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.
Recreational Market Takes Toll on Medical Cannabis
Data compiled by MarijuanaBusiness Daily shows just how much participation in medical marijuana programs has declined in states that also have recreational cannabis markets. Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada have seen their medical marijuana markets undergo dramatic changes over the past few years, and the future of MMJ is anything but certain.
Of the three states, Colorado has fared the best. Since adult-use sales began in January 2014, patient counts have fallen 22 percent. And from 2014 to 2016, annual sales for medical cannabis actually increased each year before falling for the first time in 2017. So far in 2018, the downward trend has continued. Revenue fell 21 percent year-over-year to $165.8 million.
“Since April of 2017, we have observed negative year-over-year comps for medical marijuana sales. These results underscore our view that the overall Colorado marijuana market is at or near maturity and further substantiates our industry thesis that a rec market is disruptive to medical sales,” Green Wave Advisors founder and managing partner Matt Karnes told Benzinga.
In Nevada, MMJ patient counts are declining an average of 5 percent per month. Since recreational cannabis launched in October 2017, patient counts in the state have decreased 32 percent. In June, patient enrollment fell below 17,000 for the first time since March 2016.
Oregon has seen the steepest decline in their medical marijuana program. Since adult-use sales began in October 2015, patient counts have declined 42 percent. The number of registered medical marijuana patients was at an all-time high in October 2015, with 78,045 patients. In 2018, only 45,000 patients are registered under the medical marijuana program.
In addition to falling patient numbers, there are changing demographics in the patient base. In Colorado, the average age of a medical marijuana patient has increased from 41 in January 2014 to 44 as of June 2018. 22 percent of patients in Nevada are older than 65, up from 19 percent of patients in October 2017. The average age of patients in Oregon is up 6 percent from October 2015, with 19.4 percent of patients 65 or older.
More Red & Swing States Legalize Marijuana
Red and swing states that have traditionally opposed marijuana legalization have been slowly coming around, moving the U.S. closer to national legalization.
Last month, Oklahoma became the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana. Oklahoma has long been known as a conservative, “law-and-order” state, so the fact that a medical marijuana initiative passed with a 57% to 43% margin shows just how much public opinion has shifted.
In Missouri, three (and possibly four) medical cannabis measures could make it onto the ballot this fall.
In Utah, where there’s been fierce opposition from cannabis prohibitionists, voters will finally have their say on medical marijuana. The Salt Lake Tribune released a survey last October that found that 75 percent of the state’s registered voters support medical cannabis.
In Maine–a blue state with an independent electorate and a Tea Party Republican governor–the state legislature overturned Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a medical marijuana reform bill. One of the most progressive medical marijuana programs in the country, the bill eliminates requiring qualifying conditions allows physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to recommend medical cannabis at their discretion. Dispensaries in the state will also be allowed to operate more like pharmacies, and patients will be allowed to possess a whopping 8 pounds of cannabis.
Last year, North Dakota voters surprised marijuana advocates by passing a medical marijuana initiative. They may be set to do the same thing this year after the North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative collected more than 18,000 signatures in support of legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older. If state officials verify at least 13,482 of those signatures, North Dakotans will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana in November.
The swing state of Michigan could become the ninth state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize recreational marijuana this November. The state legislature took up a citizen-initiated proposal to allow adult-use and commercial sale of cannabis in June but failed to garner enough support. A poll conducted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) conducted a survey in February that polled 600 Michiganders on their support for November’s ballot initiative. The poll showed that 61% backed the proposal, and among younger voters (18-34), support was at 87%.
Join Us: Josh Blue’s Dream Launch Party
Friday, July 6th at 9:30pm
(after Josh’s 7pm show)
(South Landmark location)
21+ free admission – no tickets or RSVP required!
For more than a year we’ve worked with our friend, comedian Josh Blue, who has joined the cannabis community as medical consumer and as an advocate for change. We’re extremely proud of our collaboration: Josh Blue’s Dream Suckers – blueberry, cherry and watermelon suckers infused using our unique process and Josh’s favorite cannabis strain, blue dream.
Come join us for our OFFICIAL LAUNCH PARTY celebrating our work together. We’ll have LIVE MUSIC, SNACKS and DRINKS!
Also come see Josh’s show at Comedy Works!
For tickets, visit:
(edit: may already be sold out!!)
