Over the past week we learned that big pharma wants an exclusive on CBD. Meanwhile, Florida makes their upgraded med program official and Nevada rec program gets back on track for July 1 launch. Also, Americans – including the Koch Brothers – overwhelmingly in favor of the fed leaving marijuana states alone. All that and more on this week’s episode of Cannabiz News Top 5.
1. Big Pharma vying for exclusive on CBD
Big Pharma companies have a long and accomplished record of pushing false and misleading information in an effort to thwart legalization efforts. Meanwhile, drug companies have profited from the prescription opioid epidemic in the United States. In fact, more people in America under 50 are dying from prescription drug overdoses than any other cause. Now, just recently, it has come out that one drug company is trying to seize a monopoly on the medicinal market for cannabidiol. GW Pharmaceuticals has paid lobbyists to push changes to a bill that would effectively give GW a total monopoly on CBD.
South Dakota, bill SB 95, would have rescheduled CBD and downgrade its stature as a Schedule I substance, which would increase legal access to medicine for patients in need. But GW Pharmaceuticals wanted to make an amendment to the bill that specified that the change in definition and schedule would only apply to CBD products that the FDA had approved. And GW Pharmaceuticals is the only drug company that has such a drug ready to go.
2. Nevada rec all systems go for July 1 launch
Starting July 1st, medical dispensaries will be able to use their “dual-licenses” to break into the recreational market as well. By stockpiling a huge inventory, the currently open medical cannabis stores may proceed to expand to the recreational market, and wait for late-licensing wholesale distribution from exclusive liquor industry providers to begin later in July. Pending further state licensing action, local officials have granted dual-use permits in the Las Vegas, Reno, and Clark County.
Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed an emergency regulation with the department of revenue on June 21, which will permit dual-licensing for about half of the state’s MMJ dispensaries to begin July RMJ sales. At the source, the provision of cannabis and derivatives (edibles, concentrates, etc.) do not have to be tagged as either medical or recreational until the point of sale. Sandoval hopes to support public education via a 10% tax on both medical and recreational cannabis sales.
A total of 103 statewide medical cannabis centers have been authorized, and a Jan. 1, 2018 date is set for final rules and a chance for all current medical providers to expand to adult use. Nevada is the only MMJ-authorized state to accept out-of-state medical cards from other states for purchases.
3. Florida makes it official
Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed measure (SB 8A) into law. Lawmakers passed the bill in a special session after failing in their regular session to implement amendments to the state’s existing marijuana laws, which were supported by 71 percent of voters last year. Under the constitutional amendment, patients with a host of conditions can buy and use medical marijuana. Some of the conditions that qualify for the drug are cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and epilepsy. The new law also sets in motion a plan to license 10 new companies as growers by October, bringing the statewide total to 17. The bill allows for use of cannabis pills, oils, edibles and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval, but bans smoking.
But the fight is not over. Lawsuits are already being fired up. Orlando trial lawyer, John Morgan, the man who bankrolled the constitutional amendment’s campaign, has promised to sue over the smoking ban, while Tampa strip club magnate Joe Redner says he will file a suit to allow patients to grow their own.
4. Racketeering case gives prohibitionists hope
On June 7, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision against a Colorado ranch that sued a neighboring grow site, alleging noxious odors and a dent in property values. The case now heads back to district court for consideration. More importantly, it opens up cannabis businesses and their affiliates to racketeering claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
RICO is a 1970s statute created to prosecute organized crime. RICO allows plaintiffs to sue not just a cannabis business, but any non-government actor who assists that business including the landlord, suppliers, service providers, etc. A common strategy is to bleed the cannabis company dry by naming as many defendants as possible, and then agreeing to dismiss those defendants one by one if they promise to quit working with the cannabis business. Plaintiffs can recover three times their damages, plus attorneys’ fees. And because RICO is used in federal court, state laws don’t apply.
5. Cannabis advocacy group shut out by banks
The Marijuana Policy Project this week received notification from PNC it could no longer use the bank’s services. “They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” MPP Chief Operating Officer Nick Field told the Washington Post. PNC allegedly reacted to an intended plan by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ratchet up the war on cannabis. A spokesman had little to say on the matter, telling the Post that “as a federally regulated financial institution, PNC complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations.
Trending Cannabiz News
America to President Trump: Leave marijuana alone!
According to a new poll from Survey USA, 76% of Americans want President Trump to leave legal marijuana states alone. Reform group Marijuana Majority commissioned the poll. The poll also found some Americans support consumption of marijuana by professional athletes (46%), gun owners (48%) and journalists (50%).
Koch Brothers join growing conservative anti-prohibition movement
A growing chorus on the political right is urging president Trump to leave marijuana states alone. Even famously conservative Koch political network is joining the fray. “You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won,” said Mark Holden, one of the network’s top leaders. The network has disagreed with AG Sessions’s decision to quash renewal of a federal policy preventing federal interfere in state medical marijuana systems. The statement said that the War on Drugs represented a “failed big government top-down approach,” adding that “we should let the states decide.”
Big bust in Denver
A Denver grand jury has indicted 62 people allegedly involved in a marijuana trafficking organization that reaped millions of dollars by illegally growing pot and then selling it out of state over a period of four years. It’s the largest marijuana bust in Colorado since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014. Wednesday’s indictment was triggered by a tip to Denver police in 2014. The subsequent investigation involving local, state and federal law enforcement led to the execution of nearly 150 search warrants over 11 months in homes and warehouses throughout the metro area. So far, 43 people are in custody; the rest are at large.
Choosy patients choose marijuana
In a survey of its patients, the medical cannabis community website HelloMD asked nearly 3,000 respondents a wide range of questions examining their use of cannabis as a substitute for opioid and non-opioid based pain medication. Nearly all of them said that using cannabis reduced their opioid use. The study, conducted in cooperation with University of California Berkeley, was led by researchers Amanda Reiman and Mark A. Welty. Among the key findings, 97% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they could decrease their use of opioid painkillers when consuming cannabis. And 92% said that they agreed or strongly agreed that they prefer cannabis to treat their medical condition.
Colorado regulator turned smuggler
Recent cases in Colorado and Washington are the first known instances of current or former pot regulators being accused of having improper dealings with the industry. Former Colorado marijuana enforcement officer Renee Rayton is accused of helping pot growers raise plants for illegal out-of-state sales. State investigators claim the marijuana warehouse inspector quit her job last year and went to work for the illegal pot ring, taking an $8,000-a-month job. The indictment says Rayton told the pot growers she could help them “get legal” through her contacts at the Colorado agency that oversees the marijuana industry.
Cannabiz worth more than NFL
Support for the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis has grown from a local grassroots effort to a groundswell. The legal cannabis industry is currently worth around $8 to $10 billion, but the unregulated cannabis industry is estimated to be anywhere from $100 to $200 billion. In 2016, the NFL industry made approximately $9 billion in annual revenue. With all the media attention and interest surrounding the NFL, in addition to their superstar athletes, it’s almost hard to believe that the industry may soon lag behind cannabis. A February 2017 Forbes Magazine article projected that the legal cannabis market will create more than a quarter of a million jobs by 2020.
Strong growth in Washington and Colo.
By compiling sales numbers from both the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, and the Colorado Department of Revenue, Leafly was able to visualize just how much each state’s legal cannabis industry has grown during the past few years. Washington saw the biggest difference, with first four months of 2017 yielding year-over-year sales increases of 55% to nearly 80%. Colorado’s sales increases, though positive, were much mellower than those in the Evergreen State. A month-by-month look at Colorado’s sales data suggest the state’s legal cannabis market tends to grow around 30% each year.