• NJ Doctor Suspended for Recommending Medical Marijuana to Thousands of Patients
    Did Anthony “Dr. Marijuana” Anzalone overextend himself by authorizing over 3,000 patients for New Jersey’s burgeoning medical marijuana program? State authorities seem to think so — and have underlined their views by putting a freeze on Anzalone’s license while an investigation looks into his practice. “By temporarily suspending Anzalone from practicing medicine, we are making it clear that we will not allow unscrupulous doctors to enrich themselves at the expense of the safety and welfare of their patients and the public,” New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal told the press. Anzalone’s attorney Jef Henninger says that the doctor maintains his innocence in the face of the charges. “Dr. Anzalone is a very popular doctor that takes great care of his patients,” Henninger told NJ Advance Media. “He is a trailblazer in this industry. Dr. Anzalone maintains his innocence and looks forward to having his license reinstated at the conclusion of this matter.” The physician, who was trained as an obstetrician and began his practice as a Rutherford-based specialist on preventative care for women, has gone on record about his frustration with having to prescribe conventional pain medication. In 2013, a profile on Anzalone by local news site NJ Spotlight quoted the doctor’s response to queries about his cannabis advocacy and whether he was “worried” about side effects. “They said, ‘Aren’t you afraid?,’”Anzalone recounts. “‘No. Afraid of what? I’m more afraid of dispensing opiates.’” Undercover investigators pretended to be patients to examine Anzalone’s passion for connecting people to medical marijuana. They found Dr. Anzalone meeting clients in rented hotel ballrooms, giving 3,250 patients access to cannabis over the course of four years. Each paid $350 for their initial consultation and $100 for quarterly renewals of their doctor’s recommendation. The investigation concluded the doctor probably made more than $1 million off of these fees. New Jersey has made real progress on access to cannabis in recent years. Last summer, Grewal put a freeze on all cannabis court cases until the fall, when the state’s Senate and Congress voted to legalize recreational cannabis for adults. NJ.com reports that since pro-pot Governor Phil Murphy stepped into office last year (and expanded the program’s list of qualifying conditions) the number of registered adult medical cannabis users has doubled to 40,000. But doctors have not been quick to jump on the green train. 900 of the state’s 28,000 registered MDs have signed up for the medical marijuana program. Over 50 towns have passed laws restricting, banning, or opposing cannabis ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Medical Marijuana Recalled From Two Michigan Dispensaries Due to Failed Lab Tests
    Girl Scout Cookies, Superman OG, Silver Haze, and Critical Kush are just some of more than a dozen medical cannabis strains Michigan regulators recalled from two dispensaries on Friday. Friday’s recalls are mandatory and require that dispensaries notify affected customers who may have purchased the contaminated strains. Lab test failures for mold, yeast, and other contaminants prompted the recalls, drawing attention to Michigan’s urgent need for more medical cannabis testing facilities and licensed cultivators. Medical Cannabis Recalls Stem From Michigan’s Out of Sync Industry Since 2016, Michigan’s marijuana laws have been undergoing some massive revision. The state legalized medical cannabis in 2008, but opted not to set up much in the way of regulatory or licensing frameworks. Patients and caregivers had to enroll in the program and get certifications. But with no licensed producers, cultivation, and production fell to patients and caregivers themselves. That changed in 2016 when a coalition of conservative state lawmakers began passing legislation aimed at taxing, regulating and licensing the state’s medical cannabis program. But by then, an entire informal industry of unlicensed growers and distributors had emerged, along with dozens of unlicensed dispensaries. Realizing Michigan’s medical cannabis infrastructure could simply turn on a time and adopt new regulations, officials implemented a set of “emergency rules” for cannabis businesses. Among other things, the emergency rules gave businesses temporary approval to continue operating while they put their licensing applications together. Licensing, as many in the industry have experienced, is a lengthy bureaucratic process that routinely encounters delays. And while Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) worked on licensing processors, producers, distributors and “provisioning centers,” it gave the green light for dispensaries to stock medical cannabis grown by caregivers. In fact, LARA more or less had to, due to a shortage of medical cannabis at licensed provisioning centers (i.e., dispensaries). But that led to another issue: testing caregiver-grown cannabis. Michigan Shortage of Cannabis Testing Facilities Puts Patients and Consumers at Risk The problem, however, was that Michigan regulators had only licensed a few medical cannabis testing labs–and only as recently as August 2018. So LARA permitted provisioning centers to sell untested medical cannabis products through 2018. Patients had to sign a disclosure form acknowledging they understood this, but when 2019 rolled around, provisioning centers could no longer sell untested products. And now that caregiver-grown cannabis must undergo lab testing, the risks inherent to unregulated cultivation are coming to light. All of the 15 strains of medical cannabis flower LARA recalled Friday came from caregiver-growers. Dispensaries sold ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission Approves 32 Dispensaries
    The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has accepted an outside consulting group’s recommendations and voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve 32 cannabis dispensaries to serve the state. The action by the commission sets the stage for sales of medicinal cannabis to begin as soon as April, more than two years after voters approved an amendment legalizing medical marijuana in November 2016. Cultivation licenses have already been issued and more than 7,000 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana. The 32 approved dispensaries represent the four highest scoring applications in each of the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensary zones. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said that the successful applicants will receive official notification from the state by next week. “Monday at the latest, that [letter of intent] will go to those 32 companies that scored among the highest in each zone,” Hardin said. “They then have seven days to pay a $15,000 licensing fee, post a $100,000 performance bond, and then once we confirm that they still have that storefront… they’ll likely be licensed within the next couple of weeks.” The state will launch the medical marijuana program with five cultivation facilities and the 32 newly approved dispensaries. If demand warrants, the medical marijuana amendment allows for up to eight cultivators and 40 dispensaries. Dr. Dane Flippin, the physician at Arkansas Progressive Medicine in Jonesboro, told local media that access to medical marijuana in the state is tightly controlled. “You have to have a certification from a medical doctor that you have one of the eighteen qualifying conditions,” Flippin said. “You have to be a resident of Arkansas to participate in the program. ” Flippin said that once the approved dispensaries in Arkansas are open, patients will no longer have to leave the state to get their medicine. “We’ve had people called medical refugees that will live in a state that it’s illegal and move to Colorado and live there and treat their problem,” Flippin said. MMJ Cards Coming Soon Last week, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced it would issue temporary licenses to purchase cannabis to patients with out of state identification cards. That’s led many of the patients approved in neighboring Arkansas to ask for their cards now, according to Connie Melton, branch chief for health systems, licensing and certification for the Arkansas Department of Health. “Approved patients have called and requested that their card be made available so that they can take advantage of the Oklahoma visiting patient opportunity, and so pending the outcome of the Marijuana Commission meeting ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Tennessee Lawmakers to Introduce New, Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill
    Two state lawmakers in Tennessee announced on Thursday that they plan to introduce a comprehensive medical marijuana legalization bill. Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis plan to introduce the bill in the coming weeks, according to media reports. Bowling said in a press release that she believes cannabis can be part of the solution to the nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose deaths. “I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills. Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans,” Bowling said. “Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use.” If the bill passes, patients with certain qualifying health conditions would be able to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to allow them to legally purchase cannabis. A commission would be created to regulate patient access and license cultivators and retailers. Bowling said the experience of other states was drawn upon to draft this medical cannabis solution for Tennessee. “I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling said. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.” Cannabis Advocates Support Measure Glenn Anderson, the executive director of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association expressed his support for the measure. “This bill represents a careful look at what the other states have struggled with so we could focus on the successes and avoid repeating any failures,” Anderson said. “We look forward to working with the legislature to pass a bill that provides the relief patients need.” Travis said lawmakers have a responsibility to provide residents of Tennessee access to alternative medical therapies that work for them. “As I learn about the different medical cannabis products available in other states, I am concerned that in Tennessee, a person can’t find relief for their children’s or any other family member’s medical condition, such as epileptic seizures or cancer. The number of people we could help could be astounding,” Travis said. “I look forward to working with Senator Bowling, the Senate sponsor, to do our due diligence on this very important bill. It is of the utmost importance for Tennessee ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Study: Over 50 Percent of Michigan Medical Marijuana Users Have Driven While High
