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Pot Industry Bank Challenges Rejection by Federal Regulators

Pot Industry Bank Challenges Rejection by Federal Regulators

DENVER — A Colorado credit union is hoping a federal judge will intervene to let the booming marijuana industry move its finances from cash-stuffed suitcases to the regulated banking system.

A pair of lawsuits filed in Denver this week challenge recent decisions by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the National Credit Union Administration to deny applications from Fourth Corner Credit Union.

The credit union was set up last year to serve Colorado’s marijuana industry, but it needed permission from federal insurers and regulators before opening for business.

Parents Fight to Make Medical Marijuana Legal for Sick Child2:46

The Federal Reserve rejected Fourth Corner’s application earlier this month. The decision means many pot businesses still use elaborate banking workarounds — from paying the power bill with money orders to spritzing skunky cash with Febreze to avoid scrutiny.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued guidelines last year for how banks could accept pot money. But many large banks considered the guidelines onerous and still won’t take deposits related to marijuana businesses, prompting Colorado banking regulators to set up a proposed credit union to comply with those guidelines.

Fourth Corner would have allowed pot shops and growers to access not just basic checking but also lines of credit and other financial products the expanding industry wants.

“We thought it was a good model,” said Andrew Freedman, marijuana adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper. “It’s an under-banked industry, and that’s a problem not just for them but for the people of Colorado” because of the security risks of doing business in cash, he said.

The marijuana industry isn’t completely without banking services. Some 400 financial institutions have filed thousands of marijuana-related reports with federal banking regulators in compliance with last year’s guidance.

House Votes to Allow Marijuana-Related Banking

But many in the marijuana industry say they face significant hurdles, even fielding offers from shady entrepreneurs offering to fly their cash to another country to set up offshore accounts.

When a pot business wants to expand — perhaps by building a new warehouse or renovating a storefront — it typically has to find a cash investor willing to accept the risk of fronting money to a business that’s illegal under federal law, usually in exchange for a steep interest rate.

“They have to pay a premium to get those banking services,” said Tyler Henson, head of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, which represents pot growers and retailers as well as ancillary businesses such as grow-light manufacturers. “Everyone wants a solution because nobody wants to give their retail employee a paycheck, $1,500 in cash, and ask them to walk home with that late at night. It’s just not safe.”

But the National Credit Union Administration cited uncertainty about the marijuana business in declining Fourth Corner’s application for deposit insurance. In a July 2 letter, the agency told the credit union that the marijuana industry “does not have an established track record of success and remains illegal at the federal level.”

Two weeks later, the Federal Reserve rejected the credit union’s application for a “master account,” which Fourth Corner would need to interact with other financial institutions.

The credit union filed two lawsuits Thursday challenging the decisions. “The NCUA lacks expertise in the operation and regulation of the state legalized cannabis industry,” the credit union argued in its complaint.

Representatives of the NCUA and Federal Reserve declined to comment Friday on the lawsuits.

Other federal agencies are starting to talk about the marijuana industry’s finances, though.

The Internal Revenue Service released a memo Friday saying that a Washington state marijuana business owner could subtract state excise taxes on pot from the proceeds of selling it. Industry watchers interpreted it as an incremental step toward allowing pot business to claim business deductions currently off-limits to them.

And earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to amend a Financial Services spending bill to let banks provide financial services to state-legalized marijuana dispensaries. That amendment still faces a House vote.

Still, the nascent pot business was hoping an industry credit union could help mitigate the problem sooner. Taylor West, head of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said the frequent bank filings about dealings with the pot business are misleading.

“If you look at those filings, a lot of them are termination notices,” West said.

Source: NBC NEWS

Marijuana Commerce Blossoms, But Challenges Abound

Marijuana Commerce Blossoms, But Challenges Abound

As marijuana prohibition falls in one state after another, cannabis sales are shifting from street corners to storefronts as opportunists line up to cash in on what optimists say is the biggest investment opportunity since the dot-com boom of the turn of the century.

Investors of all varieties are starting to look at marijuana as less of a stoner’s fad and more of a serious business venture. The industry totaled $2.66 billion in U.S. sales in 2014, up 74 percent from $1.53 billion the year before, according to the ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment network.

Business insiders said they expect the market to expand to many times its present size as more states legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

Big Money Bets Weed Will Bring in the Green2:18

Already the cannabis trade has not only brought in millions for dispensary owners and cultivators, it’s also created a thriving ancillary market, driven job growth and boosted property values, marijuana advocates claim.

Still, the challenges are many for the kind of high-risk, high-reward investment that cannabis calls for. No industry since post-Prohibition alcohol has come close to having had a harder time getting off the ground, from strict regulation and heavy taxation to a lack of investors and banking services.

“A lot of people look at the cannabis industry and say, ‘Oh my God, it’s so much harder. (There are) so many barriers … You’ve got endless problems,'” said Troy Dayton, CEO of the ArcView Group. “Well, some people see endless problems. Other people see endless problems disappearing fairly soon and see this as a great investment.”

Dispensaries, cultivators not only ones making money

Jamie Perino, the CEO of Colorado-based Euflora dispensaries, said the three-store chain has so many customers that it wants to open more outlets, not only in Colorado but also across the country.

Perino estimated that Euflora, dubbed the “Apple store” of pot for its tablets next to every product displaying information about potency, strains and more, brings in 2.5 million visitors a year at its 16th Street Mall location in downtown Denver.

Colorado pot sales soar
A sample of marijuana sits in a jar for customer to inspect and smell at Euflora Dispensary in Denver on March 11, 2015. RJ Sangosti / Denver Post via Getty Images

Perino isn’t a marijuana enthusiast, but the financial opportunities were too good to pass up after Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Dispensaries began opening in 2014. After working in the building industry for 15 years, Perino made the switch.

“There were CEOs, CFOs, from pharmacy, banking, real estate,” Perino said. “People were leaving their jobs to get into this industry, and I think that if they are getting into it, maybe they know something I should know. … It’s kind of being compared to the tech boom of several years ago and to be at the forefront of it is really exciting.”

Colorado alone brought in about $79 million from taxes and fees on the marijuana industry in fiscal year 2015. On the fringes, ancillary business also have found money-making niches to fulfill the needs of marijuana businesses.

Cultivators need high-wattage lights to grow cannabis indoors. States have contracted seed-to-sale tracking systems to try and stop cannabis from slipping to the black market. Limousine companies shuttle paying customers from dispensary to dispensary.

Legal Marijuana Boosts Vape Shops’ Bottom Line

J.B. Woods, co-owner of Greenpoint Insurance Advisors LLC, is based in the Denver area but specializes as an insurance broker for dispensaries nationwide. It’s a necessity for companies storing marijuana by the pound and cash by the bundle.

