Congress is cranking up the pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to draft rules to regulate cannabis-based products.
Lawmakers legalized the use of hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products late last year in the farm bill, sending the agency scrambling to figure out new rules around regulating a unique product that is both a drug and a dietary supplement.
But Congress is signaling that it is growing impatient as the FDA looks for a solution and may not wait on the sidelines for much longer.
“In Congress, some are itchy [for action],” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the industry advocacy group U.S. Hemp Roundtable.
Miller said some lawmakers have been privately circulating potential legislation, but he doesn’t expect any formal push from Congress until at least later this fall.
“If their patience ends [and FDA doesn’t act], there will be an effort for legislation,” Miller said.
The FDA held a public hearing at the end of May, and experts and industry representatives said it was a good start but did not advance the ball much in terms of giving clarity from a federal level.
People who attended the meeting said they left without any new sense of the agency’s timing on creating new regulations.
During the 10-hour hearing, acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless made no promises about timing, but FDA officials were clear that they wanted more data from the public. Sharpless said the agency was essentially operating in uncharted waters.
“While we have seen an explosion of interest in products containing CBD, there is still much that we don’t know,” Sharpless said, adding there are “important and significant gaps in our knowledge.
In particular, FDA wants more information about dosing levels, including how much CBD is safe to consume, and any long-term exposure risks. The agency is also focused on the effects CBD has on children, elderly and pregnant women.
Public comments concerning FDA’s role are due July 16, after the agency extended the deadline for an additional two weeks.
CBD is derived from the marijuana plant but doesn’t give users a high. Ever since the farm bill passed, CBD products have been appearing online and on the shelves of convenience stores, coffee shops and nutrition stores in select states.
Yet according to the FDA, adding CBD to foods and dietary supplements in interstate commerce are both illegal.
Miller said for the time being, companies are willing to wait.
“We want to give FDA the appropriate space to come up with their conclusions,” Miller said. “They are under a lot of pressure from Congress, and Congress is under pressure from the public. I think they realize they need to move quickly.”
In the meantime, lawmakers from both parties are trying to nudge FDA to act.
A provision in the House appropriations package that passed last month sets aside funding for FDA to study and set specific levels of CBD to put in food and drinks.
The provision, sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), provides $100,000 for FDA to set a “safe level for conventional foods and dietary supplements containing cannabidiol (CBD).”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met with Sharpless last week, and urged the agency to speed up the timing on CBD regulation.
“Congress’s intent was clear with the passage of the Farm Bill that these products should be legal, and our farmers, producers and manufacturers need clarity as well as a workable pathway forward regarding the agency’s enforcement,” McConnell said in a statement.
“Like my constituents, I am anxious to know the FDA’s plans to ensure public access to safe CBD products,” he added.
Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) did not meet with Sharpless personally, but last week sent a letter to the agency urging FDA to set an interim policy by Aug. 1 that would allow products containing hemp-derived CBD to be manufactured and sold as food and dietary supplements.
Wyden said it was “fully unacceptable” for FDA to suggest it may take up to five years to issue rules.
“The regulatory confusion and uncertainty surrounding CBD cannot continue for that length of time,” Wyden wrote.
Michael Werner, an attorney who represents CBD industry clients, said FDA knows it needs to move quickly, because as a public health agency, it wants the “rules of the road out there as soon as possible.”
“The issues that FDA is grappling with are the same issues everyone in the private sector is grappling with,” Werner said. “I think they do feel a sense of urgency to figure out these issues. Their challenge is they want to do it right.”
Before former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stepped down in April, he indicated it may take years for FDA to properly regulate CBD.
The rulemaking process for conventional products can take two to three years, but because CBD is unique and has never previously existed in the food supply, he said, it could take longer.
Lawmakers and industry sources said they don’t necessarily have an issue with FDA’s insistence on gathering evidence, but they also don’t want the agency to use safety as an excuse to slow-walk regulations.
“FDA needs to create a pathway without taking years worth of safety data,” said attorney Jessica Wasserman. “[CBD] has been on the market for a long time, and they [FDA] haven’t been using their enforcement powers on it.”
