Michigan Considers Dropping Pre-Employment Cannabis Tests

Policymakers in Michigan are considering major changes to the state’s drug testing policy, particularly as it pertains to cannabis use. 

The potential changes come more than four years after voters there approved a ballot measure that legalized recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older. 

In a letter sent earlier this month to human resources officers, the state Civil Service Commission asked for public comment as it mulls various tweaks to the Michigan policy.

“Recent years have seen changes across the country in state laws regulating controlled substances. Michigan voters legalized marijuana’s medicinal use in 2008 and recreational use by adults in 2018,” read the letter, which was sent on May 12. “In light of these changes, commissioners have requested circulation for public comment of potential regulation amendments to end the pre-employment testing requirement for marijuana for classified employees hired into non-test-designated positions. Ending this pre-employment testing for marijuana would not affect the availability of reasonable-suspicion or follow-up testing for marijuana of classified employees, including candidates who become employees.”

The letter explains how in the late 1990s, “collective bargaining agreements added provisions allowing similar reasonable-suspicion, follow-up, random selection, and post-accident drug-testing of exclusively represented employees. Federal law also requires pre-employment and employee testing of some test-designated positions operating certain vehicles.”

“The 1998 rules directed the state personnel director to establish prohibited levels of drugs in regulations. Those regulations—and collective bargaining agreements—called for testing under procedures established under federal law. While the regulations technically allow agencies to request approval to test for any drug in schedule 1 or 2 of the state’s public health code, the default testing protocol used by the state since 1998 has tested for five classes of drugs: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine,” the letter read.

The letter also noted that, since the new cannabis law took effect in December of 2018, “approximately 350 applicants for classified positions have tested positive for marijuana in pre-employment testing.”

Under the current Michigan rules, those applicants are precluded from applying for another job with the state for three years. 

“While many of these sanctions have since lapsed, a few hundred remain in effect. The commission could adopt rule language allowing amnesty through rescission of continuing sanctions based on a pre-employment drug test for a non-test-designated position with a positive result for marijuana. Such action would not result in employment for these candidates but would allow them to apply for classified positions rather than waiting three years after being sanctioned,” the letter said.

As states have lifted their long standing prohibition on recreational pot use, lawmakers and regulators have recalibrated drug testing policies to bring them in line with the new cannabis laws.

Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that will enshrine protections for employees from getting tested for cannabis.

The legislation says that it is “unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in the initial hiring for employment if the discrimination is based upon: (a) The person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or (b) An employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.” 

Professional sports leagues have similarly followed suit. A new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players that was ironed out last month will remove cannabis from the list of banned substances. The new deal will also permit players to promote and invest in cannabis companies.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver telegraphed the reform as far back as 2020.

“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Silver said then. “I think society’s views around marijuana [have] changed to a certain extent.”

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Minnesota Omnibus Health Bill Includes Provisions for Psychedelic Task Force

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed an omnibus health finance bill on April 26 with a 69-58 vote. The bill, SF-2995, contains provisions to create a Psychedelic Medicine Task Force in order to proactively prepare for legalization. The task force would be “established to advise the legislature on the legal, medical, and policy issues associated with the legalization of psychedelic medicine in the state.”

SF-2995 was initially introduced in the Senate in March, and was passed with a third reading on April 19, and received amendments in the House over the past few weeks.

Task force duties include surveying “existing studies in the scientific literature on the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic medicine in the treatment of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder, and any other mental health conditions and medical conditions for which a psychedelic medicine may provide an effective treatment option.”

It would also be required to apply necessary changes that apply to “legalization of psychedelic medicine,” “state and local regulation of psychedelic medicine,” and educating the public regarding legislative recommendations.

The task force would include a varied panel of experts, such as the governor and state attorney general, as well as military veterans and others who suffer from mental health conditions.

Should the omnibus bill pass, the task force would be directed to submit two reports to specific individuals who oversee health and human services. The reports would include the task force’s findings, as well as a plan of action to enforce legalization. The first report would be due by Feb. 1, 2024, and the second would need to be submitted no later than Jan. 1, 2025.

When the bill was introduced in February as a standalone bill, it included a requirement for the task force to look into a wide variety of substances. “Psychedelic medicine may include but is not limited to the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), psilocybin, mescaline, LSD, bufotenine, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 2C-B, ibogaine, salvinorin A, and ketamine,” the older text stated.

The task force provision would receive $338,000 for fiscal year 2024 and $171,000 in 2025.

