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 “Our federal marijuana laws are outdated, out of touch and have negatively impacted countless lives.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Cannabis Caucus was the first of its kind to create a forum for elected officials to collaborate on ways to address our outdated federal marijuana laws,” Blumenauer said in a public statement.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.”
South Africa Legalizes Cannabis for Recreational Use
This week, South Africa became the first African country to legalize cannabis use. In a unanimous ruling, South Africa’s highest court ruled that it was “unconstitutional and therefore invalid” to criminalize marijuana.
The ruling means that adults in the country can consume cannabis in private as well as grow it for personal use. However, using cannabis in public, as well as supplying or selling it, will still be illegal.
“It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in his judgment.
The ruling came after Jeremy Acton, the leader of the Dagga Party, and Rastafarian Garreth Prince brought a suit challenging the country’s cannabis laws, saying that the ban on cannabis “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres.” In South Africa, cannabis is known as dagga.
The South African Parliament has 24 months to draft laws that reflect the court’s ruling. Until lawmakers iron out the details of legalization, including how much marijuana a person can grow or use in private, individuals won’t be prosecuted for private use. However, it will be up to individual law enforcement discretion to decide whether someone is using cannabis for personal use or black market sales.
Individuals who have previously been arrested or convicted for cannabis possession or use are not covered under the ruling. The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa has called on government officials to drop charges against individuals charged with marijuana offenses.
Acton believes the ruling should have gone further and legalized cannabis for public use. “The ruling is a victory for every person who is a member of our culture. However, people should be able to gather in places which are still private events where collective experience of cannabis use may continue, just as people gather to have a beer,” Acton said.
While South Africa is the first country to legalize adult-use cannabis, Lesotho and Zimbabwe have legalized cannabis for medical use.
Mountain High Suckers: Josh Blue’s Dream Official Video
Hey edibles fans! We’re super proud to release this awesome video in collaboration with our friend Josh Blue Comedy highlighting our new Josh Blue’s Dream Suckers: our signature Cherry, Blueberry and Watermelon flavors infused with Josh’s favorite Blue Dream strain – our first strain-specific cannabis edible! WATCH IT BELOW
Josh has been using cannabis and our edibles for years to treat his cerebral palsy symptoms. “We’ve been treating it like it was legal for years anyway, so it didn’t make too much of a difference when they legalized it. It’s really great though, you don’t need a medical card or anything like that. There’s dispensaries everywhere and it’s bringing in a shitload of tax revenue. I think a lot more states will start legalizing it,” he says. Josh says Blue Dream is his go-to strain for medicinal effects.
“Some edibles, they’ll creep up on you. It takes a while and you don’t know if it’s working…but with this, within ten minutes, you’re feeling the effects of it.” says Blue. Because our suckers are dual acting, meaning both through your mouth (sub-lingual) and through your bloodstream, they’re also the perfect edible for medical patients with a quick but long lasting effect.
Mountain High Suckers is extremely proud to be working with Denver local Josh Blue over these last couple of years and are proud to be part of the Colorado cannabis community.
Be sure to ask for Josh Blue’s Dream suckers by name at your dispensary and pick up one of these great cannabis infused suckers!
New Bill Would Allow VA Doctors to Legally Recommend Cannabis
Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) filed new legislation that would allow veterans to legally use medical marijuana.
The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would also give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians the ability to recommend medical cannabis. In addition, it requires the VA to conduct studies on “the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.” $15 million would be allocated for research.
If passed into law, veterans would be able to “use, possess, or transport medical marijuana in accordance with the laws of the State in which the use, possession, or transport occurs.”
“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” said Senator Bill Nelson in a statement. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”
“In the 31 states where medical marijuana is legal, patients and doctors are able to see if marijuana helps with pain management. Our veterans deserve to have that same chance,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill does right by our veterans, and it can also shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
According to NORML, military veterans who have used cannabis within the past year, 41 percent used cannabis for medically, nearly twice as high as is reported by adults in the general population. Many veterans use cannabis to treat PTSD, chronic pain, mood disorders, and other conditions.
Medical marijuana is legal in 31 states. Nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana.
A 2017 American Legion poll found that 81 percent of veterans support the federal legalization of cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition.