This article originally appeared on thehill.com
Decriminalize Nature Portland Announces Launch of 2020 Initiative To Decriminalize Psychedelic Plant Medicines
Decriminalize Nature Portland (DNP), the Portland branch of the growing national grassroots activist group Decriminalize Nature, who are working to decriminalize natural psychedelic plant medicine, has filed its petition committee paperwork and language for a 2020 ballot initiative to decriminalize psychedelic plant medicines in Portland, they announced in a press release October 29, 2019. Decriminalize Nature formed as part of the successful initiative in Oakland. If the measure is successful, Portland would become the 4th major city in America to decriminalize psychedelic plant medicine, after Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the country by population, somewhat quietly passed their own decriminalization measure earlier the same month.
Oregon recently made national news on the psychedelic front with the announcement of a measure introduced by PSI 2020 (Psilocybin Service Initiative 2020), an organization working on a statewide therapy model to institute regulated psilocybin based therapy in the state, supported and funded in large part by David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Decriminalize Nature has been supportive but critical of the measure, releasing a statement decrying the removal or addition of language that may restrict access, particularly to the working class, and people of color that have traditionally been left behind in drug reform progress, whether by intent or neglect.
Bryan Kim, director of public outreach for Decriminalize Nature Portland, and one of three DNP chief petitioners on the initiative says, “We’ve been looking at this as companion legislation to PSI 2020, because especially given the changes made, and the fact that they removed their penalty reduction and decriminalization language, what we’re doing is absolutely necessary in the context of the therapy model, because we have to ensure that people outside the therapy model still have access to medicine, and aren’t in danger of being criminalized for pursuing their own cognitive liberty and mental health.”
In their press release, DNP fleshed out their motivations and intentions “Oregon is in the middle of a peak in its mental health and homelessness rates,” said chief petitioner and DNP organizer Holly Sullivan. “And the last thing we need to be doing is locking up more of our most vulnerable folks for the possession or homegrowing of medicines that are clinically proven to treat depression, PTSD, and addiction.”
Further on in the release, another chief petitioner shared his personal story, which parallels that of many who have struggled with addiction and found relief in plant medicines. “”I was able to cure myself of a ten year IV opiate and amphetamine addiction. ” said Nicholas Combest. “The powerful psycho-spiritual experiences that psilocybin mushrooms and San Pedro cacti provided were instrumental in my healing process. They facilitate a deeper level of self analysis and compassion. These medicines get to the root cause and can fundamentally transform us.”
DNP also point out in the statement that polling conducted by PSI 2020 showed a majority of Oregonians in favor of medical psychedelic therapy and the decriminalization of possession, further illustrating why DNP are confident of success in this measure, along with their overall goal of full national decriminalization and access to entheogenic plant medicines.
Bryan also added on behalf of DNP in their press release; “We agree with the folks in Oakland and Denver that we have to put people before profits and liberty before licensing. In a country without universal healthcare, it’s more important than ever that we ensure equality of access through the protection of non-therapeutic possession and personal use homegrowing.”
Decriminalize Nature is also looking forward to their upcoming December 14th statewide Oregon Decriminalization Congress. “We’re meeting with decriminalization activists from Eugene down there to do a Decrim Congress. We’re trying to recruit people from cities all over Oregon who are interested in getting moving on this, and sharing what we and Edelic Center for Ethnobotanical Services have been working on, and trying to spread that to activists around the state at a central meeting point and time.” Bryan Kim elaborated to Nugl. “The therapy model is fantastic, but at the same time is not fantastic if you only have a therapy model, and using outside that model becomes an excuse to crack down on minority and vulnerable populations.” This speaks to a fundamental point that DNP and Bryan repeatedly highlight in interviews, literature and their ideals as a group. “Every time you pass a law in the U.S., the enforcement of that law disproportionately impacts oppressed communities, especially communities of color and working class communities, and it’s really important to ensure that people without traditional class and race based access to (mainstream) therapy have access to this medicine.”
The Congress, which is being organized by Edelic in coordination with DNP, will also reiterate the organizational belief that entheogenic plant medicines must be treated as a sacred and individually considered category, as movements in the state for full drug decriminalization gain momentum. “It’s our belief that psychedelic plant medicines deserve extra consideration and protection than other Schedule 1 drugs, because these are a natural birthright of humanity, given to us by nature or God depending on your belief system, and it is not right to put them on the same level as meth, cocaine, and chemically derived psychedelics, though of course we support all the decriminalization and access bills and campaigns.” While Decriminalize Nature as a group is specifically advocating for entheogenic plants, they are committed to continuing to work in tandem and support with other initiatives aimed at increasing access to psychedelics, and ending the Drug War.
