Illinois Proposes New Equity-Focused Marijuana Legalization Bill

Illinois could legalize recreational marijuana by January 1, 2020, thanks to a new bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted as central to criminal justice reform.

The proposed legislation announced by Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers Saturday would allow people 21 and over to purchase recreational marijuana at a licensed dispensary in Illinois, which currently has a statewide prohibition on the drug with an exception for medical use. Residents would be able to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and grow up to five plants at home, and nonresidents would be able to possess up to 15 grams.

Most notably, details of the plan include expunging what lawmakers estimate will be about 800,000 marijuana convictions and allow people with such convictions to work in the cannabis industry. The proposal also mentions a $20 million low-interest loan program for minority-owned businesses, promoting what the proposal calls “social equity” in a predominantly white industry.

“We are taking a major step forward to legalize adult use cannabis and to celebrate the fact that Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation,” Pritzker said during a press conference Saturday at the Black United Fund’s office in Chicago. “For the many individuals and families whose lives have been changed ― indeed hurt ― because the nation’s war on drugs discriminated against people of color, this day belongs to you too.”

The bill, which will be filed as an amendment to Senate Bill 7, is sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Heather Steans, Democrats who proposed similar measures in 2017 that eventually got knocked down under former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. On Saturday, Steans said legalization will create the state revenue that Illinois needs.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Pritzker made equity-centric marijuana legalization one of the most important aspects of his platform.

Pritzker said that 25% of the cannabis sales revenue will go directly into communities that have been impacted most by “discrimination in the prosecution of drug laws in the criminal justice system.” He also said 20% of the revenue will go toward supporting services related to substance abuse and mental health. About 35% will go toward the state’s General Revenue Fund, and 10% will go toward helping with Illinois’ stack of unpaid bills.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization, said the bill would elevate an “addiction-for-profit industry” that will negatively impact residents. SAM President Kevin Sabet told the Chicago Tribune that “marijuana is not inevitable.”

The legalization proposal includes plans for the Public Health Department to create educational materials for marijuana consumers to raise awareness about the potential risks of cannabis use. It also creates some restrictions on advertising, packaging and label requirements, and says warning requirements must be posted in each dispensary.

Lawmakers said the bill’s provisions won’t affect the state’s medical marijuana program, and dispensaries will be required to set aside enough product for medical use. The law would go into effect Jan. 1 of next year, though Pritzker said licenses won’t begin to be issued until next summer.

Democratic state lawmakers said Saturday that they plan to officially introduce the bill Monday. If passed, the bill would make Illinois the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining neighboring Michigan and nearly all of the West Coast. Marijuana is already decriminalized in Illinois.

“For generations, government policies of mass incarceration increased racial disparities by locking up thousands of individuals for cannabis use or possession,” state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth said in a statement. “Now, as we discuss legalization, it is of the [utmost] importance that we learn from these mistakes and acknowledge the lingering effects of these policies. This bill makes equity a priority by acknowledging the importance of both economics and criminal justice in righting these wrongs.”

Read a summary of the bill Pritzker’s office provided to HuffPost here:

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SAD! New Zealander who joined ISIS upset they jailed him for giving away their location on Twitter

Wow, there sure are a lot of sad stories coming out of ISIS these days. Of course, there’s the Alabama woman who left the country to join ISIS and is now taking legal action to be let back into the United States, though Americans are wary since she once tweeted she wanted jihadis to rent trucks and run down people in Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades.

Now consider the case of this poor man from New Zealand who left the country to join ISIS as a fighter, only to be jailed for giving away their location by tweeting. Where is his right to free speech? Now he just wants to return to New Zealand so he can start a medical marijuana business … if it’s, uh, legal.


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Headed to Mexico for spring break? Travelers warned of risks

(CNN)With spring break just around the corner, the US State Department has some advice for the thousands of Americans who head to Mexico this time each year.

