Will Over Regulation Hinder California Cannabis Cultivators?

The world is watching as California comes into the main fold this next year with a full adult legalization policy. The enormity of the market, matched with global regional brand recognition, and California’s propensity for bureaucracy make an interesting confluence for cannabis. Farmers have been operating, some for decades, in remote corners of northern California. Some farmers have been operating just a year or two, pushing aggressively into a US market formerly dominated by Mexican ditch weed.

Now that legalization has moved to the political forefront, all the freedom and transparency of an above-ground business will alleviate the stress which has weighed down illegal operators toiling in the fields for years! State regulation will show the world that cannabis is nothing to fear! Finally we can save large swaths of the environment by planting this miracle crop! All the dreams of backwoods marijuana growers have wished to have for years will finally come to fruition! And we shall all move forward in a new age of enlightenment, solving all the problems of capitalism with a new paradigm!

Or maybe not.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, California growers are slow to sign up for the new system. Fears abound that failure to buy in to the new legal system will lead to loss of profit and consumer base, and no one is arguing with the suggestion that California exports, and will continue to export, large swaths of cannabis on the black market:

“Based on data from various state and county agencies, Mr. (Hezekiah) Allen, of the (Emerald Growers Association), estimates that about 11 percent of growers — about 3,500 of 32,000 farmers in the Emerald Triangle, which covers Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — have applied for permits. Most have been deterred by the voluminous paperwork to obtain a permit, the fees and the taxes, he said.

“Critics said the framers of the law might have also miscalculated because many growers say there is little upside from getting a permit. If they stay out of the system, they face lighter punishments and avoid paying taxes, fees and the cost of meeting environmental standards.

“…Small-scale growers have planted marijuana in the backwoods of the Emerald Triangle for decades. But in recent years Northern California has seen what has been called a ‘green rush’ of entrepreneurs with a more laser-focused profit motive and often little regard for forests famous for their giant redwood trees.”

The article mentions numerous outside “investors” who have flooded into the California cannabis market space, both legally and illegally, from Bulgarians and Russians, to Chinese and Hmong, to Jamaicans and Mexicans.

All eyes are on California in the coming year to see how the new legal structure plays out. Let’s hope the red tape doesn’t hold up good players while supporting a robust system of illegal regimes. It is important that local growers, patients, consumers and advocates speak out early and often to ensure that local farmers and mom-and-pop shops have a foothold in the new commercial market.

Want to stay informed about California’s cannabis laws? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference February 1 and 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Get your tickets today! Can’t make it to San Francisco or want to get a jump on learning important information about the industry? Then join us December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii!

This blog was originally published by Marijuana Politics and has been posted here with special permission. 

Will Ohio Legalize Marijuana In 2018?

Ohio voted on marijuana legalization in 2015. The initiative, backed by an organization called ResponsibleOhio, failed by a vote of 64% to 36%. ResponsibleOhio poured over $20 million dollars into the campaign effort, which was the most profit-motivated legalization initiative to ever make a state ballot. After the initiative’s defeat The Heritage Foundation, a staunch anti-cannabis organization, described the vote as follows:

One of the most surprising results from this week’s state elections was Ohio voters voting overwhelmingly against Big Pot. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, they defeated a ballot measure that would have permitted the legalization of marijuana in the Buckeye State.

Misleadingly named ResponsibleOhio, the measure would have allowed the commercial production, retail sale and personal use of marijuana. Yet despite Big Pot’s $25 million cash infusion into the effort, voters rejected the spin that marijuana legalization is safe or in the best interests of citizens.

Other cannabis opponents touted the Ohio initiative’s defeat as a sign of things to come, that just as Ohio had ‘rejected marijuana legalization’ so too would other states. Zoom forward one year and cannabis opponents had to eat large amounts of crow after four out of five states that voted on marijuana legalization approved their state’s measures. Only Arizona’s initiative was defeated, and even then, only after enormous amounts of money were poured into the opposition’s campaign effort.

