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

Austria imports record amount of medical weed while constitutional challenges loom

The country is clearly expanding its medical consumption—but more changes could be on the way.

Austria is in an interesting position when it comes to the legalization of cannabis right now. The third country in the DACH alliance in Europe (which also consists of Germany and Switzerland) currently has no legislative path to recreational cannabis reform, even though its two trade partners are pushing the boundaries of the discussion in the E.U.

That said, sales of dronabinol are up, year over year in the country, although none of it is produced domestically. The Austrian Agency for Food and Health (AGES) grows several hundred kilos of medical cannabis flower a year, though all of this is exported—the majority of which has historically crossed the border into Germany—to be made into dronabinol then re-imported.

So far, while the medical market here is smaller than the German one, and there is more limited cultivation and no extraction, there are some unfortunate similarities. Namely that patients are facing multiple challenges to obtaining insurance reimbursement. The quickest guaranteed path in Germany is also to sue at present, which given the backlog of legal cases, is just another excuse for more gridlock and delay.

In Austria, there is a move afoot to skip all of this and just go straight to recreational legalization, even if not via the legislature but by legal challenge.

The state of cannabis reform in Austria

Austrians are not allowed to consume, buy, sell, or grow cannabis (except if not allowed to bloom). That said since 2016, possession of small quantities of the flower have effectively been decriminalized, with punishment in the form of fines about the same amount as a parking violation.

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German conservative politician expresses his support for cannabis legalization

The break in the ranks makes Munich CSU city counsellor (and medical doctor) Hans Theiss one of the first center right politicians in the German government to express support for recreational reform.

Hans Theiss has just made German history. He just came out publicly in favor of recreational cannabis reform.

This does not make him unusual right now as the country moves, however slowly and haltingly, towards a new cannabis reality. What does is where he is from—both geographically and politically.

Geographically, he represents constituents from a wealthy city in Bavaria, one of the country’s largest and most metropolitan cities. That said, Bayern is sometimes referred to as the “Texas” of Germany not to mention the most “rule-based” state in the country.

In the words of Theiss in a recent interview, “Bavaria already pursues a relatively strong rule of law policy and pursues things that are classified as illegal perhaps a little more consistently than is the case in other federal states.”

This is one of the reasons the state has one of the highest numbers of official cannabis patients. Doctors know that prescriptions are a form of protection for people too sick to be arrested.

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Louisiana Senate approves bill allowing public employees to use medical pot

A bill that would ban discrimination against state employees who use medical cannabis was approved by the Louisiana Senate on Wednesday, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk for his approval.

The Louisiana state Senate voted 26-8 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would protect public employees who use medical cannabis from job discrimination. The measure, House Bill 988, was approved by the Louisiana House of Representatives last week and now heads to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards for his consideration.

Under the bill, public employees using medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation and in accordance with state law are protected from being fired for using medical pot. The bill also protects medical cannabis patients who are applying for state positions from being denied employment or other job discrimination based on their use of cannabis.

“This would basically be a first step to having laws on the books to protect people who have medical marijuana cards,” state Representative Mandy Landry, the sponsor of the bill, said last month after introducing the bill.

The bill does not apply to private employers or local government agencies, including police and fire departments. Landry told reporters that the legislation was limited to state employees to address likely opposition from politically powerful law enforcement and business lobbyists in the state Capitol.

Medical cannabis an alternative to opioids in Louisiana

The Louisiana House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 60-32 on May 24. While the bill was up for debate in the House, Landry told her colleagues that the legislation would help prevent state workers from becoming addicted to opioids, an argument that was echoed in the upper body of the state legislature by Senator Stewart Cathey.

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Laura Ingraham still talking up nonexistent link between cannabis and mass shootings

And she’s still wrong

For the second night in a row, Laura Ingraham was obsessed with her own personal theory behind the epidemic of mass shootings in America: That somehow, cannabis use is to blame.

During Wednesday night’s episode of “The Ingraham Angle,” she had this to say before introducing a guest to talk about it:

“Considering the horrific carnage here from other tragedies we already know about where high potency cannabis may have played a role, it’s important that Americans have more answers. We deserve to know the truth about this multi-billion-dollar and growing industry, how it’s affecting our young people, our working age population, and even our military readiness.”

