[Canniseur: Texas is probably the worst state in the U.S. when it comes to cannabis. Yet, millions of Texans consume cannabis. The state misses out in so many ways by refusing to legalize or at least have a real medical cannabis program. What they have now is a joke. Total misread of the populace by the head-in-the-sand legislators.]
Nearly all forms of cannabis are illegal in Texas. And by illegal, I mean very illegal. Possession of a small amount of cannabis concentrate—what we in the legal states know as a $30 vape cartridge—is a felony in the Lone Star State.
Medical marijuana here has almost no THC. It’s actually lower in THC than hemp-derived CBD.
But there is one form of cannabis that is allowed. It’s a highly specialized cannabidiol oil that contains, by law, no more than 0.5% THC and no less than 10% CBD. It’s available only to patients with intractable epilepsy, and three companies are licensed to produce and distribute it.
I recently had the chance to tour one of those companies. The home offices and grow facility of Compassionate Cultivation are tucked away in Manchaca, a little farm town on the outskirts of Austin. It’s not encased in barbed wire, but it’s not exactly advertised, either. A small vinyl sign bearing a vague sprouting-seed logo—not the typical marijuana fan leaf—stands in a lonely field of live oaks.
Outstanding in its field: The dispensaries in Texas keep a low profile. (Photo: Ben Adlin)
John Volkmann, the company’s chief marketing officer, greeted Leafly News Editor Ben Adlin and me in the front office of a light industrial warehouse facility. “Welcome to our dispensary,” he said. Ben and I looked around, confused. We saw a waiting room and a receptionist. And… that’s it, Volkmann explained. There are no products in retail display cabinets, no budtenders, no jars or chopsticks. Most patients order their medicine online and receive it via delivery, Volkmann told us. Those who visit in person receive one-on-one consults there in the waiting room in Manchaca.
Delivery Via a Prius Fleet
Texas is an enormous state. You could fit all of France and Switzerland inside its borders. How does Compassionate Cultivation deliver? “We run a fleet of Priuses,” said Volkmann. “We need to be able to deliver medicine to Laredo, El Paso, Houston,” wherever their patients reside.
And those hybrids are customized for the job. “Our vehicles are built out with GPS tracking and safes that are mounted to the frames of the vehicles,” explained Taylor Kirk, the company’s vice president of operations. “It’s a very controlled process.”
Inside the Compassionate Cultivation grow room: This month’s plant, next month’s CBD oil. (Photo: Ben Adlin)
A Very Strict Program
The state’s Compassionate Use Act, implemented in early 2016, is a very controlled program. In fact, it’s not overseen by the state health department, as most medical marijuana programs are. It’s run by the Texas Department of Public Safety—the police agency that also manages the Texas Rangers and the Texas Highway Patrol.
The strict law allows patients with intractable epilepsy—the only qualifying condition—to consult with a state-registered specialist who may recommend low-THC cannabis oil. There aren’t a lot of these physicians. In all of Travis County, which includes Austin, the state registry lists only four. (Patients can search for those registered physicians here.) The physician then enters the patient’s name into the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT), an online portal that the state’s three dispensaries can use to verify that a patient qualifies.
Smokeable flower is not allowed. All flower and leaf must be converted to cannabis oil products.
“We have a pretty constrained cannabis opportunity here,” John Volkmann acknowledged.
Breeding the house specialty: Waterloo is a low-THC, high-CBD strain unique to Compassionate Cultivation. (Photo: Ben Adlin)
More Hemp Oil Than MMJ, For Now
It’s so constrained that Leafly doesn’t technically consider Texas a legal medical marijuana state under our definition of the term.
Here’s the problem: The medicine produced by Compassionate Cultivation and its two competitors, Knox Medical and Surterra Wellness isn’t much different in potency than the mail-order CBD products proliferating across the United States. When Congress passed the farm bill late last year, it included language that offered more legal wiggle room for hemp-based CBD producers. By law, hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. Licensed medical cannabis in Texas contains less than 0.5% THC.