The initiative’s defeat was far from surprising. It was a poorly crafted initiative that faced extreme opposition from many members of the cannabis community (for the record, I did not oppose the initiative and instead deferred to Ohio voters, as I have done in other states). The initiative’s campaign featured what I described at the time as THE WORST idea in cannabis reform history – Buddie the Marijuana Mascot. Buddie can be seen below, via Cincinnati.com:

buddie the marijuana mascot

Ending cannabis prohibition has many merits, and therefore efforts that seek to end cannabis prohibition do not need gimmicks like Buddie the Marijuana Mascot. I would be blown away to find out if Buddie convinced even one voter to vote for cannabis legalization in Ohio. It certainly brought a lot of attention to the campaign effort, but not the good kind of attention. Cannabis supporters and opponents both agreed that the mascot was terrible, which is one of the few things that both sides have agreed upon in the cannabis political world.

ReponsibleOhio is back with an effort geared towards legalizing marijuana in Ohio in 2018. Per Cleveland.com:

The co-founder of Ohio’s 2015 failed recreational marijuana legalization measure plans to back a new legalization effort next year.

Jimmy Gould, co-founder of ResponsibleOhio, and others plan to propose on Monday a “free market” recreational marijuana measure for the 2018 ballot, according to a news release. Gould, along with ResponsibleOhio co-founder Ian James, unsuccessfully applied for one of the state’s medical marijuana cultivator licenses.

Like 2015, the 2018 effort has strong financial backing. But things have changed in Ohio since the failed 2015 legalization effort occurred. Since the 2015 vote Ohio has legalized cannabis for medical use. Ohio’s medical marijuana program is far from perfect, but it is better than full prohibition.

With medical marijuana already legal in Ohio, Ohio voters likely have even less appetite for an initiative like the 2015 version. One of the selling points for the 2015 effort that gained some traction with voters is that patients would be helped by legalization via legal access to marijuana. That selling point is obviously moot now. If ReponsibleOhio is going to succeed on Election Day 2018, it needs to put forth an initiative that helps everyone in a meaningful way, not just the investors backing it.

As with the 2015 effort, I will be deferring to Ohio voters if/when an initiative makes the ballot. Whatever the ReponsibleOhio initiative includes in its initiative language, Ohio voters need to weigh whether the initiative is as good as it’s going to get for the state of Ohio, or if waiting for a better opportunity in the near future is better (and realistic). That is up to Ohio voters to decide.

2018 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for cannabis reform. If Ohio makes the ballot, it would join Michigan in voting on marijuana legalization via a citizen initiative (hopefully, signatures are still being validated in Michigan!). Missouri and Utah look like they will make the ballot for medical marijuana, Oklahoma has already made the 2018 ballot (which one in 2018 is still up in the air), and Vermont and New Jersey are looking good for legalization via legislative action. But nothing is guaranteed, so if you live in those states, get active!

Will New Jersey Legalize Marijuana In 2018?

Earlier this month Phil Murphy won the gubernatorial race in New Jersey, defeating Republican candidate Kim Guadagno by a substantial margin. One of the main things that Phil Murphy campaigned on was a pledge to legalize cannabis in New Jersey. After winning on Election Day Phil Murphy doubled down on that pledge, stating that he wanted to see cannabis legalized in New Jersey within the first 100 days after he takes office.

Cannabis policy and enforcement in New Jersey has been rough. In New Jersey, African Americans are arrested for cannabis at three times the rate of Caucasians according to an ACLU New Jersey analysis. Distribution of less than 1 ounce of cannabis in New Jersey carries a penalty of 1.5 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. The same is true for possession of any amount of cannabis over 50 grams, which is not that much cannabis when it’s brick weed. Cultivation of any amount of cannabis results in a mandatory sentence of no less than 3 years in prison and can be as much as 25 years in prison for over 50 plants.

New Jersey’s current Governor, Chris Christie, is one of the biggest cannabis opponents in the country. One of my favorite moments of 2017 was seeing a pro-cannabis candidate (Phil Murphy) replace outgoing Governor Chris Christie. Just because Phil Murphy was elected Governor of New Jersey does not automatically mean that cannabis will become legal in New Jersey during his term. I am confident that he will work as hard as he can to keep his campaign pledge, but it’s politics, so it’s entirely possible that he could abandon the idea.

Even if Phil Murphy gives a proper amount of time and energy towards pushing for legalization, such a public policy change requires that either a bill be passed by New Jersey’s Legislature, or the legislature refer the issue to voters during an election. Some concerns about legalization have been expressed by New Jersey lawmakers recently, and considering how slow the political process can be at times, it’s quite possible that New Jersey’s Legislature either drags its feet on legalization or outright opposes it.