“There are a couple of states who have made it really very clear that insurance is an important part of the licensing process,” Woods said.

The security danger spawned by the all-cash industry also has created a secondary market of its own. Companies provide security cameras, alarm bells and guard dogs.

As acceptance spreads, industry matures

When the ArcView Group first started hosting conferences to connect marijuana businesses with cautious early investors, the events reinforced quite a few stoner stereotypes, ArcView CEO Dayton said.

He described a ragtag lot who cared more about smoking weed than making money off it. Many of the presenters looked uncomfortable in suits and ties and floundered through their pitches.

ArcView events now draw a sharply dressed mix of professionals who whip through presentations with practiced precision – a reflection of the maturing industry, Dayton said.

As more states legalize, shifting social attitudes have opened the door for a host of white-collar professionals who once shied away at the mere mention of marijuana. Lawyers are leaving their corporate firms behind. Bankers are closing down their tills. Business is serious. Business is brisk.

From Hawaii to New York, 23 states across the country, plus Washington, D.C., have approved marijuana for medical use, with Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C., legalizing recreational marijuana, as well.

The legalization tide has flooded the marijuana market with entrepreneurs who must distinguish themselves amid rising competition.

There are hookahs and bubblers, volcano vaporizers and percolated bongs. Consumers slurp down THC-infused ice cream and gnaw on gummy bears. They slather on lotions permeated with marijuana oil and dollop out droplets of tinctures, cannabis extracted with alcohol. The secondary market of ancillary businesses has filled the gap to meet a growing demand for the latest and greatest way to get high.

Although it can be difficult to get into the dispensary business – with steep initial investments and time-consuming licensing – those who try said the potential profit in a growing market makes the endeavor worth it. State licenses can be hard to come by, but once in hand, caps on dispensaries can limit competition and provide a big payday.

Nearly two years ago, Illinois approved a medical cannabis pilot program. Dispensaries plan to open this year to serve the state’s 2,600 approved patients.

Brad Zerman, who plans to open one of the state’s 56 dispensaries, said he sees it as a smart business investment.

“I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve had businesses since I was 23 years old,” Zerman said. “Everything about this business is difficult. You really just have to be up for a good challenge.”

Brad Zerman stands in front of his medical marijuana dispensary storefront in Oak Park, Illinois. The dispensary is set to open in late 2015. Clarissa Cooper / News 21

Though social attitudes are leaning more in marijuana’s favor, the majority of traditional investors – who tend to be more conservative with their choices – have kept their caution.

Boston-based Dutchess Capital, a global money manager of more than $2 billion in assets, moved into marijuana in 2012, one of the first companies to invest in the field.

Doug Leighton, managing partner at Dutchess, said it “took a very long time to get comfortable, given the federal government’s stance” on the Schedule 1 drug – a drug that has no medicinal benefits and can’t be legally bought and sold. It makes investors wary of potential federal prosecution. But the potential profits outweighed the risk.

“We did our homework,” Leighton said. “But it’s weed. We’re not going to lose. How are we going to lose?”

Headaches abound for marijuana entrepreneurs

Though promises of profit have lured entrepreneurs to marijuana, making money has proven anything but easy for many. Steep initial investments sting. Heavy taxes cut into bottom lines. The know-how to navigate complex regulations can separate those who make it from those who don’t. For every successful business, many more fail, experts said.

“We’ve got a room full of banker’s boxes with files from businesses who didn’t succeed,” said Woods, the Denver insurance broker.

To even apply for a license, many municipalities require dispensary hopefuls to lease a suitable location beforehand, so owners pay rent for months without knowing for sure if they’ll ever be able to open.

Banking solutions are few and far between, and the Department of Justice has issued strict guidelines for any bank that touches marijuana proceeds. Because the federal government categorizes marijuana as an illegal, Schedule 1 drug, financial institutions are reluctant to deal with it, fearing federal repercussions.

Pot Risk Vs. Profit: Bankers Cautious of Marijuana Operations

Many in the industry must stuff stacks of currency in safes and pay state and federal taxes in cash.

Taxes, too, are tough. On tax returns, marijuana companies can’t write off business expenses tied to the drug. Other lines of work rely on such tax breaks to make a profit.

Finding a suitable location has proven another challenge for marijuana businesses.

Fledgling Marijuana Industry Pressing Through Labor Pains

Strict zoning laws on the local level have generated a lucrative real estate market for compliant locations. In pot hotspots such as Denver, real estate prices have risen to reflect the growing demand.

A former commercial real estate broker, Matt Chapdelaine, co-founder of Chicago-based HerbFront, the United States’ first online cannabis real estate listing service, estimates the fair market price for marijuana-zoned properties at 150 percent of their typical market value. Only 1 to 2 percent of all properties in most areas work for marijuana, he said.

The marijuana businesses that go on to do well and look to expand are often hampered by a shortage of sources for funding.

Some companies have turned to public offerings to build up capital, but reputable ones are few and far between, according to industry analysts and market research. Many are full of over-valuations and empty promises of impossible returns, said Michael Swartz, an analyst with Viridian Capital, a marijuana-focused investment firm.

“It’s important in this industry to do your homework,” he said. “There’s an opportunity, but there are a lot of challenges and risks involved.”

Bigger players could uproot smaller businesses

The marijuana economy of today – full of mom-and-pop shops and small-scale investors – could look a lot different a few years from now.

Industry experts liken pot today to alcohol in its early post-Prohibition years, full of early adopters trying to corner their own slice of the market before the bigger players move in.

There are interests within more than a dozen states pushing legalization initiatives in the 2016 election. Though the majority haven’t yet gathered enough signatures to make it on the ballot – it’s still early – the industry expects more states to follow the lead of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington in legalizing marijuana.

Click Here to See All of News 21’s ‘America’s Weed Rush’ Project

As the market continues to grow – ArcView projects a $10.8 billion legal sales market by 2019 – interest from bigger players may pick up.

And if the federal government does make marijuana legal, the changes could be even bigger.

Dayton, the CEO of ArcView said he expects other highly regulated industries, like restaurant chains and food manufacturers, to snap up marijuana companies once it’s safer to do so.

“Think of the wine market,” he said. “Cannabis is just like that. Sure, there are the big producers, but there’s also the small and the medium size. You’re certainly going to see some consolidation.”

A battle over branding looms over cannabis, Swartz said. The industry is still in its infancy, too young to have the marijuana equivalents of the Apples and the Walmarts and the Coca-Colas. Especially with restrictions placed on advertising most everywhere, it’s too soon to tell which early starters will become go-to brands, but it looks to be a matter of time until consumer favorites emerge.

