July 2018

How do you move mountains of unwanted weed?

Oregon farmers have grown three times what their customers can smoke in a year, causing bud prices to plummet and panic to set in

A recent Sunday afternoon at the Bridge City Collective cannabis shop in north Portland saw a steady flow of customers.

Little wonder: a gram of weed was selling for less than the price of a glass of wine.

The $4 and $5 grams enticed Scotty Saunders, a 24-year-old sporting a gray hoodie, to spend $88 picking out new products to try with a friend. Weve definitely seen a huge drop in prices, he says.

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Across the wood and glass counter, Bridge City owner David Alport was less delighted. He says hes never sold marijuana this cheap before.

We have standard grams on the shelf at $4, Alport says. Before, we didnt see a gram below $8.

The scene at Bridge City Collective is playing out across the city and state. Three years into Oregons era of recreational cannabis, the state is inundated with legal weed.

It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis too good.

In February, state officials announced that 1.1m pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the states database.

If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, thats because it is: last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000lb of legal bud.

That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.

Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer without much regard to whether theres demand to fill.

The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.

Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.

For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.

But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product thats a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.

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The business has been up and down and up and down, says Don Morse, who closed his Human Collective II dispensary in south-west Portland four months ago. But in a lot of ways it has just been down and down for dispensaries.

This month, WW spoke to two dozen people across Oregons cannabis industry. They describe a bleak scene: small businesses laying off employees and shrinking operations. Farms shuttering. People losing their lifes savings are unable to declare bankruptcy because marijuana is still a federally scheduled narcotic.

To be sure, every new market creates winners and losers. But the glut of legal weed places Oregons young industry in a precarious position, and could swiftly reshape it.

Oregons wineries, breweries and distilleries have experienced some of the same kind of shakeout over time. But the timetable is faster with pot: for many businesses, its boom to bust within months.

Mom-and-pop farms are accepting lowball offers to sell to out-of-state investors, and what was once a diverse and local market is increasingly owned by a few big players. And frantic growers face an even greater temptation to illegally leak excess grass across state lines and into the crosshairs of US attorney general Jeff Sessions justice department.

If somebody has got thousands of pounds that they cant sell, they are desperate, says Myron Chadowitz, who owns the Eugene farm Cannassentials. Desperate people do desperate things.

In March, Robin Cordell posted a distress signal on Instagram.

The prices are so low, she wrote, and without hustling all day, hoping to find the odd shop with an empty jar, it doesnt seem to move at any price.

Cordell has a rare level of visibility for a cannabis grower. Her Oregon City farm, Oregon Girl Gardens, received glowing profiles from Dope Magazine and Oregon Leaf. She has 12 years of experience in the medical marijuana system, a plot of family land in Clackamas county, and branding as one of the states leaders in organic and women-led cannabis horticulture.

She fears shell be out of business by the end of the year.

The prices just never went back up, she says.

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The prices just never went back up.

Cordell ran headlong into Oregons catastrophically bountiful cannabis crop.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) handed out dozens of licenses to new farmers who planted their first crop last spring. Mild weather blessed the summer of 2017 and stretched generously into the fall. And growers going into their second summer season planted extra seeds to make up for flower lost to a 2016 storm, the last vestige of a brutal typhoon blown across the Pacific from Asia.

That storm naturally constrained the supply even though there were a lot of cultivators, says Beau Whitney, senior economist for New Frontier Data, which studies the cannabis industry.

It kept supply low and prices high in 2017 even though the state was handing out licenses at an alarming rate.

It was a hot new market, Whitney says. There werent a whole lot of barriers to entry. The OLCC basically issued a license to anyone who qualified.

Chadowitz blames out-of-state money for flooding the Oregon system. In 2016, state lawmakers decided to lift a restriction that barred out-of-state investors from owning controlling shares of local farms and dispensaries.

It was a controversial choice one that many longtime growers still resent.

The root of the entire thing was allowance of outside money into Oregon, Chadowitz says. Anyone could get the money they needed. Unlimited money and unlimited licenses, youre going to get unlimited flower and crash the market.

As of 1 April, Oregon had licensed 963 recreational cannabis grows, while another 910 awaited OLCC approval.

That means oversupply is only going to increase as more farms start harvesting bud.

The OLCC has said repeatedly that it has no authority to limit the number of licenses it grants to growers, wholesalers and dispensaries (although by contrast, the number of liquor stores in Oregon is strictly limited).

Since voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, many industry veterans from the medical marijuana years have chafed at the entrance of new money, warning it would destroy a carefully crafted farm ecosystem.

The same problem has plagued cannabis industries in other states that have legalized recreational weed. In 2016, Colorado saw wholesale prices for recreational flower drop 38%. Washington saw its pot drop in value at the same time Oregon did.

The OLCC remains committed to facilitating a free market for recreational marijuana in which anyone can try their hand at growing or selling.

