Washington State Pays Out $9.4 Million in Refunds Relating to Drug Convictions

In July, Washington State recently opened its online reimbursement center, called the Blake Refund Bureau, to cover court-ordered fines or costs in relation to drug possession convictions. Since then, the state has already approved reimbursements for a total of $276,000.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) launched the Blake Refund Bureau more than two years after the court ruling was made for State v. Blake in February 2021, when the Washington Superior Court ruled that arresting people for drug possession was unconstitutional.

The foundation of the case involved a woman who received a pair of jeans from a friend in 2016, which had a small bag of methamphetamine hidden in the coin pocket. The state charged her with possession of a controlled substance, but she claimed “unwitting possession” in her defense.

This premise established a discussion of those who unknowingly handle or harbor drugs. According to Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, a postal worker can unknowingly deliver packages that contain drugs, or a roommate can hide drugs in a shared living space. “Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma, and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,” Gordon explained.

“In 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court found the law criminalizing drug possession unconstitutional,” AOC stated. “As a result of this decision, known as State v. Blake, any Blake-related convictions qualify to be removed (vacated) from one’s criminal record, and any legal financial obligations (LFOs) paid as a result qualify for financial reimbursement.” Washington State police departments were instructed to no longer arrest people for simple drug possession.

Anyone convicted of drug possession prior to the conclusion of State v. Blake, or before February 25, 2021, is eligible to have their conviction cleared, as well as reimbursed for any relative costs. The Olympian stated that an estimated 20,000 felony drug possession charges that date back to the 1970s could be eligible for vacating, in addition to 150,000 misdemeanor cannabis charges.

Robin Zimmerman, a senior communications officer at the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, recently told The Olympian that the reimbursement amount is increasing every day, and that “payments for the online application refunds are on track to be processed and issued within 90 days.”

Zimmerman also added that state courts have paid out $9.4 million in LFO refunds. Before the Blake Refund Bureau was established, refunds were issued to state cities and counties until June 30. Now, more than 30,000 people have viewed the website, and 25,000 cases have been made online, with that number increasing daily. “Blake team members are working on processing applications and collaborating with justice partners in outreach efforts to help inform Blake-impacted individuals across Washington State about the relief opportunities now available,” Zimmerman said.

The initial court ruling was on track to expire this year on July 1, but in May 2023 Washington State legislators attended a special session to pass a law that was later signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

According to Sen. June Robinson told The News Tribune in May that it was the most challenging legislation she’s worked on throughout her entire career. “Luckily we are moving as a society to understand that addiction is a disease,” Robinson said. “However, unfortunately, we do not have built-up infrastructure and committed and trained staff to suitably address this disease in every corner of our state today. Over and over again we’ve heard that a solution we propose needs to put treatment options in front. I believe this striking amendment does that.” 

May was a good month for Washington State, which also saw other bills passed by Gov. Inslee. He signed a bill that expands the number of social equity licenses by 52 between 2024 and 2032. Bill sponsor Sen. Rebecca Saldaña explained the importance of her bill. “Building pathways of opportunity and flexibility for people of color disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs is not only a moral imperative, but a crucial step towards a more just and equitable society,” said Saldaña. “We heal the harms of the past by our commitment to action and change today.”

Inslee also signed a separate bill that would protect employees from pre-employment drug testing. According to NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, this was a huge step forward. “Urine screening for off-the-job cannabis consumption has never been an evidence-based policy,” said Armentano. “Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s War on Drugs. But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”

The Seattle Times reported in December 2022 that the state saw a decrease in sales for the first time since legalization began in 2014. Although the state reported $509 million in excise tax revenue for fiscal year 2022—an 8% decline compared to sales from fiscal year 2021. Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesperson Brian Smith explained that one reason for this could be because of the transition from pandemic-based remote work back to in-person work. 

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The Summer of Busts

Though the Summer of 2023 has been flush with great musical events, from jam band farewells to EDM gatherings, there has also been the unfortunate reality of drug-related police activity resulting in numerous arrests and large amounts of party favors confiscated. 

Much of this article will be centered around one particular locale where some of the drug busts—along with one tragic mass shooting—took place: the idyllic Gorge Amphitheatre in Grant County, Washington, a legendary venue situated on the banks of the Columbia River in the eastern part of the state. 

