[Canniseur: A law suit is the perfect way to get this administration’s attention. Let’s hope it works because we need scientific research performed with quality weed. We are way behind other countries like Israel and Canada in cannabis medical advances.]
A collective of researchers has filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) demanding a response to their three-year-old application to grow cannabis for research purposes.
The federal government has been providing cannabis to US scientists ever since 1968, but this government-sanctioned grass is notorious for being some of the lowest-quality schwag that researchers have ever encountered. The quality of this product – which is apparently full of stems, seeds, mold, and pathogens – is so bad that many researchers have flat-out rejected it for fear that it would destroy the validity of their research.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Northern Colorado discovered that government weed is significantly lower in both THC and CBD than legal or black-market bud, and is genetically closer to hemp than it is to marijuana.
This low-quality government weed is produced on one single farm operated by the University of Mississippi, the only institution that the DEA has authorized to grow pot for research purposes. As the interest in medical cannabis has skyrocketed over the years, scientists have begged the feds to allow other, non-government cultivators to create a quality product that they can actually use for research.
In 2016, the DEA conceded and began accepting applications from cultivators. The agency accepted 25 applications, but former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly put the brakes on this process as part of his personal war on weed. A year later, the DEA announced that these applications were still under review. Scientists and legislators wrote countless angry letters to the DEA and Sessions demanding that these applications be considered.
Another year came and went without progress. Last August, the DEA authorized the cultivation of 5,400 pounds of research weed, more than five times the amount it authorized in previous years. The research community assumed that this announcement would entail the approval of additional growers, as the massive increase in production seemed beyond the capabilities of the University of Mississippi.
Another eleven months have passed, and the DEA has yet to approve any additional growers. Frustrated by the endless delays, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) has filed a lawsuit demanding that the agency finally review the cultivation application it submitted nearly three years ago. The suit asks a federal judge to force the DEA or the attorney general to respond to this application within three months.
“DEA’s delay in noticing or responding to SRI’s application is unlawful, unreasonable, and egregious,” the institute argued, according to Marijuana Moment. “It contravenes the letter and spirit of the [Controlled Substances Act], seriously harms SRI, and hampers SRI’s efforts to help suffering veterans through clinical research.”
Dr. Sue Sisley, a family practice doctor and SRI’s principal researcher, explained that “there’s been no progress, despite years of lobbying, so we are now seeking a remedy through the courts.
“While most states in the US recognize that cannabis has medical value, the DEA says otherwise, pointing to the absence of clinical research,” Sisley continued. “But at the same time, government regulations and bureaucracy prevent researchers like SRI from ever doing the clinical research the DEA has overtly demanded.”
While the US government does its best to underhandedly undermine legitimate scientific research into cannabis, other countries such as Canada and Israel not only encourage studies with high-quality buds, these nations’ governments actively subsidize beneficial cannabis research, too.
Scientists Sue DEA for Delaying Weed Research was posted on Merry Jane.
[Canniseur: This residential requirement attempts to keep cannabis business out of the hands of bigger business. While I agree with the reason behind making a 4 year Maine residency a requirement, it seems a bit harsh. ]
The state’s new weed laws contain some of the strictest residency requirements in the US. And, cities must “opt-in” to participate in the new industry.
Maine is finally ready to allow legal adult-use cannabis sales to begin next spring — nearly three and a half years after the state voted for legalization. After seemingly endless revisions, lawmakers in the Pine Tree State just barely managed to pass a bill governing the state’s adult-use market before their legislative session ended on June 20.
Last Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills signed this long-overdue bill into law. “Over the course of the last several months, my administration has worked quickly to implement the law regarding Maine’s adult-use recreational marijuana market as Maine voters asked the state to do two-and-a-half years ago,” Mills said, according to the Portland Press-Herald. “With this law, we are one step closer to honoring the will of Maine voters.”
It has taken an exceptionally long time for the state to honor the will of its voters, who approved adult-use legalization via a ballot measure back in 2016. Former Gov. Paul LePage, a vehement opponent of legalization, vetoed lawmakers’ proposed sales regulations two years in a row, hoping to delay the onset of legal sales as long as humanly possible. Lawmakers overturned the second veto last spring, but it took them until this spring to finally pass a finalized set of regs.