Earlier this month, one of the authors of the task force bill, Minnesota Rep. Andy Smith, explained the importance of the bill to KIMT3. “Unfortunately, most of these drugs kind of got wrapped around the world on drugs in the 1980s and so there’s a lot of antiquated laws that are stimming both the research and allowing these drugs to be used in treatment. The goal of the taskforce is to see how we can roll back those regulations well and responsibly,” Smith said. “These drugs . . . have incredible potential to help people who are suffering from depression and at a much cheaper cost. Antidepressants are expensive . . . and these drugs you can usually take them much cheaper.”

While consideration for the omnibus bill is still underway, the Minnesota House just recently passed a cannabis legalization bill on April 25. “It’s time,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves.”

If passed into law, House File 100 would allow adults over 21 to possess up to two ounces of cannabis flower in public, or 1.5 pounds at home in private. Concentrates would be limited to eight grams, and edibles would be maxed out at no more than 800 mg THC. Residents would also be permitted to grow no more than eight plants at home (with a maximum of four flowering plants).

According to attorney Krissy Atterholt from Vicente Sederberg, there’s high hopes for the future of cannabis in Minnesota. “Minnesota is one step closer to providing residents safe, regulated access to legalized adult-use cannabis,” Atterholt told High Times. “The state is progressing toward becoming the next great cannabis opportunity in the Midwest. Not a single state sharing a border with Minnesota has enacted adult-use cannabis opportunities, leaving the market wide open for businesses and consumers.” 

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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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Ohio Lawmakers File Medical Cannabis Revamp Bill

Two Republican state lawmakers in Ohio have introduced a bill to revamp the state’s medical marijuana laws that would create a new state agency to oversee the program and allow more patients to use cannabis medicinally. The measure, Senate Bill 9, was introduced by state Senators Steve Huffman and Kirk Schuring on January 11 and on Tuesday was referred to a legislative committee for consideration. The bill is similar to another proposal from the last legislative session, Senate Bill 261, that failed to gain approval in the Ohio House of Representatives after passing in the Senate in December 2021. 

Both pieces of legislation attempt to update Ohio’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2016. Under the new bill, a new state agency, the Division of Marijuana Control, would be created as part of the Ohio Department of Commerce to regulate the state’s medical marijuana program. The legislation also creates a 13-member commission responsible for oversight of the new agency and the medical program. Under current law, the state’s medical marijuana program is overseen by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the State Medical Board of Ohio and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 

“What we’ve found is that many of the growers want to expand and grow more,” Huffman said in a statement quoted by local media. “There’s more growers, there’s more demand. They put an application into the Department of Commerce, and it sits there for 18 months, two years. Hopefully this takes the bureaucracy out of this and streamlines things and make it a better-functioning industry.”

Ohio Bill Adds New Qualifying Conditions

Senate Bill 9 would also add autism spectrum disorder, arthritis, migraines, chronic muscle spasms and opioid use disorder to the state’s list of medical conditions that qualify a patient to use cannabis medicinally. Currently, the list of qualifying conditions includes more than two dozen serious medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and terminal illnesses.

The measure also allows medical marijuana use by patients who have other debilitating medical conditions that can be treated with medicinal cannabis, as determined by their physician. The earlier bill had a similar provision, allowing patients to use medical cannabis if a doctor decides that “the patient’s symptoms may reasonably be expected to be relieved from medical marijuana.”

In a committee hearing on Senate Bill 9 held on Tuesday, Huffman and Schuring told their colleagues that many medical marijuana patients in Ohio are crossing state lines to obtain cannabis from neighboring states with more liberal marijuana laws. As of Januray 1, ore than half of the more than 320,000 patients who have registered in the history of Ohio’s medical marijuana program, only about 164,000 had an active doctor’s recommendation and patient registration, according to information from state regulators.

“The largest dispenser for Ohioans is in Michigan,” Huffman said in testimony Tuesday. “We need to turn that around, and make it more friendly, so people come here and they have a safe, viable product.”

Senate Bill 261 also would have allowed the state’s licensed medical marijuana cultivators to expand their growing operations. Although the provisions to increase the square footage of allowable cultivation space are not included in the new bill, Huffman said he is open to amending the legislation to add the increased growing area.

“In my discussions with Sen. Schuring, we felt this would be a positive move and positive change for the industry,” Huffman said. “At the same time hopefully members of the House will be comfortable with it.”

Recreational Marijuana Proposal Under Consideration

Ohio lawmakers are also considering a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reintroduced the proposal, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and levy a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products. Activists had hoped the measure would appear on the ballot for the November midterm election, but legal challenges caused delays that led to an agreement with state officials to revisit the issue this year. If the state legislature does not approve the measure within four months, the Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group spearheading the legalization effort, can collect signatures to put the proposal before the voters in the fall.