The Gorge was the site of the most recent music event spoiled by drug arrests: the Bass Canyon Music Festival, a celebration of EDM (electronic dance music), which took place over the weekend of August 18-20. The Grant Co Sheriff’s Department arrested 13 people while confiscating $20,000 worth of goodies, including cocaine, LSD and ketamine, along with cannabis. Even though weed has been legal in Washington for over a decade, it’s still against the law to sell it without a license.    

The Grant Co Sheriff’s Dept. conducted 14 different investigations in total, their heightened response prompted by an earlier shooting on the same concert grounds in June—more on that story to follow. 

In their official statement to the media, the Sheriff’s Dept. seemed to be rationalizing their overzealous operation, by stating that the concert grounds can hold up to 25,000 people, the same population as nearby small towns.  Yet, modern music festivals have always been about those sorts of cramped conditions, and the vast majority go off smoothly without any overbearing police presence being necessary. 

Similar drug raids were also conducted on the East Coast, including at the Elements Festival in Long Pond, situated in Pennsylvania’s Monroe County. A self-described “car camping” electronic music festival that occurred over the weekend of August 11-14, 11 people in all were arrested, charged with selling various substances to festival attendees.  

According to reports, the increased police scrutiny this year was prompted by overdoses at the Elements Fest the previous year, in 2022. Yet once again, the Sheriff’s Dept’s claims raise the issue that the priority should be ensuring people are offered proper medical services, along with taking safe substances in the first place. Because no matter how big or small of a law enforcement presence there actually is, people are going to take drugs at festivals and concerts, because most of the dealers don’t get caught.

It was an actual shooting—not only overdoses—at the Beyond Wonderland EDM Festival held at the Gorge on Saturday, June 17 that made national headlines. Two people were horrifically shot to death, with two others wounded—including the gunman’s own girlfriend, causing permanent injuries to her. The festival’s Sunday schedule was promptly canceled in wake of the mass shooting.  

It’s worth noting that the two murder victims were a same-sex female couple engaged to be married; they were walking together when Kelly shot them to death. A male who tried to help the victims, as well as the suspect’s aforementioned girlfriend, were wounded by gunfire. The accused gunman, 26-year old James Kelly, who was captured on the festival grounds, is an active-duty soldier stationed in Washington state. It has yet to be revealed whether or not the shootings were politically motivated. Kelly has claimed it was a bad “mushroom trip” that caused him to shoot down his fellow concertgoers, which the corporate media were quick to exploit in their coverage of the shooting. As told to police, during one of the concert performances, a tripping Kelly was filled with thoughts of the world coming to an end, and so he rushed back to his tent, where his gun was waiting to be fired indiscriminately.

The Wonderland incident provided all the justification required for an intricately coordinated multi-agency operation to conduct over-the-top drug activity during the popular jam band Dead and Company’s farewell tour stop to the Gorge on July 7 and 8. 

Mutually involved in the Dead & Co. busts were the Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (INET), Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Moses Lake Police Department Street Crimes Unit, as well as Homeland Security Investigations, meaning the US government was involved as well.  

Various substances with a combined estimated street value of over $200,000 were seized, including over 28,000 grams of weed, dabs and edibles, as well as coke, shrooms, molly and acid. In all, 13 people were arrested on drug felony charges.

Posting on their Facebook page July 12, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued an official statement regarding the bust, making no apologies for the arrests and seizures:

“The Gorge Amphitheater encourages law enforcement pro-activity at their concerts which are known to have an illegal drug culture based on the number of overdoses and incidents experienced over the years.”  The statement also referenced the recent EDM festival shooting. 

However, the Sheriff’s Dept failed to address the primary problem of the Wonderland incident, which wasn’t the mushrooms, but the firearm that was illegally brought onto the concert grounds, which as stated in the venue’s official rules, is prohibited. While it’s true that psychedelic mushrooms were prohibited too, that substance cannot be used as a weapon to impulsively kill innocent people. Law enforcement did not provide a statement regarding an apparent plan in place to prevent future gun violence at the Gorge, solely focusing on the drugs.

The arrests and seizures at the Gorge were not the first time during the two-month Dead & Co. summer tour that big busts at one of their gigs made the news. When the band performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC), located in upstate New York, on June 17 and 18, local law enforcement was in full force. So full in fact, that the New York State Park Police reported those two D&C shows were among the busiest they’ve ever experienced in terms of drug busts, as well as some actual, violent crime they had to deal with at the venue. The Park Police seized LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, ketamine, meth, weighing equipment and even black-market “packaging”.  Additionally, 54 tanks of nitrous oxide were seized, along with arresting over 30 individuals, as well as confiscating $33,000 in cold hard cash from one luckless drug dealer. 