“It’s going to be the brands,” Swartz said. “It’s going to be the Bacardi, the Grey Goose. That’s where you’re going to see the biggest market. It’s going to be about quality, but what’s even more important is that brand.”

Without a solid and well-known specialty, mom and pop marijuana businesses will be swallowed up once bigger players move in, he said – it’s just a matter of time.

Clarissa Cooper is a Reynolds Fellow.

This report is part of the project titled “America’s Weed Rush,” produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Source: NBC NEWS

‘No-Buzz’ Medical Pot Laws Prove Problematic for Patients, Lawmakers

No-Buzz’ Medical Pot Laws Prove Problematic for Patients, Lawmakers

Mom Says Autistic Daughter’s Self-Injuring Rages Stopped by Cannabis Oil2:41

The idea was intoxicating to lawmakers in more than a dozen states where medical marijuana was a political nonstarter: Give patients with certain severe medical problems access to a type of pot that might provide relief without producing the “high” usually associated with the plant.

First of Two Parts

But two years after 17 Midwestern and Southern states began passing a series of what are known as “CBD-only” medical marijuana laws, many people they were intended to help are rising up in protest. The laws, they say, help few patients, exclude others who could benefit and force residents to commit criminal acts in order to get relief for themselves or their loved ones.

Image: Maria LaFrance holds raw cannabis oil with a high THCA content
Maria LaFrance holds raw cannabis oil with a high THCA content which is only available in states that allow medical marijuana, and a high CBD oil, which is available online but is low in TCHA, while with her son Quincy Hostager, 14, who has Dravet Syndrome that is helped by taking the high THCA cannabis oil, Friday, April 22, 2016, at their home in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Morgan / for NBC News

“There is no amount of tweaking to a CBD decriminalization law that will make it work,” said Maria La France of Des Moines, Iowa, who gives her 14-year-old son, Quincy Hostager, an oil derived from marijuana to treat his Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy. “I don’t want to break the law, but I have to.”

The CBD-only laws allow residents with specified medical conditions to legally use marijuana-derived products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) but are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces marijuana’s “high.” (Both CBD and THC are among the scores of active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are present in the marijuana plant.)

For medical purposes, that usually means orally ingesting an oil derived from marijuana or hemp, though there also are numerous other products like body oils containing CBD for topical uses.

Supporters involved in passing the laws portrayed them as compassionate measures that would let patients avail themselves of the potentially therapeutic or pain-relieving properties of pot without risking the possibility of creating a new generation of drug addicts.

But political opposition — often led by some of the families the laws were intended to help — has emerged in many of the states that passed the legislation.

“We’re not lawbreakers and this shouldn’t even be an issue,” said Jennifer Conforti of Fayetteville, Georgia, who gives her 5-year-old autistic daughter, Abby, marijuana-derived oil with higher-than-allowed levels of THC to control dangerous biting episodes. “It should be a medicine that doctors go to when they need it.”

Conforti and others who want to expand the state’s CBD-only law to cover additional medical conditions, allow for higher levels of THC and provide for in-state cultivation and distribution of CBD products have mounted a “civil disobedience” campaign to raise public awareness about the issue.

In Utah, proponents of expanded access to whole-plant medical marijuana say they will conduct a campaign to unseat legislators who opposed a bill to expand the state’s current CBD-only law.

‘Is this what we’re going to do?’

Even some involved in crafting CBD-only laws acknowledge that lawmakers have ventured onto thin ice by intervening in matters that may best be left to patients and their doctors.

“Is this what we’re going to do? Are we going to vote on the next blood pressure medication or chemo treatment because of anecdotal evidence?” said Pat Bird, an executive for a Utah substance abuse prevention program who was involved in the failed effort this year to update the state’s CBD-only law.

The laws also have been harshly criticized by both medical marijuana advocates and prominent members of the medical establishment, albeit for very different reasons.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which advocates for the decriminalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, said the laws were a transparent attempt by conservatives to avoid appearances of a flip-flop on medical marijuana.

“These same politicians who have opposed legislation for whole-plant cannabis are falling over themselves to support this legislation that has helped very few people,” he said.

Those who believe medical pot should be broadly available have three main objections to what they consider “politically expedient” CBD-only measures:

  • They typically are narrower than broad medical marijuana laws passed in other states, often specifying a limited number of medical conditions — in some cases a single malady — that can be treated, excluding many other patients who could potentially benefit from CBD use. In Iowa, for example, only 65 patients had obtained medical marijuana cards as of early April under the state’s law, which allows the use of CBD products only for cases of intractable epilepsy.
  • Most of the laws do not regulate or provide for cultivation, processing and distribution of CBD products. So patients or their families are forced to break other federal or state laws by crossing state lines or obtaining the products by mail. (Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which classifies it as an illegal Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use. That also applies to CBD products, according to most legal experts.)
  • By imposing low limits on the amount of THC that products can contain, they penalize patients who obtain relief only from products in which CBD and THC work in concert — a combination that medical marijuana advocates refer to as the “entourage effect.”
Image: Raw cannabis oil with a high THCA content
Raw cannabis oil with a high THCA content, in the jar, which is only available in states that allow whole-plant medical marijuana, and a syringe containing CBD oil sit on a table in Maria La France’s home in Des Moines, Iowa. She gives her son Quincy, who suffers from Dravet syndrome, both to control his seizures. Scott Morgan / for NBC News

La France, the Iowa mom, for example, says that CBD oil with less than 3 percent THC — the limit under the state’s law — didn’t quell Quincy’s violent seizures alone, but combination of CBD oil and another product with higher levels of THCa — another cannabinoid that isn’t authorized under Iowa’s law — significantly reduced them.

That means she’s forced to break the law ostensibly passed to help patients like Quincy — a risk she’s willing to run because of the results she has seen.

“Last year he was not taking cannabis oil and he barely went to school (because of frequent seizures),” La France said. “This year, he’s going to school much more often and for longer parts of the day. His teachers and family have noticed that his eye contact is better, he’s more responsive.”

Many in the medical establishment are equally dismayed by CBD laws — and the broader medical marijuana laws passed by 24 other states — arguing that they were passed based on anecdotal evidence, not hard science.

“That is really not the proper way of practicing medicine,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told NBC News. “That kind of decision-making, based on ‘I think it works,’ can result in very negative outcomes.”

Image: CBD marijuana
A scientist at CW Botanicals’ laboratory checks product quality and purity during the production of Charlotte’s Web, a popular CBD oil. CW Botanicals

Volkow acknowledges that research and clinical trials needed to provide scientific evidence of medical marijuana’s efficacy —and the roles that CBD and THC play — have lagged, burdened by marijuana’s stigma as a recreational drug. But she says that studies currently nearing completion will soon begin to show whether the anecdotal evidence holds up.

