Michigan’s current Medical Marijuana Problem

Currently, there are several major issues facing the newly regulated medical marijuana industry in Michigan.  There have been issues in the past with local ordinances causing many businesses owners to close down shop, but the new regulations are putting a serious strain on the industry as a whole.  Very few retail locations have been given a license by the state despite a massive amount of submitted applications.  Now anyone without a license that continues to operate may face criminal charges and lose the chance of ever obtaining one in the future.  Hundreds of these stores have been operating for years under the approval of their local government.  Patients and dispensaries never had any issues existing in an unregulated environment.  Marijuana has always been unregulated throughout history, like most things that naturally exist.  The argument behind regulation is that patients will know where their medicine is coming from and that it’s not contaminated.  Realistically, all the regulations are doing is making it harder for the dispensaries that have been approved to serve nearly 300,000 patients.

Testing for contaminations has been available for patients and dispensaries in Michigan for over 5 years now.  PSI labs and Iron labs both offer testing when it comes to potency and the presence of mold or pesticides.  One of the dispensaries that I had been using before it closed its doors already mandated all products to be tested by their vendors.  So the real reason for regulation is so that the government can not only tax it but also control how and where provisioning centers operate.  Not only are dispensary owners and their employees getting screwed while the state takes its time licensing, but patients are also affected.  People are piling into the few remaining stores and wait times are becoming outrageous.  It doesn’t even matter what day or time of day you decide to pick up some medicine.  To make the problem even worse, the state is requiring that the approved dispensaries only obtain products from approved cultivators/processors.  Word is spreading that shortages are coming very soon because there are nowhere near enough approved growers to supply the current demand.  People who are dependent on these shops for access are probably in a panicked state right now.  Judging by the number of people I have seen entering the dispensary, there are a lot of people who don’t have caregivers or any black market contacts.

Many patients including myself, strictly go to these stores for the processed forms of the plant that are harder to find at an affordable price.  They always seem to have really great deals on edibles, cartridges, and concentrates.  The top quality buds are priced higher than what most growers are offering it for.  Plenty of low-mid quality buds can be purchased at a great price for the budget smokers who aren’t as interested in higher potency and stronger flavor.  After my last few visits, I think I will simply go without the other concentrated forms of the plant for now as prices will likely rise as the available legal supply dwindles.  Waiting for more than 30 minutes just to get in the bud room kinda turned me off as well.  We will just have to hope the state starts handing out more licenses in a hurry, or the supply issues will continue to get worse.

 

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How do Running and Weed Mix

We all know that someone who smokes cigarettes is going to struggle much harder to keep up with a non-smoker when it comes to a foot race that requires any stamina.  Based on that logic, it would make sense to say that smoking anything is going to limit your lung’s performance in any type of intense aerobic activity.  If you were to judge this topic based on professional athletes and marathon runners who have opened up about their cannabis use, it may contradict this assumption.  One great example is ultra-marathon runner Avery Collins who has completed more than 30 of these races.  He is known for winning a 200 mile run through the Rocky Mountains that I couldn’t even imagine completing with years of training.  He claims that cannabis helps him avoid pain while keeping his mind in the moment.  The proof of marijuana’s effectiveness may lie in the fact that many professional marathons now test runners for pot, and treating it as a performance-enhancing drug.

While I have never completed a marathon in my life, I do enjoy running a lot and competed in my share of races.  I discovered marijuana’s positive effect on running during my time running for my high school cross-country team.  It was an accidental discovery as I thought I was being irresponsible by smoking up before an intense practice day.  The very first thing I noticed after 20 minutes or so of running was that the soreness in my legs was much more manageable.  Normally after having a few practices back to back, I would always be thinking about the constant pain with each step.  This shouldn’t have been a shocker because marijuana has always been known to be great for inflammation and pain, but I thought the negative effect on my breathing would far outweigh that benefit.  It also became clear that I didn’t notice any limitations on my ability to breathe normally.  Even if there was, it could have easily been avoided by i consuming an edible or vaporizing instead.

Edibles seem to be the most popular choice among runners.  This is likely because most runners are concerned with exposing their lungs to any type of risk, minimal or not.  The trickiest part about edibles is getting the appropriate dose so it doesn’t negatively affect performance.  With so many different brands with varying potency and black market products with unlimited levels of THC, knowing your tolerance and preferences is key.  It’s delayed effect will make it impossible to re-dose during a run unless you’re putting in some serious miles.  I have never reached distances over 10 miles with or without marijuana but I don’t really see the desire to personally.  I enjoy reasonably shorter distances and constantly trying to improve those times.  Running is nice for me because it’s a great stress reliever and a healthy way to distract the mind.  Combine it with some weed and it has a positive compounding effect.

