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Vermont: Senate Passes Compromise Marijuana Bill, House Extends Session

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's Senate passed a compromise bill on marijuana legalization Friday which could be taken up by the House on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Two versions were passed last week-- the House version would allow adult possession and cultivation, while the Senate version would implement a taxed and regulated regime.

The legislature had planned to adjourn on Saturday, leaving both bills hanging, but Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said the chamber would reconvene on Wednesday. The compromise legislation would legalize possession of small amounts and limited home grows by adults beginning in July 2018, but at present it is not clear if the House will take the legislation up. A commission would develop a tax-and-regulate scheme and present it to the legislature next year.

Sen. Dick Sears, a Democrat who advocates legalization, said the compromise is “a way for Vermont to join two other New England states (Massachusetts and Maine) to have a legalized, regulated seed-to-sale system at some point in the hopefully near future.”

The measure passed the chamber 20-9. But Republican Governor Phil Scott has not supported any plan legalizing marijuana and there is no guarantee he will sign the measure if it makes it to his desk.

Germany: Study Shows Marijuana Could Help Reverse Brain Aging

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Researchers from Germany's University of Bonn report that low doses of THC can help reverse some of the effects of brain aging and assist in restoring memory. Colleagues from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel agree with them according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine. The researchers used mice in the studies, and found that old animals were able to regress to the state of two-month-old mice with prolonged low-dose THC treatments.

“The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals,” Andreas Zimmer, from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn and member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation, said in a Neuroscience News report. “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces. When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain.”

Vermont: House Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill, Goes To Governor

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Vermont's House has passed a measure that would double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state and would expand the qualifying condition list. The measure passed the Senate in February and now goes to the desk of Governor Phil Scott.

The bill adds Chron's disease, Parkinson's disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions approved for treatment with medical marijuana and increases the number of dispensaries in the state to eight.

The bill also eliminates some of the red tape that could prevent some patients from accessing the program. It removes language that requires an applicant to have their application notarized and requirements that a physician provide a statement that other medical efforts had been made “over a reasonable amount of time without success to relieve symptoms.” The bill also adds language to protect physicians, requiring that their recommendations to include a statement that they are not prescribing marijuana, but instead confirming the patient has the qualifying condition.

If Governor Scott signs the bill, the Department of Public Safety will begin accepting applications for the four additional dispensaries on July 1.

Kansas: Grandmother With Terminal Cancer Jailed For Prescribed Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Angela Kastner, a grandmother from Wichita, Kansas, was sentenced to 48 hours in jail this week for driving under the influence. There was no alcohol in her system, but she tested positive for traces of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes a "high."

However, the THC came from Marinol, a synthetic medical marijuana product approved by the FDA and prescribed to Kastner by her doctor to suppress nausea from chemotherapy. She is undergoing chemotherapy for what is likely terminal colorectal cancer. Kansas is one of only three states where medical marijuana remains completely illegal, but Marinol has been legal nationwide since 1985.

Kastner was locked up anyway. "I miss my chemo tomorrow and I miss my doctors appointment tomorrow," she said. "I feel sorry for the next cancer patient who has to go through anything I have had to go through. They shouldn't have to do this at the end of their life."

Colorado: NFL Players Fight Pain With Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Nine former professional football players, all members of the Denver Broncos Alumni Association, met recently at CW Hemp offices in Boulder, CO for a tour and a firsthand lesson on the potential benefits of the marijuana plant. They all suffer daily from aches and pains that are a result of the combined nearly 700 NFL games in which they have played.

“Every day, I wake up in pain, from my ankles to my neck,” said Ebenezer Ekuban, 40, who played defensive end for nine NFL seasons. “It’s part of the territory. I know what I signed up for.”

Football players have treated pain for years with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, powerful prescription painkillers, and alcohol. One study says that retired NFL players use opioids at four times the rate of the general population. Marijuana advocates say there's a safer, healthier alternative available.

“This pain is never going away. My body is damaged,” said Eugene Monroe, 30, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens last year just three weeks after becoming the first active player to publicly call on the NFL to permit medical marijuana. “I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”

New Jersey: Gov. Christie Calls Marijuana Legalization 'Beyond Stupidity'

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the push for cannabis legalization “beyond stupidity,” adding that it’s “not time for use to be cool and say, ‘Pot’s OK,’” during a forum on substance abuse hosted by the New Jersey Hospital Association, NJ.com reports.

