Rhode Island Lawmakers Vote To Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

Legislative panels in the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives voted to approve a bill to legalize cannabis for use by adults on Wednesday after an updated version of the measure was released by lawmakers the night before.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill with a vote of 9-1 while the House Finance Committee voted 12-2 in favor of the measure. The bill’s success in committee sets up a vote on the legislation by the full Senate and House, both of which have been scheduled for early next week.

State Senator Josh Miller, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, celebrated the completion of the amended version of the bill shortly before it was released on Tuesday night.

“For me this has been about a 10-year effort, so it’s nice to wrap it up,” Miller said in a statement quoted by local media.

The identical bills, Senate Bill 2430 from Miller and House Bill 7593 sponsored by Representative Scott A. Slater, would permit adults 21 and older to publically possess up to one ounce of cannabis. The bill also allows adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis in a private location and to grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants at home.

The bill establishes a regulatory framework for legal commercial cannabis commerce, with sales of recreational pot slated to begin on December 1. An earlier version of the bill pegged the starting date for regulated adult-use cannabis sales at October 1.

The amended version of the bill also strengthens the measure’s social equity provisions. Under the new version, past civil and criminal convictions for low-level cannabis convictions will be expunged by the courts, which have been given a deadline of July 1, 2024 to complete the process. The previous version of the bill required those with convictions to petition the court to have their records cleared.

“Social equity has been a top concern for us throughout this whole process,” Slater said. “The starting line isn’t the same for people in poor, urban and minority communities, and they deserve support to ensure they get the full benefit of participating in legalization.”

Restorative justice advocates had argued that requiring those with records for cannabis possession to petition the court for expungement made the process less accessible to people from underserved communities. Cherie Cruz of the Formerly Incarcerated Union of Rhode Island applauded the change in a statement.

“The inclusion of state-initiated expungement in any framework of cannabis legalization is one of the most important concrete steps to work towards social justice, equity and repairing the harm of the failed War on Drugs to so many impacted Rhode Islanders,” said Cruz.

The new bill also includes changes for medicinal cannabis patients, including the elimination of fees for medical weed cards and plant identification tags. Adults who grow recreational cannabis would still be required to purchase plant tags.

“The amended bill is a collaborative effort to address concerns about protecting medical use, ensuring fair governance and recognizing that we can’t make this transition without taking action to make whole the communities and individuals who have been punished for decades under prohibition,” Miller said.

Rhode Island Amended Bill Addresses Governor’s Concerns

The new version of the legislation also addresses concerns raised by the administration of Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, with officials arguing that the bill unconstitutionally gives lawmakers powers to appoint a three-member regulatory commission that are legally reserved for the governor. Common Cause Rhode Island, a nonprofit group advocating for good government, agreed that the provisions violated the constitutional separation of powers.

The amended bill removes power given to the Senate to approve the removal of commission members and for the Senate President to recommend appointments to the panel. But Common Cause executive director John Marion said the bill continues to violate the separation of powers doctrine.

“The Cannabis Control Commission is still constitutionally defective because the governor is asked to pick one of the three commissioners from a list given to him by the Speaker of the House,” Marion said. “The Senate asserted that the original bill passed constitutional muster, but the fact that they changed several provisions in response to previous criticism is an admission that their argument didn’t rest on firm ground.”

In a statement released by McKee’s office Tuesday night, the governor thanked lawmakers for addressing his concerns about the commission.

“While this bill is different than the governor’s original proposal – it does accomplish his priorities of making sure legalization is equitable, controlled, and safe,” spokesperson Matt Sheaff said in an email. “We look forward to reviewing the final bill that comes out of the General Assembly and signing legalization of adult-use cannabis into law.”

Other parts of the bill remained unchanged. Cannabis would be taxed a total of 20%, including a 10% cannabis excise tax, 7% sales tax, and a tax of 3% that would go to local governments hosting licensed cannabis businesses. Local jurisdictions could opt out of allowing retail cannabis businesses by placing a ballot question on the ballot for the November general election, but communities that vote not to allow dispensaries will not be eligible for revenue generated by cannabis taxes. Cities and towns that already have medical cannabis dispensaries would not be able to opt out of hosting retailers.

Both the House and Senate have scheduled a vote on the legislation for Tuesday. After the bill was approved in committee, the governor said that he intends to approve the bill.

“I’ll be willing to sign the piece of legislation if it gets to my desk the way I understand it’s going to be delivered,” McKee said on Wednesday.

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Iowa Legalization Campaign Gives a Voice to the People

The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws is a nonpartisan organization that is striving to “reform Iowa’s medical and recreational cannabis laws based on fairness, financial prudence, and common sense.”

