Cannabis Goes Kashrut: Israel and Orthodox Conversion

Israel is the most advanced medical cannabis market in the world thanks to the ground-breaking research of Israeli scientists. There are over 100,000 patients with valid cannabis licenses. Beyond this, there is evidence that Jews have used cannabis for religious reasons for thousands of years

But so far, modern Orthodox, or even slightly less observant Jews—both in Israel and beyond—have been leery of taking cannabis, even as medicine. And when it comes to these kinds of decisions, it is usually Israel that has the final say.

The reason? Cannabis as medicine had not been certified as kosher—or kashrut—before in Israel (although burgeoning attempts exist in the U.S.). The term “kosher” refers to regulations that prohibit observant Jews from eating certain foods and require that others be prepared in a certain manner—in other words according to Jewish law.

This has now changed. A kashrut certification for Seach Medical Group was issued—and further was discovered as the company listed on the stock exchange. While this has not helped the performance of the company’s stock, it may well herald a new day in Israel and beyond for medical cannabis brands with the right certifications and market reach. Namely, more Jewish people—including those who are Orthodox—may be inclined to use medical cannabis. If a product is kosher, they can consume it even on Shabbat (holy days) and other religious holidays.

Is Cannabis Kosher?

This is a big issue on the cannabis front (and not just in Israel). It is also complicated because of the grey areas created by legalization. For example, some observant Jews would not take any cannabis—particularly if it had any THC in it on Shabbat (the weekly holy day that exists from sundown on Friday until Sunday morning). In life or death situations, Jewish law does not require that medicines are designated as kosher, but it is usually preferred and recommended that any medicine is certified as such.

Now that a cannabis company has been certified as kosher in Israel, the doubt can end. 

Not only will this (of course) increase the use of medical cannabis domestically, it will also begin to open the discussion outside of the country as well. Starting with the U.S.

Type the words “kosher” and “cannabis” into your browser, and you will see that there is already a trend in the U.S. (starting with California). This is also a conversation in New York.

How might this certification be added to create a different but highly accurate test for purity and healthiness? Not to mention create a unique branding and market entry opportunity?

Does Cannabis Need Kashrut Certification?

As a plant, cannabis is not something that would typically require kosher certification. This is a stamp of approval granted by a rabbinic agency, which will check ingredients, the production process, and the production facility. Consider it a kind of Talmudic GMP meets ISO.

It is usually applied to meat and places where food is processed. However, it is also applied to medicine.

The significance in Israel, of course, is that both the medicines and edibles market can now be certified as kosher. This will undoubtedly drive additional sales as large new percentages of the population can partake. According to the most recent reports released by the Israeli government, the majority of the country identifies as religious. Forty-two percent of the population identify as secular.

In the United States, this means that beyond any state (and presumably federal when it comes) certifications for cannabis, any company hoping to reach the Jewish market in states like New York will also do well to consider this kind of certification.

The Global Jewish Cannabis Market

Walk into any mainstream German grocery store these days and you will find a special kosher section. Indeed, Jews all over Germany import New York state manufactured wine for use in their ceremonies.

There is a huge global niche market for kosher products—and with just a few destination points outside of Israel.

This starts with the U.S. (and just behind them, the U.K.).

In the U.S., 2.4% of the population is Jewish, and 21% of New York identifies as such—the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. California comes second with about 1.5 million Jews, with Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania rounding out the top five states.

This is a targetable population. And now, thanks to the rabbinical approval in Israel of a cannabis medicine, that conversation can happen globally.

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South Dakota Medical Cannabis Recommendations Jump After Mass Registration Event

The number of patients registered to use medical cannabis in South Dakota has jumped in recent weeks following a mass registration event held in April.

South Dakota voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the approval of a ballot measure in 2020 that passed with nearly 70% of the vote, and late last year the state Department of Health began accepting applications for medical cannabis identification cards for patients who had received a recommendation from their doctor. But after more than five months, the health department had issued fewer than 500 identification cards to eligible patients. Cannabis advocates with South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws expected to see thousands of registered patients in that time.

“I think they’re going incredibly slow,” Melissa Mentele, the primary drafter of Initiated Measure 26, the 2020 ballot measure that legalized medical pot in South Dakota, told the Argus Leader.