Here are some things to know before you go:
Hospital costs can be just as high or even higher than in the United States, the embassy said. Check that your health insurance includes coverage of Mexico as well as the cost of getting home for emergency treatment.
    Stay safe when heading to the beach:Some beaches have strong currents and riptides, and there may not be any kind of warning or life guards.
    Be careful what you drink: The embassy has received reports of Americans “losing consciousness or becoming injured” after drinking “unregulated alcohol.” If you feel ill after drinking, get medical help right away. The US government has warned in past years about tainted or counterfeit alcohol being served at some resorts in Mexico.
    Be careful how much you drink: “Drunk and disorderly behavior and urinating in public are illegal in Mexico,” the embassy said. Know your drinking buddies and stay with them “when you are in clubs and bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night.”
    Another reason to go easy on the drink: Rapes and sexual assaults have been reported in some resort areas, the alert said, and “perpetrators may target inebriated or isolated individuals.”
    Leave the dope at home: Possessing drugs, even medical marijuana, can land you in jail for a long time.
    Ditto your guns: All of them are illegal in Mexico.
      Let friends and family know of your plans, “especially if traveling alone,” the alert warned.
      Above all, don’t panic: Mexico is the destination country of choice for many Americans traveling abroad — in the first nine months of 2018, almost 39% of Americans visiting international regions went to Mexico, according to US Department of Commerce data, and “the vast majority” of spring breakers have safe and enjoyable trips, the embassy said.

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      Can cannabis treat anxiety? It’s complicated

      Marijuana companies and users proclaim the drugs utility as a treatment but hard evidence is more difficult to come by

      Many cannabis users and businesses are invested in the idea of cannabis as an anxiety treatment. The position invites skepticism: marijuana companies have a financial interest in promoting a maximalist view of the drugs benefits, and in patients it can look like a rationalization for excessive use.

      As with other health conditions, the available research is inconclusive and limited due to decades-old restrictions on medical marijuana research. To sort through some of the ambiguities surrounding cannabis and anxiety, I spoke to Jordan Tishler, a Boston-area doctor who has a cannabis-focused practice.

      One of the first things to keep in mind, he said, was the difference between anxiety and stress. Stress is a response to difficult situations such as a sub-optimal job or difficulty in ones personal relationships. Many people who think of themselves as self-medicating for anxiety are actually self-medicating for stress. While this may be OK in the same context as an after-work cocktail, it may also enable users to avoid taking necessary steps to improve their lives.

      Anxiety, Tishler said, referred more to a disorder when feelings of worry or distress arise for no specific reason. Fewer people take medical marijuana for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than stress, and the research about whether it works is all over the map.

      Photograph: George Wylesol/The Guardian

      If you ask the average cannabis aficionado how you treat anxiety they will say they smoke throughout the day, whenever you feel something, Tishler said. Thats not the way we physicians approach something.

      The little research that does exist on the topic lacks specific information such as how much cannabis people take (dosing) and when in the day they ingest it. Additionally, the proportion of THC and CBD content of the product the subjects use is not clear. This makes it very difficult to gauge the drugs efficacy. People are very bad at reporting this stuff accurately, Tishler said.

      For those who take cannabis to relieve physical pain, its difficult to separate the intoxication from the desired benefit. But with anxiety, Tishler suggested the two could be distinguished. For example, ingesting a small amount of cannabis before bed can create an [anti-anxiety] effect that outlasts the intoxication. He suggested taking it in this way could also reduce the potential harms of an all-day habit, which range from lack of productivity to something more like cannabis dependence.

      One of the driving forces of US cannabis legalization is the hope among military veterans that cannabis may relieve PTSD. PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder have a lot in common, Tishler said, and based on his practice he believes cannabis can be an effective treatment for PTSD. However, there is an added concern that veterans, in his experience, seem more likely to become heavy cannabis users very quickly, in part because theyre relying more on advice from their peers than their doctors.

      Jonathan Avery, the director of addiction psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian hospitals Weill Cornell Medical Center, didnt dismiss the idea of cannabis as a treatment for anxiety, but he was more cautious. We all know patients who have experienced relief from marijuana, he said. But he said patients were more likely to have a good outcome with a psychiatric approach that can involve talk therapy and/or pharmaceuticals.

      Its always complicated, he said. It might help patients feel better but frequent users may be medicating the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal rather than anxiety. And the evidence for marijuanas benefits is not strong, he noted.

      But for some whose mood states and professional lives revolve around cannabis, more research isnt necessary. They consider a plant, and especially this plant, inherently superior as medicine to a pill, just as almost all western doctors and virtually everyone else involved in healthcare believe the opposite. As with so many issues involving medical marijuana, the question is far from settled. And billions of dollars could change hands if the claims of cannabis boosters prove true.

