Tylenol & THC Tablets in the Medicine Cabinet

There is still a stigma that comes with using medicinal marijuana because of theories that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder narcotics. However, Harvard Medical School has advice for those who are hesitant to speak with their doctors about beginning a medicinal marijuana treatment plan:

[B]e entirely open and honest with your physicians and [to] have high expectations of them. Tell them that you consider this to be part of your care and that you expect them to be educated about it, and to be able to at least point you in the direction of the information you need.

Marijuana can be prescribed to provide relief for a variety of medical issues like chronic pain, opioid reliance, and the adverse effects of radiation on cancer patients. These benefits are possible because of one of the main chemical compounds in marijuana called cannabinoids. Despite the aid that marijuana provides, it has yet to be considered a legitimate medicine and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use. Marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule 1 substance per the Controlled Substance Act, which limits most efforts to research its properties.

In the limited research that has been done, medicinal marijuana has been proven to provide chronic pain relief and aid in anxiety, eating, and depression disorders. Case studies have been conducted to provide evidence for the ongoing movement to federally legalize medicinal marijuana. One such case study focused on an 88-year-old Australian woman struggling with an anxiety disorder and extreme symptoms of vertigo. The study found that medicinal marijuana had substantially improved the woman’s quality of life, reinforcing the need for further research of the relief medicinal marijuana may provide.

People on either side of the argument should agree that further research is needed to determine whether medicinal marijuana should be federally legalized. There will always be risks and side effects associated with nearly any medication, whether it be from marijuana, opioids, or even extra-strength Tylenol. If someone prefers the risks that come with using medicinal marijuana compared to addictive opioids, that should be a conversation between the individual and their doctor, not the federal government.

Overview of Recreational States’ Possession Laws: Part Two

A recent article entitled The State of Legal Cannabis provided a brief overview of the medical and recreational cannabis markets in the U.S. This article takes a deeper dive into state-specific laws (examining possession limits) while providing a foundational background of the state’s legal regime.

The focus of this article is on the laws and regulations in recreational or adult-use states and focuses on Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Part one considered Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, and Maine.

Massachusetts

Just over 50 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 4 in 2016, which permits adults to grow and possess personal use quantities of cannabis legally. The ballot initiative also allowed for licensing of commercial cannabis production and retail sales. Legal sales began in November of 2018. Currently, Massachusetts boasts 26 active dispensaries.

Massachusetts law allows Adults 21 and older to

  • Possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and up to 5 grams of marijuana concentrate outside of their home.
  • Possess up to 10 ounces in their home and legally grow up to six plants.
  • Give up to an ounce of marijuana to another adult 21 years of age or older.

Marijuana use in any form (smoking, vaping, edibles, etc.) is prohibited in public or on federal land.

Michigan 

In 2018, Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, making Michigan the first state in the Midwest–and 10th overall–to legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana for adults. Medical marijuana use has been legal in the state since 2008 and currently boasts the second-largest amount of medical patients in the nation. Retail sales are not yet up and running.

Michigan law allows Adults who are 21 or older may

  • Possess, use, purchase, or give away (to other adults) up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana;
  • Within a residence, grow up to 12 marijuana plants and/or possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana;
  • Possess up to 10 ounces at one’s primary residence

Michigan law also requires a person who possesses more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana at their home to securely store the marijuana.

Nevada

Nevada voters also acted in the 2016 elections by passing the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (Question 2), which legalized the purchase, possession, and consumption of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Retail sales began in July of 2017.

Nevada law allows Adults 21 years and older to

  • Possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and up to 1/8 of an ounce of concentrated marijuana 
  • Legally grow marijuana plants at home for their personal consumption, but only if there is not a state-licensed retail marijuana store within 25 miles of the home.
    • Up to 6 plants per person, but no more than 12 plants per household and the plants must not be visible from a public place

Marijuana may not be consumed in any public place.