Despite the adult-use cannabis legalization bill, Huffman, who is a physician, said that he is still interested in improving the state’s medical marijuana program. If recreational marijuana is legalized, he said it would create an environment without “much of a medical marijuana industry.”

“This bill, to me, is not so much about the ballot initiative, but to make the industry as best as we can,” Huffman said.

Trent Woloveck, the chief strategy officer of Jushi, a vertically integrated, multistate cannabis operator that last week opened Beyond Hello Cincinnati, the company’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Ohio, called on state lawmakers to approve Senate Bill 9 in a statement to High Times.

“If passed, SB 9 will make safe, tested medical cannabis products accessible to more Ohioans by expanding qualifying conditions, authorizing additional administration forms and codifying mechanisms to allow responsible, incremental industry growth,” said Woloveck. “Ultimately, the changes proposed in SB 9 will facilitate a stable supply chain, reduce product prices and generally benefit Ohio patients.”

Senate Bill 9 has been referred to the Senate General Government Committee for consideration. At a hearing on Tuesday, the Republican chair of the panel, Senator Michael Rulli, said that the committee would move quickly on the bill.

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Weed Delivery Driver Robberies Spike in Michigan

A noticeable uptick in cannabis delivery driver robberies is being reported in Michigan, as authorities scramble to control the problem before it snowballs into something worse. The Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) issued a bulletin Tuesday notifying cannabis businesses there’s been a rise in criminal activity.

Macomb Daily reports that authorities are concerned about the rise in crime in the metropolitan Detroit area. As delivery drivers are forced to carry around dangerous amounts of cash and/or cannabis, they are like sitting ducks with a target on their heads.

According to a recent bulletin issued by the CRA on Jan. 17, officials have “identified a pattern in reported criminal activity involving the drivers,” reporting 13 thefts of cannabis products, all within the past six weeks. The MRA regularly posts bulletins when an issue arises, including when a dangerous pattern emerges.

A rash of burglary incidents have been reported in Hazel Park and Ferndale in Oakland County, Utica in Macomb County, Westland, Hamtramck and Detroit in Wayne County, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Lansing. The burglaries began piling up since the beginning of December 2022.

The data shows that the thefts typically occurred at houses at the time of delivery. In some cases, armed robberies took place in which the drivers were assaulted and their vehicles were stolen.

When a robbery takes place, time is ticking for the victims involved. “Licensees and applicants are reminded that the administrative rules require they notify the CRA and local law enforcement authorities within 24 hours of becoming aware of—or within 24 hours of when the licensees should have been aware of—the theft or loss of any product or criminal activity at the marijuana business,” the CRA said in a press release.

“All suspicious activity should be reported to the CRA (using the form available here) and local law enforcement. Questions can be sent to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency Field Operations.”

Licensees are also reminded to watch for and report suspicious activity to police and the CRA. The reporting form is available online.

Not Just the Delivery Drivers are At Risk

Delivery drivers aren’t the only ones being targeted by criminals. Just last November, the CRA said 117 break-ins took place at cannabis businesses from April through November 2022. Authorities also said that the incidents took place primarily at adult-use stores rather than medical cannabis dispensaries.

The CRA says the following tactics were common among break-ins: A suspect vehicle parked in the far reaches of the parking lot or across the street; use of a tool such as a hammer or crowbar to enter the back door; or suspects enter the business and take as much as they can and leave before authorities arrive. A majority of the break-ins took place between 12 a.m. and 7 a.m. throughout West Michigan this year, according to the CRA.

It’s not just happening in Michigan, but in Oregon and Washington state as well. Earlier this year, about 30 robberies happened in a one-month span in Washington.

The surges in robberies at licensed cannabis shops and among delivery drivers adds to the urgency for a need for a bill such as the SAFE Banking Act. The SAFE Banking Act, which did not go as far legislatively as people initially suspected in 2022, would solve many of these problems.

“It makes absolutely no sense that legal businesses are being forced to operate entirely in cash, and it’s dangerous—and sometimes even fatal—for employees behind the register,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

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Go Ahead and Pack Heat, But Not a Bowl

As I sit here typing out this story from the safety of a bulletproof office—at least I hope to hell that it is—someone, maybe even someone you know will be killed by gun violence. On average, around 106 Americans die each day from a chance meeting with a bullet. Some of the casualties are shot dead by gutless goons while others, sadly enough, turn the firepower on themselves. Despite the vast toll of bodies and bloodshed, however, the American piece construct, one that seemingly embraces the most imbecilic tenets of deep-woods hillbilly philosophy, is to shoot first and never ask questions. No matter how many innocent people succumb to murder and suicide in this pistol-packing nation, the red, white and blue fabric of the governmental hood, all tattered and torn from decades of knock-down drag-out politics against its own, continues blinding a nation with a hefty dose of God-fearing optimism.

