Week in Review: Medical Marijuana Use Doubles; Rick Ross Announces New Cannabis Partnership

New Study Confirms Medical Marijuana Use Has Doubled in the US

A new study reveals that medical cannabis use has more than doubled in the last decade and is largely driven by state-level legalization, reports Marijuana Moment.

In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health added a medical marijuana question, specifically asking whether any cannabis use within the past 12 months was recommended by a doctor. The federally funded survey found that during the first year, 1.2% of respondents answered affirmatively and that figure rose to 2.5% by 2020.

The study’s authors, Greg Rhee, PhD and Robert Rosenheck, MD determined that over the course of a seven-year period, the number of Americans using medical marijuana increased at an average annual rate of 12.9%.

“This study documents a continued nationwide increase in use of cannabis for diverse medical purposes between 2013 and 2020,” they write in the paper, published online on March 12 as a pre-proof for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Living in a state that legalized medical cannabis remained significantly associated with greater odds of medical cannabis use.”

PHOTO Marcus Ingram/GI

Rick Ross Partners With High Tolerance for New “Collins Ave” Strain

Rick Ross is paying homage to his Miami roots with the announcement of his new partnership with cannabis company, High Tolerance, to launch a new cannabis strain, Collins Ave, named after the popular South Beach thoroughfare, reports TMZ.

“High Tolerance is the best flower for all the ones who like to blow that good gas,” 47-year-old Ross said. “This is the best flower in the world… this is why I decided to team up with High Tolerance. They have the best flower on the streets. Shout out to Manny, the biggest.”

For his part, Manny, High Tolerance’s co-founder told TMZ that Ross is “a true cannabis connoisseur.”

The partnership sees Ross join an impressive line-up of musicians and celebrities who have become High Tolerance ambassadors, including A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, ‘BMF’ star Lil Meech, Ghostface Killah and the late Drakeo the Ruler.

Those in the know might be somewhat perplexed by the hip hop star’s partnership with High Tolerance surprising, given his 2020 collaboration with fellow musician/entrepreneur Berner; Collins Ave was one of the three strains Ross launched with the Californian cannabis company, along with Pink Rozay, a reference to his involvement in Belaire Rosé and Lemon Pepper, reportedly his favorite flavor of Wingstop chicken wings.

The highly-anticipated release of Collins Ave is scheduled for June 1.

PHOTO Konrad

$20 Million in Funding Helps California’s Growers

In an effort to help limit the number of unlicensed cannabis grows and help cultivators restore and conserve their properties, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has earmarked over $20 million in grant funding opportunities as part of its Cannabis Restoration Grant Program (CRGP).  

The funding will be distributed to farmers through “non-profits, tribes, government agencies and other organizations that manage environmental projects for landowners,” the Record Spotlight reports and is earmarked for costs associated with things like permitting requirements, upgrading road crossings and restoration of the environment caused by illicit grows. 

The organization announced the program in January, stating illicit cannabis grow practices, such as wildlife poaching, unlawful water diversions for irrigation, conversion of lands, banned pesticide use and more, have negatively impacted California’s environment and fish and wildlife.

According to Amelia Wright, CDFW Cannabis Program Director, the CDFW wants to help limit the number of unlicensed grows because, in a regulated market, cultivators typically work with state regulators to minimize environmental impacts.

“We’re excited about our new cannabis grant opportunities and look forward to funding a variety of projects that restore and protect California’s diverse natural resources,” Wright says.

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UN Warns Adult-Use Cannabis in US States Violates International Treaty

The United Nations agency tasked with monitoring drug enforcement said in a recent report that non-medical (adult-use) cannabis legalization in some US states is a violation of international drug treaties established more than 60 years ago. In its 2022 annual report, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) wrote that America’s federal government isn’t complying with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by passively allowing states to legalize adult-use marijuana within their borders.

The INCB has regularly criticized countries that have allowed territories within their borders to legalize cannabis because of the obligations of member states under the 1961 Single Convention, according to a report from Marijuana Moment. But in its 2022 annual report released earlier this month, the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations’ international drug control conventions appeared to take aim at cannabis policy reforms at the state level in the US.

