WeedLife News Network

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

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the decriminalization of cannabis is “just a rung below” legalization and she does not view it as a rejection of last year’s referendum on the plant, reports Newshub.

A recent poll found that 69 per cent of New Zealanders either support full legalization or decriminalization of cannabis.

In a referendum held late last year, cannabis legalization was narrowly defeated, when 50.7 per cent of voters said “no” to legal weed.

Ardern faced criticism for not revealing her stance during the referendum. After voting was completed, she said she voted in favour of legalization.

In an interview last week, Ardern said, “I share the view of many that the idea of individuals being criminalized for possession is not something I think most New Zealanders support,” according to Newshub.

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The cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis is legal worldwide only in a few places such as Canada, Uruguay and a handful of American states.

Mexico, an important player in the global marijuana black market, could soon be added to the list. Last week, the lower house of Congress approved draft legislation to that effect and it's likely that the upper house too will sign off on it. In November last year, the upper house already passed the bill but it had to go through yet another vote following a few modifications.

While conservative lawmakers have expressed concerns that consumption and addiction rates could rise, proponents of legalization have said it's a step towards peace.

A failed drug policy

Mexico has long been in the throes of a drug war

For years Mexico has been plagued by violence stemming from its so-called ‘drug war,' a conflict between the state and the drug cartels, which also fight amongst themselves. Since 2006, more than 300,000 people are said to have been killed in the Mexican drug war. In a few areas in the country, the cartels have taken de facto control and corrupt security forces, politicians and businessmen have joined forces with organized crime syndicates in many places.

An agent in a shirt of the Criminal Investigation Agency guards stands in front of boxes of marijuana

Last year was a big year for cannabis.

In December, the Oregon recreational cannabis industry topped $1 billion in sales for the first time, ending the year at $1.1 billion—up from $795 million the year before. This sudden spike in sales should come as no surprise. Thousands throughout the state suddenly found themselves quarantined at home with plenty of time to kill. (Pro tip: cannabis is an excellent tool for killing time.)

 

But while the pandemic may have been the source of the industry’s sudden boom, it was also the source of a great many unforeseen obstacles.

“There were a lot of challenges on the labor side with all the problems we faced with COVID,” explains Jeff Johnson, cofounder of one of the state’s most successful dispensary chains, Nectar. “Just absolute chaos ... every day, basically.”

Cannabis shops had to scramble to adapt to the new normal, adopting safety-minded measures like curbside pickup and delivery. Certain complications arose—the rule that a service can deliver only within the jurisdiction where it’s licensed, for example—but overall, business around the newly deemed “essential” service trucked along smoothly.

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Wyoming will be entering its second season in which the state is issuing licenses to hemp producers and processors. 

The crop is still highly regulated and remains in a niche market. That means there aren’t a lot of farmers trying it, and those that are endure a lot of trial and error. 

Mother’s Hemp Farms owner Dave Tenhulzen said he planted 144 acres of hemp at two sites last year: one near Deaver and another just outside of Powell. The approximately 30 acres that were harvested near Powell produced about 90 tons of raw hemp.

However, the larger field near Deaver was a total loss as it tested “hot,” as they say in hemp lingo — meaning it came in over the maximum 0.3% THC limit. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant and when the compound is present in hemp in higher quantities, the crop is treated as if it is marijuana and must be destroyed.

Last year, 28% of the hemp samples that were collected from across the state and tested by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture came in too hot. Derek Grant, spokesman for the ag department, said that figure is just an estimate, as some indoor growers are still submitting their samples for testing. 

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The city that never sleeps has always had a strong illicit cannabis market and adult-use legalization is unlikely to stub it out anytime soon.

Russell, a 60-something marijuana grower and distributor who lives in the New York suburbs, makes about $200,000 a year in the illicit cannabis market. He has a nice roster of clients who live along the Hudson River, from the quaint towns of the Hudson Valley to the cacophonous neighborhoods in Manhattan, and he offers free delivery. Ounces of New York’s favorite strain, Sour Diesel, is $200, a pre-rolled joint for is $10, gummies with a mind-melting 420 milligrams of THC go for $30 and vape cartridges made by legal operators in California are $30.

Since New York legalized medical marijuana in 2016, Russell says his annual revenue has gone up 200% and he expects a sales spike once New York passes its adult-use law. (The New York Assembly says the passage of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is imminent.)

“I’ve never had this many customers,” says Russell. “Legalization is not going to hurt—the illicit business is stronger than ever.”

There are a few reasons he believes that legalization only helps the illicit market. First, the stoner stigma around pot is gone. Second, people don’t feel like they’ll get busted anymore so they’re more comfortable. Third, legal weed is expensive.