After all, many of the victims of gun attacks actually survive—around 95 of the 316 shot a day are merely injured—and of the 74 each day who stick the barrel in their mouths in pursuit of ending it all, 10 of them just end up disfigured. The recipe for relief when guns go wrong in this country is to simply mourn, pray and repeat. And what the politicians refuse to sort out with respect to all of this boom-boom killplay, they give the rest up to God and hope for the best. But that’s never enough. 

“The shots keep getting closer to home,” Rachel, a 33-year-old graphic designer who lives on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, told High Times. “More criminals than anyone else seem to have guns. It’s scary, you never know any more if you’re going to get killed just sitting on the porch.” 

Nevertheless, the so-called greatest nation in the world keeps its finger firmly on the trigger. It has to. Why, if the forefathers of the good ole US of A thought it necessary way back when to give every citizen the right to pack heat, then by God, the politicians, both the corrupt and non-confrontational, should never stop fighting to ensure that every citizen is clenching a firearm in their fists as soon as they pop out of the womb. Unfortunately, our gun-wielding society has officially lost its damn mind. What was intended as a right to self-protection (or perhaps more controversially, create a standing army, not give everyone the right to carry weapons just because) has since mutated into the dimwitted armament of domestic terrorists. We’ve now got weak-minded, undisciplined, pimple-faced, pseudo-anarchists angry at the world shooting up schools at a rate that crossed the line of acceptability a long damn time ago. The unarmed has become the minority. 

It’s to the point where you can’t even get into an old-fashioned screaming match on the street without fear that someone might get their feelings hurt bad enough to whip out a gun and start shooting. To say it’s the wild west out there would be a gross understatement. It’s more like Thunderdome. The depravity surrounding gun violence continues to spiral further into profound depths of extreme dipshittery—experiencing an increase of 20% since 2019— yet more states are passing laws making it easier, not harder for civilians to carry a gun. Over half the nation now allows adults as young as 18-years-old to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

Yep, without

Alabama is the latest state to make gun ownership as easy as catching a cold. It’s just one of many jurisdictions across the country where it is now perfectly acceptable to pack heat—although some restrictions apply—but don’t you dare pack a bowl. Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Utah (as well as others) have, over the years, relaxed their respective gun laws to allow people 18-years-old and up, those barely old enough to wipe their own ass, to forgo the licensing process once required to procure a firearm. Yet, strangely enough, these states don’t want their citizens, not even those presumably old enough to understand the basics of bathroom hygiene, to have the same kind of freedom when it comes to weed. No sir, anyone in these places who gets caught in possession of a little grass, rest assured the courts will be eagerly waiting to make their life a living hell. In Alabama, for example, getting caught with any amount of marijuana can result in a year in jail and fines up to $6,000. Even if a pot offender gets a slap on the wrist, that doesn’t mean he or she will escape jail and get off with a polite warning. 

Those who get wrapped up in a pot charge, even low-level smears, where the prosecution pushes for probation rather than incarceration can still end up being forced to attend drug and alcohol classes, do community service and surrender their driver’s license privileges as part of their probationary terms. It’s how the man grinds drug offenders to a pulp through the gears of the system. These people may have seemingly caught a break in the eyes of outsiders, but they must still adhere to all sorts of nagging stipulations, including pass random drug tests during their probation period or else run the risk of being sent to jail to fulfill their sentence. Cages are the alternative for those without the money to pay steep restitution to the state for breaking their drug laws. Hey pal, pay up or get locked up. Your choice. 

Those parts of the country where guns are widely accepted—even praised, third only to God and country—yet pot use is still considered a threat to the well-being of the public is about as backasswards as it gets. Even if some of the negative consequences of pot (legal or otherwise) that’s been reported over the years ended up being true, a stoned society is presumably still a heck of a lot less risky than one that is armed for no reason.

Are we to believe that just because some gray-headed slave owners from 1787 penned a document one night over a few stiff drinks stating that the people should all have the right to keep and bear arms, deadly weapons earn a free pass from here to eternity?

