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.

New York Cannabis
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.

The post Week in Review: Cannabis Cafés Coming to California appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Announcing The High Times Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition 2023

2023 marks the third year that our High Times Cannabis Cup: People’s Choice Edition has been held in Massachusetts. Soon, starting between Oct. 9-11, we’ll be conducting our behind-the-scenes preparations by collecting product submissions from across the state through our official intake partner for this year, Nova Farms. Stay tuned for a full article on the history of Nova Farms and how they are truly a Beast of the East. Those products will be organized and packed into kits by a dedicated team between Oct. 12-15, and by the following week those bags of goodies will be on their way to participating dispensaries (including Nova Farms and others still to be announced).

But one of the most important dates for our fellow fans and judges in Massachusetts is October 21, aka when kits officially go on sale! Starting on that same day until Dec. 24, participants will begin to try products and record their opinions and ratings for each one, including rankings from 1-10 on Aesthetics, Aroma, Taste, Effects and more, plus a comments section where Judges are responsible for providing 2-3 sentences about their thoughts and experience. Not only does each judge’s dedication determine our winners for 2023, but it also provides essential feedback to help all of the brands continue to improve their products as well.

With best wishes for both judges and participating brands celebrating various holiday traditions, High Times will calculate the results and announce the winners on Jan. 8, 2024! Not a bad way to ring in the new year.

For 2023 we are offering two new categories to our lineup, including infused pre-rolls. Our concentrates category has been split into two, featuring solvent-based concentrates and also non-solvent/rosin concentrates.

Entry Categories:

  1. Indica Flower (28 slots available, 2 entries max per company)
  2. Sativa Flower (28 slots available, 2 entries max per company)
  3. Hybrid Flower (28 slots available, 2 entries max per company)
  4. Pre-Rolls (28 slots available, 2 entries max per company)
  5. Infused Pre-Rolls (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  6. Solvent Concentrates (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  7. Non-Solvent/Rosin Concentrates (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  8. Rosin Vape Pens & Cartridges (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  9. NON-Rosin Vape Pens & Cartridges (10 slots available, 1 entries Max per company)
  10. Edibles: Sativa Gummies (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  11. Edibles: Indica Gummies (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  12. Edibles: Chocolate Non-Gummies (10 slots available, 1 entries max per Company)
  13. Edibles: Fruity Non-Gummies (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  14. Edibles: Beverages (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)
  15. Topicals + Tinctures + Capsules (10 slots available, 1 entries max per company)

For brands interested in participating this year, please review the following guidelines for submissions depending on the category, as well as pricing based on the number of submissions.

Entry Requirements:

  • Flower: (228) 1-gram, individually packaged and labeled Units. We will not accept any 3.5-gram units. 
  • Pre-Rolls: (228) individually packaged and labeled Units capped at a 2g flower each.
  • Infused Pre-Rolls: (228) individually packaged and labeled Units capped at a 2g flower & .5g Concentrate each.
  • Solvent Concentrates & Vape Pens: (228) .5-gram individually packaged and labeled Units. We will not accept any 1-gram units. Batteries required for Carts.
  • Non-Solvent Concentrates: (100) .5g units individually packaged and labeled units. We will not accept any 1-gram entries.
  • Edibles: (100) individually packaged and labeled Units with 50mg THC max per package. We will not accept anything above 50mg THC packages.
  • Topicals+Tinctures+Capsules: (100) samples. individually packaged for retail.
  • Capsules: 100mg THC max per sample / Tinctures: 500mg THC max per sample

Entry Pricing:

One entry: $250, Non-refundable

Two entries : $100 each entry, Non-refundable

Three Entries: $100 refundable deposit per entry. All Deposits returned after 100% of reserved entries are submitted

Entry fees waived for top-tier sponsorships

Our primary retail partner this time around is Nova Farms, which has dispensary locations in Attleboro, Framingham, and Dracut, Massachusetts, as well as Greenville, Maine, and Woodbury, New Jersey. Nova cultivates its own cannabis on a 90-acres farm in Sheffield, Massachusetts, making it one of the largest outdoor cannabis farms in New England. They don’t use any pesticides and use only the power of the sun to grow their plants. With sustainable farming practices and the goal of keeping a low carbon footprint, Nova Farms is dedicated to producing amazing cannabis without compromising quality.