UCLA to Study Cannabis as a Painkiller in Clinical Studies
In 2017, there were more than 49,000 deaths caused by opioid overdose, with over half of those deaths resulting from legal, prescription opioids. Synthetic opioids have been the painkiller of choice for doctors for decades, but the drugs are highly addictive and far from safe. Americans are in desperate need of an alternative to opioids, and new research could help legitimize cannabis as a viable pain-relief solution.
The University of California, Los Angeles has created one of the first academic programs dedicated exclusively to cannabis. Researchers at the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative will undertake a study on cannabis’ effectiveness as a painkiller.
The anecdotal evidence for cannabis as an effective painkiller has been around for years, but medical research is still miles behind. There’s been increasing activity in cannabis research, but since it’s still considered a Schedule I substance, funding research is still difficult.
At UCLA, researchers will study different combinations of THC and CBD on opioid patients with the goal of discovering which combination “produces the most good” in reducing the subjects’ pain and opioid use.
In states with a medical marijuana program, there are an increasing number of people turning to cannabis instead of highly-addictive opioids to treat their pain. 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.
Before the UCLA study can begin, researchers need to secure funding as well as approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Dr. Jeffrey Chen, director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at UCLA said, “We’re not trying to do pro-cannabis research or anti-cannabis research. We’re just trying to do good science.”
Nevada Cannabis Sales Exceed Expectations: Half a Billion in First Year
New data released by the Nevada Department of Taxation shows that the state made just over a half-billion dollars in its first year of adult-use cannabis sales.
The combined sales of medical, recreational, and cannabis-related products amounted to $529.9 in sales and netted the state $69.8 million in tax revenue–140 percent more than what the state expected to bring in.
Recreational cannabis sales totaled $424.9 million, generating $42.5 million in tax revenue during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Before Nevada began adult-use cannabis sales last year, the state anticipated $265 million in recreational sales.
For comparison, Colorado sold $303 million worth of cannabis during its first full year of recreational sales. Washington sold $259 million, and Oregon sole $241 million.
Bill Anderson, executive director of the Nevada Department of Taxation, said in a press release that the cannabis industry “has not only exceeded revenue expectations, but proven to be a largely successful one from a regulatory standpoint.”
“We have not experienced any major hiccups or compliance issues,” he added. “As we move into fiscal year 2019, we expect to see continued growth in the industry by way of additional businesses opening up, and we expect revenues to continue to be strong.”
Adult-use cannabis sales began July 1, 2017, after voters approved Question 2 legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016.
There are 64 medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada, and 61 of those dispensaries are also licensed to sell recreational marijuana. Nevada has authorized a maximum of 136 dispensaries.
Despite the huge sales numbers, State Senator Tick Segerblom thinks the numbers would be even higher if the state legalized consumption lounges. Currently, cannabis use is banned at casinos and other public venues, leaving tourists with few places to consume.
“You can’t encourage people to come to Nevada to buy marijuana, but tell them they can’t use it or take it home,” he said. “I think the hypocrisy is killing us.”
Will North Dakota Legalize Marijuana Without Limits on Growth or Possession?
North Dakotans will vote on whether to legalize adult-use cannabis this November after pro-marijuana activists collected enough signatures to include the ballot measure in this year’s mid-term elections.
If voters approve the initiative, adults 21 and older will be able to possess and grow an unlimited amount of cannabis, no restrictions. The proposal would allow the implementation of a distribution and sales program for legal cannabis, and there would be a provision allowing for marijuana convictions to be expunged.
“This model is 100-percent plug-and-play. The cities, if they want to, can put zoning regs on it. But this is workable, implementable and executable from day one. That’s the biggest strength of this bill, in my opinion. It’s a true free-market, laissez-faire bill,” David Owen, chairman of Legalize ND, told Cannabis Business Times.
The petition to legalize recreational marijuana collected over 15,000 valid signatures, well over the required 13,452 signatures required to get the measure on November’s ballot.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Forbes, “We applaud the hard work and dedication from the campaign and countless volunteers on the ground in North Dakota who went door to door and out into their communities to gather the signatures required to put this on the ballot in November.