“In States with a federal structure, a special issue may arise with respect to whether the Federal Government may be held accountable if a federated entity implements legalization, which violates the conventions, while the Federal Government does not have the power to compel the federated entity to fulfill the treaty obligations,” the INCB wrote.

The INCB added that member states are required under the 1961 treaty to “give effect to and carry out the provisions of this Convention within their own territories,” even in nations with a federal system of government such as the United States. The convention states that “unless a different intention appears from the treaty or is otherwise established, a treaty is binding upon each party in respect of its entire territory.”

“The internal distribution of powers between the different levels of a State cannot be invoked as a justification for the failure to perform a treaty,” the INCB maintains.

INCB Offers Reasons to Maintain Prohibition

The agency offered several reasons for continuing the prohibition of cannabis under the 1961 convention, including the treaty’s view that cannabis is a highly addictive drug that is subject to abuse. The report also notes that legalizing the use of adult-use cannabis lessens the perception of risk and leads to higher rates of consumption.

“The most concerning effect of cannabis legalization is the likelihood of increased use, particularly among young people, according to estimated data,” the UN wrote in a statement about the INCB report. “In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal. There is also evidence that general availability of legalized cannabis products lowers the perception of risk and of the negative consequences involved in using them.”

The report adds that policy reforms have failed to meet the objectives of states that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including the desire to reduce criminal activity and protect public safety. The agency noted the persistence of illicit markets in jurisdictions that have legalized adult-use cannabis, including Canada, Uruguay and parts of the US.

“Evidence suggests that cannabis legalization has not been successful in dissuading young people from using cannabis, and illicit markets persist,” said INCB president Jagjit Pavadia.

Jason Adelstone, an associate attorney at the cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, wrote in an article about the INCB report that the evidence cited by the agency doesn’t support its conclusions on the success of cannabis legalization, including data that show a significant reduction in the illicit market in jurisdictions that have ended the prohibition of adult-use marijuana. He also notes that the report is calling on member nations with jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis to prioritize INCB policy over their own laws.

“Basically, INCB is saying that no matter what the federal government’s constitutional limitations are, signatories with strong federalist systems, such as the US, must violate their constitution in favor of drug treaty requirements to ensure local jurisdiction comply with the drug treaties,” Adelstone wrote in an email to Cannabis Now.

Adelstone says the agency’s narrow interpretation of the 1961 convention requires member states that don’t have the authority to force their territories to comply with the requirements of the treaty to nonetheless take such action.

“This position is unworkable, incompatible with law and practicality and dangerous,” Adelstone continued. “If a signatory’s constitution prohibits the federal government from enforcing requirements on local jurisdictions, or its citizens, then the federal government will not, and should not, enforce such requirements. Pushing any other narrative is dangerous, risking the stability of constitutional governments.”

Despite the International Narcotics Control Board’s continued criticism of member states that have allowed adult-use cannabis legalization measures to take effect, the agency hasn’t assessed any penalties against nations that have allowed policies contrary to the 1961 convention.

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Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Targeting Illegal Weed Industry

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that targets the illicit weed industry by requiring medical marijuana businesses to provide proof that they are legally occupying the property where their operations are located. The measure, Senate Bill 806, was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 41-1 on Tuesday and now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

The legislation is one of dozens of bills designed to reign in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry that have been introduced following the defeat of a ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis earlier this month. Senator Brent Howard, the author of Senate Bill 806, said that the bill is designed to help law enforcement regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in 2018 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure. If passed by the House and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt, the legislation would limit the number of medical marijuana businesses that can list the same physical address on their license applications.

“Those who regulate our medical marijuana industry are running into problems when they raid a facility only to learn that there are numerous licensees who utilize that one address and all have product stored there,” Howard said about Senate Bill 806. “This makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to know what product is actually illegal and to properly investigate the case. This measure would limit the number of licenses that can be listed under one address to help improve regulation and shut down illegal business activity.”

Under the bill, applicants for medical marijuana business licenses would be required to provide proof that they own or rent the property at the address listed on the application. Such proof could consist of a copy of an executed deed of conveyance or a signed lease for the property. An address or physical location would not be permitted to have multiple licenses within the same medical marijuana license category. The bill is designed to help the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and the state Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) identify medical marijuana businesses that are operating without a required license from the state.

