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

Why is it so difficult for lawmakers to accept that medical marijuana literally saves lives?

In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal found “an increase from one to two dispensaries in a country is associated with an 17% reduction in opioid mortality rates.”

Despite overwhelming evidence in support of medical marijuana, Florida Legislature is in talks to cap THC levels in smokable medical cannabis. If passed, the move would make it more difficult for patients to get the dosage they need for medical efficacy. 

Last week, Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase was spouting misinformation on Twitter, stating that legalizing marijuana would add to the state’s drug problem and “lead to more overdoses and deaths.”

It’s because of false statements like these and fear mongering that cannabis holds such a negative stigma. As such, medical marijuana users in Florida are facing an unjust threat to their access to medicine. 

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In four years, the cannabis industry’s job growth has increased 161%, quickly beating predictions from other industries 10 years from now.

Leafly’s fifth annual cannabis jobs report showed the cannabis industry to support 321,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2021! An incredible number for an amazing and highly-deserving industry.

Cannabis jobs aren’t accurately reported to the Department of Labor because it’s federally illegal, so in partnership with Whitney Economics, Leafly has been filling that gap since 2017! The result is a goldmine of knowledge, and always filled with incredible cannabis job data.

The 2021 report found that there are more legal cannabis industry employees in the United States than:

Electrician engineersEMTS and paramedicsDentists (more than twice as many!)

The United States added 77,300 full-time jobs in the cannabis industry in 2020, despite the ravaging pandemic. This represents a 32% year-over-year job growth, which is absolutely phenomenal considering 2020 was the worst year for U.S. economic growth since World War II.

Why The Cannabis Industry Is Perfect For Socially Responsible Investors

A new report notes that Germany set a record by importing nearly 10,000 kilograms of medical cannabis in 2020, but its relationship with exporters is beginning to change as more countries sign supply agreements and domestic production ramps up.

From 2018 to 2019, the amount of medical cannabis imports grew by 100 per cent, but increased only 37 per cent in 2020, according to new analysis from Prohibition Partners, a global cannabis market intelligence firm.


Germany has relied on the Netherlands and Canada for much of its cannabis in recent years, but importation from the Netherlands fell by five per cent in 2020, as additional countries, including Uruguay, Spain, Austria and Israel, began exporting medical cannabis to the country.

In its analysis, Prohibition Partners predicts that the balance of supply will continue to shift away from the Netherlands and Canada in favour of countries with lower production costs. Domestic cultivation is also a factor, with Germany expected to supply at least 2,600 kg of cannabis per year, and potentially much more than that, in the future.

Some of Canada’s largest licenced producers have supply agreements in place with Germany, including Canopy Growth, Aphria, Aurora, Cronos Group and others.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is contemplating legalization, which would make it one of few countries in the world to do so and signify a major about-face for the conservative party.

The Globe editorial board is correct that it’s time to end the failed war on marijuana at the federal level and begin to repair its harms to Black and brown communities (“Congressional Democrats look to end pot’s legal limbo,” Feb. 10). As Congress and the Biden administration explore what a reparative federal framework might look like, they will look to states like Massachusetts. Our leaders will determine whether we are a role model or a cautionary tale.

As one of the “small group of advocates” who met last week with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon about comprehensive and equitable cannabis reform legislation, I can tell you there is great national interest in states that have sought to reinvest cannabis revenue into communities targeted by marijuana prohibition and to ensure that they have a piece of the billion-dollar industry.

But we need to finish the job. Last year, I joined other cannabis regulators in calling on our state officials to implement oversight addressing corruption in municipal processes, and to use marijuana tax revenue for an entrepreneurial loan fund similar to the one in Illinois. The Legislature failed to act on these or any marijuana bills last session. Our window to demonstrate success is closing.

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On February 5th, state lawmakers voted to legalize cannabis in Virginia and establish a recreational market. Both chambers’ initiative would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana or less, and begin the process of expunging certain cannabis-related misdemeanors on July 1st. Retail sales are predicted to start in 2024, per the plans of both the House and Senate.  