Implementing these new laws doesn’t mean Maine will be dripping in legal herb, however. In fact, the state is actually imposing some of the toughest residency requirements the cannabis industry’s ever seen. Regulators will only grant licenses to applicants who have lived in Maine for at least four years. Lawmakers also tried to prevent out-of-state companies from gaining control over the market, but eventually chose to back down on this restriction. Washington State has similar residency requirements, but only requires applicants to have lived in the state for six months.
“A few other legalized states started with residency requirements, like Colorado and Oregon, but changed them or repealed them in time,” explained Andrew Freedman of Freedman and Koski, a Colorado cannabis consultancy firm that helped Maine draft its new regulations, to the Press-Herald. “It can be hard to get legitimate capital investment in the market because friends and family quickly run out [of funding], and they can’t get traditional bank loans.”
Unlike other adult-use states that allow local governments to “opt out” of allowing legal pot businesses to open in their jurisdictions, Maine requires individual municipalities to “opt in” to the legal weed market. To date, only 15 of the state’s 455 municipalities have done so, but more local governments may decide to move forward now that the regulations are finalized.
The new law will take effect within the next 90 days, but regulators estimate that the market will not be ready to launch until March 2020. The state still needs to implement its tracking and licensing systems and issue business licenses before growers can even begin planting seeds.
Once legal weed shops finally open their doors, the state expects to see $22 million in sales within the first three months. Sales are expected to grow to $84 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year and then hit $166 million in 2022-23. By 2023, the state expects to make $33.2 million in pot tax revenue, thanks to the 10 percent sales tax and the 10 percent excise tax imposed on every sale.
Maine Rolls Out Some of the Strictest Weed Regulations in the Country was posted on Merry Jane.
[Canniseur: Fascinating. Most law enforcement agencies and legislators attempt to conflate cannabis ‘intoxication’ with alcohol ‘intoxication’. There really is no correlation at all. Science is just beginning to understand what the effect of cannabis is about. And there is no way to figure out if cannabis consumption equals alcohol consumption or how it might be equal. It’s really apples and oranges. Two completely different kinds of effect.]
In stark contrast to cannabis, the study indicates that alcohol, sedatives, and other recreational drugs greatly increased the likelihood of causing a traffic accident.
From California to Canada, legalization naysayers are constantly stoking fears that adult-use laws will inevitably lead to an increase in cannabis-related traffic accidents. Researchers from the University of British Columbia conducted a new study to determine whether these fears are grounded in reality, and discovered that THC does not increase the risk of traffic accidents.
Researchers examined police reports from thousands of traffic accidents that occurred in BC between 2010 and 2016. In each of these collisions, blood samples showing concentrations of THC, alcohol, and “other impairing drugs and medications” were taken from drivers. Researchers compared these drug concentrations with the police reports, which “were analyzed to determine which drivers were [responsible for] the crash and which were ‘innocently involved,’” or not responsible.
The researchers wrote that they “found no increase in crash risk, after adjustment for age, sex, and use of other impairing substances, in drivers with THC less than 5 nanograms. For drivers with THC greater than 5ng there may be an increased risk of crash responsibility, but this result was statistically non-significant and further study is required.”
The study, published in the most recent edition of the Addiction journal, reports that drivers intoxicated by alcohol and other drugs were far more likely to be responsible for causing accidents than cannabis users.
“There was a significantly increased risk for drivers who used alcohol, sedating medications, or recreational drugs other than cannabis,” the researchers wrote, NORML reports. The study also found that drivers who tested positive for both THC and alcohol were more likely to cause an accident than drivers who tested positive for alcohol alone.
“Our findings… suggest that the impact of cannabis on road safety is relatively small at the present time,” the study concludes.
The results of this study back up previous research indicating that fears concerning stoned driving could be overstated. Last year, a study published in the Frontiers of Pharmacology journal also found no significant link between cannabis-intoxicated drivers and traffic accidents. Another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2017, compared the rate of traffic accident deaths in adult-use states with prohibition states, and found no significant association between legal weed and increased motor vehicle fatality rates.
THC Does Not Increase Risk of Traffic Accidents, New Study Reports was posted on Merry Jane.