“Marijuana legalization is no longer a regional or partisan issue. Well over 60% of all Americans support ending our nation’s failed prohibition, and I expect North Dakota voters to send shockwaves across the country this fall when they join the growing contingent of states who have chosen the sensible path of legalization and regulation over prohibition and incarceration.”
North Dakota legalized medical marijuana in 2016 with 64% in support, but the state has been slow to implement the program. After two years of waiting, the North Dakota Department of Health plans to begin medical sales by the end of 2018 or early 2019.
Competition Drives the Colorado Cannabis Market
The Colorado marijuana industry continues to be a competitive and thriving market nearly five years after adult-use sales began. A new report commissioned by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division conducted by the Marijuana Policy Group and the Leeds School of Business covers a wide range of topics, including trends in supply and demand, consumption, pricing, and market consolidation.
Trends in Consumption
Colorado’s legal marijuana market bought 665,134 pounds of cannabis in 2017, equating to over $1.5 billion in total earnings.
Flower still makes up the majority of cannabis sold in Colorado, but the demand for concentrates and edibles is increasing. In 2017, there were 301.7 metric tons of cannabis sold in the state. Flower made up 61.8% of sales, followed by concentrates at 27.3%. Trim accounted for 5.9%, and infused edibles and non-infused edibles accounting for 4.9% and 0.3%.
Consumption trends varied in tourist areas. Overall, edibles accounted for 13% of the adult-use market, but in tourist locations edibles accounted for nearly 25%.
Falling Prices, Increasing Potency
While cannabis prices have wildly fluctuated and hit record lows in other legal states, cannabis pricing is Colorado has decreased at a more steady pace. Flower prices have “declined slowly,” while the price of a standard serving of THC has “declined more rapidly.”
From the Report:
“The average cost of a 57.1 mg serving of inhaled THC from adult use flower has decreased 50.8 percent, from $3.68 in 2014 to $1.81 in 2017. A serving of THC from medical flower cost an average of $1.11 in 2017, down 40.0 percent from the 2014 average of $1.79. In both cases, the rate of decline in price-per serving outpaced the price-per-gram declines, due to a combination of falling flower prices and slightly increasing potency from 2014 through 2017.”
The numbers for concentrates showed a more dramatic decrease in price.
“The average price of a serving of THC from adult use concentrates fell 61.7 percent, from $4.70 in 2014 to $1.80 in 2017, while a serving from medical concentrates fell 57.0 percent, from $3.28 in 2014 to $1.41 in 2017. Once again, the price per serving of concentrated THC fell significantly faster than the per gram price of concentrates due to the increase in average potency from 2014 to 2017, coupled with a steady decline in concentrate prices.”
Flower potency has remained relatively stable since 2014, but the average potency of marijuana concentrates has increased. In 2014, the average potency of concentrates was 56.6%; in 2017, the average potency is 68.6%, a 21.2% increase.
Market Consolidation and Competitiveness
Cannabis used to only be available on the black market, but as legalization becomes more common across the country, there’s a real worry about the industry being dominated by a few corporate companies. Instead of a large number of small businesses competing in the marketplace, consolidation can lead to a few, big-money companies that grow, manufacture, and distribute marijuana to an entire state or multiple states.
However, the study found that while there’s some consolidation in Colorado, the marketplace is still competitive. The market in Colorado isn’t highly concentrated, which means that there’s still room for small businesses to thrive.
The MED study found that in Colorado, the largest 10 operators accounted for 26.6 percent of total market sales in 2015, 25.4 percent of total market sales in 2016, and 23.1 percent of total market sales in 2017.
The study also found that competition, rather than tourism demand, was a more decisive factor in cannabis pricing. The report showed that marijuana prices were highest in parts of the state with the fewest legal dispensaries. For example, the average price per gram of flower sold for adult use was $4.82; in Summit County, which draws thousands of tourists to its ski resorts every year, the average price per gram of flower was $7.17.
The report shows how far the regulated market has come in Colorado. In 2014, only 65% of consumption came from the regulated market. In 2017, the regulated market was more than able to meet both resident and visitor demand for cannabis.
“This report gives me comfort that the licensed, regulated commercial marketplace is working well and is part of the state’s continuous effort to monitor a comprehensive marijuana regulatory framework, improve transparency and use data to inform the public about Colorado’s marketplace,” said Mike Hartman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue in a press release.
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.