Michigan Judge Blocks Officials From Closing Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensaries

Michigan Judge Blocks Officials From Closing Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensaries

[Canniseur: What a mess! Michigan needs to get regulations together and in a way that ensures medical cannabis users are buying safe cannabis. Maybe this next 2-week pass will do the trick.]

The court injunction pushes the licensing deadline back two weeks and allows unlicensed dispensaries to continue operating under emergency rules.

Michigan regulators keep trying to shut down the state’s unlicensed medical cannabis businesses. But Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello keeps blocking them. On Thursday, Judge Borrello signed his latest restraining order against the enforcement of a dispensary licensing deadline. Since regulators began attempting to curtail unlicensed dispensary operations in September 2018, the deadline has been pushed back several times.

Michigan Court Blocks “Drop Dead” Date for Unlicensed Provisioning Centers

March 31, 2019 was supposed to be a final deadline for Michigan’s unlicensed dispensary owners to either submit an application for a”provisioning center” license or shut down. State regulators called the deadline a “drop-dead date,” a stricter approach Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said was necessary in the face of additional pressure and scrutiny facing regulators over the sale of untested medical cannabis products.

Despite previous repeated attempts to enforce similar deadlines, dispensaries have sued and won injunctions against state-enforced shutdowns. Tuesday’s ruling keeps their winning streak alive, pushing back the licensing deadline for two more weeks. In other words, unlicensed medical cannabis dispensaries can still operate under the emergency rules set up last year.

Yet state officials and patients are growing increasingly concerned that those emergency rules aren’t doing enough to ensure safety. “I’ve heard a lot and I appreciate all the concerns about the supply of marijuana,” said Rick Johnson, chairman of the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board.

Under the program’s emergency rules, LARA permitted provisioning centers to sell untested medical cannabis products through 2018. Patients had to sign disclosure forms acknowledge they understood the risks of consuming untested marijuana. Once lab testing of caregiver grown cannabis became a requirement, more than a dozen strains failed due to mold, yeast, chemicals and other contaminants.

Why Does Michigan Keep Going After Medical Cannabis Dispensaries?

The state’s crackdown against unlicensed dispensaries stems from the nearly 8 year gap between the passage of Michigan’s medical cannabis law and legislation establishing a licensing and regulatory framework for the industry. In the meantime, an unlicensed industry of growers, distributors and retailers emerged to serve the program’s 50,000-plus caregivers and roughly 300,000 registered patients.

Efforts to block licensing deadlines focus on the impact dispensary closures have on patient access and affordability. But as the state licenses more provisioning centers and gears up to regulate an adult-use industry, officials have an incentive to shut down businesses that won’t get on board.

And that incentive is tax revenue. According to Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), legal medical cannabis sales topped $42 million in just the first four months after the opening of the first licensed provisioning center. When authorized provisioning centers get the green light to begin selling to retail consumers, total cannabis sales could top $1 billion, state officials estimate.

Michigan’s Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act went into effect on December 6, 2018. The law imposes a 10 percent excise tax on provisioning center retailers. Customers will pay standard 6 percent sales tax. But adult-use consumers will have to wait at least a year for LARA to license and regulate the retail industry.

Michigan Judge Blocks Officials From Closing Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensaries was posted on High Times.

Study Finds Correlation of Daily High Potency Cannabis Use and Mental Illness

Study Finds Correlation of Daily High Potency Cannabis Use and Mental Illness

[Canniseur: In yet another flawed study with an agenda, ‘scientists’ attempted to correlate ‘high potency’ cannabis with psychosis. As the articles author rightly points out the study really doesn’t make any direct correlations between psychosis and cannabis use.]

What patterns of cannabis use are the most likely to increase someone’s chances of developing psychosis? That’s the question a team of U.K. researchers set out to answer using data from 901 first-episode psychosis patients across Europe and Brazil. The results of their analysis, published Tuesday in The Lancet, describe a clear correlation between daily, high-potency cannabis consumption and psychotic episodes. Yet lead researchers acknowledged that the correlation does not necessarily mean cannabis is the cause of psychosis.

