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Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois Gets More Tax Revenue From Marijuana Than Alcohol

Illinois cannabis tax revenue has surpassed alcohol for the first time

Illinois took in more tax dollars from marijuana than alcohol for the first time last quarter, according to the state Department of Revenue.

From January to March, Illinois generated about $86,537,000 in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, compared to $72,281,000 from liquor sales.

Those following the cannabis market in Illinois might not be entirely surprised, as the state has consistently been reporting record-breaking sales, even amid the pandemic. In March alone, adults spent $109,149,355 on recreational cannabis products—the largest single month of sales since retailers opened shop.

It was in February that monthly cannabis revenues first overtook those from alcohol, a trend that continued into March.

If the trend keeps up, Illinois could see more than $1 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in 2021. Last year, the state sold about $670 million in cannabis and took in $205.4 million in tax revenue.

Officials have emphasized that the tax dollars from all of these sales are being put to good use. For example, the state announced in January that it is distributing $31.5 million in grants funded by marijuana tax dollars to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

The funds are part of the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under Illinois’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. It requires 25 percent of marijuana tax dollars to be put in that fund and used to provide disadvantaged people with services such as legal aid, youth development, community reentry and financial support.

Awarding the new grant money is not all that Illinois is doing to promote social equity and repair the harms of cannabis criminalization. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced in December that his office had processed more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.

Relatedly, a state-funded initiative was recently established to help residents with marijuana convictions get legal aid and other services to have their records expunged.

But promoting social equity in the state’s cannabis industry hasn’t been smooth sailing. The state has faced criticism from advocates and lawsuits from marijuana business applicants who feel officials haven’t done enough to ensure diversity among business owners in the industry.

Lax THC vape rules still allow toxins into your lungs

Lax THC vape rules still allow toxins into your lungs

THC vape toxins are still prevalent

In 2019 and 2020, vaping-associated lung injuries killed 68 people and injured 2,807 across the United States. As reported by Leafly and later confirmed by officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those injuries and deaths were almost exclusively associated with unlicensed THC vape cartridges purchased from the illicit market.

 

At the heart of the health crisis was a relatively new vape cartridge additive known as vitamin E acetate. Unlicensed cartridge manufacturers were using the substance, a common ingredient in beard cream, to thicken the cartridge oil and boost profit margins.

After the poisonings, officials at the CDC said the number one thing state cannabis regulators could do to protect public health was ensure that “chemicals of concern” like vitamin E acetate did not enter the state-licensed THC vape cartridge supply.

As of early 2021, cannabis regulators have not done that.

 

A Leafly investigation into current and forthcoming regulations around THC vape cartridges in the 15 legal cannabis states reveals that more than a year after the vape lung (also known as EVALI or VAPI) crisis, a few states have banned vitamin E oil, but not a single state upgraded its THC vape cartridge testing requirements up to the standard currently required for all nicotine vape cartridges in Europe and Canada.

State cannabis regulators have generally done a great job of protecting the health of consumers by requiring tests for toxins like pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, mold, and bacteria. Manufacturers are also required to test and disclose the exact potency of every product on the label.

But sometime around late 2018, THC vape cartridges escaped the bounds of those safeguards. A new wave of novel cartridge oil additives, thickeners, thinners, diluents, and artificial flavors began flooding the market. The new additives were mostly limited to illicit-market vape carts, but a few seeped into the legal regulated market as well.

Those new additives included:

  • Vitamin E acetate, aka beard cream oil
  • Squalene, a shark liver oil substance
  • Thousands of food flavorings not approved for inhalation

What kept these toxins from flooding into the legal THC vape supply? Only the good conscience of many licensed vape cartridge manufacturers—and a bit of luck. Nothing in the regulatory system of any state would have prohibited most of the new wave of additives.

 

Even today, the existing patchwork of state rules—with their yawning safety gaps and a total absence of federal oversight—has experts throwing up their hands.

Vape chemistry and regulations expert David Heldreth Jr. stepped down as the Chief Science Officer of a vape flavoring company. “It’s painful,” he told Leafly. “It’s one of those things where the industry just popped up and grew so quickly, it’s really difficult to keep up with what people innovate.”

CannaCraft, California’s biggest vape maker, forbids non-cannabis ingredients in its products, citing a lack of safety data. But the only thing keeping the company from adding mystery flavorings is the integrity of company officials. Many in the industry are doing it right. Others have less scruples. Consumers have few ways to tell.