[The law] has to be explicit that we have that authority to limit or put a cap on licenses, says OLCC spokesman Mark Pettinger. It doesnt say that we could put a cap on licenses. The only thing that we can regulate is canopy size.

The demand for weed in Oregon is robust the state reeled in $68m in cannabis sales taxes last year but it cant keep pace with supply.

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A cannabis harvest at East Fork Cultivars, Oregon.

Whitney says its not unusual for a new industry to attract speculators and people without much business savvy.

Whenever you have these emerging markets, theres going to be a lot of people entering the market looking for profit, he says. Once it becomes saturated, it becomes more competitive. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to cannabis. There used to be a lot of computer companies, but theres not so many anymore.

Across rolling hills of Oregon farmland and in Portland dispensaries as sleek as designer eyewear shops, the story plays out the same: Business owners cant make the low prices pencil out.

Nick Duyck is a second-generation farmer and owner of 3D Blueberry Farms in Washington county. I was born and raised on blueberries, he says.

But last June, Duyck launched Private Reserve Cannabis, a weed grow designed to create permanent jobs for seasonal workers.

By starting up the cannabis business, says Duyck, it keeps my guys busy on a year-round basis.

He invested $250,000 in the structural build-outs, lighting, environmental controls and other initial costs to achieve a 5,000 sq ft, Tier I, OLCC-approved indoor canopy.

Ongoing labor and operational costs added another $20,000 a month.

Weed prices were high: Duyck forecast a $1,500 return per pound. If Duyck could produce 20lb of flower a week, hed make back his money and start banking profits in just three months.

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A gram of weed was selling for less than a glass of wine.

Octobers bumper crop tore those plans apart.

We got in at the wrong time, Duyck says. The outdoor harvest flooded the market.

By the start of the new year, Duyck was sitting on 100lb of ready-to-sell flower an inventory trickling out to dispensaries in single-pound increments.

So he turned to a wholesaler, Cannabis Auctions LLC, which holds monthly fire sales in various undisclosed locations throughout Oregon.

Weed auctions operate under a traditional model: sellers submit their wares, and buyers dispensary owners, intake managers and extract manufacturers are given an opportunity to inspect products before bidding on parcels awarded to the highest dollar.

Duyck sent 60lb of pot to the auction block in December. He had adjusted his expectations downward: he hoped to see something in the ballpark of $400 a pound.

It sold for $100 a pound.

The price per pound that it costs us to raise this product is significantly higher than the hundred dollars a pound, says Duyck. (A little light math points to a $250-per-unit production cost.) Currently, were operating at a $15,000-per-month loss, Duyck says.

If prices dont improve soon, Duyck says he wont be able to justify renewing his OLCC license for another year.

The dispensaries that are out there, a lot of them have their own farms, so they dont buy a lot of product from small farms like us Duyck says. If you really want to grow the product, you almost have to own the store also.

Middlemen store owners without farms are also suffering. Take Don Morse, who gave up selling weed on New Years Eve.

Morse ran Human Collective II, one of the earliest recreational shops in the city, which first opened as a medical marijuana supplier in 2010. At times, Morse stocked 100 strains in his Multnomah Village location.

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A cannabis crop. I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

Morse lobbied for legal recreational weed and founded the Oregon Cannabis Business Council.

The shift to recreational was costly. With his business partner Sarah Bennett, Morse says he invested more than $100,000 in equipment to meet state regulations.

By last summer, new stores were popping up at a rapid pace. Morses company wasnt vertically integrated, which means it did not grow any of its own pot or run a wholesaler that might have subsidized low sales.

Competition around us was fierce, and the company started losing money, and it wasnt worth it anymore, Morse says. At our peak, we had 20 employees. When we closed, we had six.

Prices went into free fall in October: the average retail price dropped 40%.

Morse couldnt see a way to make the numbers work. Human Collective priced grams as low as $6 to compete with large chains like Nectar and Chalice, but it struggled to turn a profit.

When youre the little guy buying the product from wholesalers, you cant afford to compete, he says. Theres only so far you can lower the price. Theres too much of everything and too many people in the industry.

So Morse closed his shop: We paid our creditors and that was that. That was the end of it.

Despite losing his business, Morse stands behind Oregons light touch when it comes to regulating the industry.

Its just commercialism at its finest, he says. Let the best survive. Thats just the way it goes in capitalism. Thats just the way it goes.

Just as mom-and-pop grocery stores gave way to big chains, people like Morse are losing out to bigger operations.

Chalice Farms has five stores in the Portland area and is opening a sixth in Happy Valley. La Mota has 15 dispensaries. Nectar has 11 storefronts in Oregon, with four more slated to open soon.

Despite the record-low prices in the cannabis industry, these chains are hiring and opening new locations, sometimes after buying failed mom-and-pop shops.

The home page on Nectars website prominently declares: Now buying dispensaries! Please contact us if you are a dispensary owner interested in selling your business.