We revealed a variety of winners for the High Times Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition in 2022. In our multiple strains categories, Happy Valley and Rythm took home two trophies, in addition to wins from other cultivators such as NETA (our intake partner from last year), Bailey’s Buds, and Nature’s Heritage.

Last year  our edibles-related category winners also put the spotlight on a variety of delectable treats, from Munchèas’ chocolate macarons and honey sticks, chocolate bars from Insa and Meltdown, and a selection of infused beverages from Happy Valley, Vibations, and Wynk. Not to mention an extensive collection of gummy offerings from brands like Incredibles, Cannatini, Kanha, Hashables, and Treeworks.

The post Announcing The High Times Cannabis Cup Massachusetts: People’s Choice Edition 2023 appeared first on High Times.

Report: Massachusetts Cannabis Social Equity Fund At $0 Year After Launch

A fund created by Massachusetts state lawmakers last year to subsidize equity-owned cannabis businesses there remains empty, according to a report

Boston Business Journal reports that a “bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature last August created a new fund that promised millions of dollars to equity-owned cannabis businesses,” but that “nearly a year later, not a single dollar has been handed out because the fund remains empty.”

“Chapter 180, passed last summer, created a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, intended to take 15% of the revenue collected from the sale of cannabis and give it to social equity and economic empowerment businesses, two licenses that are given to entrepreneurs who come from marginalized groups or who were harmed by the war on drugs,” according to the report. 

According to Green Market Report, the “issue appears to be a technical one; the law that created the fund was written so that none of the revenues would be transferred from the Marijuana Regulation Fund – where the 15% collections are currently sitting – to the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund until it’s first all put into ‘something called the Consolidated Net Surplus account.’”

Adult-use cannabis sales began in Massachusetts in 2018 –– and business has been booming

Earlier this month, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission reported that the state collected $132.8 million in recreational cannabis sales in the month of June, the highest tally of the year thus far. Since sales began in 2018, the state has collected $4.74 billion worth of adult-use cannabis sales.

Sales of adult-use marijuana in the state are taxed at “6.25% for a state sales tax, 10.75% for the state excise tax and three percent for a local option tax for cities and towns in Massachusetts. 

As in other states that have ended the prohibition on pot, Massachusetts has tried to include social equity provisions within the new cannabis laws. 

The bill that created the cannabis social equity trust fund was passed last August and subsequently signed into law by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

Baker said at the time that “many of the provisions that this bill adopts … improve regulation of the cannabis industry.”

“This law will rebalance the playing field, where so far wealthy corporations have been able [to] buy their way through the licensing process and too many local, small business owners and Black and brown entrepreneurs have been locked out,” state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz said at the time. “The reforms and funding we fought so hard for will be game changers, putting Massachusetts back among the leading states for racial justice in our economic policy on cannabis. I’m so grateful to the many community members and grassroots leaders who came together and held the state’s feet to the fire to make this happen.”

The measure also included a provision that would have assessed a proposal to allow students to use marijuana therapies at school, but Baker vetoed that, saying the provision was “highly prescriptive — making it clear that the agencies charged with producing the study must identify ways to make medical marijuana widely available within schools, rather than considering whether such an allowance is advisable.”

”The voter initiatives that legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and 2016 included strong measures to keep marijuana away from K-12 schools and school children. Both laws explicitly stated that marijuana would in no circumstance be permitted on school grounds,” Baker said. “Because the study proposed in section 26 clearly works against these important and well-established protections and disregards the clear intentions of the voters in legalizing marijuana use, I cannot approve this part of the bill.”

The post Report: Massachusetts Cannabis Social Equity Fund At $0 Year After Launch appeared first on High Times.