Signature gathering for the Portland measure will begin as soon as the templates are received back from the Secretary of State, approximately 11 business days after the October 29th announcement.
The Edelic team is currently registering RSVP’s for the December 14th event in Eugene through their email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured image of Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland by Zach Savinar
Los Angeles Moves to Next Round of Cannabis Retail Licensing
The City of Los Angeles just wrapped up round 1 of phase 3 cannabis retail licensing. A total of 802 applications were submitted in what will be become the largest cannabis retail capital of the world – many say it is already there, and yet 250 retail licenses have yet to be issued.
For many, the moments leading up submission were a culmination of years and months of hard work, anxiousness, and hurry-to-wait pacing. A list of awardees can be found here. The first 100 that meet the criteria of round 1 will be awarded the much-coveted retail license. There are no assurances on how this will shake out, but it will be interesting to see the final list of 100 applicants.
Lives will change very quickly when this happens, and for those social equity applicants who make it through and who were affected by the War the Drugs, this would offer a life-changing opportunity.
While this all shakes out, the following are some points to keep in mind as you prepare for the next round of licensing, and are also some essential things to keep in mind as you track what is happening in Los Angeles:
- Though a preliminary list of top 100 applicants have been issued, there is likely to be a lot of shift. Applicants may get bumped for several reasons: priority of tier 1 vs. tier 2, incomplete application or incorrect documents, in-compliant property or, areas meeting a soft cap requirement.
- Based on extensive anecdotal evidence and observations, there were technical glitches in the submission process that have been reported to the city. There were even some claims of alleged ‘robots’ that entered the system, but the city has indicated no foreign intrusions. For those looking to appeal their time-stamps and the application process for whatever discrepancy they claim, there is no formal appeal process announced just yet.
- Regardless of the outcome, round 2 still presents an extraordinary opportunity for social equity applicants and partners to pursue a retail license. An estimated 150 licenses will be issued in this round. According to city officials, round 2 is looking like it will also be a first-come, first-serve basis model. There is also speculation that the application will also be merit-based; thus based on a point system. The final guidelines on this are not clear yet but should be coming out soon.
- For Round 2, real estate will not be required as part of the application process. This is great news for applicants. If applicants are approved, they will have 90 days to be in the property. What is not clear is whether having real estate will generate more points on the citys point system. This, of course, will be a massive point of interest for applicants, given what headaches came with securing property in round 1.
- The city is still looking to launch a delivery pilot program before the new year. The city is expected to open 60 delivery applications (20 for tier 1, 20 for tier 2, and 20 for general applicants). Formal announcements with guidelines have yet to be made but should be
All and all, the cannabis industry in Los Angeles has yet to settle into the mecca of cannabis; it is expected to be. Licensing is still shaking out, and the city’s full supply chain has yet to be materialized. Nevertheless, there is a positive movement happening, and progress is starting to show. There is much to be optimistic about, and plenty of opportunities are still out there for us to collectively look forward to.
DEA affirms hemp’s new status, sends notice that plant is legal
More than six months after hemp was made legal in the United States, federal drug authorities have updated their guidance to remind law enforcement that hemp is no longer a controlled substance.
A notice posted Monday by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cited the 2018 Farm Bill in noting that “certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture.”The agency went on to say that “hemp, including hemp plants and cannabidiol (CBD) preparations at or below the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC threshold is not a controlled substance.”
The DEA notice didn’t change the law or make hemp legal; that occurred last year.
But because the agency had yet to remind national law enforcement through its regular bulletins that hemp is legal, some hemp businesses found themselves fighting legal confusion about the plant’s status.
Attorneys who represent hemp clients told Hemp Industry Daily that the DEA statement is an overdue affirmation of cannabis legality.
The DEA also announced Monday that it will expand research on higher-THC varieties of cannabis classified as marijuana.
This article originally appeared on Hemp Industry Daily
1 Billion Reasons Why More States Will Legalize Recreational Pot
There are quite a few reasons why most states in the U.S. still haven’t legalized recreational marijuana. Some people have concerns about legalization leading to increased substance abuse. Others are worried about the potential negative health effects that might be associated with using pot. Many fret that teens could be more likely to try marijuana if it’s legal for adult use.