Nectar representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Mason
Mason Walker, the CEO of East Fork Cultivars.

Because the federal government does not recognize legal marijuana, the industry cannot access traditional banking systems or even federal courts. That means business owners cant declare bankruptcy to dissolve a failed dispensary or farm, leaving them with few options. They can try to liquidate their assets, destroy the product they have on hand and eat the losses.

Or they can sell the business to a company like Nectar, often for a fraction of what theyve invested.

This time last year, it was basically all mom-and-pop shops, says Mason Walker, CEO of Cave Junction cannabis farm East Fork Cultivars. Now there are five or six companies that own 25 or 30%. Stores are selling for pennies on the dollar, and people are losing their life savings in the process.

Deep-pocketed companies can survive the crash and wait for the market to contract again.

What this means is, the market is now in a position where only the large [businesses] or the ones that can produce at the lower cost can survive, Whitney says. A lot of the craft growers, a lot of the small-capacity cultivators, will go out of business.

Oregon faces another consequence of pot businesses closing up shop: leftover weed could end up on the black market.

Already, Oregon has a thriving illegal market shipping to other states.

US attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, has said he has little interest in cracking down on legal marijuana businesses, but will prosecute those shipping marijuana to other states.

That kind of thing is whats going to shut down our industry, Chadowitz says. Anything we can do to prevent Jeff Sessions from being right, we have to do.

Ask someone in the cannabis industry what to do about Oregons weed surplus, and youre likely to get one of three answers.

The first is to cap the number of licenses awarded by the OLCC. The second is to reduce the canopy size allotted to each license Massachusetts is trying that. And the last, equally common answer is to simply do nothing. Let the market sort itself out.

Up
Up in smoke: opinions vary about what Oregon must do to address its weed surplus.

Farmers, such as Walker of East Fork Cultivars, argue that limiting the number of licensed farms in Oregon would stunt the states ability to compete on the national stage in the years ahead.

Were in this sort of painful moment right now, says Walker, but I think if we let it be a painful moment, and not try to cover it up, were going to be better off for it.

Walker and other growers hope selling across state lines will someday become legal.

Every farmer, wholesaler, dispensary owner and economist WW talked to for this story said that if interstate weed sales became legal, Oregons oversupply problem would go away.

Under the current presidential administration, that might seem a long shot. But legalization is sweeping the country, Donald Trump is signaling a looser approach, and experts say Oregon will benefit when the feds stop fighting.

The thing about Oregon is that it is known for its cannabis, in a similar way to Oregon pinot noir, Whitney says. For those who are able to survive, they are positioned extremely well not only to survive in the Oregon market but also to take advantage of a larger market assuming things open up on a federal level.

Looking for more great work from the Portland, Oregon, alt-weekly paper and website Willamette Week? Here are some suggestions:

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Colorado sold a whole bunch of weed this year

Weed
Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Colorado’s cannabis enthusiasts are celebrating after a milestone was announced on Monday.

In the first 10 months of 2016, the state sold more than $1 billion of recreational and medical cannabis and cannabis-related products, according to data released by the state’s Department of Revenue. That is a monstrous amount of weed.

The record number is up from 2015’s total annual marijuana revenue of $996 million.

Industry attorney Vincente Sederberg told the Cannabistthat he believes sales will cross $1.3 billion in 2016.

“We think well see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year and so the economic impact of this industry if were using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Groups recent report, which is totally reasonable it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.

While Colorado was the first state to legalize cannabis, it may soon lose its top spot in terms of revenue. California recently legalized marijuana for recreational use and is expected to make major profits once it sets up its retail shops. Florida also legalized cannabis for medical use and, according to Forbes, it’s projected to rake in $1.6 billion by 2020, thanks to its large population of seniors with chronic pain and illness.

Welcome to the United States of Weed, our new cash crop.

BONUS: Trump is president, but at least you can get high in four more states

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Cynthia Nixon On Marijuana: It’s Effectively Legal For White People

Cynthia Nixon’s campaign for governor continues with her latest video about why she supports legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in New York.

“There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” said Nixon in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Nixon, who in March announced her run against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Democratic primary, notes in the video that 80 percent of New Yorkers arrested for marijuana are black or Latino.

“The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time,” she says. “Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?”

While Nixon has spoken out about recreational legalization in New York before, this discussion on how it correlates to the issue of racial inequality is particularly refreshing and needed.

The gubernatorial candidate and former actress goes on to say in her campaign video that white people and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates. Yet black people in New York are arrested or detained for marijuana 4.5 times more than white people, according to a report by the ACLU.

“The consequences follow people for the rest of their lives, making it harder to get jobs or housing, and for noncitizens, putting them in the crosshairs of deportation,” she says.

The 52-year-old also says that legalizing would “generate millions of dollars in tax revenue” and “create new agricultural opportunities for New York’s farmers.” 

Currently, eight other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. New York state does have a medical marijuana program, though it is extremely restrictive.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images
Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York, on March 20, 2018.