Those unlicensed CBD oils, which typically contain double-digit percentages of CBD and minute traces of THC, are commonly ordered online and shipped through the US Postal Service. Unlicensed CBD remains illegal in Texas, farm bill notwithstanding. That doesn’t mean people here don’t purchase it online, but most law enforcement agencies see proactive enforcement as a waste of tax dollars.
Why Spent the Money?
So why invest millions of dollars in a CBD oil startup that’s so restricted by state law? Compassionate Cultivation and its two competitors seem to be playing the long game: stay strictly compliant with state law now and be ready when legislators open the system to more patients and qualifying conditions.
Indeed, even as we ended our tour, legislators in Austin were considering a number of bills that would do exactly that.
And Volkmann pointed out something else his company was delivering to patients: safety and reliability. Unlicensed hemp-based CBD oil is completely unregulated. Past studies have found that some products deliver far less CBD than they promise. Other products may contain contaminants such as mold or heavy metals, because no product testing is required.
At Compassionate Cultivation, the company grows its own low-THC strains of cannabis onsite. It’s also in the process of breeding new strains, such as the high-CBD cultivar called Waterloo. Experienced technicians extract cannabinoids and terpenes. A state-of-the-art lab tests the products to make sure they’re delivering what patients expect. It’s a multimillion-dollar operation just waiting for its patient base to expand.
“We can’t go beyond what the current law allows,” Volkmann said. “But when the law changes and allows more qualifying conditions, we’ll be ready.”
Original Post: Leafly: Here’s What Medical Cannabis Looks Like in Texas
[Editor’s Note: This seems like great news. I wonder how many of these ‘new’ jobs were a transition from the illegal cannabis market? Now they’re getting payroll taxes taken out!]
As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America
How many jobs are there in the legal cannabis industry? It’s a common question—and one the government refuses to answer.
Because cannabis remains federally illegal, employment data agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics ignore all jobs related to the industry.
Legal cannabis is the greatest job creation machine in America. Our employment data proves it.
That’s too bad, because they’re missing one of the most dramatic job booms in recent history.
Over the past three months Leafly’s data team, working in partnership with Whitney Economics, has gone state-by-state to tally the total number of direct, full-time jobs in the state-legal cannabis industry.
There are now more than 211,000 cannabis jobs across the United States. More than 64,000 of those jobs were added in 2018. That’s enough people to fill Chicago’s Soldier Field, with 3,000 more tailgating outside.
Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job-creation machine in America. The cannabis workforce increased 21% in 2017. It gained another 44% in 2018. We expect at least another 20% growth in jobs in 2019. That would represent a 110% growth in cannabis jobs in just three years.
Download the Full Report
Special Report: 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count is available only at Leafly. The main report offers a national overview of direct employment as well as indirect positions and jobs induced by the legal cannabis industry. We also offer data about tax revenue in legal states, growth predictions for 2019, salary ranges for the most in-demand cannabis jobs, and tips on getting hired. The report’s appendix offers a state-by-state analysis of market size, growth, and job numbers.
Click to download the full report.
Growth Compared to What?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently compiled a list of the industries with the fastest-growing employment figures. Opportunities for home health care aides are expected to grow 47%. Openings for wind turbine technicians are expected to increase 96%. The need for solar voltaic installers is expected to grow 105%. Those gains are projected to happen over the course of 10 years.
Here’s the incredible thing: The 110% growth in cannabis jobs will have happened over just three years.
Federal job counters won’t tell you that. We just did.
These States Are Booming
Some states that have had legal adult-use cannabis sales for a while now—Colorado and Washington opened their stores in 2014—are just now seeing the growth in cannabis jobs start to plateau.
Meanwhile, newly legal states, such as Florida (medical) and Nevada (adult use), are experiencing cannabis job booms with eye-popping gains:
- Florida grew its cannabis employment by 703% in 2018, adding more than 9,000 full-time jobs.
- Nevada added more than 7,500 jobs during that same year.
- Pennsylvania ended 2017 with around 90 cannabis jobs. It ended the 2018 with nearly 3,900.
