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Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill emerges from Senate

Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill emerges from Senate

Bipartisan Pennsylvania cannabis legalization bill has been introduced

A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a measure Wednesday to legalize adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania.

It’s the first time a Republican member of the chamber has cosponsored the proposal – typically endorsed solely by Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

“That’s kind of the elephant in the room, if you will,” said Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie. “I believe in solving problems, and adult use cannabis is no more harmful than liquor. I’m not afraid to run a bill that doesn’t fit our party’s stereotype.”

In addition to regulating and taxing the drug for public consumption, Laughlin and co-sponsor Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, said their proposal includes a provision that would erase nonviolent cannabis convictions and decriminalizes the drug “up to a certain point” – an important step forward for social justice.

“Ordinary folks of color know they are more likely to get prosecuted for doing this,” Street said. “And yeah, it is making history if people won’t [be prosecuted] anymore.”

An analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that cannabis arrests account for more than half of all drug-related arrests in the county. Eight in 10 of the 8.2 million arrests studied between 2001 and 2010 were for possession of small amounts. Black users are also nearly four times more likely than white users to be arrested for cannabis, the ACLU said.

“This has been a 180 change in opinion for me,” Laughlin said. “I’m not a fan of the product. I don’t use it. I don’t think it’s great if people use marijuana. I know that seems a little odd … [but] I’ve realized some of the social damage we’ve done to communities of color over these minor offenses, and that really got my attention.”

Laughlin also said testimony from the Independent Fiscal Office last week that estimated tax revenues from cannabis sales could approach $1 billion further piqued his interest. 

“The final straw was a conversation I had with one of my kids … he told me he could have a bag of weed delivered to the house in under an hour and that’s better service than Amazon,” he said. “I realize anyone in Pennsylvania that wants to smoke marijuana is probably already doing it, so regulating it is the responsible thing to do.”

Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

Murphy signs N.J. legal weed bills, ending 3-year saga

New Jersey finally legalizes cannabis officially.

More than three years after he took office with hopes of legalizing marijuana in 100 days, Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills that together launch a marijuana industry in New Jersey and put an end to thousands of arrests.

 

But it took more than a marijuana-friendly governor to make reform a reality. There were years of failed legislative attempts, a ballot question that garnered more than 2.7 million votes in favor and three months of negotiations on tax revenue, licensing rules and the ultimate hangup that nearly killed the effort: penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana.

Murphy signed the bills Monday morning without the usual fanfare, putting his pen to paper just before the deadline to take action struck. If he had done nothing, two measures seeking to launch a legal marijuana industry and to end arrests would have become law without his signature.

“As of this moment, New Jersey’s broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stained the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color and failed the meaning of justice at every level, social or otherwise — are no more,” he said Monday afternoon during his briefing on the coronavirus in Trenton.

The governor signed the bills after both the Senate and Assembly held last-minute voting sessions Monday morning to pass a third bill establishing civil penalties for those under 21 caught with marijuana. Protracted debate drew the voting sessions out, and the bill passed both chambers with only 20 minutes left for Murphy to act on the first two measures.

The legalization and decriminalization bills languished on Murphy’s desk for more than two months awaiting the proposal. The governor said he would not sign them until lawmakers made penalties clear, but refused to issue a conditional veto calling for the change.

As the bills awaited action in 2021, police issued more than 2,000 charges for minor marijuana possession.

And a few plans developed and collapsed In that time. Lawmakers extended the deadline for Murphy to sign the bills by more than two weeks and the lengthy, sometimes tense, negotiations continued.

They finally proved fruitful Monday morning.

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of companies apply for six Georgia medical marijuana licenses

Dozens of applicants apply for just six Georgia marijuana licenses

From nearly 70 applicants, six companies will be chosen to begin manufacturing medical marijuana oil for Georgia patients.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission announced this month it will review the proposals and then award licenses to six companies, possibly in late spring or early summer.

The winning companies will then have one year to begin operations, according to state law, providing medicine for 14,000 registered patients for conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Though they’re allowed to consume the medicine, there’s no legal way to buy it until the companies come online.

“The goal is to ensure that patients have access to the highest-quality medicine that we can arrive at in our state with these production facilities,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “I’m very impressed with the quality and caliber of applicants.”