Volkow’s concern is shared by Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, a pediatric neurologist at Colorado Children’s Hospital. She said an observational study there of young epilepsy patients being treated with medical marijuana found that about a third showed improvement, but 44 percent experienced some type of adverse reaction — some of them life threatening.

That is why the hospital’s physicians do not recommend or administer medical marijuana or CBD products and underlines the need for clinical testing and development of pharmaceutical grade products, said Brooks-Kayal, who also is immediate past president of the American Epilepsy Society.

“If this is a good therapy, we all want to know that, and we want to know how to use it and understand the interaction with other medicines,” she said.

The lack of regulation of CBD products also raises other safety questions.

Sue Rusche, CEO of the Atlanta-based drug prevention group National Families in Action, noted that a quirk in Colorado law, where most CBD oil sold in other states is produced, requires recreational marijuana to be tested for contaminants like pesticides, but not medical marijuana.

“There’s no patient, careful pharmacological work going on,” she said. “It’s very scary.”

Law enforcement also has raised objections to the CBD laws, saying that it can provide cover for drug dealers — a concern cited in April 2015 when Idaho’s Republican Gov. Butch Otter became the first and only state executive to veto CBD-only legislation.

High CBD Oil
Extractor Frank Bianco breaks up a high-CBD strain of marijuana used to make Charlotte’s Web on Aug. 7, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. Joe Amon / Denver Post via Getty Images file

“If you look at CBD or hash oil, there is no way for an officer on the street to tell the difference. It would have to go to a lab for testing,” said Elisha Figueroa, director of the state’s Office of Drug Policy. “That would really cause a big problem for law enforcement.”

While political support for CBD-only laws has shown signs of weakening, they do have their defenders.

Georgia state Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican who introduced the first CBD-only bill there in 2014, said he remains committed to improving the law by making additional medical conditions eligible for treatment and by creating an in-state program to cultivate marijuana and process it into CBD products so that residents can legally acquire them.

“This has become a passionate cause for me,” he said, adding, “From experiences I hear every day, it’s changing lives.”

And Joel Stanley, CEO of CW Botanicals, a Colorado company that he said exploits a “legal gray area” to sell CBD oil to patients in other states, said passage of the laws represented a step “to help some people and get a law on the books in conservative states that were not going to pass a medical marijuana bill for decades.”

“The first thing is to get people to understand that this really does work for a lot of people,” he told NBC News, adding that he supports patients’ rights to access different forms of medical marijuana.

Legal no-man’s land

In the meantime, though, parents like LaFrance and Conforti and patients whose conditions are not eligible to lawfully use CBD products are left in a frustrating legal limbo.

Their risk of prosecution is likely minimal. The Drug Enforcement Agency has not targeted users of CBD products for medicinal use and says it has no plans to do so. The Obama administration also sent a memo to federal prosecutors in 2009 encouraging them not to charge people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with state laws.

Oil containing CBD from “agricultural hemp” — a strain of marijuana that is low in THC — is displayed at the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Chicago on May 24, 2015. Carla K. Johnson / AP

And state and local law enforcers generally look the other way when it comes to CBD products, even those that exceed the limits prescribed by the law.

But there have been a few cases of parents facing prosecution for giving medical marijuana to their kids.

Angela Brown of Madison, Minnesota, for instance, was charged with child endangerment by local authorities in 2014 for illegally giving her 13-year-old son, Trey, cannabis oil she obtained in Colorado to ease his pain from a traumatic brain injury. A plea deal spared her from spending up to two years behind bars.

Concern over legal liability also is cited as a reason that Missouri — the first state with a CBD-only law to license growers and produce products for residents — had issued only 37 registration cards to patients with intractable epilepsy as of early March.

“The neurologists, many of them are sympathetic, but they’re all associated with hospitals and those hospitals have insurance companies that fear a liability if they recommend it,” said John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, a state group advocating for marijuana legalization.

Volkow, the director of National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that studies and clinical trials now under way that will soon begin to provide some clarity for medical professionals and the public at large. And recent moves by the DEA to ease restrictions on clinical trials of CBD also should help speed additional research, she said.

Clinical trial of pharmaceutical-grade CBD under way

Volkow and others who say that legislators got out in front of the science on medical marijuana are closely watching an ongoing clinical trial of a pharmaceutical-grade version of CBD called Epidiolex for treating childhood epilepsy.

If the early promise shown in the trial, which is expected to be completed late this year, is confirmed, that could lead to approval by the FDA and eventually clear the way for insurance companies to start covering CBD products, said Rusche, the executive of the drug abuse prevention group.

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of New York University’s Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and leader of the clinical trial of Epidiolex, said he understands the frustration of patients and their family members who believe that some form of marijuana eases their suffering and don’t want to wait out the process.

“I think it puts people in a very difficult position,” he said of the current hodge-podge of medical marijuana laws and the dearth of scientific evidence about the plant’s effects. “If you’ve truly exhausted the major medical options then I think a trial of cannabidiol or other medical marijuana is worth considering, with the understanding that we lack a thorough understanding of its effects.”

But for the longer term, Devinsky said, it’s imperative that gold-standard studies like the one he’s conducting get done to help reveal the science inside the leaves and buds.

“The only way to find out is blindfold myself, and blindfold my patients and see what the results tell us,” he said.

Source: NBC NEWS

Legal Marijuana Business Finds Its Footing, Despite Challenges

Heightened competition in the market for legal recreational weed is pushing prices down and firing up border wars across state lines. Competition is so steep in Washington state that cannabis revenue growth has slowed as Oregon ramps up its adult pot sales.

What’s more, in Colorado and Oregon there’s more interest from out-of-state investors entering the recreational pot business.

Then there’s California, where voters will decide later this year whether to legalize recreational pot.

Yet, for all the interest, the marijuana business remains fraught with risks and capital challenges.

“Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, so it makes investing very risky,” said Jessica Rabe, a research analyst with ConvergEx, a New York-based brokerage that released its outlook for the industry last week. Federal laws make it difficult for marijuana businesses to open bank accounts, and as a result many have gobs of cash sitting around, making them targets for robberies.

Texas Veterans Advocate for Medical Marijuana0:53

“The recreational marijuana business shows a vibrant and growing industry as more states legalize the drug,” ConvergEx said. However, it said several states with legalized recreational use have put barriers to out-of-state investors, and “the U.S. Department of Justice frowns upon outside money flowing into the marijuana industry as well.”

Overall, state-regulated marijuana sales reached $5.7 billion in 2015, up nearly 24 percent from the prior year, boosted by growth tripling in the recreational market, according to “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets” report from ArcView Group, an Oakland, California-based investment network for cannabis start-ups. It forecasts legal cannabis sales are on track to reach $22.8 billion by 2020, with adult use representing more than half the total market.