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      Cannabis company says CBS won’t air its Super Bowl ad

      New York (CNN Business)US states are increasingly legalizing marijuana, but the drug still isn’t mainstream enough to convince CBS to let a cannabis company run a Super Bowl ad in 2019.

      George Allen, president of Acreage Holdings, said the ad focused on how medical marijuana has helped people cope with pain, including a child with Dravet’s syndrome that suffered from epileptic seizures.
      The ad does not promote Acreage products, which makes it different from other controversial Super Bowl ads that have been turned down by networks in the past. For example, a spot from GoDaddy was once denied because it was considered too sexually suggestive.
        By going public with the news of a rejected ad, Acreage is following the lead of other companies that have had their ads turned down. The company said it plans to publish a 60-second version of the spot on its website so people can see what the fuss was all about.
        “We’re disappointed by the news but somewhat unsurprised,” Allen said. He said media companies may be unwilling to show cannabis ads as long as marijuana remains illegal for recreational and medical use on a federal level.
        “Still, we developed the ad in the spirit of a public service announcement. We feel it’s our responsibility to advocate on behalf of our patients,” Allen added.
        Allen said Acreage was willing to spend upward of $5 million for the spot, which is the going rate for a Super Bowl ad in 2019. But Allen said CBS told Acreage that the commercial was not consistent with the network’s advertising policies.
        CBS (CBS) did not comment when asked why it declined to run the commercial. But a source close to the network said that it does not currently accept any cannabis-related advertising.
        It’s understandable why Acreage had hoped to get an ad shown during the big game. The Super Bowl has reliably attracted more than 100 million viewers.
          That should be no different this year. Super Bowl LIII, which will be played in Atlanta, features the New England Patriots, which are led by star quarterback Tom Brady. They will face the Los Angeles Rams — a team based in the nation’s second largest TV market.
          “We want to get an audience befitting the message,” Allen said.

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          Recreational marijuana legalization tied to decline in teens using pot, study says

          (CNN)Marijuana use among young people in the United States overall has climbed in recent years, but a new paper suggests that in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, marijuana use among youth may actually be falling.

          Laws that legalized recreational marijuana were associated with an 8% drop in the number of high schoolers who said they used marijuana in the last 30 days, and a 9% drop in the number who said they’d used at least 10 times in the last 30 days, according to the paper published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday.
          “Just to be clear we found no effect on teen use following legalization for medical purposes, but evidence of a possible reduction in use following legalization for recreational purposes,” said Mark Anderson, an associate professor at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, who was first author of the paper.
            “Because our study is based on more policy variation than prior work, we view our estimates as the most credible to date in the literature,” he said.
            The paper involved analyzing data, from 1993 to 2017, on about 1.4 million high school students in the United States from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys.
            The researchers took a close look at self-reported marijuana use in the surveys among the students as well as survey responses in areas where medical or recreational marijuana was legalized.
            The researchers examined the responses before and after the marijuana laws were implemented.
            The data showed that marijuana use among high schoolers was not statistically associated with medical marijuana laws, but there was a link with recreational marijuana laws.

              The politics of pot are changing

            The paper had some limitations, including that only an association was found in the study — not a causal relationship — and more research is needed to determine why this association exists.
            “Because many recreational marijuana laws have been passed so recently, we do observe limited post-treatment data for some of these states,” Anderson said. “In a few years, it would make sense to update our estimates as more data become available.”
            The new study appears to contradict some separate state-level studies that suggest marijuana use among teens remains unchanged — instead of declining — following legalization, said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics in Stanford University’s Division of Adolescent Medicine in Palo Alto, California, who was not involved in the new paper.
            For instance, a 2018 report from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics found that the proportion of high school students in the state who said they used marijuana ever in their lifetime or in the past 30 days remained statistically unchanged from 2005 to 2017. Colorado legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana in 2014.
            When it comes to the new paper, “I think the big question is why,” Halpern-Felsher said. “Why are they seeing in this national dataset decreases — pretty significant decreases — when other studies are finding no difference?”
            The researchers wrote in the paper that one possible explanation could be that in states where recreational marijuana is legal, “it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.”
            Halpern-Felsher called that “a good point.”
            “Maybe now because of having legalization, you don’t have the street sales anymore,” she said. “So dispensaries, we would hope, would be better at carding and checking for age verification.”

            Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

              Meanwhile on the national front, the overall prevalence of marijuana-only use among youth in the United States since the early 1990s increased from 0.6% in 1991 to 6.3% in 2017, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health on Wednesday.
              “The other question is, are youth getting the message about the fact that using marijuana during adolescence is more harmful because of their brain development?” Halpern-Felsher said. “Given the legalization, we need more education around marijuana or cannabis use for youth and we don’t really have a lot of education.”

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              Here are the 11 best health documentaries on Netflix

              The wellness movement is on the rise, and Netflix is doing its best to help you keep up. Going beyond aai bowls and quinoa, Netflix health documentaries often delve deeper into the various medical industries, wellness, and the links between health and diet.

              The streaming giant offers an array of diverse health documentaries, with everything from topics like medical marijuana and Adderall abuse to wellness advice from hip-hop moguls and even a wild ride into the Russian Olympic doping program scandal. Here are the best health documentaries on Netflix.

              The best health documentaries on Netflix

              1) A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana (2017)

              A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana/Netflix

              Journalist Helen Kapalos explores marijuana use for medicinal purposes in A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana. The audience is first introduced to Dan Haslam, an Australian who garnered national attention in 2014 when he was diagnosed with cancer and turned to marijuana for a semblance of comfort in his final year of life. Haslam lived in a conservative town where marijuana was vilified and seen as demon drug. His experience was a catalyst his townand the rest of the nationto see marijuana in a much different light. We see how marijuana changed the lives of others who, like Dan, need it for medicinal purposes. We also learn about the history of cannabis and meet a variety of experts to teach us the science behind it. Anyone who wants to be educated on medical marijuana, and how it’s different from recreational marijuana, should give this a watch. Eilish OSullivan

              2) (2018)

              End Game/Netflix

              End Game takes viewers inside a UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco that specializes in palliative care. The goal of palliative care is to help terminally ill people grapple with the realities of impending death. The documentary focuses on the efforts of Dr. B.J. Miller and his team. They provide the practical side of things, like explaining when the right time is to end treatments and explaining the nuts and bolts of dying with people in an extremely volatile place. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman also show this process from the patients perspective. Mitra, Pat, Kym, Thekla, and Bruce are all in Zen Hospice Project, and its through them that the films points really land. End Game is tough to watch. Not only because its hard watching people at their most vulnerable, but because it wants you to reckon with your mortality in the same way the patients are. Eddie Strait

              3) Feel Rich (2017)

              Feel Rich/Netflix

              Feel Rich offers advice from a plethora of hip-hop moguls, athletes, and other influential individuals on how to be the best version of yourself. Spearheaded by Quincy Jones, Common, The Game, and Russell Simmons, this documentary sets out to explore how celebrities can use their massive reach to positively influence a whole generation of people who look up to them. This documentary refreshingly sets itself apart from the others by quickly acknowledging that not everyone has access to fresh produce. It also recognizes the disparities that exist in diet and lifestyle for minority populations. We meet celebrities and experts who explain how being healthy isnt just for the rich and famous: viewers are taught alternative ways to attain healthy food, how to exercise, and even the importance of meditation. This is a must watch for anyone who wants an eye-opening and inspiring take on health and wellness. E.O.

              4) Forks Over Knives (2011)

              Forks Over Knives/Netflix

              In Forks Over Knives,Lee Fulkerson explores the connection between health and diet.This documentary talks to experts on both ends of the spectrum but makes a stronger case for a whole-food, plant-based diet. If you’re curious about taking on a plant-based diet for yourself, this documentary may give you just the push you’re looking for. E.O.

              5) (2017)


              Director and co-writer Bryan Fogel starts off with a simple enough premise: He wants to expose the flawed testing process of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). Fogels plan is to follow a doping plan designed to beat the tests and see how it enhances his performance in Haute Route, a grueling amateur cycling competition. This story takes a turn when the audience is introduced to a Russian doctor with flexible morality: Grigory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov finds himself at the heart of the Russian Olympic Doping Program scandal. And, Icarus smartly changes course and follows the more interesting story it stumbles upon, wherever it may go. Fogel started out with the intention of making a documentary that exposes the flawed testing for doping. He succeeded in ways he never could have imagined. E.S.

              6) In Defense of Food (2015)

              In Defense of Food/Netflix

              With this documentary, director Michael Schwarz breathes life into Michael Pollans book of the same name. In Defense of Food sets out to simplify things for people who are confused by conflicting headlines that say certain foods like eggs are healthy one day and then unhealthy again the next. Pollan also takes on the food industry, which he claims processes foods that seem healthy but, in reality, arent. This documentary gives health-conscious viewers guidance on how to eat the right foodthe simple way. E.O.