The group recently launched its newest campaign, which is led by Bradley Knott and Pete D’Alessandro. Recently, Knott authored an article about their drive to get Iowa up to speed with other states that have legalized cannabis. “Cannabis reform is sweeping the country. From ruby red South Dakota and Montana to perpetually blue New York and New Jersey, majorities from across the political spectrum are voting for reform. In some states it’s a stronger medical program,” Knott wrote. “In other states voters have gone all in for both medical and recreational cannabis. In Iowa, we don’t have a choice. We don’t even have a voice.”

Knott explains how tax revenue of Iowa’s neighboring states have been invested back into the community in ways of education, health care, and other beneficial services. He also refers to a poll from 2021, which found that eight of out 10 Iowans supported a stronger medical cannabis program, and 71% of state residents under age 35 supported adult-use legalization (with 56% of those between 35-54 also supporting adult-use as well).

Despite this positive data, many legislators in Iowa are not on board with the idea. When Illinois legalized cannabis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed very clearly that she doesn’t support the cause. “I do not support recreational marijuana. I don’t. I won’t be the governor to do that,” she told The Gazette in June 2019. She shared her belief that cannabis is a gateway drug that leads to the use of other drugs.

Knott elaborates that state legislators should listen to the people, who should be able to vote on the topic. “Iowans are sensible people. They are proud of their state and have compassion toward others in need. And Iowa’s current cannabis laws make no sense,” he states plainly. “They make no sense if you want to capture lost tax dollars going to Illinois and Colorado. Or you want to build on and diversify Iowa’s excellence in agriculture, or stop the brain drain and keep the young folks here. Iowa’s cannabis laws make no sense if you want to help people who suffer from, or care for someone with, chronic pain, autism, cancer, or seizures. They make no sense if you believe in equal treatment or wise use of public safety dollars and keeping nonviolent offenders from crowding jails.”

There are a few Iowa legislators who support legalization though, as seen with the recently proposed Senate Joint Resolution 2003, which would have amended the Iowa constitution to legalize adult-use cannabis. However, it did not garner enough attention to proceed as law, which The Gazette states is due to the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Legislators like Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls believe that legalization is “long past due” though. “Democrats support legalization and Republicans oppose legalization, [and] Iowans who want legal cannabis need to vote for Democrats this election,” Wahls said.

In December 2021, Iowa state senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen and Sarah Trone Garriott joined to push a constitutional amendment for adult-use legalization. Bolkcom called out opposing legislators who aren’t considering the will of the people. “This has become a mainstream issue. “The majority of Iowans support this,” Bolkcom said. “The Republicans are in the minority on this. That said, we need their help to move this constitutional amendment to voters so they can have their voices heard.”

The Campaign for Sensible Cannabis Laws welcomes Iowan support for the cause and offers a petition to be signed on its website, as well as opportunities to donate to the grassroots legalization effort.

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Rhode Island Lawmakers to Vote on Cannabis Legalization

Lawmakers in Rhode Island are expected to vote on cannabis policy reform this week, with legislative committees in the state Senate and House of Representatives scheduled to consider identical bills to legalize recreational pot for adults. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Senate Bill 2430 sponsored by Democratic Senator Joshua Miller on Wednesday afternoon, according to a report in local media. And later the same day, the House Finance Committee will vote on House Bill 7593 from fellow Democrat Representative Scott A. Slater. If passed, the companion bills would legalize the possession and purchase of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults 21 and older and create a regulatory framework for the commercial production and sale of recreational cannabis.

“This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities,” Miller said when the legislation was unveiled earlier this year. “To help address those past wrongs, and to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to share the economic benefits associated with legalizations, equity is a central focus of this legislation.”

“The time for Rhode Island to move forward with cannabis legalization is now,” Miller, a longtime supporter of cannabis legalization, said in a statement when the legislation was unveiled earlier this year. “This historic shift in public policy will create a vibrant new marketplace in our state and end the failed practice of prohibition, which has caused such harm to so many in our communities.”

In addition to permitting public possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, the bills allow adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis in a private location. The legislation also permits adults to grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants at home.

The legislation authorizes up to 33 cannabis retailers, including nine hybrid dispensaries that would carry both medical and recreational cannabis. Cannabis would be taxed a total of 20%, including a 10% cannabis excise tax, 7% sales tax, and a tax of 3% that would go to local governments hosting licensed cannabis businesses. Local jurisdictions could opt out of allowing retail cannabis businesses by placing a ballot question on the ballot for this year’s general election, but communities that vote not to allow dispensaries will not be eligible for revenue generated by cannabis taxes.