Ed. Note: Will the antis ever understand that the only rationale used to make cannabis illegal was for racist reasons. Anslinger and all those fellows were racists. People who think know this. These reactionaries keep on pushing their specious agenda to the public. Hopefully, the public is ahead of this bull-cookie propaganda that people like Sabet keep spouting.
This year’s midterm elections are just around the corner, and voters in several states will get the opportunity to decide the fate of cannabis reform on their home turf. Ballot measures to legalize full adult-use and sales will come up for a vote in Michigan and North Dakota this November, while residents of Missouri and Utah will vote on medical marijuana initiatives. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Jersey and New York are currently drafting bills to create regulated adult-use markets for marijuana.
Although recent polls have found that a growing majority of Americans are fully in favor of cannabis legalization, the minority who do oppose reform are becoming increasingly vocal. Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), one of the largest anti-cannabis lobbying groups in the country, has recently ramped up its lobbying efforts in an attempt to drum up opposition to many of the legalization measures being considered this year, Cannabis Wire reports.
SAM was launched in 2013 by Kevin Sabet — a former adviser to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy from the Clinton administration through the Obama years — and former congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of late Senator Ted Kennedy. The organization has significantly grown since its inception, raising over $4.5 million in funds in 2016. The fact that SAM has not publicly listed its donors has led many to speculate that financing is coming from industries with a vested interest in seeing cannabis reform fail, but the group’s website claims that it “is funded by small family foundations (with no interest in the opioid, tobacco, alcohol, or prison industries).”
SAM has continued its war on cannabis this year, launching fresh chapters in several states currently considering legalization. Sabet and company are primarily concentrating their efforts in Michigan, where a ballot measure to legalize recreational pot has a good chance of receiving popular approval. Attempting to turn the tide in its favor, SAM launched an opposition group, Healthy and Productive Michigan, which has raised $277,645 to challenge the ballot measure — $275,000 of which came directly from SAM’s umbrella organization.
Recent polls have found that around 57% of Michigan voters are in favor of legalization, but SAM is hoping voters will change their minds ahead of Election Day. “What we’ve found is these groups like Healthy and Productive Michigan are using hype and half-truths in an attempt to scare voters into opposing legalization,” Josh Hovey, communications director for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (the group that organized November’s ballot measure), told Cannabis Wire. “We’re running a fact-based campaign.”
In North Dakota, this year’s midterm election gives voters a chance to pass a very progressive legalization initiative. If successful, the measure will allow any adult to grow, possess, or even sell as much weed as they choose, as well as allowing former offenders to expunge their criminal records. North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, the group that has officially registered to oppose the measure, said that they plan to work with SAM, but have not been able to raise any anti-cannabis funding as of press time.
Sabet is also accelerating his group’s lobbying efforts in New Jersey, where lawmakers are close to finalizing a recreational legalization bill. SAM hired a local lobbyist to put pressure on several state lawmakers to oppose the bill, and is also working to foster opposition in individual municipalities — some of which have already passed local ordinances banning pot businesses from their towns. The groups’ efforts even extend to Vermont, where adult cannabis use is legal, but sales are prohibited. Cannabis Wire found that SAM has given nearly $25,000 to lobbyists to oppose a bill that would allow taxed and regulated retail sales.
In addition to state-level efforts, SAM is also working to convince Congress not to back down on the federal prohibition of cannabis. Last year, the group urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Cole Memo — an Obama-era guidance protecting state-legal cannabis industries from federal prosecution ― which Sessions did in January. The group also advocated against Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, making the absurd claim that legal weed would hurt African-American communities more than prohibition has.
Last year, Sabet wrote an op-ed for CNBC using outdated statistics and scare tactics to convince Americans that legal weed is still a dangerous idea. But despite all of SAM’s efforts to keep the government’s war on marijuana in full effect, an increasing number of Americans are coming out in favor of cannabis reform. In January, a Pew Research Center poll found that over 60% of respondents supported recreational legalization, and in June, a poll by the Center for American Progress found that close to 70% of Americans support legal weed.
Anti-Pot Lobbyists Spend Big Ahead of Midterm Elections was posted on Merry Jane.
Ed. Note: We could have predicted this. It’s going to take a while for the cannabis industry to establish itself as a legitimate enterprise, just as it did for alcoholic beverage companies to completely abandon illegal alcohol in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. We’re just at the beginning of this process of legalizing cannabis and it’s going to take a while. We understand it’s sometimes more profitable in the short run to divert some (or a lot) of a growers crop to the illegal market. Illegal cannabis gets a higher price than legal cannabis…for now.