Oregon

In 2014, fifty-six percent of voters approved Measure 91. Under Oregon law, adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Limited retail sales began in October of 2015.

In Oregon, Adults 21 and older are allowed to possess:

  • One ounce of useable marijuana on your persons in public and eight ounces of useable marijuana in your home;
  • Five grams of cannabinoid extracts or concentrates; and
  • Four marijuana plants and ten marijuana seeds.

Gifting of recreational marijuana to adults 21 and older is allowed, so long as the amount gifted falls within the personal possession limits, and no financial consideration is associated with the transfer. Additionally, adults 21 and older can home grow up to four plants per residence.

The use of recreational marijuana in public places is illegal. The use, growing, transportation, and possession of marijuana on federal property remains prohibited.

Vermont

In 2018, the Vermont legislature legalized the personal possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by passing H. 511. However, the law did not explicitly provide for legal retail sales. Currently, marijuana cannot be recreational bought or sold within the state, and no recreational dispensaries exist.

Adults in Vermont 21 or older may

  • Legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis; and
  • Privately cultivate up to six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature).
    • Those who cultivate marijuana for their personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest.

Washington

A majority of Washington voters passed the Washington Marijuana Legalization and Regulation (Initiative 502) in 2012, which  legalized the production, possession, delivery, and distribution of marijuana. In establishing a system in which marijuana is regulated, taxed, and distributed, Washington became the second state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis. Retail sales began in July of 2014.

Under Washington law, Adults age 21 and older can

  • Purchase and possess up to one ounce of useable marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and 7 grams of marijuana concentrate;

It is illegal to consume marijuana in public.

Smoke is still smoke.

Has marijuana joined tobacco in the lung disease business? With the impression that marijuana is safer than tobacco, people are switching to smoking marijuana and moving away from tobacco cigarettes. However, the false assumption that smoking marijuana is without risk, is a deadly mistake to make.

People associate marijuana with many possible health benefits, such as chronic pain relief, muscle relaxation, nausea, and weight loss. However, tar in the lungs is still tar in the lungs, no matter what kind of tar it is. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reported the effects of marijuana use on lung health, and the findings might be concerning to those who consider marijuana use to be healthy. The NIH states:

Marijuana smoking is associated with large airway inflammation, increased airway resistance, and lung hyperinflation, and those who smoke marijuana regularly report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than those who do not smoke. . . . Whether smoking marijuana causes lung cancer, as cigarette smoking does, remains an open question.

The dangers that come with smoking tobacco cigarettes are undisputed. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking leads to the death of one out of five people each year. Smoking tobacco can also contribute to heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes. People who are aware of these facts may turn to marijuana cigarettes as a seemingly harmless. NIH raises an interesting point regarding the consequences:

Because of how it is typically smoked (deeper inhale, held for longer), marijuana smoking leads to four times the deposition of tar compared to cigarette smoking.

Another concern that is overtaking the country at the moment, is the vaping epidemic. Vaping has become a new trend that arose a few years ago, and people are now dying from it. The CDC reports:

There have been 805 cases of lung injury reported from 46 states and 1 U.S. territory. Twelve deaths have been confirmed in 10 states. . . . All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping. Based on initial data from certain states we know: Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.

Marijuana use has not been directly correlated to lung disease as tobacco has, but the dangers are no longer hidden. People are dying from smoking, whether it be from a joint, a cigarette, or a vape pen. It’s taking a risk no matter what instrument is used to introduce smoke into the lungs.

Marijuana Banking Knocking on the Door

The U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled to vote on a bipartisan bill that will finally allow marijuana businesses to open bank accounts.

Generally, opening a business banking account is simple. All you need is a social security number and documents that prove your business is legitimate. But is a marijuana-related business legit?

Federal law suggests no. The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance. As a Schedule I substance, marijuana is illegal and “prone to abuse.” Although the federal government has allowed states to legalize the drug, many companies have understandably refused to work in the marijuana industry.

