Week in Review: Medical Marijuana Use Doubles; Rick Ross Announces New Cannabis Partnership

New Study Confirms Medical Marijuana Use Has Doubled in the US

A new study reveals that medical cannabis use has more than doubled in the last decade and is largely driven by state-level legalization, reports Marijuana Moment.

In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health added a medical marijuana question, specifically asking whether any cannabis use within the past 12 months was recommended by a doctor. The federally funded survey found that during the first year, 1.2% of respondents answered affirmatively and that figure rose to 2.5% by 2020.

The study’s authors, Greg Rhee, PhD and Robert Rosenheck, MD determined that over the course of a seven-year period, the number of Americans using medical marijuana increased at an average annual rate of 12.9%.

“This study documents a continued nationwide increase in use of cannabis for diverse medical purposes between 2013 and 2020,” they write in the paper, published online on March 12 as a pre-proof for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Living in a state that legalized medical cannabis remained significantly associated with greater odds of medical cannabis use.”

PHOTO Marcus Ingram/GI

Rick Ross Partners With High Tolerance for New “Collins Ave” Strain

Rick Ross is paying homage to his Miami roots with the announcement of his new partnership with cannabis company, High Tolerance, to launch a new cannabis strain, Collins Ave, named after the popular South Beach thoroughfare, reports TMZ.

“High Tolerance is the best flower for all the ones who like to blow that good gas,” 47-year-old Ross said. “This is the best flower in the world… this is why I decided to team up with High Tolerance. They have the best flower on the streets. Shout out to Manny, the biggest.”

For his part, Manny, High Tolerance’s co-founder told TMZ that Ross is “a true cannabis connoisseur.”

The partnership sees Ross join an impressive line-up of musicians and celebrities who have become High Tolerance ambassadors, including A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, ‘BMF’ star Lil Meech, Ghostface Killah and the late Drakeo the Ruler.

Those in the know might be somewhat perplexed by the hip hop star’s partnership with High Tolerance surprising, given his 2020 collaboration with fellow musician/entrepreneur Berner; Collins Ave was one of the three strains Ross launched with the Californian cannabis company, along with Pink Rozay, a reference to his involvement in Belaire Rosé and Lemon Pepper, reportedly his favorite flavor of Wingstop chicken wings.

The highly-anticipated release of Collins Ave is scheduled for June 1.

PHOTO Konrad

$20 Million in Funding Helps California’s Growers

In an effort to help limit the number of unlicensed cannabis grows and help cultivators restore and conserve their properties, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has earmarked over $20 million in grant funding opportunities as part of its Cannabis Restoration Grant Program (CRGP).  

The funding will be distributed to farmers through “non-profits, tribes, government agencies and other organizations that manage environmental projects for landowners,” the Record Spotlight reports and is earmarked for costs associated with things like permitting requirements, upgrading road crossings and restoration of the environment caused by illicit grows. 

The organization announced the program in January, stating illicit cannabis grow practices, such as wildlife poaching, unlawful water diversions for irrigation, conversion of lands, banned pesticide use and more, have negatively impacted California’s environment and fish and wildlife.

According to Amelia Wright, CDFW Cannabis Program Director, the CDFW wants to help limit the number of unlicensed grows because, in a regulated market, cultivators typically work with state regulators to minimize environmental impacts.

“We’re excited about our new cannabis grant opportunities and look forward to funding a variety of projects that restore and protect California’s diverse natural resources,” Wright says.

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Week in Review: Germany Likely to Legalization; Politics a Hot Topic at SXSW

Germany’s Health Minister Indicates That Legalization Will Proceed

The German health minister has indicated that adult-use legalization will move forward in the European country, reports Marijuana Moment. Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that he has received “very good feedback” from the European Commission and expects his bill to be formally presented “in the next few weeks.” 

“We’ll soon present a proposal that works, that is, that conforms to European law,” Minister Lauterbach said. Throughout the lobbying process, the minister has indicated that his efforts aim to improve public health in Germany via regulating adult-use cannabis. In 2022, the Federal Cabinet of Germany adopted a preliminary outline for legalization legislation. Still, the government required EU approval to ensure that adopting the change wouldn’t violate their international duties.

Under the government’s soon-to-be-revised proposal, which is currently only a 12-page framework and not actual legislation, adults 18 and older would be permitted to purchase and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis from establishments with federal licenses, potentially including pharmacies. Moreover, they may raise up to three plants for their own use.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andrew DeAngelo. Photo courtesy of SXSW

Legalization the Hot Topic at SXSW 2023

Global Cannabis Consultant and Strategic Advisor Andrew DeAngelo, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) gathered onstage to discuss federal cannabis legalization at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin. The panel, called “Which Political Party Will Legalize Weed?” gave the two representatives an opportunity for a lively discussion on the end of federal cannabis prohibition. Moderator DeAngelo pushed the politicians on the lack of progress in the Capitol, according to Green Market Report.

Blumenauer is said to be “more optimistic” than last year, referencing President Biden’s pardoning of cannabis prisoners and the fact that Biden is also keeping the possibility of descheduling on the table after initiating a review of cannabis classification. However, he was said to be more critical of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) inability to get a voting measure passed by the House, quoted as saying their desire for perfect legislation is behind the continued stalling but believes the two had “learned their lesson” and are more open to compromise.

Mace was reportedly less optimistic, saying if any change is going to happen, it needs to be done before June, as after that, “it’ll be about the presidential election,” she said. The South Carolina Republican also noted that President Biden could use it to his advantage to boost his reelection hopes.