South Dakota’s medical cannabis law requires patients with qualifying medical conditions to receive a recommendation to use weed medicinally from a physician licensed by the state. Doctors must meet with their patients in person to issue the recommendation, unlike many states that allow telephone or video consultations.

South Dakota Marijuana Spring Fling Certifies New Patients

To help those who can benefit from medical cannabis, a Michigan-based company organized a three-day event in April to connect doctors with potential medical patients. But Molefi Branson, the founder of MyMarijuanaCards.com, had difficulty finding local doctors to certify patients after sending out hundreds of inquiries to physicians across the state. Statewide, only 96 doctors had registered with the health department’s online portal, a required step to certify patients for South Dakota’s medical cannabis program.

“Despite being available since November, only a few South Dakota residents have been able to obtain a state-issued medical cannabis card due to the limited number of doctors authorized to certify patients in the state,” Branson said in a statement from the company.

As a service to patients, Branson’s company recruited doctors based in other states including Illinois and Missouri to obtain a license to practice medicine in South Dakota so they could write recommendations during a mass screening. Dubbed the Marijuana Spring Fling, the three-day event took place in downtown Sioux Falls from April 26 through April 28.

“The demand is so high and we had zero luck with any practitioners in South Dakota wanting to put their neck out for patients,” Branson said. “So we had to get them licensed here.”

Before the medical weed card registration event launched, the health department was issuing an average of two medical cannabis identification cards per day. As of April 26, the agency had approved only 419 cards since it began processing applications on November 8. In the less than three weeks since the Marijuana Spring Fling, the health department has issued an average of 16 medical cards per day, with the total number issued jumping more than half to 652, according to the most recent data available.

Major Healthcare Systems Wary of Medical Pot

Medical cannabis advocates say that the major healthcare systems in South Dakota, Sanford Health and Avera Health, have not supported the state’s medical weed program and have failed to provide information about the number of doctors who have been certified or how many recommendations they have written.

“These major health systems are creating such a barrier,” Mentele said. “Realistically, we should have 10 times that in the state of South Dakota.”

Both health care systems have publicly taken a neutral stance on medical cannabis, saying that they do not support or oppose its use. Issuing medical cannabis recommendations is at the discretion of doctors.

“It is up to each individual Sanford provider to determine the use of medical marijuana in regards to each patient’s individual care plan and what they feel is medically best for their patients,” said Dr. Joshua Crabtree, clinic vice president for Sanford Health’s Sioux Falls region.

The details of South Dakota’s medical cannabis program have also made some physicians wary to provide recommendations to use cannabis medicinally to their patients. Under the law, doctors who certify patients must attest that medical pot will have a therapeutic or palliative effect on the patient.

In March, the state legislature passed and Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill to amend the medical cannabis program. Under the change in law, doctors will only have to certify that the patient has one of the serious medical conditions that qualify a patient to use weed medicinally. Medical cannabis advocates and health care officials expect more patients to be approved for the program after the change in law goes into effect on July 1.

“We continue to evaluate the medical cannabis program in South Dakota and changes to the program, including some of the changes made during this last South Dakota Legislative Session,” Crabtree said.

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Zimbabwe President Commissions $27 Million Medical Cannabis Plant

The president of Zimbabwe on Wednesday reportedly commissioned a farm and processing plant for medical cannabis cultivation worth $27 million.

Business Insider reports that President Emmerson Mnangagwa “commissioned the medical cannabis farm, and processing plant at Mount Hampden set up by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe…to produce cannabis (mbanje or dagga) for medical and scientific purposes,” saying in a speech that “the rapid development of the processing plant, which adds significant value to the crop, was a testimony of the success of the Government’s engagement policy and the confidence Swiss companies and investors had in Zimbabwe and its economy.”

“This milestone is a testimony of the successes of my Government’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. It further demonstrates the confidence that Swiss companies have in our economy through their continued investment in Zimbabwe. I extend my profound congratulations to the Swiss Bioceuticals Limited for this timely investment in the medicinal cannabis farm, processing plant and value chain, worth US$27 million,” Mnangagwa said in a speech on Wednesday, as quoted by Business Insider.

Business Insider reported that the president “added that the investors should follow the company’s lead and open their business to support the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business and be ready to generate foreign currency generation for the country.”