George Washington and the rest of the Constitution crew didn’t foresee that the gun industry would eventually modify the musket used in the American Revolution, turning it into a fearsome killing machine capable of firing 300 rounds of “die, you bastard, die” per minute. Just like they didn’t anticipate that cannabis growers would eventually produce weed strong enough to make people call 911. Not even the lawmakers responsible for banning weed in 1937 could have made that prediction. To be fair, we’ve made some rather impressive technological advancements over the years, some of which, had the founding fathers been made privy to prior to signing, may have inspired them to make a giant paper airplane of the Constitution, soak it in kerosene and fly it straight into a candle. Or perhaps they would have simply decreed, “The people have the right to do whatever the hell they want; they’re going to fuck it up anyway.” 

Fast forward more than two-hundred years and the lawmakers of these tumultuous times have witnessed the death and destruction, the ridiculousness of holding on to pistol heritage, and yet the only heavy hand they continue to hold firm is on cannabis prohibition. Let’s be clear: Marijuana consumption doesn’t kill, and if there is a rising death toll anywhere because of it, the black market perpetuated through discrepancies between state and federal drug laws is ultimately to blame.

Many gun advocates argue that law-abiding citizens aren’t inclined to commit crime, so arming them, even without a permit, is absolutely no danger to society. Fair enough. It could also be argued that those philosophies equally apply to the average cannabis consumer. Give them the right to buy and possess marijuana just like alcohol, and most won’t cause any dust ups with the law. “I’ve never been in trouble for anything other than weed,” Dimitri, a 24-year-old from Greenville, Indiana tells us. “I’d be considered a model citizen if it wasn’t for these dumb pot laws.”

Meanwhile, law enforcement continues to piss and moan about the dangers of legal marijuana. Some of the latest reports, much like the previous reports we’ve all read over the years, have connected legal weed to everything from increased violence to human trafficking. The boys in blue also like to voice concerns about the distribution of firearms related to illicit marijuana trafficking, much of what continues to thrive within the gray areas of legalization. However, as much as they would like to convince the average citizen that weed is the culprit in the undoing of America, an affinity for a plant, legal or otherwise, is not what’s driving the nation’s lust for guns. No sir, we’ve been obsessed with gat machismo a long time. There are presently around 393 million weapons in the hands of civilian Americans, with three in ten adults claiming gun ownership. All of this equates to roughly 121 guns per 100 residents. Gun control laws have continued to weaken across the nation, and now more young men barely out of diapers are freely permitted to keep firepower on their belts to supplement the testosterone leading them to fight or fuck anything that moves. This is, without question, a dangerous step toward mayhem.

“They should probably raise the age on that,” Chris, a 48-year-old gun owner from Lexington, Kentucky, told High Times. “I’ve seen younger guys get into some trouble that probably wouldn’t have happened had it not been for them having a gun. I worked with one years ago, he was like 21, who showed his pistol during a road rage incident, and they came down on him hard. Guys are just too hot-headed at that age. But they’re [the government] never going to change that. How can they say you can’t own a gun until you’re 25 and still ship them off to war at 18?”

Listen, I don’t like guns. I’ve never owned one and never felt that I needed to arm myself, even if it was, as the gun rights people often claim, just for personal protection. And I come from the rural Midwest, too, the redneck capital of the world. Everyone has guns. It was even perfectly acceptable, at least in our obscure part of the country, to pull into school with a firearm in your vehicle if it was fitted with a gun rack. A lot of high school students in the late 80s, albeit typically the same ones who belonged to FFA, showed up with hunting rifles in tow, but none of them ever dreamed of bringing one into the classroom and opening fire on the other students. Not even when fist fights broke out in the parking lot after class—and that happened more times than I can count—did the gun owners reach for a boom stick to get the upper hand on their opponent. They just took the ass beating. Win or lose, everyone back then lived to fight another day.

Coming from this culture, I’ve never been the kind of guy to impede on someone’s right to do anything. Not even own a firearm. If guns were your thing, so be it. I didn’t want people trying to take away the things that I enjoyed, so giving them the same courtesy was my way of maintaining balance. Fair was fair. But that was before. Now, fewer gun restrictions have put more firearms in the streets and into the hands of the wrong people, and not everyone is as hesitant to reach for them as they were back in the day. At the same time, the federal government, still awfully hesitant to do much more about the nation’s gun problem than offer cheap condolences, remains hellbent on keeping nationwide cannabis prohibition intact, even while states move in the opposite direction. If we, as Americans, must live in a nation where we’re always at risk of staring down the business end of a gun, we should never need to concern ourselves with the legal repercussions of possessing a plant that’s legal for adults in over half the nation. Times have changed, like it or not, and the government should respond accordingly. 