“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates,” Christie said during his remarks. “But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK. Baloney.”

Christie rallied against pro-legalization politicians, including Democrat Phil Murphy who is the favorite in this year’s gubernatorial campaign in the state.

“People like [Rep.] Nick Scutari and [Senate President] Steve Sweeney and Phil Murphy want to bring this poison, legalized, into this state under the premise that, well, it doesn’t matter because people can buy it illegally anyway,” Christie said in the report. “Then why not legalize heroin? I mean, their argument fails just on that basis. Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference? Let everybody choose.”

Democrat Scutari is the main sponsor of legalization legislation expected to be introduced in the legislature next year. Sweeney has indicated he would support the bill.

Mexico: President's Signature Will Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Mexico’s lower House of Congress passed a bill Friday that will legalize the use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, according to a report from Reuters. The Senate approved the measure in December and now it goes to the desk of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is expected to sign it.

“The ruling eliminates the prohibition and criminalization of acts related to the medicinal use of marijuana and its scientific research, and those relating to the production and distribution of the plant for these purposes,” the Lower House said in a statement posted to its website.

A bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in Mexico was introduced more than a year ago but has been stalled in the Senate.

Washington: Lawmakers Say Inflatable Tube Men Can't Sell Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On April 20, the unofficial cannabis holiday, Washington lawmakers voted to ban the use of "inflatable tube displays, persons in costume, or wearing, holding, or spinning a sign with a marijuana-related commercial message" by retail businesses selling cannabis products.

The marijuana bill also has some positive aspects as well, such as allowing Washington residents to share marijuana with other legal adults for the first time, and allowing cannabis retailers to operate five dispensaries. Presently they are limited to three dispensaries.

The stated purpose of this prohibition of marijuana-promoting blow-up ads is to protect children. Current regulations already prohibit marijuana advertisements from using cartoon characters, toys or other depictions deemed "especially appealing to children or other persons under legal age to consume marijuana."

But Washington legislators felt that a number of outdoor advertisements from recreational dispensaries were flouting the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

Images of a billboard put up by Clear Choice Cannabis in Tacoma were circulated around the Washington legislature as proof of cannabis businesses potentially targeting children. It featured a cat wearing a "thug life" collar along with text saying "I'm so high right meow."

Minnesota: Authorities Find $1.4 Million Worth Of Marijuana Smuggled In New Ford Fusions

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Police in the state of Minnesota have found approximately 1,100 pounds of marijuana hidden in the trunks of around 22 brand-new Ford Fusions manufactured and shipped from Mexico's Ford plant in February and March of this year, Alpha News reports. The total street value of the marijuana seized is around $1.4 million.

It began in February, when St. Paul authorities discovered 80 pounds of marijuana hidden in the spare tire wells of two Fusions ready for delivery in a railway vehicle holding lot. Authorities soon learned the cars were part of a larger group of 15 cars -- 13 of which had already been delivered to dealerships.

Police tracked down the remaining cars and found a 40-60 pound brick of marijuana in the spare tire well of each one. One of the Ford Fusions recovered had already been sold to an 86 year-old man. Police in Dillworth, Minnesota later found an additional 217 pounds of marijuana in seven more Ford Fusions after railroad employees discovered the drugs during a routine inspection.

Authorities believe the marijuana was placed in the cars by members of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel as they were loaded onto train cars for shipment to the US, and that the plan was to have someone break into the railway cars once they reached the US and recover the marijuana to be distributed.

Alaska: Feds Block Rainforest Farms From Paying Taxes

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Rainforest Farms, Juneau's first legal marijuana retailer, was turned away late last month by the U.S Postal Service when one of its owners attempted to mail a regularly scheduled tax payment to Anchorage. Anchorage is the only place in the state equipped to take cash deposits.

“Any proceeds from the selling of (marijuana) is considered drug proceeds under federal law, so you can’t mail that,” Postal inspector Aaron Behnen told the Empire from Anchorage.

