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Anti-Marijuana Lawmaker Files Legalization Bill In North Dakota

Anti-Marijuana Lawmaker Files Legalization Bill In North Dakota

North Dakota lawmaker proposes cannabis legalization bill

North Dakota’s secretary of state on Friday approved the format of a proposed marijuana initiative, clearing the way for activists to collect signatures to place it on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker is pushing a cannabis legalization bill he introduced even though he does not support the underling policy change.

Rather, Rep. Jason Dockter (R) said he recognizes the seeming inevitability of legal marijuana reaching the state as more neighboring jurisdictions enact reform and as activists gain momentum for their agenda. If the state is going to enact legalization, he wants the legislature to dictate what that program looks like instead of leaving it in the hands of advocacy groups.

Dockter’s House Bill 1420 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, but home cultivation would not be allowed.

Licensed cultivation facilities that provide cannabis products to retailers “may grow an amount of marijuana sufficient to meet the demands of the public.”

Under the proposal, legal cannabis sales would begin on February 1, 2022.

The bill is being supported by the pro-reform campaign Legalize ND. The group placed a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot that was defeated by voters. They tried to qualify another initiative last year but signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.

It’s not clear if they will now still pursue previously announced plans for 2022 in light of the new bill, which they said they are “proud of” and is the result of engaging lawmakers in more than six months’ worth of conversations.

Meanwhile, a separate activist group has already filed its own 2022 legal marijuana measure that would make it so adults could possess marijuana and grow up to 12 plants (up to six of which could be mature). Secretary of State Al Jaeger said on Friday that the group can begin working to gather the 26,904 valid signatures from registered voters they will need to place the measure on the ballot.

“I am glad the North Dakota legislature is coming to the realization that legalization will move forward with or without them,” Jody Vetter, chairwoman for that effort, the ND for Freedom of Cannabis Act, told Marijuana Moment.

She added that while the Dockter’s bill is “a step in the right direction toward ending prohibition, there are concerns,” pointing to the lack of legal home cultivation and remaining criminal charges for certain cannabis-related activity.

“Criminal charges surrounding possession should only apply if someone is found to be selling cannabis without proper license or contributing to minors,” Vetter said. “We are moving forward with the ND For Freedom of Cannabis Act. Home growing is essential for any legal program and an overwhelming majority of North Dakota residents are ready to stop criminally charging citizens for simply possessing cannabis.”

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA Releases Final Ruling on Hemp

USDA final ruling on hemp has been released

From sampling to THC testing, here’s a rundown on how the final rule, which takes effect in March, compares to current regulations.

On Jan. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released a final rule on hemp based on its previous set of regulations that drew public comments from nearly 6,000 people.

The latest set of regulations makes several highly requested changes to the interim final rule (IFR) that are seen as favorable to both hemp producers and regulators.

Still, contentious aspects of the IFR remain, but some industry members are hopeful there is still time to amend them.

Sampling

The final rule made several changes to sampling that should reduce burdens on both growers and regulators.

First, the rule increased the sampling window, which is currently 15 days. Samples for testing now need to be taken up to 30 days before a farmer plans to harvest, giving regulators more time to get into fields. Many stated in public comments that 15 days was far too little time to collect an appropriate amount of samples from each producer in the state.

The rule also slightly modified from where on the plant samples need to be taken. While the IFR required collecting a sample from the top third portion of the plant, the final rule now states samples should be taken “approximately five to eight inches from the ‘main stem’ (that includes the leaves and flowers), ‘terminal bud’ (that occurs at the end of a stem), or ‘central cola’ (cut stem that could develop into a bud) of the flowering top of the plant.”

Andrea Hope J. Steel, the director at Coats Rose P.C. and co-leader of the law firm’s Cannabis Business Law group, tells Hemp Grower this provision will allow sampling agents to collect more stem and leaf material than previously allowed.

That will help reduce instances of hot crops,” Steel says. Stems and leaves typically contain lower levels of cannabinoids—and specific to this issue, of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—than the flowers.

However, Graff says this still requires sampling from primarily floral material despite comments on the IFR that requested switching to a whole-plant sampling approach.

The final rule dedicates a significant portion of its 300 pages to addressing and responding to the most highly requested comments, including those on sampling.