As time goes by hopefully that proves to not be the case. 65% of New Jersey voters support marijuana legalization according to recent polling, and with a favorable Governor, legalization is very likely to occur in New Jersey next year. Especially considering that Maine and Massachusetts have already legalized on the East Coast, and Vermont is looking like it has a good chance to legalize via legislative action in 2018. Many other states in the region are looking at legalization, which all adds to the pressure for New Jersey to get out in front.

An estimate from a year ago projected that New Jersey could make 300 million dollars annually in cannabis industry tax revenue. That is not an unrealistic estimate given that Colorado is set to make well over 200 million dollars in taxes and fees from its regulated marijuana industry and New Jersey has nearly 3.5 million more people than Colorado. But every day that goes by impacts New Jersey’s potential cannabis revenue.

The first state to implement a taxed and regulated system on the East Coast is going to reap the most rewards in my opinion due to surrounding consumers flocking to said state. Massachusetts is going to be the first to do so short of another state pulling off a miracle. As each subsequent state implements a regulated cannabis industry, the ‘East Coast cannabis industry pie’ will get cut into progressively smaller slices. If states like Connecticut and New York legalize cannabis first, New Jersey’s industry will be dramatically affected.

Regardless of the industry benefits, New Jersey needs to legalize cannabis because it’s the right thing to do, which is a point that incoming New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made this week, per NJ.com:

“There are concerns that people have that I accept and I understand,” he said. “But it’s clear as a bell to me what the right way going forward - given the alternatives.”

Will New Jersey legalize cannabis in 2018? I think so. What legalization in New Jersey will look like is yet to be determined. All other states that have legalized cannabis thus far have done so via a citizen initiative. New Jersey does not have a citizen initiative process, so all roads to legalization go through New Jersey’s Legislature. It’s likely that New Jersey’s legalization model will be much more restrictive than other states that have previously legalized cannabis.

What do Weed News readers think? Do you think that New Jersey will legalize in 2018? If not in 2018, when, if ever? For those that think that New Jersey will legalize cannabis, what do you think that legalization model will look like? Will home cultivation be allowed? What will possession limits be? I look forward to reading your comments!

Will Marijuana Reform Ever Come To Idaho?

I once wrote an article describing how scared I felt being a marijuana consumer in Idaho. I’m no longer at that outlet because it’s a Frankenstein that has been used to rip off activists and is currently locked in litigation, so I won’t link to the article. But if you have ever been to Idaho I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I have lived my entire life in Oregon, but I have a lot of relatives that live in Idaho along the I-84 corridor, many of which are marijuana consumers.

Whereas Oregon has voted to legalize recreational marijuana and has had a medical marijuana program for quite some time, Idaho is still stuck in the past when it comes to marijuana policy. In 2013 Idaho’s Legislature actually passed a bill that essentially stated that Idaho would never legalize marijuana. That’s right, Idaho somehow found a way to make marijuana even more illegal…

As it stands, Idaho is surrounded by states that have voted to reform marijuana laws, with the exception of Utah and Wyoming. Utah has an unworkable CBD-specific bill, but I don’t count that as it doesn’t help any patients. Washington, Oregon, and Nevada all share a border with Idaho, and have all legalized recreational marijuana. Montana also shares a border with Idaho, and recently voted to legalize medical marijuana for a second time.

One would think that with reform having so much momentum in surrounding states that Idaho would take a good hard look at reforming its own marijuana laws. However, sadly, that’s not the case. The mood in Idaho among many elected officials and law enforcement is that Idaho is being flooded by out of state marijuana, and that Idaho needs to battle the devil’s lettuce at all costs, to the bitter end.

Idaho elected officials need to realize that Idaho doesn’t have a marijuana problem, it has a prohibition problem. Idaho needs jobs, and needs tax revenues, and needs to be wise with every law enforcement dollar that it has. Dedicating enormous resources to fighting a substance that has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol is wasteful to say the least. Idaho’s marijuana policies harm families and ruin lives. I know that because it has happened to people in my family.