Ken Alper, Alaska Department of Revenue Tax Division Director, said in an interview that the state needs to find a way for “these legitimate businesspeople to pay their taxes. We thought we had done that, and this throws a tremendous wrinkle into our processes.”

Even though eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, cannabis businesses remain mostly locked out of the banking system.

Marijuana is still illegal federally, so any business that deals with it is in violation of federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice stated in a 2013 memo that it would not interfere with states that have legalized marijuana, but that policy could change at any time.

Georgia: GOP Rep. Allen Peake Supplying Low-THC Oils To State's Registered Patients

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Republican Rep. Allen Peake is supplying low-THC cannabis oils to Georgia patients due to the state's limited laws that allow them to possess the products but offer no way for them to cultivate, import, or purchase them, the Associated Press reports. Peake, a major advocate for Georgia's medical marijuana law, has helped families move to Colorado in the past so they would have legal access to medical marijuana treatments.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to be able to help get product to these families, these citizens who have debilitating illnesses,” Peake said in the report. He added that he doesn’t know , and doesn’t ask, who delivers the boxes of cannabis oil to his Macon office.

He said that he makes a donation to a medical cannabis research foundation in Colorado each time a box is delivered, and that the donations total about $100,000 per year. Peake is allowed to legally possess the oil because he has obtained a medical marijuana card from the Georgia Department of Public Health, despite the fact that he is not considered a qualified patient under the state’s rules.

In Georgia, about 1,300 patients are enrolled in the state program and, aside from Peake, their only option to obtain the oil is online, which is against federal law.

Colorado: Gov. Hickenlooper Meets With AG Sessions, Hopeful Administration Will Maintain Status Quo

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and came away with the feeling that a federal crackdown on states with legalized marijuana is not likely, the Denver Post reports. Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff Doug Friednash indicated that Sessions is more focused on other priorities, such as the proposed border wall, than he is with legal marijuana markets.

Friednash said that Sessions viewed the 2014 Cole memo as “not too far from good policy.” The Cole memo directs the Department of Justice to not interfere in state-sanctioned cannabis programs.

Hickenlooper pointed out to the attorney general that since legalization there has been no rise in teenage cannabis use in the state, and that emergency room visits have steadily decreased as officials have enacted laws to better regulate cannabis-infused edibles.

Colorado lawmakers backed off a plan earlier this month to legalize cannabis social clubs, after Hickenlooper indicated he did not support the plan due to fears that it could attract federal intervention.

Maryland: Governor Orders Medical Marijuana Industry Diversity Study

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has ordered a study into whether minorities are at a disadvantage when trying to obtain business licenses for the state's medical marijuana program. The study will be coordinated by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, and the Department of Transportation.

The governor wants the study to be completed as soon as possible, according to Jimmy H. Rhee, special secretary of minority affairs.

“As the issue of promoting diversity is of great importance to me and my administration, your office should begin this process immediately in order to ensure opportunities for minority participation in the industry,” Hogan wrote in the directive to Rhee.

Two lawsuits are currently pending against the MMCC by minority-led companies over denials of their business license applications.

Washington, DC: Garrett Announces Press Conference On Federal Marijuana Deregulation Legislation

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A press release was issued today by 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett announcing details for a press conference highlighting H.R. 1227 - the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.

H.R. 1227 seeks specifically to remove marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols from the federal schedule of controlled substances, thereby leaving regulation up to the states.

In a February 27 press release, Garrett stated:

"I have long believed justice that isn't blind, isn't justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California."

The press conference will be held on May 17, 2017 at 2:00 PM at House Triangle, just outside the U.S. Capitol (back-up rain location to be determined).

Speakers planned for the conference are U.S. Congressman Tom Garrett, parents of Haley Smith, Sophia Miller, and Jennifer Collins (children with medical conditions such as epilepsy who are benefiting from medical marijuana), and several other bipartisan members of Congress that have cosponsored this legislation who have sent in tentative confirmations, such as U.S. Congressman Scott Taylor.

Georgia: Study Shows Medical Marijuana Legalization Leads To Lower Medicaid Costs

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where medical marijuana is legal, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical marijuana regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

Researchers reported, "[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied." They added, "If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion."