Photo couresy of Death Row Cannabis

Snoop Extends Death Row Cannabis Product Offering 

 Following the sold-out first product drop of its debut offerings LA Runtz, Trop Cherry, Strawberry Garry and SFV OG, Death Row Cannabis has launched two new additions, True OG and Strawberry Gelato (Apple Fritter x Lemon Cherry Gelato hybrid), on March 10. Plus, fans of LA Runtz can be reassured that the popular strain also be returning. Like the first fire drop, these new cultivars were carefully by Death Row Cannabis’ Head of Operations, AK, a longtime West Coast legacy cultivator. 

“We’re very excited to introduce California consumers to Death Row Cannabis’s newest heavy hitter, Strawberry Gelato,” Travis “Shaggy” Marshall, head of product, said. “It has a loud, unique strawberry nose that’s tart and sharp on the front but sweet and creamy on the back. To me, it’s what I’d imagine a strawberry shortcake-flavored milkshake would taste like. Not only is it uniquely delicious, but testing at over 35% it also packs a punch for heavier smokers like me.” 

Arkansas Police: Medical Marijuana Causes Other Crimes

No Increase in Traffic-Related Hospitalizations Following Cannabis Legalization

The introduction of adult-use marijuana sales in Canada isn’t linked to a rise in hospitalizations for traffic-related injuries, according to data published in the journal Addiction, reports NORML. Researchers compared the national rates of hospital admissions and emergency room visits in the years before and immediately after legalization. 

 “Overall, there’s no clear evidence that RCL [recreational cannabis laws] had any effect on rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for either motor vehicle or pedestrian/cyclist injury across Canada,” the authors concluded.

The results align with an earlier Canadian study from 2021, which “found no evidence that the implementation of the Cannabis Act was associated with significant changes in post-legalization patterns of all drivers’ traffic-injury ED visits or, more specifically, youth-driver traffic-injury ED presentations.”

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Week in Review: Jay-Z Sued; Hawaii Says “Aloha” to Recreational Pot; Heavy Metal Debuts

Jay-Z’s Monogram and TPCO Sued

Monogram, the cannabis company owned by billionaire rapper Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z, is facing serious allegations in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on February 16, according to SFGate.

Cathi Clay, a former vice president of The Parent Company (TPCO), a California-based cannabis company that operates the Monogram brand, claims to have “experienced years of harassment” from the company’s executives who allegedly acted “aggressive, demeaning and publicly questioned her abilities.” Clay also alleges that Chief Financial Officer Mike Batesole made “many inappropriate comments about women, hiring ‘housewives’ to perform accounts payable, people of color and skill sets of employees.”

The lawsuit also claims that executives shipped cannabis across state lines from California to New York “for a Monogram event with Shawn Carter”—an act prohibited by California’s cannabis regulations and a federal felony. Additionally, Clay claims that TPCO made “inaccurate” payments with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in both 2021 and 2022.

In an email to SFGate, a spokesperson from TPCO said, “The company does not comment on active litigation and plans to defend itself strongly against the false accusations.”

The SFGate reports that according to a summons filed with the court, TPCO has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit and an initial court hearing “has not yet been scheduled.” 

Hawaii Senate Advances Cannabis Legalization Bill

PHOTO shanemyersphoto

The Hawaii Senate voted in favor (22-3) of SB 669, a cannabis legalization bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis, on Tuesday.

SB 669 would allow adults 21 and older to possess, share and transport up to 30 grams (or one ounce) of cannabis. The law also permits up to six cannabis plants, including a maximum of three mature, flowering plants, to be grown indoors. The legislation also lessens the penalties for unlicensed cannabis cultivation and sales and provides for the expungement of some marijuana-related crimes.

“For years, advocates have been working to pass legislation to sensibly legalize cannabis in Hawaii,” said DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project and Hawaii resident, in a statement from the group. “Now that this bill has advanced out of the Senate, Hawaii is one step closer to becoming the next state to end cannabis prohibition.”

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Stanley Chang (D), Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D), Sen. Angus McKelvey (D) and Sen. Joy San Buenaventura (D) and now heads to the opposite chambers for consideration. If passed, it would make the Aloha State 22nd in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis.

Heavy Metal Entertainment & Berkshire Roots Announce Partnership

Heavy Metal Cannabis
Image courtesy of Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal Entertainment (HME) and Berkshire Roots, one of Massachusetts’s leading cannabis cultivation and dispensary operators, has announced a partnership in which Berkshire Roots will provide new flower strains and develop distinctive cannabis products branded “Heavy Metal” to go along with HME’s plans to provide its fanbase with cutting-edge and thrilling new media and experiences while also luring in new customers to its rich history of tales and characters.

Heavy Metal launched in 1977 as a print magazine that combined iconic adult-themed concepts and characters in a way that was unmistakably reminiscent of comic books. The magazine continues to highlight incredible new talent and renowned creators and primarily features interviews, artist galleries and stories. Along with the legendary magazine, HME also publishes a wide array of comic books and graphic novels; runs a podcast network; and operates a budding television and film studio.

“When we were all introduced to Berkshire Roots, we immediately gravitated to the idea of a connection between our brand and cannabis,” said Heavy Metal Studios President Tommy Coriale. “We can’t wait to see this product connect to both the long-time fans and the younger generation who are just getting to know Heavy Metal for the first time.”  