I don’t know that legalization can be achieved in Idaho in the near future, but I do feel strongly that there is a great shot at adding Idaho to the list of medical marijuana states. For the 2016 election cycle, 47,623 valid signatures were required to put medical marijuana on the ballot in Idaho. Compared to other states, that is not a huge amount. What level of support there would be for a medical marijuana initiative would largely be determined by the language of the initiative. I don’t think that Idaho would be willing to pass a medical marijuana law as liberal as Oregon’s, but I do think that a tempered initiative would have a great chance of passing, which would provide much needed safe access to suffering Idaho patients. Hopefully with the recent victories in conservative states like Montana, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Florida national orgs will give a strong look at funding an initiative in Idaho, along with the help of local activists!

Will Los Angeles or Boston Replace Denver as Cannabis Capital, USA?

Following Colorado’s brave leap into adult legalization in 2012, there is general agreement that Denver currently sits as the cannabis capital of the United States – and maybe the world. On the flip side, Northern California remains a stronghold of OG producers and activists in both licit and illicit markets, earning  The Emerald Triangle and the San Francisco Bay area a long-term international association with quality cannabis.
It’s hard to say which city may end up taking the crown, but with California and several other states coming online as the next big cannabis legalization state in the country, the fight is on to capture the title as the next new world cannabis capital. Los Angeles? Boston? Sacramento?
Adam Bierman is the founder of MedMen, a cannabis business consulting firm based in Los Angeles. Naturally, Adam predicts Los Angeles will emerge as the dominant global cannabis destination in a piece for CNBC
Los Angeles will emerge as the marijuana capital of the world. The financial industry has Wall Street, the tech industry has Silicon Valley, and the cannabis industry will soon have Los Angeles. No disrespect to Denver, but Los Angeles is about to come out of the shadows and steal the spotlight. 
By some estimates Los Angeles’s medical cannabis market is already worth close to $1 billion, larger than Colorado’s entire recreational market. Unfortunately, most of that business operates in the shadows today. But that is about to change. 
However, marijuana expert Troy Dayton CEO of The Arcview Group, a cannabis angel investment organization, argued in Masslive.com that the East Coast’s Boston could play a leading role as the next international cannabis destination. 
“Unlike other places where cannabis is legal, Boston is within driving distance of many of the most populous places in America,” Dayton said. ‘This will make Boston the cannabis capital of the world in short order. This cannabis tourism will drive significant revenue, tax dollars, and job growth which will make legalization very attractive to neighboring states.”
Still yet others see cannabis as another crop that should become normalized like other commodity products in the central valley region of California, which serves as the backbone of US agriculture both domestically and abroad From Reuters:
“The Sacramento region should be to cannabis what Detroit is to automobiles in terms of both a center of innovation as well as production,” said Daniel Conway, who left his job as chief of staff to Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson to become Truth Enterprises’ managing partner. “This region has the ability to be to cannabis what Sonoma and Napa are to wine.”
Centering some of that business in the Sacramento region would take advantage of the area’s proximity to farmland and agricultural processing facilities as well as such population hubs such as the San Francisco Bay Area and tourist destinations like Lake Tahoe and the Napa Valley….
So what will be the next big cannabis capital of the world? The debate is on! Come join the argument this February 17 at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, CA and find out! 
This blog was originally published at www.internationalcbc.com and has been reposted here with special permission.

Donald Trump, Legalizing Marijuana Will Help Make America Great Again!

US President Donald Trump recently gave his first address to the Houses of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, outlining his agenda for the next for years. Many agree the speech was by far the most eloquent and presidential the new head of state has sounded in public since taking office. Yet Trump’s words remain as ambiguous as ever, with obscure intentions and generalized commitments to action, leaving the drug policy community in a continued state of uncertainty.

However, if we accept Trumps’ rhetoric at face value, one interpretation leaves open the possibility that in fact, the President could weave cannabis legalization into this plans. While leaving out cannabis specifically, the President addressed “drugs” as an important policy issue three times in his speech:

“We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross, and for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate….

“We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth, and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted….

“Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.”

On all three points, the President could achieve his policy goals by eliminating cannabis prohibition altogether. First, Trump’s extreme concern with border safety suggests he wants to lessen the power of foreign criminal cartels profiting from the illegal drug market. But as the last few years of policy experimentation have shown, the regulation of the cannabis market in the US has taken away profits from those cartels by allowing the transparency and oversight of a legally controlled industry. The consumer preference is clear: Americans want to buy home-grown cannabis and keep cannabis jobs in the country.

