Category Archives: Issues

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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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.

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.

Should Marijuana be Classified as a Psychedelic/Hallucinogen

Classifying psychoactive drugs into different categories is usually a pretty straightforward process.  The consistently documented effects of a substance are compared to one of the three main drug categories: stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens.  Some drugs have many properties that make it possible for them to fit into more than one of these groups.  Determining how drugs affect the central nervous system is the key to differentiating between stimulants and depressants.  Stimulants are known for increasing the activity in the CNS, leading to feelings of energy and alertness.  Depressants do the opposite, while hallucinogens interact mostly with the chemical serotonin.  With drugs like alcohol or cocaine, it is extremely easy to figure out where to classify them.  That’s because alcohol will always slow users down mentally(reaction times) and physically when it comes to heart rate and breathing.  There aren’t different strains or types of alcohol or cocaine that allow users to have a different experience.  The only difference will lie in how potent those depressing or stimulating effects will be from batch to batch.  Cannabis is much more difficult to throw into one category.

Everyone has heard the phrase that drugs affect everyone differently.  This is true in a sense, but it’s also true that drugs have basic effects that will happen to the vast majority or all of its users.  For example, cannabis will make users feel very euphoric and more sensitive to sounds and taste.  I’ve never come across someone who has argued food doesn’t taste better while high.  The same goes for listening to music.  It just sounds so new and full of detail.  There are so many strains available now that users can customize their high by selecting a strain that was bred for a specific effect or medical condition.  This is the main reason why its difficult to categorize marijuana.  If someone were to get their hands on an extremely powerful indica such as Gorilla Cookie or Banana Kush, there would be no stimulant properties to be found.  If you manage to stay awake after using one of these strains, the strong feeling of relaxation will make it very tempting to just kick back.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, sativas can make people so alert and sensitive to their surroundings that paranoia kicks in.  However, no strain will ever cause visuals or make users see things that are not really there.

This doesn’t mean that high-grade cannabis can’t be too powerful or overwhelming to new users.  High doses of this new substance can cause distortions in time and cause some people to panic.  I don’t believe that this means it should be classified as a hallucinogen. That is because these type of effects will not continue after using the substance several times and they will not happen at all if the dosages are proper.  Another reason why it shouldn’t be classified with other psychedelic drugs is that cannabis will never take the user into the deep depths of their mind like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms do.  Even the most potent of edibles will not have you rethinking the meaning of life in the way a trip can.  The potential for a negative experience is also much higher when dealing with these stronger drugs.

I don’t believe weed should be placed in just one of these categories, it qualifies as both a stimulant and a depressant based on the strain and the user.  I know friends who say that weed makes them tired every time they try it, regardless of the strain or grower.  Then there are people who are obsessed with figuring out what their ideal strain is, and acquiring it regardless what the cost may be.  The stoner stereotype would make it seem that weed is a 100% depressant substance that destroys productivity.  At the same time, the successful stoners in our society have modeled that it can stimulate the best of our creativity.  Cannabis really is a one of a kind drug.

Researchers Look to Study Pot’s Pain Killing Properties

The long existing problem of opioid abuse and addiction is receiving a valuable response from a group of researchers at UCLA.  They’re determined to figure out the optimal combination of cannabinoids when it comes to treating pain.  Almost everyone knows someone who has been negatively affected by the opioid epidemic, and it’s encouraging to see this team prove/disprove this commonly substituted solution.  Pain patients have been sharing their success with making the switch to cannabis for years, but medical science has remained far behind.  Today, there are still many people that are unconvinced cannabis can provide relief similar to hard narcotics when it comes to severe or chronic pain.  This is much-needed scientific data that can lead to a serious change in opioid usage rates.  Opioid painkillers have been the go-to drug doctors have been prescribing for pain since the late 1800s.  No other options have really been considered as medically prescribed substitutes for all this time.

Natural alternatives such as cannabis or even the Kratom plant will clearly have far less negative side effects for pain patients.  Not to mention the excruciating physical withdrawal symptoms that can develop after short periods of use.  However, the real test is how effective they stand against the notorious synthetic drugs originating from the poppy plant.  The other limited sources of research available involving opioid use and cannabis have shown some positive results.  One 5 year-long study in the JAMA(Journal of the American Medical Association) pointed to the fact that states that have medical marijuana laws in effect saw 6% fewer opioid prescriptions among Medicaid patients than states without laws in effect.  6% is a significant number of prescriptions. However, the fact that the study was unable to determine whether the people in the medical marijuana states were making the switch over to marijuana led to some uncertainty.  It could be attributed to other factors outside of substituting it with cannabis although it’s unlikely.

This study will not be taking place until it is able to secure more funding along with approval from two major governmental agencies.  The DEA and FDA must both give the go-ahead allowing the university to study a schedule one substance.  This study is by no means guaranteed to happen.  It simply is the goal of the cannabis initiative team.  Those that have a financial incentive in marijuana will be prohibited from giving donations in order to establish an environment of “fair research”.  This could also become a hurdle for the researches, but it is a good policy by the university to help strengthen any future findings that they are able to make.  It would be beyond frustrating to see something so beneficial and promising to the cannabis industry stopped in its tracks by the government, although it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.  The constitutionality of marijuana’s schedule one status has been unsuccessfully challenged several times in court over the years despite it’s well known medical uses and safety profile.  So don’t be surprised if officials pull something similar in an effort to further delay federal legalization here in the U.S.