Berkshire Roots CEO, James Winokur called the partnership “game-changing.”

“Building on the reputation and consumer loyalty Berkshire Roots has established since it launched, we’re now in a position to guide other brands that want to enter the cannabis market and Massachusetts specifically,” Winokur says. “I think this model is game-changing for the industry and I can’t think of another partnership like this in the cannabis space.”  

The Heavy Metal cannabis line will premiere at the Berkshire Roots booth during the New England Cannabis Convention Boston trade show from March 10-12 and will be available from selected retailers throughout Massachusetts.

Pure Imagination Festival Dreams Up 2023 Lineup Featuring Ziggy Marley and Lucinda Williams

Image courtesy of Pure Imagination Festival

Described as “a festival of music, wonder and breathtaking views,” Pure Imagination, an eco-forward, female-founded, all-ages destination festival, has announced the not-to-be-missed lineup for the May 20 event, located on Watson Lake Park near Prescott, Arizona.

Headline acts include eight-time Grammy winner Ziggy Marley, Lucinda Williams, Capital Cities and recent Grammy nominee Allison Russell. Beloved Southern hip-hop group Nappy Roots, Brandy Clark, Ponderosa Grove, Jared James Nichols, The Brummies, Johan Glidden and Cole Ramstad (DJ Sets) will also perform at the family-friendly event.

“I’m so thrilled that Pure Imagination festival was embraced so beautifully in our inaugural year,” said the event’s founder Candace Devine, who’s scheduled to perform with her band, Ponderosa Grove. “It’s the energy of our community and those who travel from near and far that create the magic that has continued to inspire all of us.”

Watson Lake Park is located in the spectacular Granite Dells and High Desert of Northern Arizona, which has mild and welcome seasons, clean air, beautiful lakes and otherworldly natural scenery. Miles of hiking paths, on-site lawn games, frisbee golf, 20 food trucks and kayaking are all available to festival attendees on the grounds. Tickets are available on the Pure Imagination website.

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Week in Review: Snoop Goes Global; Colorado’s Cannabis Consumption Bus; A Big Chicago First

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” said Matthew Broderick as 1980s’ icon Ferris Bueller. The same can be said for the cannabis industry. There’s always something new happening.

PHOTO Sterling Munksgard

Snoop Inks Partnership With Atlas Global Brands

Snoop Dogg’s eye on global domination took another step forward following an announcement that the entrepreneur and hip-hop legend signed an “exclusive international licensing agreement” with Canada-based global cannabis company Atlas Global Brands Inc.

“Consumers love Snoop, and our collective goal is to deliver premium products in all cannabis categories that will consistently exceed consumer expectations,” Bernie Yeung, Atlas Global CEO, said in a statement.

The five-year agreement will allow Atlas Global to selectively “source, package and distribute directly in Canada and through approved distribution partners internationally,” including medical cannabis products in Germany, Israel and Australia.

This significant deal also gives Atlas Global exclusive rights to the artist’s name, likeness and other intellectual property “to produce, package, manufacture, distribute, sell, advertise, promote and market cannabis flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates, oils and edibles, and personal vaporizers” in legal markets.

“I chose Atlas to represent and launch my new brands because of their innovation and global reach. I am excited to work with their team to select my favorite strains for my brands and fans,” Snoop Dogg said. “You know they’ll be amazing because they’ll be personally approved by me.”

Sarah Woodson of The Cannabis Experience
The Cannabis Experience founder, Sarah Woodson. PHOTO Kush & Canvases

Roll Up and Roll Out on the Cannabis Experience

Toking tourists and weed-loving locals alike can now enjoy the sights of Denver on the country’s first licensed cannabis consumption bus. Founded by local entrepreneur Sarah Woodson, the Cannabis Experience is meant to provide safe, legal cannabis tours, airport transportation and private party buses that are cannabis friendly, as well as visits to cannabis farms and dispensaries. Private party bus rentals will also offer food and art themes such as “Toking and Tacos” and “RiNo Mural Tours.”

The Cannabis Experience is Woodson’s latest foray into cannabis tourism in the city. The former consultant for Marijuana Industry Group also founded the highly popular consumption-friendly cannabis art class, Kush & Canvases, and says she is “helping move the needle forward in the legalization fight.”

“The Cannabis industry is extremely regulated and not diverse. It took us almost a year to become operational, so we’re excited to be the country’s first safe, legal, licensed mobile hospitality business,” Woodson says. “We’re social equity and African American. We’ll have amazing tours, and grow our fleet over the next 24 months and work on expanding into other local cities such as Aurora. We’re proud to be in the cannabis industry.”

Although there have been previous cannabis buses operating in Colorado, they weren’t officially permitted and were all shut down by authorities. The Cannabis Experience, on the other hand, possesses both a local license and a state-issued cannabis hospitality permit. Here’s how to book your seat.

Grasshopper Club founders
Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck celebrate the opening of the Grasshopper Club.

The Grasshopper Club Opens in Chicago

A family-owned company just made history as Chicago’s first independent, Black-owned dispensary. Located in Logan Square, in the 2500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, the Grasshopper Club is owned by Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck, along with some “minor silent investors.”

“We don’t have a relationship or get support or have an arrangement with one of the large, publicly-owned cannabis companies,” Matthew told ABC 7 Chicago.

“I’m working on the accounting aspects of this business,” Dianne said. “I’m totally excited. I retired 12 years ago and here I am working again.”