Nearly half of the states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation or ballot measures to legalize the possession and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, and four states — Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Oregon — have legalized adult recreational use. At least nine states have medical cannabis or adult legalization measures in the works, including the closely watched ballot initiative effort in California to legalize recreational use statewide for people 21 and older.

Meantime, a U.S. Senate drug caucus hearing set for Tuesday underscores some of the uncertainties at the federal level still facing the marijuana industry.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-chair of the drug caucus, are convening the hearing entitled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” Both lawmakers have long been opposed to legalizing recreational use.

The Senate hearing follows the release of a marijuana report last month by the Government Accountability Office that Grassley and Feinstein had requested. The GAO report called out the Department of Justice for not providing more clarity on its marijuana enforcement policies and recommends “DOJ document a plan specifying its process for monitoring the effects of state marijuana legalization.”

“They are really barking up the wrong tree if their opinion is that the Justice Department should be going after people who are following state law in states that have decided to go this route,” said ArcView CEO Troy Dayton. “The public is behind us, and at the end of the day public officials ultimately answer to the public.”

California’s recreational use initiative imposes a 15 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana and includes cultivation fees. Recreational legalization backers have raised more than $2 million in campaign funds, including about $1 million from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker. Also, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018, has endorsed the measure.

“For California, you’re looking at a $15 billion market potentially, and probably 15 percent of that will go back to the state coffers,” said Norton Arbelaez, an entrepreneur and attorney who founded Denver-based RiverRock Cannabis, a chain of marijuana dispensaries. He said passage of recreational marijuana in Colorado created a fast-growing industry with more than 10,000 jobs, and he believes the economic impact in California would be much greater because “California’s economy is the size of France.”

California voters approved medical cannabis in 1996, and several previous attempts to legalize recreational use in the state have failed. Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the adult weed legalization initiative in California, said the group has “every expectation” the measure will qualify for the November ballot.

The medical market in California, according to ArcView, is expected to remain the largest nationally through 2020, although it projects the medical market portion will shrink from $2.7 billion in 2015 to $2.6 billion by 2020. It cited strict new medical regulations passed in 2015 and the legalization of adult use in 2016, which is expected to reduce the levels of patient participation.

Retail recreational marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington state last year were roughly a combined $1 billion (when adding medical marijuana sales the combined total regulated sales in Washington and Colorado reached $1.7 billion in 2015, with Colorado almost $1 billion by itself). Oregon figures appear to show the first month of adult use in January 2016 produced about $14 million in retail sales, outpacing the first-month sales from legal weed in Colorado and Washington.

Parents Fight to Make Medical Marijuana Legal for Sick Child2:46

Also, there’s been downward pricing pressure on legal marijuana in Washington state and Colorado, and analysts expect Oregon to start to see it later this year when more retailers are allowed to sell recreational pot. Furthermore, there are reports of competition across state lines, including marijuana retailers in southern Washington facing increasing competition from Oregon, where pot taxes are lower and set to decline again later this year. ArcView’s report referred to “cross-border wars” across state lines and revealed that “immediately following Oregon’s market launch, Washington’s average daily cannabis revenues began to fall by almost the exactly same amount as they were once growing.”

As for Alaska, the state plans to issue recreational licenses later this year. Already, nearly 240 business applications have been received from proposed retailers, cultivators, testers and manufacturers, according to the state.

Alaska has strict marijuana business residency requirements to participate in the industry, and the business must essentially be 100 percent Alaskan-owned (California’s proposed adult legalization measure has no such restrictions). As a result, RiverRock’s Arbelaez believes the lack of out-of-state investors and expertise will result in “a slower development curve” for Alaska. Still, Alaska is the only state to approve allowing consumption of cannabis-infused edibles on the retailer’s premises, setting the stage for Amsterdam-style pot cafes to serve spiked brownies as early as this fall.


Source: NBC NEWS

Emergency Room Visits Double for Marijuana-Using Colorado Visitors

Emergency Room Visits Double for Marijuana-Using Colorado Visitors

Tourists who come to Colorado and take advantage of the state’s liberal marijuana laws often end up in emergency rooms, doctors said Wednesday.

Emergency department visits involving marijuana-using visitors doubled from 2013 to 2014, the first year cannabis use was legalized in Colorado, a team of Denver-area doctors said.

Image: Marijuana buds are prepped for sale
Marijuana buds are prepped for sale in Northglenn, Colorado. RICK WILKING / Reuters File

“At our institution, the rate of ED visits possibly related to cannabis use among out-of-state residents doubled from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013 to 168 per 10,000 visits in 2014, which was the first year of retail marijuana sales,” wrote Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency room toxicologist at the University of Colorado Denver in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, along with colleagues.

Rates of visits involving marijuana did not change for in-state Colorado residents, they found.

Monte said some of the cases may simply involve people who mention marijuana use to the ER staff when they’re in the hospital for something else. But even accounting for that, rates are up, he said.

“We see three different groups of people that come into the department,” Monte told NBC News. “The first are exacerbations of underlying medical conditions.”

These could include patients with anxiety disorders or schizophrenia, which can be worsened by marijuana use, or people with heart disease who can develop complications with heavy use, Monte said.

That’s not always dangerous but it could be, he said. “In a young health person with a young healthy heart, absolutely not,” he said. But in people with underlying heart disease, the stress of a racing heart from eating marijuana could be fatal, Monte said.

Legalized: A Year in the Life of Recreational Marijuana in Colorado14:18

A second group would be directly affected by the drug. “These would be things like motor vehicle collisions when they are high or smoking,” Monte said. Cyclic vomiting, which can come with heavy daily use, is another issue, Monte said.

The third group are people who smoke or eat a little too much pot and get heavily intoxicated and scared.

“Those are disproportionately due to the edibles,” Monte said.

“I took care of a guy just the other night that had come in, was flying out of town, had come in to see friends, decided to drink some liquid just before going to the airport. He started to feel anxious. His heart started to race. So he came into the emergency department. So we made sure he had no heart trouble, checked the blood sugar, gave him a little bit of sedative and then sent him on to the airport.”

States planning to legalize marijuana should take heed of these experiences and start education campaigns before the laws loosen up, Monte said.

“People should start low and go slow and have a full understanding of what the risks are,” he said. “Nothing is 100 percent safe. You can get intoxicated by water if you drink too much of it.”

Marijuana use has more than doubled in the U.S. since the beginning of the century. Legal U.S. pot sales hit a new high of $5.4 billion in 2015. Colorado sales surpassed $100 million last year for the first time. About 9.5 percent of U.S. adults used marijuana in 2013, up from 4.1 percent in 2001-2002.