Concerts by Phish, the biggest jam band outside of Dead & Co., also experienced unwanted—and perhaps unwarranted—treatment by law enforcement. As reported by Phish fans on Reddit, accompanied by photos that provided visual confirmation of the claim, a circulating memo revealed that a federal/local law enforcement joint endeavor was targeting a pair of Phish shows to be held in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania in late July.   

In a memo shared far and wide on the web, the document carried the heading of “Washington County Sheriff’s Office” with an added note “Internal Dissemination Only.” The subject read: “Joint County Task Enforcement Operation ‘Phish in a Barrel’” with the next line indicating the operation was to be conducted at “Star Lake Amphitheatre July 21-22, 2023”, a concert venue outside of Pittsburgh. 

The memo listed the “chain of command” of the various agencies purported to be involved with this operation in hierarchical order, designated by phonetics: “Ops Alpha” was Dept. of Homeland Security, “Ops Bravo” was Washington Co Sheriff’s and “Ops Charlie” was the notorious Drug Enforcement Administration, just to throw an extra scare into any who believed this printed chicanery.  

The memo designated Highway 22 as the “primary checkpoint”, with Highway 18 as the “secondary” checkpoint in which anti-drug units with colorful nicknames like “Team Wolverine” and “Team Badger” would crack down on any would-be partying Phish fans. Perhaps using a code name based on an actual animal-based Phish song such as “Ocelot” or “Possum” might’ve been too obvious. 

Despite the memo seeming quite intentionally comical in hindsight, this document was strongly believed by the Phish and wider jam band communities for a period of time leading up to those concerts. 

So much so that Washington Co Sheriff Tony Andronas felt obligated to post on his Facebook page that “Phish in a Barrel” was indeed a hoax, and in fact, a similar prank had been played on the Virginia State Police in 2018. In that case, as with this most recent one, none of the perpetrators were identified.

Despite the hoax, it turns out the Washington County Sheriff’s Department still made their presence felt in the most unwelcome way at those Phish shows, as officers were actually on the Star Lake “lawn” (the general admission area behind the seats), as visually documented on social media. This time it was no hoax/prank, as photos posted on Reddit revealed the cops were disturbing and disrupting concertgoers’ good times, writing tickets for those merely smoking weed on the lawn. 

With paranoia over the “Phish in a Barrel” hoax being so widespread, in conjunction with all of the excessive actual busts from coast-to-coast, this demonstrates that law enforcement continues to prioritize drug enforcement over public safety at festivals and concerts—so let the attendee beware.

The post The Summer of Busts appeared first on High Times.

A Crystal Canvas

Alpenglow Extracts, founded by professional snowboarder and cannabis connoisseur, Nathan Lind, is more than just the run-of-the-mill budding cannabis operation—it’s a passion project inspired by the thrill of the slopes, an admiration for the outdoors and, as we hope you might have guessed, copious amounts of weed. Lind credits his company’s appeal to the selective partnerships he’s carved out with leaders in the cultivation sector in Washington state. 

It’s not unusual for pro-athletes to get into marijuana, but it is uncommon for an athlete to heed the cannabis calling while shredding the pow. That’s precisely where Lind experienced his eureka moment. In the early 2000s, while traveling the world competing on the snowboarding circuit (and admittedly smoking a bunch of weed), he found an education in growing cannabis and the extraction process. 

After lots of trial and error, Lind recognized that he had something special to offer the concentrate market, setting out to establish a brand that combined the stoner spirit of his two obsessions: Snowboarding and cannabis. Lo and behold, Alpenglow Extracts was born. The products lend credence to the name Alpenglow, a natural phenomenon of reddish light that occurs in the mountains during sunrise and sunset. Articulating this wonder is impossible unless you’ve seen it for yourself.

“I thought it was a fitting name for a company that celebrates the beauty of nature and the power of cannabis products that also need to be experienced in person to appreciate,” Lind told High Times.

Alpenglow often offers blended offerings, and since these batches are limited drops—maybe 200-300 grams distributed statewide—they never get a second run. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Gary’s Cartel THCA, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

Gary’s Cartel, THCA Diamond Sauce

It looks like what sank the Titanic, yet it’s likely only sent a slew of Washingtonian dabbers plummeting into cold waters. Gary’s Cartel is a rocks ‘n sauce hybrid combining Weekend at Gary’s and Medellin Jet Fuel Gelato. Part sticky, part liquid (think marmalade), this syrupy diamond-shaped glob is packed with THC, resulting in an intense high dominated by flavors of gas and grape.

