Wisconsin Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Legalize Cannabis

A bid to bring legalization to the Badger State started in earnest last week, with Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin announcing legislation on Sept. 22 that would end the prohibition on recreational cannabis.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Melissa Agard and state House Rep. Darrin B. Madison.

Agard, who is the minority leader in the Wisconsin state Senate, announced the legislation at an event held at a Wisconsin hemp farm and said that the status quo poses more harm than marijuana.

“I’ve said this time and time again, we know that the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal,” Agard said, as quoted by local news station WSAW. “For the past decade, I have worked to undo Wisconsin’s antiquated and deeply unjust marijuana policies and put our state on a prosperous path forward.”

Under the proposal, adults in Wisconsin aged 21 and older could legally have marijuana in their possession. The measure would also lay the groundwork for a regulated cannabis market to launch in the state.

If it were to become law, Wisconsin would join nearly 40 other states in the country to permit adult-use marijuana. That includes many of Wisconsin’s neighbors in the Great Lakes region, which Agard said has resulted in lost revenue for the Badger State.

“Right now, we are seeing our hard-earned money go across the border to Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year. That is money we could be reinvesting to help support our friends and neighbors and make our state a place where people want to live, work, and play,” Agard said, as quoted by WSAW.

In a statement of his own, Madison said that legalizing cannabis “is a matter of public safety and racial justice here in Wisconsin.”

“People in Wisconsin indulge in cannabis use, and deserve the ability to buy safe cannabis and use it responsibly without being criminalized. According to the ACLU, Black people were 4.24 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Wisconsin during 2018. Similar disparities exist in convictions, leading to immeasurable harm to black communities in Wisconsin. The bill we’ve introduced today lays a solid foundation for those that have been harshly convicted for non-violent possession charges and the ramifications of those Convictions,” Madison said.

Polling data likewise shows that marijuana legalization is popular with residents in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin is ready to legalize it—69% of Wisconsinites, including a majority of Republicans, support the full legalization of marijuana. It is way past time that our state honors the will of the majority and seizes the many positive economic and social benefits that cannabis legalization has to offer. Let’s join folks in over half the nation who have said ‘yes’ to putting the half-baked politics of prohibition behind us and set our expectations higher,” Agard said in a press release.

The Republican-controlled state legislature, however, may not be ready. Despite broad public support, as well as the backing from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have thus far resisted legalization.

Last spring, Republicans in the legislature killed a proposal to legalize cannabis, as well as hundreds of other Democratic-sponsored measures.

“These aren’t fringe ideas, controversial concepts, or Republican or Democratic priorities—they’re about doing the right thing. With a historic surplus comes historic responsibility, and today, when we can afford to do more, this vote is foolish and a wasted opportunity,” Evers said at the time.

Evers, who was elected as governor of the state in 2018 and re-elected last year, has long been a vocal champion of marijuana legalization.

Last year, Evers issued dozens of pardons, including several for individuals who had previously been convicted of marijuana-related offenses.

“There is power in redemption and forgiveness, especially for folks who’ve been working to move beyond their past mistakes to be productive, positive members of their communities,” Evers said in a statement released at the time. “I’m grateful for being able to give a second chance to these individuals who’ve worked hard to do just that.”

Earlier last year, Evers vetoed a GOP-backed measure that would have imposed more stringent penalties for those who get busted for pot, calling it “another step in the wrong direction.”

“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to creating additional criminal offenses or penalties related to marijuana use,” Evers said in 2022 in a letter to the assembly.

“It is widely accepted, and, indeed, research over the course of the last decade confirms, that marijuana criminalization has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially in Wisconsin where have long-standing racial disparities in incarceration rates,” Evers added.

Evers concluded his letter and explained his interest in justice reform.

“State across our country—both Democrat and Republican-controlled alike—have and are taking meaningful steps to address increased incarceration rates and reduce racial disparities by investing in substance use treatment, community reentry programming, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation and other data-driven, evidence-based practices we know are essential solutions to reforming our justice system,” the governor continued regarding the issue. “The data and the science are clear on this issue, and I welcome the Legislature to start having meaningful conversations around justice reform in Wisconsin.”

