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The Vape Pen Controversy Explained

The Vape Pen Controversy Explained

If you’ve watched the news over the past month, you probably think vaping can now kill you.

In today’s sensationalist news cycle, it has become the standard to over-exaggerate. Whether it’s about politics or a major health crisis, the media will always drive a narrative that gets people more worried, and gets them more views.

So it’s no surprise that when people started getting sick from vape pens the media would jump all over it.

The Vape Pen Controversy

It all started in September. A news story broke about someone getting some type of lung-related illness from a vape pen. At first, that was all. But then the story broke. The vape pen they were using had THC in it.

Cue the media leaping into hysteria, claiming that THC vape pens are making people sick. And if you watched the news around this time, there was a clear implication that it wasn’t something else in the pens causing harm, it was the THC. But that didn’t stop other outlets from claiming it wasn’t just THC vape pens to blame, but all vape pens.

Law commercials advocating law suits against Juul started to appear, and talks of a federal vaping ban ensued. Suffice to say, the media — and in turn the country — lost their collective shit.

The Truth

Of course all of the drama and freak out over vape pen related illnesses was based on half truths. Yes, people were in fact getting sick, and even dying, from THC vape pens. But there’s one thing that every single news story in the mainstream media failed to mention. Legality.

Out of over 400 cases of reported lung-related illnesses caused by vape pens, about 99% of them were caused by illicit vape pens. In other words, people purchased vape pen cartridges on the illicit market, and got sick. Why? Because of cutting agents.

Specifically, cartridge producers on the illicit market used vitamin E as a cutting agent. That doesn’t sound like a big deal right? We need vitamin E to stay healthy, you can eat it, you can put it in ointments, so why not a vape?

Well, it turns out that when you vaporize vitamin E, it converts to vitamin E acetate, a solid, viscous state. So these unknowing consumers would hit their pen, the vitamin E would convert to vitamin E acetate, and the residue would attach to the inside of their lungs. That causes some serious respiratory issues, and in a few cases, death.

Harmful Misinformation

There are already plenty of conspiracy theorists out there claiming big tobacco is the culprit for the major media focus on THC vape pens causing the problem. This would be an attempt to take down the vape pen industry that is the largest competitor to cigarettes. Others thought it was lobbying groups pushing to reverse the efforts of cannabis legalization.

But in all of the confusion, half-assed reporting and straight up false information, the people who really get hurt are the consumers. Not just those that are actually getting hurt by illicit vape pens because they don’t have access to safe, legal cannabis. But also your everyday cannabis consumer, and your medical user especially.

There are patients who don’t like to smoke, and choose to vape their medicine. With the rising concern surrounding vape pens, some dispensaries (and even entire states) have taken vape pens off of their shelves to make sure they are safe. Which is all well and good until the people who really need them can’t access them.

High Times Cannabis Cup or Fyre Fest 2.0?

High Times Cannabis Cup or Fyre Fest 2.0?

It was the first high Times Cup in Oklahoma, and very likely the last.

The hype before the event wasn’t any bigger than past cannabis cups. Just your average instagram posts from local dispensaries and brands that were going to attend, telling customers and attendees to stop by their booth.

But what people anticipated, and what actually happened at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma are two very different things. And not for the better.

The Background

High Times has always had a somewhat iffy reputation among the cannabis community, mainly for the company’s poor event planning year after year. Due to the nature of the event, hosting a cannabis cup in a medical only state can cause some problems on its own. Oklahoma happens to be a medical only state.

But that’s not all.

Oklahoma also has the most progressive and fastest growing medical cannabis industry in the country. The state’s medical laws allowed, and even encouraged, outside growers, processors and retailers to bring their experience and knowledge to the new state industry. And boy did they.

As it stands now, there are over 130,000 registered patients in Oklahoma, with over 1,300 dispensaries to service them. Oklahoma is the fastest-growing medical marijuana market in the average number of daily patient increases, and MMJ patients represent 4.1% of the state’s total population – one of the highest rates in the nation. Growth is bolstered by low barriers of entry, including the fact there’s no list of qualifying conditions for patients.

Unprepared, overwhelmed, and even dangerous

To say that the venue was under prepared for the first day of the Cannabis Cup would be a massive understatement. With a huge portion of attendees coming from out of state, and just as many in-state patients, Real Dirt sources on the ground estimated around 40,000 people in attendance.