“Even though many commenters felt that whole plant sampling should be allowed, AMS is of the opinion that since THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] is concentrated in the flower material of the plant, the flower material is more appropriate to test than the entire plant,” the final rule states.

Perhaps most significantly, the final rule has changed sampling protocol from collecting a “representative sample of every lot [growers] plan to harvest” using specific methodology, according to the IFR, to allowing states and tribes to implement a more “performance-based” method.

The AMS says these performance-based sampling protocols may take into account:

  • seed certification processes (or other processes that identify varieties that have consistently produced compliant hemp plants);
  • whether the producer is conducting research on hemp at an institution of higher learning or that is funded by a federal, state or tribal government;
  • whether a producer has consistently produced compliant hemp plants over an extended period of time;
  • whether a producer is growing “immature” hemp, such as seedlings, clones, microgreens or other non-flowering cannabis, that does not reach the flowering stage;
  • other similar factors.

“Flexibilities afforded to States and Indian Tribes developing their own hemp production plans will allow them to incorporate best practices, as those change and develop over time. For example, States and Indian Tribes can adapt field-walking patterns to various sized and shaped hemp grower operations,” the final rule states. “AMS believes that a national standard would be difficult to consistently apply given the various grower operations and that standard ‘zig-zag,’ or letters ‘M’ or ‘Z’ walk patterns may not be feasible for sample collection of micro-acreage producers, very large scale producers or those with polygonal hemp lots.”

States will need to include details of their performance-based sampling methods in their hemp plans, which the USDA must approve. (An updated guide on sampling has been published on the AMS website.)

Testing

While the final rule implemented generally positive sampling changes for the industry, THC testing will, for the most part, remain burdensome. 

The final rule retains that hemp must remain below 0.3% total THC on a dry-weight basis. Total THC is defined as the sum of the delta-9 THC and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). On its own, THCA does not produce psychoactive effects like delta-9 THC, but it can be converted to THC through decarboxylation, which is the process required for testing.

While increasing that limit was one of the most highly requested changes in public comments, the USDA was unable to do so, as that limit was written into law in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill). It’s notable that total THC, however, was not written into the farm bill—that bill defines hemp only by delta-9-THC levels. In its final rule (as well as the IFR), the USDA interprets the language of the farm bill to mean that total THC must be tested.

However, legislation has been introduced in both Kentucky and at the federal level by Sen. Rand Paul to amend that limit to 1%, which would quell the total THC versus delta-9-THC debate.

Options for Hot Hemp

If hemp does test “hot” above the 0.3% THC limit, the final rule has given producers additional options for disposal beyond the total destruction written into the IFR.

States now have several options for more productive and less wasteful methods of disposal that can result in useful soil amendments. Those include:

  • plowing under
  • mulching/composting the hemp
  • disking
  • shredding the biomass with a bush mower or chopper.

Producers may also bury or burn their hot hemp. (The AMS implemented these additional options in early 2020, but they were not written into the IFR.)

The final rule also implements a brand-new option for hot crops: remediation.

The rule states producers can remediate their material by “removing and destroying flower material, while retaining stalk, stems, leaf material, and seeds.” Producers may also shred the entire plant to create a “biomass-like material” and then retest it for compliance.

Producers also no longer need to use a DEA-registered distributor or law enforcement to dispose of hot hemp.

Read the Full Story from Hemp Grower Magazine

Enthusiasm For Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Boom Tempered By Concerns Of A Bust

Enthusiasm For Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Boom Tempered By Concerns Of A Bust

Oklahoma medical marijuana boom could be short lived, some worry

Oklahoma has what many consider to be the only free-enterprise medical marijuana industry in the U.S., with cheap startup fees, no cap on medical marijuana business licenses and few limits on who can get a patient card. But this low barrier to entry could lead to an oversaturated market where cannabis businesses struggle to survive.

Jessica Baker, owner of Bakers Cannabis Dispensary in northwest Oklahoma City, has witnessed the growing pains other young marijuana industries like Oklahoma’s have experienced over her two decade career in the business.

She and her husband Chip started growing medical cannabis in California in 1997, which eventually led them to Colorado, where Chip opened a couple of hydroponic stores.

After the passage of State Question 788 in June of 2018, which legalized medical marijuna in Oklahoma, Chip noticed he started receiving an influx of business from Oklahoma.

“People were ordering lights and soil and nutrients,” Jessica said.