    A new study released by the University of Michigan Addiction Center reports some troubling news about the state’s medical cannabis users. One in five participants said they had driven a car “very high” within the last half-year. “There is a low perceived risk about driving after using marijuana, but we want people to know that they should ideally wait several hours to operate a vehicle after using cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical use or not,” said Erin E. Bonar, the report’s lead author, assistant professor of psychiatry, and clinical psychologist. “The safest strategy is to not drive at all on the day you used marijuana.” But that is decidedly not the strategy being practiced by the study’s participants. Over 50 percent of respondents — all of whom take cannabis for chronic pain issues — said they have driven high within two hours of consuming cannabis. The study is particularly significant given the sheer number of cannabis users in Michigan. California is the only state with more medical marijuana patients in the United States. Overall, Michigan is home to some 270,000 medical cannabis users. Since the study was conducted, voters in the state approved widespread recreational marijuana usage, making it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to use cannabis and grow up to 12 plants for personal consumption. Bonar’s study aggregated responses from 790 adults who applied for certification or recertification as a medical marijuana patient in 2014 and 2015. The report was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and published in the Drug & Alcohol Dependence journal. In Michigan it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, regardless of the conditions under which it was consumed. The study’s results underline what may be a miscommunication about medical patients’ attitudes regarding the legal ramifications of their prescriptions. Participants may be unaware of the (very real) physical limitations that occur after consumption. Bonar attributes this discordance between legality, safety, and reality with confusion over the way marijuana affects us and the ways in which it can be measured. “With alcohol, you can do some quick math based on the amount you drank, and take an educated guess at your blood alcohol level,” she told the University of Michigan Health Lab. “For marijuana, an estimate like this would be complicated. It’s hard to quantify because there is a lot of variation in marijuana dosing, THC potency, and route of administration. We also don’t have specific guidelines yet about when exactly it would be safe to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer Introduces Bill to Regulate Cannabis Like Alcohol
    Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon introduced a bill on Wednesday to federally regulate cannabis like alcohol. The bill, in a reference to pot culture, has been designated as House Resolution 420. “While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious,” said Blumenauer. “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.” If passed, the measure would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and put the regulation of cannabis under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Removing marijuana from the CSA, where it is listed as a Schedule I drug, would allow federal grants to fund cannabis research and eliminate tight regulations on banking and other financial services. Passage of the bill would also allow for interstate cannabis commerce between states with legal pot. That would allow Blumenauer’s home state of Oregon, which is experiencing a weed glut, to export to other markets. The Food and Drug Administration and the renamed Alcohol, Tobacco and Marijuana Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the Department of the Treasury, would have regulatory jurisdiction over the newly legal cannabis industry. The federal government would issue permits for the cultivation, packaging, sale, and importing of cannabis. H.R. 420, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, has been referred to the House Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Natural Resources, and Agriculture committees for consideration. The text of the measure has not yet been posted to the House of Representatives website. New Congressional Cannabis Caucus Chairs Also on Wednesday, Blumenauer announced the new co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus for the 116th Congress, which began earlier this month. The caucus is a bipartisan forum in the House of Representatives “to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy,” according to a press release from Blumenauer. “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,” said Blumenauer. “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.” Joining Blumenauer as co-chairs will be California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, who will be the first woman of color to co-chair the caucus; ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Maine Lawmakers Developing Bills to Expunge Past Cannabis Convictions
    As many other states with legal adult-use cannabis (and some without) have done, Maine lawmakers will soon consider a handful of bills to expunge or seal past cannabis convictions. At this stage, however, legislators are only weighing bill titles related to those policies. Lawmakers say they haven’t yet drafted specific details about the policies or how the state would implement them. But two competing approaches are currently emerging. Maine Lawmakers are Developing Competing Approaches to Past Marijuana Convictions Three state representatives and one state senator have each proposed their own bill title related to cannabis convictions. But the four proposals fall into two basic camps. Both Rep. Richard Farnsworth’s (D-Orono) and Sen. James Dill’s (D-Portland) bills would actually expunge all prior non-violent misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions, as several states including California, Washington, and Maryland and some major municipalities like Denver and Brooklyn have done. In short, Maine would delete those convictions from people’s records. On the other hand, Both Rep. Justin Fecteau (R-Augusta) and Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portand) have proposed sealing rather than expunging past convictions. Sealing means the convictions stay on record, but prospective employers or the public cannot see them. Data about the number of people who would be eligible for expungement in Maine is not being made public at this time. As a result of the diverging approaches, the Legislature’s Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will likely have to opt for one or the other. And the decision, some lawmakers say, will likely come down to cost, more than anything else. Rep. James Dill said that any proposals requiring the state to invest resources in identifying people with eligible prior convictions could rankle rank-and-file fiscal conservatives in the state legislature. But opposition to the bill will likely be slight. Policy groups that opposed legalization in 2016 have even endorsed the expungement and sealing proposals, like Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Expungement Bills Just Part of Legislative Efforts to Tweak Maine’s Legal Cannabis Laws The four bills addressing past convictions are just a fraction of the more than two dozen bills relating to cannabis that lawmakers will take up this session. Voters approved adult-use legalization in 2016 by referendum. But legislators added and removed several provisions in the version of the bill that ultimately became law. In 2019, lawmakers are still trying to work out the kinks and appease their constituencies as they adapt to the new industry. They’re also trying to get some things right that they missed the first time around. Expungement is a good ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Data Shows Black People in Philadelphia Are Still Targeted After Pot Decriminalization
    Despite the decriminalization of cannabis in Philadelphia four years ago, African-Americans in the city are still being disproportionately charged with marijuana offenses by police. The city decriminalized possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis with an ordinance passed in 2014. But arrests for possession are still made, and purchasing marijuana is still a criminal offense. In the four years since decriminalization, Black people—who represent 44 percent of the city’s population—made up 76 percent of all arrests for marijuana possession. The defendants in 81 percent of arrests for buying cannabis were Black. The discrepancies exist despite numerous studies that have shown that White people and Black people use cannabis at comparable rates. David Rudovsky is a civil rights attorney who has filed racial bias lawsuits against the City of Philadelphia. He said in an email to local media that the racial disparity is unjustified. “Given the equal use of marijuana by persons of different races, the fact that 80 percent of the arrests continue to be of Black suspects cannot be justified on the grounds that more Blacks than Whites possess marijuana,” said Rudovsky. No Explanation from Police Captain Sekou Kinebrew of the Philadelphia Police Department said that most arrests for purchasing cannabis occur during enforcement activities or investigations targeting sellers. But he was unable to explain the racial disparity. “We are evaluating the data, along with continual examination of our policies and practices, to determine the contributing factors for the disparity,” Kinebrew said. Lyandra Retacco, the supervisor of the District Attorney’s Office charging unit, said that defendants charged with purchasing cannabis are “almost always” arrested during sting operations against sellers. She said that her office does not press charges against people who have only been arrested for purchasing small quantities of pot. “If it’s a street-level hand-to-hand buy, we don’t think that’s fair,” Retacco said. She also said that “the evidence is absolutely still used [to prosecute] the dealer on the street.” In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union determined that statewide in Pennsylvania, Black people were 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. Andy Hoover, a spokesperson for the ACLU PA, said that police cannot be trusted to correct the problem themselves. “[They] don’t have the will to fix it,” said Hoover. “That’s why marijuana policy has to be taken out of their hands by wiping marijuana criminalization off the books.” Tickets Instead of Arrests Since decriminalization in Philadelphia, those caught with small amounts of cannabis are issued citations instead of being arrested. The fine for simple possession is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Brings Former Marijuana Policy Project Director to Her Staff