The announcement of the farm comes nearly three years after the country did away with its laws banning the cultivation of cannabis as it looked to produce a new crop to export. A year before that, in 2018, the country legalized medical cannabis.

The repeal of the ban is part of a concerted effort by Zimbabwe to pivot from its longtime major exporter, tobacco, of which it is the leading producer on the continent.

As tobacco exports bring in far less money to Zimbabwe farmers and producers than they used to, many in the country’s industry have shifted to cannabis production.

In reporting on the repeal of the cannabis ban in 2019, Bloomberg noted that the country was seeking “to boost export revenue and offset the global campaign against tobacco, a major source of foreign currency,” with Zimbabwe officials saying at the time that it would initially be focused on hemp and medicinal cannabis.

Earlier this week, Reuters detailed the country’s still-young medical cannabis industry and how farmers there have adapted.

Reuters, citing Barclays analysts, reported that the “global cannabis industry could be worth $272 billion by 2028,” and that “Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has said the country wants at least $1 billion of that—more than it currently makes from its top agricultural export tobacco.”

Reuters spotlighted a 35-year-old Zimbabwean grower named Munyaradzi Nyanungo, who has been issued one of the 57 cannabis operating licenses in the country.

“We stand to sell cannabis at $25 per kilogramme, which is five, six times more than what a good tobacco crop can give you. We are actually sitting on a green gold mine,” Nyanungo told Reuters.

Nyanungo has a U.S.-based partner in “King Kong Organics, which supplies seed and other inputs, purchased the greenhouses under an off-take agreement that will see the company buying the cannabis crop for processing.”

On Wednesday, Mnangagwa, the country’s president, “also urged other investors with permits to quickly operationalize their permits and licenses for the benefit of the economy in general and people in particular,” according to Business Insider.

“I challenge other players within the medicinal cannabis sub-sector to speedily set up their enterprises, focusing on value addition and beneficiation. It is disappointing that since 2018, only 15 out of the 57 entities issued with cannabis operating [licenses] have been operational,” Mnangagwa said, as quoted by Business Insider.

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Miami Finally Gives OK to Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

More than five years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016, city leaders in Miami finally relented and have voted to allow a business to pursue opening a medical dispensary within the city limits. With a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the Miami City Commission ended its de facto ban on medical cannabis retailers and cleared the way for businesses to begin applying for permits to operate.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said at Thursday’s meeting, according to a report from the Miami Herald. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Medical Cannabis Legalized in Florida in 2016

Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the approval of a constitutional amendment ballot measure in 2016. The amendment passed by voters gave local governments the authority to ban or regulate medical pot dispensaries, but the Miami city government failed to pass measures to take either step.

The passage of the amendment prompted entrepreneur Romie Chaudhari, a Los Angeles-based real estate investor, to apply for a permit for his business MRC44 to open a medical pot dispensary at a site in downtown Miami. Chaudhari was denied a permit for the dispensary, with the Miami city attorney arguing that the ballot initiative is in violation of the federal prohibition of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Chaudhari and MRC44 then sued the city of Miami in federal court for a permit to open a medical dispensary. The judge sent the case to state court but ruled that the city had “failed to act” by not banning or regulating dispensaries.

Miami’s Planning and Zoning Appeals Board ruled in favor of Chaudhari’s plan to open a dispensary, but the city zoning director appealed that decision in April 2021. On Thursday the city commissioners voted to deny the appeal, clearing the way for Chaudhari and MRC44 to continue its quest to gain the proper permits and license to operate.

Commissioner Ken Russell, who is a registered medical cannabis patient and has publicly voiced his support for cannabis policy reform, voted to deny the appeal and allow Chaudhari to seek approval for the dispensary.

“I believe the state constitution is clear that we had the right to ban this use in our city and we have not done that,” Russell said, as quoted by the Miami New Times. “[Chaudhari has] applied in earnest under the lack of that ban, and I believe therefore we should grant their certificate of use.”

He said that it is time for the federal government to catch up with state and local governments that have legalized cannabis for medical use.

“Florida voters decided that it should be accessible in our state,” Russell added. “Because of the conflict between state and federal law, however, our City Commission had to settle the dispute as to whether our residents would get that access. We voted that they will.”