Lemon Cherry Terp Dough, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

Lemon Cherry Gelato, Live Resin “Terp Dough”

Bakers need dough, and that’s precisely what terp dough is all about. This concentrate consistency is similar to badder, only drier, allowing for more pliability. It’s unique because the extract is literally a dough that can be handled, rolled, and essentially configured at the user’s discretion. Think Play-Doh that can be set on fire. Terp dough is arguably a more diplomatic creation than other dabs. It’s very user friendly, a lot like rosin, melting on the nail like pre-warmed butter.

Rainbow Cuvée, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

Rainbow Cuvée, Live Resin

Could it be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… or perhaps just a technicolor taste of it? Marvel at this vivid and enticing badder consistency. It’s damp, mushy, almost waxy to the touch with a bright, golden-yellow color that resembles a melting sun dripping down to Earth. This particular extract has been loaded up with terpenes from various representations of Zkittlez, giving it an aroma of sweet and fruity notes, with hints of piney, gassy earthiness. It’s like inhaling a bag of fruit candy, favorable in lemon, lime, and grape.

Cherry Pie, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

Cherry Pie, THCA Diamond Sauce

Don’t worry, you won’t need a fork, just a nail. This is another rocks ‘n sauce concoction that, at first glance, appears to be more of a rare gemstone than anything in the realm of cannabis extracts. You can’t go wrong with a classic.

Pink Orangez, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

Pink Orangez, Live Resin “Terp Dough”

This is not a shot of a previously undiscovered, alien planet captured by the Webb Telescope. But it might take the user to outer space. No, this is a terp dough infusion that brings together strains Pink Runtz and Black Orange. The Runtz gives it a slap of gas and funk while the Orange delivers a pronounced, well-balanced sweet citrus profile (less rind or sour). Wad up this gorgeous yellow resin anyway you like and let the mandarin orange that dominates the flavor profile bring on the fade. 

THCA Diamonds, Photo by Devin Stein (@thingsfromsteinfarm)

THCA Diamond

A stripped down THCA isolation, this extraction is all rocks; hold the sauce. This concentrate is clear in appearance because all the terpenes have been removed, leaving behind nothing but a bare bones, flavorless high-THC experience (95-98% purity) that can be used to formulate another craft blend. It’s essentially a crystal canvas where a variety of terpenes can be added back into the fold.

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post A Crystal Canvas appeared first on High Times.

US Fentanyl Crisis: Record High Drug Overdose Deaths in 2022, Washington Leading

Summary: Drug overdose deaths in the United States reached a new record in 2022, with 109,680 people dying as the fentanyl crisis deepened. Eight states, including Washington and Wyoming, saw drug deaths surge by 9% or more. However, some states hard hit by the opioid-fentanyl epidemic saw significant declines in drug deaths.

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Record Drug Overdose Deaths in US Amid Deepening Fentanyl Crisis

Drug deaths across the United States hit a new record in 2022, with 109,680 people dying as the fentanyl crisis continued to deepen, according to preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight states, including Washington and Wyoming, saw drug deaths surge by 9% or more, with the greatest increases of 21% coming in these two states. Oregon also saw a 6.8% increase in drug deaths.

[Image credit: CDC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, expressed concern that deaths continue to rise despite the end of disruptions linked to the COVID pandemic. However, some states hard hit by the opioid-fentanyl epidemic saw significant declines in drug deaths. Maryland and West Virginia, two states severely affected by the crisis, each reduced fatalities by roughly 7% from 2021 to 2022.

The White House described these latest numbers as progress, arguing that by slowing the increase in drug deaths, thousands of lives have been saved nationwide. However, only 1 in 10 Americans experiencing addiction currently receive medical treatment.

[Source: OPB]

While Kratom seems to offer an alternative to opiates, there might be risks involved…

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AI Disclaimer: This news update was created using AI tools. PsychePen is an AI author who is constantly improving. We appreciate your kindness and understanding as PsychePen continues to learn and develop. Please note that the provided information is derived from various sources and should not be considered as legal, financial, or medical advice.

And medical cannabis isn’t the solution…

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New Law Gives Seattle Dispensary Employees Stronger Labor Protections

A newly enshrined ordinance in Seattle will give cannabis dispensary workers in the city stronger labor protections, part of an ongoing effort by leaders to make the marijuana industry more equitable. 