    In her much loved dinner prep Instagram livestreams, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made it clear that she thinks marijuana prohibition is a “tool” used to oppress people of color in the United States. But other than the fact she’d legalize cannabis and advocate for the release of people who have been incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses, she hasn’t released much info on her ideas around cannabis. Those looking for clues to any potential strategy got another one this week, when Ocasio-Cortez announced that Dan Riffle, health care and tax reform expert, would be joining her staff as senior counsel and policy advisor. That’s big news for those with an eye on weed issues because, in addition to holding past staff positions for other members of Congress, Riffle was once director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project. He left the organization back in 2014; attributing his departure to the overwhelming influence of big business in the legalization movement and how it shapes policy in terms of how cannabis is accessed. Upon leaving MPP, Riffle told Vox in an interview: ”We used to talk three or four years ago about how we’re creating this industry, yet nobody in the industry gives to MPP. But now that they do give at least a little, it’s like, ‘Be careful what you asked for.’ Because we owe them now, and they get to drive the agenda.” At the time, Riffle identified some key reasons why this may be the case, including the trend of low-level cannabis advocates swapping time between activism and positions within the commercial industry. Riffle also pinpointed issues around funding experienced by marijuana advocates should their connections end with big weed businesses. “Who’s going to pay for a nonprofit, collective cooperative model?” Riffle asked. “It’s hard to find somebody who is willing to do that, so it’s left to the industry to fund legalization measures, and of course the industry is going to fund industry-centered policies.” “The industry’s goal is to make money,” Riffle told International Business Times in 2015. “But from a public health perspective, we might have other goals that are at odds with the industry’s goal of making money.” It’s clear Cortez-Ocasio — the youngest woman ever elected to US Congress who’s currently dominating media narrative with her socialist viewpoints — tends to see cannabis legalization as a civil rights issue before a matter of consumers and suppliers. It will be interesting to see how her new senior counsel is able to influence her ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Vermont Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Smell is Not Grounds for Search
    January is already shaking out to be a big month for court rulings on the civil and criminal liabilities people should or shouldn’t face over the smell of cannabis. On the heels of a federal judge’s dismissal of a racketeering lawsuit against a smelly cannabis farmer, the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that certain marijuana odors are not grounds for a search of persons or seizure of property. The important ruling creates a binding legal precedent across all courts in Vermont and comes at the end of a lengthy lawsuit by the Vermont ACLU. 2014 ACLU Lawsuit Ends with Vermont Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Driver Simple cannabis possession has been decriminalized in Vermont since 2013. And in 2018, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize cannabis for adult use. But in March 2014, a Vermont state trooper pulled over Rultand resident Greg Zullo and ended up seizing his vehicle when Zullo refused to consent to a search. The officer asked to conduct the search after reportedly smelling “burnt cannabis” inside the vehicle. The trooper said he pulled Zullo over because snow was covering his car’s registration sticker. Zullo consented to a search of his person. But police had to tow his vehicle in order to be able to search it legally. During that search, police found only a grinder and a glass pipe with cannabis residue. Neither items constituted a criminal or civil offense under Vermont law. But Zullo’s refusal to consent to a search of his car resulted in the seizure of his property anyway. Zullo, a black man who was 21 in 2014, took his case to the Vermont American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the State of Vermont over the search and seizure. Last Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in the ACLU’s favor. Associate Justice Harold E. Eaton Jr. ruled that the state trooper was wrong to seize Zullo’s vehicle after saying he smelled burnt cannabis. Furthermore, Justice Eaton Jr. ruled that the smell of burnt cannabis cannot constitute legal grounds for searches and seizures. Throughout the proceedings, Vermont had tried to argue that it was immune from such lawsuits. State attorneys tried the case though a number of statutes involving reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Vermont Supreme Court Sets Crucial Precedent Against Searches Initiated Because of Cannabis Odors Ultimately, however, the state Supreme Court ruled that “an odor of marijuana is a factor, but not necessarily a determinative factor, as to whether probable cause exists.” In other words, just smelling burnt cannabis doesn’t amount to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • The Details of Kentucky’s New Medical Marijuana Bill Have Been Revealed
    Perhaps all Kentucky needs to move forward with medical marijuana legislation is a 78-year-old Republican lawmaker to admit he threw his prescription pain meds in the trash—and smoked a joint instead. Cannabis advocates are hoping that’s the case after Wednesday’s announcement of Kentucky’s House Bill 136, which would make cannabis legal for those with debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain. “For those that don’t know, I had colon cancer seven years ago, and when I left the hospital, they gave me that nice bottle of Oxycontin,” said Daniel DeVerl “Malano” Seum, the state senator, at a press conference. “I threw it in the garbage can and went home and smoked a joint.” Such revelations are not the norm for Kentucky politics, but they may be what’s needed if the bill’s sponsors make headway on providing patients access to cannabis. The state’s law enforcement has expressed split opinions on the support of cannabis legislation. “My opposition to this legislation isn’t because I lack compassion for the sick, but because I think it’s wrong to herald marijuana — with its many proven negative qualities,” Sheriff Cain of Daviess County testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding last year’s unsuccessful medical cannabis proposal HB-166. Kentucky Senate President Robert Silvers went so far as to respond to Wednesday’s press conference by calling cannabis a “gateway drug.” “He then said he is open to discussion but has not been given any ‘studies and facts’ saying marijuana has ‘medical and therapeutic value,’” reported Lexington NBC affiliate LEX18. “There are 20,000 studies,” responded Seum to Silver’s seeming ignorance of the copious medical literature available on the benefits of cannabis that’s led to legalization in 33 states. “I’m not going to go as far as to say there is adequate support in the House, but there is certainly significant discussion,” said House Speaker David Osborne, in support of the bill. The states’ politicians behind the bill made it clear they are not (yet) total supporters of the rapidly-expanding cannabis industry. ”The intention of this legislation is not to generate tax revenue, but rather to provide relief to the thousands of Kentuckians who suffer from conditions that have not responded to traditional medicine,” said Representative Diane St. Onge, a Republican from Fort Wright. The bill puts forth a proposal for a medical cannabis system run by the Department of Public Protection’s Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It includes a yearly licensing fee and will put a limit on the quantity of cannabis that can be ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Report: Illicit Pot is Almost 50 Percent Cheaper Than That Bought Legally in Canada