Regulations Still To Come

Russell was joined in Thursday’s vote by City Commissioners Alex Díaz de la Portilla and Christine King, who said that the city government was on the wrong side of the issue. Díaz de la Portilla said that the will of the voters should be respected and that the city should regulate medical cannabis dispensaries to avoid a proliferation of the businesses.

“The people of Florida decided to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida,” he said. “The city of Miami has to keep up with the times. Properly regulated, it’s the time to do it. We have to move forward and not look backwards.”

Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes voted against the measure, arguing that the city should first implement a plan to regulate medical pot dispensaries to prevent a mass influx of the operations.

“I’m of the opinion that before we move forward in voting on this we need to establish our ordinance that what are the procedures and guidelines for someone to open up such an establishment,” Carollo said at Thursday’s meeting of the city commission. “Otherwise, we’re kind of making this into a sort of Cheech and Chong free-for-all.”

Reyes echoed his colleague’s sentiments, saying “You know how it is. They are going to be all over.”

“Wherever you go and they are permitted, you see people smoking pot in the streets,” he said.

Diaz de la Portilla agreed that the commission should act to regulate dispensaries.

“With the understanding that we are going to address the issues because Commissioners Reyes and Carollo are correct that we have to have a policy so we don’t have a proliferation of these dispensaries throughout our city,” Diaz de la Portilla said as he seconded Russell’s motion to vote in favor of Chaudhari.

An attorney representing MRC44 declined to comment after Thursday’s vote.

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Pennsylvania Court Rules Medical Cannabis Still A Controlled Substance

A court in Pennsylvania this month ruled against a medical cannabis patient who had appealed a 2021 driving under the influence conviction. 

The York Daily Record has the background on the case involving Franklin Dabney, a 29-year-old from Hanover, Pennsylvania who was arrested in 2020 after a Pennsylvania state trooper in an unmarked vehicle clocked him going 93 miles per hour in a 65 zone.

The trooper “noticed a ‘strong odor of raw marijuana’ coming from inside the vehicle,” the York Daily Record reported, prompting Dabney to “[take] out a medical marijuana card and [state] that the smell was probably originating from his clothes.”

“Law enforcement conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle, finding flakes of suspected marijuana near the center console and front-passenger seat as well as a shopping bag containing three baggies of weed,” the Daily Record reported. “Dabney, police said, had dilated and red eyes. He also showed signs of impairment during standard field sobriety tests. Police arrested Dabney and took him to Gettysburg Hospital, where a blood test revealed that he had active marijuana compounds and metabolites in his system. Prosecutors later agreed to exclude the weed found in his car from evidence and withdrew three of the charges against him.”

A little more than a year after the arrest, a Pennsylvania judge “found Dabney guilty of driving under the influence, careless driving, and speeding and sentenced him to six months’ probation, with 10 days on house arrest and handed down almost $1,115 in fines,” according to the Daily Record, which spurred the appeal. 

Per the newspaper, Dabney and his attorneys contended that “that medical marijuana is not a Schedule 1 controlled substance in Pennsylvania and that law enforcement should be prohibited from charging and prosecuting him for two subsections of DUI,” and if it were, the DUI law would be in conflict with the state’s medical cannabis statute.

Last week, a panel of three judges in the Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected that argument. 

In the ruling, Judge Deborah A. Kunselman, said that “medical marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance,” and that “no conflict exists between the [Medical Marijuana Act] and the Vehicle Code.”

“There is no need for ‘medical marijuana’ to be listed as a Schedule I controlled substance because medical marijuana is marijuana, specifically marijuana ‘for certified medical use,’” Kunselman wrote, adding that the Medical Marijuana Act “did not remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I controlled substances.”

Additionally, the panel rejected Dabney’s contention that the state trooper was wrong to conclude that there was probable cause to arrest him for DUI.

“We find no merit to this issue. Our Supreme Court has held that because of the MMA, ‘the odor of marijuana alone does not amount to probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle but, rather, may be considered as a factor in examining the totality of the circumstances,” Kunselman wrote. 

The case could have ripple effects for Pennsylvania’s more than 400,000 medical cannabis patients.

As the York Daily Record noted, the ruling “is precedential, which means that it has a binding effect on future cases in Pennsylvania,” and it remains unclear if Dabney will file another appeal.

