WeedWorthy News Network

Hot off the press cannabis, marijuana, cbd and hemp news from around the world on the WeedWorthy News Network.

A new measure would prioritize minorities, women, and those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs for a marijuana business license.

A bill that would create a licensed recreational marijuana market in Vermont is headed to Gov. Phil Scott’s office. Residents could legally possess and consume marijuana for the past two years, but had no legal means to acquire it. This legislation would change that.

When Vermont Legislature introduced and passed cannabis legalization in 2018, the state became the first to end prohibition through lawmaker impetus instead of a ballot initiative led by advocates. However, Vermont lawmakers failed to create a legal system of cannabis sales in the process.

The new measure underwent a lengthy back-and-forth between the Vermont House and Senate. Following compromises by both sides, the bill passed each chamber and still requires Scott’s final approval. The Republican Governor hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign the bill, though commented that lawmakers addressed many of his concerns and have “come a long ways.”

“Vermont legislators should be applauded for their hard work fine-tuning the cannabis regulation bill and sending it forward to the governor’s desk,” Matt Simon, New England political director at the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Fresh Toast. “This was a difficult compromise, but legislators worked hard to ensure that a wide range of concerns were addressed.”

Vermont Expected To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Sales

Read entire article at Technical 420.

With the November election being less than two months away, many investors are trying to determine which states will pass legislation that is pro-cannabis.

The opening of new markets has been one of the most significant growth drivers in the US. Another major growth driver is the transition from being a medical only market to a recreational market. If you look at the performance of states like Illinois and Michigan, you will notice that there has been an incremental increase in the amount of cannabis that is being sold and we expect to see additional states go this route in November.

We expect to see several states pass cannabis legislation in the election and this should prove to be a substantial catalyst for growth. Today, we want to highlight some of the states that plan to vote on cannabis legislation and believe that our readers need to be aware of this trend.

Arizona: Will Recreational Cannabis Legislation Pass this Time?

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As the deadline to begin operating under the 2018 Farm Bill rapidly approaches, hemp growers following their state pilot programs may soon be getting the relief they’ve been asking for.

The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill (H.R. 8319) with a provision that would allow hemp growers to continue operating under their pilot programs through September of 2021, extending the interim period by nearly a year.

The current deadline for states to end their hemp pilot programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill and begin operating under the 2018 Farm Bill is Oct. 31 of this year.

The proposed extension of hemp pilot programs answers the call of industry leaders and lawmakers alike to give hemp growers more time to adjust to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) interim final rule (IFR) on hemp, which aligns with regulations under the 2018 Farm Bill and is generally seen as a more stringent set of rules.

Nearly two dozen states chose to operate under their pilot programs for the 2020 growing season, according to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

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Hemp farmers—who have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis and hampered by slow reforms to federal drug regulations—are now eligible for federal aid under a second round of pandemic economic relief.

The original installment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP1), which contained $16 billion in funds, was distributed in the spring. Hemp farmers were not eligible to apply.

President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the second round of CFAP relief on September 18. An additional $14 billion in funds has been earmarked for farmers, bringing the amount of pandemic relief funding for the U.S. agricultural sector to $30 billion so far.

USDA press release announcing the aid package classified hemp as a “flat-rate crop,” and said, “Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.”

The U.S. Hemp Growers Association (USHGA) said after hundreds of industry members contacted the USDA, as well as a phone call between the trade organization and USDA officials, hemp farmers were added to the proposal at the last minute.

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Will the 2020 elections produce a Green Wave or small wake? Nobody knows for sure. Elections are all about who shows up to vote. In the past, state and local cannabis initiatives were often the most buzzworthy issue on the ballot, energizing voters and benefiting Democratic candidates in particular. 

But even Republican leader President Trump informally acknowledged cannabis’s impact on the vote at an August 2020 rally, suggesting his party should try to keep cannabis legalization off the ballot if they want to win. His statement may prove prescient, given that Arizona and Montana are among six states voting on adult-use cannabis legalization as well as on Senate races that have the potential to help flip U.S. Senate control to Democrats.