Study Cannot Definitively Pinpoint Cannabis as Cause of Psychosis

Studies that suggest links between cannabis use and mental illness give firepower to policymakers who view legal marijuana as a threat to public health and safety. But a close look at their actual findings almost always reveals a much more complex and less definitive picture of how cannabis consumption intersects with mental illness—and mental wellness.

So what did King’s College London researchers find? Looking at data collected between 2010 and 2015 at 11 sites across Europe and Brazil, researchers selected 901 patients, aged 18-64, who presented to psychiatric services with a first episode of psychosis. Using some complex statistics, researchers compared the cannabis use patterns of the 901 patients with 1237 control subjects from the same sites. They found that “daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users.” And those odds went up “to nearly five times the increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis.”

So what exactly did they mean by “high-potency”? The researchers didn’t mean concentrates or extracts or edibles. Instead, they define high-potency as any cannabis product with a THC concentration above 10 percent. In other words, nearly all of the weed available in legal and unlicensed markets.

The study also concludes that restrictions on the availability of “high-potency” products—which remember in this case means anything with more than 10 percent THC—”could have prevented” cases of first-episode psychosis. Ultimately, the researchers found that “differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorders across the 11 studied sites.”

Expert Says Early Psychotic Episodes Could Lead to Self-Medicating with Cannabis

Using words like “contribute” and “associated with,” the study’s authors seem confident that daily and daily-high potency use significantly increases someone’s risk of psychosis. Or in the words of the study’s lead author, Dr. Marta Di Forti: “If you decide to use high-potency marijuana, you should bear in mind: Psychosis is a potential risk.”

But other experts, like University of Liverpool psychologist and epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Gage, say there’s nothing definitive about the King’s College study. In fact, Gage suggests that Dr. Di Forti’s methodology could have overlooked a relationship between psychosis and cannabis use that goes in the opposite direction. Most experts accept that cannabis, as a little-understood mind-altering substance, could pose risks to mental health, especially when used frequently.

But a risk factor is not the same as a cause, let alone a definitive cause. In short, just because you use cannabis daily doesn’t mean you will definitely have a psychotic episode.

Indeed, for some people, the relationship between mental illness could be completely reversed. Dr. Di Forti and her colleagues only asked about patients’ cannabis use prior to their first-episode psychosis. They didn’t gather information on whether the patients experienced psychotic symptoms before they starting consuming cannabis. In other words, mental illness might have led some of the 901 patients to self-medicate with cannabis, rather than cannabis use leading to their psychosis.

As ever, new research renews the call for further research. And in this case, we need more studies not just on the cause-effect relationship between weed and mental health, but also on who may be more susceptible to those risks than others, and why.

Study Finds Correlation of Daily High Potency Cannabis Use and Mental Illness was posted on High Times.

Survey Indicates Teen Marijuana Use in Colorado is Lower Than National Average

Survey Indicates Teen Marijuana Use in Colorado is Lower Than National Average

[Canniseur: The next time you hear someone decry legalization of cannabis because kids will consume more and more of it, show them this and now at least 10 other studies. It just doesn’t happen. Availability is a deterrent in a funny way. The antis just don’t get it. The numbers are against them.]

If this were a segment of The Daily Show, this article might begin with a montage of Republican lawmakers decrying the “reckless, irresponsible” message marijuana legalization sends to youth. In legislative chambers across the U.S., opponents of marijuana reform, when all else fails, fall back on the argument that legal weed will surely cause more young people to consume cannabis. Their case rests on a simple—and simplistic—assumption: make something legal, safer, better-regulated, and more people will do it. But a new survey of teen marijuana use in Colorado is beginning to put the lie to that assumption.

