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Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission meets for the first time

Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission meets for the first time

Alabama medical cannabis commission meets for the first time
A Dothan area oncologist was elected as the chairman of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The members of the newly formed Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission on Thursday met in a formal session for the first time for an organizational meeting in Alabama’s historic 1859 Capitol Building.

“You truly have a lot of work cut out for you,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told the commission members. “It will be up to you, those who have been appointed by many elected leaders around the state, to establish a criteria for medical cannabis production in Alabama.”

“I can’t urge you strongly enough to keep transparency and efficacy foremost in your mind,” Ivey told the members of the new commission. “The task before you is providing legal use for medical cannabis,” Ivey said. “We simply have to get this right.”

The Alabama Legislature shocked many observers, on both sides of the marijuana debate; when legislators elected to jettison the hotly debated gambling bill and pass medical marijuana legalization in the 2021 legislative session instead. Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, had carried the legislation three years in a row, with it finally passing after an 11-hour debate on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives in May.

The members of the commission voted to make Dr. Steven Stokes the chairman of the commission. Rex Vaughn was voted in as co-chair of the Commission. Stokes then s appointed a subcommittee tasked with searching for an executive director of the commission.

“We have a long way to go and a short time to get there,” Stokes told the commission, quoting from the southern classic: ‘Smokey and the Bandit. The Commission must have a program in place to certify physicians to recommend medical marijuana in place by Jan 1, 2022. Stokes assigned a subcommittee to work on this task.

“We are going to have to meet at least once a month,” Stokes said. Meetings will be “the second Thursday of each month at least through the first of the year until we get organized and up and going.”

“Patient wants this,” Stokes said. “They campaigned for this; but there are also a lot of people who have a problem with this. They are concerned that this would be a gateway for more drug abuse.”“For a cancer patient there is a great benefit,” Stokes, an oncologist from Dothan, said. “But at least half of the homeless have an addiction problem. We don’t want to increase substance addictions.”

Wyoming medical cannabis ballot initiative clears first hurdle

Wyoming medical cannabis ballot initiative clears first hurdle

Wyoming medical marijuana bill clears first hurdle
Wyoming’s medical cannabis ballot initiative cleared its first major hurdle on Wednesday.

The Wyoming Secretary of State certified the required sponsor signatures to begin the process. Only 100 were needed, supporters of medical cannabis in Wyoming provided 250.

The Libertarian Party, which is backing the initiative, said it now allows supporters to start gathering 41,776 signatures from people across Wyoming. If that is successful, it would qualify to go before voters on the 2022 ballot. The initiative would legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize marijuana for personal use.

As FOX 13 reported earlier this year, one of those who worked on Utah’s medical cannabis ballot initiative is now in Wyoming to push that state toward legalization.

“The Wyoming advocates behind this effort have worked very hard to draft initiatives that will work for the people of Wyoming. We are excited to begin the signature gathering process to let everyone in Wyoming have a voice,” said Christine Stenquist of the group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) in a statement.

Like Utah, medical cannabis advocates in Wyoming had tried to persuade their legislature to legalize it and create a program. When that failed, they launched the ballot initiative.

Texas lifts ban on smokable hemp, with caveats

Texas lifts ban on smokable hemp, with caveats

Texas lifts smokable hemp ban but it can't be grown in state

An appeals panel in Texas issued a mixed judgment Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on smokable hemp. Regulators may enforce a ban on the processing and manufacture of products intended for smoking or vaping, the court ruled, but it cannot prevent such products made elsewhere from being sold in the state.

The decision creates a situation in which consumers may be able to freely purchase smokable hemp flower and hemp-derived CBD oils for vaping, but only if the products are produced outside Texas.

Four Texas companies challenged the ban in a lawsuit last year, asking the court to declare the restrictions unconstitutional and allow hemp products intended for smoking or vaping to be produced and sold legally. In response, a state judge eventually put the entire ban on hold, preventing the government from enforcing it until the matter could be resolved in court.

