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US to ban Backwoods, Swishers and other flavored blunt wraps

US to ban Backwoods, Swishers and other flavored blunt wraps

US government may ban blunts

Your illegal weed dealer might be adding menthol cigarettes and smuggled Backwoods and Swisher Sweets to their offerings next year.

On Thursday, April 29, the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars, starting in 2022. The FDA’s proposal responds to a lawsuit from the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council calling for the national ban, which would target makers and sellers, not users, of menthols and flavored cigars.

Tobacco companies will likely challenge the decision in court, according to Stat News.

But such a ban would affect many cannabis consumers—primarily Black smokers—who roll marijuana into flavored tobacco or cigar leaves, commonly called a blunt. Half of cigar sales in 2020 were two flavored brands: Black and Mild, followed by Swisher Sweets.

A 2020 study found that a third of weed consumers smoke blunts, while almost two-thirds of Black weed consumers smoke blunts. A separate study of blunt wrap brand Backwoods-tagged content on Instagram found that half of #backwoods posts were marijuana-related.

FDA confronts a health inequity

The FDA wants to reduce tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death in the US. The agency stated that banning menthols and flavored cigars would reduce the number of kids who start smoking, and encourage menthol smokers to quit.

The FDA also said it specifically wants to reduce the number of Black Americans dying from tobacco. Three-quarters of Black smokers smoke menthols.

“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

Banning menthols may cause 923,000 US smokers to quit, including 230,000 Black Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect. An earlier study claims the ban would prevent 633,000 deaths, including about 237,000 deaths averted for African Americans.

To do that, massive tobacco companies and distributors would face punishment for making, distributing, and selling menthols and flavored tobacco no earlier than next year.

Alabama House takes no vote on medical marijuana after 9-hour debate

Alabama House takes no vote on medical marijuana after 9-hour debate

Alabama medical marijuana fails to pass in the House

Republicans in the Alabama House of Representatives blocked a vote tonight on a bill to legalize, regulate, and tax medical marijuana.

The House adjourned at 11:43 p.m. after debating the legislation more than nine hours. They will return at 8 a.m. Thursday.

“I hope and pray that we take up where we’re at and we stay with this until we get an up or down vote,” Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, the House sponsor of the bill, said. “And I think you can see from the votes so far that there is a huge amount of support in this body, bipartisan support.”

Ball was referring to procedural votes on the bill today that passed by wide margins. But the final vote did not come tonight.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said tonight as he left the chamber that the House would return to the medical marijuana bill Thursday morning. McCutcheon said he expects there will be a vote Thursday.

The speaker said the House on Thursday will also consider the bills to allow a lottery and six new casinos in Alabama. Those bills were approved in a committee Tuesday. The key bill in the three-bill package is a constitutional amendment that would require approval by voters in November 2022.

The final vote on medical marijuana never came tonight because a handful of lawmakers made repeated trips to the mic to delay it. McCutcheon said there was not enough support to pass a petition for cloture, which would have cut off the debate. The Republican majority has used cloture petitions to end Democratic filibusters during this session, but in this case would have been shutting off a filibuster by Republicans.

Still, the medical marijuana bill is closer than ever come to becoming law. It has passed the Senate three times but has never come up for a vote in the House.

Several Republican lawmakers opened the debate today by expressing staunch opposition to medical marijuana, saying it would move the state in the wrong direction and they were surprised it was being considered in Alabama.

But the bill cleared a procedural motion that was necessary for the debate to continue. The vote was 69-31. Another procedural vote passed 71-20. The debate continued after that until the House adjourned.

The legislation would set up a system to regulate the production and use of medical cannabis products from the cultivation of the plants to the sales of products at dispensaries.

Doctors could recommend medical marijuana for more than a dozen symptoms and conditions, including chronic pain, nausea and weight loss from cancer, seizure disorders, PTSD, muscle spasms from certain diseases, and others.

The bill, by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, has already passed the Senate. Melson, a physician and medical researcher, said the 69-31 procedural vote was a strong sign that the House would pass the bill tonight.

“I have no doubt that it’s going to pass if it’s given a vote,” Melson said.

Illinois Cannabis Sales Smash Records, Surpass Alcohol

Illinois Cannabis Sales Smash Records, Surpass Alcohol

Illinois cannabis sales surpass alcohol

Legalized cannabis sales in Illinois continue to smash all sorts of records, with the state now exceeding $1 billion in recreational weed sales and setting a new record for sales in the month of April.

According to the latest data available from the state’s Department of Revenue, Illinois recorded nearly $115 million in sales in the month of April alone, the highest-grossing month since cannabis became legal last year.

By comparison, the state saw $37 million in sales during the month of April in 2020.

In all, Illinois has now racked up $1,064,750,968 in recreational cannabis sales since legalization took place. Of those sales, nearly $777 million were made to in-state residents, according to the Department of Revenue.