Arguments continue to be made for and against these concerns. Meanwhile, the state of Colorado recently made an announcement that almost certainly captured the attention of governors and legislators across the U.S. And this announcement provided 1 billion reasons why more states are likely to legalize recreational pot in the future.
Rocky Mountain high
Colorado has now made more than $1 billion in revenue from marijuana taxes, licenses, and fees. That’s the highest amount made by any state so far from legalizing marijuana. Total marijuana sales since Colorado’s legal recreational pot market opened for business in 2014 have topped $6.56 billion.
Marijuana sales in Colorado continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in previous years. In 2018, Colorado reported marijuana sales of nearly $1.55 billion versus $1.51 billion in 2017. During the first four months of this year, marijuana sales in the state totaled more than $522 million. That’s close to $1.57 billion on an annualized basis.
What has Colorado done with the money it’s made from legalizing pot? Schools have received a big chunk of the money. Ninety percent of the state’s excise tax on retail marijuana goes to a fund that helps with the construction of public schools. The remainder of the revenue made from excise taxes is funneled to a permanent fund used to assist public schools.
Colorado also imposes a 15% sales tax on sales of marijuana. The state keeps 90% of the revenue from this tax, while 10% is retained locally for use by cities and counties. Colorado puts nearly 12.6% of its share of this money into a public school fund. The rest of the money goes to a fund used to cover regulatory efforts and pay for public health initiatives including behavioral health treatment and prevention of youth marijuana use.
There are other positive economic impacts of legalizing recreational pot as well. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said that the legal cannabis industry is “helping grow our economy by creating jobs.” Currently, there are 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses in the state with 41,076 individuals licensed to work in the legal cannabis industry.
Jumping on the bandwagon
It’s not surprising that more states have already jumped on the bandwagon by legalizing recreational pot. Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, with Illinois being the latest state to join the ranks.
California is the biggest state so far to legalize recreational pot. It expected to make in the ballpark of $1 billion last year from taxes and fees from its legal marijuana market. However, the actual total came in much lower — $345.2 million. This shortfall stemmed in large part from tax rates that were too high and burdensome regulations.
Massachusetts has also run into speed bumps in the early months of its legal recreational pot market. The state anticipated receiving $63 million in tax revenue by midyear but had made less than $6 million by March. As in California, the regulatory framework for approving cannabis businesses in Massachusetts is proving to be an impediment to growth.
But it’s still very early for many of these states that have legalized recreational marijuana. It’s likely that other states will learn from California’s and Massachusetts’ mistakes — and Colorado’s successes. Also, keep in mind that it took a few years for marijuana sales in Colorado to really kick into high gear.
I think that the legalization of recreational pot by states could follow the pattern of state lotteries but at an even faster pace of adoption. Prior to 1964, no U.S. state had a lottery. Today, nearly every state has one. The lure of increased tax revenue to fund state programs is simply too hard to resist. And Colorado has shown how to make a lot of tax revenue from legalizing marijuana.
This article originally appeared on fool.com
Las Vegas OK’d Cannabis Lounges but Nevada Just Said No
After nearly two years of discussion, the Las Vegas City Council approvedthe licensing of social-use cannabis venues on May 1. In a city with some of the world’s largest legal cannabis retailers—and nowhere to light up—it looked like visitors finally would have a comfortable place to enjoy their purchases.
Las Vegas has some of the world’s largest cannabis retail stores. And still nowhere to light up legally.
Earlier this month the Nevada Legislature, with the support of Gov. Steve Sisolak, adopted Assembly Bill 533, which overrides the Las Vegas measure and delays the opening of any legal cannabis venues until at least July 2021. The bill, first introduced just three weeks ago and set to be signed into law by Sisolak this week, requires a new Cannabis Compliance Board to address unspecified “issues” that have risen as a result of “rushed” cannabis policies made under former Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sisolak’s office said.
Nevada statue prevents new laws from being altered for two years after they’re passed, so cannabis social lounges won’t open until at least July 2021.
“(Sisolak) believes it’s better to address the issue of consumption lounges the right way than the quick way,” said Helen Kalla, spokeswoman for the Nevada governor.RELATED STORYCannabis Lounges Are Coming to Las Vegas—but Not the Strip
Sad Trombone for Event Center
For John Mueller, owner of Acres Dispensary, on Las Vegas City land just north of the Strip, the new law means an 8,000 square-foot cannabis event space located at the back of his store won’t be open for cannabis business after all—at least not immediately.