For the record, multiple studies have shown that Ingraham’s suppositions about cannabis users are baseless: Paranoia, or “pot psychosis” notwithstanding, cannabis use has been demonstrated to make people less, not more violent. And so far none of the mass shootings America has been forced to endure because of the policies favored by Ingraham have been found to be associated with cannabis.

But it’s in keeping with comments Ingraham made on Tuesday’s episode of her show, when she argued that politicians should be working to stop legalizing marijuana, instead of doing something about all the guns falling into the hands of violent people.

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North Carolina lawmakers advance bill to make hemp permanently legal

 

Hemp and CBD’s temporary legalization status in North Carolina is coming to an end, prompting the General Assembly to act.

A bill in North Carolina would ensure that hemp and CBD remain legal in the state beyond this month.

Members of the state Senate approved the legislation on Tuesday, which would permanently remove hemp from North Carolina’s list of controlled substances.

According to local television station WGHP, the bill passed the chamber by a unanimous vote.

As was the case in a host of other states, North Carolina greenlit the cultivation of hemp following changes to how the federal government treats the plant in the last decade.

The 2014 Farm Bill that was passed by Congress “provided a definition for hemp and allowed for state departments of agriculture or universities to grow and produce hemp as part of research or pilot programs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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British Columbia plans 3-Year decriminalization test

Canadian officials announced on Wednesday that a plan to decriminalize small amounts of drugs in British Columbia has been approved for a three-year test period.

British Columbia will decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of drugs for three years in an attempt to address the province’s crisis of overdose deaths. The Canadian federal government announced on Wednesday that it had approved a request from provincial officials to enact the plan, which will decriminalize possession of street drugs including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

“Eliminating criminal penalties for those carrying small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use will reduce stigma and harm and provide another tool for British Columbia to end the overdose crisis,” federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

In November, British Columbia officials requested an exemption from enforcing the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for a period of three years. Under the plan, personal possession of up to a cumulative total of 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA will not result in an arrest, citation, or confiscation of the drugs. The limited drug decriminalization plan, however, will not apply at airports, schools and to members of the Canadian military.

“This is not legalization,” Bennett told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver.

“We have not taken this decision lightly.”

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California sheriff asks Elon Musk for help with county’s illegal weed problems

Perhaps Elon Musk can do anything. That seems to be the thinking of a California sheriff who recently issued a tweet to urge the billionaire to help squash the region’s ongoing continuing illegal cannabis problems.

Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue’s message to Musk was short and simple. “Please help us!” LaRue urged.

In an accompanying video (warning: contains disturbing content), the sheriff noted that his team was out every week serving search warrants.

“But the problem is the quantity of grows that we’re faced with. It’s astronomical. There’s so much of it that it’s hard for us as a small rural community to investigate and stop.”

Also, he notes contentions that water being shipped to these sites is being used for drinking or livestock purposes, well, doesn’t hold water.

“When you are getting 4,000 gallons of water delivered multiple times a day to a swimming pool,” a simple check will show the resource is being pumped directly into cannabis greenhouses.

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Connecticut Governor signs legislation cracking down on cannabis ‘Gifting’

The new law allows communities in Connecticut to punish individuals with a fee of up to $1,000 for the practice.

Another state with legal weed is cracking down on unregulated cannabis retailers. This time, it is lawmakers in Connecticut who are taking on the practice of “gifting,” through which illicit weed shops sell a product (say, a T-shirt) that comes with a cannabis “gift.”

Now, under a bill signed into law last week by the state’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, that loophole could be tightening up.

According to the Connecticut Post, cities in the state “can now fine residents up to $1,000 for gifting a cannabis plant or other cannabis-related product to another individual in exchange for any kind of donation, including an admission fee, or as part of any giveaway such as a swag bag,” while the state itself can “can also separately issue $1,000 fines for failing to pay sales taxes.”

“Gifting” has become a go-to practice for marijuana retailers who haven’t gone through the proper regulatory channels to obtain a license, or who operate in states where cannabis is legal for adults but the regulated market has not yet launched.