The ordinance, which took effect last Wednesday, requires covered outgoing cannabis business employers to post “written notice of a change in control” and provide “a preferential hiring list to the incoming cannabis employer,” while also requiring the incoming employer to retain “covered employees for a certain period of time following the change” and follow “other hiring and retention requirements.” 

Steven Marchese, the director of Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards, said that his office “is committed to providing outreach, education, and enforcement for Seattle’s newest labor standard.” 

Marchese said that the new law, known as the Cannabis Employee Job Retention Ordinance, “provides protections for workers in this industry that will help provide a stable workplace, stronger workforce, and contribute to a better overall economy for Seattle.”

Cody Funderburk, a local cannabis activist who works in the cannabis industry and is a former member of a local cannabis union, called the Cannabis Employee Job Retention Ordinance “a monumental step toward protecting the rights of cannabis industry employees.”

“The effects of this legislation will improve job security for thousands of employees in Washington State’s cannabis industry. Workers deserve the peace of mind of knowing that their livelihoods will be safe as the cannabis industry continues to rapidly shift and evolve,” Funderburk said in a statement.

A press release from the Office of Labor Standards said that the new ordinance reflects the commitment from the city of Seattle and its mayor, Bruce Harrell, “to improve equitable outcomes in the cannabis industry and clarify matters raised in the ordinance, including provisions related to preferential hiring, offer of employment, and discharge from employment for just cause.”

Last summer, Harrell introduced a trio of bills to the Seattle city council aimed at promoting diversity in the local cannabis industry.

The three bills sought to require the following, per a press release from Harrell’s office at the time: “Creation of a City-level social equity license, intended to reduce barriers toward opening cannabis stores for underrepresented communities and those most impacted by the war on drugs; Laying the groundwork for future cannabis-related businesses, in collaboration with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, to also issue licenses through a social equity framework; Ensuring transparency to employees around ownership of cannabis store business licenses holders; Requiring a 90-day retention of store workforce when ownership changes, similar to protections created for hotel workers in 2019; Creation of a short-term cannabis advisory committee, selected in collaboration with City Council to collect input on cannabis equity and needs from workers, community members, and industry leaders; Implementation of a needs assessment to understand additional steps to make the industry more robust and sustainable for diverse communities; Collaboration with County and community efforts to further the work of expunging convictions for cannabis-related crimes prior to 2014; Development of a state and federal legislative agenda promoting cannabis equity, as well as safety improvements, capital investments, and access to banking services.”

Harrell said that the proposals were designed to help the city’s cannabis industry continue to evolve.

“As the cannabis industry continues to develop, we must course correct and support the communities who too often have been left behind. Equity in this industry means safe working conditions and fair treatment for workers, store ownership that includes the communities most impacted by the war on drugs, and a commitment to fairness, innovation, and opportunity,” Harrell said.

The post New Law Gives Seattle Dispensary Employees Stronger Labor Protections appeared first on High Times.

Cannabis Retail Ban Finally Lifted in Pasco, Washington

The city of Pasco, Washington this week officially lifted its ten-year ban on cannabis retailers, an historic change for that part of the state. 

The city council there voted 5-3 on Monday in favor of zoning changes that will lift the ban, according to the Tri-City Herald

The newspaper reports that the vote “marks the end of a decade-long struggle by local marijuana activists and business owners to ease government restrictions in the city of 80,000.” 

“The ordinance lifts the ban in three commercial zones (C-1, C-2 and C-3) and three industrial zones (I-1, I-2 and I-3) found throughout the city, and opens up business to certain areas along North Road 68, Kings Corner, Broadmoor Boulevard, East Lewis Street and Court Street. It will take effect five days after approval, pending any publication requirements,” according to the Herald

With the vote, Pasco becomes the first in the so-called “Tri-Cities,” a metro area in eastern Washington comprising three communities that border one another (Richland and Kennewick are the other two).

Washington became one of the first two states in the country to legalize recreational cannabis for adults back in 2012, when voters approved a ballot measure to end the prohibition. (Colorado voters approved a similar proposal that same year.)

Some countries and cities opted out of the new law in Washington, voting instead to ban retail cannabis sales within their jurisdiction. 

But over the years, as legalization has spread nationwide, some residents in those communities began to have second thoughts. The Tri-City Herald reported earlier this year that a “2021 community survey showed that 46% of Pasco residents would not back changes to allow marijuana retail sales in city limits, while about 45% said they would strongly or somewhat support it.”

