The Best Countries for Cannabis Tourism in 2021 and 2022

As vaccination rollouts become more efficient and travel restrictions ease up, and as a result, many avid pothead travellers will want to know the best countries for cannabis tourism in 2021 and 2022. Lighting up in the comfort of your home brings a special kind of contentment many potheads are familiar with, but after two […]

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South Dakota Takes Step Toward Approving Medical Marijuana Rules

The legislative panel responsible for approving the rules that will govern South Dakota’s new medical marijuana law has approved a number of proposed regulations and sent other proposals back for review, in what was a crucial administrative step toward implementing the new statewide program.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee on Monday gave “the green light to most of the 124 pages of proposed regulations for medical cannabis in South Dakota from the state Department of Health,” local television station KELO reported.

But the committee rejected other proposed regulations. According to the Associated Press, the lawmakers on the panel rejected one proposal “that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.”

All told, the committee sent “a half-dozen of the proposals” back to the Department of Health for review, according to KELO.

Other rules approved by the committee included one that “set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants,” according to the AP, and another that set “a state licensing fee of $5,000 for any medical marijuana facility.”

The Associated Press noted that a “host of lobbyists, representing both medical groups and the cannabis industry, objected to some rules, though nearly all praised the Department of Health’s rule-making process.” The Department of Health was also saluted by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

“I commend the Department of Health for its hard work to streamline the process,” she said in a statement, as quoted by the Associated Press. “South Dakota will continue to implement the best, most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country.”

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South Dakota Compromises

Still, not everyone was as enthused by the slate of proposals. Troy Heinert, the Democratic leader of the South Dakota state senate, represented the lone vote on the committee against the proposed regulations.

“As I talk to people across the state they wanted it legalized, taxed and done. I think we’ve made it more difficult than we had to,” Heinert said, as quoted by KELO. “From our side of the aisle, we’re all about freedom.”

Indeed, many of the state’s leaders have been clearly reluctant to embrace the new medical marijuana law, despite 70 percent of South Dakota voters approving the measure that legalized the treatment in last year’s election.

The law officially took effect on July 1, but so far, the only dispensary that has opened its doors to customers is one on an Native American reservation located on the eastern edge of the state. 

Noem, a possible Republican presidential contender, has said that highway patrol officers in the state won’t honor tribal-issued medical cannabis cards if they are issued to non-tribal members.

She has also appeared in PSAs throughout the summer explaining how the state intends to implement the law. 

“One of my jobs as governor is to make sure the will of the people and all constitutional laws are enforced. The medical cannabis program is on schedule, and we’re working to implement a responsible program that follows the direction given by the voters,” Noem says in the ad. 

The state has said that sales will likely begin next summer. Meanwhile, communities throughout South Dakota are hashing out their own local ordinances governing medical cannabis dispensaries. Last week, members of the city council in Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, approved a slate of proposals, including one that will place a cap on the number of dispensaries at five.

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Nebraska Moves Toward Two Medical Marijuana Proposals on 2022 Ballot

An advocacy group took a crucial procedural step on Wednesday toward eventually getting a pair of medical marijuana proposals before Nebraska voters on next year’s ballot.

The group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said that it has “recently filed drafts of the measures with the Nebraska Secretary of State and expects to begin circulating petitions later this month.” 

It intends “to qualify a pair of initiatives ahead of the November election next year by gathering roughly 250,000 signatures across the state before the July 7, 2022 deadline.” The petitions are expected to be approved by the state of Nebraska for circulation later this month. 

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the first initiative would “require the Legislature to enact new statutes protecting doctors who recommend and patients who possess or use medical cannabis from criminal penalty.” 

Under the second proposal, legislators would be required “to pass legislation creating a regulatory framework that protects private entities that produce and supply medical cannabis.”

The group says it plans “to release the full text of both medical cannabis initiatives once the petitions are officially approved for circulation by the state.” 

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is being led by Crista Eggers, who has a six-year-old son, Colton, who is suffering from severe intractable epilepsy.