              7) (2017)


              Unrest is an unflinching look at a disease that overwhelms both the stricken and the medical community. Brea gives viewers a first-person look at the harsh realities of chronic fatigue syndrome. One of Breas main goals is to help fight the stigma that people suffering from CFS arent really sick. She shows herself at some of her lowest points, laying on the ground and crying, unable to pick herself up. As Brea meets other people with CFS and learns their stories, she finds something that has eluded her: hope. While the struggle to find a cure has no end in sight, people are finding ways to make the best of their situation. Through activism, or FaceTime calls to stay involved, or reckoning with the damage the disease can wreak on a family, the documentary finds a hopeful note to end on. E.S.

              8) (2018)

              “Alison Klaymans Take Your Pills begins with a description of the physical effects of Adderall as a routine and habit. There are quick cuts, swatches of color, cartoonish animations, and pulsing tunes. Its a flood of information to match the films subject matter: our need for focus. Klayman interviews a software engineer who rides an electric unicycle; a mother who was wary of putting her son on it; former NFL player Eben Britton; and a music manager who says Adderall helps him be a better capitalist.There are other declarations from interview subjects about how we live in a ‘hypercompetitive order’ and are ‘human capital,’ which might seem benign until you start to look at the fringes of the billion-dollar Adderall and Ritalin industry, which, as the film shows, is insidiously marketing medications to kids, and parents, with the promise of better ‘performance.’” Audra Schroeder

              9) The C Word (2016)

              The C Word/Netflix

              Director and writer Meghan O’Hara, who’s a breast cancer survivor, takes a very personal journey in The C Word. OHara teams up with Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, another cancer survivor who is also a scientist and doctor. The duo explores what steps in health and diet viewers can take to prevent cancer. Through already existing research, Servan-Schreiber expands on the four pillars to preventing cancer before it strikes: nutrition, exercise, stress management, and avoiding toxins. The documentary is also narrated by Morgan Freeman, which in itself is a good enough reason to give this one a go. E.O.

              10) (2018)

              The Bleeding Edge/Netflix

              Netflix documentary The Bleeding Edge reveals the underbelly of the vast and laxly regulated medical device industry with a focus on just how devastating it can be for the patients who believed that this technology could help. Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Invisible War, The Hunting Ground) take on the $400 billion medical device industry with a sense of clarity and urgency as they unravel an aspect of the healthcare system many viewers might not know about. At the heart of The Bleeding Edge are the stories from people whose lives have been ripped at the seams by the products they were told would help them. The Bleeding Edge mostly succeeds in hooking its audience and showcasing the horrors of a problem they might not have known existed, although the stories that humanize the issue can sometimes get lost in the bigger picture. But what we do learn is enough to make anyoneespecially anyone who already has a medical device implanted in their own bodiessquirm in their seats. Michelle Jaworski

              11) What the Health (2017)

              What the Health/Netflix

              Writer and Director Kip Andersen (Cowspiracy) is a self-described recovering hypochondriac due to his familys history of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. InWhat the Health, Andersen sets out to explore the correlation between diet and disease, and he comes to believe that eating eggs and processed meat is just as unhealthy as smoking. As a hypochondriac who did everything he could to stay healthy, this was his biggest fear, and its these claims that drew ire from critics. The journey to his controversial conclusion is fascinating to watch. But watch wearily, because if not, you could easily find yourself never wanting to touch certain foods ever again. E.O.

              Still not sure what to watch tonight? Here are our guides for the absolute , must-see , , , and .

              Looking for something more specific? Here are our Netflix guides for the , , anime, , , , , , , , , , and streaming right now. There are also guaranteed to make you cry, to melt your brain, , and when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.

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              Company Launches World’s First Non-Alcoholic, Cannabis-Infused Beer

              Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Canada and 10 US states (with potentially more on the way), businesses are finding increasingly innovative ways to encourage consumers to part with their cash in their search for a lawful high.

              Think of an edible product and there is probably some company somewhere flagging a cannabis-infused version of it. Cannabis-infused cereal, gummies, chewing gum, ice cream, hazelnut chocolate spread, and key lime pie are all available for your consumption. While customers with more of a savory tooth can tuck into a cannabis-infused pizza or a piece of cannabis-infused beef jerky.