The newspaper reported in March that the Pasco city council had voted to moved ahead “with plans to draft an ordinance to lift its ban on retail cannabis in commercial and industrial zones,” while rejecting a proposal “to ask voters for their opinion on the issue.”

“The decision puts Pasco ever closer to becoming the first city government in the Tri-Cities to lift its ban on retail cannabis. But they will first need to pass an ordinance in the coming weeks or months before stores can open up to sell pot,” the Herald reported then. “An estimate shows cannabis retailers could bring in at least $200,000 a year in revenue for Pasco, said Interim City Manager Adam Lincoln.”

That day officially came on Monday. 

The city council provided more details on the new ordinance:

“The current draft ordinance does limit the number of potential cannabis retail facilities to three (3) stores with up to four (4) stores total as long as one is a “social equity licensee.” This is reflective of the current number of licenses available for the City of Pasco and Franklin County generally that the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has allotted. While it is unclear what the actual effect of the Social Equity License Program would be, there appears to be a potential for licenses that have been allotted to other counties to locate in Pasco in the future, and hence, is the reason for the inclusion of a limitation on a number of retail facilities in the draft ordinance. Although, this is not a requirement of any ordinance and can easily be amended should Council choose to do so. It should also be noted that the draft ordinance does not allow ‘cooperatives’ and still prohibits cannabis production and processing facilities within the City of Pasco as was requested by Council.”

The post Cannabis Retail Ban Finally Lifted in Pasco, Washington appeared first on High Times.

Researchers Aim To Combine Psilocybin and Cannabis Into Single Medical Treatment

The company, CaaMTech, first received a patent in support of the research in 2021. An article published Wednesday on the website Greenstate explains that the company “develops pharmaceutical drugs for mental health conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” and is now “researching the therapeutic value of psilocybin in combination with cannabinoids.”

“Through their research, CaaMTech has isolated derivatives of psilocybin, cannabinoids, and terpenes,” Greenstate explained.

In the 2021 announcement of the patent, CaaMTech founder and CEO, Dr. Andrew Chadeayne said that the company’s “goal from Day 1 has been to capture as much of CaaMTech’s scientific innovation as possible in our intellectual property portfolio as we develop the next generation of psychedelic drugs.”

“The allowance of our first patent application has given a shot of energy to the team that has worked diligently over these past four years to bring it to the finish line,” Chadeayne said in the announcement. “With hundreds of applications still to prosecute, this is a great start.”

“Strong patent protection and fundamental research give our drugs the foundational support that they need to proceed through clinical trials and become FDA-approved medicines,” he added. “‘Compositions and methods comprising a psilocybin derivative’ covers (among other subject matter) the synergistic modulatory effects of cannabinoids on the activation of serotonin receptors when administered in conjunction with a serotonin agonist. In simpler terms, CaaMTech has shown that cannabinoids work synergistically with psychedelic tryptamines in producing their effects. In doing so, CaaMTech has demonstrated the potential for two drugs once declared by the United States Federal Government to have ‘no known medical value’ to treat some of the world’s most challenging mental health issues.”

The announcement said that “notice of allowance [from the the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)] is a watershed moment for CaaMTech’s intellectual property division, which has filed in excess of one hundred additional patent applications since the application was filed in 2017.” 

“Allowance is the final hurdle of examination before a patent is issued,” the announcement said.

Since the approval of that patent in 2021, Greenstate reports that “CaaMTech has shared findings related to 4-PrO-DMT as a novel synthetic alternative to psilocybin, among other things.” 

“Separate efforts may supplement this work, like the research survey from SABI Mind covering myriad topics, like the general acceptance or disregard for synthetic alternatives to compounds like psilocybin. These steps, alongside policy work, create wider access lanes for patients seeking trustworthy, science-based psychedelic therapies,” the outlet reported.

Developing the compound will not be easy. As MJBizDaily explained, there are “serious obstacles to creating a combo compound.”

“Cannabinoids and psychedelics act on different receptors in the brain. Cannabinoids such as THC binds primarily to the CB1 cannabinoid receptor; CBC binds primarily to the CB2 receptor. Psychedelics such as psilocybin bind primarily to 5-HT2A serotonin receptors,” the outlet reported.

“But there has been research showing that the cannabinoid CBD can bind to serotonin, and that, when serotonin is joined with a CB2 cannabinoid receptor, the resulting combination can do things that neither receptor can do on its own…Buoyed by the potential of the combo compound, the medical cannabis community is growing increasingly excited. For example, cannabis combined with psychedelics has been found to shrink tumors significantly in breast cancer.”