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Goldkine: The Midwest’s Gold Standard in Cannabis

In 2018, Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational cannabis. Michigan Proposal 1, Marijuana Legalization Initiative passed with 56-44% in favor, allowing residents to grow, consume and possess cannabis. The first dispensaries in Ann Arbor and Morenci opened their doors to residents of the Great Lakes State in December 2019. It has clearly been a popular move; since legalization, Michigan has become the third largest cannabis market in the U.S., behind California and Colorado, with recreational sales up 115% to $128.4 million. Luxury cannabis brands like Goldkine are driving those sales.

Goldkine was founded with the goal of creating premium craft cannabis products through unmatched genetics and premium branding.

“Legalization gave us the chance to start a business together, a dream we always had,” co-founder Jimmy Smith told Cannabis Now, referring to the three other co-founders and close friends. “The dream became Goldkine.”

Each of the four Goldkine founders brings a unique skill set to the table, enabling them to better serve their customers.

“In a rapidly changing, expanding industry like this, that diverse knowledge base is key,” Smith said. “It allows us to adapt and push through the many obstacles of a growing segment—the fastest growing industry in the world.”

Goldkine Genetics Are Golden

Goldkine’s cultivar catalog features genetics that have been specifically bred for indoor cultivation. At its sophisticated grow facility in Warren, Michigan, state-of-the-art equipment and a team of cultivation experts follow carefully choreographed harvest schedules to ensure their customers always have Goldkine products on hand. 

Attention to detail is everything, and the Goldkine team pays special attention to the drying and curing process to preserve the delicate terpene profiles of their flower. The resulting flower is more than a product—it is a symbol of life’s finer things.

According to Smith, Goldkine’s curated product offering focuses exclusively on top-shelf flowers, including Apple MAC, Mimosa and Zkittlez Kush Mints.

Apple MAC

Apple MAC is a cross of Alien Cookies, Starfighter and Columbian strains with all the tasty richness of an apple pastry. Time is known to slow down for a while with this strain, leaving the consumer with a clear but intensely sedative feeling.

“Apple Mac is an exclusive strain developed in-house and selected by Surfr,” explained Smith. 

“MAC1 combined with Trophy Wife has flavors that explode. The gasoline-rich pheno of Triangle Mint, with hybrid landrace genetics, makes for a very euphoric high like you are traveling through space.”


Mimosa is a cross of Purple Punch and Clementine, creating a unique flavor profile of strong citrus with hints of Hawaiian punch. The strain’s uplifting, clear-headed effect and sense of focus has made it a favorite strain for many across the country. It’s no surprise that Mimosa is the recipient of multiple Cannabis Cups. 

“The Goldkine Mimosa is the best in the state with unique aromas claiming top-shelf everywhere,” Smith said. “This sativa-dominant hybrid by Symbiotic Genetics is known for its euphoric and pleasant cerebral high.”

Zkittlez Kush Mints

Zkittlez is one of the most popular and award-winning cannabis strains on the market. An indica-dominant mix of Grape Ape and Grapefruit crossed with another undisclosed strain leaves consumers feeling calm, focused, alert and happy while unwinding at any time of day.

”Zkittlez Kush Mints (also called KmintZ) was bred by Ripper Seeds and is a combination of Zkittlez and Kush Mintz,” Smith explains. “The top reported aromas of the Zkittlez Kush Mints strain are candy, fruit and mint. It is said to taste of mint, sour and sweet citrus, and berries.” 

Creating a Gold-Standard Experience

From the branding to packaging, each facet of the Goldkine experience has been driven by a passion for delivering luxury cannabis and a true “One of a Kine” experience. 

“The current success we have, and will continue to have, comes from a lifetime of trust—and the fact that we all strive for perfection,” Smith said.

But the Goldkine brand is more than just a label. By marrying top-shelf flower with best practices and consistent service, the Goldkine team has pledged to support local charities. For Smith and his co-founders, a combination of passion for the plant and their dedication to upholding their values and standards will continue to grow Goldkine’s place in the market. 

“The cannabis business is fun, and the people in it and the customers have such passion for this product,” Smith said. “It’s inspiring. It really makes you want to work endlessly to provide the people what they want. Love for the brand on their end drives love for the process on our end—and that’s important.”

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Ohio Program Trains Cannabis Offenders for Industry Jobs

An Ohio nonprofit organization providing services for formerly incarcerated people has teamed up with a medical marijuana cultivator to develop a cannabis jobs training program for individuals with past  marijuana convictions.

Dubbed URC Grows, the collaboration between United Returning Citizens and Youngstown, Ohio licensed growing operation Riviera Creek Holdings LLC aims to pair past cannabis offenders with industry jobs in the state’s legal cannabis market.