Across both political parties, there’s a sense that the stakes have never been higher for the future of our country, with control of the Senate, a stalled second coronavirus relief package, and Supreme Court vacancy in play. Racial justice and social equity are also at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. How these concerns drive voter turnout and impact this fall’s cannabis initiatives remains to be seen. Here's what we do know. 

1. Six states will be voting on cannabis in 2020

There are six states with cannabis initiatives on the ballot in November. Recent opinion polls on cannabis initiatives are promising, but the 2016 presidential election showed the risk of being overconfident in early numbers.

In the Deep South, Mississippi voters decide between two separate medical initiatives—the citizen-driven Initiative 65 or a more restrictive version developed by the state legislature, Alternative Measure 65. Recent polling shows strong public support for Initiative 65, which would designate 22 qualifying medical marijuana conditions and create an unlimited number of licenses for medical marijuana businesses.

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MCN speaks with Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration about medical cannabis regulation and access.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which operates under the aegis of the Department of Health, is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods – including pharmaceutical and complementary medicines, medical devices, tests, and vaccines – across Australia. It oversees the classification and manufacture of medicines and medicinal products; as well as conducting risk and safety assessments, standards enforcement, and post-market monitoring.

As the regulatory body in charge of determining the validity of applications to prescribe medical cannabis, the TGA has approved requests for cannabis prescriptions to treat conditions and symptoms including:

Nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy;Neuropathic pain;Pain related to cancer;Severe forms of childhood epilepsy;Spasticity associated with neurological conditions;Anorexia and wasting associated with chronic illness; andPalliative care indications.

It should be noted, however, that applying to prescribe cannabis for one of the above conditions does not guarantee approval from the TGA.

MCN speaks with a spokesperson from the TGA about Australian cannabis regulation and access, the evolution of Australian cannabis policy, and the importance of continued education within the sector.

What is the current medical and legal status of cannabis in Australia?

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended, which requires all signatories to implement controls on the cultivation of the cannabis plant. Commentary to the Single Convention provides an overview of the standard regime to which signatories have committed:

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In 2020, state courts still seem to be a good bet for cannabis businesses in cannabis-legal states. But federal courts are sliding backward.

A few weeks back, the Cannabis Law Institute invited me to discuss contract drafting for cannabis deals. A focal point for the panel was whether courts are willing to enforce cannabis contracts. The last time I had really looked at that issue was early 2019, when I wrote: Cannabis Dispute? Courts are Open. As the title indicates, my research (and our law firm’s experience) showed that both state and federal courts were generally open to resolving cannabis contract disputes at the time. And I assumed the trend had held. Unfortunately, it has not!

In the 2019 piece, I summarized:

[Contract enforceability] was always the biggest consideration in choosing a forum for cannabis disputes. A few months ago, we ran a survey of federal courts and cannabis litigation, observing that none of the districts at issue were invalidating state-sanctioned businesses’ cannabis contracts on the dreaded “illegal purpose” basis. This trend is holding strong in recent federal court disputes on issues from RICO to patent infringement, despite the prohibited status of “marijuana” under federal law. As to state courts, the decisions declining to hear cannabis beefs are pretty far in the rearview. (Ironically, it has been safer overall to enforce cannabis contracts in federal courts that state courts to date.) When drafting agreements for cannabis clients, we still advise as to the diminishing possibility of non-enforcement, but most cannabis companies seem comfortable choosing court over arbitration if other goals are satisfied.

In 2020, state courts still seem to be a good bet for cannabis businesses in cannabis-legal states. Although I have not run a formal survey, I also have not come across local courts tossing disputes solely because the contract related to cannabis activities (and our cannabis business litigators have worked on many of these cases). But federal courts are sliding backward. A trio of cases in Washington, Oregon and Nevada show why.

New Jersey Businesses Can't Fire Medical Marijuana Users, Court Rules

Throughout all the major cannabis news that has been making headlines in Europe, the U.S., and across the globe over the past ten or so years, France has been almost nowhere in the mix.

A parliamentary committee wants to change that as soon as possible and the members are urging the government to initiate a medical cannabis experiment and figure out the best way to address medical cannabis concerns. 

An Urgent Call To Action

The committee made this demand in a document, asking for a budget that would support some kind of experiment surrounding medical cannabis and its potential for legalization. 