“We’ve received so much encouragement from individuals all across the state, who support the many patients like our son Colton, who desperately need access to this medicine. No matter what your political background is, we should all agree that criminalizing a medicine that has the potential to alleviate suffering, is both cruel and inhumane,” Eggers said in a press release on Wednesday. “The current policy doesn’t reflect our family values here in Nebraska, and we’re going to change that. We need everyone who believes in compassion for suffering individuals like my son to be part of this movement and help us win in 2022.”

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana says it “has recruited hundreds of volunteers from over 50 counties so far,” and is “working to organize local teams and mobilize supporters to be part of the grassroots signature drive.”

The group has also drawn a legislative booster in state Senator Adam Morfeld. 

“It’s heartbreaking and senseless that politicians are standing in the way of families and patients who desperately need safe, legal access to medical cannabis,” Morfeld said in the press release. “But we will not stop fighting for them. We hope that every Nebraskan will stand with us and help our campaign succeed by getting involved and supporting the effort however they can.”

For Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the new campaign is a shot at redemption after a previous effort fizzled out. Last year, the group rounded up almost 200,000 signatures for a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, but the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the initiative was in violation of a state’s single-subject ballot requirement, which requires that “the general subject of a proposed ballot measure is defined by its primary purpose,” and that in the absence of a unifying purpose, “separate proposals in a ballot measure necessarily present independent and distinct proposals that require a separate vote.” 

Lawmakers revived the effort in this year’s legislative session, but it too flamed out.

The legislator who led that effort, state Senator Anna Wishart, said that the coalition went back to the drawing board after those two shortcomings, as it sought consultation from both the Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU of Nebraska.

In May, Wishart struck an optimistic note, indicating that this campaign was ready to do it right.

“It was true last year and it remains true today that the vast majority of Nebraskans are on our side when it comes to this issue,” Wishart said. “Voters were unfairly denied the opportunity to enact reform last year, but this time, we’re ready for any legal challenge, and we will succeed.”

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Episode 375 – What Can New York and California Learn From Each Other?

Mike Liszewski and Jeremy Berke speak with host Ben Larson about the lessons New York and California can learn from one another as their respective markets take hold and mature, as well as the status of federal legalization and cannabis research legislation. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Elsa Olofsson/Flickr

Medical Marijuana Cultivators in Alabama to Start Planting in 2022

The panel tasked with overseeing the implementation of Alabama’s new medical cannabis law will reportedly urge lawmakers to tweak the measure in order to begin the plant cultivation process sooner.

That news comes via AL.com, which said that the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission has been in discussions with state legislators “about changing the date to allow cultivators to be licensed sooner, by no later than early 2022.”

Under the current language of the law that was passed and signed earlier this year, individuals can only begin to apply for licenses on September 1, 2022. 

“The time required to grow the plants, which will be raised in greenhouses, is 90 to 110 days,” AL.com noted, adding that unless the September 2022 application date is modified, “products could not be available until some time in 2023.”

Alabama lawmakers passed the bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state in May. The legislation was signed into law later that month by Republican Governor Kay Ivey. After signing the bill, Ivey cited the work of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which was charged with investigating the policy, as a factor behind the measure’s success.

“This is certainly a sensitive and emotional issue and something that is continually being studied,” Ivey said in a statement released at the time. “On the state level, we have had a study group that has looked closely at this issue, and I am interested in the potential good medical cannabis can have for those with chronic illnesses or what it can do to improve the quality of life of those in their final days.”

The new law permits physicians in Alabama to recommend cannabis treatment to patients suffering from conditions such as seizures, spasticity associated with certain diseases or spinal cord injuries, anxiety or panic disorder and terminal illnesses.

The passage of the law in deep red Alabama was hailed as a triumph by advocates, who earlier this year saw Virginia become the first state in the American south to legalize recreational pot use for adults. 

“This measure is an important first step for Alabamans. As written, this program is limited in its ability to sufficiently address the real-world needs of patients—many of whom receive maximum benefit from inhaling cannabis flower rather than oral formulations, which are often far slower acting and more variable in their effects,” Carly Wolf, the state policies manager for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement in May after Ivey signed the bill into law. 

“Furthermore, we reject the notion that cannabis should be a treatment of ‘last resort.’ That said, this law begins the process of providing Alabamans, for the first time, with a safe, legal and consistent source of medicine. In the coming months and years, we anticipate and hope that lawmakers will continue to expand this access in a manner that puts patients’ interest first.”