Current New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D) had previously called marijuana a “gateway drug” in 2017, though his stance has since shifted slightly. In January 2018. Cuomo proposed a study in his 2018 budget plan that explores the potential impacts of recreational marijuana use in New York State.

Of the study, Cuomo said: “If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, because it’s right in the middle? This is an important topic, it’s a hotly debated topic, pardon the pun, and it’d be nice to have the facts in the middle of the debate once in a while.”

The study will now move forward after the state’s $168 million state budget was approved in March.

Nixon is slated to challenge Cuomo in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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These Doctors Want Your Doctor To Know More About Weed

Dr. Janice Knox was several years into retirement in Oregon when she was asked to fill in at a “card mill” ― a facility where patients can be diagnosed with conditions that qualify them for a medical card to buy cannabis.

This was a few years ago, and public sentiment about medical marijuana wasn’t quite what it is today. “I had the mindset that most people had at the time ― ‘marijuana is a terrible drug, it’s just a drug,’” Knox told HuffPost.

When she arrived at the clinic, the makeup of the waiting room was “not who I was expecting,” she said.

“There were businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers. I just couldn’t believe who I saw,” Knox said. “They were coming because conventional medicine had failed them. They wanted a better quality of life.”

“People were coming in with their last dime to get a card,” she added. “I was stunned.”

Equally surprising to Knox was how she, a practicing anesthesiologist for 35 years, had been taught so little about the mechanisms and effects of cannabis ― a substance that people said eased their suffering, even from symptoms related to chronic diseases.

“I knew nothing about this medicine. I felt so embarrassed as a physician that that’s where I was. So I really made it a point to learn everything that I could about it,” Knox said. Since then, she’s tried to “change the narrative” about who uses cannabis and why.

The Canna MDs
Dr. Janice Knox grew the American Cannabinoid Clinics from her existing wellness clinic.

In 2014, Knox founded the American Cannabinoid Clinics from her existing wellness clinic in Portland, Oregon, where marijuana has been legal for medical purposes since 1998 and legal for recreational use since 2015. Other than Knox, there are very few U.S. medical professionals who specialize in cannabis therapeutics. Fortunately, three of them are members of her family. 

Knox’s husband, David, is a former emergency room doctor. Their two daughters, Rachel and Jessica, are physicians who received both medical and business degrees from Tufts University.

At his wife’s urging, David Knox also visited the “card clinics” where his wife had been providing care. Like Janice, he was struck by the diversity of patients and conditions for which the plant seemed to offer relief.

“It was an eye-opener. The potential is just incredible,” he said, adding that he’s seen patients successfully reduce or eliminate their use of opiates for chronic pain after beginning cannabis therapeutics. (Federally funded research has also found this result, which could have meaningful implications amid America’s ongoing opioid crisis.)

People were coming in with their last dime to get a card. I was stunned. Dr. Janice Knox

At their clinic, the Knoxes practice what they call “integrative cannabinoid medicine.” They counsel new and experienced cannabis patients alike on the best treatment options for their conditions, the best way to deliver the medicine (e.g. vaping, topical, ingesting), and how to mitigate undesired effects. These are all aspects of cannabis medicine that a general practitioner might not know as much, or indeed anything, about.

“We’re looking at the whole patient, and how to use cannabis optimally, so the patient can get the best benefit from the minimal dosage without side effects or complications,” David said.

Rachel Knox, 35, wasn’t particularly surprised by her parents’ new career path. She and her mother share an interest in natural medicine. For Rachel, this interest only grew stronger in a medical school and residency environment where emergency treatments for the most urgent symptoms of chronic illness were rarely followed up with meaningful conversations with patients about maintenance and prevention.

“We weren’t being taught how to prevent or reverse chronic illness in our medical education,” she said. “We had this longing for more. My curiosity for natural medicine grew out of that frustration in conventional medicine.”

“My sister and I really felt like if we were going to pursue medicine, we should do something different with it,” she went on. “When my mom and my dad said they had started writing cannabis authorization for patients, that fit right into the natural options I wanted to investigate for patient care.”

The Canna MDs
Dr. Rachel Knox’s involvement in cannabis therapeutics grew out of her interest in natural medicine.

Cannabis provides therapeutic effects mainly through its impact on the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various processes throughout the body such as organ function and immune response. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine produced a sweeping report on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, concluding that restrictions on possession and consumption have made it difficult to develop research-based consensus on its medical utility.

The barriers to conducting meaningful research on the effects of a federally prohibited substance are considerable. Trials involving cannabis have to be approved by three government agencies and an independent review board, the Knoxes said. After that, there’s the matter of procuring the cannabis itself.

“Right now you can’t ship cannabis across state lines, so you have to rely on a secure source within that state to do that,” Rachel said.

