Tag Archives: cannabis

San Francisco Expunging Cannabis Convictions

District attorney George Gascón claims that his office is in the process of expunging over 9,000 cannabis related convictions. The office is not working alone to get this accomplished. Code for America is a non-profit organization focused on using open source technology. Over the past year, they have been working together to identify eligible cases. Some of these eligible cases date as far back as 1975. Computer-based algorithms were used to locate cases that qualify. All of this started to come together with the passing of Proposition 64 in 2016. It was mentioned in the legalization bill that records could be expunged for crimes that are now legal.

Interestingly, San Francisco is the first city in the country to identify all eligible convictions. The proposition allowed for expungement for records, yet didn’t lay out a process. If the district attorney didn’t take this initiative, very few would ever see their records adjusted. This is because clients would have to hire their own attorney’s and pay court costs. Many of these people do not have the means to do that. The drug war disproportionately affects those of the lower economic class. It’s great to see someone high-ranking in law enforcement make the initiative to do the right thing. He definitely is going above and beyond his job description.

The software used by Code for America has been so successful that
Gascón is urging other state prosecutors to implement it. 10 states and the District of Columbia have implemented recreational marijuana laws. There is no reason why this technology isn’t being used to clear convictions across the country. If over 9,000 people can have their records expunged in one city, imagine how many others there are nationwide. Gascón understands the severe lifelong penalties that come with a criminal record. Nobody should be excluded from things like receiving a loan or owning a firearm for doing something that is now legal. When laws change, it should be up to the government to make things right. Citizens shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer and go through the lengthy process themselves.

Canadians claiming Cannabis On Tax Returns

Many cannabis consumers are going to be shocked to realize their pot smoking might make them eligible for some cash back from the government. Canada legalized weed nationwide and it’s the second country in the world to do it. Even so, for them to return millions of tax dollars back to smokers sounds too good to be true. However, the Canada Revenue Agency considers cannabis to be a permitted medical expense. Some canadians can include cannabis on tax returns. Those looking to cash in need to meet several specific conditions before anything can be written off. First, the person using marijuana needs to prove they possess a prescription to use the drug from their licensed physician. If you’re a recreational user, then kiss that money spent on weed goodbye. The CRA is not going to refund everyone in the country that wants to get high, regardless of how much money in taxes they are pulling in.

The second obstacle to obtaining a tax retun for weed is showing it comes from a licensed producer. Buying from unlicensed distributors means the government isn’t going to receive their tax. This never makes them happy. It certainly will not make them want to give you additional deductibles. So if it isn’t a habit already, start saving all the receipts from the provisioning center. The payback is going to be huge for daily users. It will also highlight how much of the yearly budget goes to the sweet leaf. Once that realization is made, many begin to grow. That realization is what helped me get started, outside of my intense interest.

All medical marijuana expenses cannot be written off. Canada gives patients the option to subtract either a number or percentage from the total expense. Options include subtracting $2,268 or 3% of the user’s net income. So if you make more then roughly $74,000/yr you would opt to subtract the $2268 from the yearly expense. Everyone else could benefit by subtracting a substantially smaller amount. Someone making 40,000/yr only needs to reduce $1200 from their yearly cannabis expense.

Despite all the restrictions, it still seems like a fair deal for the Canadian people. It likely will be a really long time before the U.S. refunds anybody for pot. Becoming federally legal for medical purposes is the first hurdle. People all across our country are purchasing medicine from licensed producers. The blatant difference is the federal government sees them as criminals instead of patients.

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.

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.

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.

 

New Bill Would Allow Government Workers to use Legal Weed

As things stand right now, private corporations across the country in states with or without legal weed are drug testing applicants and current employees for marijuana.  This is not required by law but instead has been a common practice among businesses since the drug war was launched in the 1970’s.  Even when states began legalizing the herb for medical and recreational purposes, things have remained the same.  There may have been a decrease in the number of employers testing for marijuana or other drugs, but it’s still very common.  A large reason for this is insurance companies refusing to provide service to businesses unless they make a considerable effort to maintain a drug-free workplace.  Even though there is evidence showing the ineffectiveness drug testing has had on workplace safety, tradition has trumped information.

It was exciting to hear that on July 26th a bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress called the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act”.  If passed it would prevent the government from denying employment to new employees or punishing existing employees for a positive THC drug test given that the cannabis use is legal in that state.  Civilian government employees cannot be punished as long as the use was outside of the workplace.  The only other exception to the bill is that positions requiring a high-security clearance are not barred from testing for the drug.  This would be an enormous positive change for the entire country because many private companies would likely follow suit and stop testing for the drug as well.  Also, I’m sure there are a ton of recreational/medical marijuana users who have passed up an opportunity or never considered working for the federal government due to their marijuana use.  The government has been notorious for its strict policies on cannabis use citing its schedule 1 status under federal law.  My mother and other people I know who are civilian employees have been randomly drug tested and went through a thorough background check to ensure there’s no history of drug use or other criminal activity.