The passage of the medical marijuana law was particularly satisfying for Tim Melson, a Republican state senator who for years has tried to legalize the treatment in Alabama. 

In February, Melson once again introduced legislation to legalize medical cannabis, something he had done previously as well.

The 2019 bill put up by Melson sought to establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which held hearings and studied the issue. In December of 2019, the commission, with Melson serving as the chair, voted to recommend legalizing medical marijuana.

After the bill was signed into law earlier this year, Melson, a medical doctor, noted that he and other advocates had to win some colleagues over.

“The hardcore people that were against it,” Melson said, as quote by local TV station WHNT. “The on-the-fence people, when they started hearing people’s stories and success stories, I think they got swayed. Once you have a family member that needs it and you’ve seen the benefit, or a friend, then it’s easier to vote for it.”

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Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Program Sees Huge Growth in First Year

A little less than a year after the state made its first medical marijuana sale, Missouri’s medical marijuana program has swelled to more than 140 dispensaries.

According to local television station FOX 2 NOW, the “state’s medical cannabis industry employs roughly 5,000 people” and sales have been strong.

“The sales revenue is pleasantly surprising,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the section of medical marijuana with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told the TV station. “At the end of July, we surpassed $91 million in sales.”

In 2018, voters in Missouri approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis with more than 65 percent support. Proponents of the amendment called on the Show Me State to open at least 192 dispensaries, a threshold that Fraker said Missouri is likely to reach.

“The amendment that was voted on said that we should open the minimum number at least, which was 192 dispensaries,” Fraker said, as quoted by FOX 2 NOW. “As of today, we have 142 open. We’ve done the math, and based on the number of quantities that each patient can purchase each month, how much product it would take to serve the patient base, and we think we are going to be good for five or six years.”

In October of last year, Missouri’s first dispensaries opened their doors to long lines. With the success of the medical marijuana program, Missourians may be emboldened to take the next step and embrace legalization of recreational pot use.

Earlier this year, a Republican lawmaker in Missouri said it’s time for the state to go in that direction.

“We spend more time and more law enforcement resources going after marijuana smokers than all the other drugs combined,” GOP state House Representative Shamed Dogan said at the time “Ten percent of the arrests in the state of Missouri right now are from marijuana possession.

“I think alcohol prohibition taught us that trying to prohibit something this way, the way we’ve gone about marijuana prohibition, it backfires,” Dogan added. “I mean, you can buy any amount of alcohol you want, right? You can buy any amount of tobacco that you want, so I think it should be regulated the same way.”

Dogan and his colleagues weren’t able to pass a legalization measure this session, but advocates in Missouri have continued to push. In July, a group called Fair Access Missouri filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State to legalize recreational marijuana, among other things.

“Today’s filings are the next step in that fight,” the group said in a statement. “We’ve seen across the country that smart rules and an open market are the way to go when legalizing cannabis, and that’s what we’ll be bringing to Missouri.”

Along with recreational pot use, the group is also aiming to “permit state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana for medical purposes to patients with serious illnesses and medical conditions.”

According to local television station KSHB, the group’s petition, which was filed on July 12, “is still making its way through the initiative petition process, which could take roughly 65 days.”

The station said that Fair Access Missouri “has not yet decided if it will attempt to collect signatures to get the issue on an upcoming ballot.”

Some local leaders in Missouri have not waited for statewide cannabis reform, however. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas helped successfully pass an ordinance decriminalizing possession and control of marijuana in the city. 

“One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions and disproportionate rates of incarceration of black men and black women,” Lucas said at the time. “Reducing petty offenses—such as municipal marijuana offenses—reduce these negative interactions each day.”

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Sioux Falls, South Dakota Sets Cap on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The city council in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Tuesday night approved a proposal that will set a cap on the number of dispensaries, while also setting the cost of a license at $50,000. That fee, according to the Argus Leader, was half the $100,000 that had been requested by City Hall, but there is a chance the licenses could go much higher on the secondary market after the city council allowed them to be transferable.

According to the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken was opposed to the provision allowing licenses to be transferred is concerned “that allowing them to be sold on the secondary market will give them an artificial value, just like has happened with liquor licenses” in South Dakota.