The Associated Press reported that unregulated “cannabis bazaars have cropped up [in Connecticut] since the drug was legalized last year,” and “[t]housands of people have attended the events, often paying a fee to be admitted, and exchanged cannabis-related products for other items or received them along with the purchase of an item such as a T-shirt.”

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Politicians & cannabis: Controversial GOP Rep. Boebert calls Sen. Coram 'Illegal Drug Dealer' for selling 'Hot Hemp'

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R), known as a controversial political figure, slammed state Sen. Don Coram (R) for supposedly having “ulterior motives” when he backed a bill to lower penalties for fentanyl. (Benzinga)

During a Republican primary debate, Boebert accused her opponent of being an “illegal drug dealer,” referring to claims that his hemp company Paradox Ventures has been producing “hot hemp,” which is hemp with levels that contain THC levels in excess of 03%.  Cannabis Law Report revealed it examined at least seven Certificate of Analysis reports issued by Aurum Labs, a third-party vendor for Paradox Ventures that had found THC levels of up to .59%.

The outlet also reported claims that Sen. Coram used his political sway with the Department of Agriculture and Montrose County D.A. to push for charges against three Denver businesspeople behind United Cannabis Corp.

Is it illegal to grow hemp containing higher than allowed levels of THC?

It’s complicated because environmental factors can impact hemp cultivation and result in higher content of some cannabinoids including THC. Nevertheless, Boebert implied that Sen. Coram was selling hemp with a THC content that was above the limit.

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DEA reports ongoing decline in federal pot arrests

The feds say there was an 11% decline in cannabis arrests from 2010-2020.

Federal law enforcement continues to make fewer and fewer arrests for weed, according to data released by the Department of Justice, a trend that dovetails with the new cannabis laws that have bloomed in the last decade.

From 2010 until 2020, there was an 11% decline in cannabis-related arrests by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers, the report from the Justice Department said.

That same time period saw a seven percent decline in arrests for crack cocaine, and a six percent decline in arrests for powder cocaine.

In raw numbers, the DEA made 8,215 arrests for cannabis-related offenses in 2010, compared with 2,576 in 2020. 

The number of pot-related arrests declined each year in that decade.

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Spain looks at legalising medicinal cannabis, and a billion-dollar industry to grow it

‘Patients should be in the hands of the state and the doctors, not the drug traffickers,’ said Carola Pérez, the president of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis

Spain is set to become the latest European country to decriminalise the use of cannabis for medicinal use, with some eyeing a route for Europe’s biggest illegal cannabis growing nation to become the hub of a legal industry.

As law enforcement gets to grip with “hemp fever”, with legitimate farmers falling foul of strict rules on which part of the plant can be sold, a parliamentary commission is to consider legalising the use of the drug to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.

In 2018, Britain changed the law to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes but it requires a prescription from a doctor.

In recent years, a series of European countries have taken the same measure including France, Italy, Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic. In the United States, 37 states have also decriminalised the drug for specific medical use, while 19 have gone further, for recreational use.

The Spanish proposal is likely to garner support from the Socialist government, their junior far-left coalition partner Unidas Podemos and a series of smaller regional parties.

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Heidi Klum pushing for cannabis legalization in Germany

Klum reportedly met with Burkhard Blienert, Germany’s federal commissioner on narcotic drugs, in a secret meeting.

Supermodel and businesswoman Heidi Klum reportedly met with a senior drug official in Germany recently to voice her support for cannabis legalization.

Per The Times, Klum met with Burkhard Blienert, federal commissioner for narcotic drugs, in a secret meeting.

According to local media reports, Blienert had been expecting to discuss drug abuse issues with the Project Runway star and was surprised to, instead, hear Klum’s pitch for legalization.

It was also reported that Finn Hänsel, 30, founder and CEO of the Berlin-based cannabis company, Sanity Group, attended the meeting.

Germany legalized medical cannabis in 2017 and some of Canada’s largest licensed producers have supply agreements in place with the country, including Canopy Growth, Aphria, Aurora, Cronos Group and others.

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Japan considers legalizing medical marijuana, criminalizing recreational use

Japan’s health ministry plans to revise current law in a way that would forbid certain substances of cannabis instead of parts of the plant, making it easier to allow certain medical marijuana products.