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US Cannabis Legalization in the 2024 Election

US cannabis legalization in the 2024 election? Will Joe Biden and the Democrats make cannabis reform a significant part of their re-election platform? With the potential rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule I to III, pot stocks have risen. Investors are hopeful that banking reform may pass Congress. Voters are anticipating the end of cannabis prohibition. But how much of this is hype versus reality? How likely is it that cannabis legalization will be a 2024 U.S. election issue?  For answers, […]

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Week in Review: Thailand Announces Cannabis Law Changes

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Thailand’s Prime Minister announces plans for a cannabis law changes; Oregon regulators to permit the sale of cannabis products testing positive for Aspergillus; and Wyoming wants to prohibit hemp-derived THC products.

thailand medical marijuana
Thailand cannabis law change
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Thailand’s Prime Minister Announces Plans for Cannabis Law Change, Restricting Sales to Medical Use Only

Thailand’s newly elected Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has revealed plans to revamp the country’s existing cannabis laws, shifting the focus exclusively to medical use. This proposed change marks a significant departure from the previous landscape, which allowed for widespread adult-use sales.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Prime Minister Thavisin expressed his concerns over the county’s growing drug-related issues, highlighting the need for a comprehensive revision of existing legislation to curtail adult-use cannabis sales.

The Prime Minister emphasized that a consensus had already been reached among Thailand’s 11 political parties regarding the plan to rewrite the nation’s cannabis laws. The envisioned changes are intended to strike a “middle ground” by permitting only medical use of cannabis and rectifying the country’s cannabis policies.

Thailand achieved the historic milestone of being Southeast Asia’s first country to decriminalize cannabis approximately a year ago, However, due to the absence of specific regulations, the government was compelled to hastily implement rules to prevent unregulated cannabis usage, especially among minors, resulting in a regulatory vacuum. This regulatory gap led to the proliferation of thousands of stores, prompting politicians to make commitments to address the issue. Even in 2022, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul clarified that the decriminalization of cannabis did not equate to full legalization, and the sale of adult-use cannabis remained prohibited.

Saritpong Kiewkong, representing the Bhumjaithai party, which played a pivotal role in the decriminalization process and is now the second-largest component of Thailand’s 11-party coalition government, emphasized that the primary focus of the new law is medical purposes and research. He underlined that there are no plans to consider recreational use policies at this time.

This new legislation is primarily aimed at addressing an industry estimated to reach a value of up to $1.2 billion in the coming years. Cannabis shops have emerged in various locations, including the bustling capital of Bangkok and popular tourist destinations like Phuket.

Powdery mildew on cannabis leaves. Photo courtesy of Ed Rosenthal

Oregon Regulators to Permit Sale of Cannabis Products Testing Positive for Aspergillus

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) has made the decision to allow the sale and transfer of marijuana products that have tested positive for Aspergillus, a type of mold that has prompted product recalls in various markets.

According to a recent news release, this regulatory shift enables the sale of approximately 2,500 pounds of cannabis and 65,000 infused pre-roll units that had previously been withheld due to positive Aspergillus tests. Earlier this year, in May, the Oregon Health Authority implemented stringent rules for cannabis producers, enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy regarding any products found to have Aspergillus contamination.

Challenged by cultivators, these rules faced legal opposition, with arguments asserting that the mold’s harm had not been conclusively proven and that a zero-tolerance approach would harm their businesses. The Oregon Court of Appeals temporarily suspended this requirement in August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that Aspergillus is not detrimental to individuals with robust immune systems. However, it can pose health risks to those with compromised immune systems, potentially leading to lung or sinus infections that might spread to other parts of the body, according to information found on the CDC website.


Draft Bill in Wyoming Aims to Prohibit Hemp-Derived THC Products

A preliminary bill in Wyoming is reportedly set to outlaw hemp-derived THC products and all other hemp items intended for human consumption. Under this proposal, any hemp product that contains even a trace amount of natural or synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), along with the production of hemp for human consumption, would be prohibited in the state.

State Senator Bill Landen (R) says that this measure has arisen from concerns regarding minors’ access to delta-8 products. Last year, six high school students required emergency room treatment after consuming delta-8 THC products.

Earlier this year, a proposal in the state House aimed to restrict the sale of these products to individuals aged 21 and older. However, the bill failed to progress beyond the committee stage.

The draft bill’s purpose is to initiate a policy discussion concerning issues related to hemp-derived THC products within the state. There is a possibility that it may not progress beyond the discussion phase.

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B.C. Court Dismisses Cannabis Retail Lawsuit

A British Columbia (B.C.) court dismissed a lawsuit from owners of licensed cannabis retail shops. Last year, this group of cannabis retailers sued the province for not enforcing cannabis regulations. While licensed cannabis retailers jump through bureaucratic hoops and pay excessive taxes on the faulty premise that this contributes to “public health and safety,” the B.C. Bud market of “illicit” retailers doesn’t face these same hurdles. Particularly on Indigenous Reserves, where the plaintiffs claim damages of at least $40 million […]

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Weed Isn’t Legal If You Can’t Smoke It

One of the worst things happening during this wave of cannabis reform across America is the poor being left on the beach without a mechanism to legally smoke a little weed. 