The bills would create a three-member cannabis control commission to oversee Rhode Island’s regulated cannabis industry. Once the new agency is formed, it would also take on oversight of the state’s medical canabis industry. The legislation also establishes a cannabis regulatory office and a cannabis advisory board within the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

Governor’s Office Objects to Bill’s Details

Although legalizing cannabis for adult use is supported by Democratic Governor Daniel McKee, his administration has expressed “significant constitutional concerns” about how the three members of the cannabis control commission would be appointed and, if necessary, removed from the panel. The most recent version of the legislation, which has the support of leadership in both the House and Senate, would give lawmakers a say in the commission’s appointments. But Claire Richards, the governor’s executive counsel, wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that such appointments are usually made by the governor.

“Such pervasive control by the legislature impermissibly enlarges its constitutional role at the expense of the executive,” Richards wrote in the letter quoted by the Providence Journal.

Under the Rhode Island Constitution, Richards noted, only the governor has the authority to appoint “all members of any commission” that exercise executive functions such as approving rules for cannabis retailers, issuing licenses to dispensaries and inspecting retail businesses.

But the most recent version of the legislation allows the governor to appoint members to the commission only from a list of candidates recommended by the Senate President and the House of Representatives. Additionally, the bills allow the governor to remove someone from the commission only with the approval of the Senate.

After Richards made the administration’s concerns known, spokesmen for the House and Senate disputed the contention that the legislation is unconstitutional.

“This bill, and specifically the appointment process, is consistent with Rhode Island’s separation-of-powers principles and the law flowing from the Rhode Island Supreme Court,” the spokesmen wrote in a joint statement.

They added that the appointment process “is similar to the process used in the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission and the Judicial Nominating Commission.”

Social Equity Built into Legislation

Miller noted when the bill was introduced in March that “equity is a central focus of this legislation.” The measure includes provisions to use licensing fees and penalties to fund grants and technical assistance to applicants from underserved communities and those harmed by the War on Drugs. The legislation also reserves one license in each of six retail districts for social equity applicants, and another in each district for a co-op form of retail dispensary.

“It is the right public policy for Rhode Island to make cannabis possession and sales legal. We have been studying legalization proposals here for many years, and we now can look to our neighboring states’ experiences and see that taxing and regulating cannabis makes sense,” Slater said in March. 

“I’m especially proud that we have made a very deliberate effort to address social equity through this bill,” he added. “We have to recognize the harm that prohibition has done to communities, particularly minorities and poor, urban neighborhoods and ensure that those communities get the support they need to benefit from legalization.”

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Ohio Cannabis Legalization Vote Pushed Back to 2023

Cannabis activists in Ohio have reached a settlement to move a vote on legalizing recreational cannabis to next year, ending a controversy over a deadline to collect signatures from voters supporting the proposal. Under the terms of the agreement reached with state officials on Friday, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will retain the more than 140,000 signatures collected for this year’s effort and avoid having to repeat the process for the 2023 election.

“This guarantees the validity of the signatures we’ve already gathered, and we’ve got a much clearer path if we have to get to the ballot next year,” said Tom Haren, a spokesman for the coalition.

The group seeking to legalize cannabis for use by adults in Ohio sued Republican legislative leaders earlier this month after they refused to consider a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis signed by more than 140,000 voters. The agreement reached between state officials and activists last week will move a vote on the proposal to next year.

The proposal from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol would allow adults 21 and older in Ohio to possess and purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Adults would also be permitted to legally grow up to six cannabis plants at home, with a cap of 12 plants per household.

The measure would also establish a 10% tax on sales of cannabis products. Revenue raised by cannabis taxes would be allocated to administering the program and to local governments in cities and towns that choose to host recreational cannabis dispensaries. Taxes would also be used to fund substance abuse programs and a social equity and jobs program.

Ohio Activists Submitted More Than 140,000 Signatures

In December, the coalition submitted petitions with more than 200,000 signatures, far exceeding the 132,887 necessary to send the proposal to the state legislature for consideration. But in January, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office announced that fewer than 120,000 of the signatures had been verified as registered voters.

Activists then submitted nearly 30,000 additional signatures to state officials for verification. The added signatures were enough to meet the minimum threshold required, according to a letter LaRose sent in late January.

“The initial part-petitions contained 119,825 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative of the total signatures submitted, signatures from 51 counties were submitted that met or exceeded 1.5% of the total number of votes cast for governor in the respective counties at the last gubernatorial election,” Larose wrote in a letter posted online by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

“The additional part-petitions contained 16,904 valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative,” the secretary of state continued in his letter. “I hereby certify that the part-petitions contained a total of 136,729 valid signatures submitted on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative petition.”

Under Ohio state law, petitioners for proposed ballot measures must submit signatures at least 10 days before the legislative session begins. Lawmakers then have four months to act on the proposal. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted its signatures on January 28, which would establish a May 28 deadline for lawmakers to act on the petition.