The state also set another remarkable record in the first quarter of 2021, with tax revenues for cannabis sales ($86 million) exceeding those of liquor ($72 million) for the first time ever, according to Newsweek.

If current trends continue, the state is expected to surpass $1 billion in sales during 2021, according to officials.

Massachusetts to allot 70K acres for cannabis, hemp production

Massachusetts to allot 70K acres for cannabis, hemp production

Massachusetts hemp gets ok for land use

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources released updated guidance on Wednesday making way for more than 70,000 acres belonging to its Agricultural Preservation Restriction and Farm Viability Enhancement programs to be used to grow cannabis and hemp.

The APR program was established in 1977 and offers to pay farmland owners the difference between fair market value and the agricultural value of their farms in exchange for permanent deed restrictions which preserve farmland for agricultural use in the future, according to the department website.

The Farm Viability Enhancement Program, in turn, provides business and technical assistance to established farmers through grant funding, in exchange for signing an agricultural covenant on the farm property to keep it in agricultural use for a five-, 10- or 15-year term, per the state website.

Under the new guidance released last week, both hemp and cannabis production will now be allowed on APR and Farm Viability Enhancement lands, so long as the land in question isn’t federally funded, because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.

Although the DAR did not say how many APR lands are beholden to federal restrictions, the guidance noted nearly all recently acquired APRs were purchased with federal financing.

Still, the new guidance effectively opens options for APR farmers interested in adding or transitioning to the cannabis and hemp markets.

“The department looks forward to working with APR and Agricultural Covenant landowners and the farming community on the implementation of this new interpretation and has prepared the following guidance,” the department said in its announcement.

Las Vegas Braces for Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Las Vegas Braces for Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Las Vegas cannabis lounges

Cannabis lounges, where patrons can smoke a joint, rip a bong, vaporize a dab or do just about anything else you can think of with the plant, appeared to be a certainty as part of a Las Vegas ordinance back in 2017—and then again in 2019. They’ve been talked about for over four years in the entertainment capital of America.

But this time around, after years of setbacks and political meddling from the rival gaming industry, a bill at the Nevada State Legislature is on track to settle the score once and for all.

Assembly Bill 341 would pave the way for an unlimited number of lounges to open across the state, in counties where local governments allow cannabis businesses to operate. That includes in Sin City, where over 40 million tourists visited each year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This would really open the floodgates for something marijuana users have wanted for a long time,” said Assemblyman Steve Yeager, a Democrat from Las Vegas who sponsored the bill. “And there’s a social equity part to it where we’re not restricting this just to licensed dispensary owners.”

Yeager, in his third term at the state’s biennial legislature, has felt the frustration himself. Long considered the heir apparent to former State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who was known as Nevada’s “Godfather of Marijuana,” Yeager watched as the fledgling industry offered all of its spoils to a tiny group of anointed business owners, most of whom were lawyers, doctors, casino operators, lobbyists and former public officials.

Less than 100 groups control almost all of the industry, as the state capped dispensary licenses from the adult-use program’s inception in 2017.  Many of the companies are also vertically integrated, meaning dispensary owners also hold the lion’s share of production and cultivation permits. Disproportionately left out have been women and racial minorities, the latter group of which was most harmed by cannabis prohibition.

The new bill runs so contrary to the state’s years of meticulously restricting licenses and hand-picking operators that many dispensary owners are wondering if opening a lounge is even worth the investment.

“You have to figure out if you can make any money with them,” said David Goldwater, owner of Inyo, a dispensary located just over a mile from the Las Vegas Strip. “There’s going to be a ton of new competition.”

Texas House Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

Texas House Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

Texas house votes to decriminalize marijuana

The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday approved bills to decriminalize marijuana possession and significantly expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

These are the latest developments to come amid a week that has seen multiple pieces of reform legislation advance in the chamber, including separate measures to reduce penalties for possessing marijuana concentrates and require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA.

The bill to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, making the offense a class C misdemeanor that does not come with the threat of jail time, was approved on second reading in the chamber by a voice vote.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D), would also end the threat of being arrested for low-level possession and give people the opportunity to avoid a conviction by providing for deferrals and dismissals. A final vote on third reading is still needed to formally send the bill to the Senate.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session.

The separate medical cannabis expansion proposal was given final passage in the House in a 134-12 vote, sending it to the Senate. It would add cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as conditions that could qualify people for the state’s limited medical cannabis program. The bill passed in the House Public Health Committee earlier this month.

The legislation would further allow the Department of State Health Services to add more qualifying conditions via administrative rulemaking. And it would also raise the THC cap for medical marijuana products from 0.5 percent to five percent.

While advocates appreciate that Texas lawmakers are moving to expand the state’s existing program, they feel it can be improved upon and hope to see amendments to give more patients access to cannabis when it arrives in the Senate.

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