“By requiring full disclosure of possessory right, OMMA and OBN will be able to ensure no illegal operations or bad foreign actors are abusing Oklahoma lands and citizens,” Howard said. “This bill would also ensure we know that there are no straw purchasers for illegal foreign owners coming in after the initial application.”

Recreational Weed Measure Failed This Month in Oklahoma

Senate Bill 806 is one of several bills that have been introduced to help regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in Oklahoma with the passage of State Quest 788 in 2018. With low barriers to entry including license fees for cannabis businesses of only $2,500 and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry quickly grew to become one of the largest in the nation.

State Question 788 also had few restrictions to qualify for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients now equals nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, more than the number of gas stations in the state, according to a report from local media.

Earlier this month, the state’s Republican governor said the state of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program is largely responsible for the failure of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana at a special election on March 7. The proposal, State Question 820, was rejected by nearly 62% of voters.

“There’s enough marijuana, I’ve been told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. That’s not what this was supposed to be,” Stitt said after State Question 820 failed at the polls. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s gotten way out of control.”

“As I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” Stitt added. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”

Since then, state lawmakers have filed dozens of cannabis-related bills for this year’s legislative. This week, state Attorney General Gentner Drummond praised Oklahoma lawmakers for passing three of the measures, including Senate Bill 806.

“Oklahoma’s illegal marijuana grow operations pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in rural communities invaded by organized criminals from China and Mexico,” Drummond said in a statement on Tuesday. “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to working arm-in-arm with Oklahoma’s law enforcement agencies to deliver justice and restore peaceful order.”

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Mississippi Lawmakers Approve Changes to Medical Cannabis Law

Mississippi lawmakers last week approved a bill mandating changes to the state’s Medical Cannabis Act, the bill to legalize medical marijuana that was passed by the legislature last year. The measure, House Bill 1158, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Tate Reeves for his consideration.

Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell, a Republican and one of the bill’s authors, said that the legislation clarifies provisions of Mississippi’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2022.

“Unfortunately the Department of Health in their rules and regs probably accepted some things that were not intentioned by the bill,” Blackwell said on the Senate floor on March 8. “So we are trying to correct those … and we do so in the bill.”

The primary author of the legislation, Republican Representative Lee Yancey, gave an example of a rule enacted by state regulators that would be rolled back by House Bill 158 if the governor signs the legislation.

“The Board of Medical Licensure began implementing additional requirements for doctors to be able to certify people, so… and that was not in the bill. So, it was not our intention for there to be any additional requirement,” said Yancey, who noted that the bill is designed to help Mississippi’s medical marijuana program operate more smoothly. “So, they have to do those eight hours the first year, and then there’s five hours of continuing education every year after that. We felt like that was sufficient just to keep them apprised of what the new research was showing.”

In an attempt to prevent similar discrepancies between state laws and regulations passed by state agencies in the future, the measure also includes language designed to prevent regulators from passing rules that do not comply with the state’s medical marijuana statute.

“No state agency, political subdivision or board shall implement any rule, regulation, policy, or requirement that is contrary to the provisions of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act,” reads the text of the bill.

Bill Makes Several Changes To Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act

House Bill 1158 also makes investigations by state agencies, including citations issued by the Department of Health, confidential until an investigation into the matter has been completed. An earlier version of the bill kept such records out of public view indefinitely, but some senators argued that keeping such material off the public record for any length of time is not acceptable.

“I think if it was put out in transparency, it would dispel any of the back and forth on social media,” said Republican Senator Angela Burks Hill, one of five senators who voted against the bill. “I think hiding that is only going to fuel that speculation.”

The bill also makes the physical address of all medical marijuana companies except dispensaries confidential. During public hearings on the legislation, Yancey said the provision was designed to protect the security of cannabis operators, who often must keep large quantities of product and cash onsite.

House Bill 1158 also requires the Mississippi Department of Health to approve a patient’s application to use medical marijuana within 10 days, a reduction from the current requirement of 30 days. The change was enacted to help address a backlog in processing applications by the agency.