Legalization Effort Challenged By GOP Leaders

But lawyers for Republican legislators argued that the petition should have been submitted and approved 10 days before the start of the legislation. Under that scenario, legalization activists missed the deadline, leading GOP legislative leaders to argue that the petition should not be considered until 2023. According to emails filed with the campaign’s lawsuit filed in Franklin County, Attorney General Dave Yost’s office appeared to agree with the Republican legal counsel’s analysis.

Activists with the cannabis legalization campaign sued Republican leaders, contending that the submission of signatures to LaRose’s office on January 28 fulfilled the legal deadline for the legalization petition. The legal action asked the court to rule that the campaign has complied with the process and permit the cannabis legalization effort to continue this year. If the suit had succeeded, activists would then have had until early July to collect additional signatures to qualify the proposal for this year’s general election in November.

The agreement reached last week brings an end to the controversy over the deadline to submit signatures and moves the vote to legalize recreational cannabis in Ohio to 2023.

“We are delighted to have reached this settlement, which has preserved our initial signatures, provided the General Assembly with a second opportunity to consider the proposed statute, and established a clear path to ballot access in 2023,” Haren said in a statement from the campaign. “To be certain: we aren’t going anywhere and are undeterred in our goal to legalize cannabis for all adults in Ohio.”

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New Jersey Regulator Grilled at Hearing Over Sluggish Adult-Use Weed Launch

The top cannabis regulator in New Jersey faced tough questioning on Thursday during a marathon hearing that looked into the oft-delayed rollout of the state’s adult-use weed program.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing that reportedly lasted five hours.

The hearing came less than a month after recreational cannabis sales kicked off in the Garden State, a launch that was typified by one delay after another.

The troubled launch prompted Nicholas Scutari, the president of the New Jersey state Senate, to call for the hearings back in March.

“I’m confident that if we did not start this process, the adult weed market would still not be open in New Jersey,” Scutari, a Democrat who pushed for cannabis legalization for years, said at the hearing on Thursday, as quoted by NJ.com.

The hearing also featured “industry leaders and marijuana advocates [who] discussed the pace of setting up the Garden State’s recreational market, scrutinized pricing issues, and griped over still-unwritten regulations for employers seeking clarity on when they can and can’t discipline employees who use cannabis,” according to the New Jersey Monitor.

NJ.com reported that Wesley McWhite, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s director of diversity and inclusion, also testified with Brown.

Legal adult-use cannabis sales began in New Jersey last month, drawing more than 12,000 customers who generated almost $1.9 million in sales on the first day.

But that grand opening came after the state had pushed back the launch.

In February, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was hopefully “within weeks” of its first adult-use sales.

But in March, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission pushed back the scheduled launch of sales after opting against awarding licenses to several would-be dispensaries.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said following that delay. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

That was the last straw for Scutari, who said at the time that he planned to hold special legislative hearings to look into the delays.

“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement at the time. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”

In calling for the hearings, Scutari said he wanted “explanations on the repeated hold-ups in expanding medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and in the opening of retail facilities for adult-use cannabis,” and to learn “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”

On Thursday, Brown, according to NJ.com, “said the CRC delayed issuing licenses in March over fears there would not be enough supply of marijuana for both the medical and recreational markets.”

The New Jersey Monitor reported that the “lack of edibles in the Garden State was also a topic Thursday,” noting that “people can find flower, oils that can be vaped or ingested, and limited gummies” in dispensaries.

According to the publication, “edibles like cookies and brownies aren’t allowed under the current law, Brown noted, and any change to that would need to be approved by the Legislature.”

“There are ingestible avenues to purchase and consume, and we hope to expand those in the future. I don’t have a specific timeline,” Brown said, as quoted by the Monitor.

Per the Monitor, Scutari replied: “I’ll call you on that.”

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German Bundestag Pressures Health Department for Cannabis Reform

In a rapid turn of events, the German Bundestag’s budget committee has placed pressure on the German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, to present a bill for recreational cannabis reform this year for passage by the end of 2022. 

If he fails, he will lose part of his ministerial budget.

The committee, now in negotiations over all parts of the government’s annual spend, decided to temporarily suspend public relations funds for the Department of Health if the recreational cannabis bill is not passed this year. Lauterbach had just announced his intention to introduce such a bill by summer rather than autumn. It is unclear which decision actually came first, but at this point, it is obvious that the Traffic Light Coalition has decided to prioritize a truly burning issue.

Regardless, this is a major move both nationally and globally when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. It is almost unprecedented as a pressure tactic in German politics (which are genteel by U.S. standards). Furthermore, despite all the bureaucratic delay on just about everything here, it is also very clear that when they want to, the German government can move quite quickly.