For Chuck, the opening is something of a full circle, as he was arrested for cannabis possession a few times in his youth. “For me to be doing this legally with my brother and my mother…it’s priceless,” he said.

When Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect in 2020, “social equity” provisions were included in legislation to help communities harmed by past drug policies access the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. But, according to Dianne, it’s been a struggle for some, and her family has pledged to support other African Americans to open more independent dispensaries. “They call it social equity, but you’ve got to have the money to be able to open, and many African Americans don’t have that money,” she says.

The Brewer family plans to open a second Chicago-based dispensary this summer.

California cannabis
PHOTO Konrad

Cannabis Sales Drop in California

According to the latest statistics released by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (DTFA), annual cannabis sales in the Golden State declined in 2022 for the first time since its adult-use market launched in 2018, reports MJBiz.

The fourth quarter’s taxable sales fell 8.2% to $5.3 billion from the $5.77 reported in the same period last year, marking the third consecutive quarterly decline. Additionally, tax revenue was close to $1.1 billion in 2022, a 21% decrease from around $1.4 billion in 2021. Despite the decline, California continues to account for about 20% of the $26 billion market.

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Trulieve Makes History as First Cannabis Brand to Advertise on Twitter

When Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022, speculation about looming company-wide changes made worldwide headlines. Every controversial decision Musk made, from “ending” political censorship to charging for verification checkmarks, gave journalists and media outlets salacious opportunities to evaluate his choices. The announcement from the social media platform that it will change its cannabis advertising policies has the industry applauding the bold decision.

The new policy will lift advertising bans on cannabis advertising and related content, allowing for greater promotion of previously restricted ads. According to the policy update announced on February 15, Twitter will immediately allow advertising and promotional content related to legal cannabis products and services. The new rules will make concessions for content that promotes education and research about the plant and allow advertisers to promote brands, products and services.

Specifically, according to the Cannabis Ads Policy, CBD and similar cannabinoid products, THC and related products and cannabis-infused products and services—including delivery services, labs, growing technology, search engines and more—are now allowed to advertise on the platform. Additionally, to incentivize businesses to advertise, Twitter is offering to match every cannabis or CBD advertising dollar spent up to $250,000 until March 30, 2023.

Under the social media platform’s policy change, on February 15 behemoth multi-state operator Trulieve made history as the first company to launch an advertising campaign on Twitter.

“The plant really provides an opportunity for the world outside of traditional medicine that can bring great changes and benefits to all and Twitter is an important platform to educate within,” Gina Collins, chief marketing officer at Trulieve, said. “But there’s also a business reality that nobody talks about—especially in the macro-economic conditions we’re all facing—there’s ad revenue to be had. It has mutual benefits for more than just two key players or one small industry. It seems much bigger than that.”

Collins says she hopes the groundbreaking update from Twitter will encourage cannabis advertising policy reform across other social media platforms, believing the news to be a “catalyst.”

“If there’s bravery on a platform such as Twitter to come out and say this is an untapped industry and allow a credible business to come forth, then the rest will have to reconsider their policies too,” Collins says. “Twitter has been evolving its policies and products since they had a leadership change. Elon Musk is a huge advocate of the plant itself, and I suspect there were pretty active conversations around the decision.”

Potential advertisers will have to contend with an arduous approval process to ensure they follow the updated guidelines and are educated on the platform. Once cannabis executives pass that hurdle, they’ll have new tools with Twitter’s advertising products, such as in-stream videos, promoted tweets and product opportunities, to name a few. While that’s a win for cannabis marketers, the promotion of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and content that promotes drug use are still prohibited.

Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer for cannabis MSO Wana Brands, says that the new Twitter policy will change the company’s financial commitment to its 2023 marketing plan.

“Strategically, I still need to reach the consumer and drive them into a dispensary to purchase the product,” Hodas says. “And this has offered me another chance to do it. This potentially gives me another more targeted approach to reaching the consumer I can’t get through programmatic ads.”

Will Other Advertising Platforms Follow Suit?

Search engine giant Google quietly announced it was making some adjustments to its restrictive advertising policies around CBD and hemp products beginning in January 2023. However, it didn’t go nearly as far as Twitter and by all accounts, the updated policies are an excessively costly, burdensome process of paying a certification provider thousands of dollars in application, monitoring and website fees before paying for the advertising costs itself.

While Google did remove CBD from its list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements list, its policies are still highly restrictive, only allowing hemp-derived topical CBD products with less than 0.3% or less THC ad content.

Hodas agrees that, as it so often is the case, education is key to progress and that we’re still contending with a lack of understanding.

“This question of hemp and CBD, it’s an issue for the cannabis industry in the sense that I think there’s a lack of education,” Hodas says. “In the early days, some platforms said CBD was permitted, but not allow THC. Well, now that’s all getting blurred as well. I think this further reinforces that we need better education.”

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Cookies Opens in Thailand–With Stipulations

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Bangkok on January 21 as a major international cannabis brand inaugurated its entrance into Thailand’s marijuana market. The new outlet of Cookies Thailand will be the first US-brand cannabis dispensary in Thailand. “The launch of Cookies Thailand marks a milestone for the brand as it enters its sixth country and becomes the 58th Cookies storefront worldwide,” a company statement declared.

“The fact that my first time going to Asia is to open up a Cookies store isn’t something I could’ve ever imagined and is really special,” said Cookies CEO and co-founder, who goes by the single name Berner. “This store is beautiful and we’re grateful for our partners on the ground in Thailand who helped make this possible. I hope Bangkok is ready for an exclusive menu of fire genetics.”