The biggest factors contributing to this are bans on consumption besides anywhere but a private residence. Furthermore, sometimes you can’t consume in a multi-unit building even if you owned the whole thing and required incoming tenants to be cool with it; in certain municipalities they could still screw.

A bit over 65% of Americans own a home, so from a certain school of thought, one could certainly argue that that data means cannabis is only legal for 65% of Americans.

How did we get here? Shitty policymaking of course. 

I put the lack of legal consumption right up there with the other biggest problems the cannabis market has faced post-legalization. Others include how screwed-up equity programs seem to be in every state, leading to the programs being scapegoated and not the people who screwed them up. Another mega factor? Permit stacking in California. This is what created Mega Farms five years early. One of the main guys that lobbied for that crashed and burned out of the industry because he sucked at growing weed. So in the end, literally everyone lost, even the greedy fucker. 

So that’s the scale of the problem for me, I put it up there with the worst cannabis has to offer.

The most immediate remedy to provide legal access to consumption is lounges. Any legalization plan moving forward that doesn’t accommodate some type of social use cannabis businesses where you can puff with your friends is garbage. Add to how much more difficult it’s getting for the middle-class and lower-income communities in recreational states to own a home, and one might say cannabis is getting less and less legal depending on your income bracket. 

The obvious argument against my disdain is people just smoke in their yard or go somewhere and figure it out if it’s not cool at home. But 99% of the time they aren’t supposed to smoke wherever they end up. I think the general argument is that in a society where cannabis is legal, there should be at least some way or mechanism for people to consume it. And we aren’t talking about woofing down some distillate gummies. 

Fake lounges are also now a problem. If you can’t burn one down it’s not a lounge. I’ve recently seen a wave of vapor-only lounges opening up. And we’re not even talking quartz, I mean “let’s sit in chairs and hit vape pens” kind of shit. Or maybe you want to have a 10mg edible and sit on this couch while you wait for it to kick in. I’m offended just explaining the situation. 

One of the things adding salt to the wound? How social an experience cannabis can be when the situation is curated properly. There are few places pulling it off In America, shoutouts to West Hollywood, for real consistent social experiences more akin to a bar with weed than a sesh.

Europe has been doing this great, even Bangkok is pulling it off well. It makes it that much crazier that even in the birthplace of cannabis reform in California, the lounge scene is garbage. It provides no support to the communities that actually need it and the lounges we have seen tend to be in higher income communities where they are serving less need than they would in places you can’t even puff. 

In the end, the thing that will probably change the game is regulators realizing the dollars lost to underground cannabis things that let you socialize.

Even when they do start to give people a little room though, regulators tug the chain back. This is the case in Sacramento right now. The city’s flagship legal social use space is dealing with new pressure from the city. One of the better facilities the state has seen for this format in some time and they were playing by the rules. If people like that can’t make lounges a reality, how are lower-income people ever supposed to smoke together legally?

Only adding to the madness of the lack of places we can smoke weed together are the over 13,000 Americans that die every year in car crashes that involve alcohol. When you get too stoned you’re too lazy to drive until you’re not too stoned anymore. There is no real logic that justifies a bunch of people getting shitfaced and driving home and treats cannabis like some kind of plague on the roads. The most dangerous part of having weed in your system or vehicle is getting caught with it in a lot of places. 

So just remember, anyone who is trying to prevent lounges is trying to prevent legal consumption for the poor.

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Study: Medical Cannabis Reduces Neuropathic Pain

A recently published retrospective study suggests medical cannabis reduces neuropathic pain without serious side effects. Algea Care, Europe’s leading telemedicine platform for medical cannabis, conducted the study in cooperation with the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. Published in the journal Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids, CLN sat down for a chat with the CEO of Algea Care, Dr. Julian Wichmann, who was also instrumental in the study’s design.  “While the study looked at it retrospectively,” says Dr. Wichmann, “Does [medical cannabis] work […]

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Is Tilray Too Dangerous?

“Tilray is too dangerous,” said CNBC’s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. “It is a spec stock that is losing money, and we don’t recommend stocks that are losing money.” Cramer isn’t the only one shying away from the Canadian cannabis producer. Kerrisdale Capital called the company a “failing cannabis player” in a recent report. We are short shares of Tilray Brands, a $2.4bn failing Canadian cannabis player running a familiar playbook for unsuccessful businesses trading in the public markets: given […]

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What is Public Health?