“My business model is this: whatever Curaleaf sells for, I sell for 30% less,” Russell says. “The economic factor is big. People don’t want to spend $400 a month to feed their head.”

Inside A Curaleaf Store As Pot Firm Makes Trading Debut

A New Mexico legislative committee approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana early Thursday, setting the scene for a vote on the proposal by the full state Senate. The 5 to 4 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee keeps the bill, House Bill 12 (HB 12), on track for approval during the current legislative session, which ends on Saturday.

HB 12 was approved by the New Mexico House of Representatives in late February. Under the measure, the use of marijuana for use by adults would be legalized and regulations for cannabis commerce would be created, with legal recreational sales slated to begin in March 2022. The legalization of cannabis for adults is supported by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is expected to sign the bill if it reaches her desk.

House Bill 12 would also impose an excise tax of 8% on cannabis retail sales. Local jurisdictions would also be permitted to assess city or county taxes of up to 4%. Estimates project the measure could raise as much as $44 million for the state and up to $24 million for local governments each year by 2024. Total taxes on cannabis would be capped at 20%.

Senate Panel Amends Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee made key amendments to the bill during a hearing that stretched into the early morning hours on Thursday. Changes made to the bill include a provision that requires independent testing of cannabis products and another that, in an effort to prevent monopolies in the cannabis market, prohibits the “stacking” of state licenses by acquiring them under different business names.

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Asecond Wyoming bill related to marijuana advanced out of the House Judiciary on Thursday after a 6-3 vote.

Public comment for House Bill 82, which would authorize funding for a report on medical marijuana, was given at the same time as that for House Bill 209, a full legalization effort, on March 12.

The medical marijuana bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, said March 12 that as Wyomingites become increasingly more supportive of medicinal uses of the drug, it makes sense to start learning about it now to be able to develop good policy down the road.

 

The study would involve the public, he said, including those who would benefit from marijuana being available as treatment. In its current version, the bill aims to allocate $30,000 to the report.

 

The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill before their vote, adding a clause that would send the completed report to the Joint Judiciary Committee in addition to the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee during the interim.

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Back in the days when “skunk” was mainly associated with cartoon character Pepé Le Pew and hydroponics was a way of improving cucumbers, most of the United Kingdom’s cannabis supply was imported from places such as Morocco and Lebanon. This changed in the past two or three decades in the UK and many other countries as organised criminal gangs set up growing operations closer to home.

Cannabis was still cultivated and distributed out of the more exotic locations on a large scale, particularly when it came to resin, but a fair amount of production had now moved closer to the demand in a process economists call import substitution.

It is hard to measure this accurately, but the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit estimated that by 2012, 80% of the cannabis used in the UK was grown in the country – up from 30% in the late 1990s. It is probably well over 90% now.

But in recent years, cannabis has undergone another major shift. A sizeable share of demand is now met by small-scale growers, mainly supplying themselves and friends and acquaintances. This has become possible for various reasons, including improvements to growing technology, new strains more suited to indoor growing, and the wealth of information and expertise on the internet. As such, many cannabis users no longer depend on traditional drug dealers.

This trend has been gaining momentum during the pandemic. So is this permanent or will the old supply chains reassert themselves when countries return to some kind of normality?


The US state of Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner says the USDA’s final rule for hemp is a big improvement on the interim version.

Kentucky is among the U.S states still overseeing its hemp sector under provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, after it had its 2018 Farm Bill-based state plan knocked back by USDA. It was quite a blow for the state given the amount of work Kentucky put into hemp’s return and it being the first cab off the rank to submit a plan to the USDA.

But Kentucky’s hemp arrangements will change for the 2022 growing season – and they have to. States originally had a deadline of October 31, 2020 to submit plans to the USDA as the pilot program was set to expire at the end of October last year. While an extension of the pilot program will be in place until September 30 this year, there will be no further extensions.

Kentucky had a number of concerns about the USDA’s interim final rule for hemp, but appears to be happy with changes made. The USDA released the final rule regulating the production of hemp across the USA in January.

“The final rule on hemp production is much improved over the interim final rule previously issued by USDA,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles said yesterday. “The improvements were the results of work conducted by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and other state agencies to provide feedback to the USDA”

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Police in Pennsylvania made 20,200 arrests for marijuana possession in 2020, a year marked by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent designation of cannabis businesses as essential services in many jurisdictions. Arrest data from the Pennsylvania State Police showed that an average of 55 adults were arrested for cannabis possession in the state every day last year. 