Some start-up entrepreneurs are nevertheless still interested in working in the growing industry, but banks have refused to provide financial services to them. Banks are too big to risk facing federal repercussions for facilitating a potentially illegal business. And without access to a proper business checking account or a credit line, marijuana entrepreneurs have been forced to take a step back and work the multibillion-dollar industry cash-only.

As a solution, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act promises to protect banks that work in states with legalized marijuana. The bill will create a safe harbor to the extent that financial institutions would not be liable or subject to federal forfeiture action for providing financial serves to a cannabis-related, yet legitimate business. The bill primarily aims to grow the legal cannabis market and transfer cash into the economy.

Opponents are understandably skeptical of the true impact of a bill that helps banks and other large financial institutions. They argue that instead of helping financial institutions, maybe proponents should simply work on downgrading marijuana as a Schedule I substance on the federal schedule of controlled substances.

Sure, that can work, but that approach could take years while Congress needs to address the issue soon. Marijuana’s recreational and political popularity is growing rapidly; 47 states already have some form of legalized marijuana for sale. But by working cash-only, the  industry suffers violent armed robberies, tax evasion, and other security issues.

Like other bills, SAFE will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. And like most bills, SAFE will probably fail. But at the very least, Congress needs to notice the issue, work together, and address the issue one way or another.

Colorado Adds Two New Types of Cannabis Business Licenses

In May, Colorado passed SB19-224, which changed the regulations for a multitude of areas of the cannabis industry, including new license categories.

The new licenses all fall under a broad category of “accelerator business licenses.” According to Colorado lawmakers, these accelerator licenses are intended to add opportunity to potential entrepreneurs who are currently underrepresented in the industry. This is one of the first social equity programs for cannabis business in the nation, and if successful, it won’t be the last. So what exactly do these licenses do, and who are they supposed to go to?

Accelerator licenses are split into two categories: cultivators and manufacturers (cultivators grow the cannabis, while manufacturers make cannabis products such as edibles, oils, etc.).

The accelerator licenses allow a cultivator and manufacturer to operate respectively on the premises of a licensed retail marijuana cultivation facility or retail marijuana products manufacturer. The accelerator licensee can receive technical, compliance, and capital assistance from the host-licensed retail marijuana business.

These accelerator licenses are reserved for those who are from or are currently living in low-income areas. Although the aim of the bill would be to increase the number of minority owned cannabis businesses, lobbyist Shawn Coleman insists that skin color or gender doesn’t determine who receives these new licenses:

If you’re white and you grew up in a trailer and your dad went to jail for ten years for selling meth, I can see why you’d think you’d be fit for this . . . This isn’t exclusive to any certain group.

The existing facilities that accelerator licensees can operate from are referred to by the bill as having an “accelerator endorsement,” though it’s unclear from the text what that endorsement entails. The law does list some possible incentives for these existing businesses, including, but not limited to, a reduced business license fee, excise tax exemptions, and priority status for licensing updates. Lawmakers believe that this program would allow those new to the industry to learn some tools of the trade from established cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers. Additionally, the ability to use existing facilities means it would require less capital to get started.

The details of this plan are still flexible, as the Marijuana Enforcement Division has broad discretion in how the new law is enforced. Just last week, MED concluded the final rulemaking hearings, and released a 357 page report on their talks. By the time this new bill goes into effect in 2020, the MED should have new regulations that fill in the gaps.

 

A Quebec Superior Court Rules in Favor for Home Cultivation of Marijuana Plants.

Despite Canada’s federal act allowing any individual above the age of eighteen to possess up to four marijuana plants at a time, the province of Quebec’s legislature passed their own act that prohibits anyone to possess a cannabis plant, at any age or anywhere. However, this act was challenged in a federal preemption context in a Quebec Superior Court, and the Judge ruled against Quebec’s law.