The American Congress (particularly the Senate side of the Hill) should take note.

It is not like holding major issues hostage over budget agreements is an unknown tactic in Washington. It’s just nobody has been desperate enough, or incentivized enough, to use it for cannabis reform before.

The Germans are Coming

The amount of excitement on the German side of the discussion is absolutely building, daily. Deals are being made, even in the preliminary handshake form and plans are going ahead for all kinds of projects.

The fact that recreational reform is now essentially on the legislative docket begins to also firm up realistic estimates of market start. It is unlikely that anyone will allow the market to begin before the last two quarters of 2023. More likely, market start will be scheduled for the first or second quarter of 2024. Decriminalization, however, may happen a bit faster than this.

There are, of course, many considerations to all of this—not the least of which is administration and paperwork creation (hopefully this time via efficient, non-crashing digitized processes) for getting a move on.

The fact that this is coming now is also very interesting, considering that digitalization of German healthcare is also one of the issues Lauterbach has also been tasked to advance. This alone is an onerous discussion for a system which still routinely utilizes fax machines. Using cannabis as a way to speed up the digitalization of the healthcare system that touches it is a smart move. Even smarter if, again as part of this package of reforms, it relieves a burden on insurance companies on the reimbursement front.

German healthcare is going through a massive budget crisis right now. Recreational cannabis reform would certainly begin to ease a bottleneck of issues. Starting with tax income. Of course, as many in the Bundestag know, the continued criminalization of people known as legitimate cannabis patients who the system cannot process and treat fast enough is also an increasingly lightning rod kind of issue. Waiting times for a new appointment for either a neurologist or orthopaedist are at minimum, three to five months, even in large cities like Frankfurt right now. Whether such doctors decide to prescribe cannabis, or the patient’s insurer will cover it, are two different questions.

Recreational cannabis reform will go a long way to relieving some of the pressure, bureaucratically, politically, and administratively. Not to mention financially.

The Significance

The fact that Germany seems to be fast-tracking cannabis reform, and further under such circumstances will hopefully be a wake-up call to the rest of the world. Starting of course, with the United States.

Beyond this the impact will be felt almost instantly across Europe. Of course, there will be more conservative states which slow down reform. Newly re-elected Emmanuel Macron swore that he would not legalize recreational use while in office. Then again, the savvy French leader is a politician who recognizes which way the wind is blowing. And on this one, it has a nice, European-wide unifying effect.

Portugal, Luxembourg, and potentially Spain may also move quickly now to start to create export crops and products for a very lucrative and hungry market. Greece is having a field day.

What will be allowed to travel where is going to be an interesting discussion, as will the ability of what grade of cannabis will be allowed to cross borders. The first recreational market may in fact happen with German grown cannabis first. That would set up the current medical cultivation bid holders with a huge (and unfair) advantage. It would also potentially give Cansativa an unbelievably unfair edge (if not addressed pronto)—namely they currently hold the monopoly distribution position, granted by BfArM, for all German cannabis of medical grade at least, grown in Germany.

That is going to have to be addressed, pronto. Otherwise, there will be marches in the streets. Given the pressure and thus speed Lauterbach is now under (and given who has the lion’s share of access to his ears on this issue) it is very likely that a lot of issues (and people) will be thrown under the bus for the benefit of the rich, white, men’s club now attempting to exert their brand of control over the conversation even now.

The other discussion that is also coming fast is home grow. 

No matter the particulars (for example, keeping all foreign GACP high THC cannabis out of Germany for a certain period of time), or what is likely to unfold, reform is clearly coming, and fast, to Germany.

How it will be appropriated, tweaked, and amended is anyone’s guess. But the levers are now clearly moving, with a very incentivizing twist, to make Germany, the largest economy in Europe, into one of the most important cannabis markets in the world.

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Germany Decided to Legalize, But When?

The new cool thing in Europe seems to be talking about impending cannabis legalizations, which are not backed by anything other than a promise, and which come with no upcoming date. Germany just joined Switzerland and Luxembourg in claiming it made the decision to legalize recreational cannabis, but apparently we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out when.

Germany stated its set to legalize cannabis, but what backs this up, and when will it happen? This publication focuses on cannabis and psychedelics stories, bringing you everything going on in these changing landscapes today. Follow along by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get first-place access to deals on a catalogue of cannabis products like vapes, edibles, and smoking devices. Along with that, we’ve got deals on tons of cannabinoid compounds like the super popular delta-8 THC. Please keep in mind, *cannabinoid products are not everyone’s first choice. We support customers only buy products that they are fully comfortable with using.