As the Argus Leader explained, “a new liquor license from the city goes for about $200,000, but a state-set cap on the number of them the city can sell has driven the price they go for on the secondary market up to $300,000 or higher.”

There were also apparently objections from members of the public to the five-dispensary cap imposed by the city council. Local television station KELO reported that the council also voted to require dispensaries “to be 500 feet from parks, daycares, churches, attached dwellings and detached dwellings” as well as “more than 1,000 feet from schools.”

Sioux Falls is Implementing the Will of State Voters

South Dakota voters approved a ballot initiative last year legalizing medical marijuana in the state. The voters also passed a constitutional amendment that appeared on the same ballot that legalized recreational pot use for adults, but that was challenged in court and ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a circuit judge in February. Supporters of the recreational marijuana amendment challenged that ruling, and it is now being considered by the South Dakota Supreme Court.

South Dakota’s medical marijuana law officially took effect on July 1, although the state has said that sales likely will not begin until July 1, 2022. But the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe on the eastern edge of the state opened a dispensary that first week. The dispensary, located on the tribe’s reservation a little less than an hour from Sioux Falls, was inundated with customers after its opening in July.

“The grand opening of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s Native Nations Dispensary went very well, and customers have flooded the dispensary all day,” Flandreau Santee Sioux Attorney General Seth Pearman told Native News Online. “The Tribe is confident that the regulatory structure it put in place will create a safe product that will benefit customers.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s office has said that South Dakota highway patrol officers will not honor tribal-issued medical cannabis cards if they are issued to non-tribal members.

Noem, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate who has been staunchly opposed to the state legalizing recreational marijuana, has appeared in PSAs airing in the state in which she explains how South Dakota intends to implement the new medical marijuana law.

“In 2020, the voters of South Dakota spoke up and approved medical cannabis,” Noem says in the ad. “One of my jobs as governor is to make sure the will of the people and all constitutional laws are enforced. The medical cannabis program is on schedule, and we’re working to implement a responsible program that follows the direction given by the voters.”

“Other states have made mistakes that we do not want to repeat,” she adds.

Last week, a South Dakota legislative subcommittee recommended a ban on home cultivation for medical marijuana patients.

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Khiron’s Sustainable Cannabis Improves Patient Lives

As the looming climate crisis becomes an ever-growing concern, companies around the globe are making more of an effort to help. In the world of sustainable medicinal cannabis, Khiron is at the forefront of this crusade. 

Khiron is a patient-oriented cannabis brand that relies on education, product innovation, agricultural infrastructure, and scientific expertise. Based in Latin America and founded in 2017 by CEO Alvaro Torres with other entrepreneurs, the growing company released its first annual sustainability report last month. The report is the first of its kind and highlights Khiron’s commitment to the environment on a global scale. 

“It’s with great pride that we present our inaugural sustainability report,” said María Jimena Ochoa, Vice President of Sustainable Development at Khiron.“This reflects not only our commitment to continue improving the lives of patients, employees, local communities, shareholders and other stakeholders, along with our pledge to minimize negative environmental impacts, but also encompasses all of our initiatives carried out in 2020 to materialize our higher purpose, while strengthening our capacity to implement sustainable management practices in our operations, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” 

As one of the leading vertically integrated cannabis companies, Khiron has cemented themselves as a major player in the growing medicinal cannabis industry.    

Complete Oversight, From Seed to Patient

Khiron is a medicinal marijuana provider, but that label doesn’t encapsulate the brand in its entirety. Rather, Khiron is focused on improving lives through the sale and prescription of sustainable cannabis. 

Torres, a Colombian native, built Khiron out of his passion for providing high-quality, sustainable cannabis to patients. Instead of controlling just one aspect of the supply chain, Torres wanted to ensure the quality and effectiveness of his product by overseeing the growth of the cannabis plant all the way to creating products and prescribing them to patients.

“From the very beginning we have been focused on building demand for medical cannabis all across Latin America and Europe,” Torres said. “To do this, we need to create real world evidence, produce high-quality, consistent and safe products, and provide more access to patients.” 

Khiron’s Zerenia clinics are the building block of this vertically integrated strategy. 