The court gave its ruling a few weeks ago on Tuesday, September 3rd, in which its decision found the Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act, which prohibited the possession and cultivation of cannabis plants, to be unconstitutional because it infringes on the legislation passed by Canada’s federal government. With this decision the Court is setting a potential precedent for these provinces to get up to speed with the way Canada is going to treat cannabis as a nation. With this being said, it is important for cannabis users in Quebec to understand that the fight to strike down this legislation is still not over.

The attorney representing the province of Quebec in this lawsuit still has the ability to appeal this decision and take it to a higher court for a ruling.  Until such appeal, cannabis users in Quebec are able to grow up to the four plant maximum set by federal law. However, due to the province’s ability to appeal the decision or rewrite the law, Quebec is likely to enforce the law which means if you home grow a marijuana plant in their territory you might still be getting a ticket.  Especially since the Quebec Premier Francois Legault stated “[w]e are analyzing to see what recourse we have to put in place what we wanted to do.” Talking about Quebec’s legislation as a whole to continue their conservative approach to the legalization of cannabis. So, it is likely Quebec challenges this decision with an appeal on their idea that they have the power to create laws for safety and health purposes relating to marijuana.

However, Quebec was not the only province to enact such strict cannabis laws in response to Canada’s Cannabis Act. Manitoba also has an act in place that prohibits individuals from cultivating marijuana in their home. Thus, if this case in Quebec survives an appeal decision, then someone with correct standing in Manitoba could challenge the law. Especially since we all know history is likely to repeat itself. So, the province of Manitoba will be a prime candidate for another federal versus province challenge in Canada.

This is a big case in Canada’s marijuana history because if the appellate court sustains the Superior Court’s decision it will reinforce the idea of a federal government’s legislation trumps a province’s legislation and will likely make any future legislation attempts to limit Canada’s Cannabis Act useless.

Washington to Pardon Thousands Convicted of Marijuana Possession

Washington governor Jay Inslee plans to pardon thousands of people convicted of small-time marijuana possession charges. His decision joins one of the many, with multiple cities/states moving to no longer burden first-time marijuana offenders. John Cruezot, the Dallas County District Attorney, made a similar decision in April of this year by deciding to no longer prosecute first-time marijuana offenders. 

Marijuana Justice Initiative is the name Inslee has given to his new proposed program. It is set to be the first of its kind, by establishing a streamlined process for pardoning misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions. The program will allow about 3,500 people to apply to receive a pardon without having to hire a lawyer or go to court. The application will be located on the governor’s website, allowing people to request a pardon for a single conviction as far back as 1998. Many states have followed Washington’s lead in deciding to expunge or seal marijuana convictions. Prosecutors in Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and certain parts of New York City are clearing all old marijuana convictions. In addition to these states, California has passed a new law that requires prosecutors to erase or reduce an estimated 220,000 marijuana convictions.

Racial justice is one of Inslee’s top motivations in launching the program. Inslee believes the implementation of the plan is a good first step to begin clearing a single conviction from the record of many. Krisen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said:

“Automatically clearing past convictions or making it easy for people to request pardons is a racial justice issue, considering that blacks and other minorities have historically been arrested for marijuana at disproportionate rates.”

The governor stated the following:

“We have people who have this burden on their shoulders from a simple, one-time marijuana possession from maybe 20 years ago, and that’s impeding the ability of people to live their lives. It can damage their ability to get financing for a home; it can damage their ability to get financing for colleges, even simple things like going on a field trip with your kids. We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal,” he said.”

In order to be eligible for the program, people must have been convicted as an adult, and the conviction must be the only one on their record. Overall, there has been a very positive response to Governor Inslee’s program. In addition to the praise, however, the program has raised concerns about its eligibility requirements. Many Washington natives believe that the program could have been made even better by allowing all marijuana offenders to be eligible for pardon, regardless of how many past charges an offender may have. The current plan only speaks to one time offenders, leaving those with more than one to face traditional clemency requirements. 

