory Phones found that 48% of respondents support cannabis legalization, while another poll conducted the same month by Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research found support for the initiative at 61%.
North Dakota’s approach to legalization is unique. Measure 3 would legalize adult-use cannabis for those 21 and older and also remove “hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinols” from the state’s list of Schedule I substances. Marijuana convictions would be expunged and convicting anyone over 21 for growing, selling, possessing, or testing cannabis would be prohibited. On top of that, North Dakota would not regulate marijuana in any way–no limits on how much a person could grow or possess.
There’s limited polling data in North Dakota, but a survey of voters conducted in February by Kitchens Group found that 46% of respondents supported Measure 3, while 15% were undecided.
Missouri doesn’t just have one medical marijuana initiative on the ballot; they have three. While that might sound like a good thing, the competing measures could confusion at the voting booth, as well as create some speed bumps down the line if one or more of the initiatives is adopted.
Amendment 2 would amend the state’s constitution to legalize, regulate, and tax medical marijuana. It’s the only one of the three initiatives to allow home cultivation of cannabis. If passed, the initiative would tax medical marijuana at 4%, and tax revenue would go towards regulatory costs and healthcare services for veterans. New Approach Missouri, a “coalition of patients, doctors and veterans” is behind the initiative.
Amendment 2 has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and NORML.
Amendment 3, nicknamed the “Bradshaw Amendment” after the personal injury lawyer who wrote and bankrolled it, would tax medical marijuana at 15% and use that tax revenue to fund a state-run cancer institute chaired by Brad Bradshaw. Bradshaw would also select the institute’s governing board.
Proposition C, unlike the other two proposals, would create a new law rather than an amendment to the state constitution. Also known as the Patient Care Act, it would allow the cultivation, production, testing, and dispensing of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana would be taxed at 2%, and tax revenue would go towards public safety, veterans’ services, drug treatment, and early childhood education. Home cultivation of cannabis would not be permitted.
Proposition 2 would allow people with qualifying medical conditions, including PTSD, cancer, HIV, epilepsy, chronic pain, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, to use medical marijuana. Smoking marijuana would not be allowed if the initiative passes, making edibles, tinctures, and vaporizers the main method of cannabis consumption. Home-growing marijuana would only be permitted if a patient lives more than 100 miles from a dispensary. Utah Patient’s Coalition is behind the ballot initiative.
Polling in support of Proposition 2 has been as high as 75%, but support has recently dropped to 64% following the Mormon church’s opposition to the initiative.
Public Demand for CBD Creates New Research Opportunities
There’s been a lot of buzz around CBD these days, even before rumors that Coca-Cola is considering a CBD-infused beverage. The CBD industry has doubled in size in the last two years, and one cannabis research firm estimates that the cannabis market will reach $20 billion by 2020.
CBD products are everywhere, from topicals, capsules, oils and edibles, to sublingual tinctures. There are a whole host of health benefits to using CBD, including stopping seizures, relieving anxiety and depressions, and reducing inflammation and pain. However, with all the buzz come a lot of claims about what CBD supposedly cures. It’s still early days in cannabis and CBD research, but here’s a break down of some of the known benefits of CBD.
Seizures and Epilepsy
Earlier this year, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a cannabis-derived medication used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The medication is literally a lifesaver for kids with two rare forms of epilepsy, and the FDA approval could open up further research into CBD.
Anxiety and Depression
There have been several studies that show CBD is effective as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant treatment. A 2011 study even found that CBD can help with social anxiety. Researchers conducted a study where people were either given CBD, a placebo, or nothing at all and compared their anxiety levels after speaking in front of a large audience. Those who were given CBD experienced less anxiety than those people given the placebo.
CBD could be effective in treating illnesses like bipolar disorder by acting as an antipsychotic. Traditional antipsychotic medications come with unwanted side-effects, but CBD “has a pharmacological profile similar to that of atypical antipsychotic drugs” without the downsides.
A study from earlier this year researching schizophrenia found that CBD “may represent a new class of treatment for the disorder.“
A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that there’s a significant reduction in opioid use when cannabis is an option. The study looked at data from Medicare and found that having access to cannabis resulted in reducing the number of opioid prescriptions by 3.7 million daily doses. In states that allow homegrown cannabis, there were an estimated 1.8 million fewer pills dispensed per day.
The World Health Organization’s 2018 report on CBD found that the cannabis compound could be a therapeutic treatment for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease. Another study found that CBD can reverse the iron accumulation in the brain that causes neurodegenerative disease.
The same UK-based company that makes Epidiolex also makes Sativex, a cannabis-based drug that treats spasticity in multiple sclerosis.
While studies into CBD promise to help treat wide-ranging illnesses, there is still more research that needs to be done. Luckily, high demand may pressure lawmakers to loosen restrictions around researching cannabis and CBD.
“When I first started, it was very hard to get funding or attention for researching CBD,” said Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital. “We can’t make progress on understanding the benefits of CBD without funding and support. The more demand there is for CBD, the more I think we’ll see large-scale studies.”
Canada Officially Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis
On October 17, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis.
In June, the Senate and House of Commons passed the Cannabis Act, making it legal for adults 18 years-and-older to purchase, possess, and grow cannabis. Canadians will be able to cultivate up to four plants and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public. There’s no limit to the amount of cannabis residents can possess in their homes.
Unlike states in the U.S. with legal marijuana, Canada will regulate producers rather than the plant. So far, Canada has licensed 120 cannabis growers. The provinces and territories will be responsible for overseeing distribution.
While the Cannabis Act legalized marijuana nationwide, provinces and territories set their own rules and regulations regarding sales, consumption, and possession.