New Survey: 81 Percent of Colorado Teens Don’t Consume Cannabis

On Tuesday, public health researchers in Colorado released a report detailing the results of a youth marijuana education and prevention campaign called High Costs. Researchers measured the efficacy of that campaign with a survey. The survey reached more than 55,000 teen respondents, including 500 in the City of Denver. And according to that survey, teen marijuana consumption isn’t just dropping in Colorado. It’s also falling below the national average for the first time.

The report’s “respondent snapshot” reveals that 59 percent of Colorado teens have never consumed cannabis. An additional 22 percent of teens have only consumed cannabis once or twice ever. Another 8 percent consume cannabis once a month or less. In other words, just 10 percent of Colorado teens use cannabis more than once a month. So 81 percent of Colorado teens don’t consume cannabis with any regularity, have only tried it or have never tried it at all. The national average for teen’s who don’t use cannabis hovers around four out of every five. Colorado teens just barely surpassed that mark.

High Costs Cannabis Awareness Program Is Helping Reduce Underage Use

Colorado’s cannabis laws earmark a portion of marijuana tax revenue for drug awareness and outreach programs for young people. The City of Denver, for example, has spent millions on its High Costs campaign. And based on its new report, High Costs says it’s money well spent. In addition to surveying teens on their cannabis consumption habits, High Costs also polled respondents about their familiarity with High Costs’ campaign materials. 78 percent of Denver teens reported that they were familiar with the campaign. And of those, 75 percent said High Costs’ messaging discouraged them from using cannabis.

High Costs is also the organization behind the online game show, Weeded Out. Weeded Out is the country’s first marijuana education game show, and it was the focal point of High Costs’ 2018 campaign. Of the teens who watched the game show, 87 percent reported discussing it with friends and family. In short, High Costs is getting its message out there. And the vast majority of teens who are aware of it find its content clear, educational, trustworthy and likable.

And for the rest of the nation, the effectiveness of Denver’s youth awareness and prevention campaign sends an important message. It shows that it is entirely possible for legal-weed states to safeguard young people and teens from the health and legal risks of underage cannabis consumption. And further, it shows that smart, well-funded programs can do way more to reduce teen cannabis consumption than prohibition and harsh criminalization.

Survey Indicates Teen Marijuana Use in Colorado is Lower Than National Average was posted on High Times.

Breaking: Connecticut Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Legalize Marijuana

Breaking: Connecticut Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Legalize Marijuana

[Canniseur: In a smart move, lawmakers in Connecticut are not wanting to be an island in the sea of New England. Massachusetts is adult use legal and both Rhode Island and New York are looking to legalize adult use. Legalizing is smart. Connecticut isn’t a large state and residents who want cannabis can take a short drive to where cannabis is legal.]

On Thursday afternoon, top lawmakers in the Connecticut House of Representatives announced their plan to legalize cannabis for adult use. Speaking at a press conference, General law chair Rep. Michael D’Agostino, Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Steve Stafstrom and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee member Rep. Jason Rojas—all Democrats—discussed the details of the legislative process and what Connecticut residents should expect next. Here are the major takeaways.

Connecticut Lawmakers Unveil Legal Weed Legislation

10 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for adult use, but only one state, Vermont, did so through the lawmaking process, rather than a statewide vote. If Connecticut legalizes cannabis this year, it will have done so in the same way. General Law Committee chair Michael D’Agostino commenced Thursday’s process conference with a word on exactly what that process will look like.

D’Agostino said that Connecticut was approaching legalization in three areas: regulation, decriminalization, and monetization. Each of those three areas falls under the purvey of a specific House committee. And each committee will be proposing its own set of bills focused entirely on its area of cognizance. Thus, D’Agostino stressed that lawmakers were at the very beginning of the process. He called the multiple proposals a “a first bid,” with “nothing set in stone.” Once the bills have undergone multiple hearings and revisions to satisfy committee members, they will all be packaged into a single, comprehensive bill for the legislature to consider.