Second, the President references the problems of addiction, and the need for expanded treatment, especially for youth. While I disagree that “drugs are pouring into our country”, I wholeheartedly support a policy that favors treatment over incarceration in dealing with substance abuse issues for the simple reasons that treatment is cheaper, more effective and humane. And if the President is looking to curb overdose deaths from opiates specifically, then loosening cannabis laws is certainly the way to go.

Finally, President Trump has made reducing the cost of medicines a central part of his platform and promises to the American people. With so much scientific research emerging regarding the benefits of cannabis as a replacement for many more dangerous pharmaceuticals, one clearly sensible solution to the high cost of health care is allowing American citizens the freedom to grow their own alternative medicine.

The future remains unknown, but two things are for sure; first, the world is watching, as always, to see what policy direction the United States takes. Second, the world is planning to react based on those actions, and it is highly doubtful that other countries are going to scale back the progress being made on the cannabis front. Scientific understanding of the plant is increasing daily, and patients are finding relief from myriad maladies.

Serious cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates will want to keep an eye on US politics, but will need to stay on top of other emerging cannabis markets. If the United States doesn’t lead the way on legalized cannabis, then other countries, such as Israel or Germany, will be poised to take the lead and reap the economic and social benefits. T

The best way to be informed on where the global cannabis movement is going is to join the cadre of experts attending the International Cannabis Business Conference this April 10-12th, in Berlin, Germany! Get your tickets soon before this historic and important event sells out.

This blog was originally posted at www.internationalcbc.com and has been republished here with special permission.

Will I Pass a Drug Test Using CBD Oil?

CBD (cannabidiol) is the second most common cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It has become a popular health used to cope with anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and a multitude of other ailments. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the number one cannabinoid found in weed, CBD does not cause any mind-altering effects (high). However, even if you purchase a CBD oil, it still might contain low levels of THC. In the United States, hemp derived CBD is required to contain less than 0.03 percent THC, but CBD obtained from marijuana strains for medicinal purposes often have higher levels of THC. The THC causes concerns for many individuals facing employment drug tests. They wonder, “Will I pass a drug test using CBD?”

SAMHSA Drug Testing Guidelines

Employers typically follow the guidelines set forth by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to determine the acceptable cutoff levels for the drug and drug metabolites detected during testing.

Understanding the THC Metabolite

THC causes the psychoactive effects and is illegal on a federal level in the USA where it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Employers regularly check for the substance using a urine drug screen. The urine test has antibodies that are tailored to detect the prominent metabolite 11-nor-delta9-caboxy-THC (THC-COOH) found in THC. The drug tests do not look for other cannabinoids.

CBD and THC

You might be feeling relieved at the thought that the drug test will not be looking for CBD but don’t get too excited because even hemp derived CBD still contains varying levels of THC which can trigger the test, especially if you take a high dose of CBD every day. Doses that exceed 1000 milligrams can often give a positive reading for THC. Everyone’s metabolism is different. Also, body size does matter. If you are a large or heavyset person then your cells might hoard THC from the CBD that you take which will make the test positive.

Inaccurate Levels of THC

Not all CBD manufacturers adhere to the strict guidelines set forth so you might be consuming more THC with your CBD then you had planned. Please remember that CBD items are not governed by the government so even the best brands might test positive for higher levels of THC. In fact, in recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently released letters that they drafted for consumers which warn of inaccurate levels of THC in CBD products.

Drug Test THC Levels

According to SAMHSA, the cutoff level for THC in any CBD product is 50 ng/ml. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to tell if someone who has diligently used a CBD product will test positive for THC. If you take 1000 mg of CBD with a 3 percent THC percentage twice a day then you have effectively consumed 6 mg of THC within a 24-hour period. Such a ratio may effectively make you fail a urine test.

Types of CBD

If you plan to use CBD but you might also have to take a drug test, then you may want to consider the types of CBD products to determine the likelihood of passing or failing the drug test.

  • Cannabis CBD Oil

Oil derived from different strains of marijuana are often legal in states with recreational weed or for medicinal MJ card holders. Such oils often have higher levels of THC than hemp derived formulas, so you stand a far greater chance of failing the drug test.