Other changes include allowing patients to conduct follow-up visits with a doctor other than the one who first approved the medical marijuana recommendation without experiencing a lapse in certification or access to medicinal cannabis. Additionally, medical professionals who have approved a patient to use medical marijuana are now permitted to assist them with filling out the required state application for a medical marijuana identification card.

Another provision of the legislation allows dispensaries to sell topical medical cannabis products that can not be ingested to adults 21 and older without a medical marijuana identification card. The bill also allows licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell hemp-derived products that are legal under federal law, including low-THC CBD formulations. The bill also specifies that hemp products are not subject to control by the state’s Medical Cannabis Act.

The bill also permits the Department of Health to contract with private laboratories to conduct compliance testing of medical marijuana products. Such labs, however, are not permitted to conduct commercial analyses for licensed medical marijuana businesses. Under the legislation, labs conducting testing for licensed medical marijuana businesses are permitted to become licensed cannabis transporters or to contract the services of an independent licensed transporter. 

The legislation also allows licensed medical marijuana businesses to use marijuana imagery in company logos and other branding. Photographs of medical marijuana products for sale may be posted online by dispensaries.

House Bill 1158 received final approval from the Mississippi legislature on March 14. The bill now awaits action from the governor.

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Northern Windfall: Wisconsin Residents Spend Millions on Pot in Illinois

For the state of Illinois, a thank you might be in order for its neighbors to the north. A newly released analysis says that Illinois collected millions of dollars in tax revenue from Wisconsin residents who crossed the border to buy legal marijuana. 

The two Great Lakes states border each other––Wisconsin abutting Illinois to the north––but they have very different laws on cannabis.

Illinois legalized recreational marijuana in 2019, and a state-sanctioned adult-use market launched at the beginning of 2020. The state also legalized medical cannabis in 2013.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is one of the last remaining states where both recreational and medical marijuana are still illegal. 

Democrats in Wisconsin are determined to change that––including one lawmaker who released an analysis last week showing that the state is losing millions in potential tax revenue to Illinois. 

The report from Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau “estimated that $36.1 million of Illinois cannabis tax revenues in fiscal year 2022 were attributable to sales of cannabis made to Wisconsin residents.” 

The analysis “assumes that all sales to out-of-state residents in counties bordering Wisconsin were made to Wisconsin residents, which are estimated to constitute 7.8% of total Illinois cannabis-related tax revenue,” according to the report, which said that of “the sales made in counties bordering Wisconsin, $121.2 million, or 50.6%, of these sales were to out-of-state residents.”

“Relative to marijuana sales statewide, approximately 7.8% of total cannabis sales revenue in Illinois came from sales made to out-of-state residents in counties bordering Wisconsin in calendar year 2022,” the analysis said.

The report came at the request of Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard, who has championed marijuana legalization proposals in the Wisconsin legislature for years. 

Agard, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, expressed frustration at the findings.

“It should upset every Wisconsinite that our hard earned tax dollars are going across the border to Illinois. This is revenue that could be going toward Wisconsin’s public schools, transportation infrastructure, and public safety. Instead, Illinois is reaping the benefits of Republican obstructionism and their prohibitionist stance on marijuana legalization,” Agard said in a statement last week.

Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature, as they have for more than a decade, which has diminished the chances for legalization. 

Wisconsin Democrats like Agard, and the state’s governor, Tony Evers, overwhelmingly support an end to the prohibition. 

“Republicans’ continued refusal to legalize marijuana is fiscally irresponsible. Wisconsinites paid more than $31 million – just in taxes – to Illinois in 2022. Wisconsin’s loss of potential revenue is even larger if we include taxes paid to Michigan, as well as Minnesota in the near future. Wisconsin is losing out on significant tax dollars that could be used to make our communities stronger, safer, and healthier,” Agard said in the statement. 

“We are an island of prohibition and the people of our state are hurting because of it. As seen in our neighboring states, legalizing marijuana for responsible adult usage will generate significant revenue for our mainstreets, safely regulate the existing illicit market, reinvest in our agriculture and farming heritage, support entrepreneurship, and address the massive and egregious racial disparities from marijuana prohibition,” Agard continued. 