See you at the party!
FDA Approves First Cannabis-Based Medication to Treat Epilepsy
On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-derived medication used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The drug, Epidiolex, is made from cannabidiol (CBD) and contains no THC. This is the first time the FDA has approved a cannabis-based medication.
The FDA approved Epidiolex to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Lennox-Gastaut syndrome causes multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between the ages of 3 and 5. Dravet syndrome causes seizures due to a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain. The medication is approved to be administered to patients 2 and older twice daily as an oral solution.
“Today’s announcement gives individuals with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and their families much-needed hope,” said LGS Foundation Executive Director Christina SanInocencio.
Dravet Syndrome Foundation Executive Director Mary Anne Meskis agreed with SanInocencio.
“We are very pleased to see the approval of Epidiolex for Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. While each of our disorders are different in terms of etiology, both of our communities suffer from intractable seizures, an increased risk of mortality and many devastating co-morbid conditions that significantly affect quality of life.”
CBD can be found in both hemp and marijuana, and unlike other cannabinoids, like THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects. Cannabis, including CBD, is still considered a Schedule I drug under US law.
In a statement Monday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said, “This is an important medical advance. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”
“This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies,”
Epidiolex was developed by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals, who also manufacture Sativex, another cannabis-based medication used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.
Canada Becomes 2nd Country to Legalize Marijuana
Canada legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, becoming the second country in the world to end cannabis prohibition. The Cannabis Act legalizes marijuana possession, home growing, and adult-use sales. The law will enable adults 18 years-and-older to possess and share up to 30 grams of cannabis in public and to cultivate up to four plants.
Unfortunately, Canadians will have to wait a couple of months until they can legally buy recreational marijuana. Provincial governments will set their own regulations regarding cannabis sales and distribution, and they have set an expected roll out date of October 17th. Initially, legal cannabis sales were hoped to begin July 1.
Independent Senator Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said, “We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked.”
The Cannabis Act was passed after months of back and forth between the Senate and the House of Commons. The bill was first introduced on April 13, 2017, and passed at the House of Commons in November. The Cannabis Act was finally approved in the Senate with a vote of 52-29.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize weed in December 2013.
Cannabis availability will vary across Canada. In Ontario, only 40 state-run shops will be able to sell recreational weed, while in Alberta, cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers. In Newfoundland and Labrador, cannabis will be sold at grocery stores.
During his campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize cannabis to reduce underage consumption and black market crime.
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate,” Trudeau tweeted yesterday.
Bi-Partisan STATES Act Would Protect States’ Rights to Legal Cannabis
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) have teamed up to create marijuana reform legislation called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES).
In a statement, Gardner said, “The federal government is closing its eyes and plugging its ears while 46 states have acted. The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters – whether that is legalization or prohibition – and not interfere in any states’ legal marijuana industry.”
The bipartisan effort would not legalize cannabis, but it would give additional protections to states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. The STATES Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make it illegal for the federal government to prosecute people who are complying with local, state, or tribal cannabis laws. The bill also spells out that marijuana transactions operating within the law should not be considered trafficking, potentially opening up banking to the cannabis industry.
In a joint press conference with Gardner, Warren explained, “The science is clear: Medical marijuana treatments are effective. There is absolutely no reason patients should be prevented from seeking scientifically approved care, but right now, that is the reality for millions of people across the country. These archaic laws don’t just hurt individual people. They also hurt businesses that are in the marijuana business from getting access to banking services. That forces a multi-million-dollar industry to operate all in cash. That’s bad for business and bad for safety.”
In addition to access to medical marijuana and banking services, Warren wants to reform drug laws that have resulted in “widespread discrimination these policies foster across our communities…that have devastated communities of color.”
Gardner primarily sees marijuana issues from a states’ rights perspective, but he also believes that it’s time to legitimize the marijuana industry. “It’s time that we take this industry out of the shadows, bring these dollars out of the shadows and make sure we hold these people accountable for an industry that states are moving forward with regardless of the pace of business in Washington, D.C.”
The STATES bill would also remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances prohibited under the CSA.
Read a STATES Act Fact Sheet here.
Hickenlooper Vetoes 3 Bills; Gives OK For School Nurses to Administer Medical Cannabis
Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed several cannabis bills this week including one that would have allowed customers and patients to sample edible and vaping products at dispensaries in “tasting rooms.”