Best Ways to Conserve Cannabis

Whether you make the decision to take the time and effort to grow your own cannabis or purchase it from someone with more experience, making the stash last is always a challenge.  There are several different techniques used by stoners over the years.  The number one tip to extending your buds lifespan is to avoid blunts and joints when possible.  No other method of smoking wastes anywhere near as many buds per session.  Don’t get me wrong, puffing on a joint is my favorite and most relaxing way to unwind.  If it didn’t deplete my supply so quickly, I would probably strictly smoke joints.  They seem to provide the most flavor while burning almost as slow as them tobacco wraps.

However, every other method of consumption is much more efficient, especially when smoking alone or with a small group of people.  Packing a bowl/bong will use approximately 0.2-0.4 grams each session in comparison to the 0.9-1.5+ grams of bud you will find stuffed in a cone.  While a joint will provide more hits and last longer than a bong, just a few rips out of a decent rig will provide a comparable high.  It produces much more smoke then a joint ever could in one hit.  If you were to pack three of these bowls back to back you would most definitely be higher than you would off a standard joint.  The same amount of marijuana can be used for a much stronger effect.  Most people come to realize that they are using much more product than necessary after purchasing a bong for the first time.

Are there any other ways to consume weed that uses even less than packing a bong?  Of course, but you’ll have to trade all that marijuana smoke for some vapor.  The healthier alternative of vaporizing is not as popular among patients and consumers as smoking.  I think a lot of this is due to the fact that smoking marijuana has been the traditional way to use it for thousands of years.  Smoking seems to pack a stronger less clear-headed high then vaporization in my own personal experience.  The high just has a different feeling to it than one produced by vapor.  Another reason many people steer clear of vaporization is the high price tag on the equipment.  While I haven’t used a portable herb vaporizer in a couple years, they did seem to be sub-par quality with a lot of problems in comparison to their stationary versions.  I’m sure they have made a lot of progress and improvements over the last few years, but you still need to be prepared to drop a couple hundred dollars for a decent one.  Cleaning was always a challenge for these older versions.  Non-portable options like the volcano vaporizer typically run $500 -$700.  A lot of people see that price tag and run over to the glass section to buy a nice piece for a fraction of that.  In the long run, the vaporizer will save users a shit ton because very little product is needed to fill up huge bags of vapor.  For the occasional smoker, it might not be worth it to make this investment.  However, for regular users and patients that are concerned about the effects smoke is having to their lungs it’s a great alternative and a nice way to save some cash.

 

Marijuana in the Upcoming Midterms

It’s approaching midterm election time, and my hope is voter turnout will be good thanks to the marijuana initiatives that will be on the ballots for four states (Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah).  The most exciting measure for me personally is the chance for voters to pass recreational marijuana in my home state of Michigan.  It’s exciting and surprising that North Dakota will also be voting on a measure for recreational use.  Both these initiatives accomplish the same goals of giving marijuana consumers some protection from prosecution, but the language in one is much vaguer than the other.  North Dakota is taking a unique approach that hasn’t been standard practice in previous successful initiatives across the country.  It simply states that it will allow adults over 21 to possess, grow, and purchase cannabis without any legal punishment.  Those with previous marijuana convictions can get those expunged and the initiative also creates penalties for those under 21 who possess, grow, or purchase pot.  Other than that, there is no mention of possession or grow limits for adults.  Setting tax rates and determining how stores and cultivation centers will be regulated was not mentioned either.  An advisor for the campaign claimed the reason for this was to let the legislature do their job and develop all the regulations.  It will be interesting to see how this initiative turns out in a highly conservative state with unclear rules.

Polling from both of these states has shown more positive results for Michigan than North Dakota.  I think that it is likely a direct result of the clear framework MI Legalize has presented to voters.  Many people may see the vagueness as a sign of no rules or limits and vote against it.  Medical marijuana has been legal in both states but it still seems like a large jump for North Dakota to go from no medical marijuana in 2015, to full-on legalization.  It would be terrible to see this bill not go through and see more people continue to get incarcerated but it wouldn’t be that surprising.  At least an opportunity for voters to make a positive change for personal freedoms exists, the same still can’t be said in the majority of the U.S.  Michigan has shown some very good polling results in favor of the measure.  This is definitely still not a guaranteed win, and it would be the first in the Midwest to do so.  Legalization has hit both sides of the coast but has yet to stretch across.  Hopefully Michigan can be the framework of the connecting bridge.