“With our clinics, we are able to generate real world evidence, persuade doctors of the benefits of medical cannabis, create demand with patients, and provide access by engaging with insurers to offer coverage for our medications.” Torres explained. “Our intention is to continue moving forward with this strategy in our target markets wherever we can, and as agile as possible.” 

Eighty-thousand square feet of cultivation area make up the vast majority of Khiron’s supply with tightly vetted third-party manufacturers supplementing output volume. The facility, located in Tolima, Colombia, produces up to nine tons per year of dried flower. Khiron’s facilities are GMP compliant, while the laboratory that produces the magistral formulations is Good Elaboration Practice (GEP) certified. Products are standardized and stabilized according to the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention analytics standard.

But cultivation is just one aspect of their business. Khiron’s medical health centers and telemedicine platforms create an experience that is firmly centered around the patient. Proprietary telehealth platforms and seed-to-patient sourcing means Khiron’s clinics can vouch for the quality and effectiveness of their product. This patient-forward approach towards medical marijuana has led to unwavering brand loyalty from users.

“The vertical integration of the company guarantees quality of products, pharmacovigilance to monitor the development of the treatments, close attention and follow up in health services and in general a whole experience that makes any of our patients the center of our operation,” Torres said. “This approach has created a brand loyalty that has allowed us to have more than 6,000 recurrent patients at the beginning of August, and this is a number that increases every month.”

Providing patients with environmentally friendly cannabis is a key component of Khiron’s business model. The company now offers their sustainable cannabis in Colombia, Peru, Germany, the UK, and Brazil. Specific operations in each country vary depending on regulations in the region. In Colombia, the company is responsible for three wholly owned clinics and became the first company to sell THC medical cannabis in Peru through Farmacia Universal. In the UK, Khiron’s Project Twenty21 aims to create evidence of the effectiveness of medical cannabis through clinical trials. Championing projects that increase evidence towards the clinical efficacy of medical cannabis positions Khiron to expand their care into more countries.

The success of Khiron’s Colombian seed-to-patient business model is evident in the company’s Q2 earnings from 2021, which saw 68% growth year-over-year in total revenues. These numbers come with a staggering 88% gross margin in medical cannabis and are indicative of both the company’s success and the growing market for medicinal cannabis. Khiron is working to bring their business model to the European sector and aims to reach 1 million patients and consumers by 2024. This expansion comes with a desire to champion sustainable growing practices and functions as a global leader for cannabis and the environment.  

Corporate Responsibility

Khiron Medical Cannabis Clinic

Khiron’s 2020 Sustainability Report highlights the company and its brand’s overarching dedication to science and sustainable cannabis production. By initially identifying key issues, such as reducing carbon footprint and energy use, Khiron developed 10 goals that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are designed to be the blueprint for sustainable initiatives going forward and prove to be a more than adequate benchmark for success in sustainability.

Like many brands, Khiron’s commitment to the environment stems from a deep-seated ideology that corporations are responsible for the communities and environments in which they operate.  Integrating environmentally sustainable measures into their business practices helps ensure they are positively impacting local communities. 

“Taking care and preserving natural resources through their responsible and efficient usage and management is a fundamental principle of our operations,” Ochoa said. “We believe the sustainable growth of our business shall not affect the availability of resources for the local communities, nor future generations.” 

Environmental compliance is a major part of fulfilling this mission; Khiron strictly follows all local environmental regulations in their regions of business. Environmental Social Governance (ESG), has become increasingly more important to both consumers and stakeholders. Recognizing the need for corporate accountability, Khiron is committed to improving lives through cannabis, but it doesn’t stop there; the brand also contributes resources to enhancing the health and environment of their patients’ communities.  

One outreach effort exemplifying their dedication to the environment took place in Tolima, Colombia, where Khiron’s production facilities are located. To offset their carbon footprint, Khiron commissioned a solar park that aims to reduce energy consumption by up to 40 percent and is expected to reduce Khiron’s CO2 emissions by 580 tons. This initiative comes with moves to reduce natural resource consumption including water, energy, and raw materials. 

Sustainable medicinal cannabis is in high demand, and Khiron is doing their part to encourage other cannabis leaders to follow their example. Khiron’s 97-page 2020 sustainability report indicates their recognition of the challenges posed by a changing climate and commitment to mitigating the effects as best they can. 

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