But with more sales come more problems for users. Researchers found that nearly three of 10 marijuana users manifested a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013. Studies suggest that using marijuana and alcohol together impairs driving more than either substance alone and that alcohol use may increase the absorption of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

Source: NBC NEWS

Battle Over Georgia’s ‘No-Buzz’ Medical Marijuana Law Gets Personal. Mom Says Autistic Daughter’s Self-Injuring Rages Stopped by Cannabis Oil

Battle Over Georgia’s ‘No-Buzz’ Medical Marijuana Law Gets Personal

Mom Says Autistic Daughter’s Self-Injuring Rages Stopped by Cannabis Oil2:41

A Georgia mom is helping to lead the charge to expand the state’s limited medical marijuana law, which she says unfairly excludes many patients with severe medical conditions — including her 5-year-old autistic daughter — who could benefit from the plant’s medicinal properties.

“There are some pretty tenacious parents who are fighting,” said Jennifer Conforti, whose daughter, Abby, isn’t covered by the current law. “… Why wouldn’t you do that as a legislator? What is in it for you to make you not want to help families in the state?”

Second of two parts

Georgia is one of 17 conservative states in the Midwest and South that have passed so-called “CBD-only” medical marijuana laws since 2014. The laws allow patients with certain medical conditions to legally use products derived from the marijuana plant that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) but low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces the “high” associated with consumption of the plant.

The messiness of medical marijuana lawmaking — amid conflicting medical opinions and increasing public demand for access — is amply illustrated by the situation in Georgia, where a civil disobedience campaign is underway to try to force legislators to expand the state’s CBD-only law.

Georgia’s law, approved with overwhelming support last year in the state Legislature and enthusiastically embraced by the state’s conservative Republican Gov. Nathan Deal at the time, illustrates how quickly the political winds have shifted since the adoption of a rash of CBD-only laws began two years ago.

State Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon, earned the honorific of “godfather” of Georgia’s medical marijuana movement by proposing a bill in early 2014 to legalize so-called “CBD-only” products derived from pot.

The bill would have allowed residents with glaucoma, cancer and seizure disorders to legally use products containing CBD, as long as they contained no more than 0.3 percent of THC.

That bill failed, but Peake returned last year with HB 1, which expanded the list of treatable conditions to eight — seizure disorders; Crohn’s disease; mitochondrial disease; severe or end-stage ALS; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; sickle cell disease; and cancer – and raised the allowable THC level in the CBD products to 5 percent.

‘We’re going to make a difference’

This time the bill won overwhelming approval in both houses of the Georgia Legislature. It was signed into law a year ago by Gov. Deal, who choked up at the signing ceremony, as dozens of children with debilitating conditions and their families looked on.

Nathan Deal, Allen Peake, Butch Miller
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, center, signs a medical marijuana bill into law as the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, left, and Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, right, look on during a ceremony on April 16, 2015, in Atlanta. David Goldman / AP file

“This certainly has touched my heart,” Deal said, his voice cracking. “And I’m pleased today we’re going to make a difference.”

But as in many other states with CBD-only laws, Georgia’s law didn’t establish a system for cultivation, processing or distribution, leaving patients with the choice of not using CBD products or violating state or federal law by traveling across state lines or using the mail to get them.

And like laws in other states, it quickly ran into opposition from residents who said it either unfairly excluded their medical condition or didn’t provide any relief because of the low THC levels allowed.

Conforti recalled that after an incident at school in which Abby had to be restrained by three teachers who carried her out to her car “like a battering ram,” she decided to try a cannabis oil to treat her autism. After doing some research and making some phone calls, she was able to obtain some oil.

“I was still worried that the Department of Family Services would take my daughter away. I was still worried the sheriff … would show up at my door and arrest me … but after I saw her teachers walking her out like that, that was it. I didn’t care anymore,” she said.

Jennifer Conforti feeds Abby. Before Conforti started using cannabis oil to treat her daughter’s self-harming rages, she tried various diets: “Gluten-free, dairy-free, dye-free, soy-free, every different kind of free there is,” she said. “And none of it made any difference.” John Brecher / NBC News

Conforti said the oil immediately controlled the violent “rages” and severe biting triggered by her daughter’s autism.

“I ended up giving her her first dose and weaning her off her seizure meds, and I’m telling you the raging stopped, completely stopped,” she said.

Conforti said that by experimenting with different products she eventually was able to zero in on the best dose for Abby’s condition, which is far higher in THC than allowed by Georgia’s law.

“For Abby, the best ratio or component mixture is at least 70 to 75 percent combination of THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and THC,” she said. “She has a neurological issue in her brain and the THCa and THC help to calm those nerve synapses so her brain can calm down and perform better.”

An oral syringe that Conforti uses to measure the twice-daily dose of cannabis oil she gives her daughter. John Brecher / NBC News

Rep. Peake led an effort this year to relax the THC limit, authorize in-state cultivation and distribution of CBD products and expand the list of treatable conditions to include HIV/AIDS, PTSD, autism, Tourette’s syndrome and several others.

But this time the legislation received a much cooler reception.

First in-state cultivation was removed by a House committee. Then the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee failed to vote on the measure and send it to the full Senate before the Legislature adjourned on March 24.

Gov. Deal also did not support the bill this time around, reportedly because of the in-state cultivation clause.

“There is no appetite to move any legislation, sign any legislation, or even gather additional information to write legislation on this issue,” his chief of staff, Chris Riley, told Peake in a November 2015 email obtained by NBC affiliate WXIA.

What changed in Georgia in the year since Deal put his signature on HB 1?

Opponents of the legislation – including law enforcement and anti-drug abuse groups – regrouped after last year’s defeat and mounted a campaign to undercut support for the law and “educate” legislators about the lack of hard science behind THC products.

Part 1: ‘No-Buzz’ Medical Pot Laws Prove Problematic for Patients, Lawmakers

That effort, conducted under the umbrella of the “Let’s Be Clear Georgia” coalition and documented in a recent presentation titled “How Georgia Avoided Commercial Marijuana,” included distribution of a list of “12 Myths of Medical Marijuana” to legislators.

Foes also noted that Peake’s update would remove the law’s THC limit and argued that would open the door for “legalized cultivation, processing and distribution of marijuana so that CBD could be extracted.”

Sue Rusche, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based drug prevention organization National Families in Action, whose group was active in the coalition, said the overall message was that CBD-only medical marijuana laws like Georgia’s “don’t work for a whole lot of reasons” — including uncertain science and the possibility of contaminated products.

“They are poorly written by people who don’t understand the process of approving a drug,” she told NBC News.

Calls by NBC News seeking comment from Deal and state Sen. Renee Unterman, who declined to send the bill to the full Senate, were not returned.

Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, who testified against Peake’s bill, called it “the most inartfully written piece of legislation I have read in my time.” He declined to elaborate in a brief phone conversation with NBC News, saying he was too busy to talk about “a bill that didn’t pass.”

But Peake said the opposition boiled down to a single concern: that by creating a cultivation and distribution system for patients, the state would be “heading down a slippery slope toward legalization, that we’re going to be Colorado next.”

Peake emphasizes that he does not favor legalization of recreational marijuana, but says the state needs to provide patients with a safe, regulated source of CBD products. And he believes the law should allow products with higher levels of THC for those who need them and be expanded to include additional medical conditions.

But that approach also is fraught with problems, patient advocates note, as legislators try to sort through which ailments should be covered.

Joshua Littrell, a spokesman for the advocacy group Veterans for Cannabis, noted for instance that Peake’s effort to update Georgia’s law this year would have left many veterans in the lurch even though it would have added PTSD to the list of treatable conditions.

“The biggest problem we veterans face is CBD alone usually doesn’t help with PTSD and pain management,” he said, though it does often help those with traumatic brain injuries. “It’s absolutely asinine because those afflict more veterans.”

Advocates turn to ‘civil disobedience’

While conceding that legislatively addressing every medical situation is impossible, a loose-knit group of patient advocates has nonetheless mounted a “civil disobedience” campaign to pressure Georgia lawmakers to expand it to help more residents.

That usually means having participants visit their local sheriff’s office to say they are violating the law by using CBD oil with higher-than-allowed THC levels or for a non-authorized condition and explain why, said Conforti. So far, no members of the group are known to have been cited or arrested.

Peake also is participating in a limited fashion, providing eligible Georgians with CBD oil if they are unable or unwilling to obtain it themselves.

“We make sure that families properly registered with the state get access to medical cannabis, including delivering it to them if that’s the only way we can make that happen,” he told NBC News.

Peake, who said he remains “passionate” about the cause, vows to continue efforts to expand the law to help more Georgians.

“We’re trying to fix the problem of forcing people to either break the law or see their loved ones suffer,” he said. “That’s a terrible situation we’re putting our citizens in, not just here in Georgia but across the country.”

Jennifer Conforti tickles Abby on the porch of their home in Fayetteville, Georgia. John Brecher / NBC News

Conforti, who testified before the Legislature in support of Peake’s legislation, said such efforts will continue until legislators realize they can’t just walk away from the legal and ethical mess they have created.

“I’m not advocating for recreational use,” she said. “It’s for my daughter. She actually has a quality of life now. We’ve been doing it for a year-and-a-half now and we’re not going to stop.”

Source: NBC News


First-Ever Marijuana Fair Opens in Oregon with Competition

First-Ever Marijuana Fair Opens in Oregon with Competition

SALEM, Ore. — People flocked to Oregon’s first-ever marijuana growers’ fair on Saturday, where a competition for best pot plants will be held with the winning entries to be displayed at the Oregon State Fair.

The inaugural two-day event being held in an exhibition hall on the Oregon State Fairgrounds underscores how the once-illicit marijuana industry is starting to go mainstream in Oregon, one of four states to have legalized recreational marijuana use, along with Washington, D.C.

Image: James Knox
James Knox, owner of Savant Plant Technologies, discusses his products while setting up for the Oregon Cannabis Growers’ Fair in Salem, Ore., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Andrew Selsky / AP

Donald Morse, a pot grower who conceived the Oregon Cannabis Growers’ Fair, said attendance was strong, less than two hours after the doors opened Saturday morning. Segments of the industry, from seed providers all the way to a company offering mechanized bud trimmers, were among more than 80 exhibitors at the fair that ends Sunday.

Reggae music thumped from Savant Plant Technologies’ display on Friday as owner James Knox, 38, of Corvallis, set up his do-it-yourself grow package, including peat and microorganisms to stimulate plant growth.

Related: Drug Enforcement Administration Will Not Call for Reclassifying Marijuana

“It’s nice for us to be stepping across the line and say, ‘Here we are, and we’re ready to do business,'” he said. “For those of us who have been doing this a long time, this is a breath of fresh air because we’re able to work openly and in the light.”

Nine winning entries of a pot-plant competition at this fair will be displayed in two weeks at the Oregon State Fair, along with more traditional items like tomatoes, hogs and horses. It will be the first time cannabis will be exhibited at a state fair anywhere in the United States, organizers said.

“It is an historic event. It’s a great opportunity to meet these growers that typically were underground,” said fair organizer Mary Lou Burton. “We’re trying to get people connected up and networking.”

Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in a November 2014 ballot initiative, Measure 91. Medical marijuana was legalized years earlier. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in the process of issuing licenses for recreational marijuana production.

The business is booming. Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office in May quadrupled its estimate of net state tax revenues, from $8.4 million to $35 million, expected from recreational marijuana through June 30, 2017.

But with marijuana still illegal under federal law, the industry can’t use banks to do their business.

It’s Regulated, but Recreational Pot Goes on Sale in Oregon0:27

Jerry Fee, owner of NorthWest Safe Sales of Oregon City, uses the banking impediment as a business opportunity and was setting up a display at the growers’ fair including four formidable-looking safes. His prices range from $800 to $15,000.

“People like to lock up what’s important to them, whether its money or product,” he said.

Business names at other exhibits included Pruf Cultivar, My Urban Greenhouse, Half Baked and Greener Futures.

Morse, who is also executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, said the fair aims to “demystify” marijuana.

“It’s not to tempt people to use marijuana,” Morse said. “It is to educate. Cannabis is Oregon’s newest farm crop.”

Source: NBC News

Denver Voters Approve Marijuana Use in Bars. But There’s a Catch

Denver Voters Approve Marijuana Use in Bars. But There’s a Catch

DENVER — A glass of wine with dinner? Or maybe some marijuana?

Denver voters have approved a first-in-the-nation law allowing willing bars and restaurants to give patrons the option to use marijuana alongside a cocktail or meal. The catch: Smoking pot won’t be allowed inside, and the locations would have to first get the approval of neighbors.

Denver voters approved Proposition 300 on the same day that the nation’s largest state of California and two others legalized pot for all adults and five more states approved pot for sick people — signs of society’s increasing tolerance for the drug.

“It’s the sensible thing to do,” said Emmett Reistroffer, a Denver marijuana consultant and campaign manager for the pot-in-bars measure. “This is about personal responsibility and respecting adults who want to have a place to enjoy cannabis.”

Related: What Will a Trump Administration Do About Marijuana Legalization?

Denver’s measure takes effect immediately, but it has a lot of caveats.