Designed as a controlled and legal atmosphere for many of the Las Vegas Valley’s 42 million tourists each year and over 2 million local residents to consume the plant, the room will now be turned into a bar or non-cannabis event space, Mueller said.
“We’re dead in the water as far as a cannabis lounge goes,” Mueller said. “Which is sad when you think about how many people come here and still have to discreetly use it against the law.”
Coulda Been Fun
Frank Hawkins, a former Super Bowl-winning running back, is another cannabis retailer who was planning to open a lounge.’It’s pure politics. How does a compliance board study cannabis lounges when they don’t even have the chance to open?’Frank Hawkins, owner, Nevada Wellness Center
Hawkins’s 7,800-square-foot facility, just an elevator ride from his Nevada Wellness Center store, featured over a dozen separate rooms with private areas for playing virtual reality games and dominoes, a recording studio, a CBD product store, and even a boardroom for groups that have expressed interest in holding meetings there. A shuffleboard table, a room with a giant white wall and projector, and an area for vending machines and microwaves were among other planned amenities for Hawkins’ lounge. He too, is out of luck for another two years.
“It’s pure politics,” Hawkins said. “How does a compliance board study the efficacy of lounges when they don’t even have the chance to open?”RELATED STORYCheck Out the World’s First Cannabis Superstore in Las Vegas
Casinos Didn’t Want Competition
As legal social-use venues continue to thrive in California and are set to soon open in Colorado, why would Nevada—with over 45 million annual tourists stuck without a place to legally enjoy the plant—need two more years to “ensure that this part of the industry is well-positioned to add to the job creation and economic growth,” as Sisolak’s office claims?Casinos don’t want their customers leaving the property to enjoy cannabis at a lounge across town.
Look no further than the four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip.
Home to more than two dozen mega casino-resorts, the Strip hosts most of those 42 million tourists and brings more than $15 billion to Nevada’s economy each year in direct visitor spending, per numbers from the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. The Strip’s three largest corporate operators, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands, contribute millions to Nevada’s political candidates at all levels. The gaming industry is by far the largest political donor in the state, and its desires are rarely ignored by Nevada’s elected officials.RELATED STORYHow to Get High in Las Vegas
Cannabis Can’t Compete Politically
Licensed cannabis companies, by contrast, just don’t have the political juice to compete.
Nevada sold about $608 million in cannabis products during the first year of legal adult-use sales, and political donations from the cannabis industry make up a tiny fraction of their gaming counterparts.
The gaming industry has long been wary of all things cannabis, largely because of a belief that the federal status of marijuana could put their casino profits in jeopardy.
Since adult-use cannabis sales started in Nevada in 2017, gaming commission chairman Tony Alamo has made clear his stance that gaming and cannabis “shall not meet” until the plant becomes federally legal. State regulators have issued warnings that any gambling halls or casino resorts allowing marijuana use would have their precious gaming licenses revoked.
The City of Las Vegas’ May 1 ordinance allowing cannabis lounges wouldn’t technically apply to businesses on the Strip—which is just across the city line, in Clark County. Cannabis lounge licenses were to be available only to cannabis retailers located on Las Vegas City property. Currently 12 retailers meet that eligibility standard. An additional ten stores are slated to open by the end of this year.
It’s All About the Tourist Dollar
Exclusive access to the lounges would have given current cannabis retailers a head start on cornering the market for recreational cannabis consumption had they opened as scheduled by the end of this year. More to the point, the lounges would have drawn tourists away from the Strip. And keeping visitors on the property is the name of the game for casino resorts—as anyone who’s tried to walk from one Strip location to another can tell you.
Threatened by the potential loss of tourism at Strip nightclubs, restaurants and concert venues, the Nevada Resorts Association (NRA)—the gaming industry’s largest lobbying body—last September sent a letter to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman urging her not to pass an ordinance allowing consumption venues. When their plea failed at the local level, Nevada’s NRA went next level, and took its cause to state legislators.
“Communities have little or no experience with the impacts of lounges on the communities or surrounding businesses,” NRA President Virginia Valentine said.