“I think we do a lot of things well, but there’s certainly room for improvement,” said Matthew Elmes, a molecular biologist and Director of Scientific Affairs for CannaCraft. “There are so many things that aren’t tested for, and we don’t know, as consumers, what’s going on there.”

Leafly’s comprehensive review of THC vape cartridge rules in the 15 legal cannabis states found loopholes where those chemicals can get in.

Delta 8 THC Explained: The New THC?

Delta 8 THC Explained: The New THC?

Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC

It’s Delta-9’s close relative, but why is it becoming so popular now?

If you’ve been in a head shop or a smoke circle recently, you might have heard about or even seen Delta 8 THC. This hemp-derived compound has been growing in popularity over the last year, but why?

In 2018, the federal government passed the Farm Bill which legalized hemp across the country. While classifying hemp as hemp is as simple as measuring the Delta 9 THC content and ensuring it is below .3%, Delta 8 THC is not the same thing, and therefore not included in that judgement.

In other words, as long as D9 THC is below .3%, D8 THC is irrelevant. With this loophole and discoveries of Delta 8’s effects, the race was on to start production of Delta 8 THC products.

Just like D9 THC, our knowledge about the effects and benefits of D8 THC are limited due to lack of research. For the most part, the resources for learning about Delta 8 THC come from first hand accounts of users.

What we do know about D8 THC is that it is chemically different from delta-9-THC by only a few atomic bonds, and according to the National Cancer Institute is defined as, “An analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.”

In other words, it sounds a lot like plain old Delta 9 THC. However the experiences noted by Delta 8 THC users reveal some slight differences.

Does Delta 8 THC get you high?

The short answer seems to be yes. Most descriptions of the Delta 8 THC high note that it is more mild or “lighter” than a traditional Delta 9 THC high. User have also said that the high feels almost identical to D9 THC but without the associated paranoia or anxiety many experience.

Other anecdotes note how it can take multiple hits of a D8 THC vape to get a similar effect to a Delta 9 THC vape of similar potency, and that the flavor differs, and not always in a good way. Granted, taste is typically associated with processing, especially when it comes to distillate cartridges.

The most popular form of consumption seems to be vaping and consuming D8 edibles like gummies. However just like CBD, you can also find Delta 8 THC flower and other extracts.

Is it worth it?

Anybody who lives in a state where cannabis is still illegal or only available medically, or anyone who does not want to risk their safety with an illicit market Delta 9 THC vape cartridge might find Delta 8 THC to be a very strong alternative.

For now, D8 THC is completely legal on the federal level and available in 38 states with multiple online retailers that ship nationwide. That’s a very appealing offer when the alternative isn’t available anywhere. There are no dangers currently associated with D8 THC consumption compared to D9 THC, and the high seems to be at least comparable.

However as with any unregulated “grey market” product, Delta 8 THC should be treated with more scrutiny and consumed carefully compared to its state-regulated cousin.

Amsterdam doubles down on plans to restrict tourist access to cannabis coffee shops

Amsterdam doubles down on plans to restrict tourist access to cannabis coffee shops

Amsterdam likely to restrict tourist from coffee shop access in the future.
When international tourists finally return to the canal-lined historic streets of Amsterdam, one of the city’s main travel attractions might be off limits. Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has proposed a new policy that would ban foreign visitors from accessing the city’s coffee shops.
 
 
There are 166 cannabis coffee shops in Amsterdam, accounting for almost 30% of the Netherlands’ coffee shops.
In a letter to councilors on January 8, Halsema proposed introducing the “resident criterion” — a policy that permits only locals to use coffee shops — with the goal of making tourism in the city more manageable and to control the coffee shop supply chain. Halsema will discuss the measures with Amsterdam’s city council later this month.
 
 
 
In line with Covid-19 lockdown measures, nonessential shops, including coffee shops, are currently closed in Amsterdam, although coffee shops are able to do takeout and delivery.
 
 
 
The city’s website currently advises tourists not to travel to the city unless necessary, but Halsema is looking ahead to how Amsterdam might function after the Covid threat subsides.

Cannabis in the Netherlands

Different municipalities in the Netherlands have different coffee shop rules, and discussions on barring everyone except Dutch residents are not new. This conversation became heated back in 2011 and 2012, with Amsterdam fighting back against the proposed introduction of a residents-only rule across the Netherlands’ coffee shops.
 
 
 
 
Today, this rule still exists in Maastricht, in the south of the country. To add to the slightly confusing setup, buying cannabis from a coffee shop is legal in the Netherlands, but producing cannabis remains illegal.
Back in July 2019, Halsema wrote to councilors saying the city’s coffee shops can put “the quality of life in the city center under pressure.”
 