- New York grew its cannabis employment by 278%, ending 2018 with more than 5,000 jobs.
Download the State-by-State Analysis
Click to download Leafly’s state-by-state analysis.
Who’s Hiring in 2019
California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas are seeking talent—and they need it now.
- California’s cannabis hiring remained relatively flat in 2018 due to the disruption caused by the changeover from an unregulated medical system to a licensed, regulated markets for medical and adult use. But we expect cannabis jobs in the Golden State to increase by 21% in 2019. In raw numbers, that means 10,261 jobs with good salaries, benefits, and opportunity for advancement are waiting to be filled.
- In Massachusetts, the state’s adult-use market is just getting underway. We expect more than 9,500 jobs to be added in the next 12 months.
- Florida should add more than 5,000 jobs in 2019, bringing the state’s total cannabis employment to around 15,000.
- Oklahoma is the Wild West of cannabis right now. There were zero cannabis jobs one year ago. Now there are 2,107. A year from now, we expect there to be 4,407.
- Arkansas is just getting its medical marijuana program underway, but there’s room for growth: from 135 jobs now to 960 jobs by the end of the year.
How to Land a Job
All this week, Leafly will roll out a series of articles about working in the cannabis industry: where the growth is, what it’s like to work in the cannabis industry, and how to crush that job interview and bring an offer home.
Original Post: Leafly: As of 2019, Legal Cannabis Has Created 211,000 Full-Time Jobs in America
[Editor’s Note: 2018 was a huge year for cannabis. Lots of great progress was made. Read on for the year’s highlights.]
If there were a theme running through the top cannabis news stories of 2018, it might be this: Nearly all were predicted in 2017.
In fact, with most of our top stories, it would have been big news if they hadn’t happened. The FDA approved approved its first-ever cannabis-derived pharmaceutical, Epidiolex, right on schedule. Canada, California, and Massachusetts entered the adult-use retail era in 2018, as they said they would. Ballot measures that passed in Michigan and Missouri? No surprise.
Some news did catch us off guard. Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled, definitively and with little warning, that cannabis prohibition violated the nation’s constitution. Utah and Oklahoma went medically legal. And who expected CBD to enter the mainstream so fast?
And you can’t cap off 2018 without a nod to Jeff Sessions. President Trump’s attorney general began the year by rescinding the Cole memo, the policy guidance that allowed state-legal cannabis to operate without immediate federal shutdown. The AG’s year ended one day after the midterm elections, when Trump effectively rescinded Jeff Sessions.
10. FDA Approves First CBD Drug, Epidiolex
FDA approved, and expensive.
Other FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that contain THC already exist. Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, has been on the market since the 1980s. What makes Epidiolex unique is that it’s produced using whole-plant cannabis grown by the manufacturer, UK-based GW Pharma. Epidiolex, indicated for patients with intractable seizures, is essentially a refined version of CBD. And it’s extremely expensive. Which is why its FDA approval was met with both applause and criticism from many in the cannabis community. Nobody’s against sick children getting a life-changing medicine. But many wondered if non-FDA approved CBD would achieve the same results at a much lower cost to patients and parents.
9. Ex-Prohibitionists Hop on the Cannabis Train
Boehner: Now with Acreage.
In the run-up to this year’s 4/20 celebration, the world received a strange bit of news. John Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House, announced his decision to join the board of directors of Acreage Holdings, one of North America’s most well-known cannabis companies.
There are plenty of Republicans who’ve spoken out in favor of cannabis legalization, but Boehner had never been among them. In fact, he’d been one of the toughest bricks in the wall of prohibition.
Nevertheless, the logic of legalization and the lure of a growing industry brought about a change of heart. By the end of the year, other mainstream pols had followed suit. Former Democratic leader Howard Dean and ex-GOP party chair Michael Steele joined the advisory board of Tilray, the Canadian cannabis company.* Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Meanwhile, politicians still in office changed their tune on legalization in 2018: Sens. Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, and Dianne Feinstein came out in favor of legalization. So did New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
* Full disclosure: Tilray is owned by Privateer Holdings, the private equity firm that also owns Leafly.