The “stall tactic,” as Nevada’s cannabis industry is calling AB533, will allow gaming to hold off on losing business. If marijuana is not federally legal by 2021, dispensary owners like Mueller and Hawkins expect the NRA to step back in and kick the can further down the road.RELATED STORYLeafly Study Debunks Dispensary Myths Around Crime & Teen Use
Sisolak Had to Choose
Sisolak has long been a supporter of Nevada’s cannabis industry, and his administration helped guide a number of progressive bills into law this session. But his support of, and from, the gaming industry has much deeper roots. For the governor, whose days of accepting high-dollar donations from gaming vendors goes back to his 10-year stint on the Clark County Commission, the resorts association’s request might as well have been a mandate.
MGM Resorts, Station Casinos (a Las Vegas resort chain that operates casinos off the Strip) and Las Vegas Sands accounted for the governor’s three largest donors for his gubernatorial campaign last year, donating a combined $330,000 during the 2018 election cycle. Pressed whether Sisolak pushed the bill to appease his gaming donors, Kalla, his spokeswoman declined further comment. MGM Resorts International, who alone donated over $170,000 to the Nevada governor also declined comment. Neither Stations Casinos, Las Vegas Sands nor Caesars Entertainment responded to multiple interview requests.
Cannabis Industry Just Watched
Perhaps most surprising, while gaming did its damage, Nevada’s cannabis industry essentially stood by and watched.’We’re missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s just mind-boggling.’Tick Segerblom, Clark County Commissioner
Deeply fractured by a December disagreement over the allocation of 60 new marijuana licenses from the Nevada Department of Taxation, the Nevada Dispensary Association took a “neutral” stance on the lounges, said executive director Riana Durrett. About a dozen dispensary owners who were not chosen for the dispensary licenses are currently in litigation against the taxation department for alleged corruption in allocating the new permits.
Tick Segerblom, a longtime state senator who was the driving force behind legal marijuana from 2013 to 2018, now sits on the Clark County Commission. Segerblom, a Democrat, was essentially powerless as the governor and state legislators from his own party worked to reverse what he had long worked to pass.
“We’re missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime,” Segerblom said. “It’s just mind-boggling.”
This article originally appeared on leafly.com
Legal Weed Suppliers Pressure L.A. Officials to Crack Down on Illegal Shops
The legal marijuana industry urged Los Angeles City Hall on Monday to get tougher with illegal shops that are gouging their businesses in open sight.
Illegal pot shops are widespread throughout Los Angeles and typically look like the real thing. And they’re thriving — they sell cheaper products than their legal rivals because they don’t charge hefty state and local taxes.
In a letter Monday, the industry group Southern California Coalition recommended the city consider seizing cannabis inventory and cash from illegal shops that are found to be selling tainted products.
In the legal market, marijuana, concentrates, cookies and other products must be tested by independent labs for consumer safety — a requirement that illegal shops can ignore.
The group said that the failure to seize cash and pot products from illegal shops after raids allows the business to quickly reopen.
With no testing safeguards in place in the illegal market “there’s a high probability the … cannabis products in these shops are contaminated,” the group wrote.
They urged the city “in the strongest possible terms to continue testing cannabis … in unlicensed shops.”
California’s effort to transform its longstanding illegal and medicinal marijuana markets into a unified, multibillion-dollar industry kicked off last year. But the transition has been uneven and it’s likely to take years for the legal market to find its footing.
Many communities ban marijuana sales and growing, leaving residents in those places without access to legal shops. Businesses complain about hefty tax rates that can approach 50 percent in some communities, which they say drive consumers into the tax-free illicit market. There’s on ongoing fight over home deliveries, and a promised tax windfall never arrived.
There have been problems in other states with legal marijuana. In Nevada, a court fight is underway after some businesses charged that the state system for awarding licenses is unfair. In Oregon last year, an excess of marijuana in the supply chain prompted regulators to suspend processing new applications for marijuana business licenses.
In Los Angeles, the industry group said that many legal shops are being driven toward bankruptcy because they are surrounded by rogue shops undercutting them.
Because of taxes and heavy regulatory fees, legal operators “cannot compete with illicit operators,” the group said.
The group also recommended ticketing employees at rogue shops to discourage them from returning, and having building inspectors always accompany police on raids to close down unsafe structures. They also suggested the city consider placing tax liens on illegal shops.