“The fundamental aspect of our job as legislators is to listen to the people we represent. The people of Wisconsin have been asking the legislature to take up common sense measures that will push our state forward. We know that legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use is wildly popular among Wisconsinites, including the majority of Republicans.”

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Kentucky Senate Passes Medical Pot Legalization Bill

The Kentucky Senate on Thursday passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana after years of work by lawmakers and activists. The Senate approved the measure, Senate Bill 47, by a bipartisan vote of 26-11. The legislation will now head to the state House of Representatives, where similar bills to legalize medical marijuana were passed twice in recent years.

Republican Senator Stephen West, a lead sponsor of the bill who has worked to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky for five years, said that the legislation will give patients with serious medical conditions new options in treatment.

“It’s time for Kentucky to join the other 37 states that allow medical marijuana as an option for their citizens,” West said, adding that those who use cannabis medicinally should be able to do so “without being considered a criminal.”

If passed, Senate Bill 47 would permit patients aged 18 and up with certain qualifying medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder to obtain a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana. The new Kentucky Center for Cannabis at the University of Kentucky, which opened in September of last year, can add additional qualifying conditions if it determines through data and research that patients with the condition are “likely to receive medical, therapeutic, or palliative benefits from the use of medicinal cannabis.”

The bill does not allow patients to smoke cannabis, although it does allow for the sale of raw cannabis flower for vaporization. Other cannabis formulations including capsules, tinctures and topical products are also authorized by the bill. 

Bill Contains Medical Cannabis Regulation Provisions

SB 47 tasks the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services with drafting and implementing regulations to enact the legislation and regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana in the state. The legislation does not include provisions allowing patients to cultivate medical marijuana at home. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer was one of eight senators on the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee who voted in favor of advancing Senate Bill 47 on March 14. Previously a staunch opponent of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky, Thayer recently suggested that his views on the issue are evolving after hearing testimonials from constituents. He told his colleagues on the committee that he voted “for the sake of those who suffer.”

“It’s not very often I change my mind,” Thayer said after the committee voted to advance the bill. “I did on industrial hemp and I did today on medical marijuana. I’m just trying to be a little more empathetic in my old age.”

Senate Bill 47 now heads to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where lawmakers have approved previous measures to legalize medical marijuana twice since 2020. If passed by the full legislature, the bill will be sent to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who has repeatedly called on the state legislature to pass medical marijuana legislation.

In June 2022, the governor announced that he was establishing a medical cannabis advisory committee to explore creating a path to legalization. In November, Beshear issued an executive order that decriminalized medical marijuana for patients with specified qualifying conditions. And in January, he repeated his call for state lawmakers to send him a medical marijuana legalization bill in 2023.

Eric Crawford, an activist who has worked to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky for a decade, shared his surprise after Thursday’s vote by the Senate.

“I’m shocked,” said Crawford. “Now it’s time for the House.”

Under the bill, Kentucky’s medical cannabis program would launch by January 2025. Crawford, who was paralyzed in a vehicle accident 30 years ago, says that cannabis is the only medicine that effectively treats the pain and muscle spasms he endures as a result of the catastrophic injury. Although he has nearly two years before Senate Bill 47 goes into effect, Crawford said that he understands the delay.

“I figured it was gonna take that long to set up the system that we didn’t have,” Crawford said. “Yeah, it’s a long hard wait, but I’m doing what I gotta do.”

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Oklahoma Proposes Medical Marijuana Changes After Adult-Use Measure Fails

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said last week that he’d seek changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, which leads the nation in the number of dispensaries among all states with regulated cannabis sales. Stitt made his comments following the failure of a ballot measure to legalize adult-use marijuana in Oklahoma that was rejected by 61% of voters in a special election on March 7.

Voters in Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana with the passage of State Question 788 in 2018, making it the 30th state in the nation to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. With low barriers to entry including license fees for cannabis businesses of only $2,500, a fraction of the amount charged by most states, and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry quickly grew to become what’s arguably the most robust in the nation. The ballot measure also had few restrictions to qualify for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients now equals nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, a figure that eclipses the number of gas stations in the state, according to a report from local media.