Could Japan be the next country in Asia to embrace medical marijuana? It’s looking that way. (Benzinga)

The country’s health ministry held a meeting Wednesday to negotiate the revision of the Cannabis Control Law from 1948. The ministry is considering legalizing cannabis for medical use and adding a provision to criminalize its consumption for recreational purposes, writes The Asahi Shimbun.

Last June, the ministry prepared a report recommending the government allow medical marijuana-based drugs to treat refractory epilepsy, as is the case in the U.S. and other countries.

This summer, the ministry intends to draft proposals amending the Cannabis Control law, which forbids cultivation and possession of cannabis as well the production of medicine made from the plant. The law bans the leaves, roots, spikes and ungrown stalks of the plant, which contain compounds that can be used to make therapeutic products.

Other members of an inter-governmental political forum, the Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and U.S.), permit the use of epilepsy drugs with CBD derived from cannabis.

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Argentina enters cannabis, hemp market in hope to recover economy

Argentina is opening up to the medical cannabis market and hemp industry in a move to help recover a battered economy.

On May 5, the Argentine Congress passed a bill to establish a legal framework for the sale and export of medical cannabis and industrial hemp.

The move, backed by president Alberto Fernández, aims to ensure the safety, quality, control and traceability of the production chain as well as create new jobs, increase productivity and generate new exports for the South American country that is facing a deep economic crisis.

Fernández’s government says the industry could create up to 10,000 new jobs by 2025, boost the domestic market by $500 million and increase export revenues to over $50 million.

Cannabis will be used for medicinal purposes while hemp, which is also derived from the cannabis plant, has multiple uses.

Thanks to its highly resistant fibers, hemp will be used in the clothing industry, production of biofuels, construction of low-impact housing and due to its high cellulose content, the production of paper.

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What’s up with cannabis legalization in Belgium?

The country is slow to consider enacting any kind of cannabis reform, with a law on the books that is 101 years old this year to regulate the plant.

As Belgian cannabis advocates pointed out in spades this year on 4/20, the country is hopelessly behind the times when it comes to reform. This is true not only compared to other countries across Europe, but also to its neighbors who exist in a tripartite political and economic union and alliance with each other within the E.U. These are the so-called Benelux countries. This inter-regional coalition, created in 1944, consists of Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The cooperation between the three countries is in many ways similar to the DACH alliance which unites Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

When it comes to cannabis, however, Belgium is lagging behind its closest neighbors and economic partners and further in a way not seen in the DACH coalition—where all three countries within the same have moved forward on reform—and Switzerland is not even in the E.U.

When it comes to the countries within the Benelux alliance, also Belgium lags dramatically behind both Holland, with its coffeeshops, pending national cultivation, and distribution system, as well as Luxembourg, now teetering on the edge of recreational reform, even if only home grow is a first step.

Belgium is the last country within the alliance where the plant remains fully illegal. That said, a person who grows a single plant in their own home, in principle, will not be prosecuted.

What is the deal?

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Cannabis legalization on hold in Indiana, lawmakers want more research before taking action

 

Indiana lawmakers agreed that more research on the potential health benefits and decriminalization of THC products, including marijuana, Delta 8 and Delta 9, is needed before any legislative action is further taken, reported KPVI. (Benzinga)

The General Assembly’s Legislative Council overwhelmingly supported the idea to task the interim study committee on public health, behavioral health and human services with reviewing the issue further.

With legislative action anticipated during the 2023 session, the task force will consult experts and take public testimony on THC issues. In addition, several meetings are expected to be held this summer or fall.

"It's a way to look at it comprehensively and what should be the policy of the state of Indiana," said House Speaker Todd Huston (R), chairman of the Legislative Council. "There definitely is more study needed around Delta 8 and Delta 9."

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Rhode Island becomes 19th state to legalize cannabis

With the stroke of a pen, Rhode Island has joined its two neighboring states and 16 others in legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, becoming the 19th state in the country to end marijuana prohibition.