The latest in Germany

When a government is in the midst of doing something, and it isn’t putting out direct information for its citizens, it means it’s probably not going to, even if asked. I think we’re all aware that governments are good at giving government lines, wherein, questions are often ignored, in place of restating obvious lines. On one hand, populations seem so used to this treatment, that an ignored question and standard answer, actually make for coverable stories these days. On the other hand, perhaps if no formal statement is made, we shouldn’t expect an answer to the question anyway.

In early May, Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach confirmed to German newspaper Handelsblatt that he supports that the country legalize cannabis, saying “I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago.”

Earlier then that, on April 6th, Marco Buschmann, the Justice Minister announced that he was in the midst of strategizing a legalization in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, which would involve a consultation process. This process would included talks involving representation by federal, state, and local governments, along with other organizations. The conversations are set to start this summer, with a formal bill hoped for by late 2022.

On the same day, via Twitter, Finance Minister Christian Lindner also confirmed – in a way – that the country was undertaking the legalization process, saying cannabis would be legal soon.

As you can see, none of this gives any real information about what to expect, or when. In fact, it sounds like a bunch of government ministers not wanting to say anything, or having nothing yet to say. So little has actually been confirmed, that it brings up the question of whether we’re sure Germany will go through with this. As of last fall, Germany made what sounds like an official decision to legalize, but how official is a decision with no legal backing?

Germany’s decision to legalize

Why do we keep looking to Germany’s government to give us more information on a legalization? Technically this decision was made back in October 2021 by the new government coalition ruling Germany, made up of three pro-legalization parties: Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party, and Free Democrats (FDP). By November 2021, it was said that a bill was in progress.

The decision was to create “the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops.” This would make cannabis accessible to adults 18 years and up. Whenever it comes out, a new Cannabis Control Law would regulate licensing for cultivation, and general rules of sale.

For years, Germany was ruled over by right-leaning coalitions, headed by Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats. Cannabis reform was repeatedly blocked by these parties, even as Germany itself became more acclimated to the idea of it, with more of the population in agreement with its legalization. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Angela Merkel stepped down, understanding that a new era is here.

In the last Bundestag elections in 2021, it was already known that Merkel, the chancellor since 2005, would step down. The resulting election saw the longstanding center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lose its upper hand in favor of the Social Democrats, a coalition partner to the CDU which is pro-weed, but which was constantly stifled by the CDU. This time around the SPD took the most seats, and left the Christian Democrats out of any coalition, instead forming one with two other pro-legalization parties. In fact, one of the first topics of business, was the agreed upon legalization of cannabis.

Germany elections

At that time, an anonymous representative explained to die Funke Mediengruppe publication, “We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores. This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The new European trend of legalization

Usually in politics, we wait for bills to come out before coming to the understanding of a legal change. The reason for this, is that a lot of things are often said on a political stage, and not all (or even much) is actually relevant in the end. Tons of bills that get introduced, pushed hard, and lobbied for, die anyway. Simply having a bill, isn’t a direct lead-in to a new law. Statements without published laws behind them suffer under the weight of not having official backing, and in very few instances do we simply trust a statement when there is nothing to show for it.

The new trend in Europe is for countries like Germany to make statements about their decision to legalize cannabis, but with no approved legalization measure in sight. Does this mean that a measure must go through? Not exactly. We know something will go through, but as none of the specifics have been worked out, and nothing voted on, we really don’t know what.

Having said that, the statements themselves are essentially marketing lines, letting the world know the interests of these governments. It suffices to say that the reason these statements are trusted, is because the leadership of these countries have indicated a strong desire to reap the rewards of a cannabis market. So no, these are not official policies, but realistically, they almost certainly will go through.

Germany joins other countries in making promises to its citizens about an upcoming bill to legalize cannabis. The first to do it was Luxembourg. Back in September, 2021, Luxembourg became the first European country to make such a statement, while the bill it spoke of was merely a proposal. Under the proposal, Luxembourg would allow adult-use for 18+, and for private residents to grow up to four plants in a home. As stated, a lot of bills come up, and they don’t always go through, so even though Luxembourg pushed a story of being the first legalized country in Europe, it really is just pushing a standard bill.

Switzerland also got in big on making announcements for things that haven’t happened yet. In September 2021, it too declared the decision to legalize via the Social Security and Health Commission, which is a part of the Council of States, also known as the upper house of the Federal Assembly; Switzerland’s parliament. The council took a vote, with nine out of 11 members voting to change laws (not to directly legalize). The next move is for parliament to draft a bill, which means no laws are close to changing yet, and there is no guarantee for how they will.

legalize cannabis

On the other hand, Malta didn’t just make statements. It went all the way, actually becoming the first European country to pass a measure. It did so with Bill no. 241, on December 14th, 2021. The final vote for passage was 36 to 27. The new law permits cultivation and use, but does not set up a regulated sales market. Adults 18+ can have up to seven grams on their person, and up to 50 grams stored.