Executives Re-Enact Boston Tea Party To Protest Cannabis Tax Rule

Executives from a Massachusetts-based cannabis company dressed in colonial garb aboard a ship in Boston Harbor on Wednesday to protest an IRS rule that requires regulated marijuana companies to pay taxes that are significantly higher than businesses in other industries. The demonstration, which evoked the legendary Boston Tea Party at the same site 250 years ago, was orchestrated by licensed cannabis company MariMed to protest 280E, an IRS tax rule that is the bane of state-legal cannabis companies from coast to coast.

Lucas McCann, the chief science officer and a co-founder of cannabis compliance consulting firm CannDelta, explained how the IRS rule that prohibits most standard business tax deductions affects companies in the regulated cannabis industry.

“Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code is a daunting hurdle for cannabis businesses, including retail dispensaries. In short, 280E is a code used to make cannabis businesses less profitable by making them pay more of their overall profits in taxes,” McCann, who was not involved in Wednesday’s protest, writes in an email. “Rooted in the 1980s, this outdated tax legislation was crafted to prevent drug dealers from claiming any business expenses on their taxes. In a modern twist of coincidence, today’s cannabis businesses operate legally under state law but are still treated as illicit businesses, federally speaking, because cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I substance.”

Protest Evokes The Boston Tea Party

Wednesday’s protest re-enacted the famed Boston Tea Party of 1773, when colonists protested high taxes levied by the British Crown on tea shipped to the New England colonies. In an act of independence-minded defiance, members of the group the Sons of Liberty, some disguised as Native Americans, boarded ships moored in Boston Harbor and dumped chests of tea into the water to protest the high taxes.

MariMed’s demonstration resurrected themes from the protest 250 years ago, this time featuring executives from the company dressed in period clothing aboard the Liberty Star, a schooner adorned with banners protesting 280E. Brandishing boxes emblazoned with the word “weed,” the costumed protesters shouted slogans as they boarded the ship and heaved the chests into Boston Harbor. In a statement, the company noted that the boxes were empty, made of natural wood and promptly retrieved from the water. 

“As a Boston-based multi-state cannabis operator, MariMed protested in a way that would make the company’s Patriot ancestors proud – by paying homage to the most famous tax protest in history during the year of the Boston Tea Party’s 250th anniversary,” the company wrote. “By shining a light on Section 280E’s negative financial impact on legal cannabis operators, MariMed hopes to effectuate policy change geared towards industry growth and advancement.”

Jon Levine, the CEO of MariMed, said that the demonstration was a way to draw attention to the tax rules, which negatively impact patients and consumers and threaten to cripple businesses in the regulated cannabis industry. He also called for an end to 280E for businesses operating in compliance with state law.

“Section 280E is unfair and hampers companies striving to make cannabis accessible for consumers and medical cannabis patients in all legal states,” Levine said in a statement from MariMed. “It should be repealed. Doing so would remove an obstacle to our mission to improve people’s lives every day through cannabis.” 

But eliminating the tax rule is easier said than done. A legislative repeal of the rule is required, but so far, bills to reform the federal government’s policy on cannabis have not specifically addressed 280E. The comprehensive legalization of cannabis would make the rule a moot point, but that solution is unlikely to come anytime soon.

“There are several bills that have been floated in D.C., but none to our knowledge that includes language about eliminating 280E,” Levine said in a statement to High Times. “The most likely path to the elimination of 280E is for cannabis to be rescheduled or de-scheduled altogether. President Biden has asked the Department of Health & Human Services for an opinion about that, but nothing’s happened yet. Just another example of the slog in D.C. as it pertains to federal cannabis reform.” 

The post Executives Re-Enact Boston Tea Party To Protest Cannabis Tax Rule appeared first on High Times.

Massachusetts Pot Sales Reach $152M Last Month, $4.74B Since 2018

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) recently released a report of its latest recreational cannabis sales data. In June, the state collected $132.8 million in recreational cannabis sales (the highest per-month amount for the year of 2023 so far), and $19 million in medical cannabis sales. Since the state’s adult-use cannabis sales began in November 2018, it has collected a total of $4.74 billion in adult-use sales.