8. Congress Legalizes Hemp
Hemp is legal. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)
Maybe this section should be headlined “Mitch McConnell Legalizes Hemp to Help His Home State Farmers,” because that’s essentially what happened.
After allowing a limited number of hemp pilot projects in the 2014 farm bill, the Senate majority leader came roaring back in 2018 to lead the charge for the commodity crop, which just happens to grow extremely well in Kentucky.
McConnell didn’t just back-door hemp in the farm b He embraced it, sending out tweets of himself signing documents using a hemp pen. At year’s end, hemp is expected to be fully federally legal—and the same might be said too, eventually, of CBD extracted from that federally legal hemp.
7a. Jeff Sessions Rescinds Cole Memo, Has Little Effect
The Cole Memo is no more. (AP, Leafly)
What a way to ring in the new year, huh? No sooner had most of us returned to our desks in January than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions issued a chilling edict: The Cole memo, the 2013 Justice Department policy advisory that allowed state-legal cannabis regulation to proceed, was henceforth no more.
An outcry ensued—but here’s the thing: Nothing happened. The policy no longer obtained, but US attorneys around the country didn’t unleash the hounds on state-legal cannabis companies.
In fact, they husbanded their resources and went after bad actors in legal states, companies operating outside the lines set down by state regulators. That had the effect of strengthening the existing industry, rewarding good operators by removing their rule-breaking competitors.
7b. Trump Rescinds Jeff Sessions
Sessions is no more. (AP, Leafly)
We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.
All year it seemed like President Trump was on the verge of firing his attorney general. Trump didn’t care about cannabis, of course. Sessions’ original sin, in the president’s eyes, was appointing a special counsel and recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
The shoe finally dropped on Nov. 7, the day after Trump and the Republicans suffered a walloping in the midterm elections. Somebody had to pay for the losses, and it turned out to be Sessions (who, of course, had nothing to do with the election).
Trump appointed the unknown Matthew Whitaker as interim AG, and nobody was sure whether Whitaker’s status was even legal. By the year’s end, the president had named William Barr—an actual former attorney general, under George H.W. Bush—as a permanent replacement. Barr is an old-line drug warrior, but so far he doesn’t seem to have the odd passion for (against?) cannabis that marked Sessions’ time in office.
6. Mexico Supreme Court Strikes Down Prohibition
Prohibition is out.
Yow! This one really snuck up on us. At the end of October, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued the last of five rulings that declared the nation’s cannabis prohibition unconstitutional.
Because of the way Mexico’s courts work, the fifth similar ruling on a single issue makes the decision binding on courts nationwide. So now, technically, cannabis isn’t exactly legal, but it’s not constitutionally illegal, either.
More progress is expected. The nation’s lawmakers are now working on a full legalize-and-regulate package that may be ready for its debut in 2019.
5. Legalization Continues its March Across North America
Voters love legalization.
Canada, California, and Massachusetts weren’t the only big turns in 2018.
Vermont legalized adult-use cannabis through its state legislature.
Oklahoma legalized medical.
Missouri and Utah voters embraced medical initiatives as well.
And Michigan went fully adult-legal on election day.
North Dakota voters turned down an unregulated adult-use measure, but in keeping with the theme of the year: That was expected.
4. Massachusetts Cannabis Stores Open
First customers at Cultivate, in Leicester. (AP/Steven Senne)
Nearly two years after voters approved adult-use legalization, the first cannabis stores opened in the Bay State, marking the debut of legal, regulated sales in the Eastern United States.
The only problem was demand: Long lines formed outside the first open stores, and traffic snarled around the block.
As the year drew to a close, more stores were coming online, dissipating the demand. Meanwhile, all that tax money lit a fire under Vermont, the state’s northern neighbor, where officials watched consumers cross state lines (technically not legal) to purchase licensed, lab-tested product.
Prediction: Look for Vermont’s retail system to open in early 2020.
3. CBD Goes Mainstream
The NYT is on it.