 

 

 

Calgary is Open to Idea of Public Consumption Areas for Marijuana

There seems to be one common similarity among the different states and countries that have moved to legalize marijuana.  Each law mentions the issue of public consumption and explains that it is still illegal.  Even though the punishment for consuming in public is minor in most jurisdictions, the only legal place the law allows consumption without penalty is your own private property.  If you look at any other recreational substance that is popular in our society, it’s clear that it is not a reasonable expectation for people to never consume marijuana outside of their own private property.  The local city council in Calgary is concerned with this issue and wants to address it before legalization even takes effect in Canada.

One of the issues that are brought up by opponents of public consumption areas is that there will be a rise in impaired driving rates in cities that allow these type of businesses to run.  The truth is that if lawmakers were truly that concerned about the dangers of impaired driving, alcohol wouldn’t be served at nearly every restaurant and corner store.  Alcohol has been proven through numerous studies to have a much larger impact on motor skills and leads to more aggressive driving behaviors then marijuana.  Not to mention drunk driving is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year   Anybody that has used both will tell you the same thing.  However, the availability of more dangerous substances for public consumption by itself doesn’t justify allowing these places to operate.  The fact that there are enormous amounts of people who visit/live in Calgary without owning any property means legally they can’t use marijuana at all.  Why make it legal in the first place if only property owners have the right to consume?  This essentially keeps prohibition in place for the rest of the local population.  People will of course not abide by these rules and smoke in public places regardless, so it’s only sensible they establish designated areas to help regulate where it is used.

Canada’s legalization measure not only banned public consumption of marijuana but it also prohibited its use in apartment buildings, condominiums, and hotels.  It seems counterintuitive that the country wanted to eliminate smoking in these locations but did not offer any alternative in order to make this law reasonable.  This is why the city council is taking matters into its own hands.  It is proposing that there be four separate locations that were selected in relation to their distance from schools and areas frequented by children.  All of these locations would be located in Ward 9 and within a relative proximity of one another.  Even though the public is most likely going to be in agreement and support the availability of cannabis clubs, the government wants to reach out and receive feedback before the 9th of September.  The committee will be holding a meeting on the 9th of October where the public can also make comments in person about the important issue.  Calgary should have a clear decision made by the time the new law goes into effect so consumers won’t have to worry about being prosecuted for consuming a legal product.

Medical Marijuana and Universities

Medical marijuana legislation in the United States currently provides essential protection from prosecution to approximately 2.3 million patients.  These patients are allowed to take their medicine almost everywhere, but when it comes to a federally funded college campus, those protections can vanish.  Medical marijuana use is viewed as narcotics use thanks to the controlled substance act that still lists marijuana as a dangerous drug.  Colleges are continuing to enforce a complete prohibition of the plant, and I’m afraid some people are not aware that bringing their medicine on campus can have serious consequences.  Not only have some students faced criminal prosecution, but they have also suffered additional penalties from the school administration.

One of the best ways to eliminate running into any trouble would be to seek off-campus housing.  It simply isn’t a viable solution to live in a dorm and hardly ever be able to find relief.  There would be nowhere safe to store it and even the idea of smoking off campus would mean getting a new small supply each time.  Edibles would be effective and stealthy, but many people prefer smoking/vaporization because the effects are immediate and much more predictable.  Storing edibles may be harder to detect but I would still not recommend keeping it anywhere on school grounds.  It wouldn’t surprise me if university police decided to weigh the whole edible and charge as if it were normal cannabis.  Having your medicine at housing near campus guarantees no legal trouble and allows you to use it as needed.  Patient possession limits are often set high enough to be considered intent to sell by police/universities.  In Michigan, patients are allowed to have 2.5 ounces in their possession which would easily land non-patients a felony charge for intent to distribute.  Always remember you’re subject to different laws on school grounds, regardless if it’s a college, high school, elementary etc.

I’m uncertain how long this type of prosecution will continue but I would expect to see some legislation taking effect before federal law officially changes.  Arizona has already made headlines this year when the supreme court ruled that banning medical marijuana on public colleges violated the protections of the voter-approved law.  Students in Arizona who have medical marijuana cards will not face criminal prosecutions but they have faced administrative penalties.  The possession, use, and sale are all still prohibited on college grounds due to the federal funding provided by the U.S. government.  That funding would not be threatened based on whether students are criminally prosecuted, but instead would be based on whether schools still prohibit the substance.  This is definitely a step in the right direction as students will likely be willing to risk administrative action in order to have their medicine easily accessible.  While other states have yet to enact similar policies, colleges across the country are removing the requirement that first-year students need to live on campus.  Universities are doing this so patients can continue using their medicine and pursue an education without the risk of endangering their future.  We still have a long way to go to ensure protection in the educational environment is not limited to those who treat their illnesses with pharmaceutical drugs.