Utah and Missouri both have medical marijuana initiatives that desperately need to pass.  It’s inconceivable that people are still being considered criminals for treating their health condition with natural solutions.  Utah’s initiative is confusing and full of unnecessary regulations that are not in the best interest of patients.  Lawmakers have already agreed to create a compromise that will change much of the rules from the original voter initiative.  The first key component to Utahs bill is that it only covers a handful of conditions.  Qualifying conditions include HIV/AIDS, Cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.  It also prohibits the smoking of cannabis in its natural form.  They also decided to impose restrictions on doctors such as not allowing them to recommend cannabis to more than 20% of their patients.  This is probably the worst part of the bill and suggests that the percentage of people that could benefit medically from cannabis is very small.  In addition, patients will only be allowed to cultivate their own medicine if they live more than 100 miles from a licensed dispensary.  The state wouldn’t have the sick miss a great opportunity to pay taxes.  Who knows how much worse this bill will become once legislators make good on their promised compromise.  At least some patients will be saved the nightmare of an arrest and criminal record.

Campaign organizes not being able to agree on an ideal medical marijuana industry for Missouri has led to their being 3 separate initiatives on November’s ballot.  They couldn’t settle their differences and this could lead to a mixed result come voting day.  The differences in the initiatives mainly involve qualifying conditions as well as tax rates and where those dollars should go.  Amendment 2 wants to set the tax rate at 4% and use that tax revenue to provide services to military veterans.  It also allows patients to qualify for marijuana with their doctor’s approval even if they do not have a “qualifying condition”. It also is the only one that would allow home growing.  Amendment 3 wants the tax rate to be 15% and send those funds to research institutions that study cancer and other serious diseases.  The last initiative, Proposition C sets the tax rate very low at 2%.  It would distribute that revenue to a variety of destinations.  In the case that more than one of these was successful this midterm, the amendments would take priority over the proposition.  Between the amendments, it would simply come down to which receives more votes.  It seems that Amendment 2 would be the best option because it keeps tax rates reasonable while allowing the plant to be grown if a patient chooses to do so.  It’s important to note that it should be a doctor/patient decision to use medical marijuana, not a list developed by those outside the health industry.

 

Washington State will soon ban many Cannabis Candies/Gummies

Recreational cannabis has been legal for adults in Washington for nearly 6 years now.  Sales of cannabis products including an enormous array of edible options began two years later, and always included various types of gummies and candies.  Products containing cannabinoids had been previously required to be clearly marked as psychoactive in order to help avoid unintentional consumption.  Rather unexpectedly, the Liquor and Cannabis Board has decided that previous steps do not go far enough to protect our children.  The argument is that the candies and gummies are far too appealing for kids and assumes that parents and others will not be responsible enough to keep it out of the access of children.  The new guidlines that the board established will pretty much disallow all candy-type edibles in stores.  Banned products will include gummy type products, hard candy, tarts, fruit chews, colorful chocolates, and jellies.  This will severely limit the available products available to adults and result in much more plain offerings.  The state claims that edible products like baked goods, chocolate, and mints will still be produced and sold as long as they are not colored, molded into shapes, or covered in frosting.  Regulations like these are simply unnecessary and will do nothing but hurt edible producers across Washington.

The only positive news that comes from these new regulations is the fact that they won’t take effect until next year.  Dispensaries may sell all inventory that met previous regulations through April 3, 2019, or until it is sold.  Candies have always been an extremely popular choice as an edible for cannabis consumers.  Outside of that, producers that have purchased lots of their preparation and packaging equipment for candies that were once allowed.  All of this equipment was purchased with the individual business owner’s own personal savings because loans cannot be giving to legal cannabis producers/stores.  On top of all the other endless regulations and tax rates that they must comply with, these new guidelines are going to severely cut into many firm’s profitabilities.  The barriers to entry in the cannabis industry added to the large number of risks that come with unpredictable new legislation keeps many potential entrepreneurs from getting involved in the growing industry.  This move is not only scaring edible producers in Washington but across the nation.  Many are afraid this will set a precedent and have a major effect on how edible cannabis is produced nationwide.

According to 502 Data, in 2017 there were $927 million in retail marijuana sales.  The Liquor and Cannabis Board in Washington claims that edible marijuana accounts for roughly 9% of these sales or $83.4 million/yr.  While the state is not going to disallow all cannabis edibles, a large percent of the edible market will disappear and form into a more basic unappealing array of products.  Marketing companies use colors and unique shapes to create a personal identity and brand that consumers can recognize.  It shouldn’t be any different in the cannabis industry.  These products are being marketed to adults, not children.  No sensible person wants a child to have access to cannabis, so regulators shouldn’t be playing the same “protect our kids” card they used to run anti-legalization ads.  They’re simply adding unneeded regulations that limit options for consumers, and make it hard for companies to maximize profitability.