“This program will give [the past offenders] an opportunity to get back into the workforce,” Brian Kessler, chairman of Riviera Creek Holdings, told The Business Journal.

The new jobs program will be open to those with prior marijuana-related offenses including cannabis possession, sales or cultivation on their records. Dionne Dowdy, executive director of United Returning Citizens (URC), told a local television news team that URC Grows is an attempt to address the harms caused by the failed War on Drugs while ensuring that the economic benefits of legal cannabis are shared with the most impacted communities.

“There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity. Everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that [are] just natural to them, that they will thrive in, so why not give them this opportunity,” Dowdy said.

Dowdy added that she has already signed up two prior cannabis offenders for what she hopes will be an initial class of 10 students. Graduates of the cannabis job training program will be prepared to work in Ohio’s growing medical industry, which currently serves approximately 200,000 registered patients.

“We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity; to have a job, to have a career, to take care of their family, not only would it help them – it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” Dowdy said.

Developing Cannabis Entrepreneurs

URC Grows will provide cannabis education and job training in three focused areas, with a certificate of completion awarded upon graduation from the program. Areas of study include: an agriculture program concentrating on hydroponics and aquaponics; an industrial hemp program designed to teach prospective farmers how to grow, process and sell hemp for fiber, grain, or CBD. The third track, a marijuana program, will provide education on cultivating medical-grade cannabis.

After completion of the first phase of focused education, students will begin a second phase that includes entrepreneur and business development training. This means, assistance with developing a business plan and the filing of required business documentation. Those who complete the initial two phases of training will be offered a job or internship with Riviera Creek Holdings or the opportunity to maintain and grow a hemp crop for their own hemp-based business. To support the program, URC has received a grant from the Hawthorne Social Justice Fund to help students buy land or cover the startup costs of their business.

“We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in-house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Daniel Kessler, COO of Riviera Creek Holdings.

More Jobs Would Come with Adult-Use Legalization

Although Ohio’s cannabis industry is currently limited to serving medical marijuana patients, legislators and activists are currently working to legalize cannabis for all adults. In July, two Democratic state representatives from the Cleveland area introduced legislation that would legalize, tax and regulate adult-use cannabis. A separate effort by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was given approval to begin circulating petitions by state officials last month.

“It’s at the phase where it needs signatures,” said Daniel Kessler, who supports the effort to legalize recreational cannabis. “The goal is to approve adult use over the age of 21.”

Daniel Kessler said that Riviera Creek Holdings supports legal cannabis for adults as a way to replace the current system that forces consumers to accept untested and potentially unsafe cannabis while illicit cannabis operators face the threat of imprisonment.

“All of that becomes problematic for everybody,” he said. “If we can replace that with something that generates tax dollars for the state, controlled by the legislative body, works much like the medical program, and has social justice aspects to it – it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

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Cannabis Legalization Makes New Advances in the Midwest

The push to legalize cannabis in the Midwest is making new advances, with lawmakers in Wisconsin introducing a new bill and Ohio activists amending language for a proposed legalization measure. Meanwhile, regional early adopters Illinois and Michigan continue to post strong recreational marijuana sales with record-breaking months in July.

Last week, a group of Wisconsin lawmakers appeared at a cannabis dispensary in Illinois (where adult-use cannabis is legal) to unveil a bill that would legalize marijuana in the Badger State. Under the bill, adults 21 and over would be permitted to purchase and use recreational cannabis while adults 18 and up with debilitating health conditions would be allowed access to medical marijuana. Younger patients would be permitted to use cannabis medicinally with parental consent. Wisconsin currently has no provisions for legal cannabis, even as it is surrounded by four states with at least some form of legalized marijuana.

The lawmakers gathered at the Sunnyside dispensary in South Beloit, Illinois — only about 1,000 feet from the state border — to illustrate how many of the business’s customers are coming from Wisconsin. On an average day, half of the cars in the Sunnyside parking lot have Wisconsin license plates, according to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl. At last week’s unveiling of the bill, Democratic Sen. Melissa Agard, who is the sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, said that cannabis legalization would be a good move for Wisconsin.

“Legalizing and taxing cannabis in Wisconsin just like we already do with alcohol ensures a controlled, safe market for our communities,” Agard said.

Fellow Democrat and Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. David Bowen noted that Wisconsin’s drug prohibition laws have not been enforced fairly and equitably.

“Under the failed war on drugs, enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws have disproportionately impacted communities of color,” said Bowen, the lead author of the legalization bill. “When an individual is arrested for nonviolent possession of marijuana, they are driven from their jobs, from their families and driven from their communities.”