The data, which includes arrests by state and local police throughout the Keystone State, was acquired by Chris Goldstein, a regional coordinator with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Goldstein helped draft Philadelphia’s 2014 cannabis decriminalization ordinance, a move that was followed by action to reform marijuana laws in more than a dozen additional Pennsylvania cities, including the state capital of Harrisburg.

“Cannabis consumers were targeted even during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Goldstein said in a statement from NORML. “This shows just how aggressively prohibition is enforced, despite the unprecedented public health risks in our communities. It’s time to stop marijuana arrests, right now.”

The data from law enforcement shows that police in Pennsylvania made more arrests for marijuana possession than for all other illegal substances combined, which totaled 17,425 arrests. 

“Justice for marijuana doesn’t begin until arrests actually stop,” Goldstein added.

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Delaware's latest marijuana bill focuses on keeping profits local, while at the same time promoting fairness and social equity.

Legislators said March 18 they crafted the bill based on what has been done in the 14 states that have already legalized marijuana – many plagued by out-of-state corporate interests and heavy regulation that cut into local profits.

“We have studied what's going on in the other states and we feel we have a pretty good bill,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark.

Senate sponsor Sen. Trey Paradee, D-West Dover, said Delaware's approach is safe, smart and responsible. “We've seen what has worked and not worked,” he said.

House Bill 150 would make it legal for those 21 and older to sell and buy marijuana. A Marijuana Control Enforcement Tax of 15 percent would be levied on the retail product, and those who grow, manufacture and sell it would pay application and licensing fees.

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After receiving a suspended sentence for possession of cannabis last year, Filip Dostovski walked out of the Skopje courthouse and lit a joint outside as cameras rolled.

It was an act of "revolt against their sentence and against their policy", said the 41-year-old cancer survivor, who is pushing for the free use of marijuana in North Macedonia.

The Balkan state is eyeing a chance to become a cannabis pioneer in Europe, as the government considers legalising marijuana in what would be a first on the continent.

But many worry about a lack of follow-through, a problem that has dogged the government's drug policy for the last five years.

Home to little over two million people, North Macedonia legalised the cultivation and sale of marijuana-derived medical products in 2016, hoping to get the edge in a fast-growing European market.

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A medical marijuana bill making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly will go before the senate health and welfare committee on Wednesday.

If passed, the bill would request the Tennessee Department of Health to perform a study on medical marijuana licensing and regulations in neighboring states and report those findings to the general assembly’s health committees by December 15 of this year.

State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) reintroduced a bill that would allow for the use of medical marijuana earlier this year.

Over the years views have changed when it comes to medicinal marijuana. An MTSU poll from 2018 showed 81 percent of Tennesseans supported the idea, but not everyone shares the same views.

“There is no need in Tennessee to create a new form of medicine overseen and regulated by agriculture,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch. “I think all of us in Tennessee want farmers farming, we want doctors practicing medicine and we want lawmakers making people safe and this would negatively impact that.”

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With two bills to legalize marijuana sales stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the New Mexico Senate turned its attention to the state’s medical marijuana program Monday, March 15.

With Senate Bill 340, the Senate voted to prohibit sales to out-of-state residents who do not have a medical marijuana card issued in New Mexico, after first rejecting an amendment that would have increased the daily sales limit for medical cannabis patients from three grams to two ounces.

The amendment was introduced by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who identified himself as a medical marijuana patient suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as the result of childhood rape. He blistered the state Department of Health for its handling of the program, saying there is no scientific basis for the current limit.

“There is a lot of information that is being provided by the Department of Health on this bill that is untrue,” he said. “The department’s rules that limit the amount of medical cannabis that I can purchase to about three grams a day is arbitrary and capricious, and it’s not really based on a doctor or medical science or research. It’s based on a political rule that was put in place years ago.”

Candelaria said he has a card from California because he can’t purchase enough cannabis to meet his needs with just the New Mexico card.

Gerald Ortiz y Pino

Mexico’s likely approval of a law legalizing marijuana — possibly next month — could make it the world’s most populated country to authorize cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. That would have a big impact on the United States.

Some marijuana industry advocates, such as Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox, say the country’s expected passage of this law will push the Biden administration to legalize weed at the federal level in the United States.

On March 10, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved the marijuana-legalization bill, which the pro-government majority Senate is expected to pass. It then would be signed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has given an April 30 deadline for Congress to pass the bill.

Fox, who is on the board of the Khiron Life Sciences Corp. — a Colombian-Canadian partnership that sells marijuana for medical uses — told me that he expects Mexico to become a major exporter of legal marijuana to the United States.