Despite hopes that cannabis legalization would put an end to the underground market for weed, several West Coast states are finding that large amounts of legally-grown pot is ending up in the hands of drug traffickers, who are selling off smuggled product at higher prices to residents of prohibition states. Over the past year, federal prosecutors have been making increasingly aggressive efforts to coordinate with canna-legal states in stopping illegal grows. So far, these actions have been concentrated on entirely illegal operations, but now, Colorado’s top federal prosecutor has warned that state-legal canna-businesses may no longer be safe from federal raids.
The legal cannabis industry has exploded in many states, but relaxed regulations have allowed farmers in several of them to grow way more weed than local users are able to consume. Unable to sell excess product legally within their home states, farmers are faced with the difficult decision of letting their crops go to waste, or selling them off to the black market. A number growers, desperate to recoup the costs of state licensing, compliance, and site construction, have chosen the latter option, and legally-grown pot is finding its way across state lines.
The Obama administration took a hands-off approach to legal weed, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been looking for an opportunity to crack down on state-legal cannabis, and black market smuggling may be just the excuse he’s been seeking. In January, Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance which protected state-legal cannabis industries from federal interference, and throughout the year, federal U.S. Attorneys have been making increasingly bold warnings to states with legal marijuana.
In Colorado, state officials have welcomed the federal government’s assistance in eradicating illegal cannabis grows, hopeful that these raids would decrease competition for the legal industry. But this week, Denver U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer announced that his office was prepared to take even more aggressive action. The prosecutor said that his office would not rule out prosecuting state-legal cannabis companies that are knowingly diverting their product to the black market.
“We make decisions based on safety,” Troyer told the Denver Post. “Sometimes compliance with state law is relevant to that, and sometimes it’s not. We do not make decisions based on labels like ‘compliance with state law.’ Labels are not relevant to us — people’s safety is.” Troyer added that his office is currently coordinating with local law enforcement to conduct raids against a legally-licensed chain of dispensaries in Denver, which he alleges are a front for illegal drug trafficking.
In an op-ed he authored for the Denver Post last week, Troyer claimed that Colorado has “become a source-state [for black market cannabis], a theater of operation for sophisticated international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations from Cuba, China, Mexico, and elsewhere.” The prosecutor also noted that federal authorities seized more than 80,000 illegally-grown cannabis plants from Colorado’s federal land last year, and claimed that over 6.4 metric tons of weed that was legally grown in the state remains unaccounted for.
Colorado’s cannabis industry has largely embraced the federal government’s efforts to quash entirely-illegal pot grows, but have bristled at the suggestion that the feds may soon be coming after legal businesses. “Targeting legal dispensaries that are doing their best to follow the letter of Colorado’s laws makes no sense without meeting with the owners and discussing their interpretation of the laws,” Kristi Kelly, executive director of Colorado trade association Marijuana Industry Group, said to the Post. “We would have extreme concerns about that.”
“We remain committed to maintaining the integrity of the system we’ve built,” Jacque Montgomery, a spokesperson for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said to the Associated Press. “That means attentive regulatory oversight and enforcement and, where necessary, criminal enforcement against anyone who abuses our rules.” Montgomery added that the state has a strong relationship with federal officials, and “share their concerns about abuses in the industry.”
Colorado is not the only state that has drawn the attention of federal law enforcement. In Oregon, cannabis farmers have reportedly harvested 1.5 million pounds of excess weed, and amid falling prices, some have been selling their wares to drug traffickers. Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams has repeatedly threatened the state with federal intervention, leaving state officials and industry leaders scrambling to come up with their own solution to the problem.
California has also been struggling with its own black market problems. An estimated 11 million tons of pot is grown on illegal farms across the Golden State, 90% of which is grown using illegal, toxic pesticides that have been poisoning forests, waterways, and wildlife — and pose an unknown risk to the people who end up smoking this tainted product. Despite such potential hazards, around 20% of Californians still reportedly buy black market marijuana, attracted by lower prices and easier availability.
Federal Government Threatens Crackdown on Colorado's Legal Cannabis Industry was posted on Merry Jane.