Despite a 2019 Marquette University Law School poll showing that 59% of Wisconsin’s registered voters support cannabis legalization, approval of the bill in the state’s Republican-led legislature does not seem likely, according to media reports. Agard said that the sponsoring lawmakers will be circulating the bill for two weeks in order to gain co-sponsors before moving forward with the legislation.

Ohio Activists Resubmit Cannabis Legalization Petition Summary

In Ohio, citizens rather than lawmakers are leading the drive to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The cannabis reform group the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol resubmitted petition language for a proposed legalization measure. In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an earlier draft of a summary of the proposal, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess, purchase, use and grow marijuana. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven deficiencies in the summary and returned it to supporters for correction. The attorney general wrote, for example, that the summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social equity and jobs program” and did not clearly indicate that home growers are limited to possessing up to six cannabis plants.

“In total, the summary does not properly advise a potential signer of a proposed measure’s character and limitations,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.

Last Friday, supporters of the proposal resubmitted the summary after addressing the deficiencies noted by Yost.

“We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing, and have fully addressed the issues flagged in this updated filing” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a news release.

Once the summary is approved, supporters of the legalization proposal will be able to begin collecting petition signatures from Ohio registered voters. If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will head to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration. If lawmakers fail to approve the measure, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to place the proposal before voters, perhaps as soon as the Nov. 2022 general election.

Midwest Cannabis Sales Break Records

If Wisconsin and Ohio successfully join the ranks of the states that have legalized cannabis in the Midwest, they will be able to tap into a market that continues to grow for the region’s early adopters of marijuana policy reform. On Aug. 3, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported that adult-use cannabis sales totaled $127.8 million in July, breaking a state record set only two months earlier by 10 percent. Jason Erkes, spokesman for Chicago-based cannabis multistate operator Cresco Labs, said that visitors attending the Lollapalooza music festival at the end of the month helped fuel the strong showing.

“Summer tourism and the Lollapalooza attendees were strong contributors to July’s out-of-state sales,” Erkes said.

Legal marijuana sales are breaking records in Michigan, as well. Last week, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) released cannabis sales figures for July. Together, medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis sales totaled $171 million, generating more than $23 million in tax revenue. MRA executive director Andrew Brisbo characterized July’s cannabis sales as “Another record month!”

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22 Midwesterners Hospitalized for Breathing Problems Linked to Vaping

More than 20 people have been hospitalized across the midwestern United States due to severe breathing problems linked to vaping.

The hospitalizations occurred to individuals in three different states: four in Minnesota, 12 in Wisconsin and six in Illinois.

The exact reasons for the illnesses aren’t yet clear. Doctors are still determining what devices were used, where they were purchased, or what was in them. But many of the patients were apparently young adults–little surprise given the popularity of e-cigarettes like Juul. And some were vaping both nicotine and THC.

“We know there are certain characteristics in common with these cases, but we have not been able to get to the bottom of exactly what aspect of the vaping habit or product or solvent or oil is causing the injury,” Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer for Children’s Minnesota, a pediatric health system headquartered in Minneapolis, told NBC News. 

Chapman said that the four teenaged patients who were admitted to Children’s Minnesota were originally diagnosed as having a respiratory infection like pneumonia, but that they got worse when given treatment.

“They have progressed to have significant difficulty with their breathing and increasing lung distress,” Chapman told NBC. “They’ve ended up needing our intensive care unit and in some cases assistance with their breathing.”

In a particularly frightening case, Dylan Nelson, a 26-year-old from Wisconsin, fell ill after using a new vape cartridge. After checking into the hospital the following morning, his condition worsened as his lungs filled with fluid, prompting doctors to put him in a medically induced coma.

According to Nelson’s brother, Patrick Degrave, Nelson purchased the cartridge off the street.

“People will buy them from the states where it is legal and they’ll bring them back to states such as Wisconsin where it’s not legal,” DeGrave told NBC. “You don’t know if you’re buying something from a middle man that picked it up from a dispensary or if you’re buying it from somebody who has tampered with it and made their own mixture.”

Vaping has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly among younger people. A survey from Gallup released last month found that nearly 20 percent of Americans 30 and younger said they had vaped in the last week. The same poll found that cigarette smoking among Americans had plummeted to an all time low. 

Billed as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, there is still little understood about the health risks of vaping, though medical officials have sounded the alarm over its dangers. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration requested comments on a proposal that would add a number of chemicals to the list of harmful ingredients in tobacco products, including certain compounds formed when e-liquid is heated in vaping devices.

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