“That’s certainly something we’re considering,” Dabney’s attorney, Christian DeFilippo, said, as quoted by the York Daily Record. “I want to let him take some time to make that decision.”

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Thailand to Give Away 1 Million Free Cannabis Plants for Home Cultivation

Let the planting begin. Thailand’s government leadership signaled optimism regarding the country’s recent shift in medical cannabis reform with a massive plant giveaway.

Thailand Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he will offer households 1 million cannabis plants for free in a May 8 Facebook post. Furthermore, beginning on June 9, Thailand residents will have the freedom to grow “as many cannabis plants” as they like in their own homes for medical purposes, according to Charnvirakul.

The Nation Thailand reports that the homegrown cannabis must be grown for medical purposes. Licensing will not be required for home cultivation, unlike commercial cannabis and hemp companies in the country.

“This will enable people and the government to generate more than 10 billion baht [$288,846,200 per year] in revenue from marijuana and hemp,” Charnvirakul said. “Meanwhile, people can showcase their cannabis and hemp-related products and wisdom and sell their products nationwide.”

Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical cannabis in 2018. In 2020, the Cabinet in Thailand has approved amendments to the country’s narcotics act which would allow for private production and sale of medical cannabis. Last January, Thailand also became the first country in Asia to legally allow cannabis.

Licensed companies in Thailand can sell hemp products with less than 0.2 percent THC—a tad bit more strict than the 0.3 THC limit imposed on hemp in the United States.

While home cultivation of medical cannabis will have few restrictions, large cannabis-related businesses must request permission to operate from the Thailand Food and Drug Administration, he added.

People who grow commercially without first obtaining permission from the government will face a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($577.76). People who sell commercial cannabis without a license face a fine of up to 300,000 baht ($8,665.76) or three years in jail, or both.

The intention is to redefine cannabis as a “household crop,” and it’s the latest maneuver in Thailand’s plan to transform cannabis into a cash crop.

About one-third of Thailand’s entire labor force works in agriculture, according to The World Bank.

The Free Market in Thailand

Charnvirakul added that he wants to allow entrepreneurs and businesses to compete freely in Thailand’s cannabis market.

After legalizing medical cannabis in 2018, the country reportedly saw its own “Green Rush,” primarily composed of infused edibles, drinks, and cosmetics companies with a big focus on hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD as well as terpenes. This took place after the use of hemp-derived ingredients were approved for use in edibles and cosmetics.

Dirk De Cuyper, CEO of S Hotels and Resorts told Benzinga that it is a destination for medical tourism, when asked about the country’s latest developments.

Businesses such as Chopaka, OG Papers, and Bloom discussed the blossoming cannabis community in Thailand. “The new market is interesting,” entrepreneur Kitty Chopaka told High Times in March, representing a terpene-infused gummy company. “Because we’re in Asia, many people are curious but don’t want to get high.”

Despite the new focus on medical applications, cannabis is well-known in the country for recreational purposes as well. Legendary Thai Sticks have been supplied on and off to the U.S. since the Vietnam War. Only the finest sativas were chosen, tied with silk to bamboo or hemp stalks, and rolled in hash oil (or opium). Reportedly it was the highest quality weed around in the 70s. The modern equivalent might be a strong canna cigar. According to Danny Danko in 2015, Thai Sticks fell out of favor years ago as some farmers in the lowlands of Thailand were forced to switch from the cultivation of the country’s stellar sativas for more profitable poppy plants.

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Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill To Increase Penalties For Selling Medical Cannabis to Non-Cardholders

Lawmakers in Oklahoma have signed off on a bill that would stiffen penalties for individuals who purchase medical cannabis and then sell the product to non-cardholders.

After previously earning passage in the state House, the Oklahoma state Senate gave approval to the measure.

“As many Oklahomans know, when State Question 788 was passed to legalize medical marijuana, we were quickly thrown into a situation where we needed to create the framework and guidelines for this industry,” said GOP state Sen. Lonnie Paxton, who authored the legislation. “Unfortunately, this led to the inadvertent mixing of medical marijuana legislation and criminal justice reform legislation, resulting in the ability for someone to buy marijuana product legally, but then re-sell it to a child or someone who doesn’t have their card, with only an administrative fine. Ultimately, this is drug dealing, but only with the equivalent offense of a traffic ticket. SB 1367 fixes this loophole and makes this practice a criminal offense.”