Other than the fact that it was probably the largest cannabis cup attendance in history, it was also the largest shit show. VIP entrance began at noon, with hundreds of people waiting well past 2 PM to get in “early”. General admission began at 1 PM, which only added to the chaos. Thousands of people showed up at once, making parking a nightmare.

high times cannabis cup oklahoma

A photo from the line at the Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma, about 1/4 mile from the entrance. Photo by @OKCannaCo on Twitter.

After the parking lots filled up in the first hour, attendees began parking down the street, some well over a mile from the venue. On top of that there were insanely long lines, stretching over half a mile around the outside of the venue, through the parking lot and beyond. Keep in mind this is in 80+ degree weather with extremely high humidity.

With excessive wait times, high heat and no water, people became very unhappy, very quickly, with plenty of evidence on Twitter.

One person eventually got into the event, only to find that there was hardly enough food or water for everybody:

oklahoma cannabis cup problems

Others spent all day just waiting in line:

oklahoma cannabis cup 2019

But for a lot of people, the Oklahoma Cannabis Cup was reminiscent of the extremely hyped up, and extremely unsuccessful Fyre Festival:

high times cannabis cup in oklahoma was another fyre festival

While the High Times Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma may have been a huge success for the organizers and vendors that were able to make it, there were still hundreds if not thousands of people who paid for tickets and never even got into the venue. For those that got in however, the event was a blast and a great way to connect the local and national cannabis community in Oklahoma.

Day 2 of the Cup was inevitably less crowded due to many just avoiding it all together to save the hassle of another long day in line, and so it raises the question, will High Times be back to Oklahoma?

Probably. They vastly underestimated the Oklahoma cannabis community and the interest in cannabis in the state. If they High Times wants to return to Oklahoma, they will need to make some serious changes to the venue, entrance protocols and a lot more. If they do have another cup in Oklahoma, you can bet The Real Dirt will at least try to get in.

Are Big Cannabis Stocks Losing Steam?

Are Big Cannabis Stocks Losing Steam?

As the cannabis industry expands, so do cannabis IPOs.

In other words, as more and more states legalize cannabis, the opportunity to become a publicly traded cannabis company has become enticing to many in the industry. But restrictions are fierce.

Due to federal law in the United States, no plant-touching cannabis business — regardless of its operation in a legal state — can list their business in American stock markets. Which is why Canadian cannabis stocks have become the focus of any would-be cannabis investor.

Canadian Cannabis Stocks

Being the first first-world country to fully legalize the sale and consumption of cannabis, Canada is on the forefront of managing a nationwide industry. And with a 100% legal industry, Canadian cannabis companies are free to go public. This has led to some big companies all but taking over the entire marketshare of cannabis.

The three main competitors in Canada currently are Canopy, Aurora and Tilray. Over the last year, these companies went public with a bang, building up shares and raking in the investment dollars. But after the IPO, there has been a consistent decline in stock value for all of these companies.

While Tilray made close to $46 million in this quarter ended June 30, they still posted a loss of $32.9 million. The second place contender, Aurora is still holding strong with no reports of major losses that would impact shareholders. However Canopy, the largest marketshare holder in Canada’s industry isn’t showing great gains.

While none of these major stocks are in danger of bottoming out any time soon, the recent projections that show profitability is still some time away have some investors considering other options. This is leading to a rising interest in smaller cannabis stocks in Canada and the US.

Smaller Cannabis Stocks Rising Up

No “small” business is going to be listed on the stock exchange, which means even the smaller cannabis stocks we talk about here are still going to be relatively large businesses. It is also important to keep in mind that as big as Canada is in size, it’s legal cannabis industry is relatively small compared to the U.S.

For example, while Colorado has an average of one cannabis dispensary to every 10,000 people, Ontario has one store for every 600,000 people, and Quebec only has one store for ever 500,000. That’s a lot of people for one location to service, which means that demand is high for quality products from whoever is selling it.

While Canopy made a lot of money in the topical, oils, and edibles market, they failed to account for the demand for high-THC products, including cannabis flower. Now they are changing their strains and upping their THC content, but until that happens, smaller companies can come in and get the deals.

