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Michigan university becomes first to offer cannabis chemistry scholarship

Michigan university becomes first to offer cannabis chemistry scholarship

A university in Michigan is adding a cannabis chemistry degree to its curriculum

A degree in cannabis chemistry? Yes please.

Lake Superior State University established the nation’s first chemistry program focused on cannabis when it launched The Cannabis Center of Excellence in 2019 — and now, the school is offering its first scholarship.

Steadfast Labs, a Michigan-based research facility with the goal of ensuring access to safe cannabis medicine, has established an annual $1,200 scholarship for cannabis chemistry students at LSSU, the school announced Monday.

To qualify, applicants must be sophomores or older and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students who live in Wayne and Oakland Counties, areas that the company services, will also be given preference.

“This donation not only continues our trendsetting ways in this vital new field but also makes our already affordable tuition even more reasonable,” said Dr. Steven Johnson, Dean of the College of Science and the Environment at LSSU. “By funding this scholarship, Steadfast Labs again demonstrates their commitment to supporting future chemists who will enter the workforce and provide public safety in the cannabis field.”

“It is our great pleasure to grant this unprecedented scholarship for a cutting-edge program in an innovative industry,” said Avram Zallen, founder and CEO of Steadfast Labs. “This grant is another opportunity for Steadfast to help LSSU students pursue careers in this exciting and important industry. “

The school offers degrees in cannabis chemistry, cannabis production, cannabis science and cannabis business, with the goal of “positioning cannabis studies as a national leader of academic inquiry.” The program markets itself as the first in the U.S. to focus on the quantitative analysis of cannabis-related compounds and contaminants, including THC, CBD and terpenes.

“The scholarship reinforces key components of our vision statement: being vanguard-focused and driving social mobility,” said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley.

Last month, officials announced the university upgraded its cannabis analysis instrumentation to analyze residual pesticides and mycotoxins in cannabis products, as well as identify persisted pollutants.

Other schools around the country, including Cornell University and the University of Maryland, have introduced classes that focus on the cultivation and use of marijuana, along with the legal issues surrounding cannabis. There continues to be growing employer demand for college graduates with expertise in marijuana, with job growth in the sector rapidly expanding as states legalize the cannabis.

New York man smokes pot in front of two NYPD police officers in celebration of legal marijuana

New York man smokes pot in front of two NYPD police officers in celebration of legal marijuana

In The Big Apple, a man celebrated legal weed by smoking marijuana in front of two NYPD officers — all caught on camera.

“Happy quarantine!” the man greets the cops as he inhales and exhales.

New York adults over the age of 21 can now possess and use marijuana — even in public — under a legalization bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though legal sales of recreational-use cannabis won’t start for an estimated 18 months until regulations are set.

Passed after several years of stalled efforts, the measure makes New York the 16th state in the nation to legalize adult use of the drug.

New York becomes the second-most populous state after California to legalize recreational marijuana.

Legalization backers hope the Empire State will add momentum and set an example with its efforts to redress the inequities of a system that has locked up people of color for marijuana offenses at disproportionate rates.

 

The legislation provides protections for cannabis users in the workplace, housing, family court, schools, colleges and universities, and sets a target of providing half of marijuana licenses to individuals from underrepresented communities. And police could no longer use the odor of cannabis as a reason for searching someone’s car for contraband.

New York will start automatically expunging some past marijuana-related convictions, and people won’t be arrested or prosecuted for possession of pot up to 3 ounces. A 2019 law already expunged many past convictions and reduced the penalty for possessing small amounts.

In a unique provision, New Yorkers 21 and over can now smoke cannabis in public, including on sidewalks.

Areas With More Marijuana Dispensaries Have Fewer Opioid Deaths

Areas With More Marijuana Dispensaries Have Fewer Opioid Deaths

States with legal cannabis have seen decreases in opioid related deaths

Increasing access to marijuana dispensaries is associated with a significant reduction in opioid-related deaths, according to a new study.

“Higher medical and recreational storefront dispensary counts are associated with reduced opioid related death rates, particularly deaths associated with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl,” the paper, published on Wednesday in the British Medical Association journal’s BMJ, concluded.

It’s a finding that “holds for both medical and recreational dispensaries,” the study says.

Researchers looked at opioid mortality and cannabis dispensary prevalence in 23 U.S.states from 2014 to 2018 and found that, overall, counties where the number of legal marijuana shops increased from one to two experienced a 17 percent reduction in opioid-related fatalities.

Increasing the dispensary count from two to three was linked to an additional 8.5 percent decrease in opioid deaths.