    New metrics from Statistics Canada are shedding light on the state of Canada’s cannabis markets. Among several key trends, the new stats show that the price of legal weed has seen a rapid increase since it became legal in October. In fact, the increase in price has been so high that legal cannabis is now significantly more expensive than weed purchased on the illegal market. New Cannabis Stats The new figures from Statistics Canada come from data gathered throughout the last quarter of 2018. More specifically, the data comes from an updated version of the organization’s crowdsourcing app. This program allows individuals in Canada to input their own data. These numbers are then collected, aggregated, and analyzed. In total, this new data set includes marijuana price quotes from 385 respondents. As reported by CBC, roughly half of those 385 price quotes were from legal cannabis stores. The others were from illegal suppliers. When comparing stats from Oct. 17, the date on which recreational marijuana became legal in Canada, and the end of the year, analysts noticed some clear trends. Most immediately, they noted a sharp increase in the price of legal weed. This increase put the average price of legal weed well above the average price of illegal weed. By year end, the average price for cannabis from a legal recreational supplier was $9.70 per gram. That price is significantly higher than prices for weed on the illegal market. According to the new stats, illegal cannabis cost an average of $6.51 per gram. Beyond changes in price, analysts also noted a few other potentially important trends. For example, they found that more consumers reported making their first marijuana purchases in the weeks following legalization. Specifically, 7.7 percent of those who provided data said they made their first-ever cannabis purchase last fall. Additionally, the stats showed that 49.8 percent of male consumers bought weed at a legal supplier. Meanwhile, 41.6 percent of female consumers said they bought marijuana from a legal supplier. Analyzing the Numbers Analysts have identified potential reasons for legal weed’s rapid price increases. Most notably, North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Centre, David Clement, told CBC the price changes had to do primarily with the often-expensive legal framework surrounding the industry. “It costs half a billion a year to enforce the rules and regulations in the Cannabis Act,” Clement said. “So in order to generate the revenues to cover that they’ve implemented fees and licenses on licensed producers.” He added: “The taxes and fees create prices that are ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Ohio Medical Board Reviewing More Conditions to Add to Medical Marijuana Program
    Ohio’s medical marijuana program has been plagued by delays and setbacks. But now, things appear to moving forward—even if at a sluggish pace. And amid all the confusion, the program could be on the verge of becoming more accessible to a broader range of patients. That’s because state officials are considering adding new health conditions to Ohio’s medical marijuana program. Ohio Could Approve New Qualifying Health Conditions Under Ohio’s current laws, only patients with one of a predefined set of health conditions can qualify for medical marijuana. Now, the list of conditions that qualify for the program is on the verge of expanding. As reported by local news sources, Ohio’s medical board is currently reviewing a number of new petitions. Specifically, these petitions request that new health conditions be added to the state’s medical marijuana program. Candidates for inclusion on the list include opioid addiction, autism, depression, and a number of other ailments and conditions. As per local sources, the state’s medical board is meeting today to review these petitions. All requests that meet the state’s initial legal requirements will advance on to additional reviews. Then, if all goes well in later-stage reviews, the petitions will be approved. Finally, if that happens, authorities will add the new conditions to the state’s list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions. State authorities are supposed to make all decisions on these petitions within six months. Currently, Ohio’s list of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana includes more than 21 conditions. More specifically, the list includes things like AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, severe chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and more. If the medical board approves the new conditions, it would open the program to a larger number of patients in the state. Medical Marijuana in Ohio This new development is the latest chapter in Ohio’s ongoing medical marijuana story. In many ways, it has become a relatively dramatic and drawn-out tale. To begin with, the Ohio General Assembly approved a plan to establish a legal medical marijuana program back in 2016. Initially, the plan stipulated that the program be up and running by September 8, 2018. Clearly, that date has come and gone. And still no medical marijuana is available to patients. When Sep. 8, 2018 rolled around, the state had issued most of the licenses needed for an operational program. However, because of previous delays and setbacks, there was still work to be done before cultivators would be in a position to grow and harvest anything. As a result, the state ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Legislation to Legalize Marijuana in the State
    Virginia House Delegate Steve Heretick, a former Justice Department attorney and president of the Virginia Board of Medicine, knows that cannabis, like any intoxicant, poses risks. But he also believes that adults should have the freedom and the responsibility to choose whether or not to consume cannabis for medical or other purposes. In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the day before the start of Virginia’s first 2019 legislative legislation, Heretick presents those views as he introduces his bill to legalize marijuana in the state. Today, Heretick submitted that bill, HB2371, to the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates. New Bill Would Legalize the Manufacture, Possession and Personal Use of Cannabis in Virginia Steve Heretick’s HB2371 is hardly the delegate’s first attempt to pass legislation reforming Virginia’s harsh cannabis laws. Since his election in 2015, Heretick has introduced a number of bills to decriminalize simple possession. And incidentally, state senator Adam Ebbin submitted a bill in Virginia’s upper house on Wednesday that would do just that. But this year, Heretick wants to go all the way. His bill would establish a regulated cultivation, distribution and retail industry while setting broad limits for personal possession and use. Heretick’s bill even allows for home cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants and unlimited seedlings. But because it’s such an extreme departure from the current norm in Virginia, Heretick knows his legislation faces a long, uphill battle. That’s why his 150-page bill tries to cover all its bases. Taking a page out of the legislative play books of U.S. states with legal cannabis, Heretick is proposing a comprehensive “seed-to-sale” tracking system, a weighty but comparable 15 percent tax rate on retail and a ban on public consumption. Anti-Cannabis Attitudes Still Prevail Among Virginia Lawmakers Delegate Heretick doesn’t believe decriminalization measures go far enough. But taking into account the strong sentiment against legalizing cannabis in the Virginia legislature, decriminalization might be as far as a majority of lawmakers are willing to go—at least short term. Certainly, decriminalization would be a massive improvement over Virginia’s current system of affirmative defense. Affirmative defense means someone with a valid recommendation for medical cannabis can avoid criminal liability for possessing certain non-psychoactive oils. But it doesn’t shield patients from arrest, charges or a trial. Nor does it provide patients with many options when it comes to medical cannabis products. Affirmative defense applies only to possession of oils with at least 15 percent THC-A or CBD and less than 5 percent THC. Decriminalization would add to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Newest Member of Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Board is a Pediatric Nurse
    On Monday, Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Commission welcomed its newest member, pediatric nurse Justin Smith. Smith has worked in pediatric care for 11 years, and currently works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Smith’s appointment to the Commission could help shape Arkansas’ still-emerging medical cannabis program in important ways. In his time as a nurse, the 38-year-old Smith gained firsthand experience with the benefits of medical cannabis treatments for children. New Board Member Could Shape Arkansas Medical Cannabis Policy to Benefit Children Arkansas’ five-member Medical Marijuana Commission found itself a member shy last month when James Miller resigned. Justin Smith, a pediatric nurse, will take Miller’s place. But he brings with him a set of experiences that his predecessor didn’t have. In his 11 years as a nurse, Smith has worked with patients who took medical cannabis treatments. And he’s seen the effectiveness of those treatments, firsthand. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” Smith told the AP. “When you see that, it kind of changes your mind and perspective on things.” Smith said that his long-time experience as a pediatric nurse makes it impossible for him to deny the effectiveness of medical cannabis. “Especially in my case, when you see it work on children, you can’t really deny it has some benefits with proper application,” Smith said. Indeed, a pair of recent studies and the FDA’s recent approval of the cannabis-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex have put the children of medical cannabis in the spotlight. So has the hit documentary Weed the People, which follows terminally ill children and their families who rely on medical cannabis treatments. This kind of exposure to the reality of medical cannabis has the power to overcome skepticism and lead to a better understand of the drug and its uses. Having a voice representing that perspective on the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission could be a game-changer for patients in the state. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program Still Has No Dispensaries The appointment of a pediatric nurse to the empty seat on Arkansas’ medical marijuana board is important. But the more pressing question is when that board will take action to license and finally launch Arkansas’ medical cannabis program. Voters approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana back in 2016. 26 months later, the state has yet to license a single dispensary. The Commission has approved more than 6,000 patients, but has yet to send them the official license they’ll need to access a dispensary in Arkansas or out-of-state in Oklahoma. On Wednesday, however, the commission will meet to decide who to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
 
  • NJ Doctor Suspended for Recommending Medical Marijuana to Thousands of Patients