The country is looking to set up ‘associations’ in the place of a legal sales market, whereby non-profit organizations will grow and distribute plants and seeds. This sounds similar to Spain’s cannabis clubs, but whereas Spain’s clubs function off a legal loophole, Malta’s would function in an above-board fashion.

Conclusion

The world is moving in a very specific direction when it comes to cannabis legalization, even if it doesn’t always move fast. In fact, it’s moving so directly, that several countries are stating their future plans, without having the legislation to back them up. Luckily, since it’s a competitive market, and everyone wants money, Germany is expected to fulfill its intention to legalize, just like Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well.

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Swiss City of Lausanne to Launch Recreational Cannabis Trial This Fall

Cann-L (or Cannabis Lausanne), the four-year recreational cannabis trial, will be launched by the end of the year, according to municipal councillor Emilie Moeschler who spoke to the press on Tuesday, “In Lausanne, as in other cities, cannabis is very present … It is essential for cities to launch such experimental studies to address the issue in an objective and dispassionate way,” he said. He also stressed that the city “has already shown, in 2018, its interest in a pilot experiment with the federal authorities in order to change its policy in this area.”

The city is now on track to become the second in the country after Basel, to proceed with a recreational cannabis trial. Bern, Geneva, and Zurich are also in the process of developing their own projects. The May 15, 2021, amendment of the Federal Narcotics Act allowed these five cities to proceed.

Lausanne: Similar, But Different

In Lausanne, allowed products will be sold in a dedicated store run by the non-profit Cann-L. Unlike German-speaking parts of the country which have chosen to use pharmacies for the trial, Lausanne’s entry into the conversation will be more like the Spanish idea of a cannabis club.

All hemp sold in the facility will have to meet two requirements—being both grown locally and produced in organic environments.

The police will monitor the facility, identify the cannabis being sold and differentiate products sold legally vs. the black market.

Consumption is not allowed in public, and of course, customers may not resell to third parties.

Pricing has been designed to match the black market—namely flower will retail for between 10-13 francs per gram. Participants will not be allowed to purchase more than 10 grams a month.

Study participants (aka customers) will be required to have residency in Lausanne and, further, already use cannabis. Eligibility for participation can be found here—although the project is not yet accepting applicants. The city as well as Addiction Switzerland (chosen to conduct the scientific aspects of the trial) will submit their plan to the canton’s ethics commission and the Federal Office of Public Health by the end of May.

The study is expected to cost around $390,000 per year—or about $1.5 million over the course of five years.

The Impact of The Swiss Trials

As is already being seen in the diverse nature of the canton approach to such trials, both the pharmacy first and dispensary first models are being trialed in Switzerland in a way that is bound to attract the attention of every other European country now considering recreational reform. This starts with Germany, right across a common border, which also shares a special trade alliance with Switzerland (and Austria) known as DACH.

The fact that the Swiss will have data as soon as the end of the year will also, no doubt, shape the discussion, in at least Germany, about how to allow individual states to have some say about how recreational reform will unfold in their local jurisdictions.

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Study Shows Drivers in Legal States Less Likely to Drive While High

The study on drivers was conducted by researchers at the Center for Health, Analytics, Media and Policy, RTI International and Office of Research Protection in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, which was published online on April 23, but is slated to be published in Preventive Medicine Reports in June 2022.

The study analyzed consumption behaviors of 1,249 individuals. Over one third of participants reported driving under the influence within three hours of getting high in the last 30 days, and another one third shared their use of cannabis within 20 or more days within a 30-day period.

“Current cannabis users in recreational and medical-only cannabis states were significantly less likely to report driving within three hours of getting high in the past 30 days, compared to current users living in states without legal cannabis,” researchers wrote. “The one exception was frequent cannabis users who lived in medical cannabis states. Their risk of DUIC [driving under the influence of cannabis] did not differ significantly from frequent users living in states without legal cannabis.”

Researchers suggested a solution to address driving under the influence of cannabis, which should be specifically targeted toward states without legal cannabis programs. “Our findings suggest that DUIC prevention is most needed in states without legalized cannabis. Because regulation of cannabis products in non-legal environments is not possible, mass media campaigns may be a good option for providing education about DUIC.” 

Overall, researchers concluded that education campaigns could help continue to prevent people from driving under the influence after consuming cannabis. “Although all states should educate its citizens about the potential dangers of using cannabis and driving, this analysis suggests that states without legal cannabis are particularly in need of DUIC prevention efforts,” they wrote. “States should consider mass media campaigns as a method of reaching all cannabis users, including more frequent users, with information about the dangers of DUIC. Medical states may consider targeting frequent users by disseminating information about DUIC through medical dispensaries.”