The team previously published a report in 2016 that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

Other studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

California: Study Shows Marijuana Decriminalization Associated With Improved Labor Market

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Data compiled by economists at the University of California shows that reducing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses is associated with greater overall employment and higher wages.

Researchers at the Economic Self-Sufficiency Research Policy Institute at the University of California at Irvine assessed the relationship between statewide marijuana decriminalization laws and labor outcomes.

The report says that decriminalization is associated with increased probability of employment, particularly for young males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. The greatest average wage increase was experienced by African-Americans.

"This data provides suggestive evidence that marijuana decriminalization laws improve extrinsic labor market outcomes," the authors concluded. "This result is consistent with existing literature that suggests black adults, especially men, stand to benefit the most from removing these penalties."

Colorado: Retail/Recreational Marijuana Licenses Increase, Medical Licenses Decrease

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The latest Colorado Marijuana Market Report finds that retail/recreational licenses are increasing in number while medical licenses are decreasing. Assistant Professor Paul Seaborn of the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business is the producer of the quarterly Market Report.

“The total number of active marijuana business licenses issued by the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division is at an all-­time record high of 2,971, up from 2,913 in December 2016,” says Seaborn. “52.5 percent of active licenses are for medical marijuana businesses, down from 54.5 percent in December 2016. 47.5 percent are for recreational/retail businesses, up from 45.5 percent.”

Retail dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing licenses have all increased in number since December 2016, the report finds, while medical centers, cultivation and manufacturing licenses have all decreased.

The Colorado Marijuana Market Report will be a quarterly publication by Seaborn analyzing the data from the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) and other sources.

West Virginia: Governor Signs Industrial Hemp Bill

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has signed a bill expanding the availability of licenses for the state's hemp production, reports the Register-Herald. The measure will allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to approve a license for any individual rather than just state colleges and universities.

First-time license applicants will be required to submit their fingerprints and undergo state and federal background checks at their own expense. Individuals granted a license will be “presumed to be growing industrial hemp for commercial purposes,” according to the bill text. Licenses will expire annually on December 31.

The measure passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.

Crescent Gallagher, communications director for the Department of Agriculture, said industrial hemp could play a role in improving the state’s economy.

“The department is looking forward to working with individuals who are interested in growing industrial hemp,” he said in an April 5 Gazette-Mail report. “The hope is that hemp becomes a niche crop that helps grow our agriculture industries and spur economic growth to help diversify our economy.”

U.S.: National District Attorneys Association Pens Prohibitionist Paper

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The National District Attorneys Association has released a paper supporting the enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

The authors conclude that “federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana should be applied consistently across the nation to maintain respect for the rule of law.”

The paper goes on to say "As a Schedule I drug, federal authorities have found that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and lacks safety for use under medical supervision."

The NDAA working group called children’s access to cannabis “one of the most significant concerns about legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use.”

“Legalization of marijuana for purported medicinal and recreational purposes has increased access by children,” the letter contends. “…It is vitally important to do all we can to prevent access to marijuana by youth in America. Their health, safety and welfare demand no less.”

Montana: Medical Marijuana Sales Tax Bill Heads To Governor

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A bill imposing a 4 percent tax on medical marijuana sales in Montana passed in the House 68-31 and has moved to Governor Steve Bullock's desk. Sen. Mary Caferro, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure, which was amended from 6 percent, will help the state regulate the program.

“The 4 percent tax was an amendment in the Senate and I supported it, and the reason is because the 4 percent tax is enough to set up the system,” she said in the report. “And that’s common practice, industry pays for their regulation.”

The tax will drop to 2 percent in July 2018 and will help cover new regulations including a seed-to-sale tracking system, site and shop inspections, and lab testing.

“The point of the bill, again, is to make sure that Montana has a regulated system so the feds don’t come shut it down,” Caferro said.

Kari Boiter, co-founder of the Patient Rights Network said the sales tax - which was 6 percent at the time - would create undue burdens for those patients on limited incomes.

“We’re already dealing with exorbitant medical costs and debt that we’re trying to pay,” she said in an Associated Press report. “This is just one more thing that adds to the expenses we’re taking on as sick individuals.”

Bullock is expected to sign the measure which his spokesperson called “fair and modest” last month.

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