According to a release from the Oklahoma state Senate on Monday, the “measure increases the fine for a person who intentionally or improperly diverts medical marijuana from $200 to $400 on the first offense, and from $500 to $1,000 on the second offense.’ Should someone get busted for a third time, “they could lose their medical marijuana license,” according to the release, which said that the bill “also increases the fines for sales or transfers of medical marijuana to unauthorized persons to $5,000 for the first violation and $15,000 for subsequent violations.”

“I want to be very clear that we are going after the black-market medical marijuana industry and drug dealers with this bill—not college friends who are sharing marijuana product with no money exchanged,” Paxton said in a statement. “These black-market dealers are targeting and selling marijuana to our kids and others who don’t have a medical card, and we are giving our law enforcement officials the ability to do their jobs and prosecute these offenders under criminal violation of the law.”

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. Should it receive his signature, the new law would take effect on November 1.

Voters in Oklahoma passed a ballot initiative legalizing medical cannabis in 2018.

Earlier this year, regulators in the Sooner State approved details of a new tracking system that was required in a bill passed by lawmakers in 2019.

The Oklahoman reported earlier this year that the implementation “of the tracking system is seen as a major step toward curbing the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana in Oklahoma,” with officials in the state saying that “it would improve the effectiveness and speed of any future recall efforts, while allowing law enforcement to detect unusual patterns that may indicate the product is being diverted to the black market.”

The approval from the regulators in late February meant that medical cannabis dispensaries in Oklahoma had 90 days to comply with the requirements under the new system, which aims to ensure that all cannabis products adhere to state regulations.

“It’s going to help us with that chain of custody of every single product in the state,” Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority Director Adria Berry said at the time, as quoted by The Oklahoman. “If there is a product that is not in the seed-to-sale tracking system, then it is not legal—and we will be able to discover that quickly.”

Cannabis advocates are hoping to build on the success of the medical cannabis program in Oklahoma. In January, a group of activists announced a campaign to get a recreational cannabis legalization initiative on the state ballot this year.

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Should German Cannabis Legalization Include Social Equity Set-Asides?

There is a great deal of excitement in the air aus Deutschland after the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported last week that the Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, wants to prioritize recreational cannabis reform as early as this summer. This after repeated rumors earlier in the year that legalization was in a legislative slow lane—after COVID, the Ukraine, and whatever other crisis was more compelling politically.

According to Lauterbach, not only has he changed his views about reform in the last year, but beyond this, he believes that the status quo actually does more harm than a properly regulated, legal market.

The question now becomes how this might be achieved—especially in a country where both the initial cultivation allotments as well as the monopoly distribution license for the same were allocated in ways that were highly discriminatory, if not problematic beyond this for other reasons.

Completely Resetting a New Normal

There are a lot of debates, and plenty of ideas, now swirling about the “best” form of reform. This includes how to allow dispensaries to operate and what form they might take. But one that has not been mentioned (so far at least) is the idea of social equity set-asides. And for whom.

In the United States, in part to compensate for decades of Drug War-instigated racial targeting and increased percentages of arrests and prosecutions for people of color, the idea of set-asides for these communities within the cannabis industry has been a part of the debate for most of this decade. It is slowly becoming a reality as more and more states sign up for reform. Here is the basic premise behind such considerations: People and groups who were unfairly and unduly targeted and punished by Prohibition should get a real opportunity to only reset their lives, but further, be given early support within this new legal industry to do that successfully.

In Germany, the dynamics are not quite the same. However there clearly are groups who have been disadvantaged for decades and might benefit from set-asides, affirmative action, special funding pools, and targeted hiring as the new industry becomes legit.

Here are a few of them:

German Jews (and their descendants)

Until 2020, most Jews who managed to escape the country during the Third Reich (and their descendants) were shamefully prevented from re-obtaining German citizenship by a variety of just post-Nazi-era Administrative Court decisions. These legal precedents barred most survivors from returning to the country at all—and discouraged their children from doing so as well. Beyond this, reparations were a pittance compared to what was actually lost. It was also Jews who pioneered early research into the plant in the 1930s as both they and cannabis were being banned from public and scientific life.