What is “public health?” Since 2020, the term has entered the mainstream, but public health was around long before covid. Canadian politicians crafted cannabis legalization with “public health” goals in mind. Instead of the traditional argument for legal cannabis, which is that you have a right to your body. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Like most things in life, let’s apply the 80/20 rule. 80% of “public health” are hapless bureaucrats who believe they are improving […]

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Farm-to-Table Cannabis Coming to Victoria

Last Thursday, the City of Victoria approved rezoning for its first farm-to-table cannabis operation. A majority of the council voted to amend bylaws so one facility can house four different Health Canada licenses. The Victoria Cannabis Company will have a nursery, micro-cultivation, processing and sales all in one spot, located at 340 Mary St. The City of Victoria approved the rezoning despite another cannabis retailer within 400 metres. But Councillor Jeremy Caradonna justified bending the rules since a farm-to-table site […]

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Week in Review: Cannabis Cafés Coming to California

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, California’s bill permitting cannabis cafés advances to Governor Newson for final approval; New York launches wider cannabis licensing in October; and Massachusetts hits record-breaking $5 billion in adult-use cannabis sales.

PHOTO Kazyaka Konrad

California Bill Permitting Cannabis Cafés Advances to Governor for Signature

The California Assembly achieved a significant milestone on Monday by passing a bill that would authorize Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés throughout the Golden State. The bill has now advanced to Governor Gavin Newsom (D) for the ultimate green light. Initially introduced by Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) in February, the Assembly’s resounding endorsement came with a 66-9 vote, following last week’s 34-3 approval by the state senate.

While certain cities in California already allow for social cannabis use, including San Francisco and Oakland, they’re prohibited from offering non-cannabis food or beverages alongside cannabis consumption. Under the proposed measure, local jurisdictions would have the authority to grant permission to cannabis retailers to prepare and serve non-cannabis food and beverages. These establishments could also host and sell tickets for live musical performances or other events within the designated area where cannabis consumption is permitted, as outlined in a legislative summary.

Assembly Bill 374 specifies that cannabis retailers cannot sell alcohol or hemp products and any retailer with a suspended license is barred from engaging in activities authorized under the bill. The bill mandates that all non-cannabis food and beverages at the retailer’s premises must be stored and displayed separately from cannabis and cannabis products. A strict no-tobacco-use policy must also be enforced.

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PHOTO Rosman Rai

New York to Launch Wider Cannabis Licensing in October

New York is gearing up to unlock its cannabis industry applications to the general public, commencing on October 4, extending the opportunity to include existing state medical cannabis enterprises. On Tuesday, September 12, the New York Cannabis Control Board voted in favor of opening up license applications for the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of adult-use cannabis to non-social equity applicants.

The decision clears the path for established multistate operators, including Curaleaf, Acreage Holdings, Columbia Care and Cresco Labs, to venture into what experts anticipate to become the largest cannabis market on the East Coast, with projected revenues reaching $7.07 billion by 2025.

This development follows the recent approval of regulations by the Cannabis Control Board, charting a path for increased participation in the Empire State’s cannabis market. New York’s cannabis industry has faced hurdles due to a slow rollout and a recent lawsuit that effectively halted licensing statewide.

The regulations comprise of a wide array of cannabis-related activities, including plant nurseries, cultivators, processors, cooperatives, distributors, dispensaries, delivery services and microbusinesses. Currently, vertically integrated medical cannabis companies in the state will be obligated to pay a special licensing fee of $20 million to establish three adult-use dispensaries at their existing locations.

Under the measure, existing conditional license holders who follow state regulations have the chance to switch to nonconditional licenses. Application and licensing fees for novel licenses range from $750 to $300,000. Lower fees will apply to social equity applicants to keep within the state’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity within the industry. The regulations don’t include limitations on the number of license types.

Massachusetts State House, Boston. PHOTO King of Hearts

Massachusetts Hits $5 Billion in Adult-Use Cannabis Sales

Massachusetts has achieved a remarkable milestone in its adult-use cannabis market, with total sales reaching $5 billion by August 31. This follows a series of record-breaking monthly sales in June, July and August, as reported by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). The jump from $4 billion to $5 billion occurred in just eight months, marking the shortest period for Massachusetts businesses to generate an additional $1 billion in gross sales.

“Massachusetts continues to hit record sales even as other states have come online. In fact, our neighboring states Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut also had record sales this summer,” Executive Director of the Commission, Shawn Collins, said in a statement. “Demand for tested, quality cannabis products remains strong in the region and consumers shopping in other states have not impacted Massachusetts’ success.”

In addition to this impressive sales figure, the CCC also provided insights into the industry’s regulatory landscape. To date, only five cannabis retailers in the state have either surrendered their licenses or allowed them to expire. Similarly, a total of 16 cannabis businesses in various sectors have either had their licenses expire, surrendered them, or faced revocation. Presently, Massachusetts has 317 cannabis retailers, nine delivery couriers, eight delivery operators and one microbusiness equipped with a delivery endorsement.

Adult-use cannabis sales in the Bay State began in 2018 with the passing of Question 4.

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