Medical Marijuana Backlash

But many residents of Oklahoma believe that the fast pace of growth of the medical marijuana industry has outpaced the state’s ability to regulate it. Additionally, the lack of oversight has led to the development of a lucrative illicit industry of cannabis growers who ship their crops to jurisdictions that haven’t yet ended cannabis prohibition.

“There’s enough marijuana, I’ve been told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. That’s not what this was supposed to be,” Stitt said last week. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s gotten way out of control.”

State lawmakers responded last year by passing a bill that put a two-year moratorium on the issuing of new licenses for medical marijuana cultivators, processors and retailers. The state has also put new regulations in place, including a requirement for a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor the production and movement of cannabis throughout the state. Other new rules include a requirement for cannabis producers to submit water and electricity usage data to state regulators in an attempt to identify businesses that are producing more cannabis than they’re reporting.

Stitt says that the backlash against Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry was largely responsible for the failure of State Question 820, an initiative that would’ve legalized adult-use cannabis. After being denied a slot on the ballot for the November general election by procedural delays and a state Supreme Court ruling, Stitt announced in October that a special election to decide State Question 820 would be held on March 7.

“As I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” Stitt said. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”

State Question 820 was opposed by law enforcement organizations and many of the state’s Republican leaders, including Stitt. Representatives of the state’s agricultural industry and many residents of the state’s rural areas also expressed opposition to the ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Oklahoma.

“We’ve seen the negative impact the rapid growth of the unregulated medical marijuana industry has had on Oklahoma agriculture and the rural communities,” said Scott Blubaugh, president of American Farmers and Ranchers. “We’ve seen a rise in farming challenges, and we’ve seen a strain on our rural electric and our rural water utilities.”

Voters Reject State Question 820

State Question 820 failed at the polls in last week’s special election, with 61% of the electorate voting against the measure. The governor attributed the loss to the state of Oklahoma’s existing medical marijuana industry.

“I think Oklahomans had a lot of fatigue around marijuana,” Stitt said. “They clearly do not want recreational marijuana.”

With the fate of SQ 820 now sealed, Stitt and state lawmakers have said that they’ll work to tighten control over Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. But he acknowledged that they must be careful not to infringe on the will of voters who passed the medical marijuana legalization measure.

“Oklahomans have a big heart: that if it’s [cannabis] going to help someone medically, we want that to happen,” Stitt said. “But we don’t believe everyone with a hangnail should be able to get a medical card.”

So far, dozens of cannabis-related bills have been introduced for the 2023 legislative session, including several bills designed to tighten regulations on the state’s medical marijuana industry. Among them is SB 116, which prohibits commercial medical marijuana growers from being located within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. SB 133 excludes marijuana production from agriculture sales tax exemptions, likely raising the tax liability for cannabis cultivators. Another bill, SB 801, rolls back restrictions on local control of cannabis businesses by allowing municipalities to modify their planning or zoning procedures to forbid medical cannabis businesses to locate in certain areas.

The bills will be considered during the 2023 legislative session that ends on May 26.

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Mississippi Farmers Pivot From Hemp to Pot

With medical cannabis now officially live in Mississippi, a local newspaper is spotlighting a family that brought the newly legal crop to their county––and their farm. 

The Daily Leader of Brookhaven, Mississippi has the story out of Lincoln County, where local officials initially opted out of the state’s newly enshrined medical marijuana law. 

Mississippi finally legalized medical cannabis treatment last year after extended legislative debate, but local governments were given the option to opt out of the program. 

The decision in Lincoln County spurred a couple, Jason McDonald and Timothy Gibson, to take action. Per the Daily Leader, the two “spearheaded efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Lincoln County after the Board of Supervisors voted to initially opt out of medical marijuana,” ultimately bringing the matter to a vote in August, when voters in the county reversed the decision by local officials. 

Following that vote, McDonald and Gibson “started work on opening their own Medical Marijuana Cultivation facility,” according to the Daily Leader, founding a business “called SADUJA [that] is separate from their tea farm but on the same property in East Lincoln.”