 
This preempted an August 2019 survey which questioned 1,100 international visitors between the ages of 18 and 35 who were visiting Amsterdam’s Red Light District, an area of the city that’s been the focus of much of Amsterdam’s most recent tourism regulations.
 
 
In this survey, referenced in Halsema’s most recent correspondence, over half of those surveyed said they chose to visit the Dutch capital because they wanted to experience a cannabis cafe.
 
 
The results were that 34% indicated they’d come to Amsterdam less often if they weren’t able to visit coffee shops, and 11% said they wouldn’t come at all.
Lack of standards, dubious business practices threaten to upend cannabis testing industry

Lack of standards, dubious business practices threaten to upend cannabis testing industry

cannabis testing labs are suffering from issues.

A lack of standards is among the factors plaguing the cannabis testing industry, threatening to undermine consumer confidence in marijuana products and making it harder for some testing businesses to operate, according to industry insiders.

But the problems don’t stop there, testing lab officials and regulators contend.

Some marijuana businesses – such as growers, processors and manufacturers – are shopping around for labs that will give them the results they want to see in the way of THC potency and contaminants, according to industry officials.

Other cannabis businesses are said to be sending in samples of their marijuana that have been adulterated with spray-on cannabis oil or dusted with THC crystals to give the impression of a higher THC content, among other practices.

Regulators, meanwhile, are shuttering testing labs for allegedly reporting results that don’t match up with audits.

Earlier this month, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) suspended the license of Praxis Laboratory for allegedly falsifying testing data on more than 1,200 samples of cannabis by providing higher THC numbers than tests actually found.

As it stands now, the Centralia, Washington-based lab is suspended for 180 days effective Dec. 10. While the lab is shuttered, state regulators will seek to permanently revoke its license.

According to an LCB release, “during the investigation the lab owner attempted to destroy evidence of falsified data in an effort to obstruct (the agency’s) ability to conduct a complete investigation.”

Praxis said in a statement to Marijuana Business Daily that the LCB’s decision was “in error and based on inaccurate information.” The lab is appealing the ruling.

In a separate statement to the Washington state cannabis community that was shared on social media, the company said, “This is a clear cut case of agency overreach and libel and we will be pursuing legal action immediately.”

The statement also noted that a disgruntled former employee stole data from the lab, then contacted the regulators.

Regulators elsewhere have shuttered cannabis labs for inaccurate or misleading test results.

In September 2019, the Nevada Tax Commission launched an investigation into marijuana testing labs in the state.

In February 2020, state regulators suspended the license of Certified Ag Labs and fined the business $70,000 for what was described as “inaccurate and misleading” potency in cannabis products that boosted THC levels by as much as 10%.

The lab was allowed to reopen.

A Certified Ag representative told MJBizDaily the company “had some bumps, but our data was plus or minus 10% and we stand behind it.”

Lab shopping

The practice of lab shopping – where cannabis growers or product makers look for a facility that will provide favorable results – has almost put Keystone State Testing out of business, said Dr. Kelly Greenland, CEO of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based marijuana testing lab.

“We have clients who test with us and never come back because their numbers are higher elsewhere,” she said.

In addition to higher potency levels, some cannabis businesses also seek favorable results for contaminants, including microbials and heavy metals.

“There are a few labs out there saying, ‘Tell me what you want it to say, and I’ll put it on the label,’” Greenland said.

Pennsylvania’s regulations are adequate, she said, but they’re not being enforced.

“If you want to make sure this market is safe, you need to have safe regulations and you need to have your enforcement enforce the regulations that you’ve made,” Greenland said.

Testing labs promising quick turnaround times – less than 48 hours, for example – might be cutting corners. Greenland said it’s normal for a lab to take up to 72 hours to return results.

Growers and processors don’t have to try that hard to find good testing labs, according to Greenland.

But she added that often it doesn’t make good business sense to play by the rules, “as messed up as this sounds.”

The Shady Politics of the MORE Act Vote and Cannabis Legalization [Opinion]

The Shady Politics of the MORE Act Vote and Cannabis Legalization [Opinion]

MORE Act house vote delayed

Has cannabis always been political?

While in most of our lifetimes cannabis has been illegal, it wasn’t always that way. In fact it was the complete opposite until the early 1900s.

Believe it or not, cannabis has been used for thousands of years, with traces of the plant being smoked as far back as 2,500 years. Its first use dates all the way back to 2727 BC in China where it was considered a legitimate medication. Traditional uses of cannabis for medicine might not have been as popular in the west, but that doesn’t mean the cannabis plant wasn’t just as essential.