The study also shared that it found three other studies that mirrored this evidence. Two were shared in 2020, and one was published in 2021, with varying levels of approach regarding analyzing the effect of recreational and/or medical cannabis legalization.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano commented on the results of this study with the hope that it will educate those who fear the negative effects of cannabis legalization. “These findings ought to reassure those who feared that legalization might inadvertently be associated with relaxed attitudes toward driving under the influence,” said Armentano. “These conclusions show that this has not been the case and that, in fact, consumers residing in legal marijuana states are less likely to engage in this behavior than are those residing in states where cannabis possession remains criminalized.”

States such as Massachusetts are gearing up to increase how they enforce influenced driving laws. Governor Charlie Baker announced legislation in November 2021 that would “provide law enforcement officers with more rigorous drug detection training and will strengthen the legal process by authorizing the courts to acknowledge that the active ingredient in marijuana can and does impair motorists.” However, Baker’s legislation does not address how to approach measuring impairment or properly identifying if a person has recently consumed cannabis and is impaired, or if they consumed days or weeks before an incident and are no longer impaired. 

A recent study published in Canada expresses the need for a better way to detect impairment accurately. “We would love to have that one measure that says, okay, this person is impaired, or they aren’t,” said lead author Sarah Windle. “But unfortunately, in the case of cannabis, it just isn’t that simple.”

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New Record Set for 4/20 Sales, According to Data from Akerna

Sales data was released by Akerna on April 26 in a flash report, which shared that the industry collected a total of $154.4 million in combined recreational and medical cannabis sales. Akerna reports that 2021 sales records previously held the record for most cannabis sales on 4/20.

In the weekend following up to 4/20 (April 15-April 20), retail sales varied greatly. The highest sales day, other than 4/20, was Friday, April 15 at $94.3 million, and the lowest was Sunday, April 17 at $38.9 million. The entire weekend netted a total of $485.3 million.

Akerna originally released a prediction report on April 12, projecting that cannabis sales on 4/20 would hit $130 million, and that total weekend sales would rise up to $494 million. The company’s projections were very close to early sales data. “Using our historical Akerna data, we released a prediction report that the period around 420 would bring in a total of $494 million, only –1.79% variance from the actual sales of $485.3 million,” said Akerna Business Intelligence Architect James Ahrendt. “This is a testament to the power of our data analytics. By leveraging data-driven insights, cannabis businesses can make strategic predictions and decisions for their businesses.”

Akerna was formed when MJ Freeway and MTech merged in 2019, but it was initially founded in 2010 in response to the growing need for software to support “visibility, data and analytics, and robust inventory tracking that the cannabis industry requires to be successful.” Akerna’s most recent data is defined as a “flash report” that “looks at buying trends in the cannabis market as captured by Akerna’s flagship solution, MJ Platform,” Akerna shared in a press release.

The success of this year’s cannabis sales is impressive. Akerna mentions that the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division reported that it had the largest year for liquor sales, having surpassed $400 million for the first time, and in that perspective, showcases the strength of the cannabis industry.

More data is soon to come, it remains to be seen if Akerna’s other cannabis-related predictions were also accurate. The company projected that the hierarchy of product popularity, starting at the top with flower (48.11%), followed by cartridge/pens (31.66%), concentrates (11.63%), edibles (6.87%), infused non-edible (0.71%) and non-medicated (1.01%).

By demographic, the company predicted that 59.93% of consumers would be men, with 40.07% women. In age ranges, most consumers would be between 30-40 years old (30.43%), under 30 (28.38%), 40-50 (19.92%), 50-60 (11.49%), and over 60 (9.78%).

This data is echoed across the board with other data analytic companies, such as Headset, which shared that sales in U.S. cannabis dispensaries were up by 148% on 4/20 compared to other days leading up to the holiday. Canada sales grew as well, as the average cannabis stores increasing in sales by 65%. Headset also noted that cannabis-infused beverages rose considerably by 110% in Canada and by 176% in the U.S. as the top performing category. The “second place” product was attributed to edibles in Canada (with 83% sales growth) and concentrates in the U.S. (with 155% sales growth).

Although most states have not released any preliminary sales data, Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo shared some information about the success of his state’s 4/20 sales on Twitter on April 21. “Consumers purchased over 2.3 tons of marijuana flower in MI retailers yesterday. Initial data shows overall sales of flower on 4/20 in 2022 were up 242% from the same day in 2021 (which were up 444% vs 2020).” He also followed with an estimation of pounds sold in the last three years in Michigan: 2022 (4,619 pounds), 2021 (1,912 pounds) and 2020 (430 pounds).

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