After a far-reaching immigration lawsuit decided by the Supreme Court (2BvR 2628/18) and the actions of the Bundestag last year to amend the Citizenship Act accordingly, that path to reclaiming citizenship is now open for the first time since the end of WWII. New cultivation, distribution, research and even set-asides for shop licensing across the country would certainly signal that the German government is finally beginning to accept longer term responsibility for rehoming this population and further giving them an immediate integration opportunity plus financial and other help to get a start in a lucrative new industry in their long-lost Heimat (homeland).

Other Ethnic Minorities

Germany is not the United States, but there is racism of the “other” kind here, and there is certainly a correlation, if even less studied, between arrests for drug crimes and the color of one’s skin as well as ethnic background. Certainly, upon legalization, such individuals should automatically have their records expunged, if not given special consideration for at least basic employment in the industry. This might include set-aside considerations for cultivation, distribution, B2C selling licenses, and even government funding.

Women

While there certainly are a handful of well-paid and senior women in the German and European industry, so far, the German government as well as the cannabiz has ignored the topic of gender equity almost completely despite the legislative mandate now in place for the country’s largest companies to at least create boards that are gender representative. This is especially true for migrant and ethnically diverse women and those older than 40. The vast majority of start-ups that have received funding, as well as all of the largest companies in the industry which have won special distribution and cultivation licenses all belong to white men of either Canadian or German birth. Further, those individuals are drawn from the upper classes and the elite.

The Long Term Unemployed

This is an exciting new industry. As recreational cannabis shops open in towns around the country, set-asides specifically dispersed via the Job Centers (where most foreigners and ethnic minorities also end up) could make sure that the most disadvantaged have a shot at employment, maybe even if “just” self-employment as an employer, and a new kind of training to get them off the dole and back into the workforce.

Cannabis Patients

Many cannabis patients have both drug arrests on their records, and of course, are generally poorer than the rest of the population due to having a disability and being discriminated or left out of employment opportunities as a result. Many patients want to try their hand at legal cultivation, and/or be part of non-profit distribution and sales efforts even if they don’t have dreams of going public with the German cannabis equivalent of Aldi or Lidl (not to mention BMW).

Legalization and Setting Standards in a World of GMP and ISO

This kind of deliberate diversity gets lip service in Europe generally and Germany most certainly. So far, there have been no concrete plans to address it within the legalizing industry. This was true of the public bids for cultivation and distribution. It also appears to be the case in early reports about how recreational dispensaries will be set up.

Here is how it could quickly change: GMP and ISO are quality and procedural standards that already guide the set up of the industry. If both were amended in practice to shoot for diverse workforces (that also included older employees), that would be a good start. After all, is a lab or distributor or dispensary really compliant in best practices if most, if not all of its owners, founders and senior employees are white, male, and under a certain age?

In a country where gender diversity, including on boards, is now the law, it will be intriguing to see how much diversity (and well beyond just gender) will be deliberately created for the industry—and how soon. Otherwise, no matter how exciting the incoming revolution, it will, per the status quo, look extremely male, pale, and elite here too.

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Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority

It is not just German lawmakers who are suddenly deciding that cannabis reform should be top of the political agenda this year; in Argentina, an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition will now put at least medical cannabis reform on the docket.

The Chamber of Deputies (which has only met once so far this year) has now agreed to not only meet but to further discuss cannabis reform when they do. The bill on the table will include regulations to create a framework for the development of a medical cannabis and industrial hemp industry.

This is a development that has now been pending since July of last year when, after being proposed by the national government, it was subsequently blocked by the opposition over a lack of agreement on the particulars. 

This, of course, is far from an unusual situation—see the state of federal reform in the U.S. right now for exactly the same reason. 

The Post-COVID Political Cannabis Football

Argentina, in fact, is joining both the U.S. and Germany in prioritizing federal cannabis reform this year, no matter the delays and stutters along the way. Just this week, the German press began reporting that government leaders, including the Minister of Health, were changing their tune on the need to move forward on some kind of recreational cannabis reform by this summer.

Cannabis normalization has actually been cooking slowly in Argentina since 2009, when the Supreme Court decriminalized cannabis for personal use in private. In 2017, at approximately the same time Germany decided to mandate public health insurance coverage of medical cannabis, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of cannabis oil. In 2020 home cultivation was also approved.