Virginia already has a medical marijuana program, but it’s limited compared to most states. Even so, the medical program is expected to be valued at $50 million in sales by 2024, and the adult-use market is poised to grow even bigger. 

Here’s what you need to know about the newly introduced adult-use legislation in Virginia: 

The vote passed through the Virginia General Assembly on February 5th 

Both chambers passed the bill to legalize cannabis for adult use at the beginning of February. The bill was introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, who said “I think that Virginia is on a path to an equitable legalization plan for marijuana. There have been a few bumps, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have a polished bill we can agree upon in the next few weeks,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin.

The House passed the bill 55-42 

House Democrats were in favor of the bill, while Republicans were opposing it. The House’s version of the bill would maintain all cannabis criminal penalties until January 1st, 2024, when the first adult-use retail sale is set to take place. 

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Officials are said to be considering ways of raising funds through the Barbados Stock Exchange (BSE) to help fund development and innovation in the burgeoning medicinal cannabis industry.

Word of this has come from Shantal Munro-Knight, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA), who said every effort was being made to ensure that locals have a major stake in the industry.

Munro-Knight opted not to say what mechanisms were being considered for raising funds through the BSE, but added that critical to the growth of the medical cannabis industry was the creation of strategic linkages and innovation.

“One of the proposals that has come before us is for raising financing through a stock exchange mechanism. I won’t speak to that definitively because that is under consideration, but just to signal that our intent is as much as possible to facilitate innovation in the industry and create as much critical linkages and make sure there are benefits right across the spectrum for Barbadians,” Munro-Knight told journalists in an online media conference recently.

Stating that there were opportunities for individuals to get involved in the industry indirectly, including in retail and distribution, she said one linkage that had tremendous potential was that between the medicinal cannabis industry and health and wellness tourism.

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Lawmakers have introduced a new proposal for penalizing those under 21 who are caught with marijuana, a move that could bring Gov. Phil Murphy closer to signing a bill to legalize weed.

But this bill must receive committee approval Monday and pass both the state Senate and Assembly by next Thursday, the latest deadline for Murphy to take action on bills to establish a legal marijuana industry and another to end arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

 

If it does not, Murphy will have to act on the bills as they are.

 

Voters said yes to legalizing marijuana in a landslide election in November, and lawmakers passed the legalization and decriminalization bills by mid-December.

 

But Murphy has said he will not sign the bills until they establish uniform, civil penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana. The current bills are at odds with one another, with one eliminating all penalties for possessing up to six ounces of marijuana and the other making underage possession a disorderly persons offense.

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France has bowed to the inevitable. After several years of promises about normalizing the discussion and failing to do so, and further in direct contrast to its German, Dutch, Danish, and even Swiss and Spanish neighbours, the country has finally caved in recognizing that medical cannabis has at least theoretical efficacy.

The first trial, delayed for much of 2020, was publicized last fall right as the European Commission decided that CBD was not a narcotic and as the WHO voted to remove cannabis from global Schedule IV status. The timing was not accidental. The country’s ever-savvy political Machiavellian on the topic, President Emmanuel Macron, was there belatedly to cheer it on, just at the finishing line of done and dusted. In late January, the country chose its finalists.

Regardless of the cynicism in the room, it is an important step—and not just for France—but a range of discussions now literally haunting the industry if not the full reform discussion across the EU if not elsewhere.

Why This Trial Is Different

Anyone who expects this all to go smoothly and without major mistakes has clearly not been paying attention to the disasters that have so far ensued, everywhere, when a country or region takes up actual implementation of cannabis reform, and in any form. See the U.S. state market, the Canadian national one, if not the embarrassing faults inherent in both the German medical and more recent Dutch recreational bids.

However, there are indications that the French have in fact been watching.

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As a board-certified emergency physician who worked in Minneapolis-area emergency rooms for many years, I have witnessed the damage that opioids have afflicted on too many Minnesotans and their families.