The fat-soluble nature of THC is what allows the government and companies to be able to detect its use.  Essentially all other drugs that are known to man exit the body in a much shorter period of time.  For example, meth is only detectable in urine for around 72 hours.  One long weekend and you’re good to go back to the office on Monday after a tweaked out Friday night.  Heroin and Cocaine are the same way.  It seems the hard drugs are eliminated by the body much quicker as if our body is flushing them out for our own well being.  With marijuana and other drugs, detection times will vary from person to person due to an individuals metabolism among other factors.  Marijuana metabolites are stored in fatty tissues and are slowly released into the bloodstream over the course of days or weeks.  If this weren’t the case there would be little reason to drug test employees. It would be much harder for those who use other drugs to be detected by an upcoming drug screening.  The effectiveness of workplace drug testing would be further questioned and likely eliminated shortly after marijuana is no longer tested for.

Allowing government employees to use cannabis on their own free time could benefit the employer as well.  It gives them a much larger list of qualified applicants to choose from and likely a better candidate for the position.  Outside of new employees, existing employees may decide that using cannabis to relax and unwind is a much more effective than alcohol.  Having access to a safer alternative could help prevent work-related problems caused by alcohol abuse.  Also, employees won’t have to hide their use from co-workers and will be less hesitant to build stronger relationships with the people they work with.  Those suffering from medical conditions that interfere with their effectiveness on the job would be able to find relief without turning to prescription medication that comes with a long list of side effects.  The list of positive results from a bill like this passing could go on forever and I can’t wait to see the workforce begin to openly accept the cannabis community.

 

 

Perfecting the Seedling Stage of Growth

When a seed has visibly sprouted above ground and its first set of leaves are visible the seedling stage has officially begun.  There are several different environmental conditions you can control to help your young plant grow a strong root system and a supportive main stem.  One of these conditions is keeping a consistent air flow present at all times.  It is crucial that there is some wind resistance blowing against the support system of the plant.  I’m sure you have witnessed the images of long skinny cannabis stems that are stretching like crazy for the light without any root support.  The wind that comes from your fan will signal to the plant that it needs to build a stronger foundation in order to survive its conditions.  Cannabis is amazing at adapting to whatever environment it is placed in and that’s why it can grow in climates throughout the world.  Be sure when first adding wind to the environment, that you gradually get your plant use to the airflow.  At first, it’s going to be extremely weak so putting the fan on a medium/high setting could really stress out the plant beyond the point of recovery.  As the stem continues to grow stronger, kick the fan up to its usual setting.

Humidity should also be in central focus early on in the plant’s life cycle.  It is crucial to maintain the appropriate humidity throughout the entire growing process because humidity affects the rate at which your crops will transpire.  Cannabis plants will always try and maintain a equilibrium when it comes to the water levels inside and outside the plant.  So if the humidity in the grow room is too low the plant will begin to transpire dangerously quick and lose its necessary nutrients.  New stunted leaves, dying flowers, and older shriveling leaves are all indications of rapid transpiration.  In the seedling, stage humidity needs to be at its highest levels.  I would recommend aiming for 70% and decreasing by around 5-10% each week until reaching the 40% mark.  Until the plant has fully developed roots, lower levels of humidity in the air will cause stunted growth.  It’s important to understand that levels above 45% are usually dangerous and unwanted in a grow room because they can cause mold and mildew in mature plants.  It’s often hard to reach 70% humidity for your seedlings without the help of humidity domes or using a humidifier.

Another important determination to make is when to begin adding nutrients to the plant.  I would say that it should be right around the same time you set up the fan and begin building its root structure.  Up until the point where it shows its first set of leaves you should be fine using plain water that has been PH’d correctly.  When you do begin adding nutrients, remember less is more and that the last thing you want to do is cause nutrient overload this early on.  General Hydroponics brand has a chart that includes the appropriate amounts for the different stages of growth, including the seedling stage.  I would use this as a guide more than a precise measurement.  They often overstate the amount of nutrients you need in order to sell their product more quickly.  I would also start smaller than the recommendations for other brands too until you know exactly how your plant will react.

The last important thing a grower should monitor is the space between the light and the top set of leaves.  During this stage, I would highly recommend only using compact fluorescent lighting due to the intensity of other lighting sources.  Just like with high winds, high voltage lighting can cause irreversible damage that the plant may never recover from.  Even with CFLs, not maintaining the right distance can cause similar problems.  The ideal height should only be 2-4 inches above the highest point of the plant.  Any higher than that, and you’ll likely see it begin to stretch into a skinny long stem.  These lights still emit heat and if they are really close will cause leaves to wither and dry up.  Make sure to check the height at least once a day and make adjustments as needed.  Maintaining the perfect environment early on always pays off and leads to a strong support system capable of holding the densest of buds.

 

FDA gives Approval to CBD based Epidiolex Drug

The drug that was given approval this week, is a liquid medicine treatment derived from CBD-dominant strains that have been cultivated by GW Pharmaceuticals.  There have been sufficient clinical trials to prove that it significantly reduces the number of seizures suffered by epileptic patients.  Nothing related to the cannabis plant has ever come close to approval from an entity as important as the FDA.  The closest thing to marijuana that has been approved by the FDA is a synthetic version of THC called dronabinol.  It is a man-made version of tetrahydrocannabinol and is not derived from any natural plants.  Its prescribed to cancer patients suffering from nausea as a result of chemotherapy.  This ruling is a much larger step in the right direction because in order for it to be marketed to patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, it must be rescheduled by the DEA.  CBD still currently holds a schedule 1 status preventing it from being prescribed to patients.  The Drug Enforcement Agency is expected to do so within 90 days due to the scientific confirmation of its effectiveness through numerous trials.