CaaMTech, based in Issaquah, Washington, bills itself as “the foremost drug discovery and lead optimization company focused on engineering psychedelic drugs that meet the standards of modern medicine.”

The post Researchers Aim To Combine Psilocybin and Cannabis Into Single Medical Treatment appeared first on High Times.

Washington Governor Signs Bill to Protect Employees from Drug Testing for THC

Washington state will soon provide measures to protect employees from pre-employment drug tests for cannabis in many situations.

On May 9, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5132 to lay out broad protections for employees who consume cannabis while imposing limitations on employment drug testing for cannabis.

Employers must prepare to comply by January 1, 2024, the bill’s effective date. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) who serves as chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

“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,” the bill reads.

With i502, Washington legalized adult-use cannabis sales in 2012. During the 2022-2023 legislative session, lawmakers in Washington worked to implement a bill that will bridge the gap between hiring practices and current law.

SB 5132 provides exemptions for jobs that involve federal security clearances or background investigations, in law enforcement, the fire department, first responders, corrections officers, the airline or aerospace industries, or in safety-sensitive positions.

Why Drug Testing for Cannabis Doesn’t Work

The Spokesman-Review reports that cannabis metabolites can be detected long after impairment, lasting up to 30 days or more. But cognitive impairment only lasts from three to 10 hours, according to a 2021 study by the University of Sydney. Those researchers found that drug tests for cannabis are likely an inaccurate way of determining impairment.

“Urine screening for off-the-job cannabis consumption has never been an evidence-based policy,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs. But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, the marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.”

Armentano added, “Those who consume alcohol legally and responsibly while away from their jobs do not suffer sanctions from their employers unless their work performance is adversely impacted. Those who legally consume cannabis should be held to a similar standard.”

Nevada enacted a similar law to ban employers from drug testing for cannabis in 2019. California, Connecticut, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island enacted workplace protections limiting employers’ ability to either test for THC or to sanction employees for their use of cannabis while off the job. At the local level, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the District of Columbia approved bills to limit employers’ ability to pre-screen job applicants for past cannabis use. 

The effects of cannabis wear off within hours. Numerous studies show that employees who consume cannabis off the clock perform no differently than their non-cannabis-consuming peers. 

The new law means that employers in Washington must review and revise their drug testing policies to align with the protections provided by SB 5132. They must remove any pre-employment cannabis drug testing requirements that test or report non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites and ensure that policies clearly outline the exemptions for drug testing, such as post-accident or suspicion-based situations.

New York issued similar guidelines. In October 2021, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) released new guidance regarding legalized recreational marijuana use and the workplace including the new worker protections. The new guidance makes it clear that off-the-clock cannabis use should be tolerated by employers in most situations. It defines mandatory pre-employment drug testing for cannabis as “discrimination.”

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Washington Governor Signs Bill Expanding Social Equity Licenses

Washington will add dozens of more cannabis retail shops to its existing adult-use market in the next decade after the state’s governor signed a bill into law on Monday.

The measure, signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, is aimed at bolstering the social equity component of the state’s legal marijuana program. 

Under the terms of the new law, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board is to “issue up to 52 cannabis retailer licenses” between January 1, 2024 and July 1, 2032 to individuals who qualify for the social equity program.

Per Axios, that represents “almost a 10% increase over the current number of licensed pot shops, which has been capped at 556 statewide since 2016.”

According to the bill’s official summary, an individual who qualifies for the social equity program is someone who: “has at least 51 percent ownership and control by one or more individuals who have resided in a DIA for a period of time defined in the Liquor and Cannabis Board’s (LCB) rules after consultation with other specified entities; has at least 51 percent ownership and control by at least one individual who has been convicted of a cannabis offense, a drug offense, or is a family member of such an individual; or meets criteria defined in LCB rules after consultation with other specified entities.”

The bill also “waives annual fees, and provides a one-time, one-license annual fee reimbursement to current cannabis licensees who submit a social equity plan to [the Liquor and Cannabis Board],” according to a press release from Democratic lawmakers.

“Building pathways of opportunity and flexibility for people of color disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs is not only a moral imperative, but a crucial step towards a more just and equitable society,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Saldaña. “We heal the harms of the past by our commitment to action and change today.”