The American Medical Association has long referred to cannabis as a “public health concern” ― but it recently issued a policy update calling for a review of the plant’s Schedule I designation, which categorizes marijuana as a drug with no medical benefits and restricts its availability for research. Heroin and bath salts are also Schedule I substances

SAEED KHAN via Getty Images
The U.S. still officially considers cannabis a Schedule I substance with no medicinal value.

Given the limits on research and accessibility, many doctors are reluctant to discuss cannabis-related treatment options with patients. Many of the Knoxes’ patients come to the clinic because they’re not sure whether their general practitioners condone medical cannabis, or even know very much about it.

The Knoxes have seen more than 3,000 patients at the American Cannabinoid Clinics. Very few, they said, have any interest in getting high. In fact, many would prefer to avoid it.

“Patients will tell me eight or nine times, ‘I don’t want to get high,’” David said. 

Many patients, especially seniors, come in asking for CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, Rachel added.

“What surprises the patients most who say that is when we come back and tell them, ‘This condition that you have actually will respond better with some THC on board, let us talk to you about how to use THC to avoid those adverse effects,’” she said. “I had a patient today who was surprised to hear that she could use THC without getting high.”

Patients are also “shocked” to learn they don’t have to smoke the cannabis to feel better, Janice said.

“People have this image of a smoker smoking the joint, and when you tell them, ‘No, you don’t have to do it that way, you can use it incrementally and won’t get a THC high’ ― I think that’s really shocking to them,” she said, adding that placing medicine under the tongue, rubbing it into the navel, and delivering THC through a rectal suppository are all effective and in some cases superior alternatives to smoking cannabis. 

Patients will tell me eight or nine times, “I don’t want to get high.” Dr. David Knox

Though based in Oregon, the Knoxes see patients from neighboring states such as California and Washington. Rachel Knox is vice chair of the Oregon Cannabis Commission, which oversees the state’s medical marijuana program, and serves as the medical chair for the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Janice Knox sits on the board of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, which promotes safe practices and improved quality of medical cannabis products.

Through their clinics and ancillary work in the industry, the Knoxes hope to help more medical practitioners integrate cannabis therapeutics into their practices and promote more specialization in cannabinoid medicine. They plan to launch their own training program for medical professionals later this year.

“We need to be helping trained clinicians in the practical implementation of cannabis therapeutics in the same way we do it at the clinic,” Rachel said. “Patients should feel comfortable that the doctor they’re talking about cannabis with is knowledgeable about this medicine.”  

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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Jeff Sessions Will Lose the GOPs Battle Over Weed

In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.

Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.

But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.

The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.

With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.

But during the campaign, Trump was pot-neutral. He exclaimed that he was for letting states decide their own pot and medical marijuana policies. And just weeks ago, he voiced support for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)s bill codifying states rights with regard to pot. Reportedly, his campaign manager is making that position a selling point to Colorado voters ahead of 2020.

Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.

So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.

It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).

More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.

There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.

Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.

Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).

Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.

Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.

Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.

The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com

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Canada becomes second country to legalise cannabis use

Cannabis Act passes, with the legislation expected to take effect in a few months

Canada is to become the second country in the world to fully legalise marijuana, after the senate approved legislation paving the way for recreational cannabis to be legally bought and sold within the next two or three months.

Weve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition, senator Tony Dean told reporters on Tuesday after the vote to pass the Cannabis Act.

It ends 90 years of needless criminalisation, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favour of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.

The federal government has said it would give provinces and territories which are responsible for deciding how recreational cannabis will be distributed and sold eight to 12 weeks after the legislation is passed to get ready for sales, but the exact date that sales begin will be set by the federal government.

Justin Trudeaus Liberal government introduced the legislation last year in a bid to make Canada the second country in the world to legalise cannabis, after Uruguay. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.

On Tuesday, the prime minister welcomed the legislation being passed. Its been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits, he wrote on Twitter. Today, we change that.

Initially, the government planned to begin retail sales by 1 July, but the timeline was delayed as the senate debated the legislation. Canadas upper chamber voted 52 to 29 on Tuesday to make marijuana fully legal in the country.

Some Conservative MPs and senators voiced their disappointment as the bill passed on Tuesday. Sad day for Canadas kids, senator Linda Frum wrote on Twitter.

Conservative senator Leo Housakos said: When you normalise the use of marijuana and youre a young person and you had certain reservations because of the simple fact that it was illegal, theres, I believe, a propensity to have somebody be more inclined to use it.

Once legalisation goes into effect, Canadians will be able grow up to four plants in their own home and carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis for personal use. Those caught with more than this amount, or who supply marijuana to minors will face penalties.

Sales of cannabis which analysts estimate could eventually be worth somewhere between C$5bn and C$7bn annually will vary widely across the country. In Alberta, recreational cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers while in New Brunswick, the provincial government will operate a chain of stores called Cannabis NB.

The minimum age of consumption will fluctuate between 18 or 19 years depending on the province.