According to a graph dictating the popularity of specific cannabis products, flower is the most common type by a wide margin with over $2.9 billion in sales since 2018. This is followed by vaping products ($857 million), edibles ($685 million), pre-rolls ($622 million), and concentrates ($367 million).

The report also includes plant cultivation activity, updated as of July 7 but only reflects plant data up to April 2023. A total of 3,400 plants have been harvested up until that point, with 983 plants destroyed (although reasons for this were not listed).

The state is still working out how to regulate both cannabis consumption, as well as other substances such as psilocybin. While the state’s 2016 ballot question that legalized cannabis set the foundation for licensed cannabis cafes, regulators have yet to agree on how to move forward with consumption lounges. In May, Massachusetts regulators vetoed a pilot program that would have tested social cannabis cafes in 12 communities.

However, some cities such as Salem, Massachusetts became the sixth city in the state to end arrests for possession of psilocybin. Advocacy groups such as Bay Staters for Natural Medicine are working to push this change in other towns including Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, Easthampton, and Amherst. Separately, a Massachusetts-based Temescal Wellness also recently made waves for being one of the first cannabis businesses to make April 20 a paid holiday for its employees.

Massachusetts’ record high sales reflect growing demand for cannabis in the eastern U.S. alongside other states that are also seeing success or launching their own legal cannabis industries. Its southern neighbor of Connecticut has also seen record sales, collecting more than $23 million during the month of May. In June, Connecticut also officially launched legal home cultivation, allowing adults to grow up to six plants at home under state law.

Maryland’s legal cannabis industry recently began on July 1, and collected more than $20 million during its first week. Vermont recently reported high sales in February with $6.4 million.

Maine recreational cannabis sales began in 2020, but in January the state announced that it has collected $158.9 million in 2022, which is nearly twice the amount that was collected in 2021. However, more recent reports show that more than 1,300 caregivers have left the state’s medical cannabis program since recreational legalization began.

New Hampshire legislators recently rejected a cannabis legalization bill (which caused one representative to switch from Republican to Independent), but the state did recently extend medical cannabis access to outsiders including both U.S. citizens as well as Canadians. Rhode Island is also slowly but surely making its way into the future by officially switching from paper applications to digital for medical cannabis. Not to mention how New York is moving quickly to open up new cannabis dispensaries amidst an oversupply of cannabis flower.

The post Massachusetts Pot Sales Reach $152M Last Month, $4.74B Since 2018 appeared first on High Times.

Massachusetts Cannabis Sales Reach Record High in June

Massachusetts Cannabis Sales Reach Record High in June

Summary: Massachusetts experienced a record-breaking month in June 2023, with total cannabis sales reaching just under $152 million. The state’s dispensaries reported $132.8 million in recreational cannabis sales and an additional $19 million in medical sales. Flower products continue to dominate the market, and prices have continued to drop in the state.

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Massachusetts Cannabis Sales Hits New High In June

The cannabis industry in Massachusetts experienced a record-breaking month in June, with total sales reaching just under $152 million, according to state figures. The state’s dispensaries reported $132.8 million in recreational cannabis sales and an additional $19 million in medical sales, bringing the total to $151.8 million. This data was reported by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.

May wasn’t a great month for cannabis sales…

Flower products continue to dominate the market, with sales of cannabis buds reaching $12.5 million in the week of June 26 to July 2. The second most popular product category was vape cartridges, which sold $6.3 million worth of product, followed by pre-rolled joints, bringing in $5 million that week.

June was the top-selling month of the year so far for recreational cannabis, with March coming in second at $129.4 million. Medical sales, on the other hand, were slightly down from the previous three months, despite having plateaued somewhat.

Since the launch of the recreational marijuana market in 2018, Massachusetts has sold a total of $4.74 billion in recreational marijuana and an additional $1.08 billion in medical sales since 2019, as reported by the CCC.