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Medicinal cannabis patients from across the country would be permitted to participate in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program under a bill working its way through the state legislature. The measure, House Bill 2022, has been referred to the Oklahoma Senate’s Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee after being approved by the House of Representatives last month. 

The bill would open eligibility for a medical marijuana license to use and buy medicinal cannabis to all nonresidents. Republican Rep. Scott Fetgatter, the sponsor of the bill, confirmed that the measure applies to patients from across the country. Under current regulations, only patients from states with their own medical marijuana programs are eligible for a nonresident license.

“It does allow people in all 50 states to come to the state of Oklahoma for their medical needs,” said Fetgatter.

To receive a nonresident medical marijuana license, patients would be required to get a recommendation from an Oklahoma physician and pay a fee of $200. The license application would also have to be approved by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.

Nonresident License Expiration Dates Extended

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State legislators seem to be highly motivated to push marijuana legalization through.

Lawmakers in New York are apparently close to a deal to make the state the latest to legalize recreational marijuana.

Leaders in Albany said Monday that a final version of the bill is imminent, and that it could be brought to a video perhaps as soon as next week.

Speaking at an event that day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that he spent the previous weekend on the phone with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“We’re very close on marijuana,” Cuomo said.

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t is throwdown time, generally in Spain, over the entire cannabis conversation. 

Currently, cannabis clubs in Basque country are challenging authorities over their right to operate during the Pandemic. Meanwhile Barcelona clubs are leading their own similar challenge. These two regions are the Spanish states which have the most cannabis clubs. To add to all of the legal complexity, these are two of the most “independent” of the Spanish states, with a long history of confrontation against federal authorities.

No matter where they are, clubs (and their clients) across Spain have suffered, unsurprisingly, during the Pandemic. During the early days of the first global shutdown everywhere, most were closed, no discussion. However, some began reopening, even if on a limited, pick up basis, challenging local authorities, much as happened in U.S. states. Unlike the U.S. however, there was never really a formal discussion about how “mandatory” such services were. That said, no matter how reluctant politicians were to touch the issue, police in several countries, not just Spain, have weighed in on the fact that with clubs and/or coffee shops closed, the much more dangerous illicit market flourishes. And violence, particularly in poorer areas, has flared.

That is monumental enough. 

Here is why. The entire Spanish “social club” scene has developed, much like the situation in Holland, if not the early U.S. states—i.e., the entire state legit, federal illegal model that the Biden White House apparently also insists on perpetuating. In other words, in the grey areas of federal law. Unlike Holland and the U.S., however, the Spanish club model is a non-profit endeavor.

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New York lawmakers are ready to schedule initial action on legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana instead of waiting to include it in the budget, a process that Gov. Andrew Cuomo controls.

Final details are being worked out for a vote before the state’s budget is due on April 1, state Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger (D) said Thursday. The governor is part of ongoing talks, she said.

“We are working hard on a three-way agreed upon bill that could pass the Legislature before we get to the budget,” Krueger said in a phone interview with Bloomberg Government. “I feel like we are 95% there. We have taken some big steps towards getting this done.”

“The administration is working with all parties to pass a comprehensive regulatory structure for adult-use cannabis that prioritizes social equity, social justice, economic development, and the public health and safety of all New Yorkers,” State budget spokesman Freeman Klopott confirmed in an email.

Divorcing cannabis questions from talks over the state’s approximately $193.3 billion spending plan for fiscal 2022 improves the measure’s likelihood of becoming law. Democrats, who hold a supermajority in both houses, have the numbers to override any veto if they stick together.


On February 1, Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement announcing that marijuana reform bills would be merged as Congress moves toward some form of federal cannabis legalization

In the wake of this announcement, the cannabis market soared. Hopes are higher than ever that we are on the brink of widepsread cannabis reform in the United States and this would obviously have huge implications for the global marketplace and in turn, investment in the sector.

The statement from these Senators echoed the sentiment of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives late last year. It focused on the social equity perspective and disproportionate criminalization of people of color in the War on Drugs. Further, that federal marijuana prohibition is critical to course correct, as well as measures that help elevate those who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.

 

Given the Biden Administration's potential cannabis reform policy positions, and that the Senate is split with the Vice-President as the tiebreaker, the U.S. seems on the cusp of federal cannabis reform. 

This is not the first time Senate Majority Leader Schumer has sponsored legislation to advance cannabis legalization. While it's unclear which bills are being merged, it’s believed that Senator Schumer is alluding to a combined bill resembling the State’s Act, a measure supported by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Gardner, which includes the social justice provisions of the MORE Act

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