The Judiciary Committee’s Three Bills to Legalize Cannabis in Connecticut

After D’Agostino’s introduction on process, Rep. Steve Stafstrom of the Judiciary Committee spoke on the three bills currently pending in the committee. One bill would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis to persons at least 21-years-old. It also proves for criminal record erasure and lays out a process for filing for expungement.

A second bill would create new, separate impaired driving rules that apply just to cannabis. Rules would prohibit any consumption of cannabis while driving, whether or not a driver is under the influence of cannabis. They would also prevent passengers from smoking inside a vehicle. Finally, the second bill would set aside funds to train police as “drug recognition experts” to screen suspect drivers.

The Judiciary Committee’s third bill will likely rankle supporters of cannabis legalization. According to Stafstrom, the bill would not require employers in Connecticut to make special accommodations for employees’ use of cannabis.

Finance Committee is Eyeing Tax Structure Based on Massachusetts

While legalization has generated lots of interest on the revenue side, Rep. Jason Rojas explained that the taxation piece of the puzzle would necessarily come later, after the other committees had finalized their legislation.

But Rojas wants to make sure Connecticut isn’t competing with Massachusetts. Lawmakers want residents buying weed in-state, not across the border. So for now, committee lawmakers are eyeing an overall tax rate of about 20 percent. They expect that tax scheme to carry the retail program for two years, at which point they will reconsider the structure. Rojas did say that Connecticut would levy excise and sales taxes, and that local authorities could level additional taxes on businesses. The tax structure will become clearer in April, Rojas said.

Connecticut Will Take “An Aggressive Approach to Equity” in the Cannabis Industry

A major point of Thursday’s press conference was the importance of ensuring equitability and access to the economic benefits of a legal cannabis industry. And in this respect, legalization advocates have made their strongest mark on the draft legislations.

Fielding questions about equity from reporters, D’Agostino said that people designated as “equity applicants” would have a head start on the application process. So cannabis business license applicants who come from communities with historically high arrest and conviction rates for marijuana offenses would be able to submit applications three months ahead of other applicants. During the press conference, committee lawmakers stressed the importance of redressing the past harms of prohibition and criminalization in Connecticut.

Lawmakers Plan to Leverage Existing Medical Cannabis Infrastructure

During the press conference, Rep. D’Agostino spoke very highly of Connecticut’s medical cannabis program. And to get retail cannabis sales up and running as soon as possible, D’Agostino said the state will leverage its already well-regulated medical cannabis infrastructure.

The bills that committee lawmakers are proposing would establish temporary rules to allow medical dispensaries to sell to retail customers. Lawmakers say that dispensaries could start selling cannabis products by the end of the year. But registered medical cannabis patients will have access to more potent products. Once medical dispensaries start selling to retail customers, the state will collect data to help shape how it licenses strictly retail sellers.

But lawmakers couldn’t provide any definitive answers about exactly when Connecticut’s retail industry would be in full swing. Rather, they continued to emphasize that the process was in its initial stages. Expect the legislative process to take time– probably a year at least.

In Connecticut, Still High Hopes for Legalization in 2019

Connecticut decriminalized possession for personal use in 2011. Get caught with less than a half-ounce of cannabis, hash or concentrate, and you’ll simply face a civil penalty of $150 for a first offense. The “weed ticket” doesn’t show up on a criminal record or background check, just like a moving violation.

The next year, in 2012, Connecticut legalized cannabis for medical use. Since then, the state’s medical cannabis program has grown steadily, registering new patients, caregivers and expanding the list of qualifying conditions. Currently, there are more than 30 debilitating conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis in Connecticut.

Last year, Connecticut came close to legalizing adult-use cannabis. In April 2018, the House Appropriations Committee voted 27-24 to support a legalization measure. While the bill wouldn’t have directly legalized cannabis, it would have directed state agencies to come up with a plan for legalizing and regulating a retail industry. But as activists rallied at the state Capitol in Hartford, lawmakers essentially ran out the clock. Joe Aresimowicz, a former House Speaker, opted not to bring the measure to a full floor vote.