After months of negotiations between lawmakers, advocates, stakeholders and the governor’s office, and less than 24 hours after lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the legalization bill, Gov. Dan McKee signed the measure, which promises automatic expungement of past marijuana possession convictions and reserves a quarter of new retail store licenses for minority communities disproportionally hurt by the War on Drugs, reported the Providence Journal.

Speaking on the steps of the State House in Providence, McKee said the law was “equitable, controlled and safe” while establishing a regulatory framework that emphasizes public health and safety. “The end result is a win for our state both socially and economically.”

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South Dakota pot legalization initiative qualifies for November ballot

South Dakota state officials announced on Wednesday that an initiative to legalize recreational cannabis has qualified for the ballot for the November general election.

The South Dakota Secretary of State announced on Wednesday that a ballot measure to legalize cannabis for adults has received enough verified signatures to qualify for the November election, giving the state’s voters another chance to legalize recreational pot at the ballot box. Secretary of State Steve Barnett also announced that the proposal sponsored by the group South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) will be titled Initiated Measure 27 for this year’s general election.

The Secretary of State’s office reported that the SDBML campaign had collected a total 31,588 signatures. An analysis of a random sample of the signatures determined that approximately 79.2% were validated as coming from South Dakota registered voters. Based on the results of the random sample, 25,023 signatures were deemed valid by state officials, far more than the 16,961 signatures currently required to qualify a measure for the ballot.

“We are very pleased that we’ve qualified for the ballot and we are extremely thankful to everyone who signed our petitions, our volunteers, our staff and our supporters,” SDBML director Matthew Schweich told the Argus Leader.

“We look forward to being on the ballot in November and we’re confident we can win again and restore the will of the people of [S]outh Dakota.”

Under the proposal, adults aged 21 and older would be permitted to possess and buy up to one ounce of weed and grow up to three cannabis plants at home. Public consumption, cultivation of more than three plants, and some other cannabis-related activities would still be against the law, but violators would only face civil penalties for such offenses.

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Rhode Island lawmakers approve weed legalization bill

The Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis on Tuesday, making the state the 19th in the nation to end the prohibition of recreational pot.

The Rhode Island General Assembly approved legislation to legalize recreational pot on Tuesday, culminating years of work by lawmakers and activists to reform the state’s cannabis policy. Democratic Governor Dan McKee is expected to sign the legislation Wednesday afternoon, according to media reports, making Rhode Island the 19th state in the nation to legalize cannabis for use by adults.

After lawmakers passed the bill, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey thanked his colleagues for their work on the issue, which has resulted in a recreational pot legalization bill to be introduced in the General Assembly every year since 2011.

“This is a truly momentous day for Rhode Island. I’m deeply grateful to Senator Miller for his years of hard work and leadership on this issue, and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of reaching this point,” McCaffrey said, as quoted by the Providence Journal.

“Ending cannabis prohibition helps us right past wrongs while creating new opportunities for all Rhode Islanders. This is the right move, at the right time, for our state.”

The legislation legalizes possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older. Possession by adults of up to 10 ounces is permitted in a private home, as is the cultivation of up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants.

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Busted grow houses converted to Habitat for Humanity homes under Sacramento plan

Habitat for Humanity considers it a win-win situation for both affordable housing and busted growers.

The City of Sacramento and Habitat for Humanity whipped up a plan to kill two birds with one stone—offering people busted with grow houses to donate their house to a worthy cause instead of paying high penalties.

Since busted growers already face six-digit amounts of money in administrative penalties, this program would simply allow them to put their properties to good use instead, perhaps reducing costs in the process. Under the program, property owners who get cited for illegally running cannabis grow operations can choose to donate their property directly to Habitat for Humanity. The program is called Justice for Neighbors (JFN).

NBC affiliate KRCA 3 profiled the story, including two houses that have already opted to be converted to Habitat for Humanity homes.

“This program is a great example of the city thinking outside the box,” City of Sacramento Senior Deputy City Attorney Emilio Camacho said.

The JFN program is run through the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office. JFN was launched in 2006—targeting what they call “major physical and criminal nuisances that degrade the quality of life in the City’s neighborhoods.” Cannabis grow houses are considered one of many types of nuisances that make people say “not in my neighborhood.” This also involves drug trade, human trafficking, and other security hazards.

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