    Did Anthony “Dr. Marijuana” Anzalone overextend himself by authorizing over 3,000 patients for New Jersey’s burgeoning medical marijuana program? State authorities seem to think so — and have underlined their views by putting a freeze on Anzalone’s license while an investigation looks into his practice. “By temporarily suspending Anzalone from practicing medicine, we are making it clear that we will not allow unscrupulous doctors to enrich themselves at the expense of the safety and welfare of their patients and the public,” New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal told the press. Anzalone’s attorney Jef Henninger says that the doctor maintains his innocence in the face of the charges. “Dr. Anzalone is a very popular doctor that takes great care of his patients,” Henninger told NJ Advance Media. “He is a trailblazer in this industry. Dr. Anzalone maintains his innocence and looks forward to having his license reinstated at the conclusion of this matter.” The physician, who was trained as an obstetrician and began his practice as a Rutherford-based specialist on preventative care for women, has gone on record about his frustration with having to prescribe conventional pain medication. In 2013, a profile on Anzalone by local news site NJ Spotlight quoted the doctor’s response to queries about his cannabis advocacy and whether he was “worried” about side effects. “They said, ‘Aren’t you afraid?,’”Anzalone recounts. “‘No. Afraid of what? I’m more afraid of dispensing opiates.’” Undercover investigators pretended to be patients to examine Anzalone’s passion for connecting people to medical marijuana. They found Dr. Anzalone meeting clients in rented hotel ballrooms, giving 3,250 patients access to cannabis over the course of four years. Each paid $350 for their initial consultation and $100 for quarterly renewals of their doctor’s recommendation. The investigation concluded the doctor probably made more than $1 million off of these fees. New Jersey has made real progress on access to cannabis in recent years. Last summer, Grewal put a freeze on all cannabis court cases until the fall, when the state’s Senate and Congress voted to legalize recreational cannabis for adults. NJ.com reports that since pro-pot Governor Phil Murphy stepped into office last year (and expanded the program’s list of qualifying conditions) the number of registered adult medical cannabis users has doubled to 40,000. But doctors have not been quick to jump on the green train. 900 of the state’s 28,000 registered MDs have signed up for the medical marijuana program. Over 50 towns have passed laws restricting, banning, or opposing cannabis ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Medical Marijuana Recalled From Two Michigan Dispensaries Due to Failed Lab Tests
    Girl Scout Cookies, Superman OG, Silver Haze, and Critical Kush are just some of more than a dozen medical cannabis strains Michigan regulators recalled from two dispensaries on Friday. Friday’s recalls are mandatory and require that dispensaries notify affected customers who may have purchased the contaminated strains. Lab test failures for mold, yeast, and other contaminants prompted the recalls, drawing attention to Michigan’s urgent need for more medical cannabis testing facilities and licensed cultivators. Medical Cannabis Recalls Stem From Michigan’s Out of Sync Industry Since 2016, Michigan’s marijuana laws have been undergoing some massive revision. The state legalized medical cannabis in 2008, but opted not to set up much in the way of regulatory or licensing frameworks. Patients and caregivers had to enroll in the program and get certifications. But with no licensed producers, cultivation, and production fell to patients and caregivers themselves. That changed in 2016 when a coalition of conservative state lawmakers began passing legislation aimed at taxing, regulating and licensing the state’s medical cannabis program. But by then, an entire informal industry of unlicensed growers and distributors had emerged, along with dozens of unlicensed dispensaries. Realizing Michigan’s medical cannabis infrastructure could simply turn on a time and adopt new regulations, officials implemented a set of “emergency rules” for cannabis businesses. Among other things, the emergency rules gave businesses temporary approval to continue operating while they put their licensing applications together. Licensing, as many in the industry have experienced, is a lengthy bureaucratic process that routinely encounters delays. And while Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) worked on licensing processors, producers, distributors and “provisioning centers,” it gave the green light for dispensaries to stock medical cannabis grown by caregivers. In fact, LARA more or less had to, due to a shortage of medical cannabis at licensed provisioning centers (i.e., dispensaries). But that led to another issue: testing caregiver-grown cannabis. Michigan Shortage of Cannabis Testing Facilities Puts Patients and Consumers at Risk The problem, however, was that Michigan regulators had only licensed a few medical cannabis testing labs–and only as recently as August 2018. So LARA permitted provisioning centers to sell untested medical cannabis products through 2018. Patients had to sign a disclosure form acknowledging they understood this, but when 2019 rolled around, provisioning centers could no longer sell untested products. And now that caregiver-grown cannabis must undergo lab testing, the risks inherent to unregulated cultivation are coming to light. All of the 15 strains of medical cannabis flower LARA recalled Friday came from caregiver-growers. Dispensaries sold ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission Approves 32 Dispensaries
    The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission has accepted an outside consulting group’s recommendations and voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve 32 cannabis dispensaries to serve the state. The action by the commission sets the stage for sales of medicinal cannabis to begin as soon as April, more than two years after voters approved an amendment legalizing medical marijuana in November 2016. Cultivation licenses have already been issued and more than 7,000 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana. The 32 approved dispensaries represent the four highest scoring applications in each of the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensary zones. Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said that the successful applicants will receive official notification from the state by next week. “Monday at the latest, that [letter of intent] will go to those 32 companies that scored among the highest in each zone,” Hardin said. “They then have seven days to pay a $15,000 licensing fee, post a $100,000 performance bond, and then once we confirm that they still have that storefront… they’ll likely be licensed within the next couple of weeks.” The state will launch the medical marijuana program with five cultivation facilities and the 32 newly approved dispensaries. If demand warrants, the medical marijuana amendment allows for up to eight cultivators and 40 dispensaries. Dr. Dane Flippin, the physician at Arkansas Progressive Medicine in Jonesboro, told local media that access to medical marijuana in the state is tightly controlled. “You have to have a certification from a medical doctor that you have one of the eighteen qualifying conditions,” Flippin said. “You have to be a resident of Arkansas to participate in the program. ” Flippin said that once the approved dispensaries in Arkansas are open, patients will no longer have to leave the state to get their medicine. “We’ve had people called medical refugees that will live in a state that it’s illegal and move to Colorado and live there and treat their problem,” Flippin said. MMJ Cards Coming Soon Last week, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced it would issue temporary licenses to purchase cannabis to patients with out of state identification cards. That’s led many of the patients approved in neighboring Arkansas to ask for their cards now, according to Connie Melton, branch chief for health systems, licensing and certification for the Arkansas Department of Health. “Approved patients have called and requested that their card be made available so that they can take advantage of the Oklahoma visiting patient opportunity, and so pending the outcome of the Marijuana Commission meeting ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-11
  • Tennessee Lawmakers to Introduce New, Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Bill
    Two state lawmakers in Tennessee announced on Thursday that they plan to introduce a comprehensive medical marijuana legalization bill. Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis plan to introduce the bill in the coming weeks, according to media reports. Bowling said in a press release that she believes cannabis can be part of the solution to the nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose deaths. “I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills. Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans,” Bowling said. “Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use.” If the bill passes, patients with certain qualifying health conditions would be able to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to allow them to legally purchase cannabis. A commission would be created to regulate patient access and license cultivators and retailers. Bowling said the experience of other states was drawn upon to draft this medical cannabis solution for Tennessee. “I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling said. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.” Cannabis Advocates Support Measure Glenn Anderson, the executive director of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association expressed his support for the measure. “This bill represents a careful look at what the other states have struggled with so we could focus on the successes and avoid repeating any failures,” Anderson said. “We look forward to working with the legislature to pass a bill that provides the relief patients need.” Travis said lawmakers have a responsibility to provide residents of Tennessee access to alternative medical therapies that work for them. “As I learn about the different medical cannabis products available in other states, I am concerned that in Tennessee, a person can’t find relief for their children’s or any other family member’s medical condition, such as epileptic seizures or cancer. The number of people we could help could be astounding,” Travis said. “I look forward to working with Senator Bowling, the Senate sponsor, to do our due diligence on this very important bill. It is of the utmost importance for Tennessee ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Study: Over 50 Percent of Michigan Medical Marijuana Users Have Driven While High