Over the past six years, as the founder and CEO of Vireo Health, one of Minnesota's licensed medical cannabis companies, I have had the privilege of helping thousands of patients across our state replace their often dangerous opioids with safe plant-based cannabis medicines.

Since its founding in 2014, Minnesota's medical cannabis program has evolved and adapted to better suit the needs of patients. I applaud these important changes, such as adding new qualifying conditions like Alzheimer's disease, sickle cell disease and chronic pain, among others.

However, steps must be taken to improve and grow the state's medical cannabis program by making it more affordable and accessible for Minnesotans. The fastest, most effective way to achieve this goal is to reduce the cost of medical cannabis by allowing it to be sold in its most natural state — as dry flower.

Allowing cannabis flower would greatly benefit existing patients, bring new patients into the program and ensure the future viability of Minnesota's medical cannabis program.

While voters are more evenly divided on the idea of recreational cannabis, polls show that more than eight out of 10 Americans now support the medical use of cannabis. Voters, politicians and advocates can all agree on the safety and benefits of medical cannabis as compared to the irrevocable damage caused by the opioid epidemic. In 2019, opioid overdoses hit a tragic record high with 428 confirmed deaths of Minnesotans. In that same year, zero died from a cannabis overdose.

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A total ban on smokable hemp products makes little sense. The state has time to think this through and come up with a better solution.

A few weeks back, I wrote a post entitled “California Tries Again with CBD“, in which I discussed a new piece of legislation (AB-45) introduced to ostensibly provide a regulatory framework for the manufacture and sale of certain hemp-derived products. Those products include foods or beverages that contain cannabidiol (CBD). In that post, I mentioned that provisions in AB-45 contain bans on smokable hemp products, and in this post I’d like to jump a little further into this provision and whether it has any chance of becoming law.

Currently, AB-45 provides in part:

Unless explicitly approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, industrial hemp shall not be included in products in any of the following categories:

. . .

The Future Of Smokable CBD Products Is Not Great

Jeanette Miller says she’s one of hundreds of farmers who were encouraged to devote acreage to an up-and-coming crop that held promise, but is now watching it all slip away.

Miller, who operates Eclectic Farmstead in Newfane in western New York, said farmers spent upward of $50,000 to cover costs associated with growing hemp and were waiting for the research phase to end so they could sell their products, which include drinks, soaps and lotions.

“We were supposed to be released from being research partners and be able to sell our products,” said Miller, who also serves as vice president of the Niagara County Farm Bureau. “But instead of that happening, (New York state) came out with the Hemp Extract Regulation.”

 
 

The new rules had a chilling effect on the small farms and businesses that invested after passage of the federal Agricultural Act of 2014, which allowed schools and farmers to grow the crop for research purposes, and the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, which made the production of hemp legal.

It was their work that the hemp industry was built on, Miller said, and now they’re being taken out of the picture.

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The promise of major cannabis reform made when Democrats captured Congress and the White House may be coming to fruition. 

Last week, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement announcing their intention to pursue “comprehensive cannabis reform legislation,” a draft of which will be released “in the early part of this year.” Following the statement, the group met with representatives from the cannabis industry to discuss equitable reform.

Yet obstacles to federal legalization remain, including a thin legislative majority and a president with a lukewarm record on marijuana. With input from industry experts, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that legalization may happen, and some of the roadblocks that could stop it.

Why Legalization Could Happen

Besides the new Democratic majority in the Senate, a number of factors could contribute to a loosening of federal laws on marijuana.

It’s Supported by a Supermajority of Americans

When it comes to cannabis, the will of the people is clearer than ever. Polling data by Gallup indicates more than two-thirds of Americans now support the legalization of cannabis. What’s more, 36 U.S. states or territories have approved medical cannabis programs, while 11 have legalized it for adult-use.

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Cannabis advocates have long called for allowing people to treat pain with marijuana rather than opioids. A new study shows that this is exactly what happens when you give people the freedom to choose between the two.