  • Full Extract Oil

Full extract oil is usually obtained by using the flower and leaves of the plant combined with a solvent such as grain alcohol for extraction purposes. It is highly concentrated. The levels of THC are usually exceedingly elevated so may cause you to fail a drug test. In addition, full extract oil is normally made using weed and not hemp, so the levels of THC are already higher.

  • Hemp Oil

Industrial hemp contains extraordinarily little THC. Some brands of hemp-derived CBD oil contain 0.03 percent THC, but others contain less than 0.01 percent. Overall, if you are genuinely concerned about taking and failing a drug test but you still want to use CBD then you should use hemp-derived CBD oil products to be safe.

  • CBD Isolate Oil

Many CBD brands are now selling CBD isolate oils which are THC free and might be your only fool-proof way of truly passing a drug test. However, please remember that as with anything, nothing is 100 percent. The CBD isolate might not be THC free if you bought some off brand. However, typically a high-quality CBD isolate will be THC free so you will have nothing to worry about when it comes testing time.

As the CBD market explodes worldwide, you must always be on the lookout for subpar products that might claim to have truly little THC but contain levels that exceed 3 percent or even 5 percent. At this time, CBD remains unregulated by the US FDA and other governing bodies so percentages can vary between brands. Ideally, you should only buy from a reputable CBD source like CBD Shopy who makes sure all their products are tested by 3rd party labs for quality control.

Will Hollyweed Become Cannabis Capital, USA?

When Angelenos woke up on New Year’s Day 2017 this Sunday, they were greeted with a slight alteration of a major symbol of their local identity. The iconic “Hollywood” sign had been changed to read “Hollyweed” instead.
Local celebrities were quick to show support and appreciation for their new moniker. Miley Cyrus went exuberantly to Instagram, “I knew 2017 was going to be MY year!!!!!!!!!  Great start everybody!”
Snoop tweeted, “My city. welcome to #hollyweed”.
Tommy Chong took note as well of course, observing ” The Hollywood sign was changed to say Hollyweed today.”
We recently reported that the title for the next Cannabis Capital is up for grabs now that California and several other states have ended adult use prohibition on the plant. Marijuana experts have suggested that the seat of industry is likely to move from Denver to San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles or even Boston on the east coast.
Certainly someone is chomping at the bit to keep Los Angeles and “Hollyweed” competitive in that category. Celebrity access and global marketing certainly appear to give California’s southern capital a distinct advantage, and may very well help shape the future of social culture around newly legal adult cannabis use.
Only time will tell – but don’t let too much of it pass by! Join the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, CA ,on February 17th, 2017, for a one day special event to meet with cannabis leaders and experts, and discuss ongoing changes to policy and best practices. Come decide for yourself where you fit into the new market, and prepare yourself to be part of the most exciting new industry of this generation!
This blog was origninally published at www.internationalcbc.com and has been reposted here with special permission.

Will German Insurance Companies Start Covering Cannabis in 2017?

Medical cannabis has seen a rather dramatic political renaissance over the past two decades. Until California passed Proposition 215, there were no states with legal marijuana. Today, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have legal marijuana while medical use has supermajority support among American voters. Medicinal use laws clearly help increase the support for adult use by non-patients as more people become educated about cannabis use. Medical cannabis laws have also been implemented  around the globe, with nations like Canada and Germany instituting federal policies. In 2017, Germany will hopefully be a trendsetter by allowing health insurance policies cover the cost of patients’ medical cannabis.

MerryJane.com covered Germany’s recent progress on the medical front:

The Federal Ministry of Health initiated a new medical cannabis bill and is currently awaiting approval from the German Bundestag, the country’s national parliament. Headed by the current Federal Health Minister Hermann Groehe, the objective of the measure is to make medicinal cannabis flower and extracts available to seriously ill patients from local drug stores throughout the country. In addition, the program will ensure that the medical marijuana will be cultivated in Germany at the highest quality possible, and will also be covered under the country’s health insurance.

Medical cannabis is just now becoming accepted by and integrated into the platforms of various political parties in Germany, such as the Green Party, the Left Party, and the Free Democratic Party, but the fight for a properly regulated system has been happening for a couple of decades.