The announcement adds: “Cookies’ iconic cultivars and products will be available for purchase, along with exclusive Cookies SF clothing and accessories, including local reserve merchandise specific to Thailand.”

Cookies Thailand is partnering in the venture with California edibles company Dee Thai.  “Cookies Thailand evolved organically as my relationship with Berner has for more than 20 years,” said Josh Schmidt, co-founder of Dee Thai. “Driven by the right intention, while honoring Thai culture and ethos, Cookies Thailand brings our friendship full circle, bonding my two loves—cannabis and Thailand.” 

In keeping with Thai tradition, a Buddhist monk was on hand at the opening ceremony to perform a blessing of the new business establishment. And in compliance with Thai law, the dispensary is operating in full  partnership with a Thai-registered company, Cookies Asia Co.

A Buddhist Monk blesses the new Cookies Thailand store. PHOTO Cookies

This ground-breaking development comes exactly one year after Thailand’s Food & Drug Administration officially removed cannabis from the list of illegal drugs, which amounted to an effective decriminalization when it took effect on June 9. However, a Cannabis Act that was promised at the time to regulate a legal industry has been held up by conservative elements in the Thai parliament. A January 4 editorial in the Bangkok Post, entitled “Pass Cannabis Controls Now,” noted that the bill has been “filibustered by a number of political parties.”

Illustrating the precarious nature of the current ambiguous atmosphere, the Bangkok Post reported January 29 that that agents of the Department of Thai Traditional & Alternative Medicine (DTAM) shut down several dispensaries and vendors in the island resort town of Koh Samui, making three arrests. 

DTAM is issuing provisional licenses under the 2019 Herbal Act, passed to regulate use of medicinal plants. But these licenses only cover herbaceous flower—no extracts, tinctures, vapes or edibles. Such processed products are available, but only due to either lax enforcement or extra-legal payoffs (bribes) to enforcement agents. 

The Bangkok Post reported Jan. 5 that the Public Health Ministry’s Medical Cannabis Institute issued a guide entitled “10 Things Tourists Need to Know about Cannabis in Thailand” to help clarify the confused situation. It warned that local medicinal use is the priority, and discouraged cannabis tourism. Nonetheless, the report says that despite the “legal vacuum” dispensaries have proliferated, as they’ve been promoted on websites such as High Thailand.

Amusingly, Cookies Thailand may face a situation in the Southeast Asian country not too different from that which it faces at its first store in New York City. The NYC shop just opened in Midtown Manhattan’s Herald Square, a prime location. But until it gets a coveted license from New York state authorities, it won’t actually be selling cannabis—just merchandise and CBD products. So a big move, but still waiting for full legality.

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Is 2023 Spain’s Year for Cannabis Reform?

It’s likely a safe bet that 2023 will be a significant year for cannabis reform efforts and the emerging cannabis industry, particularly in Europe. It’s no secret that a legalization measure is expected to be formally introduced in Germany in 2023, and if/when that happens, it will have a domino effect throughout most of the continent. But Spain’s cannabis reform measures move at their own pace.

As discussed in my last article for Cannabis Now, Spain tends to move at its own pace when it comes to cannabis policy reform. This is due in part to an enthusiasm gap among cannabis supporters for reform efforts within the country. As touched on in the last article, life is good for many consumers in Spain. Cannabis is easy to acquire in many parts of the country; there are tons of options to choose from; and there’s no shortage of cannabis clubs. Yet, the status quo still leaves a lot of patients on the outside looking in, creating a breeding ground for selective enforcement.

Are Medical Cannabis Regulations On The Way?

Palacio de las Cortes is a building in Madrid where the Spanish Congress of Deputies meets. PHOTO Courtesy of Madrid Destino

Spain’s Health and Consumption Commission of the Congress of Deputies previously approved an opinion of the Medical Cannabis Subcommittee back in June 2022 that called for medical cannabis regulations. Part of that opinion approval tasked the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) to develop a plan within 6 months regarding how it would implement the related recommendations of the opinion. That six-month deadline expired in December 2022.

A regulatory “roadmap” is reportedly already crafted, although firm details have yet to emerge. For that matter, even when every detail does emerge, it’s quite likely that things could still evolve in some areas. However, at the macro level, a regulated medical cannabis industry that’s accessible to Spain’s patients does seem to be on the way, and that’s good news for patients seeking tested medicine. Whether medical industry licenses will roll out in 2023 is still unclear, and it’s sure to be a popular topic at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Barcelona in March.

What About Cannabis Clubs?

Barcelona cannabis club
Circulo is a cannabis club in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood. PHOTO Jackie Bryant

The stated goal of officials in Spain is to move medical cannabis patients away from the unregulated market and instead provide them with the ability to acquire their medicine from a regulated industry. Purchasing medical cannabis from regulated sources provides several benefits that aren’t present in the unregulated market, not the least of which is the elimination of potential criminal penalties for participating in the transaction.

The most common way that most patients currently acquire their cannabis in Spain is to source it from one or more of the country’s hundreds of private cannabis clubs. Unregulated cannabis clubs have filled the void for many years, which is largely due to lawmakers in Spain having dragged their feet on cannabis reform for so long. Many patients find cannabis clubs to be accessible—plus, they’re familiar with current offerings.

