Will the White House Crackdown on Cannabis?

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer just issued an ominous warning to pot smokers in the U.S.
“There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana,” he told reporters during a press briefing Thursday. When asked whether the government would take action against recreational marijuana, even in states where it’s legal, he replied, “I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it.”
In case you don’t know, the DOJ is headed up by the U.S. Attorney General, a man by the name of Jeff Sessions. In an earlier article, Marijuana Policy Under President Trump, I’ve already gone over all the reasons why Sessions is a terrible pick for this job. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) But in a nutshell: he’s a racist, who vehemently opposes cannabis use. And now it’s up to him to determine the Fed’s policy on marijuana.
Spicer also told reporters that, “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”
This just shows Spicer’s complete ignorance of cannabis, opioids, and addiction. It hearkens back to the old “gateway drug” idea, that isn’t backed by any evidence, whatsoever. In fact, what little evidence we do have suggests the opposite.
One study found that opioid overdose deaths fell by an average of 25 percent in states that legalized medical marijuana. According to the DPA (Drug Policy Alliance), two years after recreational pot was legalized, Colorado saw the rate of ALL drug charges — not just pot — decline by 23 percent. Which would seem to indicate that, when marijuana is legally available, people are less likely to turn to dangerous and illegal alternatives.
The truth is that cannabis does not have the same addictive properties as heroin and other opioids. Not to mention that no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, EVER. And there has never been a single study that shows marijuana use leads to use of other drugs. Not one.
Simply repeating it over and over again doesn’t make it true.
On the bright side, Spicer repeatedly emphasized that medical marijuana use would not be challenged. So the millions of people who depend on cannabis for their health and comfort can breathe a sigh of relief.
The Department of Justice has yet to make any comment regarding Thursday’s press briefing, despite many requests from the press. So all we can do is wonder: with 60 percent of the population in favor of legalization, and several states already legalizing recreational use, does the Trump administration really want to pick this fight?
And if so, is it a battle they can win?
Will state and local law enforcement agents continue to serve their communities, and enforce the will of the people? Or will they fall in line with the Fed, and do the bidding of the authoritarian regime occupying the White House?
Only time will tell.


Kushmoji is Making Cannabis Emojis that Market and Educate

Emojis are here to make our cannabis stories easier to tell. Kim Kardashian has emojis, Big Freedia has emojis, and even Devo has an emoji, so why shouldn’t cannabis have a whole set of them?
Kushmoji is like regular emoticons, connected to the keyboard of your phone, except that this set is all cannabis-centric. Want some examples? The collection ranges from a simple, green cannabis leaf, to a dab torch, to a woman’s hand holding a lit joint. The difference between Kushmoji and other emoticons—even other so-called cannabis versions—is that the images are clean-cut enough to use like education and marketing tools.
Kushmoji is already calling itself the “official” cannabis emoticon library although it is in its Beta version. But promises positioning with marijuana brands and products to make it more appealing from a marketing standpoint. Got a new product that you want to introduce to the marijuana market? Send it to Kushmoji creator, Ben Tyson and have him turn it into a vector graphic to add to the library. Think of it like a caricature of your item that your target audience gets to learn about by finding it among the other emojis. Like that time you kept using the Man in Business Suit Levitating because it reminded you of the “rude boy” logo found on The Specials’ records, but then you learned that it is supposed to be an exclamation mark. Except that Tyson’s team preempts your queries and embeds information about the product or tool in the actual keyboard, so you always know what you’re using in your picto-narrative.
Interestingly, Kushmoji is not the first to try tackling the cannabis emoji keyboard; they’re just the ones doing it differently. “We looked at the competition,” says Tyson in his latest interview with The Cannabist. “There are some that are better than others but what we found, in general, was that most of the competition was doing the cannabis subculture graphics, you know, the stoned faces or a lit joint. That’s such a small percentage of the demographic of cannabis users and enthusiasts, we thought, ‘Why not turn this into a tool where people can learn about the industry?'”
Look out for the Kushmoji app, launching soon, anywhere you can download apps.


DEA: Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug

Marijuana has been called a gateway drug for over 80 years.