In Thursday’s ruling, a three-justice panel of the Third District Court of Appeals drew a distinction between the processing and manufacturing of smokable hemp—which lawmakers strictly prohibited its production when they legalized hemp in 2019—and distribution and sales, which regulators at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) forbade under a rule adopted a year later.

Writing for the panel, Justice Melissa Goodwin reasoned that lifting the ban on product sales was justified because the DSHS restriction went beyond the scope of lawmakers’ manufacturing ban.

“The Legislature required that the Department’s rules must reflect the principle that ‘the processing or manufacturing of a consumable hemp product for smoking is prohibited,’ but did not mention retail sale,” the judgment says. “Nevertheless, the Department adopted a rule that banned not only the processing and manufacturing of consumable hemp products for smoking, but also the distributing and retail sale of such products.”

On the other hand, the panel’s ruling will allow lawmakers’ ban on production and manufacturing of smokable hemp products to take effect. Thursday’s ruling reversed a lower court’s decision to prevent the state from enforcing that part of the ban.

“Because the Hemp Companies never provided ‘a plain and intelligible statement of the grounds’ to enjoin the enforcement of rule 300.104’s bans on manufacturing and processing consumable hemp products for smoking, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the temporary injunction and enjoining the enforcement of that portion of the rule,” Goodwin wrote.

Advocates in favor of broader legal access to cannabis products emphasized the significance of the court’s decision to allow smokable hemp to be sold in the state. But they lamented the fact that in-state manufacturing of the products will remain illegal.

“The reversal of the ban on distributing and selling smokable hemp products is a big win for Texas farmers and hemp businesses. It is extremely important that regulatory overreach is kept in check so that Texas companies are not prevented from excelling in this market,” Jax Finkel, executive director of Foundation for an Informed Texas, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday. “I am hopeful that manufacture portion of the suit will end in a similar opinion.”

Some Chicago cannabis license lottery winners are selling to the highest bidders

Some Chicago cannabis license lottery winners are selling to the highest bidders

Chicago cannabis license winners already selling off licenses

State law doesn’t prohibit the new licensees from unloading for millions of dollars and potentially “giving it away to the white boys again,” one critic said.

The applicants waited for more than a year for a chance to jump into Illinois’ booming weed industry.

But now that they have won lucrative cannabis licenses to open marijuana dispensaries, craft grow operations or other related businesses, some could sell the licenses before ever opening up — potentially collecting millions in the process.

With the state’s troubled cannabis licensing process careening toward a conclusion, corporatized weed firms and other cash-rich buyers are now expected to go after the new licenses — many of which are slated to go to so-called social equity applicants, a designation created to boost diversity in the lily-white weed industry.

Rickey Hendon, a former state senator who won a dispensary license in last week’s lottery, acknowledged he and other companies are now entertaining a host of proposals to sell to owners with deeper pockets. A court order in a pending lawsuit has, however, blocked the formal issuance of the pot shop permits for now.

“Of course some of the smaller companies are listening to all kinds of offers,” said Hendon, who became a de-facto spokesman for social equity candidates after they were shut out of the initial licensing process a year ago. “I’m listening to all kinds of offers.”

Hendon, who said he is merely exploring his options, believes a cannabis license could fetch between $3 million and $15 million, depending on which statewide region it allows a buyer to set up shop.

An industry source, however, estimated that each of the 185 new pot shop permits is likely worth much less, between $1 million and $3 million. The source pegged the going rate at $4-$5 million for each of the 40 new craft cultivation licenses, which were announced last month along with other permits to infuse and transport cannabis products.

But critics say the potential massive selloff goes against the spirit of the legalization law and the recent trailer bill Hendon helped write, both of which went to painstaking lengths to give people of color ownership in the highly profitable industry. What’s more, some fear predatory forces will attempt to take advantage of social equity firms trying to turn a quick profit.

Edie Moore, a fierce proponent of diversifying the industry who serves as the executive director of Chicago NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, couldn’t hold back her frustrations about the prospect of social equity firms now dumping cannabis licenses so many in the state fought hard to get to them.

“I’m not upset for people who want to get a payday. But I thought that they had got into this business to be in this business, not to just make a quick buck,” said Moore, who helped write the latest pot law and has already won a dispensary permit.

“That’s what we were fighting for,” she added. “For people to build generational wealth on owning and building and creating something within their communities, not giving it away to the white boys again.”

Historical First: Ohio Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced by Lawmakers

Historical First: Ohio Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced by Lawmakers

ohio cannabis legalization bill introduced

Ohio lawmakers on Friday formally introduced a bill to legalize marijuana possession, production and sales—the first effort of its kind in the state legislature. This comes as activists are pursuing a separate ballot initiative that would effectively force the legislature to consider similar cannabis reforms.

Reps. Casey Weinstein (D) and Terrence Upchurch (D) filed the legislation, weeks after circulating a co-sponsorship memo to colleagues to build support for the measure.

The 180-page bill would legalize possession of up to five ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow them to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. It also includes provisions to expunge prior convictions for possession and cultivation activities that are being made legal under the measure.

A 10 percent excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with revenue first going toward the cost of implementation and then being divided among municipalities with at least one cannabis shop (15 percent), counties with at least one shop (15 percent), K-12 education (35 percent) and infrastructure (35 percent).

“It’s time to lead Ohio forward,” Weinstein said in a press release. “This is a big step for criminal justice reform, for our veterans, for economic opportunity, and for our individual liberties.”

The state Department of Commerce would be responsible for overseeing the program and issuing cannabis business licenses.

 

Individual municipalities could restrict the type and number of marijuana that operate in their area. The bill specifically states that the state’s existing medical marijuana program would not be impacted by the establishment of an adult-use market.

“This bill is much needed in Ohio, and it’s time for Ohio to become a national leader in marijuana decriminalization and legalization,” Upchurch said. “This bill is more than just about legalization, it’s about economic and workforce development, it’s about decriminalization, and it’s about healthcare! The time is now, and I look forward to getting this done in a bipartisan fashion.”

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is likely to oppose the effort given his record, but activists have effectively demonstrated through local initiatives that voters in the state broadly support enacting a cannabis policy change.

A newly formed organization called the the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) is also actively collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would separately force lawmakers to consider taking up legalization legislation once a certain signature gathering threshold is met.

More states impose cannabis potency laws

More states impose cannabis potency laws

states are imposing cannabis potency restrictions and taxes

In addition to THC limits, some states are likely to adopt potency-related taxes.

Many states have already established or are planning to establish new laws for the legal cannabis industry based on the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in products.

In 2020, Illinois imposed a potency-related tax for all marijuana sales, followed by New York this past March. According to ABC News, Vermont plans to limit the amount of THC in products when the state opens up its legal cannabis market in 2022, with the percentage of THC in any amount of recreational pot set at 30% for flower-form marijuana and 60% for concentrates.

Virginia’s new legalization law aims to give the state’s future Cannabis Control Authority the power to establish THC limits in recreational products and put a cap on THC in medical marijuana. Currently, in states where it’s legal, marijuana is taxed on the established sale price or weight. But with the new laws in Illinois and New York, more states are likely to follow their lead and adopt potency-related taxes on recreational sales.

‘Recriminalization’ at play?

While these changes in state laws are aimed at discouraging the production and sale of highly concentrated cannabis products, the idea of calculating taxes based on potency is getting some pushback. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), this is a type of “recriminalization” of sorts. “[The] consumer demand for [high-potency] [cannabis] products is not going to go away, and recriminalizing them will only push this consumer base to seek out similar products in the unregulated illicit market,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s World Drug Report 2021, cannabis potency has quadrupled over the past two decades, while the percentage of adolescents who perceived the drug as harmful fell by as much as 40%.

Clearly, many states are taking this increase in cannabis potency as a serious issue. In fact, some states have already begun limiting the amount of THC milligrams contained in a single serving and packaged cannabis products, while others have prohibited the use of high-potency cannabis altogether. Whether these practices help effectively reduce the production, sale or harmful use of products containing high THC levels remains to be seen.

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