If all medical cannabis is to go through pharmacies, where does that leave current cannabis clubs? Will there be increased enforcement as part of a strategy to eliminate competition? It seems like failing to incorporate clubs into the current regulatory push would be a missed opportunity.

What Are The Chances Of Spain Legalizing Adult-Use in 2023?

PHOTO Kyle / Adobe Stock

Germany isn’t the only country in Europe that’s currently pursuing adult-use cannabis legalization. Leaders in the Czech Republic indicated that they’ll proceed with adult-use legalization alongside Germany, and it’s likely that leaders in other nations are considering doing the same. Negotiations and discussions are currently taking place behind the scenes across the continent as well as at the European Union level. And just because a country isn’t at the table right now doesn’t mean they won’t join eventually.

Unfortunately, Spain isn’t likely to be one of those countries, at least not in 2023. Given how much of the medical cannabis regulation discussion remains unsettled, it’s nearly guaranteed that lawmakers and regulators won’t leap past medical cannabis regulations all the way to adult-use.

A bit of a wild card that could possibly affect chances of reform in Spain can be found in a different European country: In the island nation of Malta, located just south of Sicily, applications for nonprofit cannabis club licenses will start being accepted early this year. Given how central cannabis clubs are to Spain’s cannabis culture, it will be interesting to see if a successful launch of regulated clubs in Malta could help convince lawmakers in Spain that they could also make it happen. Only time will tell.

What Spain has right now is both beautiful and flawed. For the nation’s industry to reach its full potential, for all suffering patients to get safe access to much needed tested medicine, and for Spain to take its rightful spot as an international leader, a strong system must be put in place. Hopefully 2023 proves to be the year that happens.

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FDA Hires New Cannabis Policy Advisor

The US Food and Drug Administration could be signaling a new direction in the regulation of cannabis with the recent hiring of Norman Birenbaum as senior public health advisor at the agency’s Center for Regulatory Programs. In the position, a first for the FDA, he will advise the agency on cannabis research and regulatory policy. The FDA appointed Birenbaum, who formerly led cannabis regulation efforts in two states, on September 26.

Birenbaum is an experienced cannabis regulator, serving for four years as the head of the hemp and medical marijuana programs in Rhode Island, where he created the state’s Office of Cannabis Regulation. At the end of 2019, he was appointed New York’s first Director of Cannabis Programs, leading efforts to develop policy and regulate the state’s hemp and medicinal cannabis programs for more than two years. 

While still at the helm of New York’s cannabis oversight efforts, Birenbaum joined with cannabis regulators from 18 additional states to form the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA), serving as the inaugural president of the group. As more states opted into the legalization of cannabis, the group was formed to facilitate collaboration between regulators and help stakeholders find objective data and evidence-based approaches to policymaking and implementation of regulation.

“The Cannabis Regulators Association will provide a much needed forum for regulators to engage with each other to identify and develop best practices, create model policies that safeguard public health and safety, and promote regulatory certainty for industry participants,” Birenbaum said in a statement from CANNRA when the group launched two years ago.

In his new position with the federal government, Birenbaum will be tasked with “advancing [the FDA’s] efforts related to research and regulation of cannabis,” according to an agency announcement cited by Stat

Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, FDA deputy director for regulatory programs, said that Birenbaum’s wealth of experience in cannabis policy analysis and legislative outreach will help the agency form partnerships and collaborate with policymakers and stakeholders including the healthcare community, patients and patient advocacy groups, according to a report from Financial Assets.

Birenbaum’s Appointment Widely Praised by Cannabis Community

Birenbaum’s appointment as an FDA cannabis policy advisor has been well-received by hemp and cannabis policy reform advocates. Shawn Hauser, a partner at Vicente Sederberg LLP and co-chair of the law firm’s Hemp and Cannabinoids Department, wrote in an email to Cannabis Now that his hiring and subsequent efforts could lead to further action on both marijuana and hemp policy reform.

“Given Mr. Birenbaum’s significant experience and leadership in the regulated cannabis industry, especially overseeing NY’s robust medical marijuana and hemp programs and founding CANRA, I’m optimistic that this is a very positive step forward for responsible and sensible regulation of cannabis and hemp at the federal level, including for long overdue federal oversight over CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids.” Hauser wrote.

Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the US Hemp Roundtable, said that the move to hire Birenbaum could signal a new willingness by the FDA to regulate CBD. Despite the legalization of hemp agriculture by Congress with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the agency has still not issued regulations to allow for the legal use of the cannabinoid.

“After four years of inaction, we are hopeful that the appointment of Norman Birenbaum by the FDA signals a positive step forward for the regulation of hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD,” Miller said in a statement from the hemp industry trade group. “We appreciated working with Birenbaum on the development on New York’s landmark regulatory regime for hemp, and we look forward to working closely with him on the development of a regulatory framework for CBD products to ensure consumer safety and product quality across the country.”

And Morgan Fox, the political director for the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), also applauded the move by the FDA.

“Given the agency’s relatively ineffective approach to this issue over the years, it is good to see them being more proactive and bringing on people with actual cannabis experience,” Fox told L.A. Weekly. “The FDA’s work related to cannabis is likely going to increase and become more complicated in the not-too-distant future, and it should be preparing for this now by continuing to bring on additional staff with a wide array of expertise in the space.”

Birenbaum’s hiring by the FDA continues its measured pace of action on cannabis regulation. In May, the agency announced that Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock would chair the agency’s Cannabis Products Council, an intra-agency group tasked with working on cannabis product policy, enforcement and outreach issues, as well as helping the FDA implement a data collection plan for cannabis products.

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How to Harvest Sungrown Cannabis

Up in the Mendocino Highlands, harvest typically starts in late September or early October, depending on the cultivar. Some girls want to come in early, and some may stretch it out until early November. Here at Swami Select, we had an Ethiopian Sativa one year that finished after Thanksgiving—not what you want because of the increased likelihood of fog, rain or frost that late in the season.

This is the tensest time of year, because there are still so many ways that you could lose some or all of the crop. In the old days, the paranoia was palpable as October arrived. While the crop ripened, every day that you waited to cut increased the chances of getting busted by the cops or being robbed by “marijuana rustlers.”

Potential Threats

Franklin putting up the frost cloth. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

We still need to be vigilant for other threats such as russet mites, aphids and latent hop syndrome. If the rains start in September, or the mornings bring heavy fog, mold and powdery mildew may develop. For the latter, foliar spraying with hydrogen peroxide can help, but the best preventative is spraying with a fermentation of horsetail starting in June.

Frost can also be a threat. The later into October and November the harvest extends, the more likely a heavy frost will hit, especially in mountain valleys. Most hardy plants can survive one early morning frost if it is only in the mid-twenties, but two or three frosts will kill many plants. Be prepared to cover each plant with frost cloth and they will survive.

These days in California and Oregon, outdoor crops face an additional threat from wildfires, which means you need to have an evacuation plan for your crew, plus a survival plan for the crop. An automated irrigation system will keep the girls alive if you need to bail.

If the crop gets dusted with white ash from the fires, use a leaf blower to blow it off the leaves and then spray with diluted hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). If the smoke at harvest is dense for days, after cutting and weighing each plant, dip each branch in dilute H2O2 and then dip in clean water; then hang to dry outside before bringing the branches into the drying room. 

Yellow leafing the plants is paramount, and on the day before harvest, pull off most of the sun leaves from the plants you will take. As the days get shorter, keep cutting back on water, unless it’s super-hot, and stop feeding or using compost teas a week to ten days before harvest.  

The Science (and Art) of Harvesting Cannabis

Swami talking to plants at harvest muscle testing. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

Assuming that you’ve done all the preparations mentioned in the previous article, you now must devise the exact procedure of harvest. This involves several steps: 

  • Deciding the exact moment to cut each plant. 
  • Whether to take the whole plant or make two or three cuttings. 
  • How to transport the cut plants to the drying facility. 
  • For legal growers in California, how to weigh and record the wet weight immediately after cutting.  
  • How to keep track of each individual plant and not lose its Metrc tag.

Every farmer has their method of deciding when to cut. We harvest in the dark— very early in the morning—so that we finish that day’s cutting before first light. This ensures the maximum saturation of all the aromatic compounds in the plant, because they off-gas during the day.

When it’s clear that the “girls” are close to harvest, as our crew is yellow leafing, I literally ask each plant individually if it’s ready to come in. With no judgement preferences as to who should be cut next, I use kinesiology (aka muscle testing) to determine who gets cut the next day. 

Strong muscle resistance is “Yes” and weak is “No.” I touch a leaf on a plant and ask: “Are you readyto come in tomorrow?” Strong response. Then I ask again: “Do you want to come in tomorrow?”  Strong response. Then a third time I ask: “Would you rather stay for a few more days?” Weak response. The answer to the first two inquiries is “Yes!” and to the third is “No!” so I mark that plant for harvest and write down the number of its bed on a list for the morning’s harvest. If on the contrary, the answers are “No,” No,” and “Yes,” then I leave the plant for a later day.

The crew starts at about 5 a.m., donning warm clothes and gloves. With head lamps on and clippers in hand, we take the whole plant, full branch by full branch. That is, unless it’s a very small plant and then we just cut and hang the whole thing. The stalk is left in the bed until springtime.

Harvest Day

Some farmers cut just the top 10 to 12 inches off each branch and leave the rest to mature for another week or two. We don’t do that because it’s difficult to keep track of two cuttings at different times to report to Metrc.

We usually cut about 20 plants on each harvest day and cut for three days in a row. To transport them to the barn we use a 6×12 foot trailer, which I hook up to the car and park next to the garden gate the night prior. 

When we arrive at the garden in the morning, we split into two teams. One goes around to the designated plants and cuts away the trellises by clipping the nylon zip ties and pulling away the horizontal bamboo sticks. The other crew picks the plants closest to the garden gate, cuts away the trellises and proceeds to harvest the whole plant. When the first crew is finished cutting away the trellises on the designated 20 plants, they switch over to harvesting also. 

Transporting the Harvest

cannabis plants after harvest
PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

We have 20 clean blue tarps, one for each plant. In the dark, the tarp is laid on the ground next to the chosen plant with the cut branches gently laid on the tarp. When finished, we use carabiners to hook the tarp grommets together to make a large pouch. For legal growers, the carabiner is the place to attach the blue Metrc tag, which must stay with each plant until it becomes a batch. 

The tarp is carried to the trailer, and when full, we drive the trailer to the back of the barn, unload and go back for more. To prevent any crushing of the plants, we are careful not to pile them up too high in the trailer.

The carabiner holding the tarp together also easily goes over the hook on the scale for weighing the whole wet plant, required for legal California cultivators. We attach a 4×6 beam between two trees, hang the scale in the middle and use a small ladder to reach the scale. Besides the weight, we note the Metrc number, the bed number, and the cultivar of each plant.  

Drying Time

Swami cleans cannabis plants
Swami cleans cannabis plants before drying. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

After weighing, the tarp is carried into the barn and the plants are hung on nylon netting hung from the ceiling, and the blue Metrc tag is attached to the netting.

By the time the last plant is in the barn, the sun is just starting to come up and we head to the house for a hearty breakfast of pancakes or cheese omelets. After breakfast, we return to the garden and gather up the bamboo trellis sticks to save for next year.

Stay tuned for the next article about proper drying and curing methods. Happy Harvest!

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Cannabis’ Big Impact on Border Towns

Since its founding in 1862, the town of Trinidad, CO has regularly cycled through identities, and economic raisons d’etre. The discovery of rich coal deposits in the rugged mountains along the Santa Fe trail between Denver and New Mexico meant the frontier village started as a mining town (and the way mining conglomerates worked meant Trinidad was also a company town). After the mines slowed and closed, between the 1960s and 2010, a single surgeon’s successful (and controversial) practice earned Trinidad the unofficial title of “sex-change capital of the US.” In the cannabis legalization era, another boom-and-bust cycle has come and gone in Trinidad: a cannabis “border town” that is no longer.


Home to about 8300 people, Trinidad saw dozens of cannabis shops open for business after adult-use cannabis sales began in Colorado in 2014. Along with businesses on the town’s main street, an entrepreneur from Denver sold local authorities on permitting the world’s first “marijuana mini mall.” There was so much weed for sale in Trinidad that the community boasted “one pot shop for every 300 people,” according to Amanda Korth, the board president of the Trinidad-Las Animas County Chamber of Commerce. 

This had nothing to do with Trinidad itself—they don’t smoke more weed there than they do in Pueblo—but everything to do with geography. About three hours’ drive from Santa Fe, Trinidad is the closest city in Colorado to New Mexico along Interstate-25. That meant Trinidad was an obvious destination for anyone in New Mexico wanting to buy legal weed—and anyone heading south wanting to make a final pit stop before entering dry country.

In Trinidad, the cannabis border-town boom lasted more than eight years. On April 1, legal cannabis sales began in New Mexico, with the full backing of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who encouraged New Mexico cannabis entrepreneurs to “knock the socks off of this industry” and—somehow—sell more cannabis per year than even Colorado, a more populous state. Cannabis isn’t as heavily taxed in New Mexico as it is in Colorado, and customers can purchase up to two ounces per day—twice Colorado’s one-ounce limit. And unlike California and Colorado, localities can’t opt-out of sales.

…And Bust

As NPR reported, from the beginning, cannabis dispensaries sprung up throughout the southern and eastern parts of the state, in small towns such as Clovis, in classic truck-stop cities such as Las Cruces—anywhere within driving distance of Texas, where cannabis is still illegal. 

The Las Cruces location of R. Greenleaf, a dispensary chain owned by Colorado-based Schwazze, is now the company’s “highest grossing store,” with visitors from Texas comprising about half of the customer base, said Justin Dye, Schwazze’s CEO, in a recent telephone interview. 

“We’re not there just for the border,” he added, but as data from the first half of the year published by BDS Analytics showed, sales have slowed and plateaued in Colorado overall as they boom in New Mexico. This spells trouble for border towns along the Colorado-New Mexico line—and the beginning of the end for Trinidad’s latest boom.

“You wouldn’t want to buy a store in Trinidad right now,” Dye said. “You wouldn’t want to be an operator there. It’s contracted substantially.” For now, Schwazze and Dye don’t have to worry: Most of their Colorado dispensaries are located in the Denver metro area. Sales are slowing there, too, but at least there’s no concern about out-of-state competition—or a tectonic shift in geography that, such as a factory closing or oil-well going dry, threatens a settlements’ economic vitality. 

This isn’t to say that there’s now nothing doing well in Trinidad—just that the “marijuana mini-mall” and the concentration of dispensaries may have outlived their moment.

Life in the New American West

For Korth, the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce president, this is just another cycle, along with mining, sex changes, and now cannabis. 

“Those industries left, and so it was boom or bust, feast or famine,” she said. “When the marijuana shops came in, it was a great big boom.” But, she added, offering a counterpoint to the boosterism from New Mexico’s Gov. Lujan Grisham, “they said a lot about the taxes and what the taxes would do for schools and roads, etc. And I haven’t really seen a lot of that.”

As for how long the border bet will last elsewhere, it’s a matter of time and politics—and the bizarre situation of rooting against the march of legalization in red states including Texas and Utah, the latter of which is within a short drive from Dinosaur, CO, on that state’s western edge. There are 183 people in Dinosaur, according to Census figures—and there are three dispensaries, an even higher ratio than Trinidad’s.

Dye thinks Texas will remain dry for a while. “I don’t see Texas having a major program for some time,” he said, a situation owing to the Lone Star State’s deep-red conservatism. “I think this is going to be something for a long time around border towns.” 

But there are rumblings to the contrary. Sid Miller, Texas’s ten-gallon-hat-wearing, Trump-supporting agriculture commissioner, recently became the state’s highest-ranking Republican to call for medical-cannabis legalization. If Texas moves even half as quickly as New Mexico, border towns in that state could find their time in the sun shorter even than Trinidad’s — but still part of the same predictable rhythm in the new American west.

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