This article originally appeared on ktla.com
How Hotels Are Adapting to Cannabis Legalization
In most legal cannabis states, consumption is allowed only in private residences. Cannabis enthusiasts are prohibited by local laws from consuming in public—as well as in most public housing, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and other venues.
That ‘where-to-smoke’ dilemma is forcing change in local laws and the hospitality industry.
There are a handful of consumption lounges in San Francisco, but outside the Bay Area most consumers are out of luck.
That’s left millions of legal consumers in a bind. Cannabis may be legal to grow, sell, purchase, and possess—but if you’re just visiting a legal state, it can be almost impossible to legally light up.
That ‘where-to-smoke’ dilemma is slowly forcing changes in both local laws and the hospitality industry.
In recent months, a number of states have moved on reform measures:
- Colorado: The Legislature recently approved a measure that would allow “marijuana hospitality spaces” where cannabis may be consumed. It would also permit retail cannabis stores to create similar consumption spaces. That bill, which also amends Colorado’s Clean Air act to provide an exception for these hospitality spaces, is heading to the state’s governor for final approval.
- Nevada: Earlier this month the Las Vegas City Council voted to approve Nevada’s first marijuana consumption lounges, which will offer safe locations for tourists and residents to partake in cannabis. “I’m not advocating smoking marijuana,” Councilwoman Michele Fiore told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “but what I am advocating for is making sure we as a government agency do not create criminals by basically not giving them an outlet after we’ve passed a state law.”
- Massachusetts: The state’s Cannabis Control Commission has green-lighted a pilot program for adult-use, social consumption establishments.
Cannabis at Mainstream Hotels
Many cannabis consumers already get around the obvious risks of public cannabis smoking by instead consuming edibles, cannabis-infused tinctures and beverages. There are already a variety of independent 420-friendly hotels and resorts in legal states and across Canada, where people can stretch out and light up without fear of prosecution.
But experts say that until cannabis is legalized under U.S. federal law, the nation’s mainstream hospitality industry—companies like Wyndham, Marriott, Hilton, and Best Western—will continue to tread carefully when it comes to marijuana.
“What we see more and more today is the hospitality industry reaching out to their legal providers to help rewrite their policies, procedures, manuals and operational plans on how to deal with this,” Louis J. Terminello, chair of the Hospitality, Alcohol and Leisure Industry Group at the Greenspoon Marder law firm, told Leafly.
“But it’s constantly changing; it’s a moving target because legislation surrounding the use continues to move on in the United States, and at this point we’re only second-guessing and questioning.”
Most mainstream hotels, Terminello said, want to accommodate cannabis consumers, “while at the same time trying to respect the rights of those who do not want to be exposed to cannabis smoking.”
Change Is Coming
Some hotels still offer rooms where tobacco smoking is allowed. And they charge expensive cleaning fees to a guest who goes against the rules and lights up in a non-smoking room. Yet many cannabis consumers still risk those hefty fees to light up—as any guest who’s strolled down a hallway in a Colorado hotel can tell you.
So it is possible that we might, at some point, see hotel rooms reserved specifically for cannabis smokers?
“I think it would be a huge mistake would be to try to blend [cannabis] into existing hospitably brands,” Theresa Meier Conley, an associate professor of the practice at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business Marketing Department, told Leafly.
The risk for a major hotel chain, she added, would be a negative response from their mainstream tourism and business customers when it comes to on-site cannabis consumption. There are also concerns regarding younger guests.
At the same time, most major chain hotels offer alcohol in lobby bars and restaurants as well as in each room’s mini-fridge.
420-friendly Boutique Brands
Conley believes big chain hotels, resorts and other spaces within the hospitality sector could best serve themselves and cannabis consumers by creating 420-friendly sub-brands, like boutique hotels known for their comfort with cannabis.
In spite of the stigma still surrounding marijuana Conley acknowledges there is a growing market for cannabis-friendly public venues.
“I think what you have now is a real tension,” she said. “You’ve got [cannabis] tourism coming, you’ve got consumers. You still have a need for people to consume, and to consume in a safe space that is clearly away from underage guests.”
Consumers in the Driver’s Seat
What we might also see in the near future, according to Conley, is the hospitality sector charging consumers premium prices at cannabis-branded and marketed hotels. These would be similar to resorts, vineyards and distilleries that have wine and whiskey tours, and on-site beverage tastings.
