Unhappy Croptober: Sungrown Prices Crash to Historic Lows

The mood was somber at this year’s Hall of Flowers, the annual early fall trade show in Santa Rosa, California that’s become a de-facto preview of the yearly sungrown cannabis harvest.

For years prior to legalization and the opening of California’s adult-use cannabis market in January 2018, even if indoor-grown buds glistening with trichomes commanded higher prices, outdoor farmers still enjoyed reliably healthy appetites for their lower-THC, distinctly aromatic cuts. A pound of trimmed outdoor could fetch thousands of dollars; trimmers could expect $100 and $150 for every pound they prepared for market.

Not anymore. Since the opening of legal markets, outdoor prices have fallen, but fluctuated just enough to keep people in business. But this year, with the early light-deprivation harvest competing with enormous auto-flowering hauls from the airliner-hangar-sized greenhouses in the Salinas Valley and Santa Barbara County, as well as the usual indoor supply, things were different.

As one outdoor entrepreneur grimly joked, someone could wear a t-shirt offering “$50 packs,” and instead of eliciting knowing, sad laughs, they would probably entertain serious offers.

For a pound of outdoor cannabis in 2021 in early October, before the annual “Croptober” harvest, a pound of outdoor is demanding around $500 on the market. But most are asking for even less.

“The average is probably $500, but the drop from $500 to $150 is super quick,” said Nicholas Smilgys, who owns a Mendocino County-based distribution company.

His estimates were confirmed with other outdoor growers and distributors contacted by Cannabis Now. If someone has the most gorgeous outdoor anyone has ever seen—truly flawless AAA-grade weed—that might fetch $800. But that would be for what most growers, just a few years ago, would have reserved for their private head stash. And that’s still a price so low as to make outdoor cannabis farming a losing value proposition, as Tina Gordon, the founder and CEO of southern Humboldt County-based Moonmade Farms said.

While the flooded market means wholesale buyers can be outrageously selective, for producers, production costs have increased. There’s state excise taxes to pay before a single gram has been sold to consumers as well as state and county licensing and permit fees. With all that, combined with prices this low, how does anyone using the sun to produce cannabis make money?

“You can’t,” Gordon said.

Though this is an economic disaster, none of this should come as a surprise. The slow-motion demise of California’s small craft cannabis growers has been documented in excruciating detail over the past few years.

In addition to market competition and regulatory burdens, a litany of natural disasters like wildfires and drought, added to farmers’ woes—though at least fires offered a mixed blessing: if one farmers’ crop was ruined by smoke damage, that meant less competition for the farmer on the next ridge over whose crop was untouched.

But with more and more large-scale greenhouses entering the market—a single 87-acre grow was approved in Santa Barbara County earlier this summer, and county authorities reported more than 1,575 total acres in unincorporated Santa Barbara devoted to cannabis production or cultivation—California may produce three times as much cannabis as it can consume, industry observers and experts have said.

Exactly how much legal cannabis California produces remains a literal state secret; state law allows industry regulators to keep those numbers known only to themselves and select others, including law enforcement.

That might not matter if small farmers could sell directly to consumers or market their crops across state lines—neither of which is legal under state and federal law.

Small farmers, then, have two options. They can return to the illicit market, chasing higher prices along with increased risk. After all, the high prices that some fondly remember from a decade ago were in a way artificial, inflated by the risk of prohibition. Or they can offer only a few drops into an onrushing river that’s threatening to carry away their mode of production, as well as their way of life.

“These big swings are tough for a smaller company,” Smilgys observed. “You have to scramble to make up that lost revenue somewhere else.” That might be cutting wages for workers (or releasing staffs entirely). That might be cutting corners on supplies like fertilizers. Or it might mean giving up entirely on trying to satisfy a market that, to date, simply hasn’t been efficient in the way a small, bootstrapped producer using the sun needs.

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Ohio Program Trains Cannabis Offenders for Industry Jobs

An Ohio nonprofit organization providing services for formerly incarcerated people has teamed up with a medical marijuana cultivator to develop a cannabis jobs training program for individuals with past  marijuana convictions.

Dubbed URC Grows, the collaboration between United Returning Citizens and Youngstown, Ohio licensed growing operation Riviera Creek Holdings LLC aims to pair past cannabis offenders with industry jobs in the state’s legal cannabis market.

“This program will give [the past offenders] an opportunity to get back into the workforce,” Brian Kessler, chairman of Riviera Creek Holdings, told The Business Journal.

The new jobs program will be open to those with prior marijuana-related offenses including cannabis possession, sales or cultivation on their records. Dionne Dowdy, executive director of United Returning Citizens (URC), told a local television news team that URC Grows is an attempt to address the harms caused by the failed War on Drugs while ensuring that the economic benefits of legal cannabis are shared with the most impacted communities.

“There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity. Everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that [are] just natural to them, that they will thrive in, so why not give them this opportunity,” Dowdy said.

Dowdy added that she has already signed up two prior cannabis offenders for what she hopes will be an initial class of 10 students. Graduates of the cannabis job training program will be prepared to work in Ohio’s growing medical industry, which currently serves approximately 200,000 registered patients.

“We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity; to have a job, to have a career, to take care of their family, not only would it help them – it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” Dowdy said.

Developing Cannabis Entrepreneurs

URC Grows will provide cannabis education and job training in three focused areas, with a certificate of completion awarded upon graduation from the program. Areas of study include: an agriculture program concentrating on hydroponics and aquaponics; an industrial hemp program designed to teach prospective farmers how to grow, process and sell hemp for fiber, grain, or CBD. The third track, a marijuana program, will provide education on cultivating medical-grade cannabis.

After completion of the first phase of focused education, students will begin a second phase that includes entrepreneur and business development training. This means, assistance with developing a business plan and the filing of required business documentation. Those who complete the initial two phases of training will be offered a job or internship with Riviera Creek Holdings or the opportunity to maintain and grow a hemp crop for their own hemp-based business. To support the program, URC has received a grant from the Hawthorne Social Justice Fund to help students buy land or cover the startup costs of their business.

“We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in-house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Daniel Kessler, COO of Riviera Creek Holdings.

More Jobs Would Come with Adult-Use Legalization

Although Ohio’s cannabis industry is currently limited to serving medical marijuana patients, legislators and activists are currently working to legalize cannabis for all adults. In July, two Democratic state representatives from the Cleveland area introduced legislation that would legalize, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis. A separate effort by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was given approval to begin circulating petitions by state officials last month.

“It’s at the phase where it needs signatures,” said Daniel Kessler, who supports the effort to legalize recreational cannabis. “The goal is to approve adult use over the age of 21.”

Daniel Kessler said that Riviera Creek Holdings supports legal cannabis for adults as a way to replace the current system that forces consumers to accept untested and potentially unsafe cannabis while illicit cannabis operators face the threat of imprisonment.

“All of that becomes problematic for everybody,” he said. “If we can replace that with something that generates tax dollars for the state, controlled by the legislative body, works much like the medical program, and has social justice aspects to it – it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

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Breaking: The Arcview Group Welcomes New CEO

The Arcview Group has a new leader at the helm. The influential provider of consulting services, market research and networking opportunities in the cannabis and hemp industries today announced the appointment of Jeffrey Finkle to the position of Chief Executive Officer. He succeeds Kim Kovacs, who held the position of CEO since the beginning of 2019. 

Finkle has far-reaching experience in investment management, as well as business development and operations. He co-founded The Arcview Collective Fund in 2018 and most recently acted as CEO of Arcview Ventures. His transition plan will allow his work with both entities to continue.

Finkle was chosen to lead The Arcview Group through their next phase of growth thanks to his “proven track record of developing diverse and high-performing teams” according to the announcement. Kovacs, the firm’s first female CEO, will remain on the Board of Directors. She will be joining Santa Fe Farms, a current Arcview client, as Chief Strategy Officer.

Kim Kovacs and Jason White in Los Angeles in February 2020.

“I’m thrilled and proud with the work I was able to lead and be part of during a truly pivotal time in Arcview’s history and the world’s,” Kovacs told Cannabis Now. “Arcview is well poised for more decades of service and support of the cannabis and hemp industries. I look forward to continuing our work together on the Arcview Board of Directors and as a client at my new post with Santa Fe Farms.” 

As CEO of Arcview, Finkle will oversee high-level operations related to marketing, finance and corporate development, as well as key programs such as Arcview Access. He will also supervise primary service subsidiaries Arcview Capital, Arcview Ventures, and Arcview Management Consulting, which includes Arcview Market Research. Finkle credited Kovacs with helping the firm grow to a one-stop-shop for rapidly expanding industries and setting the stage for the period of expansion.

“The Arcview Group sits at the forefront of the most exciting new industry opportunities in our lifetime,” Finkle said in the press release. “Thanks to the efforts of Kim Kovacs and the entire team at The Arcview Group, our company has evolved its business to lead the emerging cannabis, industrial hemp and psychedelics markets as a turnkey services firm. I look forward to working with our industry-leading team to build on the great foundation that has been created over the last decade through events, investor memberships, consulting, research, and industry advocacy.” 

The announcement comes as The Arcview Group prepares for explosive growth within cannabis and psychedelics, as well as a return to in-person events— a cornerstone of the firm’s success. Arcview is promising much to come in the months ahead, including more ways for entrepreneurs and investors to connect, learn and thrive.

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A Quick Guide to Cannabis Patents: What You Need to Know

Amid the quick expansion of the legal cannabis market, many cannabis growers and business owners are pushing to secure intellectual property rights for the strains and products they’ve created.

Cannabis patents currently exist in a still-clouded regulatory atmosphere thanks to federal prohibition, but it’s still possible to receive one — and the cannabis industry is certainly rising to the challenge to secure their own rights to continue cultivating strains that have long been part of the genetic and intellectual commons.

In the midst of this push for protecting cannabis intellectual property, there has been a rash of court cases and developments that have changed the foundation of cannabis patents in America. So what does it mean for the average cannabis consumer, who perhaps has heard to be wary of the day a patent-wielding Monsanto enters the cannabis industry?

Here is a basic guide to what you need to know about cannabis patents.

What Is a Cannabis Patent?

In the United States, there are three kinds of patents: utility patents, for a process or application of particular products; design patents, generally for industrial products; and plant patents, for new varieties of plants.

Each of these types of patents could apply to cannabis products. For example, in 2017, a Nevada-based firm with the slightly presumptuous name Cannabis Sativa Inc did win a plant patent for a strain called Ecuadorian Sativa. The firm boasted of its high content of the terpene limonene, and its possible curative capacities for various ailments — not of THC. The company was later able to procure a utility patent for a cannabis lozenge.

This one of the few cannabis patents that have been granted in the U.S. According to Forbes, the U.S. Patent Office has been issuing cannabis patents since 1942, despite the fact that the plant is a Schedule I drug. Over the years, about 1,500 cannabis patents have been filed, and there were about 500 active cannabis patents, as of 2017.

One bizarre contradiction of federal policy is illustrated by the fact that in 2003, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services itself secured a patent — number 6630507 — for the use of cannabinoids (not including THC) as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Yet just three years later, an FDA memorandum reiterated the official position that cannabis has “no medical value.”

Why Are People Particularly Scared of Utility Patents?

A utility patent protects the way that something is used and how it works. Consider the utility patent for a cannabis lozenge: it’s a patent on the idea that cannabis can be consumed in lozenge form to address a specific problem.

That makes utility patents particularly broad, and therefore could be used to step on more cannabis companies’ toes.

For example, “you can’t say you’ve done all the work necessary to establish use of cannabis for headaches,” Jerry Whiting of Seattle-based LeBlanc CNE, which develops and markets CBD products, told Cannabis Now. “That’s not worthy of government protection. These patents are unenforceable in most cases, but nobody can afford the lawyers to go after them.”

What About the Process for Getting a Cannabis Trademark?

It’s confusing: Getting a cannabis patent with the federal government is possible, but a cannabis trademark is not. A trademark is a form of intellectual property protection over a name, word, logo, symbol or design associated with a product or company.

Currently, there is no process for trademarking a product that contains significant quantities of THC, and the federal government is only now moving to establish such a process for CBD products.

In a case that exemplifies the persisting dilemmas, a federal court in California ruled last month that cannabis edibles cannot be trademarked due to federal prohibition.

As Food & Beverage Litigation Update reports, the San Francisco-based court for California’s Northern District rejected a trademark infringement claim in Kiva Health Brands LLC v. Kiva Brands Inc. In the litigation, Kiva Brands Inc (KBI) and Kiva Health Brands (KHB) disputed rights to the “Kiva” trademark. KBI asserted that they owned the name, given that they had been selling cannabis-infused edibles under the name in California since 2010. But the court said no dice.

In 2010, the federal government did entertain the idea of allowing trademarks for medical marijuana products. Hopes had been raised by the government’s creation in April 2010 of a new trademark category: “Processed plant matter for medicinal purposes, namely medical marijuana.”

Applications for trademarks were quickly filed. 

“It looked like a positive step to me. We don’t have many steps by the federal government legitimizing medical cannabis,” Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Oakland’s flagship dispensary, Harborside, told the Wall Street Journal. But that July, the USTPO did an about-face and nixed the plans.

What About Hemp Patents?

In September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded “what appears to be the first patent for a hemp strain” to Denver-based Charlotte’s Web Holdings. Charlotte’s Web obtained U.S. Plant Patent No. PP30,639, listing CEO Joel Stanley as an inventor of the “new and distinct hemp cultivar designated as ‘CW2A.’”

The federal bureaucracy is starting to catch up with the law following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. The USPTO issued guidelines for trademarks on CBD products, while the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) is preparing to recognize intellectual property in hemp varieties. 

At the international level, hemp strains are already being registered with the Geneva-based International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

Why Are Cannabis Patents So Controversial?

Starting with the failed California legalization bid Proposition 19 in 2010, we’ve seen the strange phenomenon of “Stoners Against Legalization” — cannabis users and growers who viewed the initiative (and the successful Proposition 64 six years later) would allow big corporations to corner the cannabis market and squeeze out independent growers via access to finances and patents. 

These fears were fueled by rumors in 2010 that the Drug Enforcement Administration was granting big corporations licenses to grow cannabis for research. The concern was that these companies could develop novel applications for cannabis, receive a broad patent, and then go after smaller cannabis growers for infringing on their patent, wielding the patent like a legal bludgeon. This is a strategy made famous by Monsanto, which uses its corn and soy patents to push out small farmers growing those crops.

Why Is “Prior Art” So Important?

The federal government will only grant a patent to someone if it believes the product or idea in question is a “novel invention,” and that means no one has come up with it before.

“Prior art” is anything that proves a patent was not a novel idea. For example, if Person A gets a plant patent for a cannabis strain they claimed was unique, but Person B can prove they grew that strain in 2014, the patent could be held invalid.

Breeders and growers are still wrestling with how to assert their traditional rights in the increasingly corporate-dominated cannabis environment, and especially because many illicit market growers were understandably avoiding keeping a paper trail. In the cannabis space, many people have advocated for using strain databases to build potential “prior art” defenses.

What Do “Open Source” Cannabis Projects Mean for Cannabis Intellectual Property?

For those people who don’t want to claim ownership over cannabis — and want to keep cannabis open to the public, open source projects have been useful.

For example, the Oregon non-profit Open Cannabis Project sought for years to protect the cannabis genome from corporate privatization by gathering cannabis data to keep in the public domain. (However, Open Cannabis Project has been suspended due to funding challenges following a controversy concerning the supposed proprietary ambitions of its for-profit partner, Portland-based Phylos Bioscience. Phylos encouraged cannabis growers to use its strain genotyping services and database to establish prior art.)

“Nobody has the right to patent the Garden of Eden,” says Whiting. “No one owns nature. The rest is just courtroom bullsh*t.”

Whiting has drawn up what he calls an “open-source alternative licensing schema” under the title “Cannabis Breeders Rights.” It lists different categories, such as “grow & harvest” only or “cloning allowed.” 

His proposed framework is also designed to protect the rights of small growers who do not have access to economies of scale.

Whiting’s “end-user license agreement” would establish the prior art of a particular cannabis strain.

“My wishes going forward are that these strains are never to be owned by anyone,” he says. “As long as it’s being used by seed-savers in backyards, it’s free.”  

This system is based on terms agreed to by vendor and purchaser, rather than patents.

Whiting’s alternative licensing proposal is partly inspired by “Berkeley Standard Distribution,” the norm adopted by computer engineers in the ’90s that established UNIX-based operating systems as open-source. “A lot of the software that runs the world today is not under commercial license,” he says.

The post A Quick Guide to Cannabis Patents: What You Need to Know appeared first on Cannabis Now.

6 Tips to Securing a Career in the Cannabis Industry

With medical marijuana laws established in over half of the 50 states, and several in the midst of implementing adult use, some experts argue cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. Certainly there will continue to be thousands of new cannabis-related jobs available, but who will snag them and how?

Danielle Barber, a wellness consultant for 10 years at Harborside Health Center in Oakland, offers this advice to aspiring cannabis professionals:

“The people who stand out the most are the ones who connect. Having a beautifully written resume and cover letter can certainly help get you the interview, but establishing a true connection with the interviewee and sharing your story can help get you the job,” she said. “Why do you want to enter the cannabis industry? If your answer is not a noble one, that usually gets you overlooked. Demonstrating an ability to be flexible and a desire to learn will help you keep the job once you get it.”

And yes, it is an exciting career path, but it is not guaranteed to be the most fun and easy job you’ve ever had. It might actually be a challenging and exhausting job for a range of reasons:

  • Getting paid in cash is not as glamorous as it sounds.
  • Patients often expect staff to give detailed medical advice, but staff are rarely given sufficient training.
  • Most jobs are retail sales, manual labor, or middle management with the added challenge of constantly shifting legality and pressure from all levels of government.

Here are some other great tips for getting a career in cannabis:

1. Decide What You Want

Are you open to working for recreational companies, or do you prefer to work for a medical facility? Do you want to be self-employed, or would you rather work for a company or non-profit? Do you prefer working with people or plants? Focus on your cover letter and resume, and tailor them for each position. Decide in advance what you can and cannot compromise, such as how much do you need to get paid, how far are you able to commute and are there tasks you’re not willing or able to perform?

2. Don’t Settle

Make sure you’re getting a legal job for a legal company. At least the basic aspects of your job description and pay rate should be in writing. Take the time to read and understand anything they ask you to sign before signing. If the pay rate is not sustainable, do not accept the job unless you are able to negotiate a living wage.

3. Take Your Time

Yes, the cannabis industry is young, but the cannabis reform movement has existed for decades and some dispensaries have been operating legally for over 15 years. You should not expect to change procedures or marketing campaigns too quickly unless that is what you were hired to do. If you push management to make too many changes too quickly, they are likely to feel offended, threatened or overwhelmed. Fresh energy is usually appreciated, but use caution when criticizing an already existing operation. Build trust before suggesting changes.

4. Keep Calm and Network

Despite the fast pace of this industry, hiring and promotions often happen slowly. Be patient, not pushy. Utilize social media to identify which organizations and events are the best investment of your time and donations. However, use social media sparingly when following up with potential connections – email or in person is better when the relationship is new. For more in-person networking, attend job fairs, workshops and city meetings, volunteer at conferences to receive free registration and patronize a range of dispensaries and other businesses to learn and build a report with potential colleagues.

5. Work With a Staffing Company

Cannabis staffing companies can help you identify companies who share your values. Recruiters can give you feedback on your resume, such as advice on whether or not to include illegal cannabis experience. You also might benefit from interview prep with a professional. Some staffing companies offer mentorships — don’t pass up an opportunity to build a relationship with a mentor who has experience in the industry!

6. Follow the Same Advice as any Other Industry

Use appropriate language and etiquette. Don’t use slang, abbreviations or emojis when corresponding. Act and dress professionally for events and interviews. Maintain a current LinkedIn profile with a professional photo. Consider obtaining relevant education through a respected training program such as Oaksterdam University or a continuing education seminar. Educate yourself on the history of the cannabis movement — companies will need to maintain a commitment to the social justice aspects of the business in order to compete. As with any other job application, don’t exaggerate your experience. This will backfire when your employer realizes you lied.

TELL US, are you searching for a career in cannabis?

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How To Conserve Your Stash: 10 Steps To Save Money

While conserving marijuana is always a high priority for dedicated tokers, now more than ever, cannabis users must find ways to make that expensive eighth stretch as far as it can. 

1. Vape instead of smoking joints or blunts

Vaping will allow you to get just as high as a joint or a blunt with less than half of the weed, as vaporizers deliver your high in a much more efficient manner. A study by California NORML and MAPS found that the Volcano vaporizer converts 46 percent of available THC into vapor, while the average joint only converts less than 25 percent of THC.

With joints and blunts, most of the THC is lost into “sidestream smoke” up in the air, rather than being trapped in a device for your handy consumption. However, if you want to indulge in the act of smoking, you can still save weed by rolling a thinner joint or blunt. Besides, a study found that vaping may be safer for your lungs than smoking.

2. Corner the bowl

Smoking from bongs and bubblers fall second behind vaping in terms of efficiency. Hitting a bong can be even more efficient in conserving your weed if you try and light only a small portion of the bowl at a time, through the technique known as “cornering.” With less of the bowl lit at a given time, less of the weed’s THC will burn up with no one to inhale it.

3. Don’t rush the smoking process

Remember what your mother told you at the dinner table: If you rush through your food, you’ll eat more than you should and you’ll be uncomfortably full! Applying the same logic to smoking will help you save your weed. Take it slow and smoke one small bowl. Enjoy your high for 30 minutes or so before you decide whether or not you want more. You just might find you’re as high as you want to be.

4. Eat foods such as mangoes and dark chocolate to intensify the high

If you follow up your toke with a specific snack or two, the effects of the cannabinoids can be deepened to get you higher without needing to smoke more. Over-ripe mangoes, lemongrass and verbena possess large levels of myrcene, a terpene that is believed to help THC to cross the blood-brain barrier more efficiently. Dark chocolate will also extend your high by causing anandamide, the chemical the brain releases known as the “bliss molecule,” to take longer to break down. Tumeric, specifically its active ingredient curcumin, can also help intensify cannabis highs.

5. Use a grinder, collect your kief

Investing in a quality grinder will allow you to grind your bud into efficient little nugs, and will also help you collect the kief that falls off in the process. You can sprinkle the kief on top of your next bowl, but to be even more efficient, use your kief to make edibles. Try making cookies, spring rolls or candied ginger with the kief you save.

6. Handle your buds as little as possible

The more you touch your weed, either in admiration or during transportation, the more you knock off the trichomes dangling delicately on the outside of your nug. Avoid losing these precious resin morsels by handling the stem of a nug only.

7. Store in an airtight dark glass jar, not a plastic baggy

Heat, light and moisture are the biggest factors in causing your stash to deteriorate, and plastic bags do little to help. In fact, the plastic can stick to the trichomes and pull them off your stash. Instead, try to keep your buds in a dark glass jar in a cool, dry and dark place like a cabinet, basement or refrigerator.

8. Make edibles with your already vaped bud (AVB)

Another way vaporizers help conserve your stash is that they give it a second life. You can use the bud you have already vaped and make edibles with it. Try Cannabis Now’s recipes for AVB chocolate firecrackers or AVB pesto.

9. Save your trim

If you’re a home grower and you’ve harvested, don’t throw away the trimmings. Leaves and unformed nugs hold THC and terpenes that can be extracted. There are a multitude of ways to effectively extract THC from your trim, from butane systems to ice water extraction. Read more here: THC Extraction: How to Turn Trim to Profits.

10. Take a tolerance break

This is probably the hardest step to follow, but might provide you with the largest payoff in the end. First, a tolerance break will allow you to save money for a few weeks while you withhold from smoking. When you are finished with your tolerance break, you will be able to smoke less to achieve the same high — and you won’t need to burn through your stash as fast as you used to.

TELL US, how do you conserve your weed?

The post How To Conserve Your Stash: 10 Steps To Save Money appeared first on Cannabis Now.

A Quick Guide to Cannabis Patents: What You Need to Know

Amid the quick expansion of the legal cannabis market, many cannabis growers and business owners are pushing to secure intellectual property rights for the strains and products they’ve created.

Cannabis patents currently exist in a still-clouded regulatory atmosphere thanks to federal prohibition, but it’s still possible to receive one — and the cannabis industry is certainly rising to the challenge to secure their own rights to continue cultivating strains that have long been part of the genetic and intellectual commons.

In the midst of this push for protecting cannabis intellectual property, there has been a rash of court cases and developments that have changed the foundation of cannabis patents in America. So what does it mean for the average cannabis consumer, who perhaps has heard to be wary of the day a patent-wielding Monsanto enters the cannabis industry?

Here is a basic guide to what you need to know about cannabis patents.

What Is a Cannabis Patent?

In the United States, there are three kinds of patents: utility patents, for a process or application of particular products; design patents, generally for industrial products; and plant patents, for new varieties of plants.

Each of these types of patents could apply to cannabis products. For example, in 2017, a Nevada-based firm with the slightly presumptuous name Cannabis Sativa Inc did win a plant patent for a strain called Ecuadorian Sativa. The firm boasted of its high content of the terpene limonene, and its possible curative capacities for various ailments — not of THC. The company was later able to procure a utility patent for a cannabis lozenge.

This one of the few cannabis patents that have been granted in the U.S. According to Forbes, the U.S. Patent Office has been issuing cannabis patents since 1942, despite the fact that the plant is a Schedule I drug. Over the years, about 1,500 cannabis patents have been filed, and there were about 500 active cannabis patents, as of 2017.

One bizarre contradiction of federal policy is illustrated by the fact that in 2003, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services itself secured a patent — number 6630507 — for the use of cannabinoids (not including THC) as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Yet just three years later, an FDA memorandum reiterated the official position that cannabis has “no medical value.”

Why Are People Particularly Scared of Utility Patents?

A utility patent protects the way that something is used and how it works. Consider the utility patent for a cannabis lozenge: it’s a patent on the idea that cannabis can be consumed in lozenge form to address a specific problem.

That makes utility patents particularly broad, and therefore could be used to step on more cannabis companies’ toes.

For example, “you can’t say you’ve done all the work necessary to establish use of cannabis for headaches,” Jerry Whiting of Seattle-based LeBlanc CNE, which develops and markets CBD products, told Cannabis Now. “That’s not worthy of government protection. These patents are unenforceable in most cases, but nobody can afford the lawyers to go after them.”

What About the Process for Getting a Cannabis Trademark?

It’s confusing: Getting a cannabis patent with the federal government is possible, but a cannabis trademark is not. A trademark is a form of intellectual property protection over a name, word, logo, symbol or design associated with a product or company.

Currently, there is no process for trademarking a product that contains significant quantities of THC, and the federal government is only now moving to establish such a process for CBD products.

In a case that exemplifies the persisting dilemmas, a federal court in California ruled last month that cannabis edibles cannot be trademarked due to federal prohibition.

As Food & Beverage Litigation Update reports, the San Francisco-based court for California’s Northern District rejected a trademark infringement claim in Kiva Health Brands LLC v. Kiva Brands Inc. In the litigation, Kiva Brands Inc (KBI) and Kiva Health Brands (KHB) disputed rights to the “Kiva” trademark. KBI asserted that they owned the name, given that they had been selling cannabis-infused edibles under the name in California since 2010. But the court said no dice.

In 2010, the federal government did entertain the idea of allowing trademarks for medical marijuana products. Hopes had been raised by the government’s creation in April 2010 of a new trademark category: “Processed plant matter for medicinal purposes, namely medical marijuana.”

Applications for trademarks were quickly filed. 

“It looked like a positive step to me. We don’t have many steps by the federal government legitimizing medical cannabis,” Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Oakland’s flagship dispensary, Harborside, told the Wall Street Journal. But that July, the USTPO did an about-face and nixed the plans.

What About Hemp Patents?

In September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded “what appears to be the first patent for a hemp strain” to Denver-based Charlotte’s Web Holdings. Charlotte’s Web obtained U.S. Plant Patent No. PP30,639, listing CEO Joel Stanley as an inventor of the “new and distinct hemp cultivar designated as ‘CW2A.’”

The federal bureaucracy is starting to catch up with the law following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. The USPTO in May issued guidelines for trademarks on CBD products, while the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) is preparing to recognize intellectual property in hemp varieties. 

At the international level, hemp strains are already being registered with the Geneva-based International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV).

Why Are Cannabis Patents So Controversial?

Starting with the failed California legalization bid Proposition 19 in 2010, we’ve seen the strange phenomenon of “Stoners Against Legalization” — cannabis users and growers who viewed the initiative (and the successful Proposition 64 six years later) would allow big corporations to corner the cannabis market and squeeze out independent growers via access to finances and patents. 

These fears were fueled by rumors in 2010 that the Drug Enforcement Administration was granting big corporations licenses to grow cannabis for research. The concern was that these companies could develop novel applications for cannabis, receive a broad patent, and then go after smaller cannabis growers for infringing on their patent, wielding the patent like a legal bludgeon. This is a strategy made famous by Monsanto, which uses its corn and soy patents to push out small farmers growing those crops.

Why Is “Prior Art” So Important?

The federal government will only grant a patent to someone if it believes the product or idea in question is a “novel invention,” and that means no one has come up with it before.

“Prior art” is anything that proves a patent was not a novel idea. For example, if Person A gets a plant patent for a cannabis strain they claimed was unique, but Person B can prove they grew that strain in 2014, the patent could be held invalid.

Breeders and growers are still wrestling with how to assert their traditional rights in the increasingly corporate-dominated cannabis environment, and especially because many illicit market growers were understandably avoiding keeping a paper trail. In the cannabis space, many people have advocated for using strain databases to build potential “prior art” defenses.

What Do “Open Source” Cannabis Projects Mean for Cannabis Intellectual Property?

For those people who don’t want to claim ownership over cannabis — and want to keep cannabis open to the public, open source projects have been useful.

For example, the Oregon non-profit Open Cannabis Project sought for years to protect the cannabis genome from corporate privatization by gathering cannabis data to keep in the public domain. (However, Open Cannabis Project has been suspended due to funding challenges following a controversy concerning the supposed proprietary ambitions of its for-profit partner, Portland-based Phylos Bioscience. Phylos encouraged cannabis growers to use its strain genotyping services and database to establish prior art.)

“Nobody has the right to patent the Garden of Eden,” says Whiting. “No one owns nature. The rest is just courtroom bullsh*t.”

Whiting has drawn up what he calls an “open-source alternative licensing schema” under the title “Cannabis Breeders Rights.” It lists different categories, such as “grow & harvest” only or “cloning allowed.” 

His proposed framework is also designed to protect the rights of small growers who do not have access to economies of scale.

Whiting’s “end-user license agreement” would establish the prior art of a particular cannabis strain.

“My wishes going forward are that these strains are never to be owned by anyone,” he says. “As long as it’s being used by seed-savers in backyards, it’s free.”  

This system is based on terms agreed to by vendor and purchaser, rather than patents.

Whiting’s alternative licensing proposal is partly inspired by “Berkeley Standard Distribution,” the norm adopted by computer engineers in the ’90s that established UNIX-based operating systems as open-source. “A lot of the software that runs the world today is not under commercial license,” he says.

TELL US, do you think cannabis genetics should be free for public use?

The post A Quick Guide to Cannabis Patents: What You Need to Know appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Study Finds No Link Between Legalization & Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities

The annual carnage on America’s highways is a grim reality that has caused some to question the wisdom of cannabis legalization. However, the notion of a link between road fatalities and lifting the legal pressure on cannabis doesn’t stand up to the number-crunching.

The latest to reach this conclusion is a new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, looking particularly at pedestrian fatalities. Carried out by a team from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the study found that enactment of state-level policies legalizing for either medical or general adult use has not been associated with an increase in the prevalence of fatal motor-vehicle crashes involving pedestrians.

According to a summary on NORML‘s website, investigators examined the association between the loosening of cannabis laws and fatal crash rates (both pedestrian-involved and total fatal crashes) during the years 1991 to 2018. This period spans the first moves toward medical marijuana laws and the embracing of general cannabis legalization by the three states the study focused on: Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Motor vehicle accident trends in those three states were compared to trends in five control states.  

Relying on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), maintained by the federal Transportation Department‘s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), researchers failed to identify any increase in fatal pedestrian-involved motor vehicle accidents that could be attributable to the enactment of more liberal cannabis laws. Indeed, they noted that two of the three states they examined, Washington and Oregon, actually saw decreases in fatal accidents following the instatement of medical marijuana laws.

The study states: “While attention has been given to how legalization of recreational cannabis affects traffic crash rates, there was been limited research on how cannabis affects pedestrians involved in traffic crashes. This study examined the association between cannabis legalization (medical, recreational use and recreational sales) and fatal motor vehicle crash rates (both pedestrian-involved and total fatal crashes)… We found no significant differences in pedestrian-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes between legalized cannabis states and control states following medical or recreational cannabis legalization. Washington and Oregon saw immediate decreases in all fatal crashes (-4.15 and -6.60) following medical cannabis legalization…”

The study did find Colorado showed an increase in trend for all fatal crashes after recreational cannabis legalization and the beginning of sales (0.15 and 0.18 monthly fatal crashes per 100,000 people).

The authors concluded, “Overall findings do not suggest an elevated risk of total or pedestrian-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes associated with cannabis legalization.”

A Consistent Finding

This is not the first time the scientific community has brought back such results from research on the cannabis and driving question. As NORML states, “The study’s findings are consistent with those of others…reporting decreases in incidences of fatal motor vehicle accidents following the enactment of medical marijuana legalization.”  

And while NORML adds that “studies assessing the impact of adult-use retail sales on traffic safety have yielded more mixed results,” the most recent of these have also dismissed a link between legalization and road fatalities.  

For instance, one study last year by researches at Kansas State University found that cannabis legalization has not been linked to an increase in traffic deaths. 

Also last year, a study by Canadian researchers on cannabis and driving cast doubt on zero-tolerance limits for THC. The study found that THC can indeed impair driving — but that applying laws designed for booze to cannabis is bad science and bad policy. THC, unlike alcohol, stays “in your system” (that is, detectable in your blood) long after its psychoactive effect has subsided. It also does not debilitate motor skills the way alcohol does. Instead, the authors of the Canadian study called for a “behavioral” test to see if a driver is impaired. 

Economics vs. Cannabis Responsible for Road Carnage

The question of “marijuana-impaired driving” tends to be misunderstood. For example, it is true that Colorado has seen an increase in overall road fatalities since legalization in 2012, as well as an increase in cannabis-related driving offenses. But the increase in road fatalities is consistent with the trend across the US — and likely related to more motorists on the highways due to low oil prices. It was fortuitous for the prohibitionists that the world oil slump began in 2014 — just in time to provide negative spin for cannabis legalization.  

The Oregon Department of Transportation admits, “There was a dramatic increase in the number of fatalities, in line with the rest of the nation, in Oregon starting in October 2014,” the year Oregon voted to legalize. But, as noted above, there was no such increase after Oregon (and Washington) legalized medical marijuana in 1998.

A 2011 study by the University of Colorado found a reduction in traffic fatalities in states that had legalized medical marijuana. A possible explanation is that folks began turning to more freely available cannabis instead of alcohol or meth—which impair driving far more dramatically. A breakdown of the figures provided by the FARS show that national traffic fatalities had been holding at between 40,000 and 42,000 from 1994 to 2008, the year of economic crash. They then dropped below 40,000, reaching a low of 32,744 in 2014—the year oil prices began their plunge. After that, they started to rise again, reaching 36,560 in 2018, the last year for which the FARS chart provides figures.

Paradoxically, the total number of all deaths per week in the US actually dropped over the period this spring that economic activity ground to a halt under the COVID-19 lockdowns. This was due to reduced highway carnage — the same trend that we also saw during the last economic downturn in 2018, but which was dramatically reversed over the past years of low oil prices. 

Which brings us to the reality that the pandemic and current economic crisis may afford us the opportunity to rethink and redesign our modes of transportation. Because ultimately, it is automobiles that are responsible for the carnage on the nation’s roads. A fundamental and obvious fact that tends to get lost in all the talk about THC (or even far more debilitating things, like alcohol) in the bloodstreams of motorists.

TELL US, do you think cannabis leads to unsafe driving?

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Progress, Obstacles in Cannabis Industry Unionization Push

This summer saw encouraging steps forward in the drive to unionize the fast-growing cannabis industry. 

Workers at Cultivate Holdings‘ grow facility and retail outlet in the central Massachusetts town of Leicester voted to affiliate with Local 1445 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). The grow facility was one of the first state-legal adult-use dispensaries on the East Coast.

“This is not just a victory for cannabis workers at Cultivate, but for all cannabis workers. We’ve set a precedent by working collectively that enables us not only to survive but to thrive,” Craig Chaplin, a Cultivate employee, told MassLive.com on Aug. 11.

The UFCW is at the forefront of the unionization effort in the industry and has launched a Cannabis Workers Rising campaign. The UFCW, which calls itself the United States’ largest private-sector union, represents 1.3 million people who work in supermarkets, meatpacking plants, food-processing facilities—and cannabis dispensaries, mostly on the West Coast.

The UFCW has been organizing cannabis workers since 2010 and currently claims to represent tens of thousands employed in the industry—but progress has been limited. The International Cannabis Business Conference estimates 243,700 full-time-equivalent jobs supported by legal cannabis coast to coast as of January 2020.

Only the agricultural employees at Cultivate voted to unionize, although UFCW officials said there is an ongoing campaign to organize the retail workers as well. Local 1445 secretary-treasurer Fabricio DaSilva told MassLive the union is confident more workers will want to join those “who will benefit from organizing this emerging industry.”  

The previous month saw two similar advances. In July, some 60 workers at the New England Treatment Access cultivation facility in the town of Franklin, southwest of Boston, voted to join Local 1445. Earlier that month, employees at Mayflower Medicinals in Holliston, west of Boston, also joined up with the local. 

Last year, more than 100 workers at Sira Naturals in the towns of Milford, Needham and Somerville became the first in the Massachusetts cannabis business to unionize, signing up with Local 1445.  

Accusations of Anti-Union Tactics

But this July, workers at NETA’s Brookline dispensary voted 30-9 not to unionize—despite months of organizing efforts. And, as reported by MassLive, Local 1445 accused NETA management of firing or threatening employees at their facilities over their unionization efforts. 

In a statement, NETA denied the charges. “We support everyone’s right to join or not join a union, but because NETA already offers progressive wages and benefits, as well as a collaborative work environment, we don’t think a union is needed,” the company said. “We are in the middle of a union-organizing campaign and union tactics such as filing complaints are not uncommon.” 

NETA and Local 1445 also battled it out over who would be eligible to join the union, and whether the voting process could take place by mail-in ballot in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In a May decision, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled to allow voting by mail and found the disputed employees—including a lot attendant and security personnel—could take part in the election. 

Local 1445 saw these challenges, and the alleged retaliatory harassment and dismissals, as signs of bad faith. “Companies do that to send a kill effect into the campaign,” DaSilva told MassLive. “People are getting fired because they are joining a union.” 

The Boston Globe noted back in February, that there were similar claims against Mayflower Medicinals and its parent company, iAnthus Capital Holdings. In a formal complaint to state regulators that month, Local 1445 said managers at the Holliston facility issued written warnings to two workers involved in the unionization effort for alleged minor infractions that “do not normally lead to discipline.”

The union, in its filing with the state Department of Labor Relations, said the write-ups were part of an illegal anti-union campaign by Mayflower managers that also included interrogating employees and even explicitly instructing some to stop engaging in protected organizing activity.  

The Federal Recognition Dilemma

Mayflower employs about 45 workers at its Holliston facility, which recently won a state license to expand from medical marijuana into the adult-use market. The company also operates a medical dispensary in Boston’s Allston neighborhood and expects to open an adult-use outlet in Worcester this year.

The unionization drive at Mayflower won support from the company’s 17 agricultural workers, who are exempt from many federal labor laws but protected under stronger state laws. 

The remaining 28 employees at the facility, such as those who process harvested flower into edibles and oils, also signed cards expressing their desire to unionize—but were reluctant to proceed to a formal union election overseen by the NLRB, as management wanted. That is because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and a ruling by the NLRB that workers at state-licensed facilities are ineligible for labor protections could set a very bad precedent for the unionization drive nationwide. 

Local 1445 was instead hoping to pressure Mayflower into signing a state-recognized “Labor Peace Agreement,” under which the company would vow to recognize the union if a majority of workers voted to form one. A precedent for this was set when Sira Naturals entered such an agreement last November, as the Globe reported at the time. 

However, Mayflower declined to enter a Labor Peace Agreement, and the election was held under NLRB oversight—which could spell trouble down the line.

Whither Labor Peace Agreements?

US Chamber of Commerce page defines a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) as “an arrangement between a union and an employer under which one or both sides agree to waive certain rights under federal law with regard to union organizing and related activity. While these agreements can be negotiated voluntarily, some state and local governments have attempted to impose them on employers by passing labor peace ordinances.”

law passed in California last year requires cannabis businesses with 20 or more employees to enter into a Labor Peace Agreement with a “bona fide labor organization”—UFCW locals, in most cases. The LPA requirement for the city of San Francisco applies to cannabis businesses with 10 or more employees. 

New York’s Compassionate Care Act, which established a limited medical marijuana program in the Empire State in 2014, also included a provision mandating LPAs.

However, in Michigan, a proposed requirement for cannabis businesses to enter an LPA was removed from the final version of regulations for the adult-use sector that took effect in June. The controversy over the provision revealed much about divergent views on organized labor across America’s partisan divide—although it was certainly an irony to see conservative Republicans coming to the defense of bosses in the cannabis biz. 

The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency director Andrew Brisbo told MichicagnLive, “a Labor Peace Agreement is an agreement between an operator and a recognized labor organization to ensure that both sides come to the table.” Republican state senator Aric Nesbitt countered: “These labor peace agreements are really a Mob-style shakedown of these new businesses that are growing. At least the Mob lets you get going first. They won’t even issue a license unless you sign one of these labor peace agreements.”

In a significant ruling that represented an advance in resolving the federal jurisdictional dilemma, a US appeals court in Denver last year, held that protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act apply to “all workers”—including those in the cannabis industry. This 1938 law was a keystone of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, establishing a minimum wage and overtime pay for full-time workers nationwide.

The Automation Threat

Meanwhile, another and more insidious threat to labor in the cannabis industry has just reared its head. UPI reported last month that cannabis vending machines are coming to dispensaries in Colorado and Massachusetts, to offer customers “contactless buying.” A Boston-based company called anna debuted the new machines at Strawberry Fields in Pueblo, Colo., where customers can now buy flower, edibles and vape oils without interacting with a salesperson. More are to be installed in other dispensaries later this year, the company said. 

Matt Frost, founder and CEO of anna, said the machines are intended for “experienced cannabis customers who don’t necessarily need that one-on-one interaction with a budtender.” He emphasized the need to minimize person-to-person contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers will only need to check in with a representative in person to provide photo ID before using the machine, according to Legal Reader.

The machines are likely to be attractive to Massachusetts dispensaries, which topped $785 million in total sales since adult-use cannabis hit the legal market in the state in November 2018 and $320 million so far this year.

Similar concerns have been raised about the advent of so-called “robopot“—grown in highly automated cultivation facilities. 

But the Boston Business Journal warns that “the automation could undermine a wave of unionization efforts underway at dispensaries throughout the state.”

TELL US, do you think cannabis workers should unionize?

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Controversy Over Cannabis Clause in COVID Recovery Bill

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi touched a raw nerve in America’s culture wars when she stood up for a provision long sought by the cannabis industry as a condition in the Democrats’ coronavirus recovery package. It turned into a public spat with the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and won Pelosi much derision from conservatives. 

A review of the facts reveals that, even if Pelosi did not play her cards impeccably, the provision isn’t so funny after all. And neither is the notion that cannabis is “essential” in this time of crisis.

Pelosi Plugs SAFE Banking Act

At issue is the Secure & Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has now been folded into the Democrats’ recovery package. The SAFE Banking Act passed the House last September but faces a challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate. The measure would reform banking regulations impacting institutions that handle cannabis-related accounts – allowing cannabis businesses operating in conformity with state law to access financial services. A group of attorneys general from 38 states and territories penned an open letter urging Congress to pass the bill last year.

Under current federal law, financial institutions face stiff penalties for carrying out business with cannabis enterprises, as the 1970 Controlled Substance Act classes cannabis a Schedule 1 controlled substance, with no legitimate medical purpose.  

At a July 31 press conference, Pelosi was challenged by a reporter, who said that the SAFE Banking Act was “not directly related to COVID.”

“I don’t agree with you that cannabis is not related to this,” Pelosi replied, according to a transcript from The Hill. “This is a therapy that has proven successful.”  

With Congress notoriously deadlocked on the package, it was inevitable GOP leaders would seize on this remark as propaganda ammo. 

The Democrats’ $3.4 trillion stimulus package, dubbed the Health & Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, was approved by the House in May. It notes that the controversial provision would allow “access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers,” while limiting the amount of cash handled by those businesses.  

Senate Republicans have countered with a $1.1 trillion package, the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection & Schools (HEALS) Act. As USA Today notes, it also includes some measures that are pretty extraneous to the COVID-19 crisis – such as approximately $1.8 billion in funding for a new FBI building at its current location in Washington, DC.

Cultural Conservatives Hit Back

McConnell (despite having shepherded through the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and hemp-derived CBD) wasted little time in pouncing on Pelosi’s comment. 

“She said that, with respect to this virus, marijuana is ‘a therapy that has proven successful.’ You can’t make this up,” he said, according to C-SPAN footage transcribed by Marijuana Moment. He added with smug sarcasm: “I hope she shares her breakthrough with Dr. Fauci” – a reference to National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, leading figure on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted: “Incredibly irresponsible – Pelosi just doubled down on her $3 trillion dollar cannabis legislation, falsely claiming that it’s a proven therapy for coronavirus. Hey Nancy, let’s focus on the pandemic. Not pot.”

The next to pounce was the anti-legalization lobbying group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which said that including the provision “makes no sense.” 

“Numerous industries have been forced to completely shut down and have made great sacrifices to comply with shutdowns and limitations on their business operations. The marijuana industry has been a painfully obvious exception to this. This industry has used its lobbying arm to force state officials to keep their storefronts open, sued leaders who shut them down, and bragged incessantly about their revenues,” SAM President Kevin Sabet said, according to The Hill.

“Simply put, we cannot allow much-needed aid bills such as this to be loaded up with the wish lists of Big Pot,” he concluded. “Thankfully, due to conversations with key members of Congress and continued advocacy by SAM’s supporters, it is unlikely these provisions will make it to the president’s desk.”

But the National Cannabis Industry Association was just as quick with the counter-punch, stressing the importance of the industry’s ability to avoid handling cash during the pandemic.

“Given the nearly quarter of a million people employed by the cannabis industry and the potential dangers associated with being essential service providers during this pandemic, it is vital that these workers not be forced to deal with additional risks created by cash-only transactions. We strongly urge the House to pass this legislation and hope the Senate will seriously consider the health and safety impacts caused by lack of access to banking,” an NCAI official was quoted by The Hill.

Cannabis and COVID-19: What the Science Says

Pelosi admittedly committed a tactical error in implying (although not actually stating) that cannabis has “proven successful” in treating COVID-19. The Food & Drug Administration has already sent warning letters to companies making claims about the benefits of CBD products in treating coronavirus, according to USA Today.

However, granting Pelosi some wiggle room, we can note that cannabis has other therapeutic properties that become more critical in times of crisis – such as stress relief. This may be evidenced by booming sales in states that have legalized, in spite of record levels of unemployment.

But cannabinoids may indeed hold therapeutic potential for COVID-19 – even if it has not yet been “proven.” CBS News reports that scientists at the University of Nebraska and Texas Biomedical Research Institute are recommending the study of CBD as a potential treatment for lung inflammation caused by COVID-19. The scholars put out their call last month in a peer-reviewed article in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity journal.

Emily Earlenbaugh of Mindful Cannabis Consulting explained to CBSN that the researchers’ hopes pin upon CBD’s ability to affect cytokines—proteins involved in cell signaling and especially critical in inflammation and immune response. In COVID-19 patients, the immune system can overreact and release too many cytokines, creating a so-called “cytokine storm.”

“Cytokines will normally help to create inflammation to fight off infections,” Earlenbaugh said. “But in these extreme cases, you see so much cytokines being released into the system that it creates a cytokine storm. You might see high fever, inflammation, severe fatigue and nausea, and in serious cases, it can lead to death through organ failure.” 

Research has already shown CBD’s effectiveness in inhibiting production of one cytokine, known as IL-6.

An overview of the research by Project CBD notes that British medical journal The Lancet has drawn attention to “accumulating evidence” that indicates “patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome.” A report in Science Daily cites findings that this syndrome may have been behind many of the 50 million deaths associated with the 1918-20 “Spanish flu” pandemic. A 2015 study in Mediators of Inflammation journal found CBD inhibited IL-6 cytokine production in asthma patients.

In an analysis for Project CBD, Dr. Matthew Elmes, director of new product development for California cannabis company Care By Design, saw a possible role for CBD in treating COVID-19, but warned that “clickbait headlines” risked delegitimizing the entire enterprise before the research is in.  

“Unvetted science is fueling COVID-19 misinformation,” Elmes wrote. “More than ever, we need the critical eye of scientists during the peer-review process to help vet the bullsh*t.”

TELL US, do you think cannabis businesses are essential?

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