First, interested bars and restaurants would have to show they have neighborhood support before getting a license to allow marijuana use. In addition, patrons would have to bring their own weed to comply with state law banning the sale of both pot and food or drink at a single location.

Are there high hopes to legalize marijuana?2:32

Patrons at participating bars could use pot inside as long as it isn’t smoked. The law does provide for the possibility of outside smoking areas under restrictive circumstances. The law also allows for non-service establishments, such as yoga galleries or art galleries, to set up pot-smoking areas or hold events serving both pot and food and drink.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project and a Denver proponent of the consumption law, said the measure would reduce instances of tourists smoking pot on sidewalks and in parks because they have nowhere private to consume weed.

Related: California, Nevada, Massachusetts Legalize Marijuana; Florida OKs Medical Pot

A Denver billboard promoting the measure featured a large arrow pointing to a sidewalk below, telling voters that without a provision for social pot use, folks will keep smoking pot in plain view.

“We are setting up a system that is still more restrictive than what we see with alcohol consumption,” Tvert said.

This file photo taken on May 22, 2016, shows people attending the Denver 420 Rally, the world’s largest celebration of both the legalization of cannabis and cannabis culture, in Denver. JASON CONNOLLY / AFP – Getty Images

Supporters of the measure had no guess on how many establishments would apply for the permits or how long it would take for them to demonstrate community acceptance and receive permits. So it could take many months before Denver sees any Amsterdam-style coffee shops.

The measure sunsets in 2020, unless city officials renew the licenses or voters make the pot-in-bars measure permanent.

Current Colorado law allows jurisdictions to decide for themselves when pot could be used in public. The result is a hodgepodge of local ordinances related to marijuana clubs.

Denver is the first city to allow use in bars and restaurants.

Source: NBC News

As legalization looms, experts say it’s time to talk to your kids honestly about pot

As legalization looms, experts say it’s time to talk to your kids honestly about pot

Psychology and addictions specialists say parents should open up conversation instead of shaming their kids

CBC News Posted: Apr 05, 2017 2:42 PM PTLast Updated: Apr 05, 2017 2:42 PM PT

Bonnie Leadbeater and Cindy Andrew say "just say no" tactics aren't the way to go.

Experts say parents need to change the conversation around pot 24:58

With the promise of marijuana legalization just around the corner, experts say the scare tactics of yesteryear won’t work on modern kids.

‘Shift the conversation’

University of Victoria psychology professor Bonnie Leadbeater, who studies marijuana use in teens, said often young people simply aren’t aware of the risks surrounding the substance.

The way to teach them, she said, is to talk with them, not at them and to ask questions — what do they think about legalization, for instance? Do they think anything will change?

“This is the perfect time to bring up conversations about marijuana and to really find out what your kids think,” she said.

It can be uncomfortable at first, but Cindy Andrew, a consultant for the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., said parents might just have to suck it up.

“Lots of parents have the same struggles when it comes to talking about sexuality with our kids,” she said. “Like sexuality, the time to start that conversation isn’t when they’re teenagers in high school.”

Andrew said parents can capitalize on “teachable moments” — like news reports or real-life events involving weed — to start a conversation.

“We need to start to shift the conversation not just about the risks but about the more nuanced, complex perspective and behaviour and help each other figure it out,” she said.

Myths persist, but education is key

Leadbeater noted that young people are often given conflicting information about marijuana, which can lead them to believe that the drug is risk-free.

“Young people need to know about [the risks]. There’s a lot of myths out there,” she said.

Andrew points to the idea that weed is a totally safe alternative to alcohol — “that it really doesn’t have any harm, it’s way better to smoke pot than it is to drink” — as a pervasive one.

“Pot is not a benign substance,” she said.

Leadbeater said that much of the reason myths about pot persist is because of a lack of funding into studies.

“There’s a lot of mystery and part of the mystery has been because it’s illegal and the research has not been done,” she said.

In order to better inform adults and kids alike, she said, that research is an important first step.

With files from CBC Radio One’s B.C. Almanac.

Source: CBC News

It could be legal to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana under bill to be tabled Thursday

It could be legal to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana under bill to be tabled Thursday

Legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana is expected to be tabled on Thursday, with a goal of legalization on or before July 1, 2018.

Legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana is expected to be tabled on Thursday, with a goal of legalization on or before July 1, 2018.

When marijuana becomes a legal recreational drug in Canada, the Liberal government wants Canadians to be able to hold up to 30 grams without fear of running afoul of the law, Radio-Canada and CBC News have learned.

That is just one of several details about what will be included in the federal government’s marijuana legislation, which is expected to be introduced on Thursday, according to a senior government source.

Other elements that will be contained in the upcoming bill include:

  • Introducing penalties for selling cannabis to minors and driving while under the influence of marijuana — both of which were contained in the Liberals’ election platform.
  • Rules that will set limits on how marijuana products are marketed, which are expected to be similar to the limitations on alcohol and tobacco.
  • Funding for a public awareness campaign.
  • The approval of roadside saliva tests to detect drug use.

Drugged driving presents a particular challenge. The cannabis task force noted that roadside tests to determine whether a driver is impaired because of pot use are still in development. Public Safety Canada has been working with police in several cities to run pilot projects on different roadside detection tests.

As CBC News has previously reported, the Trudeau government’s goal is to make legalization a reality in Canada on or before July 1, 2018.

Legalization was a Liberal campaign promise in the 2015 election campaign. Both as Liberal leader and later as prime minister, Justin Trudeau has pitched to Canadians that legalization will make it harder for young people to access pot and will take profits away from organized crime.

It’s expected the government will follow a lot of the advice provided by the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.

According to recent reporting by CBC News, that will include:

  • A minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana, though provinces and territories will have the option of setting a higher age limit.
  • Allowing Canadians to grow four marijuana plants per household.
  • Licensing of producers, as well as ensuring the safety and security of the marijuana supply, will be a federal concern.
  • Provinces and territories will set the price for marijuana and decide how it is distributed and sold.

Much to discuss

Many of those suggestions will be hot topics of debate.

The Canadian Medical Association has suggested the legal age to buy marijuana should be 21, arguing that would limit damage to developing brains.

Home-growing is not a popular subject for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. That group says it will put added demand on police and make it harder to keep the drug away from children.

Medical marijuana companies have seen their stocks surge and sometimes plunge along the path toward legalization in Canada.

However, both the chair of the government’s task force and the parliamentary budget officer have warned that legalization won’t necessarily be a major cash cow for governments, particularly in the first few years.

The prime minister has already suggested that any government revenues from marijuana sales won’t go toward fattening the federal bank account. Instead, Trudeau has said the money could go toward addiction treatment, mental health support and education programs.

Source: CBC News