Los Angeles International Airport Permits Cannabis in Carry-Ons.

Bringing cannabis to an airport is something most people would never think of doing.  The benefits do not outweigh the risks.  The fact that cannabis is a popular substance worldwide that can be found rather easily, prevents people from transporting it across state lines.  While other airports in states with legal cannabis have made it clear bringing cannabis on their jurisdiction is not acceptable, LAX has decided to take a different approach.  They have announced they will be allowing passengers to possess amounts that stay within the state’s current cannabis laws.  This means that local police will not arrest people in the airport’s jurisdiction.  Those who are departing the airport to a different location are no longer provided legal protection once they leave.  It’s also possible TSA could hold you up until local police sort out the issue.  The TSA is required to report violations of federal law and possessing marijuana is still illegal federally.

It appears the key to staying out of trouble for traveling with marijuana via plane is knowing the local laws of the state you are departing and arriving in.  We can only hope that other airports take a similar stance publicly about their policy on recreational/medical weed.  Until it becomes a trend in airports across the country I would avoid bringing anything along for the ride.  Those with serious medical conditions that are willing to take the risk to ensure the availability of their specific strain/product should only bring what is allowed in both states.  TSA claims they are not looking for drugs but upon their discovery will report it to local law enforcement.  This is a primary reason why it shouldn’t be declared until it has been discovered.

For Los Angeles specifically, the state is allowing anyone over the age of 21 to carry up to an ounce of flower and 8 grams of concentrates.  That should be more than enough to get you through your trip.  There have been reports of medical marijuana patients being permitted to carry much larger amounts of their medicine because of California’s generous possession amounts for patients.  It seems there is only one way to find out exactly what will result from a marijuana discovery outside of LAX.  I’m not willing to test the waters myself, but I am interested in what will happen over time as people become more bold about traveling with their legal marijuana.  Assuming other airports follow suit with a policy change reflecting their local laws, the TSA might stop bothering to report it at all.  It’s also possible that if this becomes a trend, the federal government may respond and find a new way to prosecute these people.  Technically most of these flights are in the jurisdiction of many more than 2 places.  Today only 9 states have protections for recreational use and possession.  So the vast majority of the country is still enforcing prohibition and this could be a technicality the government uses to respond like it usually does and target cannabis.

 

Canadian Marijuana Workers May be Denied U.S. Entry

The list of negative consequences from cannabis being illegal at the federal level seems to keep growing longer and longer.  The government is now stating that if Canadians legally work in their medical marijuana industry they can be denied entry into the United States and could even receive a lifetime ban.  The Customs and Border Patrol Agency has made it clear that they do not recognize these marijuana businesses as legal entities whether they are operating legally in their home country or not.  Law enforcement has far too much power if it has the authority to ban someone from a country forever for doing nothing wrong.  Preventing a substance that you consider illegal is one thing, but preventing family members and visitors from ever seeing the great United States again is a crime.  Especially when the federal government is allowing its own states to pass laws that directly contradict their own criminal code.

Canadians have to be aware of this so they can take preventative steps and avoid being denied entry.  This applies to anybody that has ever used illegal drugs in the past, not just workers in the marijuana industry.  It will likely apply to an even larger number of people once recreational marijuana legalization takes effect on October 17th.  It is unclear exactly how Homeland Security will evaluate whether someone is associated with the cannabis industry.  The best bet for those visiting the country would be to never admit to any past marijuana use or involvement in the legal marijuana industry.  It is unlikely that the officer will be asking those type of questions without a solid reason to believe you are involved with cannabis, but it is definitely a possibility.  Open admission is a guaranteed way to get yourself denied entry.  You will be treated as a potential harm to society without a second thought.

These types of questions will probably become more popular among border patrol agents come October so they can exercise their power with more results.  Luckily a democratic representative from California, Lou Correa, is questioning this policy as well as asking for clarification on how it will be enforced.   The letter addressed to the Secretary of Homeland Security asked for a response by the beginning of October.  It seems the letter will have little effect on the enforcement of banning Canadians but the response should help clarify what to expect when crossing the border.  Hopefully it will be crystal clear for travelers what questions to expect and what type of answers could land them in trouble.  There will likely be a large number of people who suffer because they weren’t aware that their legal activities can still have serious consequences.