The study, published in The British Medical Association Journal, found that in United States counties, medical or recreational cannabis is available for purchase, the number of opioid-related deaths declined.

While the declines occurred with all types of opioids, including prescription painkillers, they found a profound decrease in deaths associated with synthetic opioids

“While the associations documented cannot be assumed to be causal, they suggest a potential association between increased prevalence of medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries and reduced opioid-related mortality rates,” the researchers wrote. “This study highlights the importance of considering the complex supply side of related drug markets and how this shapes opioid use and misuse.”

What the research shows

University of California-Davis professor Greta Hsu and Yale University professor Balázs Kovács worked together on the study. The pair looked at data from 812 counties in 23 states where the law allowed legal cannabis sales.

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A House legislative committee on Monday debated two bills legalizing cannabis for recreational use in New Mexico, ultimately sending one along to the House Taxation Revenue Committee and tabling the other. 

HB 12 and HB 17 both would have legalized cannabis for recreational use in New Mexico while taking different approaches to licensing and regulation. The bills were compared and debated at length in hearings on Saturday and Monday. 

Democratic state Reps. Tara Lujan of Santa Fe and Roger Montoya of Velarde cosponsored the latter bill, which was tabled on a 7-4 vote, effectively killing it, though committee members encouraged them to offer amendments incorporating aspects of their bill into HB 12. 

The version of the Cannabis Regulation Act that emerged from the committee provides a plan for regulating production, distribution and sales of cannabis to adults ages 21 and older through a new Cannabis Control Division at the state Regulation and Licensing Department. 

It would also permit home growing with no plant count limit, and cannabis licenses — unlike New Mexico liquor licenses — would not be limited in number, could not be bought and sold and would require annual renewal. 

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The coronavirus pandemic made 2020 one of the worst years financially for most industries in the United States. Restaurants, bars, airlines, oil and gas all saw hard times last year.

But one industry in Oklahoma saw a boon in 2020: Medical marijuana.

"Really taking a look at the tax numbers over that time, climbed really steadily, and reached a peak of $5.5 million in that excise tax collection in June of 2020," says Dr. Kelly Williams, the interim Director at the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. "Just a year before, in June of 2019, we only had $2.1 million in excise tax collection."

In all, Dr. Williams says the OMMA brought in $50 million through the 7% excise tax last year, a record and more than doubling 2019's total. And those sales also accrued more than $71 million in sales tax revenue for individual cities and communities.

"The sales tax revenue that has come into these smaller communities especially, or the larger cities even, has helped sustain those budget issues that they would have faced otherwise," said State Representative Scott Fetgatter (R-Okmulgee).

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On February 1, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement firmly stating his position on marijuana: It's time to legalize. Though that process will take time, the end of marijuana prohibition could usher in a host of new ways for people to consume their favorite strains recreationally. 

"The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color," Schumer wrote in a statement, alongside Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon. "Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country."

According to their statement, the three Democratic senators plan to release "a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform" in the early half of 2021. Schumer also says he plans to make it a priority for the Senate this year to legalize at the federal level. As of this reporting, 15 states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, while a total of 36 states permit medical marijuana use.

 

Schumer's words are a far cry from statements made by politicians of a bygone era who catapulted the nation into a lengthy (and expensive) war on drugs, which has led to despicable statistics, like "Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than their white peers," despite consuming cannabis at the same rate.

Nationwide legalization of cannabis use could not only help right these wrongs, but they could also benefit the American economy along the way. As American Progress reported, "Marijuana legalization would save roughly $7.7 billion per year in averted enforcement costs and would yield an additional $6 billion in tax revenue. The net total—$13.7 billion—could send more than 650,000 students to public universities every year." Legalization could also help spur an already burgeoning cannabis industry that is poised to add $130 billion a year to the U.S. economy by 2024 via sales, job creation, and the production of a few rather inventive new ways cannabis consumers enjoy their favorite varietals. 

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Medical cannabis legalization can come in many forms, and as such, not all medical cannabis programs, like dispensaries, are created equal.