“It’s very important that funding for the medical cannabis experiment is now integrated into this process,” said  Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Augur Associates in Paris, back in 2019 regarding the importance of moving forward and making something happen. While France has technically approved such an experiment a year ago through legal channels, there needs to be actual implementation to get something off the ground and into the trial stage so that progress can be monitored.  

Robin Reda of the French National Assembly and president of the committee claims that she believes France “has fallen alarmingly behind its European neighbors” in terms of cannabis reform overall. “The bulk of the technical work was done before the health crisis,” Reda added, explaining that she doesn’t believe this delay is due to COVID alone, as there has been plenty of time. She instead blames “bureaucratic blockage” and wonders why the government is not moving forward. 

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Could marijuana legalization be on its way to South Dakota? As if 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, a new poll suggests that voters in the Mount Rushmore State could be ready to take the leap.

The survey, conducted by South Dakota-based marketing firm Lawrence and Schiller and conservative pollster Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of a group opposed to legalization, found that about 60 percent of voters intend to vote for Constitutional Amendment A, a proposal to allow adults aged 21 and over to use marijuana. 

There is, however, a significant caveat to the data. Constitutional Amendment A is not the only pot-related proposal on South Dakota’s ballot this November. There is also Initiated Measure 26, which would make medical cannabis legal in the state.

The poll was organized by the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry on behalf of the group “No Way On A.”

“Going back to the numbers, we know that a significant portion of that majority for (legalized recreational marijuana use) thinks it’s related to medical,” Chamber President David Owen told the Argus Leader newspaper. 

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Illinois tweaked how business owners seeking recreational marijuana licenses can apply following complaints that the process favored politically connected and rich applicants over minorities and veterans who were supposed to benefit.

Recreational marijuana sales started in January under an Illinois law that, like similar efforts elsewhere, was touted for so-called social equity provisions designed to address racial disparities and other inequities in the decadeslong war on drugs. Black Illinois residents are seven times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white residents, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, some applicants for pot shops and state legislators said minorities and veterans were still being shut out under the complex point-based application process where only those with a perfect score would be allowed a shot at licenses. The first licenses to sell and grow recreational cannabis were given to existing medical marijuana companies.

Of more than 700 applicants, just 21 finalists got perfect scores to qualify for the lottery to win 75 licenses. Some criteria included having environmentally friendly plans and having at least 51% of the organization owned by minorities or veterans. Applicants can seek multiple licenses.

Some applicants said they were rejected in the expensive process even after meeting the criteria. Two Black-owned businesses that were passed over sued, saying only “politically-connected insider companies” won lottery spots and alleging scoring inconsistencies.

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It’s that time of the year when U.S. hemp farmers are facing a major challenge – stopping the clueless from stealing their hemp crops.

A recent example was in Columbia County, Georgia; where a farmer interrupted a theft from his legally grown and licensed industrial hemp plants.

“The suspects admitted to stealing the hemp flower on two occasions, believing that the plants were illegal marijuana plants,” stated Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. “The suspects allowed investigators to recover approximately 10 pounds of stolen hemp flower. The approximate value of the hemp flower is $1,000.”

Also recently, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food &Markets (VAAFM)  was notified of a hemp crop theft that occurred in Moretown. 50 hemp plants were cut down and removed, with around 500 pounds of biomass stolen. This represented the grower’s entire crop and the theft occurred even though signage was visible at the field indicating that the crop was just hemp.

Last year was a shocker for hemp theft in the USA and it’s not clear if this year has any better given increasing awareness and education around the fact that hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. Hemp’s levels of THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid, are so low it has zero recreational value. The number of media reports this year does seem to be lower even though hemp cultivation is becoming more prevalent; so perhaps the message is getting through – but the season isn’t over yet.

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After clearing its way through EU-GMP certification, a North Macedonian company is now able to export medical cannabis products to the EU. How will this affect the landscape of medical cannabis in Europe?

In Macedonia, cannabis is not legal for recreational use at all, and there are no decriminalization or personal use laws to boot. However, in 2016, Macedonia did approve a bill for medical cannabis within the country. As per Macedonian laws, which sync with EU laws here, oils and extracts can have up to .2% THC and still be sold without a prescription.

