This week in weed, Las Vegas has a good week, Nevada kicks off, and Washington breaks the national one year sales record. Meanwhile, Florida’s new MMJ law is now law of the land, Canada faces a shortage, and a hiker in Colorado stumbles onto 7,500 plant grow and snitches.
1. Nevada launch goes better than planned
Nevada officially launched its medical marijuana program after some last minute issues were resolved. Recreational marijuana sales in Las Vegas exceeded expectations with stores reporting long lines. As of Friday, the state had licensed 44 dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana. Thirty-nine of those shops are in the Las Vegas area.
Vegas merchants had to turn away customers the first weekend. Wait times of 45 minutes to an hour were reported on Saturday afternoon and up to 20 minutes Sunday. Euphoria Wellness dispensary had 50 people waiting to make purchases midmorning Monday. Marketing coordinator, Jim Ferrence, told The Las Vegas Sun that budtenders helped at least 1,000 customers during the first two days of legal recreational pot sales.
Customers on average bought a quarter of an ounce of marijuana flowers and a sampling of various edibles and concentrates, Ferrence said. “Everyone was calm, cool and collected. No unruly crowds at all,” he said.
Nevada is the fifth state to allow adult use marijuana. Nevada joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in allowing adults to buy the drug that’s still banned by the federal government. The market in the Silver State is expected to outpace all others in the U.S., at least until California starts its sales.
More than 42 million tourists flock to Las Vegas for business and pleasure every year. Tourists are expected to account for two thirds of pot purchases in the Nevada.
2. Washington breaks national one-year sales record in 3rd year
As fiscal 2016 ended June 30, Washington reported cannabis sales at $1.3 billion, a whopping 67.8% gain over last year’s $786 million in gross sales. Sales and tax data released by the Washington LMCB this week show a hefty 68% growth over last fiscal 2015 (July 1-June 30, 2015) when gross MJ sales topped $786.4 million with tax revenues of $185.6 million. In fiscal 2014, total sales were $259.5 million, with excise tax of $64.9mil.
The state has dropped its infamous 60%, three-level tax down to a more moderate 37% rate (plus additional local sales tax). The state is closed to outside investors, and stores are capped at 556 total.
Beginning July 23, a new bill goes into effect finally giving medical cardholders access to clones, seeds and immature plants for home growing for the first time. However, the vast number of un-registered “medical” patients (no one is required to register for a card) is still a problem for Washington and has led to a robust illicit market and lost revenue.
3. Florida bill becomes law of the land
On June 23, Gov. Rick Scott approved the bill implementing a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The new law expands the list of conditions which make patients eligible to use medical marijuana. Terminally ill patients have been allowed to use MMJ since 2014. Now, Florida residents can obtain prescriptions for conditions that include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, ALS, Chrohn’s disesase, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and HIV/AIDS but the medication must be consumed in oil or edible form. No smoking allowed. Orlando-based attorney, John Morgan, who bankrolled the initiative which was voted into law in 2016, is suing the state to allow smoking.
The new bill increases the number of statewide master licenses from 7 to 17. Each licensee is allowed to open up to 25 dispensaries anywhere in Florida.
[Correction: The original post said 7 to 17 dispensaries, as opposed to licenses.]
4. Canada faces weed shortage
Canada is set to legalize recreational marijuana a year from now, the first major economy to do so. But for medical marijuana patients, the available supply hasn’t kept pace with the demand. Expanding patient lists are creating a shortage in Canada’s medical marijuana market.
Canada had 167,754 registered medicinal marijuana users as of March 31, triple the amount from a year earlier. Supply shortages are already a problem for Canada’s existing legalized medicinal market.
Health Canada pledged last month to speed up its approval process for applicants seeking a license to grow marijuana. The agency has been more responsive but it still takes up to a year for a new producer to ramp up production and get product to market. While the government has issued a number of new licenses, it may still take 12 months or more for new companies to start ramping up production.
5. Hiker stumbles onto massive Colo. grow, snitches
A hiker in Colorado stumbled onto nearly 7,500 pot plants which law enforcement officials estimated to be worth $7 million. (Experts claim the value is far lower – maybe a few percent of that figure.) No suspects have been arrested.
In a conversation with The Denver Post about the illegal operation, Sheriff Kirk Taylor encouraged citizen narcs to snitch if they find illegal grows: “These grows are not indigenous to Colorado and the water and fertilizers required for these grow operations represent a clear environmental hazard for our beautiful Colorado mountains. We certainly appreciate and encourage anyone who is out enjoying our mountains and sees something that they think is suspicious, to report it.”