But 2019 feels different, according to legalization advocates. With Democrats controlling both chambers of the state legislature and a governor who has vowed to make cannabis legalization a priority, it’s easy to see why supporters of drug reform are optimistic that this is their year. In Connecticut, the political landscape favors progressive marijuana legislation. But so does the region. Retail weed sales have already begun across the state border in Massachusetts. And both New Jersey and New York are moving inexorably toward a vote on legalization.

Breaking: Connecticut Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Legalize Marijuana was posted on High Times.

Oklahoma House Passes Medical Cannabis Protection Bill

Oklahoma House Passes Medical Cannabis Protection Bill

[Editor’s Note: At first read, this seems like a good and logical piece of legislation. And…it’s bi-partisan in a very republican state. However, there’s a long way between a bill being introduced and passage. We’ll watch to see how this develops.]

Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program has divided patients and health professionals, voters and their elected officials. But a new bill, which cleared the House floor Thursday with a 93-5 vote, aims to create unity on the issue. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act represents a bipartisan effort to craft new rules for the state program. It also marks the culmination of a working group’s efforts to create a framework based on input from proponents and opponents of State Question 788.

Oklahoma’s New Medical Marijuana Rulebook Just Passed in the House

Jon Echols (R-Oklahoma City), Oklahoma’s House Speaker and co-chair of the working group behind HB 2612, said the goal of the Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act “is not to fix every issue or deal with every issue that will pop up.”

Instead, Echols said the goal was to establish a framework for the booming industry and move on from there. That framework came as a result of 13 meetings group members held with pro-legalization advocates who helped craft SQ 788 and the law enforcement and medical trade groups who opposed the ballot initiative.

Here’s How Oklahoma’s “Unity Bill” Protects Patients

Among the most important provisions of HB 2612 are those which protect patients and their access to medical cannabis. The bill prohibits any restrictions on the types and forms of medical marijuana and products, quelling fears about a ban on smokable products. And it prohibits any limitations on the amount or quantity of THC products can contain.

The bill protects the housing and education rights of medical cannabis patients. It prohibits schools or landlords from refusing to enroll or lease to medical marijuana licensees. And it protects against sanction in the workplace by prohibiting employers from discriminating against medical marijuana licensees. HB 2612 equally protects parents from losing custody or visitation rights for lawful medical cannabis use. It even protects those around medical cannabis licensees—like friends, family, and caregivers—from drug possession or use charges.

These are just some of the many protections HB 2612 puts in place for patients. There are too many to list. The bill also lays out a host of regulatory and licensing guidelines for business, patients, and caregivers. It establishes testing and labeling requirements. In short, it is a comprehensive framework for a program that enjoyed an accelerated start.

Oklahoma’s Medical Cannabis Program Could See Even More Changes in 2019

After passing the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana and Patient Protection Act on Wednesday, state lawmakers still have a long lineup of proposals to consider. Each would tweak the state’s medical marijuana law in its own way, and most in less patient-friendly ways than HB 2612.

Republican Sen. Ronnie Paxton’s (Tuttle) bill would institute harsher penalties for patients who forget to carry their medical card. Republican Sen. Julie Daniels’ (Bartlesville) bill would add exempt “safety-sensitive jobs” from workplace protections for medical licensees. But it would also prevent the state from revoking or withholding a concealed carry license for medical patients. Sen Kim David’s (R-Porter) bill would fine patients who violated personal possession limits. Still, other bills would let counties opt out of medical cannabis, impose higher taxes on patients and businesses, and fine anyone who fakes a medical card.

Efforts like these by Republican lawmakers are largely responsible for the divisiveness around the issue of medical cannabis–the same divisiveness House lawmakers are now trying to mend. But with a strong network of advocacy groups and popular support, pro-patient groups in Oklahoma have succeeded at pushing back. The important protections in HB 2612 are solid proof. Now, it’s up to the Senate to agree.

Oklahoma House Passes Medical Cannabis Protection Bill was posted on High Times.

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