That business, per the Daily Leader, “was first licensed to grow Hemp in 2021 and as of December 22, was licensed to grow medical marijuana in Lincoln County.”

“Crime rates haven’t gone up, property values haven’t gone down like people thought,” McDonald told the Daily Leader. “We have been growing hemp since 2021. We sold hemp to local shops around Mississippi. I don’t think people have realized the cannabis plant was growing here legally well before medical marijuana passed here. It was here and it was growing on the farm.”  

“I think with anything new people are generally afraid of it,’ McDonald added. “It is more of what we have done just doing it on a bigger scale and we switched over to medical cannabis instead of hemp. It is the same plant. Growing any plant is the same really.”   

Medical cannabis sales launched on January 25, a little less than a year after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a measure into law

The medical cannabis bill was a source of intense disagreement within the Mississippi legislature, and between lawmakers and Reeves, who was adamant about imposing tight restrictions on any law that emerged.

“The ‘medical marijuana bill’ has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last three-plus years,” Reeves said last year after signing the compromise bill.

“There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings,” the governor added.

One of Reeves’ chief concerns was with the amount of cannabis a patient could obtain. The governor preferred a limit of 2.7 grams per day; the bill that landed on his desk, which was approved with a veto-proof majority, allows patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams as many as six times per week.

“I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written,” Reeves said after he signed the measure. “But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal.”

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Study Finds Significant Increase in Medical Cannabis Use in U.S.

With a majority of states now permitting medical cannabis treatment, a new study has found a sharp increase in its usage over the last decade.

The study, published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that “prevalence of US residents using cannabis for medical purposes increased significantly from 1.2% in 2013-2014 to 2.5% in 2019-2020, with an [average annual percentage] of 12.9%.”

The authors additionally noted that “many of socio-demographic and clinical subgroups showed similar significant increases in cannabis use for medical purposes.”

“In the multivariable-adjusted model, living in a state that legalized medical cannabis remained significantly associated with medical cannabis use,” the authors of the study wrote. “The study documents a continued nationwide increase in use of cannabis for diverse medical purposes between 2013 and 2020, two decades after the first state passed legalizing legislation.”

As the authors of the study noted, “Cannabis use for medical purposes is legalized across 39 states and the District of Columbia in the US.”

California became the first state to legalize the treatment back in 1996, and in the nearly three decades since, medical cannabis has been embraced in dozens more, cutting across partisan lines. 

Last year, Mississippi became the latest to legalize medical cannabis treatment when its Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed a measure into law. 

In the last decade, more than 20 states –– and the District of Columbia –– have gone a step further and legalized recreational cannabis for adults. 

Those shifts in policy served as the backdrop of the study published this month, with the authors saying the “objective…was to evaluate temporal trends and correlates of cannabis use for medical purposes in the US.”

“Since 2013, medical cannabis use has been assessed using a dichotomous question asking whether any medical cannabis use was recommended by a doctor among those who used cannabis in the past 12 months. A modified Poisson model was used to estimate the average annual percent change (AAPC) of medical cannabis use from 2013 to 2020,” they wrote in explaining the methods used in the study. “The analyses were repeated for key socio-demographic and clinical subgroups. Data were analyzed from September to November, 2022.”

The authors said they used data “from [the] 2013-2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).”

Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis vary from state to state, but it has been known as a particularly effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain, for which it can serve as a safer alternative to highly addictive prescription opioids.

A new study this month out of Great Britain found a connection between medical cannabis and improvements in health-related quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illness.

The authors of that study said that their research “suggests that [cannabis-based medicinal products] are associated with an improvement in health-related quality of life in UK patients with chronic diseases,” and that it “was tolerated well by most participants, but adverse events were more common in female and cannabis-naïve patients.”

“This observational study suggests that initiating treatment with [cannabis-based medicinal products] is associated with an improvement in general [health-related quality of life], as well as sleep- and anxiety-specific symptoms up to 12 months in patients with chronic illness … Most patients tolerated the treatment well, however, the risk of [adverse events] should be considered before initiating [cannabis-based medicinal products],” the researchers wrote in their conclusions.