On Tuesday, supporters of the legislation stressed the cautious, prudent approach to the landmark change. What the governments approach has been is, yes, legalisation but also strict control, said Peter Harder, the governments representative in the Senate. That does not in any way suggest that its now party time.

The historic vote comes with its own set of challenges for the government; it has promised it will now explore the idea of clearing the criminal records of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians with past convictions for simple possession and will have to address the concerns of some Indigenous leaders who said they werent adequately consulted on the legislation.

Canadas softer approach to cannabis could also exacerbate the countrys already turbulent relationship with Donald Trumps administration. While nine US states and the District of Columbia have legalised recreational marijuana, the White House has previously suggested that the Department of Justice will do more to enforce federal laws prohibiting recreational marijuana, raising concerns over how Canadas approach will coexist with a potential US crackdown.

Nearly 400,000 people a day cross the border between Canada and the US. Since 2016, Canada has been pushing the US to change a policy that bans Canadians who admit to having used marijuana from travelling to the United States.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Public shareholders got high today on Tilray, the first marijuana company to IPO on Nasdaq

Tilray, a five-year-old, British Columbia-based medical cannabis company that sells its products to patients, researchers, pharmacies and even governments, saw its shares get high (sorry) on the Nasdaq today, after the company priced 9 million shares at $17 apiece and watched them soar, closing at $22.39, a jump of slightly more than 32 percent.

It was the first cannabis company to conduct a U.S. IPO, and in the process it raised $153 million, capital it will reportedly use in part to fuel its marijuana growing and processing facilities in Ontario.

The momentum behind Tilray is a huge win for the cannabis industry, which has been growing like a weed (sorry again). Related startups attracted $593 million in funding last year, twice what they raised in 2016 and a meaningful jump from the $121 million invested in related startups in 2014, according to CB Insights. Among the different types of companies to garner investor dollars, shows CB Insights’ research, are: startups focused on research or distribution of medical marijuana products (as with Tilray); tools for ensuring compliance with state and federal marijuana laws; startups focused on payments for marijuana companies; startups collecting data and producing marketing insights about the industry; and companies creating novel strains and types of marijuana using new farming techniques.

Tilray’s performance today is also a very positive signal for Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owned 100 percent of the startup as it headed into its offering. In fact, Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, is also the CEO of Tilray. (Cannabis companies are weird.)

Privateer has itself raised more than $200 million since its founding in 2010, including from Founders Fund and Subversive Capital, and it has used that money to finance, acquire and incubate companies. While it incubated Tilray, for example, it also owns Leafly, a large cannabis information resource that it acquired in 2011. Another of its portfolio companies is Marley Natural, a Bob Marley-branded cannabis line that it launched in partnership with Marley’s estate and that sells a line of cannabis strains, smoking accessories and even body care products.

It isn’t exactly clear how much Privateer had sunk into Tilray (we have a press request into the company). Tilray announced C$60 million in Series A funding back in February, money it said had come from a “group of leading global institutional investors.” But according to its S-1, it was solely owned until today by Privateer.

What we do know: Tilray remains unprofitable, reporting a net loss of $7.8 million last year. The company also cannot sell its products in the U.S. market, given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even though 30 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized it in some form. The reason: The U.S. government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it’s considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

That could change, but as this Vox explainer makes clear, a review process for the current schedule would need to be initiated by either the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Attorney General, and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions despises marijuana, saying once that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.

He seems to be among a dwindling minority. According to a Gallup Poll published last October, 64 percent of Americans favor legalization.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com

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Epileptic boy gets cannabis oil back

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Media captionCharlotte Caldwell says “history has been made” after the Home Office allowed her son to use cannabis oil

A boy with severe epilepsy has been given back medicinal cannabis oil that was confiscated from his mother at customs, the home secretary has said.

Billy Caldwell, 12, received the oil after doctors made clear it was a “medical emergency”, Sajid Javid said.

Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, from County Tyrone, said they had “achieved the impossible” but called for the oil to be freely available.

Billy began using cannabis oil in 2016 to control his seizures.

The cannabis oil, which contains a substance called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is illegal in the UK but available elsewhere.

Billy’s most recent supply – which Ms Caldwell had tried to bring into the UK from Canada – was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on Monday and he was admitted to hospital before Mr Javid said it would be returned.

The oil arrived at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where Billy is being treated, on Saturday afternoon. It was administered under a special 20-day licence and is not allowed to be taken home.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said it was an “exceptional licence” for a “short term emergency” and it would need to be reviewed.

‘Completely broken’

Ms Caldwell said: “I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart, and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings.”

But she said Billy’s “little body has been completely broken and his little mind”.

“No other family should have to go through this sort of ordeal, travelling half way round the world to get medication which should be freely available,” she said.

“My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country.

“Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”

Image caption Billy was admitted to hospital in London on Friday

Mr Javid said he had issued a licence to allow Billy to be treated with the cannabis oil after discussions with Billy’s medical team.