Countries are clearly watching each other right now on progressing the entire reform issue—no matter where they are in the process of cannabis acceptance. For this reason, the proximate announcements in national legislatures now coming from all over the world appear to be a global trend. Legalization, if not normalization, is also highly likely to show up in other countries now coming out of the pandemic where political leaders desperately need to find both development projects with credible prospects of creating jobs, tax revenue, and potentially also have positive environmental impact. 

Cannabis legalization is a popular reform everywhere. Supporting the same gives credibility to a political process that itself is challenged if not deadlocked in partisan fights in multiple countries. Consideration of this issue, as well as passage of legalization legislation, not only gives such leaders credibility but represents something that they might actually be able to accomplish.

The End of the Latin American Drug War

The recent indications by multiple countries in both Central and South America that they are going to cultivate the growth of this industry (or are considering it) is a sea change that cannot be underestimated. The South American hemisphere was the top target of the U.S. from the 1970s until well into this century for a hot war that was never labelled as such but took many casualties.

Indeed, Uruguay, the first country in the world to declare that it would allow recreational reform, was blackmailed by the U.S. banking system for years after 2013 to slow down its internal development of the industry.

These days, that conversation is clearly not taking place, although federal reform (of any sort, let alone of the recreational kind) again seems to be destined to stall in the U.S. Congress.

Argentina certainly seems to be positioning itself on this issue as developments occur in both the U.S. and Germany (for starters). That makes a great deal of sense. Both countries are ideal export markets for a product that Argentina is well developed to deliver as a high value export crop in both hemispheres.

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Medical Cannabis Bill Likely Dead in South Carolina Legislature

An effort to save a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in South Carolina failed on Wednesday in the state legislature, dimming its prospects this year.

The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina reports that “House lawmakers on Wednesday voted 59-55 against an appeal proposed by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, to keep the bill alive,” which followed a request from a Republican member of the state House that “the proposal be ruled unconstitutional since it creates a new tax, arguing that revenue-raising bills can only originate in the lower chamber.”

As the newspaper noted, the move “likely [ends] any hope of passage this year.”

It marks a disappointing development after the bill won approval in the state Senate in February. Members of that chamber deemed medical cannabis a major priority at the start of the legislative session earlier this year.

The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Sen. Tom Davis, has been pushing a medical cannabis bill since 2015.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier in January. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

Davis’s effort to get medical cannabis legalized in South Carolina has been marked by incremental progress.

Per The Post and Courier, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee brought Davis’s bill to the floor in 2018, but “opposition blocked a floor debate from ever happening.” The newspaper said that the “2021 session closed last May with GOP leadership promising Davis he’d get a vote this year.”

In February, the bill, known as the SC Compassionate Care Act, broke through and was approved in the state Senate by a vote of 28-15.

“Even those that were opposed to the bill, I mean, they could’ve just been opposed. They could’ve ranted against it, they could’ve tried to delay things. They didn’t. They expressed their concerns, but what they then did is dug in and tried to make the bill better. And so, what you saw over the last three weeks is what’s supposed to happen in a representative democracy,” Davis said at the time, as quoted by local television station WCSC.

But the dream appeared to die on Wednesday in the South Carolina House. According to The State, Davis “and other Senate leaders stood speechless in the House chamber Wednesday as they watched a last-ditch effort to save the bill fail,” with the Republican leader in the Senate saying that the procedural move could “have significant consequences on the relationship between the House and Senate.”

“We suffered a setback procedurally in the House today,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “I can’t cry about it. I can’t pout about it. I can’t come back and lash out and try to hurt other people’s bills. That’s not productive. I just need to find out a way to get this thing on the merits up or down in the House and that’s what I’m going to be working on.”

Advocates such as Davis might be running out of moves, too. The State reported that it is not clear “whether State House leaders would be willing to put the issue on the sine die resolution, an agreement between the chambers that outlines what they can debate after the session adjourns.”

“I need to figure out if there’s another vehicle. We still have four days left in the session, lots of bills on the calendar, some involving pharmacies and medical affairs, and things of that nature,” Davis said, as quoted by The State. “And so I think there’s an opportunity and I’ll explore what they are.”

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