    A new study released by the University of Michigan Addiction Center reports some troubling news about the state’s medical cannabis users. One in five participants said they had driven a car “very high” within the last half-year. “There is a low perceived risk about driving after using marijuana, but we want people to know that they should ideally wait several hours to operate a vehicle after using cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical use or not,” said Erin E. Bonar, the report’s lead author, assistant professor of psychiatry, and clinical psychologist. “The safest strategy is to not drive at all on the day you used marijuana.” But that is decidedly not the strategy being practiced by the study’s participants. Over 50 percent of respondents — all of whom take cannabis for chronic pain issues — said they have driven high within two hours of consuming cannabis. The study is particularly significant given the sheer number of cannabis users in Michigan. California is the only state with more medical marijuana patients in the United States. Overall, Michigan is home to some 270,000 medical cannabis users. Since the study was conducted, voters in the state approved widespread recreational marijuana usage, making it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to use cannabis and grow up to 12 plants for personal consumption. Bonar’s study aggregated responses from 790 adults who applied for certification or recertification as a medical marijuana patient in 2014 and 2015. The report was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and published in the Drug & Alcohol Dependence journal. In Michigan it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, regardless of the conditions under which it was consumed. The study’s results underline what may be a miscommunication about medical patients’ attitudes regarding the legal ramifications of their prescriptions. Participants may be unaware of the (very real) physical limitations that occur after consumption. Bonar attributes this discordance between legality, safety, and reality with confusion over the way marijuana affects us and the ways in which it can be measured. “With alcohol, you can do some quick math based on the amount you drank, and take an educated guess at your blood alcohol level,” she told the University of Michigan Health Lab. “For marijuana, an estimate like this would be complicated. It’s hard to quantify because there is a lot of variation in marijuana dosing, THC potency, and route of administration. We also don’t have specific guidelines yet about when exactly it would be safe to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer Introduces Bill to Regulate Cannabis Like Alcohol
    Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon introduced a bill on Wednesday to federally regulate cannabis like alcohol. The bill, in a reference to pot culture, has been designated as House Resolution 420. “While the bill number may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the issue is very serious,” said Blumenauer. “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.” If passed, the measure would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and put the regulation of cannabis under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Removing marijuana from the CSA, where it is listed as a Schedule I drug, would allow federal grants to fund cannabis research and eliminate tight regulations on banking and other financial services. Passage of the bill would also allow for interstate cannabis commerce between states with legal pot. That would allow Blumenauer’s home state of Oregon, which is experiencing a weed glut, to export to other markets. The Food and Drug Administration and the renamed Alcohol, Tobacco and Marijuana Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the Department of the Treasury, would have regulatory jurisdiction over the newly legal cannabis industry. The federal government would issue permits for the cultivation, packaging, sale, and importing of cannabis. H.R. 420, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, has been referred to the House Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Natural Resources, and Agriculture committees for consideration. The text of the measure has not yet been posted to the House of Representatives website. New Congressional Cannabis Caucus Chairs Also on Wednesday, Blumenauer announced the new co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus for the 116th Congress, which began earlier this month. The caucus is a bipartisan forum in the House of Representatives “to discuss, learn, and work together to establish a better and more rational approach to federal cannabis policy,” according to a press release from Blumenauer. “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,” said Blumenauer. “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.” Joining Blumenauer as co-chairs will be California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, who will be the first woman of color to co-chair the caucus; ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Maine Lawmakers Developing Bills to Expunge Past Cannabis Convictions
    As many other states with legal adult-use cannabis (and some without) have done, Maine lawmakers will soon consider a handful of bills to expunge or seal past cannabis convictions. At this stage, however, legislators are only weighing bill titles related to those policies. Lawmakers say they haven’t yet drafted specific details about the policies or how the state would implement them. But two competing approaches are currently emerging. Maine Lawmakers are Developing Competing Approaches to Past Marijuana Convictions Three state representatives and one state senator have each proposed their own bill title related to cannabis convictions. But the four proposals fall into two basic camps. Both Rep. Richard Farnsworth’s (D-Orono) and Sen. James Dill’s (D-Portland) bills would actually expunge all prior non-violent misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions, as several states including California, Washington, and Maryland and some major municipalities like Denver and Brooklyn have done. In short, Maine would delete those convictions from people’s records. On the other hand, Both Rep. Justin Fecteau (R-Augusta) and Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portand) have proposed sealing rather than expunging past convictions. Sealing means the convictions stay on record, but prospective employers or the public cannot see them. Data about the number of people who would be eligible for expungement in Maine is not being made public at this time. As a result of the diverging approaches, the Legislature’s Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will likely have to opt for one or the other. And the decision, some lawmakers say, will likely come down to cost, more than anything else. Rep. James Dill said that any proposals requiring the state to invest resources in identifying people with eligible prior convictions could rankle rank-and-file fiscal conservatives in the state legislature. But opposition to the bill will likely be slight. Policy groups that opposed legalization in 2016 have even endorsed the expungement and sealing proposals, like Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Expungement Bills Just Part of Legislative Efforts to Tweak Maine’s Legal Cannabis Laws The four bills addressing past convictions are just a fraction of the more than two dozen bills relating to cannabis that lawmakers will take up this session. Voters approved adult-use legalization in 2016 by referendum. But legislators added and removed several provisions in the version of the bill that ultimately became law. In 2019, lawmakers are still trying to work out the kinks and appease their constituencies as they adapt to the new industry. They’re also trying to get some things right that they missed the first time around. Expungement is a good ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Data Shows Black People in Philadelphia Are Still Targeted After Pot Decriminalization
    Despite the decriminalization of cannabis in Philadelphia four years ago, African-Americans in the city are still being disproportionately charged with marijuana offenses by police. The city decriminalized possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis with an ordinance passed in 2014. But arrests for possession are still made, and purchasing marijuana is still a criminal offense. In the four years since decriminalization, Black people—who represent 44 percent of the city’s population—made up 76 percent of all arrests for marijuana possession. The defendants in 81 percent of arrests for buying cannabis were Black. The discrepancies exist despite numerous studies that have shown that White people and Black people use cannabis at comparable rates. David Rudovsky is a civil rights attorney who has filed racial bias lawsuits against the City of Philadelphia. He said in an email to local media that the racial disparity is unjustified. “Given the equal use of marijuana by persons of different races, the fact that 80 percent of the arrests continue to be of Black suspects cannot be justified on the grounds that more Blacks than Whites possess marijuana,” said Rudovsky. No Explanation from Police Captain Sekou Kinebrew of the Philadelphia Police Department said that most arrests for purchasing cannabis occur during enforcement activities or investigations targeting sellers. But he was unable to explain the racial disparity. “We are evaluating the data, along with continual examination of our policies and practices, to determine the contributing factors for the disparity,” Kinebrew said. Lyandra Retacco, the supervisor of the District Attorney’s Office charging unit, said that defendants charged with purchasing cannabis are “almost always” arrested during sting operations against sellers. She said that her office does not press charges against people who have only been arrested for purchasing small quantities of pot. “If it’s a street-level hand-to-hand buy, we don’t think that’s fair,” Retacco said. She also said that “the evidence is absolutely still used [to prosecute] the dealer on the street.” In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union determined that statewide in Pennsylvania, Black people were 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. Andy Hoover, a spokesperson for the ACLU PA, said that police cannot be trusted to correct the problem themselves. “[They] don’t have the will to fix it,” said Hoover. “That’s why marijuana policy has to be taken out of their hands by wiping marijuana criminalization off the books.” Tickets Instead of Arrests Since decriminalization in Philadelphia, those caught with small amounts of cannabis are issued citations instead of being arrested. The fine for simple possession is ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Brings Former Marijuana Policy Project Director to Her Staff