Companies like Supreme Cannabis Co., MediPharm Labs Corp. and Pure Sunfarms Corp. all posted positive gains and earnings this quarter. Pure Sunfarms Corp. even reported a net income of $37.2 million Canadian, which is the largest net income reported to date in the Canadian market.

What’s next for cannabis stocks

There are people who are paid a lot more money than me to determine the future of cannabis stocks, so I won’t even try to guess. What I can say though, is that Canadian cannabis stocks aren’t going to be the only option in the near future.

While plant-touching businesses cannot be listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ, ancillary businesses are all fair game in the United States. This opens the door for companies that design the containers that cannabis is sold in, paraphernalia manufacturers, and other businesses that supply equipment, legal services and more to the legal cannabis industries around the country.

Whether or not companies in these fields will list themselves is up to them, just as deciding whether or not to invest in them is up to you. But The Real Dirt will do its best to keep you updated on exciting stocks and news that you should know about the industry. 

Illinois Legalization: Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize cannabis

Illinois Legalization: Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize cannabis

Illinois residents can soon enjoy cannabis freely in their home state, they just have to wait a while.

Illinois has become the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize cannabis for recreational use after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that will allow the licensed growth, sales, possession and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older. One of Pritzker’s campaign promises, the bill also implements the nation’s first comprehensive statewide cannabis marketplace designed by legislators.

Suffice to say the governor was excited to sign the bill into law, and said that it was long overdue in the state. However Illinoisans will still need to wait a while to start working in the cannabis industry in the state.

Illinois Legalization

With this new bill comes a few big steps for the state of Illinois. The bill will allow the licensed growth, sales, possession and consumption of cannabis for adults 21 and older, allowing possession of up to an ounce for residents, and 15 grams for non residents.

Illinois is also the first state to fully legalize commercial sales of cannabis through the legislature, rather than through referendum. But one aspect of this bill that will start impacting individuals immediately, is the expungement clause.

Pritzker emphasized that the law provides for automatic expungement of arrests for marijuana possession under 30 grams, and that he will pardon those with convictions for possession up to 30 grams. Individuals and prosecutors may go to court to seek expungement of cases involving up to 500 grams.

“Today we are giving hundreds of thousands of people the chance at a better life,” Pritzker said.

Once the market grows to maturity, the program is estimated to generate $500 million a year in taxes. That would come from a 10% tax on products with up to 35% THC, the component of the plant that gets users high; 20% for cannabis-infused products such as edibles; and 25% for THC concentrations of more than 35% — plus local sales taxes.

In a concession to law enforcement, an earlier provision to allow adults to grow five plants each at home was eliminated. Instead, only certified medical marijuana patients would be allowed to grow up to five plants each at home.

Now What?

While the bill has been signed into law, Illinois won’t be selling recreational cannabis to its citizens anytime soon. The permits the sale of legal cannabis products starting in January of 2019. So while not that far away, Illinoisans still have over 6 months to wait before they can purchase or grow their own cannabis.

The governor emphasized that 25% of the revenue from marijuana taxes will go to marijuana business ownership in black and brown communities that were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. In addition, 20% will go to substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health care, with additional funds going to pay the state’s bills, law enforcement and public education on marijuana health issues.

To address concerns that cannabis retail shops will end up concentrated in minority neighborhoods, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a co-sponsor of the bill, said there are minimum distances between shops to avoid a “liquor store on every corner“ phenomenon.

Local governments can still ban marijuana businesses or set rules to determine where they are allowed. While municipalities cannot prohibit people from possessing marijuana, landlords can still keep it off their property and employers can prohibit use by their employees.

It’s going to be an intense 6 months in the Illinois legislature as application processes begin and citizens start applying en masse. The state will need to establish how many applications it approve, and how many licenses will be given out to commercial growers, processors and retailers.

Stay tuned on The Real Dirt for updates about Illinois legalization and what’s happening with the cannabis industry development in the state.

Is New York Next to Legalize Cannabis?

Is New York Next to Legalize Cannabis?

New support from New York’s Farm Bureau could be the final push the state needs to legalize cannabis. But will it be enough?

The New York Farm Bureau issued a memo Monday backing a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New York, which lawmakers are considering before they end their annual session June 19. And farmers have a lot to gain if this bill passes and New York decides to legalize cannabis.