“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.

“My decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.

“The policing minister met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”

Barbara Zieniewicz, co-founder of campaign group Families4Access, and who travelled to Canada with Billy and Ms Caldwell, called Mr Javid’s decision “triumphant”.

“I strongly believe that this is the first push – from here, it’s a ripple effect. This means, to me, there is hope, not just for Billy, but for all the families that need it.”

Billy, from Castlederg, started the treatment in 2016 in the US, where medical marijuana is legal.

Ms Caldwell says Billy’s seizures dramatically reduce when he takes the oil.

In 2017, he was prescribed the medication on the NHS. But in May this year, his GP was told he could no longer prescribe it.

At the time the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said cannabis had not yet been licensed in the UK as a medicine.

Last Monday, Ms Caldwell tried to bring a six-month supply of the oil – to treat up to 100 seizures a day – into the UK from Toronto but the substance was confiscated by officials at Heathrow airport.

The boy’s family said he was taken to hospital when his seizures “intensified” in recent days.

The family’s MP, Órfhlaith Begley, said the Home Office’s decision was “life-saving”, adding: “I will continue to engage with the Home Office and the health authorities to ensure he can access his medication in the longer term so there is no repeat of the trauma he has suffered over recent weeks.”

‘Not straightforward’

Dr Amir Englund, who studies cannabis at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “Clearly, there is evidence that Billy’s medication works for him where others have failed.

“The duty of government is to protect its citizens from harm with regulations on medicines, so that the ones doctors prescribe are safe and effective.

“However, there are instances which these measures become counterproductive and harmful. This is such an instance, and the Home Office should allow an exemption so that he does not come to further harm.”

Meanwhile, clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London, Dr Michael Bloomfield, said on the one hand “current laws are too strict”, but added that the issue of medical marijuana is “far from straightforward”.

“Any ‘medical marijuana’ needs a scientific evidence base, in the form of medical trials et cetera, which is currently lacking for many disorders and has become, for many jurisdictions, a potential way of decriminalising cannabis through the back door,” he said.


Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.

A cannabis-based drug called Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS. It contains THC and CBD.

Doctors could, in theory, prescribe it for other things outside of this licence, but at their own risk.

MS patients prescribed Sativex, who resupply it to other people, also face prosecution.

Another licensed treatment is Nabilone. It contains an artificial version of THC and can be given to cancer patients to help relieve nausea during chemotherapy.

Source: NHS Choices


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Trump Backs State-Level Marijuana Regulation, Lifting Pot Stocks

Trump Backs State-Level Marijuana Regulation, Lifting Pot Stocks

Updated on
  • Colorado’s Gardner says he received assurances from president
  • White House spokeswoman says Gardner statement ‘accurate’

President Donald Trump endorsed letting states decide how to regulate marijuana, in a major boost for the legal pot industry.

Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner said that as a result of Trump’s assurances, he’ll end a blockade of Justice Department nominees. Gardner held up the nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an earlier Justice Department memo that shielded marijuana operations in states like Colorado from enforcement of the federal ban on the drug.

"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said in a statement Friday. “President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Gardner’s statement is “accurate.” She didn’t elaborate.

“The president did speak with Senator Gardner yesterday and again today,” Sanders told reporters Friday at the White House, adding, "the president is a firm believer" in states’ rights.

Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in 29 states and for recreational use in eight.

Marijuana stocks surged on the news, which removed the threat posed by Sessions’s decision in January to rescind an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational pot.

Canada’s Canopy Growth Corp., the largest cannabis producer by market value, jumped as much as 11 percent in its biggest intraday advance since March 5. Medical-marijuana supplier Aphria Inc. climbed as much as 21 percent in Toronto trading.

Gardner said he’s lifting his hold and working with colleagues on legislation that would protect marijuana operations in states that have legalized the drug. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana “should happen” and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states.

Sessions, on the other hand, has been an outspoken opponent of state marijuana laws.

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama created guardrails for federal prosecution of the sale and possession of cannabis, which remains illegal under federal law, and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country. Under Sessions’s approach, U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal were given approval to prosecute cases where they see fit.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

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Vermont Makes History By Legalizing Marijuana, But Its Law Comes With A Catch

For the first time, a U.S. state has legalized marijuana with the stroke of a pen, not a vote at the ballot box.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) on Monday signed into law House Bill 511, which legalizes the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and removes penalties for possession of up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. The legislation says nothing about creating a state market for recreational weed, however. The new law will go into effect in July.

“Today, with mixed emotions, I have signed H. 511,” said Scott in a statement addressed to the state’s General Assembly. “I personally believe that what adults do behind closed doors and on private property is their choice, so long as it does not negatively impact the health and safety of others, especially children.”

With Scott’s signature, Vermont will join eight other legal-weed states, as well as Washington, D.C., in a growing movement away from federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD. Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004, and is currently among nearly 30 states, plus the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with such programs in place.