Hit a new record

Interestingly, prices have continued to drop in the state. The average price of a gram of cannabis was just $5.82, and the average ounce was $164.97 in June, the lowest the agency has ever recorded since it began keeping industry statistics. In January, the average price per gram was $7.11, and a year ago in June 2022, it was $10.58. This trend of falling prices could be a significant factor in the increased sales figures.

[Source: Green Market Report]


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An interesting new model…

The post Massachusetts Cannabis Sales Reach Record High in June appeared first on Cannadelics.

Scientists Identify Viroid-Resistant Purple Cannabis Strain

While humans battle COVID, cannabis plants face an equally devastating threat: Hop latent viroid (HLVd), a viroid that occurs worldwide in hops, but in recent years jumped to cannabis, destroying THC yields in infected plants.

SFGate reports that scientists from Massachusetts-based Medicinal Genomics observed a cannabis variety, Jamaican Lion, that appears to be partially resistant to HLVd, and it turns purple as it fights the viroid. 

Chief Science Officer for Medicinal Genomics Kevin McKernan presented “Hop Latent Viroid Shares a 19 Nucleotide Sequence with Cannabis sativa COG7” at CannMed23 at the Marriott Resort at Marco Island, Florida. The late Raphael Mechoulam was originally scheduled to speak at the event alongside other cannabis science leaders such as Ethan Russo, MD; Bonnie Goldstein, MD; Debra Kimless; and others. 

The strain Jamaican Lion appeared to be resistant to the viroid, and also continued to turn purple as it fought the viroid. Jamaican Lion is an award-winning strain rich in CBD.

Viroids can be spread by biological avenues, or it can be spread by growers via touch or from tools. Sterilizing with a 10% bleach solution can reduce infection. Scientists rubbed the viroid directly onto cut leaves of the plant to infect them, then injected a plant with the viroid. Six weeks later, the plant variety was still not infected after repeating the test 57 times. While the researchers were able to detect HLVd in the plant’s roots, the leaf and flower tissue tested negative up until harvest time.

“We don’t know why [this is happening]. This could be an immune response, but we’re not seeing this [purple coloring] as heavily increased in the control that’s not infected,” McKernan said.

What HLVd viroid Does to Plants

HLVd causes plants to produce smaller flowers and significantly less THC. Upon observation with an electron microscope, it causes mature trichomes—where most of the THC is located—to look like a deflated balloon instead of their normal ball shape.  A study shows that as many as 90% of California cannabis is infected with HLVd, and that it could cost up to $4 billion in lost yields. While the viroid is bad news for cannabis, viroids only infect plants, therefore it’s not a physical danger to humans.

It’s not immediately clear why the plant was resistant to the viroid. McKernan said it turned purple as the production of anthocyanin, a chemical that can turn plants purple, was increased. The team believes that scientists should set out to determine if there are more purple plants that are resistant to HLVd, because anthocyanin production is already linked to fighting viroids.

The cannabis variety could help save pot farms. “There is literature that links anthocyanin production with viroid infection. This is in different plants and with different viroids but these anthocyanins are a known immune response for plants,” McKernan told SFGate.

McKernan turned to cannabis to help combat his father’s stage-4 prostate cancer. He used professional guidance from Mechoulam, Goldstein, Kimless, and others to maximize the health benefits of cannabinoids.

Zamir K. Punja said at the conference that HLVd should be considered  a “major threat” to cannabis farms. Punja calls HLVd the “COVID of the cannabis world.” Findings suggest that THC yields from infected plants can drop as much as 40%, which is bad news to a cannabis farm.

Medicinal Genomics’ long-term solution in the battle against HLVd is to breed resistant cultivars—perhaps some purple varieties—that do not experience yield or potency loss.

The post Scientists Identify Viroid-Resistant Purple Cannabis Strain appeared first on High Times.

The Veteran Chronicles: Gotta Grow

I am incredibly proud to bring you another former United States Marine 0311 rifleman (like myself) to this month’s Veteran Chronicles: Tom Rand.