Democratic lawmakers in Washington say that state data “reveals that the vast majority of Washington’s cannabis business owners are white, and only 4% of the state’s retail cannabis licenses went to Black applicants,” and that the bill “helps create a more inclusive cannabis licensing program for Black and brown business owners in Washington.”

“The bill also amends the definitions of ‘disproportionately impacted area,’ ‘social equity applicant,’ and ‘social equity plan’ in the program, and modifies the time period for cannabis licensees to qualify for a social equity technical assistance grant. It enables additional retail stores to be established over time, giving social equity licensees more flexibility in choosing a location, while also preserving local control over zoning and outlet density,” Democrats said in the press release.

Inslee, who announced this week that he will not seek a fourth term in next year’s gubernatorial election, said that he will be calling a special legislative session that will focus on “passing a new drug possession law.”

The special session is scheduled for May 16.

The regular legislative session ended on April 23, before lawmakers there were able to pass a new drug possession law, which was needed after the “Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s felony drug possession law in 2021, ruling it unconstitutional,” according to Washington public radio station KUOW.

“Legislators put in place a temporary fix that treated drug possession as a misdemeanor. That measure, known as the Blake fix, is set to expire over the summer,” the station reported.

Inslee said that he and aides in his office “have been meeting with legislators from all four caucuses and I am very optimistic about reaching an agreement that can pass both chambers.”

“Cities and counties are eager to see a statewide policy that balances accountability and treatment, and I believe we can produce a bipartisan bill that does just that. Details are still being negotiated, but caucus leaders share the desire to pass a bill. I believe that starting the clock on May 16 will put us on a path to getting the job done this month,” Inslee said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Mushrooms Could Offer Improvements to Color Blindness, Study Suggests

The study on color blindness, which comes via researchers with the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Center for Behavioral Health, Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, was published in Drug Science, Policy and Law.

According to Medical Xpress, the researchers behind the study “highlight some implications surrounding a single reported vision improvement self-study by a colleague and cite other previous reports, illustrating a need to understand better how these psychedelics could be used in therapeutic settings.”

Medical Xpress has more on the findings:

“In the current case, a subject with red-green CVD (mild deuteranomalia) self-administered the Ishihara Test to quantify the degree and duration of color vision improvement after using 5 g of dried psilocybin magic mushrooms. Self-reported Ishihara Test data from the subject revealed partial improvement in CVD, peaking at 8 days and persisting for at least 16 days post-psilocybin administration…Before mushroom ingestion, the subject self-administered the Ishihara Test, a series of graphics composed of a mosaic of dots varying in color, hue and size. The cards of the test are designed to hide test images from someone with color blindness that would be clearly visible to someone with color vision. For example, a graphic of red and green dots might have the number ‘3’ composed of only red dots, clearly apparent to most but invisible to the color-blind individual. During this baseline test, the subject reported scoring 14 on plates 1–21, indicating mild red-green blindness, with an additional set of four cards indicating deuteranomalia, a version of CVD that makes greens look more [like] reds. While the subject reported intensification of colors under the acute effects of psilocybin, the score showed only slight improvement to 15 at 12 hours post-administration. By 24 hours post-mushroom administration, the score reached 18, one above the cut-off of 17 required by the Ishihara Test for the classification of normal color vision. The score peaked at 19 on day eight and was still tuned into the range of normal vision four months later.” 

Findings like that have encouraged medical researchers, and forced lawmakers to reconsider longstanding prohibitions on magic mushrooms. 

In Washington, lawmakers approved a bill last month that would make it legal for adults aged 21 and older to obtain psilocybin from a licensed provider. 

The bill would also establish a Psilocybin Advisory Board within the state’s Department of Health “to provide advice and recommendations to DOH, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA),” according to the measure’s official summary. 

“Board members serve for four-year terms, at the pleasure of the Governor, and are eligible for reappointment. The Governor must appoint successor members before the current member’s term expires, and when other vacancies occur. Until July 1, 2024, the Board must meet at least five times per calendar year, and at least once every calendar quarter after that date. The Board may adopt operating rules and establish committees and subcommittees,” the summary said.

The bill passed in the state House of Representatives in March, and then was approved by the state Senate last month. But the legislation has not yet received the signature of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who signed five bills last week that “will protect access to a common abortion medication; enhance data privacy for people who share their health information with third party apps; protect Washington patients and providers who may face legal threats from other states; protect providers’ licenses; and eliminate out-of-pocket costs to make abortion access more equitable.”

The state legislative session ended last month. 

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