The bill would have limited purchases in tasting rooms to 10 milligrams active THC in an infused product or one-quarter gram of marijuana concentrate. Smoking flower in tasting rooms would not have been allowed under the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. The bill passed in the Senate in April with a 22-12 vote and was approved in the House in May with a 57-8 vote.
In his veto letter, Hickenlooper wrote, “Amendment 64 is clear: marijuana consumption may not be conducted ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’ on ‘in a manner that endangers others. We find that HB 18-1258 directly conflicts with this constitutional requirement.'” The governor also expressed concern that tasting rooms could lead to impaired driving.
The veto has earned widespread criticism among cannabis advocates. In a response statement, Chris Neville, owner of Terrapin Care Station, slammed the governor’s decision.
“Hickenlooper’s veto ensures continued gray market activity when it comes to public consumption, an odd choice for an administration that has focused heavily on marijuana gray market enforcement,” the statement read. “It also ensures that people will continue to smoke cannabis in unregulated indoor clubs, also a strange choice for a governor who has been adamant that public consumption should not include smoking. Hickenlooper’s veto also sets the state back in regulating and curbing drugged driving.”
In addition to the tasting rooms, Hickenlooper also vetoed a bill that would allow autism to be added to the list of medically accepted conditions for cannabis and a bill that loosened restrictions on investments in cannabis businesses.
On a positive note, Hickenlooper signed a bill that allows school nurses to administer medical marijuana if parents give permission. Kids with a medical marijuana card are already allowed to receive medical cannabis at school, but parents were required to go to the school and administer the medicine themselves.
The bill included new guidelines on the transportation, handling, and storage of medical cannabis, including requiring that the medicine is stored in a locked container. In addition, parents must provide a doctor’s note with dosing instructions and sign an agreement with the school principal. Children are not allowed to bring medical cannabis on the school bus or to the nurse’s office.
In a letter, Hickenlooper said, “The critical protections are key to ensuring that schools can administer this medication with efficacy while providing latitude for both districts and personnel to make their own determination on whether to administer medical marijuana.”
“Right to Try” Law Allows Terminal Patients Access to Medical Marijuana
On Wednesday, President Trump signed the “Right to Try” bill into law. Legislation was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March.
The new law allows terminally ill patients to try experimental treatments and drugs that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–including medical marijuana.
According to Forbes, terminal patients wishing to access medical cannabis must be in “a stage of a disease or condition in which there is reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months, or a disease or condition that would result in significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death.”
In addition, patients would need to have “exhausted approved treatment options” and not be eligible to otherwise participate in ongoing clinical trials on the drug because they don’t meet inclusion criteria or live within geographic proximity of where the study is taking place.
In order for a drug to qualify under the new law, it must have completed a Phase 1 clinical trial. Luckily, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been studying cannabis since 2010 and marijuana is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials.
In an interview, Brad Burge, the director of strategic communications for MAPS, said, “Making medical marijuana available for terminally ill patients would certainly be a significant step forward for federal policy. If MAPS’s current Phase 2 clinical trial of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in military veterans qualifies marijuana for use under the proposed Right to Try Act, then the trial will already have helped a lot of people.
“Still, only making marijuana available for those on the verge of dying isn’t nearly enough, and the best thing the federal government can do for patients is to end the federal monopoly on marijuana for research currently being upheld by Jeff Sessions.”
United Kingdom May Be World’s Largest Exporter of Cannabis
According to the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the United Kingdom is the biggest producer and exporter of cannabis in the world.
Alcohol has long been the UK’s drug of choice, and cannabis remains banned under UK law, so the report from the INCB that the UK produced 95 tons of legal cannabis in 2016–much of which ended up in the United States–comes as a surprise. The UK’s cannabis production now accounts for 44.9 percent of the world total.
The report puts Canada in second place with 80.7 tons produced.
However, cannabis production in the UK is almost entirely geared towards pharmaceuticals. GW Pharmaceuticals produces and exports two cannabis-based medications, Sativex and Epidiolex.
Sativex is used to treat muscle stiffness and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. Epidiolex is a CBD-based medicine currently under review for the treatment of two rare forms of uncontrollable epilepsy and is expected to be approved for use in the US by the FDA.
Cannabis advocates in the UK have been quick to point out the double standard.