Rand is a Marine Corps veteran, activist, proud father, and husband who was born and raised in Reading, Massachusetts. At the ripe young age of 17, Rand bravely stepped on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, South Carolina, a tradition that all recruits undergo in their transition from civilian to U.S. Marine. He was immediately deployed to Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983, and when he returned home, he was stationed at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, for the duration of his service.

Today, Rand will proudly tell you that he has broken free from the chains of big pharmaceutical companies and the addiction that often comes with those very strong chains—chains that very few veterans can break. Now, Rand proudly pays allegiance to longtime Korean War veteran brothers for leading him down the path toward medicinal cannabis. That’s all it took to open his eyes wide to the healing powers and possibilities of cannabis.

Nearly a decade ago, Rand proudly picked up the nickname “Tom Cape Gardener”—a reference to Rand’s mission to help any and all veterans who wanted the opportunity to grow their own cannabis. Rand reaches out to other local growers and producers in search of donations, such as used equipment, seeds, lights, ballasts, etc., to give to his fellow veterans for free. Rand has never charged a veteran a penny for anything that has been donated. As Rand likes to put it, he does it “all for a handshake,” a motto he has used since the founding of his organization.

Five years ago, Rand realized his mission wasn’t a solo journey. Rand needed assistance from other patriots and veterans, which led to the creation of his organization, Patriots Helping Vets. It initially began as a Facebook group that helped him network with veterans and civilians in his community. Patriots Helping Vets now brings together those who are willing to jump on board with the organization’s mission: “To provide U.S. veterans the equipment, support, and education for horticultural therapy.” Rand and his organization are currently working on becoming a 501(c)(4) nonprofit charity to officially give more veterans nationwide the opportunity to become a self-sustaining, productive grower in their gardens. Ultimately, Rand empowers veterans and teaches them how to cultivate their own herbal medicine.

High Times: How many years passed after your military service before you learned about the healing properties of medical cannabis?

Tom Rand: I learned about the benefits from using cannabis medicinally about 25 years after getting out.

Do you believe that we will see the end of cannabis prohibition in your lifetime?

I would like to see it repealed and allow every citizen the ability to grow [cannabis] and get the true benefit of horticultural therapy. I don’t have much faith in our government to legalize it without it being a shit show.

What organizations or individuals have been a staple in providing donations or volunteering to help foster and grow your mission?

My family has always been my biggest supporters. My wife, Marty, and kids, Josh and Mary, helped make my dream into a mission. Ian Schlesinger from Purpose Genetics has provided thousands of seeds over the years. The Massachusetts cannabis community, without their support I don’t know where my mission would be. The Harvest Cup, New England’s best cannabis cup, and MassCann [and] The Boston Freedom Rally. Anthony B has always been in my corner with supporting our mission, donating hundreds of clones every spring to give out. We had a lot of help along the way unbreakabowl.com, stoneddust.com, and Pot Pockets have helped with giveaways throughout the years. Stem Haverhill has been incredibly supportive. To see where we have come from to having Growers Choice Horticultural lighting, Petratools, MicrobeLifeHydro, ChilLED grow lights, The Soil King, Project Delta 518, Brothers Grimm Seeds’s Rick [Campanella] always goes beyond to show us support. Now the misfits help steer the mission in the right direction. They consist of Shar, Rick, Jeremy, Josh, Mary, Ian, Dari, Joe, Joseph, Ronnie, Elton, Kyle, LaToya, and Dan. It’s amazing to see the passion they have towards our mission.

In one word, please describe the current state of legalization in Massachusetts.

Unfair. The [veterans] that have a true passion of growing medicine have a lot harder of a time, it seems, than the greedy bottom liners. The ones [who] suffered the most from the dark ages have the hardest time to open a grow operation or dispensary. I had the privilege to follow Big Ed and Ed Desousa’s journey of following their dream. After a lot of hurdles and hoops to go through, they created RiverRun Gardens, which produces some of the finest cannabis in the state. Why? Because they have pride and passion for their products.