    In her much loved dinner prep Instagram livestreams, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made it clear that she thinks marijuana prohibition is a “tool” used to oppress people of color in the United States. But other than the fact she’d legalize cannabis and advocate for the release of people who have been incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses, she hasn’t released much info on her ideas around cannabis. Those looking for clues to any potential strategy got another one this week, when Ocasio-Cortez announced that Dan Riffle, health care and tax reform expert, would be joining her staff as senior counsel and policy advisor. That’s big news for those with an eye on weed issues because, in addition to holding past staff positions for other members of Congress, Riffle was once director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project. He left the organization back in 2014; attributing his departure to the overwhelming influence of big business in the legalization movement and how it shapes policy in terms of how cannabis is accessed. Upon leaving MPP, Riffle told Vox in an interview: ”We used to talk three or four years ago about how we’re creating this industry, yet nobody in the industry gives to MPP. But now that they do give at least a little, it’s like, ‘Be careful what you asked for.’ Because we owe them now, and they get to drive the agenda.” At the time, Riffle identified some key reasons why this may be the case, including the trend of low-level cannabis advocates swapping time between activism and positions within the commercial industry. Riffle also pinpointed issues around funding experienced by marijuana advocates should their connections end with big weed businesses. “Who’s going to pay for a nonprofit, collective cooperative model?” Riffle asked. “It’s hard to find somebody who is willing to do that, so it’s left to the industry to fund legalization measures, and of course the industry is going to fund industry-centered policies.” “The industry’s goal is to make money,” Riffle told International Business Times in 2015. “But from a public health perspective, we might have other goals that are at odds with the industry’s goal of making money.” It’s clear Cortez-Ocasio — the youngest woman ever elected to US Congress who’s currently dominating media narrative with her socialist viewpoints — tends to see cannabis legalization as a civil rights issue before a matter of consumers and suppliers. It will be interesting to see how her new senior counsel is able to influence her ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-10
  • Vermont Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Smell is Not Grounds for Search
    January is already shaking out to be a big month for court rulings on the civil and criminal liabilities people should or shouldn’t face over the smell of cannabis. On the heels of a federal judge’s dismissal of a racketeering lawsuit against a smelly cannabis farmer, the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that certain marijuana odors are not grounds for a search of persons or seizure of property. The important ruling creates a binding legal precedent across all courts in Vermont and comes at the end of a lengthy lawsuit by the Vermont ACLU. 2014 ACLU Lawsuit Ends with Vermont Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Driver Simple cannabis possession has been decriminalized in Vermont since 2013. And in 2018, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize cannabis for adult use. But in March 2014, a Vermont state trooper pulled over Rultand resident Greg Zullo and ended up seizing his vehicle when Zullo refused to consent to a search. The officer asked to conduct the search after reportedly smelling “burnt cannabis” inside the vehicle. The trooper said he pulled Zullo over because snow was covering his car’s registration sticker. Zullo consented to a search of his person. But police had to tow his vehicle in order to be able to search it legally. During that search, police found only a grinder and a glass pipe with cannabis residue. Neither items constituted a criminal or civil offense under Vermont law. But Zullo’s refusal to consent to a search of his car resulted in the seizure of his property anyway. Zullo, a black man who was 21 in 2014, took his case to the Vermont American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the State of Vermont over the search and seizure. Last Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in the ACLU’s favor. Associate Justice Harold E. Eaton Jr. ruled that the state trooper was wrong to seize Zullo’s vehicle after saying he smelled burnt cannabis. Furthermore, Justice Eaton Jr. ruled that the smell of burnt cannabis cannot constitute legal grounds for searches and seizures. Throughout the proceedings, Vermont had tried to argue that it was immune from such lawsuits. State attorneys tried the case though a number of statutes involving reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Vermont Supreme Court Sets Crucial Precedent Against Searches Initiated Because of Cannabis Odors Ultimately, however, the state Supreme Court ruled that “an odor of marijuana is a factor, but not necessarily a determinative factor, as to whether probable cause exists.” In other words, just smelling burnt cannabis doesn’t amount to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • The Details of Kentucky’s New Medical Marijuana Bill Have Been Revealed
    Perhaps all Kentucky needs to move forward with medical marijuana legislation is a 78-year-old Republican lawmaker to admit he threw his prescription pain meds in the trash—and smoked a joint instead. Cannabis advocates are hoping that’s the case after Wednesday’s announcement of Kentucky’s House Bill 136, which would make cannabis legal for those with debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain. “For those that don’t know, I had colon cancer seven years ago, and when I left the hospital, they gave me that nice bottle of Oxycontin,” said Daniel DeVerl “Malano” Seum, the state senator, at a press conference. “I threw it in the garbage can and went home and smoked a joint.” Such revelations are not the norm for Kentucky politics, but they may be what’s needed if the bill’s sponsors make headway on providing patients access to cannabis. The state’s law enforcement has expressed split opinions on the support of cannabis legislation. “My opposition to this legislation isn’t because I lack compassion for the sick, but because I think it’s wrong to herald marijuana — with its many proven negative qualities,” Sheriff Cain of Daviess County testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding last year’s unsuccessful medical cannabis proposal HB-166. Kentucky Senate President Robert Silvers went so far as to respond to Wednesday’s press conference by calling cannabis a “gateway drug.” “He then said he is open to discussion but has not been given any ‘studies and facts’ saying marijuana has ‘medical and therapeutic value,’” reported Lexington NBC affiliate LEX18. “There are 20,000 studies,” responded Seum to Silver’s seeming ignorance of the copious medical literature available on the benefits of cannabis that’s led to legalization in 33 states. “I’m not going to go as far as to say there is adequate support in the House, but there is certainly significant discussion,” said House Speaker David Osborne, in support of the bill. The states’ politicians behind the bill made it clear they are not (yet) total supporters of the rapidly-expanding cannabis industry. ”The intention of this legislation is not to generate tax revenue, but rather to provide relief to the thousands of Kentuckians who suffer from conditions that have not responded to traditional medicine,” said Representative Diane St. Onge, a Republican from Fort Wright. The bill puts forth a proposal for a medical cannabis system run by the Department of Public Protection’s Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It includes a yearly licensing fee and will put a limit on the quantity of cannabis that can be ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Report: Illicit Pot is Almost 50 Percent Cheaper Than That Bought Legally in Canada