Cannabis with any higher THC amount can be obtained through prescription. The laws allow for private citizens to make use of medical cannabis, as well as for Macedonia to enter into the legal medical cannabis market with laws to cover cultivation, production, and exportation for medicinal use.

Since that time, and according to internal legislation, Macedonia has been exporting extracts, oils, and tinctures, but that’s it. And while that does account for about 30% of the market, the great majority – 70% – relies on smokable hemp flowers, which Macedonia had not been cleared to export at all. Until now though, the EU was not included in exportable locations for any goods as no companies had EU-GMP authorization.

What’s the biggest problem?

One of the biggest issues for Macedonia is that cannabis flowers have not been legalized for exportation. A big factor in this inability comes from internal licensing issues that stem from allegations of corruption. The allegations centered around former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev showing preferential treatment when giving out licenses, opting to give them to friends and family members which would, in turn, benefit him personally.

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It will be quite some time before we understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But history tells us one important thing: during times of crisis, how an industry is regulated often affects its ability to adapt and survive or even gain advantage.

Take payments and banking. While most brick-and-mortar retailers have been instituting contactless transactions to meet changing customer expectations and prevent the spread of the virus, cannabis dispensaries in the U.S. are still largely operating with cash only. They cannot accept major credit cards because marijuana is illegal under federal law. And now they’re facing a nationwide coin shortage.

With the coronavirus crippling economic activity in the U.S., the circulation of coins has dropped off significantly. Hardest hit has been restaurants, laundromats, convenience stores, arcades, and supermarket chains—businesses that rely on the flow of paper currency and need to make change. Yet unlike dispensaries, these businesses can more easily accept alternative forms of payments. 

“We still can’t operate like other businesses, unfortunately,” says Jerry Millen, owner of the Greenhouse of Walled Lake, a fully licensed medical and recreational cannabis dispensary in Michigan.

“First we ran out of pennies,” Millen says of the coin shortage. “We didn’t want to gouge the patient or the customer, so we rounded [transactions] down, which didn’t cost us a whole lot. But then we started running out of quarters, and suddenly we started to feel an impact.”

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Two County Cavan farmers believe that growing hemp could help bring life back to rural Ireland. 

Kim Kindersley and Michael Ó Lionsaigh have been producing CBD oil from their hemp crops as global demand for the oil increases due to its perceived medical qualities. 

Both farmers believe that the cannabis plant, which is one of the oldest cultivated crops in Ireland, could help reinvigorate rural Ireland and Irish farming. 

Hemp was once extensively grown in Ireland to produce ropes, riggings and sails for ships at a time when sailing was the chief mode of transport. 

Now, the plant is used to make CBD oil, which consists of less than 0.3% THC. THC is a psychoactive that produces the highs associated with cannabis use. 

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Moderate Democrats feared the MORE Act could hurt their chances at the ballots, but a bipartisan majority supports passage of the bill.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a bill that would decriminalize cannabis nationwide and expunge marijuana records. But moderate Democrats successfully convinced party members not to vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act until after the 2020 Election.

Their reason? Concern over how it would affect U.S. voter perception.

Congress has yet to approve a new stimulus package and pushing cannabis legislation through could alienate some voters. Republicans lawmakers vociferously attacked the scheduled MORE Act, too, with one GOP Representative labeling the bill “No Joint Left Behind.”

Moderate Democrat and Republican lawmakers alike may have been mistaken, according to a new poll. A majority of both Republican and Democrat voters support passage of the MORE Act, data shows. Only Independent voters didn’t favor the bill’s passage, although that may be more due to a lack of knowledge—29% of Independent voters said they don’t know what the MORE Act is.

GOP Voters Support Weed Decriminalization More Than Dem Lawmakers

A nearly three-year-old case, Washington v. Barr, which pits former NFL star Marvin Washington and plaintiffs against Attorney General William Barr, received a boost this week.

A slew of organizations, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Americans for Safe Access and U.S. law firm Ansell Grimm & Aaron have joined the fight, filing amicus briefs in the case, which challenge the constitutionality of weed’s Schedule 1 status.

If the Supreme Court of the United States chooses to hear the case, it could change U.S. drug policy.