What year did Massachusetts legalize medical and recreational cannabis?

Medical passed on November 6, 2012, and recreational on December 15, 2016.

Did the state of Massachusetts add any benefits to veterans as part of its legalization programs? Anything such as free medication or free authorizations for vets programs?

None that I’m aware of, but we have always helped veterans with free meds and FECO [full extract cannabis oil], along with passing on donated lights, nutrients, clones, and seeds. We just recently teamed up with Dr. Marion McNabb from The Cannabis Center of Excellence and Gibby’s Garden [who] launched the first Massachusetts Veterans Cannabis Access Research Project. Veterans can enroll and complete a baseline survey and have the opportunity (only 450 qualifying veterans) can receive two 1/8 ounces of flower, two pre-rolls, and a 15 ml of tincture for only $2.

Where do you see Patriots Helping Vets in 2032?

Hopefully we will be legally helping every veteran from every state to grow their own meds. We want to eventually have co-ops across the nation that covers operating expenses [and] then donate the balance of harvest to local veterans [who] can’t grow or afford to buy this wonderful medicine. Become more involved with the lobbying of the right for every veteran to grow their own meds at home. I truly believe that if a state only allows sales but not home grows then that’s just fucking taxation. Community cannabis gardens [should be allowed] across the country with classes and workshops all for free to veterans—they’ve paid too much already to be charged a penny.

What is your all-time favorite strain of cannabis?

Maui Waui, aka Maui Wowie, is by far my most beneficial strain.

Any mentors you would like to praise or give thanks to?

Dr. Howard Irwin for bringing my soil game to a whole new level with using natural local resources. Harold and Keith for showing me what this wonderful plant was really about. They taught me instead of growing a ton.

This article was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Biotech Company Seeks FDA Approval For Psilocybin-IBS Treatment

Tryp Therapeutics announced on Wednesday that it had “submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its planned Phase 2a clinical trial investigating the effects of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of patients aged 21+ suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).”

The Canadian company said in the announcement that the “planned open label study in collaboration with Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital will evaluate the effect of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in patients with treatment-resistant IBS who experience chronic abdominal pain and other debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms.” 

“Many of these patients also suffer from fibromyalgia, anxiety and fatigue. The primary efficacy endpoint of the study will be improvement in abdominal pain. The proposed study will also explore changes in brain connectivity and responses to pain at baseline and at four weeks, six months and twelve months post the psychedelic drug sessions, along with numerous other secondary endpoints,” the announcement said. 

“Tryp and our collaborators at Harvard/MGH believe there is tremendous potential for the treatment of debilitating IBS symptoms by utilizing the combined administration of psilocybin and psychotherapy. The clinical study will examine how psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may alter brain networks involved in chronic abdominal pain and gastrointestinal-specific anxiety in patients with IBS to improve their symptoms. Submission of IND 163994 is an important step in advancing our program,” said Jim Gilligan, the chief executive officer of Tryp Therapeutics.

Gilligan told Green Market Report that the “most important thing is a clinical data – to be able to not just assume or hypothesize that we’re going to have a benefit, but to actually demonstrate that we can do something positive for patients.

“We’re looking at things a little bit differently than the big guys, looking at unique areas where we can have first-mover advantage. But we’re judicious in selecting areas where we really think that we’ll have a positive outcome,” Gilligan said.

According to Green Market Report, Gilligan “likened the planned administration of psilocin to the work of anesthesiologists.”

“Using an IV to induce and subsequently awaken the patient from the psychedelic state, the approach might also allow for the use of serotonin antagonists to terminate the psychedelic experience, if necessary,” the outlet said, which noted that TRP-8803 will be “central” to the company’s approach to the therapy.

TRP-8803 is “Tryp’s lead program,” the company says, describing it as “a proprietary formulation of IV-infused psilocin (the active metabolite of psilocybin) that alleviates numerous shortcomings of oral psilocybin including: significantly reducing the time to onset of the psychedelic state, controlling the depth and duration of the psychedelic experience, and reducing the overall duration of the intervention to a commercially feasible timeframe.