A very brief prohibitionist history

Not only was cannabis legal prior to the 1930s, it was an essential crop. The ships that brought the colonists to America had sails made entirely from hemp fibers. Colonists were “encouraged” by law from the Queen to grow hemp as one of their staple crops.

In the 1700s and 1800s, extractions from the hemp and cannabis plant were used for medicine all over the country. In 1830, it was used to treat insomnia and migraines, and it acted as a pain reliever. From 1850 to 1942, the United States Pharmacopoeia recognized it as a legal medicine by the name “Extractum Cannabis.”

It wouldn’t be until the 1920s that the United States government would begin to lay restrictions on cannabis cultivation in the form of taxes put on farmers. After a racist, propagandized anti-cannabis movement led by Henry Anslinger, the government eventually created the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This made it basically impossible for farmers to buy, sell or profit off of cannabis production.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The rise of the cannabis movement

Cannabis use and production certainly continued in the illicit markets across the country after prohibition in the United States. Almost 40 years after cannabis was made illegal, genetics and cultivation techniques from Europe (Holland specifically) where hydroponics was a rapidly growing industry made their way to the states.

This revolutionized how we cultivated cannabis, creating more potent cannabis with higher yields. An explosion in cannabis consumption during the 60s and 70s when the “hippy” movement took off created a perfect storm that birthed a new and booming, albeit illegal, industry in the U.S..

With a growing interest in cannabis came a renewed desire to look at why it became illegal in the first place. The reality being that the main propaganda used to make cannabis illegal was based on racist ideologies against Latinos and African Americans. A thirst for justice and the knowledge of a shameful past created a movement that continues to this day.

The movement to legalize cannabis.

The politics of cannabis legalization

The United States is a unique beast. It is the collation of 50 different states, all of which can create their own laws as long they abide the federal law put forth by the federal government. This is why half the country has legal cannabis, and the other half will still throw someone in jail for years just for having a little bit of cannabis in the car.

In a way this makes sense, as the people of the state dictate how the politicians vote. This would imply that in states where cannabis is still illegal, the people there must want it that way. But this is rarely the case. In fact, roughly two-thirds of Americans support legalization of cannabis.

So if the majority of people think cannabis should be legal, and over half the states in the country have gone ahead and just done it themselves, why hasn’t the federal government done anything?

Well that answer is easy…politics.

This article was written shortly after the news of the House of Representatives delaying their vote on the MORE Act. This bill would remove cannabis from the controlled substances list (where it is currently listed as Schedule 1 alongside heroin) and expunge criminal records of those convicted of small cannabis-related crimes.

In the United States, Democrats are considered the “progressive” party. Meaning they are the party that would normally push for something like cannabis legalization. The MORE Act itself was drafted with bipartisan efforts from Republicans and Democrats alike. Yet it was moderate democrats that voted to postpone the vote on the bill.

Why would this be? After all, the Democrats hold the majority in the House and could easily vote the bill through to the senate to begin deliberations.

But they didn’t.

Additionally the Democrats didn’t decide to postpone the vote just a few days or a couple weeks, they postponed it until at least after the election in November between now sitting President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. It might seem irrelevant, but there’s a real, shady, shitty reason that they did this.

 

The “BIG” announcement

You see, it just so happens that coincidentally, and totally by chance, that the same day that the House of Representatives (i.e. Democrats) decided to postpone the vote, Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris (the Democrat nominees) pledged to decriminalize cannabis, remove it from the scheduled substances list and expunge criminal records.

Sound familiar?

It’s almost as if the Democrats postponed their House vote until after the election, so that Biden can use it to score points and gain more votes from those who want legal cannabis.

Now, if you haven’t gotten any hints of opinion thus far in this piece, here comes some.

I have a prediction.

Call me crazy, but I think there’s just a slim chance (that’s sarcasm) that if Biden is elected, the House will pass the bill through to the Senate the same week. But if Biden loses, the bill will sit dead in the House for eternity, while Democrats blame Republicans for not letting it pass.

That, my friends, is the true politics of cannabis legalization. It isn’t about figuring out if it’s safe, or can be taxed, or if it’s profitable. We know all of that is true already.

It’s about who gets to take credit, and the letter (D or R) next to their name. For politicians, legalization isn’t about the people. It isn’t about the hundreds of thousands of people in jail for small-time cannabis crimes.

It’s about them!

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