The wonders of cannabidiol (CBD) have been known for years to many in the cannabis community. But few outsiders had even heard of the compound, let alone tried it.
During the summer of 2018, though, CBD suddenly seemed to be everywhere—in health supplement stores, mainstream drug stores, and even gas stations. Even CBD-infused cocktails became a thing.
The New York Times Magazine ran a feature titled “Why Is CBD Everywhere?” Which means one of two things: Either the cannabinoid has jumped the shark, or it’s become so ubiquitous that the DEA’s efforts to criminalize it will be futile.
The year ended with Congress passing the 2018 farm bill, which legalized hemp and pointed toward the end of the road for CBD as a banned, illicit substance.
2. California Adult-Use Market Opens
Steve DeAngelo (in hat) celebrates with Henry Wykowski on Jan. 1, 2018.
California cannabis sales went legal on Jan. 1, 2018. It wasn’t nearly as big a deal as Canada’s day one—partly because medical cannabis (and illicit adult-use cannabis) have been ingrained in California culture for decades. California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis, in 1996. In 2018, the state finally reclaimed its rightful place as America’s cannabis leader. Now if they can just convince all those cities and counties to drop their silly cannabis bans.
1. Canada Legalizes Nationwide
Leafly’s Bud Drop party marked the opening of the new legal era in Toronto. (Jesse Miln for Leafly)
At the stroke of midnight, Newfoundland time, on Oct. 17, Canadian dollars passed across the counters of stores in St. John’s, opening the post-prohibition era in the Great White North. At Leafly’s Bud Drop party in Toronto, supergroup Dwayne Gretzky played in the legal era with a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.”
Other nations (we see you, Uruguay) had taken tentative steps toward full legalization, but Canada will forever be seen as the first to stride into the world’s post-prohibition era. Canadians responded well to the change. Online shoppers jammed the Ontario Cannabis Store with thousands of orders at 12:01 a.m., Quebec handled 42,000 orders on the first day, and demand was so strong that some provinces nearly ran out of cannabis. More than two months later, the market had calmed and bumps were being smoothed, but the nation’s love of cannabis and pride in its pioneering role remained as strong as ever.
Original Post: Leafly: The Top 10 Cannabis Stories of 2018
‘The Haymaker’ is Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott’s column on cannabis politics and culture.
Pardon me while I catch my breath. It’s been a heck of a month.
Here’s what’s gone down in the cannabis world in the past three weeks:
- Canada federally legalized cannabis for all adults. Period.
- The FDA, a federal agency, officially approved a cannabis-based medicine, the epilepsy drug Epidiolex, theoretically invalidating the Schedule I status of cannabis.
- The World Health Organization declared cannabidiol (CBD) to be a proven effective treatment with no evidence of health-related problems or indications of abuse.
- In Congress, a bipartisan group introduced the STATES Act, which would end federal prohibition in all legal states.
- Chuck Schumer’s bill to end prohibition, announced ages ago, was finally introduced in the Senate.
- Oklahoma approved the legalization of medical marijuana in a landslide vote.
There’s more to come. Both Vermont and Massachusetts will enter into their fully legal status at the stroke of midnight on June 30.
That’s a lot to unpack, but it all adds up to one takeaway: This is the month that prohibition’s foundation collapsed. To borrow a phrase from filmmaker Dave Markey: This is the month legalization broke.
Let’s start with the most overlooked news in Tuesday night’s election: Oklahoma.
Oklahoma: Voters OK 788!
In 2016, the US Supreme Court rejected Oklahoma’s bid to smash Colorado’s legal and regulated cannabis system. Oklahoma state officials looked up at Colorado and saw 6 million hippies blowing clouds of pot and patchouli south on the prairie wind.
Oklahomans were asked to approve one of the most liberal medical marijuana initiatives ever written. And they said: Hell yeah!
Two years later it’s a different state. Oklahoma voters didn’t just legalize drops of CBD oil for kids and terminal cancer patients. They were asked to approve one of the most liberal, open-ended medical marijuana initiatives ever written. No qualifying conditions. Limits set at an ounce of concentrates. (For newcomers: That’s a lot.). And Oklahomans said, Hell yeah.