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CA bill could ban weed merch
A bill being considered by the California state legislature threatens to ban cannabis branded merchandise. Senate Bill 162 would prohibit cannabis businesses from advertising “through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.” It’s a measure aimed at reducing children’s exposure to cannabis ads. The Southern California Coalition, the largest trade group of marijuana businesses in Los Angeles, is vehemently opposed to the proposal. “To ban small businesses from advertising, marketing and branding is ridiculous,” the organization’s executive director, Adam Spiker, told Leafly. Other states, such as Washington, have similar restrictions on branded merchandise.
Canada’s Cannabis Act faces constitutional challenges
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, and Bill C-46, are getting a lot of blowback in the Great White North. Lawyers are predicting a slew of constitutional challenges in the coming months. Past constitutional challenges led to the legalization of medical cannabis in 2001 and to the continued broadening of regulations governing its use. Last year, for example, a Canadian federal court ruled that some cannabis patients’ constitutional right to “life, liberty and security of the person” had been violated because they didn’t have “reasonable access” to their medicine, forcing the government to change the law so that Canadians could grow small amounts of medical cannabis. Top activists are deriding the bill as grossly unfair. For example, if you’re convicted of providing marijuana to individuals 17 or under you could be facing a prison sentences of up to 14 years, even though selling tobacco or alcohol to minors is punishable by a fine for first-time offenders.
185 applications for 24 licenses in Ohio
The Ohio Department of Commerce on Wednesday released a list of 185 applicants vying for 24 medical marijuana cultivator licenses. The state plans to license up to 12 cultivators with up to 3,000 square feet of growing space and 12 cultivators with up to 25,000 square feet of space. Ohio will award cultivator licenses based on how the businesses plan to grow marijuana, staff and secure their facilities and comply with state regulations.
MMJ initiative filed in Ohio
The Utah Patients Coalition filed a medical cannabis ballot initiative last Thursday. Dozens of patient advocates flanked the podium as principal sponsors of the initiative unveiled the 28-page measure. Qualifying illnesses include Alzheimer’s Disease; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); Autism; Cancer, cachexia or chronic conditions that manifest in physical wasting, nausea, or malnutrition; chronic pain; Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis or a similar gastrointestinal disorder; Epilepsy or similar conditions that cause debilitating seizures; HIV and other immune deficiency syndromes or autoimmune disorders; Multiple Sclerosis or similar conditions causing persistent and debilitating muscle spasms; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); and rare diseases as defined by the federal Food & Drug Administration.
Dems and republicans agree – MMJ good, prohibition bad
A recent study, commissioned by Marijuana Majority, on marijuana consumption and acceptance shows growing public support of states’ rights. The survey questioned 1,500 participants about their ideas on marijuana consumer rights. Among survey findings, 76 percent of participants across the political spectrum (Democrat, Republican and anything in between) believed the federal government should let states implement their own laws regarding marijuana.
Greece legalizes MMJ
Greece announced that the Joint Ministerial Decision to legalize cannabis as a medicine has been signed into law. “From now on, the country is turning its page, as Greece is now included in countries where the delivery of medical cannabis to patients in need is legal,” said Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. The new law reclassifies cannabis from Table A, the most restrictive drug category, to Table B, which is for drugs that are heavily regulated, but allowed for medical use.
Violent crime decreasing in border states
The Norwegian School of Economics reported in The Economic Journal last month, their “results are consistent with the theory that decriminalization of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations.” Even when interior states legalize, border states enjoy a reduction in violence.
Arizona advocates demand testing standards
It’s an industry with no legal protections, but Arizona’s entire cannabis economy depends on it. Medical marijuana testing seems a no-brainer when dealing a product designed for sick people, but in 2010 when the AMMA was created by voter initiative, the section on testing was left on the cutting room floor. Now a group of activists and scientists are banding together to make testing a reality.
Navajo Nation passes pot proposal
The Navajo Nation joined the majority of the rest of the state of Arizona this week in recognizing medical marijuana. Navajo Nation Council Delegate Lee Jack, Sr. sponsored the legislation, citing humanitarian and economic reasons. The bill will allow businesses to develop medical cannabis and hemp products for sale and distribution. Tribal leaders are hoping to partner with New Mexico’s leading cannabis company Utlra-Health. So far, the bill has passed the Health, Education and Human Services Committee and is on its way to the tribal Resource and Development Committee.
Teens experimenting more in legal states
A new survey, distributed via Facebook, has found that adolescents living in medical marijuana states are more likely to have tried new methods of cannabis use, such as edibles and vaping, at a younger age than those living in states with fewer dispensaries. In other news, water is wet.