Category Archives: News

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.

 

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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.

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.

 

Coca-Cola and Aurora Consider Producing Marijuana Infused Drinks

This week another beverage giant, Coca-Cola, has shown interest in possibly partnering with Aurora Cannabis in order to develop various weed-infused beverages.  While nothing has been verified by either company, they have both made statements confirming that they are thinking about pursuing this business opportunity.  Even though no solid agreements were made, this didn’t stop Aurora’s stock prices from soaring today.  It saw an increase of 12% when the news of this partnership first broke.  Both companies have hinted that they will be producing beverages that are more focused on approving health then getting stoned.  CBD seems to be the main focus of Coca-Cola, at least for the time being.  They mentioned that the non-psychoactive compound is already being used in beverages across the world for health benefits and that they are monitoring this closely.  It is likely that they are focusing on this instead of THC infused drinks because recreational marijuana is not yet legal in Canada or the U.S.  There will also be a period of time after it is legalized next month where stores will not yet be operating.  So it makes sense to first focus heavily on the already existing medical marijuana industry.

If this partnership were to happen, it would be the first time a major non-alcoholic drink producer entered into the cannabis market.  This is shortly after the major $4 billion investment Constellation Brands made in Canopy Growth, Canada’s largest medical marijuana producer.  A lot of investments and partnerships are being considered as we come closer and closer to recreational marijuana in Canada.  Alcohol producer Molson-Coors had already announced earlier this year that they plan to produce cannabis-infused drinks with Hydropothecary.  I would be willing to bet there will be more partnerships made by companies that have no existing relationship with cannabis.  As long as a corporation has the existing infrastructure to easily produce a cannabis-related product or service, the possibility exists.  Coke would have to invest little to nothing into their existing bottling and distribution centers.  They would just need to source CBD or other cannabinoids and simply add it into the existing production process.

Cannabis infused drinks, if priced competitively, are extremely popular among cannabis consumers and patients.  It is a great way to consume cannabis without the harms of smoking or eating unhealthy infused sweets.  Most popular edibles that are produced have lots of fat and sugar.  The target market for these new types of drinks would be the more health-conscious consumer.  That is as long as Coca-Cola doesn’t decide to produce marijuana-infused drinks that are as bad for you as drinking coke.  I think it would be a much smarter move to create a drink with much less sugar and caffeine.  After all, they are planning on producing a beverage aimed at improving health.  If they are successful at accomplishing this, they may even be able to reduce the negative stigma associated with their popular brand name.

Both companies have made it clear that there is absolutely zero guarantee that this merger will happen despite the great opportunity.  Having an enormous corporation like Coca-Cola on Aurora’s team would put it in a better position to compete with Canopy Growth.  They also probably will be developing marijuana-infused beverages with the knowledge and expertise Constellation Brands brings to the table.  Both Coca-Cola and Aurora saw a rise in their stock value without any solid plans being announced.  Imagine what type of increase they would see if a merger is confirmed, or if Aurora was able to expand to the United States.  There is great opportunity ahead for Canada’s biggest medical marijuana producers.

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.

 

 

 

Michigan Considers Allowing Dispensaries to Start Home Deliveries

Patients in the state of Michigan with a registered caregiver have been taking advantage of home delivery since 2008.  Those who do not have a registered caregiver in the program and use provisioning centers as their point of access will likely have similar options soon.  This is great news because for many patients there simply aren’t any local dispensaries operating nearby.  Also, there are many cases where a patient is severely ill or suffers from a condition that affects their ability to drive.  The fact that caregivers can only supply up to five patients makes it hard for some people to find a grower who can supply them with a steady supply of high-quality medicine.  Along with that, some people benefit/prefer using marijuana in different ways outside of its raw form.  As a result, this sends many patients to dispensaries so that they can have a large selection of products to choose from.

If you live in Michigan or have looked at the local Weedmaps directory, it is obvious that delivery services have been operating for years.  These businesses are hiding in a grey area at best.  They can’t claim to be caregivers because they are servicing anybody with a valid medical marijuana license that contacts them.  While I’m sure a few have run into some legal trouble, the overall delivery market hasn’t been affected or slowed down.  These services are prevalent in metro Detroit and offer reasonable pricing despite their convenience.  Patients most likely wouldn’t see any major changes if deliveries become allowed, it would simply provide protection for brick and mortar stores to expand operations outside their store.  Unregulated delivery services will probably be cracked down on and be forced to apply for a commercial license or close.  This is no guarantee, just what I think is likely to happen considering the closing of all the dispensaries in Detroit lately.  By September 15th, all dispensaries who haven’t been awarded a commercial license must close their doors.  Unless there is an extension to that date, I think this will be applied to existing delivery services soon.  The state hasn’t been too friendly to the medical marijuana businesses that have been operating unregulated for years and I think that trend will continue.

The proposed rules would allow dispensaries to have only one staff member making deliveries at a time.  This driver can only make three consecutive stops before returning.  In addition, the GPS location of the driver must be tracked and logged by the dispensary. There is also a provision added to the proposal that mentions residents living in a city or township banning dispensaries would still be allowed to receive deliveries.  These “dry” communities have accomplished nothing but make medicine less accessible for patients.  At least residents will now have legal protection to acquire medicine without leaving their local area.  It seems that the state is headed in the right direction establishing permanent rules and providing protections for those looking to deliver medicine to patients.  However, I think it could go with a lot less regulation.  Making it so existing delivery services have to have a physical storefront and limiting the number of staff that can be conducting deliveries is just unnecessary.  Marijuana has been unregulated for years through prohibition and even up until last December when the state began accepting commercial licenses.  Those who took all the risks and were the pioneers in the industry are being flushed out by newcomers with lots of capital.  It would be nice to see some of the existing delivery services able to continue to build their business and reap some benefits for all the risks they have taken for their patients.

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.