This bill specifically includes measures meant to ensure struggling farmers in New York’s poorer counties get a chance to break in to the marijuana and hemp industries. While the farming industry in New York isn’t in any risk of shutting down any time soon, getting preferential treatment should the state legalize cannabis would mean big money for the industry.

What’s in the New York Bill to Legalize Cannabis

The bill, should it pass, would create a new Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the recreational and medicinal marijuana industries, as well as the hemp industry.

Only those above the age of 21 would be able to legally purchase marijuana, and local governments would have the ability to hold a public referendum to block legal sales within their borders. This has happened in states like Massachusetts, where local governments kept cannabis illegal despite the state’s decision to legalize cannabis for adult us.

The bill overall is relatively standard for states that legalized in the past. Adult use, cultivation and sale will be permitted, but until the bill passes, there won’t be an Office of Cannabis Management to begin working on the details.

Farmers Might Not Be Enough

While the Farmers Bureau represents over a thousand farms in New York state, the only votes that matter in this case are those of the Democrats in New York. 30 Democrats have gotten on board with the bill, but 32 are needed to pass without any Republican support.

However the Democrats are confident that the bill will at least have enough votes to pass the lower chamber, and Governor Cuomo of New York has pledged to sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

New York has the third largest population of any state in the country, an a legal cannabis market would bring in massive amounts of revenue to the state. While California has had a slew of problems since they legalized cannabis due to the surplus of private market growers and illegal dispensaries, New York wouldn’t have the same problem.

If done right, New York could potentially become the new cannabis hub of the world. But that is a big IF.

Should New York legalize, there’s going to be a bunch more farmers planting clones outside for the very first time. Luckily The Real Dirt has that covered.
CBD Laws Could Be Changing

CBD Laws Could Be Changing

CBD has gotten too big for the FDA not to intervene. The question now is what are they going to decide?

Contrary to the hundreds of CBD products you can buy online and at your local health store that would suggest otherwise, CBD isn’t technically legal. However it isn’t technically illegal either. And that’s why there’s a problem.

CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. A relative of the cannabis plant that was just legalized, hemp, also contains CBD. With hemp legal, people saw no problem in breeding hemp specifically for CBD to make products.

However, CBD was not included in the legislation that legalized hemp, and because it is also found in psychoactive cannabis cultivars, there’s some controversy over whether or not it should be legal. Now almost 6 months after legalization, the FDA is finally getting involved.

FDA CBD Laws

With economists predicting that the CBD industry could reach a market worth of $16 Billion by 2025, the FDA has no choice but to make a regulation decision. Compared to other non-FDA approved products, CBD is already much more well known and popular, and even dangerous, should the FDA decide so. Which is why their decision is so important.

During a hearing at the end of May, the FDA will be presented with remarks from manufacturers, consumers, health professionals, academics, and more on scientific data and information about CBD products that contain cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, such as CBD.

Because of the wide range of uses for CBD, from foods and face creams to pills and oils, the FDA needs to regulate CBD more strictly compared to other ingredients that may just be used in one specific product. With now CBD laws specifically on the books, more and more pressure is being placed on the FDA to regulate.

Potential Outcomes

There are a lot of way the FDA could decide to regulate CBD laws. In the worst case scenario, they could ban CBD altogether. This is pretty unlikely, as the now ex-Commisioner of the FDA had stated in February of 2019 that the FDA would take a more “flexible” approach to CBD regulation.

What seems more likely, is the FDA regulating CBD to only be allowed to be extracted from legal, industrial hemp, while banning CBD extraction from cannabis, i.e. any other cannabis plant with a THC level over .3%. They could also permit CBD extraction from any cannabis plant as long as there is no THC included.

All we can do for now is speculate while the hearing takes place, but many CBD business owners and entrepreneurs will be anxiously awaiting the results.

The Future of the CBD Industry

It’s probably safe to say at this point that if the FDA did decide to ban CBD altogether, there would be massive, nationwide outrage. From the parents who use CBD as medicine for children with epilepsy, to the avoid CBD consumers who have made the cannabinoid an essential element of their daily nutrient routine.

While obviously the former would be most negatively affected by a full CBD ban, it would be the masses who consume CBD recreationally that would have the biggest voice in the matter. And with so many hopping on board the CBD bandwagon, we can assume CBD isn’t going anywhere.

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