“The Company has an ongoing Phase 2a clinical trial for the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder at the University of Florida, an upcoming Phase 2a clinical trial with the University of Michigan for the treatment of fibromyalgia and a planned Phase 2a trial for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome at Mass General Hospital, all of which are utilizing TRP-8802 (synthetic, oral psilocybin) to demonstrate efficacy in these indications. Where a preliminary clinical benefit has been demonstrated, subsequent studies are expected to utilize TRP-8803 (IV-infused psilocin) which has the potential to further improve efficacy, safety and patient experience,” Tryp said in Wednesday’s announcement. 

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Salem, Massachusetts Will No Longer Arrest People for Psilocybin

Salem, a city notorious for its 17th century witch trials, is creating a new reputation for itself by ceasing a modern-day witch hunt. As of this month, Salem is ending arrests for psilocybin mushrooms, Psychedelic Spotlight reports. It is now the sixth Massachusetts city to do so, after a 9-0 city council vote supporting the measure. Psilocybin is understood to be perhaps one of the safest drugs out there. Findings published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shared that only 0.2% of magic mushroom users have sought emergency medical care after use. For those who had a lousy experience, it was a negative psychological (a bad trip) that resolved within 24 hours. In addition, you cannot die from a psilocybin physical overdose. (Comparatively, the World Health Organization reports that 3 million deaths yearly result from the destructive use of alcohol, representing 5.3% of all deaths.) 

The passage of the Salem measure comes after the FDA has classified psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for depression. Salem resident and neuroscientist Miyabe Shields said, “This is a win for science and the neurodivergent community to advance life-saving research on the complex innerworkings of our brains,” Psychedelic Spotlight reports.

As too many people know (according to Columbia University, one in ten Americans have depression), the standard treatment for depression, medicines like SSRIs and SNRIs, only improve symptoms in about 20 out of 100 people, data from the National Library of Medicine shows. Psychedelic options such as psilocybin and ketamine are literal lifesavers for the many folks who do not respond to traditional pharmaceuticals. Additionally, while medicines like SSRIs take several weeks to yield results, psychedelics can reduce depression in a matter of hours. Speaking about the measure, as Psychedelic Spotlight reports, disabled Marine Corp Veteran Michael Botelho, an active organizer with both Bay Staters and New England Veterans for Plant Medicine who served in combat during the Gulf War, shares that: “Through the VA system, I was prescribed over 160 medications, including opiates, to cope with PTSD before finding psilocybin mushrooms. For the first time in nearly 25 years, I have been able to sleep, overcome addiction to opiates, and work again.” Certainly, more New Englanders experiencing depression will feel comfortable using psychedelic treatments now that the risk of arrest is off the table. 

Additionally, research shows that psilocybin has an influential role in the harm reduction movement. A study of 44,000 Americans in the U.S. Journal of Psychopharmacology discovered that psilocybin is associated with a 40% reduced risk of suffering opioid addiction. Data from the CDC shows that opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths in 2020 (74.8% of all drug overdose deaths). This powerful property of psilocybin gained the Salem measure a surprising supporter. You don’t have to turn off N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police,” but know that Lucas Miller, the Chief of Police for the City, endorsed the measure before the city’s final vote. “The indications that psilocybin could be helpful for opiate addiction is something that should not be ignored. We lose about 20 people in Salem a year to opioid overdose,” Miller says, Psychedelic Spotlight reports.

Salem may be the sixth Massachusetts city to end arrests for psilocybin mushrooms, but it won’t be the last. 

The grassroots group who deserves credit for successfully implementing the campaign, which was years in the making, Bay Staters for Natural Medicine, has partnered with Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, Easthampton, and Amherst to pass similar measures. In addition, the organization is currently pushing state legislation, which includes An Act Relative to Plant Medicine, which would legalize home growing and sharing of psilocybin and related plants. 

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