It wasn’t even close. Oklahoma’s State Question 788 passed 57% to 43%.
Oklahoma matters for a lot of reasons, but the biggest may be Texas. If OK is OKing medical by 14 points at the polls, that sends a message to the state’s big brother to the south. A poll released earlier today by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune found that 84% of Texans are ready to legalize medical marijuana tomorrow. A majority, 53%, would legalize for adult use.
Yesterday’s Oklahoma vote means those Texas polling numbers aren’t a mirage. They remain solid in the voting booth. And they should make Rep. Pete Sessions, the Texas Congressman (R-Dallas suburbs) who’s been holding up progress on medical marijuana, think twice about continuing to fight against his own constituents.
FDA: This Is Medicine
The FDA’s approval of Epidiolex is a jolt of another sort. The long-running fraud that is the Schedule I status of cannabis has withstood multiple legal challenges. In 1988, DEA Chief Administrative Judge Francis Young declared that:
“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”
That was the DEA’s own judge. Nothing changed.
The Schedule I fraud won’t fall tomorrow. But after Epidiolex it will be hard for the feds to defend it with a straight face.
One of the most difficult legal hurdles to overcome has been the fact that no federal agency has officially approved cannabis as medicine. Cite all the medical studies you want—and there are plenty. Federal judges tend to side with officials from federal agencies, and when the FDA weighed in, its officials would testify that they knew of “no sound scientific evidence [that] supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States.”
After Epidiolex, the FDA can no longer say that.
Listen, I know the Schedule I fraud won’t fall tomorrow. Paul Armentano, one of the wise old heads at NORML, told me earlier this morning that he expects the Justice Department to try to split the schedule: Schedule I for CBD as an organic compound in cannabis; Schedule III for CBD when present in an FDA-approved medicine like Epidiolex.
“I say this because such a precedent for dual scheduling already exists for THC,” Armentano told me. Organic THC in the plant is a Schedule I drug, but “synthetic THC encapsulated in sesame seed oil in an FDA-approved product—dronabinol—is regulated as a Schedule III controlled substance. I would hardly be surprised if the DEA tries to codify a similar legal distinction with respect to CBD.”
If there’s a way for the feds to lie, cheat, and screw this up, they will surely find that way.
Judge Francis Young’s 1988 ruling should have shaken cannabis loose from the schedule. It did not. The difference now is that people are paying attention. A lot of people. From the looks of it, 57% of the state of Oklahoma was paying attention. Few people are aware of Francis Young, but voters nationwide know about Epidiolex, CBD, and the FDA.
Canada: The Evidence of Our Own Eyes
After decades of dreaming about how wild it would be for an entire nation to legalize cannabis, Canada just went head and did it.
Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, the Liberal Party marched up to Ottawa’s Parliament Hill and introduced an imperfect but reasonable bill. Liberal leaders held public hearings, they listened respectfully to counterarguments, and they passed the legislation with such a lack of sturm und drang that the proceedings, were they scripted, would be drubbed by drama critics as Ambien on stage.
In the space of a few days—between the final Senate vote and the flourish of the “royal assent” ceremony—all the old vote-losing fears and deal-breaking phrases melted away. What about the children. What message are we sending. You’re just introducing another destructive drug into society. Canada can’t do this under its international treaties. Toddlers will eat cannabis leaves like sugar-coated lettuce. No, no, no, no, and stop it. Enough.
There’s a phrase sometimes used when talk about diversity and representation: To be it, you’ve got to see it. It’s difficult for young girls to know they can rise to become Supreme Court justices if they don’t see Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sandra Day O’Connor inhabiting those roles. Same with business executives, computer developers, and board members.
To all those who say it’s never been done, it can’t be done, it won’t be done: Canada just did it. We all see it. Now let’s be it, America.
Original Post: Leafly: Why June 2018 Will Go Down as the Month Prohibition Crumbled