On one end of the medical cannabis policy spectrum are countries that only permit limited use of CBD medicines/products.

Technically those countries have legalized medical cannabis, however, only in an extremely limited fashion.

On the other end of the spectrum are countries that have fully embraced cannabis as a medicine and patients have safe access to it, complete with the legal right to cultivate cannabis at home.

One component of a medical cannabis program is particularly important at least when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic.

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Legalizing and taxing commercial cannabis sales in Virginia could generate between $154 and $308 million by the fifth year of sales. Here’s what else you might find interesting.

On February 5th, state lawmakers voted to legalize cannabis in Virginia and establish a recreational market. Both chambers’ initiative would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana or less, and begin the process of expunging certain cannabis-related misdemeanors on July 1st. Retail sales are predicted to start in 2024, per the plans of both the House and Senate.

Virginia already has a medical marijuana program, but it’s limited compared to most states. Even so, the medical program is expected to be valued at $50 million in sales by 2024, and the adult-use market is poised to grow even bigger.

Here’s what you need to know about the newly introduced adult-use legislation in Virginia:

The vote passed through the Virginia General Assembly on February 5th

Both chambers passed the bill to legalize cannabis for adult use at the beginning of February. The bill was introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, who said “I think that Virginia is on a path to an equitable legalization plan for marijuana. There have been a few bumps, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have a polished bill we can agree upon in the next few weeks,” said Sen. Ebbin.

The House passed the bill 55-42

House Democrats were in favor of the bill, while Republicans were opposing it. The House’s version of the bill would maintain all cannabis criminal penalties until January 1st, 2024, when the first adult-use retail sale is set to take place.

Virginia Decriminalizes Marijuana

More than half of North Carolinians who responded to a recent survey said that they supported the legalization of recreational marijuana in their state, according to a poll conducted by Elon University. The survey found even stronger support for reducing penalties for marijuana offenses and the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The survey found that 54% of adults in North Carolina supported the legalization of recreational marijuana, while about a third (34%) were opposed. The remaining 12% said that they didn’t know. The results showed a marked increase in support compared to 2017, when about 51% said that they were opposed to recreational marijuana legalization and 45% said they supported the move.

“Opposition to recreational marijuana legalization fell substantially over the last three years,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science. “I suspect this is due in large part to the wave of states that have passed legalization measures. Medical marijuana legalization remains broadly supported in every demographic group we examined.”

Support Varies By Age, Political Party

Support for legalizing recreational marijuana varied significantly among different age groups and by political party affiliation, with younger respondents, Democrats, and those associated with neither major party showing a greater likelihood to approve the change.

“We found a major generational gap for recreational marijuana legalization with those under 44 being about twice as likely as those 65 or older to support legalization,” Husser said. “Notably, these large generational differences do not extend to support for medical marijuana and lowering criminal penalties. Most Republicans also supported reducing penalties and legalizing medical marijuana.”

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New York legislators have introduced a bill that would legalize smokable hemp flower, something that was conspicuously left out of the state’s recent suite of hemp regulations

Earlier this week, A2682/S4340 passed the state legislature’s Health Committee and advanced to the Codes Committee. The bill, introduced by State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, proposes direct sales of hemp flower from producers to consumers. 

Last fall, we spoke with Empire Standard CEO Kaelan Castetter, who said that much of the backlash against the state’s hemp and CBD regulations was focused on the flower ban. “It’s a bright spot in the marketplace,” he said, “and many people have been setting up to grow [flower].”

Allan Gandelman, president of the New York Cannabis Growers & Processors Association provided the following statement:

“The New York Cannabis Growers & Process Association is a coalition of New York based hemp growers and processors who actively advocate for laws and regulations that support and encourage a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable cannabis industry. We express our strong support for the passage of A-2682/S-4340 and our members recognize the urgent need to repair harmful regulations proposed by the NYS Department of Health that would prohibit the sale of hemp flower to the consumer.

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