The battle lines were drawn long before anyone currently driving the gateway debate had assumed power. Political figures have demonized cannabis and those who consume it for almost a century and worked to create a massive industrial prison complex designed to harvest people. Low income and minority people have borne the brunt of the assault.
Americans have been tricked into accepting the most ridiculous claims about cannabis and a whole generation of people have grown up behind bars because of it. Politicians have used slippery speech to sway public opinion and outright changed the law in order to suite their desires for decades. When Reagan and Clinton enacted laws that put more people in jail than the Romans had slaves.
Larry Anslinger didn’t care about how many would suffer without the healing properties of cannabis, he was motivated by an zealous hatred for the plant to create the movie Reefer Madness. President Nixon was motivated by a religious desire to punish people regardless of what his own investigators proved. Reagan had no mercy for people caught in the crossfire when he enacted draconian mandatory punishments for minor drug infractions.gateway

We stand at the dawn of a new era of American drug policy.

Despite an abundance of empirical evidence about the medical benefit of cannabis from reputable medical professionals from the Shafer Commission to Sanjay Gupta, it remains a schedule 1 controlled substance. This classifies weed as having “no medical benefits” and creates massive hurdles for scientists and doctors looking to research cannabis. It also puts it in the same medical category as heroin.
With the rise of Trump and the appointment of Jeff Sessions to Attorney General, the entire industry is bracing for another impact. Part of the collective wince comes from the evasive actions of top officials on the matter through election season. Instead of giving clear messages about how they plan to pursue policy, government officials are as vague as possible about how they plan to pursue policy.
This evasive attitude has made many wary of the how the Trump Administration plans to deal with cannabis. Statements in the past by Jeff Sessions like “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” and his past issues of discriminatory prosecution during the Civil Rights movement has helped to stir up old debates.

The debate surrounding legalizing marijuana has resurrected the Gateway Theory.

This theory presumes that experimenting with marijuana inevitably results in the use of harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Until recently, the DEA website contained dozens of lies and inaccuracies and it begrudgingly changed them only after being threatened with legal action.
Many people don’t know that it is illegal for federal agencies to spread incorrect information. Yet when it comes to cannabis, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been doing it for years. In less than a month, a petition from Change.org calling on the DEA by a to stop lying about medical cannabis received 85,000+ signatures.
The petition was started by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nonprofit organization working to increase access to medical cannabis. “The DEA has actually admitted that the theories that cannabis use leads to harder drugs (gateway theory), long-term brain damage, psychosis, and other alleged harms, are not based in scientific fact, and yet they keep distributing this false information”, says ASA. “[W]e have found 25 instances of these false claims on their website.”

The petition for updated information was direct and their arguments were air-tight.

The group argued that the document previously known as “The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse,” had a few inaccurate claims about cannabis.  They showed how the page was in violation of the Information Quality Act which requires that administrative agencies provide accurate information to the public. The DEA also had to respond to requests for correction of information within 60 days.
A separate petition was filed by the Department of Justice demanding that the DEA immediately update misinformation about cannabis. While neither the DEA nor the DOJ responded to ASA’s request, the document which contained the majority of the inaccurate statements was removed from their website.
But the governement is made up of more people than ever before. There is a lot of room for competing ideologies and goals to play out. A key observation of the Shafer Commission is that many of the risks of drug use are the result of drug policy/enforcement rather than from the drugs themselves.

The “gateway drug” stigma refuses to die.

A prime example of how this stigma presents itself is New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He wants to keep cannabis illegal in New York State because it “leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of truth to proof that that’s true.” He holds this view despite the results of a major study on medical marijuana conducted by the venerable Institute of Medicine, which included an examination of marijuana’s potential to lead to abusing other drugs.
The study found that “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” Even the DEA has gone on record to say “Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances,” while refusing to reschedule cannabis in August of 2016.
The continuing stigma prevents meaningful reform of marijuana laws by perpetuating harmful misinformation.  A Rasmussen poll found that a large percentage of Americans believe the gateway argument. Nearly half of voters (46%) believed marijuana use leads to harder drugs. Thirty-seven percent (37%) did not see marijuana as a “gateway” drug.

Patterns in progression of drug use are strikingly regular.

Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people come across. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs used marijuana before the harder stuff. In fact, most adult users begin with alcohol and nicotine long before moving on to cannabis and other illicit drugs.
In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a thorough study which researchers spent 12 years putting together. They tracked a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers reported that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also detrimental to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse.
The myth of the Gateway effect needs to be put to rest once and for all. The more research that is conducted the clearer it becomes that cannabis use does not lead to abuse of other drugs. Some promising research has also shown that cannabis can actually help people kick the other stuff like heroine. As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, it is more important than ever to put the gateway myth to rest. Thanks for reading.

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Six Medical Marijuana Entrepreneurs Share Their Latest Innovations

Medical Marijuana is legal in twenty-eight states. Wait, what?
Yes, more than half the population of the United States live in a place where they can legally use cannabis for medical purposes. The industry is developing rapidly, refining its growing and processing technologies, creating new products and building expertise among employees. And as regulation increases (product testing, child-safe containers, accurate labeling, etc.) the supply of cannabis has become safer.  Dispensaries are moving beyond the random supplier who shows up with the big baggie at the back door to tax-paying product-testing sources of cannabis.
Medical marijuana research is hamstrung by federal regulations of course, and many worry that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions will come down hard on the legal marijuana industry. Despite the risks, these entrepreneurs are investing time and resources to advance their products and their businesses. Here, six from around the country, share what they are working on.
Uri Zeevi, CEO of Seedo, an automatic hydroponic device that grows medical cannabis for home use without any human intervention or agricultural knowledge. “These home grow machines allow medical patients to produce high-quality cannabis on their own, without having to go to dispensaries for their medication, and ensure for the elimination of pesticides because it is an airtight, closed and locked systems. The home-grow machines also allow patients the freedom to choose the exact strain that will work best for their condition, and given that 8 states now allow home cultivation of cannabis, there’s no reason to believe the growth of this product type will slow anytime soon.”
Carrie Tice, Co-Founder of Octavia Wellness, a Direct Home Sales Company in California. “Direct sales are important in medical marijuana. Many patients, especially elderly ones, do not feel comfortable going into a dispensary and interacting with young budtenders that might not understand their needs. Home visits provide privacy and the time to discuss options. We focus solely on selling medical marijuana to senior citizens, customizing the packaging with large easy-to-read labels, simple instructions, home consultations and delivery.”
Jamie Rosen, CEO of Dr. Dabber, a Nevada-based vaporizer company specializing in portable, oil-compatible products: “Innovations in the vaporizer space, such as the development of electronic cannabis oil vaporizers and increasingly discreet pens, seem to be making a notable difference in medical marijuana patients’ lives. By allowing patients to consume cannabis without smoking, increasingly high-tech and high-quality vaporizers are making it easier for medical patients to access the treatments they need.”
Shanel Lindsay, Founder and President of Ardent, a Boston-based biotech and medical cannabis device company “Decarboxylation is a process applied to cannabis that, through sustained exposure to the correct temperatures, removes the acid molecule while leaving behind the THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis). Those consuming cannabis that isn’t properly decarboxylated end up losing 1/3rd or more of the available THC, while accurately decarboxylated cannabis allows for all of the THC to be retained. Advances in decarboxylation technology, as well as a rapid increase in understanding and acceptance of the process itself, will result in more users getting maximum benefits from their medicine.”
Serge Chistov, Business Advisor to Honest Marijuana, a Denver-based marijuana cultivation company that produces and packages cannabis flowers grown in organic soil: “Recent technological innovations are offering novel CBD consumption methods for patients. For example, CBD will soon be readily available to medical marijuana patients through strips similar to Listerine breath strips.”
JJ Southard, CBD Division Director at mCig, a publicly traded provider of grower services and cannabis products: “The most notable innovations to the medical marijuana industry lay in the ever expanding knowledge base of the professional cannabis essential oil/concentrate makers, lab technicians and product engineers. Not only are these areas continuing to expand and develop new methods and equipment, creating the best yields with the cleanest finished product possible, they also offer improved service to the patients, growers and edible manufacturers.”

Image: Display from Cannacon Cannabis Business Expo Seattle 2017 (source: J. Weed)

This post was originally published on: Forbes.


Cannabis or Cartels: Where are Trump and Sessions at these days?