“Part of that premium will be education, along with a safe and comfortable environment,” she said.
She also expects consumers to start seeing more sophisticated marketing and branding directed specifically towards cannabis enthusiasts looking for a relaxing and fun 420 experience.
Because cannabis has become big business, “consumers are in the driver’s seat,” she noted, “upping the experience, driving down the price. And that’s why we’re in a situation right now that is critical for this industry; for hospitality to really consider their role.”
Too Much Money to Ignore
And of course, the financial potential of cannabis-friendly public venues may become too much for both state legislatures and hospitality companies to ignore.
“Are you suggesting that money and politics may collide?” laughed David Helbraun. He’s a founding partner at Helbraun Levey, a New York-based law firm that specializes in the cannabis and hospitality industries.
“Eventually it’s got to come down to that,” he told Leafly. “In New York there’s a lot of jockeying going on between the legislature and the governor’s office. At some point the pressure is going to be too much, to get part of these tax dollars.”
A Tip: ‘Don’t be a Jerk’
And many of Helbraun’s clients in the hospitality industry, especially in the Empire State, already see the changes coming.
“I think a lot of people [in hospitality] are winking [at cannabis use] and just saying ‘hey, keep it cool.’ In New York City you’ll find places to consume. Don’t be a jerk. If you’re a jerk, you’re going to get busted.”
This article originally appeared on leafly.com.
Coloradans Can Soon Get Medical Marijuana in Place of Opioids
Governor has signed bipartisan Senate Bill 13, which easily passed the General Assembly
Colorado doctors will soon be able to recommend medical marijuana to treat any condition they’ve been prescribing painkillers for.
Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday signed Senate Bill 13, bipartisan legislation that easily passed through the General Assembly. The new law, which is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 2, is a win for marijuana proponents although it concerns some addiction doctors.
“Even in states with flourishing nonmedical cannabis markets, it is important to remember that thousands of people count on cannabis as a medicine,” said David Mangone with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana group. He predicts the bill will reduce opioid overdose deaths.
Under Colorado law, medical marijuana can be recommended for qualifying medical conditions, which were previously defined as cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder or other chronic disorders that cause severe pain, seizures and nausea. The new law adds to that list all conditions for which opioids could be prescribed to treat.
“Our real concern is that a patient would go to a physician with a condition that has a medical treatment with evidence behind it, and then instead of that treatment, they would be recommended marijuana instead,” said Stephanie Stewart, a physician in Aurora who cares for addicted patients.
“This will substitute marijuana for an FDA-approved medication — something that’s unregulated for something that’s highly regulated,” she added.
The new law applies to adults and minors. People under the age of 18 who are taking medical marijuana must do so in a non-smokeable form when using it on school grounds or school buses.
“Adding a condition for which a physician could recommend medical marijuana instead of an opioid is a safer pain management tool that will be useful for both our doctors and patients,” said Ashley Weber, executive director of Colorado NORML, a pro-marijuana advocacy group.
The bill passed through the General Assembly in the final week of session. The House voted 47-16, with some Republicans joining Democrats in support. The Senate voted 33-2, with only conservative Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, in opposition.
The legislation drew considerable attention when it was introduced early this year by two Democrats and two Republicans. A Senate hearinglasted 150 minutes and featured about 40 people, almost all of whom testified in support.
Alexis Bortell, a 13-year-old medical marijuana advocate, told senators she hasn’t had a seizure in the years since she moved from Texas and began taking marijuana to treat her epilepsy. Though Bortell won’t be affected by the new law — seizures are already a qualifying medical condition — she urged senators to expand medical marijuana to all who may need it.
“Colorado law already states that cannabis can be recommended as a medicine by doctors,” Bortell said. “My point is that every patient should have equal access to every medicine our doctor thinks can improve our lives.”
Jennifer Hagman, a psychiatrist who spoke for several Colorado medical groups, called the state and nation’s opioid crisis “a very serious problem” but argued the bill, while well-intentioned, is not a solution.
“Marijuana is not a benign substance,” Hagman told senators. “As a child psychiatrist, I see several kids a month who require admission to an impatient psychiatric unit for the onset of psychosis, which can be quite severe and associated with the use of marijuana.”
This article originally appeared on Denverpost.com.