Some key things to know:
- Most provinces have upped the minimum legal age to purchase cannabis to 19 to align with the legal drinking age.
- Local rules about where you can smoke cannabis vary widely.
- Provinces and territories vary on whether they allow retail pot shops and whether those shops are privately- or government-owned.
- Legal cannabis will be available for purchase online across Canada through websites run by each province. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, cannabis can only be purchased through the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store. However, that’s expected to change with private retail opening sometime in 2019.
- Quebec and Manitoba have prohibited cultivating cannabis at home.
For now, only dried flower, tinctures, capsules, and seeds can be sold in Canada. Marijuana concentrates and edibles aren’t expected to be available for up to a year. Rather than push back the date for legalization, the government decided to delay the roll-out of edibles and concentrates in order to make necessary changes to existing food and drug rules and regulations.
In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize cannabis nationally.
One Thing We Can Agree on: US Legal Cannabis Support Reaches 62%
Elections are only a few weeks away in the U.S., and a handful of states will be voting on whether to legalize medical or recreational marijuana. In such a contentious political environment, it’s a relief that there’s one thing that brings people together in America: cannabis.
According to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans favor marijuana legalization. Support for the end of cannabis prohibition has been steadily climbing for the last thirty years. Support is double what it was in 2000 when only 31% of people supported legalization.
“A growing majority of Americans are ready to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and move on,” Steve Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “They see states regulating marijuana for medical and adult use, and they recognize it is a much more effective approach. Laws that treat cannabis consumers like criminals and disproportionately impact communities of color are steadily losing popularity across the U.S.”
Demographically, there were differences in who was likely to favor legalization. 74% of Millennials think marijuana use should be legal, while the majority of Gen Xers (63%) and Baby Boomers (54%) agree. The Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945) are the least supportive of cannabis legalization at 39%.
Demographics opposed to legalization include white evangelical Protestants (52% opposed, 43% support) and Hispanics (50% opposed, 48% support).
There are also partisan differences in backing for marijuana legalization. While 69% of Democrats say marijuana should be legal, Republicans are more split. 45% of Republicans are in favor of legalization, while 51% are opposed.
75% of independents who lean toward Democrats favor legalization, and independents who lean Republican support legalization at a higher rate than Republicans, with 59% supporting legal cannabis.
However, the big takeaway from the survey is how broad the support is for cannabis legalization. Despite differences in race, education, gender, and religious identification, there is widespread approval of cannabis.
Voters in Michigan and North Dakota will vote on legalizing adult-use cannabis, while voters in Missouri and Utah will vote on whether to legalize medical marijuana.
FDA Suggests CBD be Changed to Schedule 5 Substance
In a newly released memo, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that cannabidiol (CBD) should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA); however, international drug treaties require the regulation of cannabis, including CBD.
The 27-page memo was written to advise the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that CBD has “negligible potential for abuse,” “currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and that any abuse “may lead to limited physical dependence.”
Based on the FDA’s recommendation, the DEA rescheduled CBD under its least restrictive category, Schedule 5. Drugs in this category are considered to have a low potential for abuse and include over-the-counter medications like cough syrup containing codeine.
The FDA considered eight factors when making its scheduling recommendation and concluded that CBD “could be removed from control.”
“We reach this conclusion because we find that CBD does not meet the criteria for placement in any of Schedules II, III, IV, or V under the CSA.”
Although CBD doesn’t meet the criteria for even a Schedule 5 substance, the FDA ultimately recommended categorizing it as Schedule 5 because of a letter from Robert W. Patterson, the Acting Administrator of the DEA, “asserted that the United States would not be able to keep obligations under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs if CBD were decontrolled under the CSA.”
However, in the memo, the FDA notes that “if treaty obligations do not require control of CBD, or if the international controls on CBD change in the future, this recommendation will need to be promptly revisited.”
The DEA announced last Friday that FDA-approved cannabis drugs with no more than 0.1 THC would be considered Schedule 5. Currently, that only includes the recently approved epilepsy medication Epidiolex.
Canada, who is also a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, will officially legalize marijuana on October 17. The International Narcotics Board, “an independent, quasi-judicial expert body” established during the 1961 treaty agreement has expressed “deep concern” over cannabis legalization. It’s not clear if Canada will withdraw from the treaty.
Seattle Court Dismisses More Than 500 Marijuana Convictions
Seattle Municipal Court judges unanimously agreed to vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions in the city from 1996 to 2010.
City Attorney Pete Holmes filed a motion in April asking the court to dismiss marijuana convictions “to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color.” The ruling could affect more than 500 people charged or convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors. The Seattle court doesn’t handle felony cases.
The judges noted in their ruling that of the more than 500 cases between 1996 and 2010, 46% of defendants were African-American.
“Inasmuch as the conduct for which the defendant was convicted is no longer criminal, setting aside the conviction and dismissing the case serves the interests of justice,” the judges wrote.
Washington state legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012. After Holmes was elected in 2010, his office stopped prosecuting marijuana-possession cases.
“We’ve taken another important step to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs, and to build true economic opportunity for all…For too many who call Seattle a home, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction or charge has created barriers to opportunity – to good jobs, housing, loans, and education. It created a permanent criminal record that traveled with people their whole life. And we know now that it disproportionately targeted communities of color,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The court expects to have the convictions vacated by mid-November after defendants are mailed notices and given a chance to object or ask for individualized findings. Those who don’t respond will have their conviction automatically vacated.
“While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we will continue to act to give Seattle residents – including immigrants and refugees – a clean slate.”
In a press release, Holmes said that the city should “take a moment to recognize the significance” of overturning marijuana-related convictions. “We’ve come a long way, and I hope this action inspires other jurisdictions to follow suit.”