President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have talked about a lot of things lately, but what they haven’t addressed is the big question of cannabis legalization—what will happen to the states who have legalized and will not-yet-legal states still have a chance to change their current legislation? And, at the very least, will they leave legalization decisions to the individual states?
Rumors of what the new administration want to do are flying. Like the one about Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling a reporter named “Rebecka Brian” that the government is “unlikely” to go after legalized states. After further investigation, MassRoots reported that the information was false. The Joint Blog was the one to publish the piece, but the quote remains unsubstantiated by Spicer. So, what are we to believe amidst all of these fake news, alt facts, and leaks?
Maybe we can trust what Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told Bob Moffitt on Capital Public Radio about his discussion with Jeff Sessions during a law enforcement convention. Jones says, “Regarding the prioritization of federal resources to combat marijuana, he didn’t see the federal government getting involved in marijuana use or low-level state, what are traditionally state and local crimes. But I don’t think he ruled out the possibility of the federal government getting involved in large-scale operations.”
Jones’ words indicate an attitude among the cabinet similar to that of Obama’s laissez-faire approach to state-by-state legalization. Instead, the sheriff says that the DEA will be busy hunting down and persecuting drug trafficking cartels.
The sentiment matches Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s desire to end national cannabis prohibition. As well as Trump, who said last week in front of law enforcement officials, “it’s time to stop the drugs from pouring into our country…and by the way, we will do that.”

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Mississippi the first to take down their legalization Bills for 2017

This year 26 state legislatures are considering bills about cannabis in some form (it was 27, but Mississippi has already stopped two of its medical marijuana bills). Some states are pushing their current legalization measures forward, and others are pulling back on those that were enacted in November. Just last week, Leafly updated their list of 28 states with pending cannabis bills they will be tracking this year because of one state who won’t be passing anything in 2017: Mississippi.
The hospitality state is showing no good will to Senate Bill 2378, which would have allowed physicians to recommend medical cannabis as a treatment for some conditions, and patients to grow their own herb, had a “pretty slim” chance of passing. Senate Bill 2379 would have removed marijuana and hashish from the state list of Schedule 1 controlled substances list, had a “fairly unlikely” chance of passing. Both died, as predicted, on January 31.
Among the Bills most likely to pass are the following:

  • Arizona’s House Bill 2003 to legalize adult use, possession, and sales of up to one ounce of cannabis.
  • All three anti-cannabis Bills in Arkansas, including a ban on smoking of medical cannabis (House Bill 1400), a measure to allow cities and towns to ban medical dispensaries and cultivation sites (House Bill 1391), and a ban on the production and sale of medicated edibles (House Bill 1392).
  • Senate Bill 175 in California, which aims to protect small cannabis businesses by disallowing the use of a county name for any product not produced in that county.
  • Senate Bill 16 of Georgia (which has already passed through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee) aiming to lower the amount of THC in low-THC MMJ from 5% to 3%.
  • Senate Bill 548 in Hawaii will probably soon allow cannabis for adult personal use, possession, and sale. And Senate Bill 16 will decriminalize possession of cannabis up to one ounce.
  • Senate Bill 798 in Maryland could soon reduce the penalties for the use and possession of fewer than 10 grams of cannabis, with a civil penalty of no more than $100.
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Cannabis Stock Index grew a whopping 236% in 2016

Cannabis-heavy stock portfolios are becoming as hot a topic as tech startups were the late 1990s. But Viridian Cannabis Stock Index seems to have the sunniest outlook, indicating a growth of 236 percent in 2016. That includes an almost 31 percent increase in the third quarter and 155 percent in the fourth quarter.
The one marijuana business listed on the New York Stock Exchange is called Innovative Industrial Properties; you may have heard of them because of their IPO in November. Although they are the only publicly traded marijuana industry stock on the NYSE, Innovative Industrial Properties is not really in the production or sales of pot. They are a Real Estate Investment Trust company that rents commercial properties out to the people who do the growth and storing of America’s fastest growing cash crop. After opening at 19.75 per share, the stock (listed as IIPR) dropped to 15.29 by December 5 and then climbed back to 18.14 on February 3, 2017.
The Cannabis Stock Index
Meanwhile, on the Over-the-Counter Market, Viridian Capital Advisors developed the Cannabis Stock Index, to keep tabs on 50 publicly traded legal marijuana companies starting in 2016. The index is categorized by the 12 different product/technology sectors that comprise the businesses that “touch the plant” and other core businesses of the legal cannabis industry that don’t. They include:

  • Agriculture technology
  • Biotech/pharma
  • Consulting services
  • Consumption devices
  • Cultivation & retail
  • Hemp
  • Investments/M&A (holding companies)
  • Infused products & extracts
  • Miscellaneous ancillary
  • Physical security
  • Real estate
  • Software/media

How does a business make it into the Cannabis Stock Index? They must meet the following criteria:

  • A $10 million market capitalization
  • An average daily trading volume of at least $20,000
  • A float (outstanding shares) of at least 25 percent
  • Financial reports filed on time for at least the last six months

The index is not yet tradable, though they are looking at future opportunities to convert it into a tradable entity. Still, it does offer insight into how marijuana investors are doing at a time when potential investors are taking a keen interest in Viridian’s weekly index status report on the state of the index. The Cannabis Index rose in a big way in the second half of last year, not surprising as legalization brought the US closer to full legalization.
Photo credit: Heath Korvola | Getty Images

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As Legal Weed Price Drops, What Can States Learn from California and Alaska?

One of the amazing things about Colorado’s booming cannabis economy is that it means production costs are steadily falling. But what does that mean for the tax revenue that has stringent ties to the wholesale prices? It’s a conundrum that is going to challenge the state throughout 2017 to keep weed profitable.
How cheap is legal marijuana becoming in Colorado? According to the Washington Post, Colorado’s Department of Revenue puts it at $1,471 per pound. That is a 24.5% drop from last year’s peak value. And sure, Colorado consumers and pot tourists have reason to celebrate, but it does create a stumbling block for policy-makers who have tied the wholesale price to the total amount of tax revenue they collect. Colorado charges a 15% tax on weed production. In 2016 that meant 15% cut of $1,948 per pound. But in 2017, that will mean 15% of only $1,471 gets collected.
It’s not just Colorado facing falling tax revenue. In all, it is something that Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada will have to confront as well before their marijuana prices reach their lowest levels, which experts predict could go as low as $50 per pound. For all of these states to continue turning a profit—and funding state programs, like education, infrastructure, and civic projects—from the nation’s biggest cash crop, policy and the collection of taxes from cannabis must evolve.
Luckily, California and Alaska seem to have already hit on a sustainable plan for their future that will allow cash to flow, and consumers to enjoy low weed prices. Alaska has a $50 per ounce flat tax that remains steady no matter what the wholesale price of pot reaches. In California, they levy a similar flat tax on growers, which keeps the state’s profits more steady even if wholesale prices drive their taxable revenue down. If the early-adopting states plan to keep their respective markets profitable, experts suggest they take note.
image: Brennan Linsley/AP

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A Timeline of Canada's Tainted Medical Pot Recall

Health Canada is about to start randomly testing of medical marijuana products from all of its licensed producers, especially looking for the presence banned pesticides. Here, in a timeline, are the events that lead to this Health Canada decision.
Late last year: Two of Canada’s licensed producers—Organigram of Moncton, N.B., and Mettrum of Toronto—voluntarily recall products because they contained myclobutanil, bifenazate and pyrethrins, three chemicals that are prohibited in the production of tobacco and marijuana.
January 2017: Nearly all of Organigram’s products sold in 2016 were pulled in a higher-level voluntary recall. Product recalls affected about 25,000 customers in total and some reports of illnesses could mean the possibility of a class action lawsuit down the road.
Last Tuesday evening: Health Canada releases an additional statement announcing a new measure beyond the recall, saying that it will begin random testing of medical cannabis products produced by all licensed producers. The testing will specifically target pest control products in the production of medical cannabis. “The expanded product testing program will further enhance the department’s existing regime of regular unannounced inspections of licensed producer facilities, as well as the controls in place by licensed producers,” reads the statement.
Now: A lawsuit is yet to be filed, but CBC News in Canada reports that more than 90 medical marijuana patients have contacted a medical malpractice law firm in Halifax.