              Even country music singer Willie Nelson, of “On the Road Again” fame, has jumped on the bandwagon aged 85, releasing a line of hemp-infused coffee

              But perhaps one of the most exciting innovations is the development of drinkable marijuana, which is technically much harder to pull off than it might first seem. 

              It is now possible to get your hands on marijuana beer (at least, if you are in California). Two Roots Brewing recently announced the launch of “the world’s first cannabis-infused, non-alcoholic, craft cannabier” this week, a drink that promises to get you high within 10 minutes of slurping. The effects of the products, some THC-infused and some CBD-infused, are said to last roughly 90 minutes.

              It’s not surprising that the beer industry is turning to marijuana. Recently, a study reported a 15 percent dip in alcohol sales in states with medical marijuana laws, while researchers at the Canaccord Genuity Group Inc expect the business of cannabis-infused beverages to be worth $600 million by 2022 in the US alone, Bloomberg reports. 

              Constellation Brands Inc, proprietors of Corona and Modelo have invested a 38 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corp, formerly Tweed Marijuana Inc. Meanwhile, AB InBev, the distributor of Becks and Bud among others, are working in partnership with Tilray Inc, a Canadian-based cannabis and pharmaceutical company.

              The problem that each of these companies has faced is that, unlike alcohol, marijuana cannot be dissolved in water. This means that the drug takes longer to metabolize and the effects take longer to begin. 

              Two Roots Brewing got past this process by dabbling in the art of nano-emulsification, a drug-delivery system that enhances drug solubility. This way, the cannabis molecules in the drink are more evenly scattered and so are more easily absorbed by the body. It is the secret behind the 10-minute onset time, the company says.

              Meanwhile, other companies are coming up with their own solutions. Toronto-based Province Brands, for example, brew their beer with hops, water, and yeast – plus the stems, stalks, and the root of the cannabis plant. While Trait Biosciences is using a process called glycosylation.

              We guess it won’t be long before cannabis-infused beer becomes a regular feature at a happy hour near you.

              [H/T: Bloomberg]

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              Smoking gun: should you be able to use a firearm while stoned?

              As legalization reaches the red states, the conflict between federal gun and marijuana laws becomes an issue

              In November 2018, a Pennsylvania doctor who both used and prescribed medical marijuana sued the US government. He had attempted to buy a revolver for self-defense, but he had been denied at the store because he uses a federally illegal drug. Dr Matthew Roman claimed his inability to buy a gun violated his rights under the US constitutions second amendment and the fifth amendments equal protection clause.

              Roman subsequently lost his medical license because of his problematic cannabis use. His lawsuit was dismissed, but not before a government lawyer weighed in: The second amendment does not protect those who choose to illegally take mind-altering drugs, and who commit to continuing to do so.

              In fact, its not so clearcut. At least one state has made it legal for medical marijuana users to own guns. But the move sidesteps the bigger question: is allowing the combination of high-powered pot and gun use a good idea? Legalization has reached the conservative heartland. Oklahoma, as pro-gun a state as there is, has a fast-growing medical marijuana industry, and this spring the governor signed a law to protect the right of medical marijuana-using Oklahomans to buy and own guns.

              In Texas, which has been slower to change its marijuana laws, the issue is on the horizon. The Dallas Morning News recently quoted a veteran who acquires his medical marijuana illegally, so he can continue to buy guns. Why am I going to give up one of my rights because I found an organic plant that some are uncomfortable with? Joshua Raines said. Im not going to do that. Im not going to trade my rights like baseball cards.

              Thanks to the hippies, marijuana is sometimes perceived as a liberals drug. Merle Haggards 1969 culture war anthem Okie from Muskogee released weeks after Woodstock begins, We dont smoke marijuana in Muskogee.

              Weapons of war had not yet became totems of American rightwing identity. But its fair to assume even then there were a fair number of illegal pot patches in deep red Oklahoma. Theres still significant support for marijuana legalization on the libertarian right, which is a force in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and other early states to legalize marijuana. At times Haggard himself was a prodigious toker.

              Oklahomas law is one way to paper over the conflict between federal gun and marijuana laws. Medical weed legalization might even be seen as a blow to the stigma which still surrounds marijuana: the state says law-abiding adults can be trusted with both firearms and pot.