Further, the study found that this trend “appeared particularly strong for deaths associated with synthetic opioids other than methadone, with an estimated 21 percent reduction in mortality rates associated with an increase from one to two dispensaries.”

“If consumers use cannabis and opioids for pain management, increasing the supply of legal cannabis might have implications for fentanyl demand and opioid related mortality rates overall.”

“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.”

This is far from the first piece of research to draw a connection between legal cannabis access and reduced harms from opioids. Multiple studies have found that marijuana effectively treats conditions like chronic pain for which opioids are regularly prescribed, and surveys show that many patients have substituted addictive painkillers with cannabis.

“Cannabis is generally thought to be a less addictive substance than opioids,” the new study says. “Cannabis can potentially be used medically for pain management and has considerable public support.”

“Our findings suggest that increasing availability of legal cannabis (modeled through the presence of medical and recreational dispensary operations) is associated with a decrease in deaths associated with the T40.4 class of opioids, which include the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl,” it continues. “This finding is especially important because fentanyl related deaths have become the most common opioid related cause of death.”

Earlier this month, a separate study determined that medical cannabis use is associated with significant reductions in dependence on opioids and other prescription drugs, as well as an increase in quality of life.

Read the full story from Marijuana Moment

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

Will 2021 be another struggling year for the hemp industry?

The legal hemp industry has had a turbulent couple of years.
2019 was the first full year that the legal hemp industry operated in the United States, and it was a slow start. 2020 was a difficult year for just about everybody, the hemp industry included.

The question many are now asking is, will 2021 be the year that the hemp industry begins to thrive, or is it already dying?

The boom of Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, in the United States might lead some to believe that with so much publicity and demand for CBD products (which are made from hemp), the industry would be thriving. But it isn’t that simple.

In fact, in 2020 several states produced less than 40% of the acres that were licensed for hemp production by their respective states.

In a collection of hemp industry data collected by Hemp Grower they found that numerous states, some being licensed to produce thousands of acres of hemp, had only produced a fraction of what they were allotted. Arizona for example, planted just 1,130 acres, or 3.3%, of the 34,480 acres that were licensed. The state had the largest disparity out of any other in the country.

Reasons for disparities

A problem that was found in just about every state that vastly underproduced hemp had to do with the licensing processes and fees. In Arizona, no matter how many acres a hemp farmer is planning to use, they pay the same $1,000 fee. If one farmer only has 10 acres, and another has 2,000 they pay the same exact fee.

This led to many traditional row crop farmers with a lot of land to claim all of it for hemp, despite only using a fraction of the land to actually produce hemp. In other words, a large scale farmer that claimed 5,000 acres for hemp production, may only use 50 acres to grow hemp while the rest is kept for traditional crops, leading to large discrepancies in the data collection for the state.

Additionally, Arizona state inspection fees for collecting samples include a $25 per acre fee up to the first 100 acres, and then $5 an acre beyond that. Brian McGrew, the industrial hemp program manager in Arizona says that several other factors also figure into acres planted, including weather trends during growing seasons.

“There were a lot of things that did impact 2020,” McGrew says. “It actually is probably the hottest and driest year we had on record. So that really did affect not only with hemp but a lot of other industries dealing with that.” For other states, licensing was also an inhibitor.

Hemp industry licensing problems

Minnesota hemp growers planted roughly 4,700 acres, or 56% of the projected 8,400 acres that were licensed, according to Anthony Cortilet, the state’s industrial hemp program supervisor. During the licensing process, Minnesota registers farmers by the number of individual grow locations, no matter how big or small, he says. The fee is $400 for the hemp grower license at one location, and $250 for each additional grow location.

The $400 licensing fee includes the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) sampling and testing of one variety of hemp, but the department of agriculture collects $125 for each additional variety a grower cultivates in his or her field, which goes toward paying the laboratory costs, Cortilet says.

In Tennessee, hemp growers planted 4,836 acres in 2020, or 30.8% of the 15,722 acres that were licensed. The state department of agriculture has a staggered licensing fee system, like Minnesota, but the differences in costs are minimized to $50 increments: 5 acres or fewer is $250; between 5 and 20 acres is $300; and 20-plus acres is $350.

Each state’s hemp industry spokespeople have their reasons for the disparities, mainly that farmers and growers have different business plans and business models, while others simply underestimate the cost of hemp production, but don’t realize the costs until they have already paid for the land use.

Is the hemp industry already dying?

The current reality of the legal hemp industry may not seem very promising. In another study conducted by Hemp Benchmarks that utilizes the most current and available data on 2020 and 2019 hemp production, the results were scary.

The reports underscore the contraction that occurred in the hemp industry in 2020. For example, the amount of acreage licensed for hemp in the U.S. reached just over 400,000 in 2020, down by over 30% from roughly 590,000 acres licensed in 2019.

Additionally, Hemp Benchmarks estimated that only 35-40% of acreage licensed for hemp was actually planted in 2020, or between 140,000 to 160,000 acres. With the assumption that 85% of all U.S. acreage was for CBD or other cannabinoid production, that amounts to between 119,000 and 136,000 planted acres devoted just to CBD or other cannabinoid hemp. Their initial estimate for acreage planted with CBD or other cannabinoid hemp in 2020 is roughly half of their estimated planted acreage for 2019.

To summarize their reporting, CBD hemp production was nearly halved in 2020, while overall hemp production dropped by 30%. But it isn’t just because farmers are growing less hemp.

The issue of hot hemp

A consistent problem that has plagued the legal hemp industry is hemp produced with a THC content over .3%, commonly known throughout the community as “hot” hemp. Farmers and growers across the country have long been asking the federal government to adjust the THC requirement for hemp to be at least 1%. As such a low THC content could not realistically produce a psychoactive high, the argument is that by raising the limit slightly, more farmers would be able to produce passable hemp.

And until the majority of farmers secure trustworthy hemp genetics or the laws change, these problems will continue.

A hemp farmer in Colorado had to completely destroy 80 acres of hemp that had THC levels that were slightly above the requirement. His plants tested at .47%. That is just .17% above the legal limit, but all of his plants had to be destroyed or he risked thousands of dollars in fines. In the eyes of the government he had 80 acres of psychoactive, illegal cannabis despite being just a fraction of a percent over the limit.

For that one farmer, hot hemp means thousands of dollars flushed down the drain after months of hard labor producing flowering hemp plants or biomass. The same problem plagues farmers across the country, leading many to either cut back their production to save in the case of hot hemp issues, or stop production all together.

These factors combined have caused the shrinkage of the legal hemp industry that we saw in 2020, and what we will likely continue to see through 2021. However there is a silver lining to the trimming down of the hemp industry.

Less hemp, but higher quality

While millions of pounds of hemp were lost to the trash heap because of high THC levels in 2020, and thousands of farmers cut back their production or left the industry all together, the cream has begun to rise to the top. Hemp farmers and producers with high quality genetics, that test consistently at .3% or lower, while also enhancing the natural cannabinoids in the plant like CBD, CBG and CBN have become the go-to suppliers for serious farmers across the country.

One cannabinoid in particular exploded in 2020, and it wasn’t CBD. Delta-8 THC, the close relative to Delta-9 THC which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid bred in cannabis, was unwittingly legalized along with hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Those who have tried Delta-8 THC claim that is has comparative effects to Delta-9 THC, although subdued. Advocates for D8 THC claim it is the best, legal alternative to D9 THC. This is sparking another revolution in the hemp industry as growers race to produce varietals with the highest Delta-8 THC content possible.

At the same time, the consumer’s palate is evolving to desire more complex terpene and cannabinoid profiles in their cannabis and hemp products. The increase in demand for new hemp products has the chance to give the industry a big boost in 2021.

Overall, the trend of the hemp of the industry shows a dip in 2020 that has many questioning if 2021 will be a rebound year or just a continuation. To insert a little opinion; the cannabis industry faced similar issues as it matured, as consumers demanded higher quality product and cheap producers were weeded out…pun intended.

Despite the hit that the legal hemp industry took in 2020, the demand for CBD products doesn’t appear to be slowing, and the addition of new cannabinoid-rich hemp varietals and products will bring more attention to the plant and its benefits. More research will be done this year than last year, and more people will become educated about hemp products than ever before.

Suffice to say the legal hemp industry isn’t going anywhere in 2021, if not slowly upward.

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

US cannabis jobs surpass 321,000 full-time jobs

cannabis jobs surpass 300,000 in the US

How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?

The 2021 Leafly Jobs Report, issued earlier today, found 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2021. That total includes both plant-touching and ancillary jobs—everyone from budtenders to bean-counters.

To put that in perspective: In the United States there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers. There are more legal cannabis workers than EMTs and paramedics. There are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as dentists.

cannabis jobs exceed 300,000 in the US

The annual Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics, is the nation’s cornerstone cannabis employment study.

Federal prohibition prevents the US Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs. Since 2017, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that gap with a yearly analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector.

Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm that specializes in cannabis economics, policy, and business consulting, has partnered with Leafly on the project since 2019.

Twice the job growth as 2019

Cannabis job growth in 2020 represents a doubling of the previous year’s US job growth. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new US jobs for a total of 243,700.

Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States in 2020. That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II.

Cannabis now an $18.3 billion industry in the United States

In 2020, Americans purchased $18.3 billion worth of cannabis products, a 71% increase over 2019.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, many in the cannabis industry worried about a potential industry-wide shutdown. Instead, governors in most states declared cannabis an essential product. Dispensaries and retail stores responded by offering online ordering, curbside pickup, and delivery as COVID-safe options for their customers.

Customers responded by stocking up for months of stay-at-home advisories and social distancing. After a brief dip in late-March revenue, most stores saw a significant bump in April—and then the bump became a plateau.

Is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

Is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

How to invest in cannabis stocks

Legalization talk and Reddit stock warriors are driving more people to invest in cannabis stocks, but the stocks aren’t returning on the investments yet.

The industry is booming and growing at an exponential rate, but due to federal law, there are very few publicly traded “cannabis” companies. For this reason, investors in the US looking to cash in on cannabis will look to Canada.

Aphria, Tilray, and Canopy Growth are a few of the big players in Canada, with billions in investment assets. However anybody who actually follows the industry in Canada could see plain as day that these companies are not performing.

So why are people just now deciding to invest in these companies?

Legalization and Reddit

Unless you’ve been living under a few rocks for the last month, you have likely heard about the GameStop Reddit controversy. If not, here’s what happened; hundreds of users of the social media platform’s subreddit r/WallStreetBets found out that a billion dollar hedge fund was shorting GameStop stock, buying stock in advance to drive down price with the goal of being bought out at their original buying price.

Investors from r/WallStreetBets decided to buy up as much GameStop stock as possible, forcing the hedge fund to cover its losses and pay out for the increased stock price. If it hasn’t become obvious, I’m not a stock expert, so excuse the lazy explanation.

Long story short, GameStop’s stock price rose from $34 to $340 in a couple days, making those who cashed out a lot of money, while others bought in late thinking the stock would continue to rise, only to watch it tank days later.

Now, with a democrat majority in the House and Senate and control of White House, the party is pushing for cannabis reform, and likely federal legalization. With multiple party members publicly speaking about their intentions, the Reddit swarm caught wind and started talking cannabis stocks. But unlike GameStop, Reddit couldn’t manipulate the cannabis stocks in the same way.

Tilray and Aphria Merger

After news surfaced that two of the largest cannabis companies in Canada would be merging together, a lot of investors tried to cash in on the opportunity. In December of 2020 when the merger was initially announced, the stock began to sore as more began to invest.

The investment experts at Reddit appear to have caught on a little too late, pushing everybody on the platform to invest in these companies just in the last week. Unfortunately they couldn’t drive up the price in the same way as GameStop, and the stock eventually fell 4% despite the increased activity.

In other words, the stock spiked temporarily, and smart investors who already bought in at $23/share at the beginning of February were able to cash out at $63/share on February 10th. By February 11th the stock price was halved.

All of this drives the questions a lot of enthusiasts and investors are asking; is now the time to invest in cannabis stocks?

Wait for legalization?

The reality is that for most Americans trying to cash in on cannabis, the market is very small, niche and not very profitable in the United States market. This is why you see so much attention focused on Canada’s cannabis companies, because they federally legalized cannabis in 2018.

While there are some companies in the United States that work within the cannabis industry and are listed on the stock exchange, they are typically ancillary businesses, in other words businesses that don’t work directly with the plant. Equipment supply companies, pharmaceutical companies that research cannabis, etc. are the typical companies you’ll find in the US market.

With little information and education regarding these companies and the industry as a whole in the US due to no federal reporting, now is not the best time to invest in cannabis stocks in the US. Keep in mind that THIS IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE, WE ARE NOT FINANCIAL EXPERTS, WE JUST LOVE CANNABIS.

Politicians in the US have been talking about legalizing cannabis for close to a decade, and it has yet to even be decriminalized. To put hope into our politicians and betting money on them (literally) actually making progress toward legalization would be unwise at this time.

Consider that it wasn’t Republicans, but moderate Democrats in the House that refused to pass the MORE Act last October, opting to wait until after the election because they had their own seats to protect. With more elections coming up in 2022, we can expect a similar approach by moderates in the party, inadvertently blocking any sort of legalization from passing.

For now, the smart move is to closely watch the Canadian market, and push your local legislators to support legalization in your state and on the federal level. It’s your money, so spend it wisely!

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