    New metrics from Statistics Canada are shedding light on the state of Canada’s cannabis markets. Among several key trends, the new stats show that the price of legal weed has seen a rapid increase since it became legal in October. In fact, the increase in price has been so high that legal cannabis is now significantly more expensive than weed purchased on the illegal market. New Cannabis Stats The new figures from Statistics Canada come from data gathered throughout the last quarter of 2018. More specifically, the data comes from an updated version of the organization’s crowdsourcing app. This program allows individuals in Canada to input their own data. These numbers are then collected, aggregated, and analyzed. In total, this new data set includes marijuana price quotes from 385 respondents. As reported by CBC, roughly half of those 385 price quotes were from legal cannabis stores. The others were from illegal suppliers. When comparing stats from Oct. 17, the date on which recreational marijuana became legal in Canada, and the end of the year, analysts noticed some clear trends. Most immediately, they noted a sharp increase in the price of legal weed. This increase put the average price of legal weed well above the average price of illegal weed. By year end, the average price for cannabis from a legal recreational supplier was $9.70 per gram. That price is significantly higher than prices for weed on the illegal market. According to the new stats, illegal cannabis cost an average of $6.51 per gram. Beyond changes in price, analysts also noted a few other potentially important trends. For example, they found that more consumers reported making their first marijuana purchases in the weeks following legalization. Specifically, 7.7 percent of those who provided data said they made their first-ever cannabis purchase last fall. Additionally, the stats showed that 49.8 percent of male consumers bought weed at a legal supplier. Meanwhile, 41.6 percent of female consumers said they bought marijuana from a legal supplier. Analyzing the Numbers Analysts have identified potential reasons for legal weed’s rapid price increases. Most notably, North American affairs manager at the Consumer Choice Centre, David Clement, told CBC the price changes had to do primarily with the often-expensive legal framework surrounding the industry. “It costs half a billion a year to enforce the rules and regulations in the Cannabis Act,” Clement said. “So in order to generate the revenues to cover that they’ve implemented fees and licenses on licensed producers.” He added: “The taxes and fees create prices that are ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Ohio Medical Board Reviewing More Conditions to Add to Medical Marijuana Program
    Ohio’s medical marijuana program has been plagued by delays and setbacks. But now, things appear to moving forward—even if at a sluggish pace. And amid all the confusion, the program could be on the verge of becoming more accessible to a broader range of patients. That’s because state officials are considering adding new health conditions to Ohio’s medical marijuana program. Ohio Could Approve New Qualifying Health Conditions Under Ohio’s current laws, only patients with one of a predefined set of health conditions can qualify for medical marijuana. Now, the list of conditions that qualify for the program is on the verge of expanding. As reported by local news sources, Ohio’s medical board is currently reviewing a number of new petitions. Specifically, these petitions request that new health conditions be added to the state’s medical marijuana program. Candidates for inclusion on the list include opioid addiction, autism, depression, and a number of other ailments and conditions. As per local sources, the state’s medical board is meeting today to review these petitions. All requests that meet the state’s initial legal requirements will advance on to additional reviews. Then, if all goes well in later-stage reviews, the petitions will be approved. Finally, if that happens, authorities will add the new conditions to the state’s list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions. State authorities are supposed to make all decisions on these petitions within six months. Currently, Ohio’s list of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana includes more than 21 conditions. More specifically, the list includes things like AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, epilepsy, severe chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and more. If the medical board approves the new conditions, it would open the program to a larger number of patients in the state. Medical Marijuana in Ohio This new development is the latest chapter in Ohio’s ongoing medical marijuana story. In many ways, it has become a relatively dramatic and drawn-out tale. To begin with, the Ohio General Assembly approved a plan to establish a legal medical marijuana program back in 2016. Initially, the plan stipulated that the program be up and running by September 8, 2018. Clearly, that date has come and gone. And still no medical marijuana is available to patients. When Sep. 8, 2018 rolled around, the state had issued most of the licenses needed for an operational program. However, because of previous delays and setbacks, there was still work to be done before cultivators would be in a position to grow and harvest anything. As a result, the state ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Virginia Lawmaker Introduces Legislation to Legalize Marijuana in the State
    Virginia House Delegate Steve Heretick, a former Justice Department attorney and president of the Virginia Board of Medicine, knows that cannabis, like any intoxicant, poses risks. But he also believes that adults should have the freedom and the responsibility to choose whether or not to consume cannabis for medical or other purposes. In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the day before the start of Virginia’s first 2019 legislative legislation, Heretick presents those views as he introduces his bill to legalize marijuana in the state. Today, Heretick submitted that bill, HB2371, to the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates. New Bill Would Legalize the Manufacture, Possession and Personal Use of Cannabis in Virginia Steve Heretick’s HB2371 is hardly the delegate’s first attempt to pass legislation reforming Virginia’s harsh cannabis laws. Since his election in 2015, Heretick has introduced a number of bills to decriminalize simple possession. And incidentally, state senator Adam Ebbin submitted a bill in Virginia’s upper house on Wednesday that would do just that. But this year, Heretick wants to go all the way. His bill would establish a regulated cultivation, distribution and retail industry while setting broad limits for personal possession and use. Heretick’s bill even allows for home cultivation of three mature plants, three immature plants and unlimited seedlings. But because it’s such an extreme departure from the current norm in Virginia, Heretick knows his legislation faces a long, uphill battle. That’s why his 150-page bill tries to cover all its bases. Taking a page out of the legislative play books of U.S. states with legal cannabis, Heretick is proposing a comprehensive “seed-to-sale” tracking system, a weighty but comparable 15 percent tax rate on retail and a ban on public consumption. Anti-Cannabis Attitudes Still Prevail Among Virginia Lawmakers Delegate Heretick doesn’t believe decriminalization measures go far enough. But taking into account the strong sentiment against legalizing cannabis in the Virginia legislature, decriminalization might be as far as a majority of lawmakers are willing to go—at least short term. Certainly, decriminalization would be a massive improvement over Virginia’s current system of affirmative defense. Affirmative defense means someone with a valid recommendation for medical cannabis can avoid criminal liability for possessing certain non-psychoactive oils. But it doesn’t shield patients from arrest, charges or a trial. Nor does it provide patients with many options when it comes to medical cannabis products. Affirmative defense applies only to possession of oils with at least 15 percent THC-A or CBD and less than 5 percent THC. Decriminalization would add to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09
  • Newest Member of Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Board is a Pediatric Nurse
    On Monday, Arkansas’ Medical Marijuana Commission welcomed its newest member, pediatric nurse Justin Smith. Smith has worked in pediatric care for 11 years, and currently works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Smith’s appointment to the Commission could help shape Arkansas’ still-emerging medical cannabis program in important ways. In his time as a nurse, the 38-year-old Smith gained firsthand experience with the benefits of medical cannabis treatments for children. New Board Member Could Shape Arkansas Medical Cannabis Policy to Benefit Children Arkansas’ five-member Medical Marijuana Commission found itself a member shy last month when James Miller resigned. Justin Smith, a pediatric nurse, will take Miller’s place. But he brings with him a set of experiences that his predecessor didn’t have. In his 11 years as a nurse, Smith has worked with patients who took medical cannabis treatments. And he’s seen the effectiveness of those treatments, firsthand. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” Smith told the AP. “When you see that, it kind of changes your mind and perspective on things.” Smith said that his long-time experience as a pediatric nurse makes it impossible for him to deny the effectiveness of medical cannabis. “Especially in my case, when you see it work on children, you can’t really deny it has some benefits with proper application,” Smith said. Indeed, a pair of recent studies and the FDA’s recent approval of the cannabis-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex have put the children of medical cannabis in the spotlight. So has the hit documentary Weed the People, which follows terminally ill children and their families who rely on medical cannabis treatments. This kind of exposure to the reality of medical cannabis has the power to overcome skepticism and lead to a better understand of the drug and its uses. Having a voice representing that perspective on the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission could be a game-changer for patients in the state. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program Still Has No Dispensaries The appointment of a pediatric nurse to the empty seat on Arkansas’ medical marijuana board is important. But the more pressing question is when that board will take action to license and finally launch Arkansas’ medical cannabis program. Voters approved a measure legalizing medical marijuana back in 2016. 26 months later, the state has yet to license a single dispensary. The Commission has approved more than 6,000 patients, but has yet to send them the official license they’ll need to access a dispensary in Arkansas or out-of-state in Oklahoma. On Wednesday, however, the commission will meet to decide who to ... read more
    Source: High TimesPublished on 2019-01-09