Licenses will be awarded based on criteria set in a state law creating the cannabis oil program in 2019. Companies submitted plans for production, business operations, facilities and seed-to-sale tracking, Turnage said.

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high. They’ll be allowed to grow the drug on a total of 400,000 square feet of indoor growing space statewide.

“The only thing we should be thinking about is how we can get the safest oil and the best medicine to Georgia patients,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville who sponsored legislation starting the program. “The licensees should be the six companies who are capable of creating a lab-tested, trusted, safe oil, and have a tested and proven product in other states.”

Lawmakers limited the number of licenses as part of a compromise between House and Senate leaders who had struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution.

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

N.J. cops filed 6,000 charges for weed since voters passed legalization initiative

New jersey still charging citizens with cannabis

Police across New Jersey have filed more than 6,000 charges for minor marijuana possession in the three months since 2.7 million voters said yes to legalizing weed in the Garden State.

The arrests continue as lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy work on a last-minute compromise for stalled marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills — and as people mistakenly believe that state has already reformed its laws prohibiting marijuana.

Police filed 2,378 charges for possessing less than 50 grams of marijuana during the month of January, according to a report from the state judiciary.

That’s lower than the pre-election average of arresting 100 some people a day, but higher than in November and December, when police across the state filed 2,125 charges and then 1,703 charges, respectively.

Many thought marijuana would be legal by Jan. 1. — and some argue it is.

But ongoing debate on two bills — one to launch a legal marijuana industry and another to end arrests for possessing small amounts — has left laws barring the drug’s use on the books.

“We’re in a terrible limbo,” said Chris Goldstein, of the cannabis activist group NORML.

“It is a huge concern,” he said. “I think the confusion — the dangerous confusion — isn’t among consumers. I think there’s a dangerous confusion among the police and prosecutors out there. The problem is police are still enforcing prohibition. I think they need a clearer directive.”

New Jerseyans voted 2 to 1 to legalize marijuana, but that didn’t overhaul prohibition immediately. Instead, it gave lawmakers a mandate to create a framework for a legal marijuana industry and to pass a bill to stop arrests.

They did that in mid-December, thinking Murphy would sign it by the start of 2021.

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.

Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Jamaican cannabis industry struggles due to supply and demand

Jamaica is running low on ganja.

Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the worst they’ve seen.

“It’s a cultural embarrassment,” said Triston Thompson, chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry.

Jamaica, which foreigners have long associated with pot, reggae and Rastafarians, authorized a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weed in 2015.

People caught with 2 ounces (56 grams) or less of cannabis are supposed to pay a small fine and face no arrest or criminal record. The island also allows individuals to cultivate up to five plants, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes.

But enforcement is spotty as many tourists and locals continue to buy marijuana on the street, where it has grown more scarce — and more expensive.

Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane season pummeled marijuana fields that were later scorched in the drought that followed, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses, according to farmers who cultivate pot outside the legal system.

“It destroyed everything,” said Daneyel Bozra, who grows marijuana in the southwest part of Jamaica, in a historical village called Accompong founded by escaped 18th-century slaves known as Maroons.

Worsening the problem were strict COVID-19 measures, including a 6 p.m. curfew that meant farmers couldn’t tend to their fields at night as is routine, said Kenrick Wallace, 29, who cultivates 2 acres (nearly a hectare) in Accompong with the help of 20 other farmers.

He noted that a lack of roads forces many farmers to walk to reach their fields — and then to get water from wells and springs. Many were unable to do those chores at night due to the curfew.

Wallace estimated he lost more than $18,000 in recent months and cultivated only 300 pounds, compared with an average of 700 to 800 pounds the group normally produces.

Activists say they believe the pandemic and a loosening of Jamaica’s marijuana laws has led to an increase in local consumption that has contributed to the scarcity, even if the pandemic has put a dent in the arrival of ganja-seeking tourists.

“Last year was the worst year. … We’ve never had this amount of loss,” Thompson said. “It’s something so laughable that cannabis is short in Jamaica.”

Tourists, too, have taken note, placing posts on travel websites about difficulties finding the drug.

Read the Full Story from AP

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