I believe this is going to start a wave of cannabis-based medicines being introduced into the pharmaceutical environment.  People are going to see the acceptance of Epidiolex as an open door to try and treat other ailments using derivatives from the plant.  The Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can not make money off something that can be grown from a seed so none of these medicines will be cannabis in its natural form.  In the case of epileptic patients, especially children, smoking the buds from plants is not a viable option.  Children suffering from these awful diseases will no longer have to fear criminal punishment on top of trying to just live a somewhat functional life.  Patients suffering from Dravet Syndrome have an average life expectancy of 8 years (National Institute of Health).

The other disease that this drug can soon be prescribed for is Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.  According to the LGS Foundation, one clinical trial at New York University showed a 47% of patients showed a 50% reduction in seizures after 3 months of treatment.  It’s also important to mention that 9% of these people were actually seizure free at that time frame.  This is just incredible that it is actually eliminating seizures altogether for certain patients.  Results like these are backed up by many other studies that show even higher numbers of participants seeing a large reduction in the number of their seizures. The DEA should see rescheduling CBD as a number one priority for these children.  With limited years to live and any seizure having the potential to be their last, officials need to act fast to provide a reliable source of the medication.  It will be treated like any other prescribed drug and can be picked up from local pharmacies, not compassion centers or dispensaries.

Traditional medical marijuana dispensaries offer a variety of extracts that could work well with seizures as well.  The only difference is they have not been given the attention from government officials that Epidiolex received likely due to its non-psychoactive properties and its easy to use liquid consistency.  Patients will be able to ingest the medicine by the use of a dropper for precise dosing.  This can be done anywhere without drawing any attention that smoking marijuana brings.  It’s also possible that there will be additional medical uses approved by the FDA for this exact same drug with no chemical changes being made.  Its unique features give it a higher potential of being approved than other new and existing marijuana medicines that may be tested by the FDA.

Legalization’s Impact on the Value of Cannabis

The monetary value of cannabis is obviously going to depend on the location at which it is produced and subsequently sold.  Ten years ago the price of cannabis was still location dependent, but now legalization in select states has had a unique impact on the prices of pot products.  In states where it is recreationally or medically legal, the value of bud grown from local growers is lower then it ever has been.  This is because they need to undercut the legally operating dispensaries in order to remain in business.  The addition of legal suppliers along with the original black market growers means supply is growing.  While demand remains as high as it always has been, the expanding number of suppliers will continue to lower weed’s value.  For those states that have not experienced recreational or medical dispensaries, there has been little to no impact.  A lot of the marijuana that is grown in legal states by caregivers or individuals is being transported to these states in order to maximize profits.  For example, a top-shelf $1800 pound in a state like California can easily be resold for $3000-4000 in places like New York or Florida.  That discrepancy is only for wholesale prices. If it were broken down into smaller quantities, the difference in value would become much more apparent.

Many growers like myself are hoping that the demand for high-quality craft cannabis will survive the transition to commercially grown weed.  It’s not going to be feasible to give 5,000 plants the individual attention they need in order to maximize potency and flavor.  Small-time growers have much more control over the environment and are better able to prevent insect outbreaks and nutrient deficiencies.  On top of that, many of the people entering the industry have the required financial investment but no previous experience in the illegal culture.  Those who have been operating in the shadows for years and dominating the market will always have the obvious advantage of experience.

The one that will benefit most from the legalization movement will 100% be the consumers.  Outside of being protected from prosecution, they now have the ability to produce their own marijuana or purchase cannabis from a variety of suppliers at a cheaper price.  While the price of legal cannabis is sometimes cheaper then what consumers were paying during prohibition, high-quality buds still sell for a premium.  That provides an opportunity for black market growers to re-claim the connoisseur market.  For now, they are still able to attract customers because they can compete with prices and taxes being charged at retail locations.  Those new to cannabis and those unable to identify characteristics of a desirable strain will be attracted to dispensaries.  Lacking connections among local growers means they will pay whatever their local shop charges.

The immediate impact on legal prices of marijuana will be undesirable.  When Washington opened its doors to anyone over the age of 21, they were charging over $30 a gram.  Those prices are unheard of by those who have been purchasing weed for any amount of time.  Despite the price, the lines stretched long and far the first few weeks of legal sales.  The new feeling of walking into a nice shiny retail location is priceless for some it seems.  Being able to participate in that moment of history after 70 years of prohibition, is what drove people to wait in line and pay high prices.  I would love to take a survey amongst cannabis consumers in states with dispensaries and ask them whether their source is a retail location or local grower/distributor.  Black markets certainly still exist, but it would be great to understand the exact magnitude legalization has had on the cannabis community.