“Patients today face an untenable choice,” cannabis attorney Joshua Bauchner said in a statement. “They can either risk federal prosecution for using medical cannabis in accordance with state and local laws at the advice of their doctors, or risk serious, even fatal, health consequences. This is an unacceptable trade-off that no one should be forced to make any longer,” Bauchner argued.

Ansell, Grimm & Aaron are representing five organizations with a vested interest in the case, including Athletes for CARE, a non-profit of former pro athletes turned cannabis advocates, After The Impact Fund, an organization that helps military vets and ex-athletes receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, among other conditions, and NFL Sisters in Service, Inc., a non-profit comprised of the spouses, daughters and mothers of current and former NFL players who advocate on behalf of those players.

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Just how big is the market for low-dose CBD medication? Australia’s leading industry data source reports that 20% of patients are taking low-dose CBD.

Australians might be looking at a cleared path to cannabis medications as soon as next year. 

The Australian government made an interim decision earlier this month (Sept. 9) to bring low-dose CBD medication over-the-counter.

Right now, accessing treatments Down Under means meandering through pathways to get a doctor’s prescription and approvals from the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Aussie version of the FDA. However, this government announcement means that CBD could be labelled down from a Schedule 4 to a Schedule 3 drug with implementation proposed on June 1, 2021.

So just how big is the market for low-dose CBD medication? FreshLeaf Analytics, Australia’s leading industry data source, wrote in its Q3 Patient, Product and Pricing Analysis that 20% of patients are taking low-dose CBD. There’s also the potential for the over-the-counter CBD market in Australia to grow rapidly and exceed A$200 million of revenue

The Latest Report From The FDA Shows How Poorly It Has Handled CBD

Zimbabwe has announced the rules for growing cannabis, as the country seeks to boost foreign currency revenue and benefit from the rapidly growing industry.

Anxious Masuka, the agriculture minister, under regulations published in a government gazette said three types of permits can be issued for growers, researchers and industrial hemp merchants.

Growers are only allowed to cultivate, market and sell industrial hemp and researchers may cultivate for research purposes. A merchant can contract individual farmers, procure and process industrial hemp into a specified product.

Prior to the new rule people found growing cannabis in Zimbabwe were liable to a jail term of up to 12-years.

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From hash to heroin, Hong Kong has a reputation for being hard on drugs. But one business has managed to work its way around the region’s strict cannabis prohibition laws.

Found Café will offer a plethora of snacks and beverages such as biscuits, coffee, tea, juices, and even beer spiked with varying doses of CBD, Sky News reports.

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a psychoactive but non-intoxicating compound derived from the cannabis plant that has exploded in popularity across the globe over the past few years.

The cannabinoid is used therapeutically for a variety of symptoms and ailments, ranging from inflammation to anxiety.

Patrons hoping for a high, however, will be disappointed to learn that none of the café’s offerings will include THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating compound in cannabis — which would cause the business to run afoul of local drug laws.

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With regards to the part pertaining to cannabis, the amended measures expand Louisiana’s medical marijuana program. This now allows doctors to recommend the substance to any patient or medical condition they believe it would help. Therefore, any limits/restrictions on what conditions doctors may recommend marijuana for have been lifted.

Additionally, new restrictions have been set in case with regards to vaping in cars. State law already prohibited drivers and passengers from smoking combustible tobacco products in a vehicle with a child inside. The new law has rightly expanded this regulation to include vaping.

Bill Banning the Delivery of Vaping Products

Meanwhile, a federal bill banning the delivery of vaping products by the U.S. Postal Service, has passed the Senate and is on the way to the House. If passed, S 1253: “Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act,” would ban shipments of vape products by the US Postal Service and would force other delivery services to check ID and get an adult signature at the point of delivery. Deliveries by FedEx, UPS or DHL are already much more expensive than mail delivery, so besides the extra hassle, the required signature at delivery will also add additional cost.

If the bill goes into effect, the cost of an online vaping purchase could increase by as much as $20. Additionally, requiring an adult signature would present its own difficulties since most deliveries happen during business hours when most vapers are at work. Moreover, points out Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association (AVA), the signature requirement would create unnecessary points of contact that are counterproductive to the current coronavirus distancing situation.

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