Although other states have legalized cannabis through ballot initiatives that have left the decision up to voters, Vermont does not allow for such a process. Over the past few years, lawmakers in the state have instead been working to address marijuana reform through legislation. A similar legalization bill made it to Scott’s desk in 2017, but the governor vetoed it, citing concerns with weak language on punishment for the sale of marijuana to minors and its establishment of a commission to study how a regulated cannabis market would work in Vermont.

The final version of H. 511 clarified civil penalties for the sale of marijuana to individuals under 21 years old and removed the commission entirely. Scott has instead created his own marijuana task force, which is examining the state’s involvement in recreational cannabis sales and focusing on developing comprehensive education, prevention and highway safety strategies.

“There must be comprehensive and convincing plans completed in these areas before I will begin to consider the wisdom of implementing a commercial ‘tax-and-regulate’ system for an adult marijuana market,” Scott said on Monday. “It is important for the General Assembly to know that – until we have a workable plan to address each of these concerns – I will veto any additional effort along these lines, which manages to reach my desk.”

Some state officials say the composition of that commission looks to be biased against marijuana, which means recreational weed faces an uncertain future in Vermont.

“There is frustration that the governor’s panels appear to be predetermined in opposition [to a tax-and-regulate model for marijuana sales] versus the sentiment of the House and Senate, which was to move forward,” said Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat.

The governor’s commission is expected to deliver a final report to lawmakers by the end of the year, which would guide them on future legislation to establish a market for cannabis. Under Vermont’s two-step process of legalization, it could be a while before the state sees its first legal marijuana sale, said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for cannabis reform around the country.

“The tone of the commission all along has been, ‘Let’s figure out how to do this, regardless of whether we think it should happen or not,’” he said. “They’re gonna come up with specific policy recommendations. Now whether the legislature decides to take those recommendations or not is a whole different story.”

It’s not yet clear if there would be enough support in the state legislature to pass a tax-and-regulate bill without Scott’s support. Vermont requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a gubernatorial veto. With statewide elections upcoming in November, these deliberations seem likely to become a key campaign issue in the coming months, though it’s not yet clear if lawmakers will be willing to put themselves on the record as strong supporters of legal marijuana sales in Vermont.

“Some Republicans feel vulnerable if they support this kind of legislation, even though the support for this is majority across all parties,” said Zuckerman. “The cultural sentiment is still in some of those districts, and they don’t feel the support is there yet.”

Recent surveys have shown strong support for relaxing marijuana laws in Vermont and nationwide. A January HuffPost/YouGov poll showed that 55 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana both nationally and in their own states. National support for legalization at the federal level hit a record high 64 percent in a Gallup survey from October 2017, including among a majority of Republicans.

Recreational marijuana has already become a substantial revenue source in the states that have legalized it. Legal marijuana sales in the U.S. hit $6 billion in 2016, with tax revenue in Colorado and Washington, the states that have had legal cannabis markets for the longest, now bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to an analysis by the Marijuana Policy Project. Another recent study projected that over a nine-year period, legal marijuana nationwide could provide 1 million new jobs and generate more than $132 billion in federal tax revenue, with nearly $52 billion in sales tax alone.

Without a system to tax and regulate cannabis sales in Vermont, all commerce involving marijuana would remain underground.

“Marijuana is widely available, widely used throughout Vermont. Vermonters spend an awful lot of money on marijuana and it all goes to the illicit market,” said Simon. “Why wouldn’t we have a regulated system so that money would instead go to taxed and regulated businesses and the state would have some revenue to deal with any costs or issues that do arise?”

Despite the clear economic benefits of legal marijuana, the state-federal divide on cannabis laws has gotten deeper over the past month. Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives passed H. 511 just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released new Justice Department guidance giving federal prosecutors the go-ahead to crack down on state-legal marijuana operations. Although the announcement led to some anxiety in the fledgling marijuana industry, its practical effect remains to be seen.

That Justice Department action alone shows that the political stigma around marijuana reform still hasn’t faded completely, said Zuckerman. But he hopes the Vermont legislature’s successful move toward legalization could serve as an invitation for lawmakers in other states to pursue reform.

“This is a significant signal to other legislative bodies around the country that legislatures can act in the interest of the general population without some of the fear that there will be electoral retribution,” he said. “In the world of making laws, that is often one of the things that lawmakers look at, that potential consequence.”

For now, lawmakers are discussing how best to incorporate Vermont’s progressive principles into any future system of state marijuana sales, Zuckerman said.

“The very broad sentiment from right to left is that nobody wants Big Cannabis to own Vermont, and whatever we do end up drafting for a tax-and-regulate bill will be oriented toward smaller production facilities and a more broad distribution of the economic benefit throughout the state, as opposed to large out of state corporate version,” he said.

Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman governor is a Democrat. Zuckerman won both the Democratic and Progressive primaries for the position, and has been affiliated with both parties.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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