This week in the news, MMJ bill ignores U.S. veterans, Vermont nixes gifting, Colorado sales level off as prices continue to drop, Las Vegas sees retail consolidation, and word on hemp bill still 2-3 months away.
The STATES Act which was introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) this month introduced legislation that would protect state-sanctioned cannabis industries and consumers from federal criminal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act.
The bill, however, does nothing to provide legal protection or access to medical cannabis for nine million veterans who rely on the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which would still be required under this bill to treat cannabis as a Schedule I substance, barring veterans from using medical cannabis while under the care of VHA physicians.
“This is no small matter,” wrote Nick Etten in an opinion piece in The Hill. Etten points out that the opioid crisis has hit veterans at a rate two times higher than the national average, and 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
And, according to the National Institutes of Health, veterans suffer chronic severe pain at rates roughly 40 percent higher than civilians. Also, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims that nearly 20 percent of 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience post-traumatic stress or depression.
Etten asks, “While VHA physicians have been quick to prescribe powerful and dangerous drug cocktails (opiates and benzodiazepines) in response to these and other service-related conditions, how could the federal government continue to deny veterans legal access to medical cannabis as a demonstrably safer alternative treatment option? It’s an option veterans should not only have, it’s one they clearly want.”
Americans Need The Facts On Cannabis
The Annals of Internal Medicine published the results of a probability-based online survey of more than 26,000 Americans which was funded by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. According to the paper’s abstract, the study was initiated “to understand the public’s views on the risks and benefits of marijuana use” because “despite insufficient evidence regarding its risks and benefits, marijuana is increasingly available and aggressively marketed to the public.”
Here are the results of the survey:
The response rate was 55.3% (n = 9003). Approximately 14.6% of U.S. adults reported using marijuana in the past year. About 81% of U.S. adults believe marijuana has at least 1 benefit, whereas 17% believe it has no benefit. The most common benefit cited was pain management (66%), followed by treatment of diseases, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (48%), and relief from anxiety, stress, and depression (47%). About 91% of U.S. adults believe marijuana has at least 1 risk, whereas 9% believe it has no risks. The most common risk identified by the public was legal problems (51.8%), followed by addiction (50%) and impaired memory (42%). Among U.S. adults, 29.2% agree that smoking marijuana prevents health problems. About 18% believe exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke is somewhat or completely safe for adults, whereas 7.6% indicated that it is somewhat or completely safe for children. Of the respondents, 7.3% agree that marijuana use is somewhat or completely safe during pregnancy. About 22.4% of U.S. adults believe that marijuana is not at all addictive.
The authors point out that the wording of the questions may have affected interpretation. Nonetheless, they concluded that “Americans’ view of marijuana use is more favorable than existing evidence supports.”
Hemp Legalization Will Take Some Time
The fate of hemp legalization will be in the hands of the Congressional conference committee, tasked with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The process will likely take another 2-3 months and must deal with the House desire to place new “look-for-work” rules into the Farm Bill which funds the Food Stamp/SNAP program every four years.
In response to businesses offering “free” marijuana in exchange for a steep delivery fee, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced that it is illegal for businesses in the state to gift marijuana in any kind of commercial transaction. Other firms offered overpriced, usually inexpensive items such as stickers or jewelry that came with a “gift” of marijuana. According to High Times, similar schemes have surfaced in Boston and Washington. D.C.
According to the ruling, “Act 86 does not legalize the sale of marijuana. Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law. It includes a commercial transaction (i.e., an exchange of goods or services for money) with a purported ‘gift’ of marijuana. Examples include: selling an item or service, like a bracelet or t-shirt with the ‘gift’ of marijuana. Charging someone for the purported ‘delivery’ of a marijuana ‘gift’ would also be considered a sale.”
Two Nevada cannabis pioneers and leaders in the state’s recreational market have sold their businesses in two transactions garnering $106 million and signaling the start of major consolidation in the Silver State. Led by industry leader Andrew Jolly, The+Source will sell its four Metro Vegas licenses for $56 million in cash and stock to Green Growth Brands.
Meanwhile, in Sparks/Reno, Silver State Relief, the first Nevada dispensary to open in July 2015 sold its northern Nevada businesses for $50 million, also in stock and cash, to Canadian investors, C2 Investments. With first-year sales expected to exceed $412 million, all 70-plus Nevada dispensary operators are reported to have broken even earlier this year. Additional dispensary applications are now being accepted for 30-plus new centers in Nevada.
Total Colorado cannabis sales have likely reached a sales plateau with a May report of $122.9 million, almost unchanged from the year-earlier sales figure of $123.5 million. And the Department of Revenue released its wholesale pricing estimates, confirming a major collapse in Colorado average prices at $846/pound, down 16.4 percent from 2017, and with trim off 42.3 percent from 2017, down to $404/pound this year.
The continued decline of the medical marijuana purchases in May reported $26.2 million — the lowest since early 2014 — and off from the May 2017 medical marijuana sales of $36.3 million. For tax collections generally, Colorado’s 2018 seems to be on track to repeat the full-year sales of 2017 at $1.51 Billion.
This article by Cannabiz News editors Rick Schettino and Dr. Lloyd Covens originally appeared on PotNetwork.com.