The Bakers saw promise in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market and decided to move to the state at the end of 2018.

In addition to the dispensary and its attached clone nursery, Chip owns a nearby hydroponic store in OKC, and Jessica has a marijuana farm and processor about 40 miles northeast of the city.

Jessica said it’s been a nice change of pace doing business in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market.

“My businesses have primarily been in California where it’s very difficult and expensive,” Jessica said. “Oklahoma in general… they made it pretty easy for people, which is nice and affordable.”

Oklahoma has some of the cheapest annual commercial licensing fees in the country at $2,500, especially compared to California where licensing fees can reach six figures and range depending on estimated annual gross revenue.

There’s also no limit on licensed medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma unlike other states such as Louisiana where only one dispensary is allowed in each of the state’s nine regions.

And with no list of qualifying conditions, it’s easy to get a physician to write a recommendation for a medical marujuana patient card. This has led to over 367,000 Oklahomans, nearly 10% of the state’s population, obtaining a medical marijuana patient card, which according to Politico makes Oklahoma the largest medical marijuana market per capita.

Jay Czarkowski, founding partner of the marijuana business consulting firm Canna Advisors, said Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program has grown rapidly. 

“The medical marijuana program in Oklahoma, it’s such an open, liberal program, it is almost like adult use legalization,” Czarkowski said. 

Oklahoma is just shy of having 10,000 active licensed medical marijuana businesses, which includes over 2,000 dispensaries and about 6,500 growers. 

Jessica was surprised about Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry. So many people with little to no prior experience with cannabis were so eager to get into the business.  

“It says something about people from Oklahoma… that they would just jump into something of the unknown and kind of gamble on it, which is a pretty cool quality,” she said. 

But the flip side to Oklahoma’s low barrier of entry for starting a medical marijuana business is the pressure it puts on the market. 

Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, an Oklahoma attorney who represents over 150 cannabis businesses, said some enter the market with the misconception that it will be fast money. 

“You have people getting into it who don’t understand that the cannabis industry is just like any other business,” she said. “You have to work hard and have a strong business acumen and know what you’re doing.”

Because there are so many growers, Gossett Parrish said they need to zero in on a market to avoid being eclipsed by larger growers that generate a massive supply of product. 

“If you are a craft grower and maybe an organic grower and you pick and choose certain illnesses and conditions for which you grow strains and you target your market, then you’re going to fare well,” Gossett Parrish said. 

Unless the state legalizes recreational marijuana within the year, Jessica expects many cannabis businesses will have to shut down. She said there’s more marijuana than there is demand from patients.

Original Story from KGOU

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Mexico publishes medicinal cannabis regulation

Mexico publishes medicinal cannabis regulation

Mexico pushes forward rules legal medical marijuana

The legislation marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels.

Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday published rules to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis, a major step in a broader reform to create the world’s largest legal cannabis market in the Latin American country.

The new regulation was signed off by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and will now allow pharmaceutical companies to begin doing medical research on cannabis products.

 

The cannabis reform taking place includes the recreational use of marijuana, and will create what would be the world’s biggest national cannabis market in terms of population.

The new medicinal rules state companies which wish to carry out research have to obtain permission from the Mexican health regulator, COFEPRIS, and this research has to be done in strictly controlled, independent laboratories.

“The standard of regulation is very, very high,” said Luisa Conesa, a lawyer and pro-cannabis activist who spearheaded legal challenges that led to decriminalization of medical cannabis.

“(The regulation) is not aimed at patients growing their own cannabis, it is aimed at pharmaceutical companies producing pharmaceutical derivatives of cannabis which are classified as controlled substances that need prescription,” he said.

The regulation also sets rules for the sowing, cultivation and harvesting of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which would allow businesses to grow marijuana legally on Mexican soil.

While some cannabis plant imports are permitted for companies looking to create products, exports of Mexican-grown cannabis is prohibited.

Foreign weed companies from Canada and the United States have been looking at Mexico with interest. Many had delayed making investment decisions due to policy uncertainty and were waiting for the final regulation to be published.

Mexico’s lawmakers are also in the final stages of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, with the bill expected to pass in the next period of Congress.

The legislation marks a major shift in a country bedeviled for years by violence between feuding drug cartels, which have long made millions of dollars growing marijuana illegally and smuggling it into the United States.