While it is great that states and countries pass laws that protect patients ability to cultivate, possess and purchase cannabis, these laws are incomplete so long as there are patients without safe access. Current medical marijuana laws are wonderful for patients that have their own garden and have the means to purchase cannabis from their local dispensary or pharmacy. Patients battling poverty shouldn’t have to go without their medicine, so it is crucial that advocates work to ensure safe access for all patients by lobbying for laws that treat cannabis the same as other medicines, including health insurance coverage, or alternatively, set up a low-income patient program for patients in need.

I, and other Oregon advocates, are hopeful to lay the groundwork for a low-income patient program in Oregon, potentially using recreational tax revenue to help poverty-stricken patients acquire cannabis. Over time, it is a must that health insurance programs cover patients’ medical cannabis, so Germany might just lead the way on this important policy fight.

I am really looking forward to learning more about Germany’s federal policy at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin on April 10th thru the 12th. If Germany’s policy to provide health insurance coverage for medical cannabis is deemed a success and the nation would likely see a reduction in opioid overdoses, among other benefits, it would be great to see other states and nations follow suit and provide true safe access for all patients, regardless of income.

This blog was originally posted at www.internationalcbc.com and has been reposted here with special permission. 

Will Donald Trump’s Tough on Crime Policies Hurt Marijuana Reform?

Following the swearing in of anti-marijuana Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump quickly signed three law enforcement-related executive orders that were vague on specifics, but could signal how the new administration will govern over the next four years. Trump campaigned as a “touch on crime” candidate and his recent actions show that his administration will focus heavily on the need to “combat crime” even though the overall crime rate is relatively low.

Talking Points Memo summarizes the new executive orders:

First, Trump said, he was directing the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to “undertake all necessary and lawful action to break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth and other people, many other people.”

***

The second order, he said, would direct the Department of Justice “to form a task force on reducing violent crime in America.” Later he described it as a “task force on crime reduction and public safety.”

Finally, Trump said, he would direct the Department of Justice “to implement a plan to stop crime and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers.”

Donald Trump, for some reason, has exaggerated the crime rate of the United States, implying that cities are out-of-control wastelands ravaged by gang violence. While public safely certainly remains an issue, the overall crime rate is not near as high as Trump states, as Vox explains:

As president and a candidate, Trump has repeated the same false claim in front of his audiences: “The murder rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in 45 years.”

That would be very worrying if it were true. Thankfully, it’s not. At all.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the murder rate was 4.9 per 100,000 people in 2015, the latest year of data available. That is an 11 percent increase from 2014. But it is lower than it was in 1970, 45 years before, when the murder rate was 7.9. It was also lower than it was at any point from 1965 to 2009 — making the 2015 rate, at worst, a six-year high. And it’s half the rate of what it was 25 years ago, in 1991, and less than half of what it was at several periods in the 1970s and 1980s.

Criminal justice reform, especially the reduction of draconian sentences for nonviolent drug crimes has become a bipartisan issue in recent times and it would be great to see our nation move further away from Drug War policies that have decimated Black communities, creating New Jim Crow laws. However, with Trump’s rhetoric and appointment of Jeff Sessions, positive reform seems unlikely the next four years at the federal level, but we must continue fighting, especially on marijuana policy.

Cannabis legalization supporters need to rally around the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” introduced by Republican Dana Rohrabacher, and each and every positive reform measure introduced. We need to create such a groundswell of public support that doesn’t give the Trump Administration any choice but to respect the will of state voters that have ended cannabis prohibition within their borders. Respecting states’ rights is a conservative value that both Trump and Jeff Sessions should agree to in principle.

If the federal government is serious about hurting foreign drug cartels, the legalization and regulation of domestic marijuana markets have already proven to hinder a revenue stream of these cartels. If given the chance, the cannabis community will choose legal American-grown cannabis over illegal cartel grown weed every day of the week. Here’s hoping that Donald Trump is serious about hurting cartels and doesn’t go against his campaign promise to respect state marijuana laws. If Trump allows Sessions to target state-licensed marijuana businesses, he’ll be doing foreign drug cartels a favor and will only endanger our communities by emboldening criminals instead of helping U.S. entrepreneurs who want to follow the rules, pay their taxes and live the American Dream.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey.