Oregon County Proposes Ban on Psilocybin Therapy

Local leaders in Linn County, Oregon are advancing a proposal that would ban psilocybin therapy centers authorized by a statewide ballot measure legalizing the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms. Under a proposal adopted by the Linn County Board of Commissioners last week, a ballot measure banning psilocybin production, manufacturing, and therapy facilities will appear before voters in the November 2022 general election.

In 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 109, Oregon Psilocybin Services Act, a bill that legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin. State officials are currently drafting regulations to enact the legislation, which authorizes centers where trained facilitators dispense psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

Under Measure 109, local jurisdictions such as counties, cities, and towns were given the authority to regulate psilocybin therapy centers or refer a decision on the issue to voters in the community. On June 21, the three-member board of commissioners voted to put a measure banning the psilocybin therapy centers in Linn County before voters in this year’s general election.

“My fear is of young people taking mushrooms and going out and doing things that may cost them their life,” Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist told the Albany Democrat-Herald.

“I just think it’s appropriate to refer this measure to the voters in Linn County and allow them to have a say in this, particularly because they did not vote to support this measure in the first place,” he added.

Commissioner Will Tucker said that he is concerned that first responders will not be able to reach the scene quickly enough if a patient receiving psilocybin therapy in the remote county in central Oregon has a medical emergency.

“I have people who are miles and miles from a service like a grocery store,” he told Filter.

Tucker noted that if passed, the ballot measure would only apply to the unincorporated areas of Linn County. The proposal would not affect the incorporated cities and towns in the county including the largest city, Albany, although local officials there are considering a similar ban on psilocybin therapy centers. 

“I would love to see it done carefully and in controlled ways,” Tucker said. “My son suffers PTSD; an Iraq War sniper, he has 100 percent disability … If there’s a way his mental health can be affected by marijuana or other drugs including mushrooms, I’d be all for it.”

Few Counties Moving To Ban Psilocybin Therapy Centers

Evan Segura, president of the Portland Psychedelic Society, says that it does not appear that counties taking steps to ban psilocybin therapy is becoming a trend. But at least one county along the Idaho border, Malheur County, has proposed a ban. He noted that the jurisdiction is already the home to several cannabis dispensaries that draw customers from neighboring states that have not yet legalized cannabis.

“I think these counties are anticipating there will be a huge wave of interest from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, jumping over the state border to access psilocybin services,” Segura said. “These conservative counties are just not interested in being guinea pigs for this program, and I’m sure there’s a lot of drug-war prohibitionist hysteria that’s causing fear for them.”

Statewide, Oregon voters approved Measure 109 in the 2020 general election with 56% of ballots cast in favor of the initiative and 44% against. But in rural Linn County, only 45% of the electorate voted in favor of psilocybin therapy centers while 55% opposed the ballot measure. Statewide, 21 of 36 Oregon voted against Measure 109, although the initiative’s success in more populous counties secured its passage.

Linn County Commissioner Sherrie Sprenger said she does not believe Measure 109 will achieve the stated goal of curbing the illicit market for psilocybin, an argument made for legalizing cannabis that she characterizes as “naive and ill-informed.”

“The situation many rural folks in Oregon find themselves in frequently is this idea that our voice wasn’t heard and our voice wasn’t taken into consideration,” Sprenger said. “Sometimes we feel like the metropolitan areas, i.e. Portland and Eugene, make decisions for the rest of us. Local voters need to have a say in their own community.”

Segura said that many of those opposed to psilocybin therapy centers are concerned that someone will get behind the wheel of an automobile immediately after an all-day session, particularly those who might not have the means to afford overnight accommodations. But he does not see a significant risk in the argument.

“I think that situation is extremely rare,” Segura said. “I think if people can afford the session, they can afford a hotel, if not just stay at a service center that provides lodging. I think there’s minimal risk of someone going to do psilocybin then getting in their car and driving away.”

“We don’t ever hear of stories of people eating mushrooms and then doing something dangerous,” Segura added. “We would hear more of it if it happened more often.”

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Spain Approves Medical Cannabis Reform: Pharmacy Dispensation Planned for End of 2022

On Tuesday the Spanish Congress of Deputies passed medical cannabis reform. The decision to do so was based on the report of a special health commission which formally examined the issue between March and May of this year. It is also widely expected that as of June 27, the full Health Commission will formally approve the report. Then it will take another six months for the Spanish Health Agency (AEMPS) to produce guidelines for actual dispensation.

No matter the hurdles still in the way, this means that medical cannabis will be available upon prescription via Spanish hospital pharmacies by the end of 2022. According to estimates there are about 300,000 domestic patients who could immediately benefit from this change in the law even though most of them will fail to get access due to the high levels of bureaucracy that remain. Further, because only the public hospitals can prescribe, patients with private health insurance are being left out for now.

It is clear, as a result, that while positive, this is an extremely limited first step. Medical use of cannabis will only be allowed for conditions including cancer, pain, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and epilepsy. Most patients will also not be able to access flower which is still limited for “research purposes.” Dispensation of cannabinoid extracts will also occur initially only via hospital pharmacies and only specialist doctors can prescribe.

According to Carola Perez, a well-known patient advocate and president of the Spanish Observatory for Medicinal Cannabis, a group of patients, doctors and researchers dedicated to cannabis reform, medical cannabis could be available via regular pharmacies eventually. The change now pending for the end of the year still creates an onerously small window of access. “Most patients will still be forced to source their medicine via clubs, home grow and the black market,” she said. Despite the beginning of an extremely limited window of access, Perez is nonetheless happy that at least this first step has been taken. “We have been fighting for this moment for the last seven years,” she said by phone from her home in Spain. “It is also clear that we still have much to do.”

What Is Changing in Spain?

Spain has just entered the “medical cannabis club” in Europe, where patients can, theoretically at least, obtain cannabis by medical prescription via a pharmacy, with the national health system underwriting the bulk of the cost. The countries where this is possible at this point includes Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Greece. In Holland, it is legal to buy cannabis at a pharmacy, but tragically, since 2017, Dutch insurers have refused to reimburse claims. As a result, most Dutch patients must rely on their own cultivation, the black market, or the cafes. Unless Spanish medical access is considerably broadened, it is also likely that this will remain the status quo here as well.

What the formal acceptance of medical efficacy does mean unequivocally is that the currently-operating four medical cannabis cultivation companies in Spain with authority approved by AEMPS will no longer solely have to export their product but can now distribute to domestic patients. It also means that foreign medical producers can enter the Spanish medical market.

Where Does This Leave The Clubs and Recreational Reform?

It is clear that Spain is being pulled down a path that other European countries have already trodden. What is interesting about this newest (and inevitable) development is that it creates two distinct and bifurcated domestic cannabis markets—a formal medical one and a well-developed if less than legit grey one consisting of the cannabis clubs. Mostly located in Catalonia and Basque country, clubs nevertheless exist in every major city—though many have not reopened or are not operating in the same way post-COVID. In Madrid, for example, it is easier to get cannabis delivered than go to a physical club as of June.

It is also unclear what the fate of the clubs will be in this new environment. It could be that, like Holland, the Spanish authorities use this first medical opening to close down the clubs—although that is not really feasible at this juncture. More likely is the approval of a broader medical market and eventually, just as in Holland, the establishment of a formalized recreational market. Even if the first step towards the same is some kind of national cultivation plan or, as in Luxembourg and Malta, limited home grow becomes formally legitimized.

Regardless, no matter how short the step, Spain has now affirmed medical efficacy—which means that medical cannabis use is legal in every major economy within the bloc. Recreational reform in countries including Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Holland, and Switzerland also means that the entire conversation about the use of cannabinoids is now finally in full swing across Europe.

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The Industry’s Identity Crisis: Our Escape Has Gone Corporate

Remember when weed was fun? We used to love it here. Now it sometimes feels like a chore. The fuck’s up with that? Well friends, here’s the sad truth: pot ain’t what it used to be, for a lot of reasons.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s go over how many of us got here:

Cannabis has long been a vibrant subculture – or counterculture. A plant that seemingly brought people together, helped them forget their problems for a while, and gave many of us outsiders – or weirdos, if you will – a way to find our tribe, hooked us all – though maybe not in the traditional ‘addictive’ sense. From the love of the plant, a community grew. And while much of the world laughed at us, we championed each other, and as a result, we flourished.

But good times don’t last forever, and I’m sorry to say, our inside joke got out, and now everybody’s in on it.

Early Days

Keeping an eye on ‘who we were’ for a sec, and before we get into some harsh realities, it’s important to note just how attractive we actually are. Many, if not all, of the most fun people I know, came to me through the plant – long before I was some High Times guy that people wanted to talk to. There’s a cool factor that comes with doing your own thing, and our community exudes that in spades. Some call it not giving a fuck, but to me it’s that search for originality – the act of finding yourself – that’s largely provided to us by the plant. While people often say things like ‘weed makes people friendly’, I think the truth is it actually just makes you more comfortable with who you truly are – and that’s a beautiful gift.

One of the most common things I hear when interviewing those I consider real heads – from cultivators, to trappers, to lifers – is that they got into the industry to fund, or grow their habit. While maybe they were also attracted by what they believed to be ‘riches’ at the time, it was the ability to make their own way that sealed the deal. We all wanted to blaze our own trail, and invest in this thing we truly loved. Most of us knew nothing about taxes, or compliance. We were outlaws, rebels.

It’s hard to say it was always easy, and we had more than our fair share of casualties. From fighting the federal prohibition and avoiding jail time to ducking into alleys to light up, it hardened us, and we had earned our places in this growing economy.

Now flash forward a few years, a piecemeal legalization, an insane tax structure in pretty much every state, and a whole lot of new, clean faces – what the fuck happened?

Coming of Age

Say what you will about where shit’s gotten, it’s hard to deny that things have largely worked out for us so far. We’re not getting locked up as much. We can be more open about our passions. Cannabis brands are worth billions of dollars, and many of our icons have become kings; fans still mob Cheech and Chong meet & greets, the Dead’s still touring – and with one of the biggest mainstream pop stars of our time, no less. Now Netflix is making shows about us, FOX News is talking about edibles – and with that, friends, we’ve jumped the shark.

Flash forward to today and the THC rat race is killing us, and publicists have decided microdosing is the wave. No one’s making the money they’re used to, and I know how frustrating it is to see a slew of new products coming to market that seem designed for anyone but you.

One of the most common misconceptions about legalization is that it was going to create more space for us. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but what we were actually making room for was them. The outsiders. Those NOT in-the-know. Now while that may seem scary, it’s important to note that this is part of the process. Growing up is uncomfortable, but one of the first things you realize in your journey to maturity is that the world is a lot bigger than you. Creating space for something you love doesn’t mean you get to just clone yourself a dozen times to enjoy it 12x as much. It means you’re introducing your love to the world, and the world might not see her the same way you do. That’s a scary thing!

But recall, we were once on the outside too, and we did alright.

An even scarier thing perhaps is all the new players flooding the field. Not consumers, but VCs and executives from other ‘restrictive’ industries telling us how to sell our products. There’s no shortage of new money and new interest coming in to get a slice of the pie.

In order to get to the next level, we should acknowledge a basic truth: in almost all situations, people fear change. While that’s far more a mental hurdle than an actual object to jump over, things are changing in a BIG way right now. It’s natural to feel uneasy. Hold fast, and keep in mind that despite the turbulence, we’re moving in the right direction. We’ll have to learn some new tricks, and we’re not out of the fight, but pressure makes diamonds, and no one changes the world by staying comfortable. (Remember, we weren’t for a LONG time…) And don’t forget, we have home court advantage here.

All Grown Up

While I might’ve already turned most of you off by refusing to sugarcoat the reality we’re facing, the original intention of this piece was to offer some suggestions that may help with this changing landscape. I’m no scholar, and I’m not running your business, so take this as a guide more than commandments – I’m not Moses – but I’ve got a few ideas that I believe will help ensure you see the next level of this tower we’re building.

First, I know we all think ‘corporate’ is code for the Deathstar, but remember, if you do anything well for long enough, you eventually become the man. I know we all grew up saying damn that guy, but there are very real reasons why once your success reaches unmanageable heights, people hire a team. You’ve already done this, you’ve just got to take it to the next level now, and that’s what going corporate means. We’ve largely created the stigma we’re worried about. You probably don’t know the best tax loopholes, and compliance shortcuts – that’s why you hire an expert. A corporation, when built properly, is just a well-staffed group of experts with the support structures necessary to tackle bigger problems. A lot of cooks will enter the kitchen, and there will be many more conversations before taking action, but it kinda sounds like the dream not to have to worry about filing your own paperwork, no?

Next, and an example I make often, is that I’ve never had a problem taking money from rich kids. They usually don’t value it as much as you will, and they can afford to take more shots if they screw up so they’re not as worried about failure – utilize their blessings to get your goals accomplished, whatever that may be.

We will often need them to surpass the compliance hurdles legalization has placed on us. That said, be careful not to let the money dictate the conversation. You see, in MOST of these situations, the money is coming to you because you know what’s up. As long as you don’t let them forget that YOU are what they’re investing in, money’s helpful for a lot.

Another important thing to remember is that we’re in a race to the bottom right now. As all the new money tries to ‘achieve scale’ trying to make every step in the process as bottom-line effective as possible – which largely seems to mean in their minds ‘be so big we can tell the market what it wants’, they are losing hundreds of millions learning the market doesn’t want to buy boof, and values quality. As a real consumer, you know this. They largely don’t. That will change with time, and the only thing that will retain its value through this process, that they will eventually have to acknowledge and PAY FOR, is your experience. Your expertise. Now that may mean we’re in for a few rough years, no question. It might also mean some of you who have run your own businesses forever will go from owners to employees – that’s a hard pill to swallow.

The thing to keep in mind is, you can build a much bigger ship when you don’t do it alone, just focusing on your strengths. There’s an old adage ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team’, and that holds especially true here. It’s the corporate point again, right? Would you rather make $5 million by yourself, or collect 10% of $500 million? I’ve written a lot about the successes of players who have succeeded largely off of the strength of the network they’ve built. You don’t have to say you learned it from them, but please, take note. There’s an important lesson there. We’re not playing the same game anymore, and you’ve got to evolve to survive.

Maturity

This last point may lose the rest of you, but try to stick with me, we’re almost there. Remember what I said earlier about that beautiful gift? Well the thing is, while showing us and helping us accept and appreciate who we are individually, it actually doesn’t always make us the most accepting of others who don’t fit a similar mold. Try not to take that as a slight, but as something to open your eyes to. It’s not an accusation, just something you should look for in your own actions, before you tear down the ideas of others. We don’t all have the same perspective – this is the root of why diversity is so important.

While I am absolutely not saying these new guys know what they’re doing, I am saying our overconfidence can sometimes be a turn off to outsiders who don’t get us yet, and that can hinder us more than benefit. Just think about how polarizing social media has gotten. We can’t even mention Sexism without a thousand individual and unaffected perspectives trying to tear down the basic notion based on their personal experiences. It gets visceral.

We need to remember to look outside ourselves, and when necessary, help them see your perspective from a place of understanding, not judgment. This is something I definitely need to work on myself, but I know will help many of you as well. Ego should be all of our biggest enemies.

If there’s one thing us lifers have in common, it’s that we’re here for the long haul. We’re not going anywhere – we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. While most of these fair-weather fans will head for the new wave once the next billion dollar opportunity comes along (thanks Web3), we’ll still be here. But let’s not make the party we’re having unattractive to outsiders, because we’ll always need customers.

Finally, I often joke that most of the industry’s problems stem from the fact that not enough people involved in the supply chain are smoking. That’s especially true for all the new faces joining us to take advantage of the supposed ‘gold rush’. But a lot of the ones that are, also typically ain’t high enough (trust, I’m going to get to the withdrawal conversation at some point…) and we can all use each other’s understanding as we navigate through this trying time. I don’t know about you guys, but my love of weed is one of the only things in my life I’ve never had to fake, and we are finally in a time where we can celebrate that around the clock basically anywhere. Don’t forget how many people died, and went to jail, for this luxury (or basic human right, whatever). Things COULD be looking better than ever before, it’s just a matter of perspective. We’ll get there.

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Cannabis Blamed for America’s Mass-Shooting Epidemic

Another week, another mass shooting to blame on cannabis. Six days after an 18-year-old who’d just bought two AR-15-style rifles on his birthday murdered 19 fourth graders and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked her roughly 2.2 million viewers whether the real problem wasn’t actually cannabis legalization.

“Why aren’t people in general not talking more about the pot-psychosis violent-behavior connection?” asked Ingraham, who added that anyone advocating gun-control measures—such as the 90% of Americans who support universal background checks—as a rational response to Uvalde are “completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans with violent consequences.”

At first blush, injecting cannabis into the conversation over mass shootings seemed like a fresh spin, another effort at misdirection to steer the conversation toward “hardening” schools, or arming teachers or vague jeremiads about “mental health”—anything but a discussion about the easy availability of weapons or that particular weapon, the AR-15-style rifle, the instrument of choice in a mass-shooting in Buffalo the week before that claimed another ten innocent lives.

But, in fact, Ingraham lifted her screed nearly verbatim from the Substack account of disgraced COVID conspiracy theorist Alex Berenson, a former reporter at The New York Times turned novelist turned multi-purpose conservative contrarian. Berenson noticed a post-publication change to a Times item that initially reported an acquaintance’s claim that the Uvalde shooter was mad that his grandmother “didn’t let him smoke weed or do what he wanted.”

That detail later disappeared from the story, which for Berenson was evidence of… well, not much, aside for more support for his pet theory. “Cannabis causes psychosis,” as he wrote. “Psychosis causes violence,” he added, including, an unmistakable syllogistic link, mass shootings.

It’s a serious charge, that’s also completely unserious. Serious observers have already roundly dismissed this fresh demonization of cannabis. Nonetheless, it’s gaining new life as conservative commentators and politicians embrace cannabis as a method to stoke grievance in America’s ongoing culture war.

Rebirth of a Notion

Before he became known as the COVID-19 pandemic’s “wrongest man” and got himself kicked off Twitter for claiming vaccines were worthless (or, actually, dangerous), Berenson’s angle was being a cannabis legalization contrarian. In pursuit of this chimera, he peddled an anti-legalization polemic that, according to a mass letter signed by 100 researchers in 2019, used “flawed pop science and ideological polemics” to “promote some of the worst myths about people of color and people with mental illness”—including the idea, unsupported by science, that cannabis makes them violent.

In serious circles, such as the researchers and clinicians who signed onto the letter labeling Berenson’s theories as worthless warmed-over garbage left over from the Just Say No era, the idea that cannabis legalization is connected to America’s mass-shooting epidemic is laughed out of the room.

But Ingraham’s appropriation of Berenson’s exploded theories set off a chain reaction in the right-wing media echo chamber, where, along with virulent transphobia, cannabis is being tested out as a front in the culture war.

On June 6, the conservative Wall Street Journal’s even more conservative editorial page said that, if it were true that the Uvalde shooter smoked weed—an enormous, Hollywood-sign-sized “if”—“it would fit a pattern.”

“Mass shooters at Rep. Gabby Giffords’s constituent meeting in Tucson, AZ (2011); a movie theater in Aurora, CO (2012); the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (2016); the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX (2017); and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL (2018) were reported to be marijuana users,” the WSJ opined. “It could be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

(It bears mentioning that most of those shooters were also AR-15-style rifle users, but that, surely, is a coincidence.)

The Missing Link

In addition to noting that the main link between mass shooters wasn’t that they used weapons but that they smoked weed, Allysia Finley, the piece’s author, cited a few studies in her argument. This included a meta-analysis, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in May 2020, that tried to investigate an association between youth and “the risk of perpetuating physical violence.” That meta-analysis, led by researchers in Canada—where, just for funsies, cannabis was legalized nationwide in 2018—found a “moderate association between cannabis use and physical violence.”

The study’s authors didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Cannabis Now on how their work is currently being used to steer American attention away from gun control—which is much stricter in Canada than in the US, and which has legalized cannabis, and which doesn’t seem to be gripped by the same mass shooting epidemic.

On June 13, the conservative Washington Examiner hopped on the bullshit train, adding its own fresh load of trash to the pile. “One way to reverse growing rates of violent crime,” posed the newspaper’s editorial board, using most of the same arguments as the Journal, “may be to recriminalize the use of marijuana.”

Though violence absolutely surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, on the aggregate, the US hasn’t been this peaceful for decades. Violent crime, as Pew Research found, dropped 49% between 1993—right around when New York City launched a decade-long war on joints—and 2019, by which time more than a dozen states had legalized adult-use cannabis. In fact, a 2018 study found that the rates of certain crimes dropped in areas that had recently legalized cannabis.

You could just as easily (and more convincingly) argue that legalization has made the US more peaceful. That at least might be a little more honest, if a little naive, as the causes of violence are known to be complex, an overlapping web of material circumstances.

Political Quackery

Rather than grapple with the broader set of facts or engage with skeptics, the conservative echo-chamber is sealing itself off. In a letter to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board that the newspaper didn’t print, Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, pointed out a slew of other studies, including a data analysis from the RAND Corporation that tried to find a link between cannabis dispensaries and crime—and failed to do so.

“Claims that cannabis use causes violence are frankly absurd when you consider that there are tens of millions of regular cannabis consumers in the US who have never engaged in any violent activity and there have been no conclusive studies showing an association between violence and either cannabis use or its legalization,” said Morgan Fox, NORML’s political director, in a statement provided to Cannabis Now.

“Cherry-picking anecdotal instances and pretending that they represent a ‘disturbing trend’ when the experiences of legal cannabis markets here and abroad say otherwise is just the newest iteration of a long-used tactic by unscrupulous prohibitionists to demonize this substance and the people that use it,” he added. “Such assertions are pure political quackery, and an attempt to distract from the real issues at hand as well as the overwhelming successes that states have achieved by regulating cannabis.”

So far, it doesn’t seem like Berenson’s shameless recycling of his increasingly dusty conspiracy theory is making much headway among the US public. But as mass shootings and dead children continue to pile up, and opponents of gun reform seek any other sacrificial lamb other than reasonable restrictions on who can own an AR-15, cannabis is taking another familiar turn in the barrel.

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Switzerland to Lift Ban on Medical Cannabis

The Switzerland government announced on June 22 that it will lift the ban on medical cannabis, as according to an amendment to the Swiss Narcotics Act that parliament approved in March 2021. According to Agence France Presse, the government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients.”

“The decision to use a cannabis-based medicine for therapeutic purposes will rest with the doctor, in consultation with the patient,” the government said of the amendment. As of August 1, patients will no longer be required to obtain permission from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). However, adult-use cannabis sale and consumption will still remain illegal.

In Switzerland, medical cannabis is only allowed for patients with a doctor’s approval, or previously required approval from the FOPH. However, medical cannabis is still only allowed if the medicine contains less than 1% THC, and is licensed. Currently, only Sativex is approved for prescription to patients.

The country’s federal public law institution, Swissmedic, which is responsible for both “authorization and supervision of therapeutic products” including cocaine, methadone, and morphine could eventually be directed to manage the cannabis industry going forward.

Back in 2019, FOPH issued approximately 3,000 authorizations for cannabis patients suffering from a wide variety of medical conditions. However, the FOPH described this process as “tedious administrative procedures.” “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy,” it stated.

In September 2021, the Switzerland government approved a recreational cannabis trial called “Zuri Can,” which is expected to begin this summer. There was one caveat, requiring that only “experienced users” should apply to participate, and this is verified by testing hair samples instead of urine or blood tests. The trial program will be held in Basel, Switzerland, and analyze results from 400 people who will be approved to buy recreational cannabis from specific pharmacies.

Also in June 2022, a new study conducted by the University of Geneva and EBP, a consulting firm, explored the benefits of full cannabis legalization. According to researcher’s findings, approximately 56 tons of cannabis is consumed every year in Switzerland. Based on this data, annual revenue for adult-use cannabis sales could collect up to $582 million Swiss francs (CHF). The industry could generate 0.06% of the country’s economy, which is roughly the same contribution as Appenzell Innerrhoden, the country’s smallest canton by population and area. Legal cannabis could also provide up to 4,400 full time jobs, in comparison to the country’s Swiss accident insurance, which has about 4,200 employees.

Ultimately, as seen in other countries, there are many benefits to establishing a regulatory framework for cannabis legalization. Study author and Research Associate at the Institute of Sociological Research of the University of Geneva Dr. Oliver Hoff explains that it’s time that Swiss cannabis laws received an update. “The simulation shows, that the current form of regulation produces [an] economically inefficient result,” Hoff said in a statement. “While artificially high profit margins enable illegal actors to generate generous profits, consumers suffer from inadequate transparency regarding products and quality. The healthcare system and preventative measures have a hard time accessing consumers with problematic consumption patterns and the state lacks access regarding regulatory, fiscal and public-health oriented initiatives.”

FOPH Head of Policy and Implementation, Adrian Gschwend, also provided a statement about the timing of this study. “The study comes precisely at the right time as the commission for social and healthcare issues of the national assembly has recently started a legislative proposal regarding the legalisation of cannabis,” Gschwend said. “The results show that both the current illicit market as well as a liberal commercial market inflicts costs on the public while individuals generate big profits. We thus need a well-regulated market that ensures both protection for children and adolescents as well as health protection measure.”

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Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee Meets

The Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee met for the first time on Monday to discuss their responsibilities and two upcoming town hall meetings.

The first town hall meeting is set for July 6, in Pikeville, Kentucky. The meeting will be in the University of Pikeville’s Health Professions Education Building.

The second town hall meeting is slated for July 19 at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in Frankfort.

Both are scheduled to run 90 minutes. Two additional meetings will be scheduled at a later date.

The committee will travel around the state, gathering opinions on the medical cannabis issue and provide feedback to the governor’s office.

Gov. Andy Beshear created the committee last week through an executive order. The 17-member board is composed of attorneys, university professors, medical cannabis advocates, members of law enforcement, and health care professionals.

Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet Ray Perry and Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Kerry Harvey were named co-chairs of the panel.

Members will serve on the committee for two years, according to the executive order.

“We start with a committee of people that really bring a wide array of experience and expertise to the project,” Harvey told The Courier Journal. “You have medical people, pharmacy people, you have people that know a lot about substance abuse disorders, and you have people with very deep experience in law enforcement and prosecution. The committee itself can provide a great deal of useful information.”

The goal of the group, according to Harvey and Beshear’s office, is to listen to the people of Kentucky and bring their perspectives on medical cannabis back to the governor and other officials.

“Our plan is to go to different parts of the state and really just to have open town hall meetings so that anyone who is interested or concerned about this issue can provide the committee and ultimately the governor with not only their point of view, but their experience,” Harvey said.

For those unable to attend the town hall meetings, Beshear’s office created a website for users to submit their thoughts on medical cannabis.

In his executive order, Beshear said, “Allowing Kentuckians diagnosed with certain medical conditions and receiving palliative care to cultivate, purchase, possess and/or use medical cannabis would improve the quality of their lives and may help reduce abuse of other more dangerous and addictive medications, such as opioids.”

Overdose deaths in Kentucky have risen dramatically in recent years—2,250 deaths were reported in 2021, as stated by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, compared to 1,316 in 2019.

“It would also improve Kentucky’s economy by bringing new jobs and businesses to the Commonwealth, as well as supporting Kentucky farmers,” Beshear continued.

A total of 38 other states have already legalized medical cannabis, including Ohio—which, earlier this year, reported that its medical cannabis program had generated about $725 million in revenue.

Earlier attempts to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky occurred in 2020 and 2022.

In 2020, a bill led by Rep. Jason Nemes (R) received 65 votes in the House chamber but stalled in the Senate due to a lack of support by Republican members and a shortened session due to COVID-19.

In March of this year, the Kentucky House of Representatives voted 59-34 to pass a medical cannabis bill, HB 136. Senate leadership stalled this effort soon thereafter.

In April, Beshear approved legislation to establish a cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky. According to HB 604, the new facility will be tasked with planning and conducting research “to advance the study of the use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives for the treatment of certain medical conditions and diseases.”

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British Chief Constable Supports Cannabis Decriminalization

In a further sign that more cannabis reform is in the offing in the U.K., the head of one of the largest regional police forces in the country, John Campbell, of the Thames Valley Police, has come forward to support cannabis decriminalization. In testimony delivered to the Home Affairs select committee, citing evidence that he says would reduce violent crime, Campbell said that it is the “lucrative” illegalization of weed that promotes criminal behavior associated with the plant.

He has been joined in his support for cannabis reform by the Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales who has suggested that the entire issue of ending Prohibition should be addressed, albeit approached with “a great deal of caution.”

That said, such comments are still, sadly, an anomaly from Britain’s senior police leaders. Indeed, the majority of PCCs do not support forward motion on normalization saying that it will lead to more violent crime. Currently British law punishes cannabis possession with a maximum sentence of five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

Regardless, it is a significant development, particularly set against the intention of London mayor Sadiq Khan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. The Metropolitan Police Service (or Met) is the U.K.’s largest police force. Thames Valley Police is the fifth largest (out of 43). It covers 2,200 square miles and three counties which are home to 2.34 million people. Thames Valley Police has also had to weather criticisms that it is considerably less diverse than the population it serves and as a result, tends to disproportionately target Black people and submit them to stop-and-searches as well as detaining them under the Mental Health Act. Such actions are unavoidably and frequently linked to cannabis possession.

The Slippery Slope of Decriminalization

The majority of British authorities may not support the final step of cannabis normalization, but it is now a war they are clearly losing. Medical use when prescribed by a doctor was legalized in the U.K. in November 2018. However, obtaining a prescription is still exceedingly difficult, and many patients are forced, just as they are in places like Germany, to obtain their cannabis via the black market—or grow their own. Beyond this, the legit CBD industry is growing in leaps and bounds.

For all of these reasons, it is imminently clear that the U.K. is on the same “slippery slope” towards full legalization as everywhere else, particularly as medical efficacy of the plant can no longer be refuted. Patients who can get to sympathetic doctors can now obtain a “cannabis patient card.” And beyond this, those who head up patient collectives are increasingly finding that if busted, judges are much more lenient.

All of this points to a changing legal environment for cannabis use—of which the police are well aware. Busts of cannabis farms are down significantly since a high of 758,943 between 2009-2010. Last year, there were 500,448. For every bust, there is of course, the administrative costs of the arresting police officers, plus court time.

In the U.K., like elsewhere, the economics of Prohibition, particularly given the changing environment and views towards cannabis increasingly don’t add up. Beyond this, public sentiment is moving towards support for legalization. The most recent national poll conducted in January of this year showed that a slight majority of Britons opposed recreational reform—but just like everywhere else, times they are a’changin.

The police everywhere are the most conservative segment of mainstream society when it comes to decriminalization and legalization issues. However even the most staid members of law enforcement know that cannabis as medicine is increasingly becoming accepted—and that a family member might end up being a cannabis patient if not a “criminal” for the same. Beyond this, draconian punishment for non-violent personal possession is a bogeyman of the past, and unfortunately, the present.

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Court Ruling on Ballot Measures Simplifies Legalizing Weed in Nebraska

A federal judge has struck down provisions of Nebraska’s voter initiative process in a ruling that will simplify efforts to put a medical cannabis legalization measure on the ballot for the November election. In his ruling, federal district court Judge John M. Gerrard wrote that a requirement that campaigns for ballot initiatives collect signatures from 5% of the voters in 38 counties violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Gerard issued an order on Monday barring Nebraska from enforcing the rule as activists work to collect signatures on two complementary medical cannabis legalization initiatives for the 2022 general election.

Under Nebraska law, citizens wishing to place a measure on the ballot must collect signatures from at least 7% of registered voters, including a minimum of 5% of voters in at least 38 of the state’s 93 counties. In a lawsuit, activists with the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) and the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that the 38-county rule is unconstitutional because it violates rights to free speech and equal protection guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

Nebraska Initiative Process Violates ‘One Man, One Vote’

The plaintiffs argued that the rule violates the principle of “one man, one vote” by making the signatures of voters in sparsely populated rural counties more valuable than the signatures of voters in Nebraska’s cities. Under the rule, the plaintiffs said that one voter in rural Arthur County is the equivalent of 1,216 voters in Douglas County, which includes Omaha, Nebraska’s most populated city. NMM also stated that the requirement violates the First Amendment rights by dictating how the group prioritizes its signature-gathering efforts.

“A county number or how likely we are to qualify has dictated where I send my resources, where I send volunteers, you know, signature collectors,” Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana campaign manager Crista Eggers, a named plaintiff in the lawsuit, told local media.

Gerrard agreed with the plaintiffs and issued an injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the 38-county rule for ballot measures, including those currently being circulated by NMM for two related medical cannabis legalization measures.

“The State of Nebraska is absolutely free to require a showing of statewide support for a ballot initiative—but it may not do so based on units of dramatically differing population, resulting in discrimination among voters,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Gerrard also attacked the legal argument in support of the 38-county rule advanced by Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen and Attorney General Doug Peterson, who argued that if the requirement were struck down it would destroy the state’s entire initiative process.

“For the State to argue that the baby must go with the bathwater is eyebrow-raising,” Gerrard wrote in his 46-page opinion.

Two Medical Cannabis Proposals Vying for Voters’ Support

Activists with NMM are currently circulating petitions for two medical cannabis initiatives for the November ballot. The first proposal would “require the Legislature to enact new statutes protecting doctors who recommend and patients who possess or use medical cannabis from criminal penalty,” according to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star. Under the second initiative, lawmakers would be required “to pass legislation creating a regulatory framework that protects private entities that produce and supply medical cannabis.”

The group has until July 7 to submit at least 87,000 signatures for each of the two initiatives. So far, the group has collected a combined total of about 80,000 signatures. Leaders of the drive say that Gerrard’s ruling will make the task easier because fulfilling the 38-county rule has been a challenge, especially since the death of a major donor to the drive died in March.

“This allows me to be able to go and collect signatures from all Nebraskans,” said Eggers.

Nebraska state Sen. Anna Wishart, another leader of the campaign, said that Monday’s ruling is a “big win” for residents who want to see the medicinal use of cannabis legalized.

“Nebraskans across the state support this issue because they know a loved one, friend or neighbor, who is sick and would benefit from having access to medical cannabis,” Wishart said.

On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a motion from Evnen to stay the injunction. The attorney general’s office said that Gerrard’s ruling would be appealed, a move that received the secretary of state’s approval.

“I concur with the decision to immediately appeal the District Court’s order, which nullifies a Nebraska State Constitutional provision concerning initiative petitions,” Evnen said on Monday night.

The Nebraska ACLU said it will continue working to ensure the 38-county rule is not reinstated.

“We will just have to see what Secretary Evnen does,” said Daniel Gutman with ACLU of Nebraska. “And we’ll obviously be ready to respond.”

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Will the Supreme Court Legalize Cannabis?

A great dark cloud hangs over the bright and sunny success of marijuana legalization in the US: federal law, which still declares cannabis an outlaw plant. This status quo causes great distress to American cannabis businesses and those still in federal prisons for marijuana offenses. Despite all the progress at the state level, this front of the drug war seems locked in a stalemate. Here’s a question: Can the Supreme Court legalize cannabis?

Of course; the US has three branches of government, and if Congress won’t legalize cannabis federally, and if President Joe Biden can’t, what about the Supreme Court? As long as the conservative majority on the John Roberts court is overturning long established precedent such as Roe v. Wade, could it overturn precedent related to cannabis prohibition? Or even the Controlled Substances Act itself? 

That’s the strategy Abner Kurtin, the CEO of Ascend Wellness, one of the smaller publicly traded cannabis companies operating in multiple states, recently announced he’ll try. Already successful in generating headlines—and, possibly, satisfying investors upset with recent losses and impatient with the stalemate in Congress—the strategy could work as legal experts consulted for this article told Cannabis Now, perhaps as a mechanism to pressure Congress into action, even if the Supreme Court never touches the Controlled Substances Act.

“I want to emphasize this is politically shrewd,” said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and executive director of the school’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. “It’s useful to have a two-front war, you might say. Maybe the legislature is more likely to respond when the courts are breathing down their necks.”

But this gambit isn’t without risks. The courts could reject the challenge, resulting in more lost money at a time when legal cannabis businesses are burning cash. Or the court could impose a vision of legalization that isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

Key details, including when the lawsuit will be filed or exactly what claims it’ll make, remain to be seen. Through a spokesperson, Kurtin declined to comment. 

But as he and Michael Bronstein, the president of lobbying group American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp explained to Marijuana Moment last month, at least six major cannabis companies will join in the suit. They will argue that the CSA is unconstitutionally applied to state-legal cannabis businesses. 

And doing the arguing for them will be attorneys from prominent white-shoe law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, chaired by the $1,950-an-hour SCOTUS veteran David Boies, who has famously argued several prominent cases before the nation’s top bench.

Bring on the Lobbyists

Shelling out a few million dollars on lawyers—on top of spending a fraction of that on lobbyists to change Congress’s minds—is a tactic familiar to old-school legalization advocates. This has all been done before, with varying levels of success that, in binary terms, all failed.

Various parties including federal prisoners, cannabis researchers, an ex-NFL player-turned-businessman and legalization advocacy groups have all tried to sue the federal government before—to reschedule cannabis, to deschedule cannabis. All have failed, and all but one failed to even reach the august bench of the Supreme Court. 

That one, Gonzalez vs. Raich, held that Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause—the federal government’s Constitutional ability to regulate trade between the states—“includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with” state law. 

That was the “best set of facts to overturn the Controlled Substances Act you could hope for,” observed Sam Kamin, a professor of law at the Denver University Sturm College of Law and a cannabis law expert. “And they didn’t do it.”

It stands to reason that the federal government isn’t really wielding this power at the moment, at least not insofar as it did with litigant Angel Raich, a severely ill cannabis patient in California whose backyard garden was raided by DEA agents. But what Kurtin and other cannabis executives want is relief from the pressures that do exist—on the banks and the taxman. 

If cannabis were descheduled, banking and taxation reform would be handled without need for Congress to legalize tax deductions and banking services. (Both the SAFE Banking Act as well as more ambitious federal legalization appear hopelessly stalled in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to even get a vote on the topic.) And companies could start shuttling cannabis in between states (although some companies don’t want that, at least not right away).

For MSOs such as Ascend Wellness, the “best possible outcome” will be a ruling that removes the federal government from cannabis entirely and leaves everything up to the states, Kamin said. The problem is that a ruling like that would also remove the federal government from any national standards around minority participation or other questions of equity—which means the legalization-minded social-justice advocates would hate it.

But again, overturning the CSA at the courts may not be the lone goal. “I think it’s part of a consistent and decades-long approach to critiquing and criticizing the CSA as not based in science, not based in the Constitution, and inconsistent with the will of the vast majority of the states and voters,” Kamin said. 

So, would the courts simply leave everything up to the states, or would the courts deschedule cannabis and hand the industry over to pharmaceutical companies with the resources to get Schedule II substances through the onerous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process? All are possible. “Everything is on the table right now,” Kamin said.

That includes striking down other federal powers to enforce other laws. In this, there’s a strange and dangerous irony.

Obamacare Beware

In another life, a decade ago, the bugaboo of self-avowed libertarians, Ascend Wellness’s Kurtin, was the Affordable Care Act. While the Obama Administration’s Justice Department used the logic in the Raich decision to defend Obamacare from conservative challenges, Raich herself signed onto amicus briefs seeking to overturn the federal healthcare mandate. Arguments limiting the federal government’s power are more likely to be welcomed by conservative judges. 

And so, if the Raich precedent is put into the dustbin of history, so could other federal powers.

“They’ve got to figure out a way to bring down federal marijuana prohibition and regulation without bringing down the whole universe of federal health and safety laws,” said OSU’s Berman. No pressure.

So, will the Supreme Court legalize cannabis? As always, time will tell.

The post Will the Supreme Court Legalize Cannabis? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Will the Supreme Court Legalize Cannabis?

A great dark cloud hangs over the bright and sunny success of marijuana legalization in the US: federal law, which still declares cannabis an outlaw plant. This status quo causes great distress to American cannabis businesses and those still in federal prisons for marijuana offenses. Despite all the progress at the state level, this front of the drug war seems locked in a stalemate. Here’s a question: Can the Supreme Court legalize cannabis?

Of course; the US has three branches of government, and if Congress won’t legalize cannabis federally, and if President Joe Biden can’t, what about the Supreme Court? As long as the conservative majority on the John Roberts court is overturning long established precedent such as Roe v. Wade, could it overturn precedent related to cannabis prohibition? Or even the Controlled Substances Act itself? 

That’s the strategy Abner Kurtin, the CEO of Ascend Wellness, one of the smaller publicly traded cannabis companies operating in multiple states, recently announced he’ll try. Already successful in generating headlines—and, possibly, satisfying investors upset with recent losses and impatient with the stalemate in Congress—the strategy could work as legal experts consulted for this article told Cannabis Now, perhaps as a mechanism to pressure Congress into action, even if the Supreme Court never touches the Controlled Substances Act.

“I want to emphasize this is politically shrewd,” said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University and executive director of the school’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. “It’s useful to have a two-front war, you might say. Maybe the legislature is more likely to respond when the courts are breathing down their necks.”

But this gambit isn’t without risks. The courts could reject the challenge, resulting in more lost money at a time when legal cannabis businesses are burning cash. Or the court could impose a vision of legalization that isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

Key details, including when the lawsuit will be filed or exactly what claims it’ll make, remain to be seen. Through a spokesperson, Kurtin declined to comment. 

But as he and Michael Bronstein, the president of lobbying group American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp explained to Marijuana Moment last month, at least six major cannabis companies will join in the suit. They will argue that the CSA is unconstitutionally applied to state-legal cannabis businesses. 

And doing the arguing for them will be attorneys from prominent white-shoe law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, chaired by the $1,950-an-hour SCOTUS veteran David Boies, who has famously argued several prominent cases before the nation’s top bench.

Bring on the Lobbyists

Shelling out a few million dollars on lawyers—on top of spending a fraction of that on lobbyists to change Congress’s minds—is a tactic familiar to old-school legalization advocates. This has all been done before, with varying levels of success that, in binary terms, all failed.

Various parties including federal prisoners, cannabis researchers, an ex-NFL player-turned-businessman and legalization advocacy groups have all tried to sue the federal government before—to reschedule cannabis, to deschedule cannabis. All have failed, and all but one failed to even reach the august bench of the Supreme Court. 

That one, Gonzalez vs. Raich, held that Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause—the federal government’s Constitutional ability to regulate trade between the states—“includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with” state law. 

That was the “best set of facts to overturn the Controlled Substances Act you could hope for,” observed Sam Kamin, a professor of law at the Denver University Sturm College of Law and a cannabis law expert. “And they didn’t do it.”

It stands to reason that the federal government isn’t really wielding this power at the moment, at least not insofar as it did with litigant Angel Raich, a severely ill cannabis patient in California whose backyard garden was raided by DEA agents. But what Kurtin and other cannabis executives want is relief from the pressures that do exist—on the banks and the taxman. 

If cannabis were descheduled, banking and taxation reform would be handled without need for Congress to legalize tax deductions and banking services. (Both the SAFE Banking Act as well as more ambitious federal legalization appear hopelessly stalled in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to even get a vote on the topic.) And companies could start shuttling cannabis in between states (although some companies don’t want that, at least not right away).

For MSOs such as Ascend Wellness, the “best possible outcome” will be a ruling that removes the federal government from cannabis entirely and leaves everything up to the states, Kamin said. The problem is that a ruling like that would also remove the federal government from any national standards around minority participation or other questions of equity—which means the legalization-minded social-justice advocates would hate it.

But again, overturning the CSA at the courts may not be the lone goal. “I think it’s part of a consistent and decades-long approach to critiquing and criticizing the CSA as not based in science, not based in the Constitution, and inconsistent with the will of the vast majority of the states and voters,” Kamin said. 

So, would the courts simply leave everything up to the states, or would the courts deschedule cannabis and hand the industry over to pharmaceutical companies with the resources to get Schedule II substances through the onerous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process? All are possible. “Everything is on the table right now,” Kamin said.

That includes striking down other federal powers to enforce other laws. In this, there’s a strange and dangerous irony.

Obamacare Beware

In another life, a decade ago, the bugaboo of self-avowed libertarians, Ascend Wellness’s Kurtin, was the Affordable Care Act. While the Obama Administration’s Justice Department used the logic in the Raich decision to defend Obamacare from conservative challenges, Raich herself signed onto amicus briefs seeking to overturn the federal healthcare mandate. Arguments limiting the federal government’s power are more likely to be welcomed by conservative judges. 

And so, if the Raich precedent is put into the dustbin of history, so could other federal powers.

“They’ve got to figure out a way to bring down federal marijuana prohibition and regulation without bringing down the whole universe of federal health and safety laws,” said OSU’s Berman. No pressure.

So, will the Supreme Court legalize cannabis? As always, time will tell.

The post Will the Supreme Court Legalize Cannabis? appeared first on Cannabis Now.