              Illustration: George Wylesol/The Guardian

              Meanwhile, strong support for medical marijuana research among veterans has accelerated legalization faster than anyone might have reasonably expected. Many veterans claim cannabis has helped them cope with PTSD, opioid addiction and related symptoms. Thus far the evidence of medical marijuanas benefits in this area are largely anecdotal.

              But veterans groups say 20 veterans commit suicide daily and research suggests access to guns increases the risk of suicide. Many within the marijuana industry suggest access to medical marijuana can help reduce veteran suicides, although much more research is necessary. Either way, marijuana adds another volatile element to this already combustible mix.

              Earlier this year, the former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson published a book Tell Your Children which attempts to link marijuana use with acts of extreme violence. The book has been widely criticized, but one need not fully subscribe to Berensons alarmism to recognize the potential hazards of pot and guns. In one notorious 2014 incident, which Berenson details at length, a Denver man who ingested too many edibles, got into the gun safe and fatally shot his wife.

              Americans have also adjusted to a world where random mass shootings have become commonplace. Some of these shooters have been users of cannabis and other drugs. In the politics of the moment, cannabis has not received much of the blame as it relates to these massacres. Berensons book is not notable for its restraint, but even he gives this question a wide berth.

              Of course, a great many cannabis users almost certainly are capable of responsible gun ownership. But the weapons currently available in much of the US foster the possibility that any slight misunderstanding or grudge can escalate instantly into horrific carnage. Adding marijuana into the mix doesnt change, and perhaps exacerbates, that basic equation.

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              Theres no opposition now: how a quiet Canada town became a world leader in growing weed

              In an abandoned chocolate factory in Ontario, Canopy Growth is nurturing global ambitions. But could it thrive in Britain?

              The musky aroma hits you from the car park at the headquarters of Canopy Growth, the worlds largest cannabis company.

              Inside this nondescript warehouse an abandoned Hersheys chocolate factory in Smiths Falls, Canada awaits the stuff of a stoners wildest dreams. Myriad rooms teem with row upon row of bushy marijuana plants at various stages of maturity, under intense lamplight, swaying in the breeze of dozens of fans.

              A staff member wheels past crates full of pre-rolled joints in their hundreds. Another trolley holds 25 large bags of high-grade dried cannabis bud, a kilogram each, with a combined value of roughly C$250,000 (150,000).

              If anyone is the Willy Wonka of weed, its Canopy Growths co-chief executive, Bruce Linton.


              Talking a mile a minute, his eyes gleam as he walks the halls of a facility that cost C$150m to build. When I started it was officially the worlds worst idea, because there was no market, he said. There were no regulations and there were officially no patients. I was reluctant to tell my mother I was starting a cannabis business. Now shes a cannabis patient, shes like a drug dealer advising all her friends.

              In a timely illustration of how far the business and the image of cannabis has come, he takes a call from Americas home economics queen, Martha Stewart. Canopy has a deal with Stewart that envisages cannabis-infused chews for anxious pets. Martha, youre gonna hate this, I have to call you back. Canada legalised medical marijuana in 2001, but the recent weed boom was fuelled by a regulatory change in 2013 that effectively created a commercial market. Dozens of countries, including Germany, have brought forward their own medical marijuana legislation.

              In 2018 Canada became the second country, after Uruguay, to legalise recreational use.

              By catching the green wave, Linton has built, in under six years, a company valued by the stock market at 11.5bn, positioned to be the number one global player.

              Though Canopy has yet to make a profit, revenues reached C$225m last year. More than half comes from its recreational cannabis brand Tweed, even though legalisation only took hold halfway through the year.

              Its success is also transforming Smiths Falls, a former manufacturing town about 50 miles south-east of Ottawa in eastern Ontario, that was down on its luck. Smiths Falls is very conservative, says Tracy, who runs a taxi business. The devil himself could be running as a conservative candidate and hed win. Some people thought, Oh my God, were gonna be growing pot? Its employing so many people that theres no opposition now.

              Built by the same Ontario folk who laid railroads and dug canals, Smiths Falls had lost big employers such as RCA, which pressed the first Beatles albums sold in North America. The Ontario Hospital School, a Stanley tools plant and a metalworks all followed suit, with Hersheys dealing the final blow by upping sticks in 2008.

              The deputy mayor, Wendy Alford, used to work at Hersheys on the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup production line. She says that Canopy Growth taking over the site has been life-changing for the town.

              The company employs 1,300 people, about 800 of them Smiths Falls residents, close to 10% of the population. There are indirect economic benefits, Alford says. Their security trucks needed new tyres, so they all go over to Hanks Tyres and thats just made his year. Hes hiring new people.

              Some of the early staff have been enriched by stock options granted when its shares were worth one hundredth of todays price. Its like the Silicon Valley tech boom, albeit on a smaller scale.

              Bruce Linton, the founder and co-CEO of Canopy Growth, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in March. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

              Alford admits that weed wealth has gentrified Smiths Falls to a degree, pricing lower-income residents out of homes they might once have been able to afford. But there appears to be precious little obvious dissent about Canopys presence. The ongoing debate over whether the town should have angled or parallel parking is a far more divisive topic.

              Linton would like to replicate the Smiths Falls revival in Britain, where the firm has a foothold. Canopy owns a UK subsidiary, Spectrum Biomedical UK, and recently spent 43m on the beauty firm This Works, with an eye on a range of products infused with CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has become a global health trend.

              Canopy also has a partnership with the Beckley Foundation, the campaign group that has long promoted drug policy reform and engaged in pioneering research into psychedelic substances.

              One thing Canopy hasnt done is serve many prescriptions in the UK. In November last year, after a long-running campaign fronted by the parents of children with severe epilepsy, the law changed to permit medical cannabis, albeit in very tightly controlled conditions that campaigners and the industry say are unduly restrictive. A specialist must write a prescription before the product can even be imported. There are a handful of patients and Canopy has supplied one of them.

              A worker collects cuttings from a marijuana plant at Canopy Growth in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada. Photograph: Chris Wattie/Reuters

              Some of Canopys smaller rivals have made donations to the MP-run Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group to spur change. Canopy says it hasnt spent a penny to shift politicians mindsets in the UK, but it has talked to them.

              Like many in the industry, Linton also touts cannabis as an alternative to opioids, the heroin-related prescription painkillers that have spawned legions of addicts and caused overdose deaths, particularly in the prescription-happy US and Canada. While there is anecdotal evidence that cannabis can treat pain, insomnia, anxiety and nausea among other conditions there is limited information from clinical trials to prove its benefits. One reason is that pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to test products they cannot patent.

              It was never taught in medical school and didnt come through a process of inventing a molecule and testing if it kills people, says Linton. The objections are always the same, that we need studies. We reference 71 peer-reviewed studies, were doing our own studies, we have now data from 80,000 patients that have been with us up to six years. People find that they get relief.

              Canopys customer network presents a golden opportunity to collect data about its patients and product.

              The growing operation uses state-of-the-art technology to trace every product back to its mother plant. Artificial Intelligence plays a part in keeping the high-powered lights on at the right time and ensuring even temperatures.

              Promoting Tweed, Canopy Growths recreational cannabis brand, in the lobby at Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada. Photograph: Chris Wattie/Reuters

              Security is tight, too. There is a vault licensed to carry C$150m of product, to which just seven people have the code.

              The 150,000kg of cannabis produced every year, here and in its other vast greenhouses, goes out in armoured trucks manned by security guards with guns. Each truck could be carrying a load worth up to C$25m, ranging from the traditional dried bud similar to that found on the street to cannabis oil and pharmaceutical-style gel caps.

              Legislation is expected to come into force this December that will permit expansion to include cannabis-infused drinks, vaping pens and edibles such as gummy bears and chocolate. These products will end up in Canadas growing network of cannabis shops, pristine retail spots more reminiscent of the Apple store or high-end parfumiers than dens of iniquity.

              But breaking America is the biggest prize in the near future. Canopy recently signed a C$4.5bn deal giving it an option to buy the US cannabis firm Acreage, putting it in pole position to grab a slice of the US if it opens up further.

              While many American states now permit both medical and recreational cannabis use, federal law still prohibits it. And thats an impediment to raising money through the tightly regulated banks, not to mention building a presence that crosses state lines.

              The importance of the US to Canopys future is one reason that Linton wont say whether he is the type to get high on his own supply. Hes a frequent visitor to the US, where acknowledging the use of cannabis can still cause friction with border officials. If you go to the south, youve never heard of cannabis, thats my advice.

              A water tower in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, where legally-grown cannabis is reviving job prospects. Photograph: Getty Images

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