Steve Rolles, Transform’s Senior Policy Analyst, said, “It is scandalous and untenable for the UK government to maintain that cannabis has no medical uses, at the same time as licensing the world’s biggest government approved medical cannabis production and export market. UK patients are either denied access and suffering unnecessarily, or are forced to buy cannabis from the criminal market.
“It is profoundly unethical, and a violation of the fundamental right to health, to deny people access to medicines that are prescribed by their doctors,” he added.
An estimated 1 million people in the UK buy marijuana from the black market. There’s been recent controversy in the UK over a six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who suffers from a rare and treatment-resistant form of epilepsy. His family wants access to cannabis oil to treat Alfie’s severe seizures, but the request has been denied by the UK government.
Pennsylvania Universities Approved for Cannabis Research
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Monday that eight universities in the state have been licensed to begin studying medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is just three months old, with the first dispensaries opening their doors to patients in February.
In a press conference announcing the colleges awarded the research permits, Gov. Wolf said, “Today, medical research is so limited by the federal government that only a few doctors can even have access to medical marijuana. Pennsylvania’s premiere medical schools will be able to help shape the future of treatment for patients who are in desperate need not just here, but across the country.”
The universities awarded research permits include the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, the Drexel University College of Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.
Research of cannabis has been limited, mostly because the plant is still illegal under federal law, and the research that has been approved by government agencies so far uses notoriously poor quality cannabis from the University of Mississippi. However, the universities involved in the research program in Pennsylvania will use cannabis from the state’s licensed medical marijuana producers.
“It is important to note that Pennsylvania is the first and only state in the country to institute such a program, and we believe that the research that will be conducted by the School of Medicine in collaboration with [University of Pennsylvania Medical Center] will be of great importance in determining the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of medical cannabis products in treating specific diseases,” Pitt School of Medicine officials said in a statement Monday.
The eight available clinical registrant permits for growers/producers of medical marijuana have not yet been granted. Applications will be available through the Pennsylvania Health Department as of May 24 and must be filed no later than July 12.
FDA-Approved Cannabis PTSD Study Almost Complete
There’s loads of anecdotal evidence that cannabis is effective in treating PTSD in veterans, but the Department of Veterans Affairs is not having any of it. Physicians in the VA are still prohibited from recommending cannabis to their patients, leaving veterans struggling with symptoms and addictive medications.
However, there is hope for veterans struggling to access medical marijuana. The first FDA-approved study on the effects of cannabis in treating veterans’ PTSD is nearly complete, and we could be one step closer to federally legalizing cannabis as a treatment.
The study, now in its third year, is being conducted by Dr. Sue Sisley and is funded by a $2.15 million grant from the University of Colorado. Sisley fought for seven years to get approval from federal officials to study the effects of marijuana, and while she may be well known as a marijuana advocate these days, she wasn’t always a fan.
“I was dismissive and judgmental, then I started losing a lot of vets in my practice to suicide, and it became a big wake-up call. The veteran community has a higher rate of prescription drug overdose, and many vets discovered they can substitute cannabis for the more addictive medications they’ve been prescribed, which is how we started to examine this,” Sisley told Healio.
The phase 2 study aims to provide more than anecdotal evidence through a controlled clinical trial. The study is triple-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled. After a familiarization stage, veterans are given cannabis to take home and self administer. Subjects are randomly assigned to receive either high THC, high CBD, an equal THC/CBD mix, or placebo and asked to administer the medication at their own discretion for three weeks, followed by two weeks with no cannabis. Researchers monitor PTSD symptoms throughout the process.
In addition to PTSD, Sisley and her colleagues are also assessing biomarkers for inflammation and anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis.
Sisley said that only 19 additional veterans are needed to complete the dataset, and she hopes that the FDA will approve a phase-3 trial.
While that’s all good news, there is a potential hiccup in the research, and it has to do with the notoriously low-quality weed supplied by the government. The flower used in the study is grown at the University of Mississippi, and in addition to being full of stems and seeds, some samples also contain mold and lead.
“If half is extraneous nonmedical plant material, it could be sabotaging efficacy studies, meaning that if you’re trying to measure effectiveness of cannabis and you’re forced to use a very sub-optimal plant material, this could harm the outcome of tests looking at how effective cannabis is at treating a certain illness,” Sisley said to Healio.