They added, “In particular, female and cannabis-naïve patients are at increased likelihood of experiencing adverse events. These findings may help to inform current clinical practice, but most importantly, highlights the need for further clinical trials to determine causality and generate guidelines to optimize therapy with [cannabis-based medicinal products].”

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Growing Number of Canadian Weed Consumers Source Products Legally

According to a study published in the Harm Reduction Journal, a growing number of Canadian consumers have transitioned to the legal cannabis market over the country’s first three years of cannabis legalization, with legal sourcing highest for drinks and oils and lowest for solid concentrates and hash.

One goal of the Canadian Cannabis Act was transitioning customers to the legal market, essential to ensure other aims of protecting public health as regulations initiated product standards, labeling, and age-verification checks. 

Investigators from the University of Waterloo School of Public Health surveyed more than 15,000 Canadian cannabis consumers about where they obtain their products, evaluating data from years 2019 to 2021. The data covers the majority of Canada’s first three years of cannabis legalization, as licensing for retail sales first began in October 2018.

According to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, legal recreational products’ share of Canada’s overall cannabis consumption started at 7.8% in October 2018 and grew to 23.7% by September 2019, with a hefty variance depending on the province. During that first year, only dried flower and some cannabis oils were available for legal purchase, and other products like edibles, topicals, and extracts were made available at retail locations starting in December 2019.

“After the expansion of legal sales to include non-flower products, it is important to examine whether consumers are using the legal market to source all their edibles, topicals, and extracts, as well as dried flower,” the authors state.

Data from the International Cannabis Policy Study were collected via self-completed web-based surveys in September-October 2019, 2020, and 2021 from respondents aged 15 to 65. Respondents were asked, “Overall, about what percentage (%) of the [products] that you used in the past 12 months came from LEGAL/AUTHORIZED sources?” They were able to enter a numerical value between 0 and 100, with responses categorized into “All” (100%), “Some” (1-99%) and “None” (0%).

All products saw a year-over-year increase for respondents reporting “all” their products were sourced legally, with solid concentrates, hash, and dried flower ranking the lowest and oral oil capsules, oral oil drops, and drinks as most likely to be sourced legally. As of 2021, 54.3% of dried flower purchases were from legal retail locations.

Variables Contributing to Canadian Market Sourcing

The study also looked at consumers’ frequency of use, finding that frequent consumers had higher odds of sourcing “some” of their products from the legal market versus occasional consumers. This was counter to the researchers’ hypothesis, believing that frequent consumers would be less likely to source legally due to “poorer perceptions of legal cannabis.”

The authors cite the variance in legal sourcing depending on product, with about half of solid concentrate consumers purchasing “all” products legally to 82% of cannabis drink consumers. The high rates of legal sourcing for drinks may be because they are newer products that are less accessible in illegal markets.

They add that products typically perceived as “medical products,” like oral oils and capsules, similarly saw more consumers purchasing “all” products legally. They also point to consumers of “medical” products potentially holding a higher priority for legal products where quality is regulated, tested, and standardized to guarantee a better, more consistent dose.

Examining provincial differences, the authors cite that all provinces were more likely to source “all” their edibles legally than those in Québec, citing that it is the only province that restricts edible products that may appeal to youth, removing some of the most popular edible formats like candy and chocolate. 

Conversely, dried flower consumers in Québec were more likely to purchase “all” their dried flower legally over British Columbia and Ontario, citing Québec as boasting some of the lowest dried flower prices since legalization, potentially making it more desirable than purchasing illegal dried flower compared to other provinces. 

The Need for Further Monitoring

“Legal sourcing of cannabis was greater in 2021 than 2020 for all ten cannabis products [surveyed]. In 2021, the percentage of consumers sourcing all their products legally in the past 12 months ranged from 49 percent of solid concentrate consumers in 2021 to 82 percent of cannabis drink consumers,” investigators reported. 

Investigators pointed to the need for future studies to continue to examine cannabis product sourcing in Canada over time, along with exploring other ways to displace the illegal market for all cannabis products “without also promoting the use of high-potency cannabis products.” 

They also called for further research to examine how product consumption varies across provinces and whether these habits occur in response to price and availability from legal sources.

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