Regardless, Inslee’s program is one of many to come, and it is exciting to await the changes that will come along with the justice system.

5 Reasons Why Cannabis Business Owners Need an Attorney: Regulatory Compliance

The Cannabis industry is under a regulatory microscope. While legalization is happening in America and Canada, it comes at a price: Intensive regulation. That means business owners must grow their business while making sure every single regulation is followed. A business owner worrying about dense and confusing regulation will have to take significant time away from actually growing the business. These are the 5 reasons why you should hire an attorney.

You Need to Worry About Growth

The business owner is the visionary. You make the decision to risk significant capital to enter into a highly competitive emerging industry. The last thing you need to be doing is sifting through hundreds of pages of regulation to make sure your business is in compliance. Have an attorney do that. It is their job to take this stress away and show you what you need to do.

The Regulatory Scheme is Ever Changing

Regulation is not stagnant, especially in an emerging industry that has been illegal for so long. Lawmakers and regulatory agencies are learning every day, which means things can change at any time. It is an attorney’s job to keep up to date on all relevant laws and regulations, so you can worry about growth.

Work Horse vs. Show Horse

In litigation there is an old saying that there are work horses and show horses. Work horses diligently prepare all the necessary pleadings and motions for trial and the show horse goes into court and argues in front of the jury. Let the attorney be your work horse. The business owner should be out building relationships, learning about new products, and planning the next step for the business. You just tell the attorney what you want to do and let them handle all the legal work necessary to make your dream a reality.

You Need Someone in Your Corner

An attorney is first and foremost a counselor. An attorney is there to tell you how to make your dream a reality but will have to tell you something simply isn’t legal sometimes. It is better for a business owner to dream big and then have those dreams realized or tempered by an attorney, to find the best course of action. Attorneys get a bad wrap for being “No” people but the truth is sometimes “No” is necessary. Attorneys think about your business, brand, intellectual property, operations, etc. They try to see things from every angle to best facilitate the growth and protection of your business.

Also, always ask why your attorney is saying “No,” he or she should be able to articulate their reasons. If they can’t, they may not truly understand why there are saying “No.” “No” is always a safe play for an attorney.

Because This Happens

Canadian industry leader CannTrust had all licenses suspended by Health Canada for noncompliance with Federal regulations in recent weeks.

“Health Canada inspectors have delivered the notices of suspension to CannTrust Inc. today, and are seizing and detaining all cannabis products at both sites,” Tammy Jarbeau, media relations officer, said in an email.

This company faces a total licensing revocation or a fine up to $740,000.00.

In America, Multi-State operator Harvest Health & Recreation is in hot water with the State of Pennsylvania (for holding seven licenses in the state when five is the maximum) and Ohio (by winning a license by applying as a “economically disadvantaged” applicant). Once again, this company faces license revocation and fines in numerous states.

Attorneys act from a preventative or reactive position. If a business owner tries to cut corners to save money, they will be found out. This is the most intensely scrutinized industry in the nation, especially in the wake of the recent vaping crisis. Hiring an attorney on the front end and working closely with them and regulators will make a business owner’s life unmeasurably easier. This is an industry of collaboration with law makers and regulators. A preventative attorney will work with these agencies and law makers to build a business that fosters trust in the industry and hopefully makes you a lot of money in the process. Hiring an attorney when you get a notice your licenses are suspended for 10 violations of state and municipal regulations, is not going to be a pleasant or cheap experience.

Hire an attorney you trust and can count on when you enter the cannabis industry, it is worth it.

America’s First Cannabis and Cuisine Cafe

The Lowell Cafe in West Hollywood, California has received its license to be the first restaurant in the United States to serve food and cannabis products for onsite consumption. According to Lowell Café’s website there were reportedly over 300 applicants for a license with only 8 approvals. The restaurant is scheduled to open on October 1st, 2019 and its hours of operation will be from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Unlike with dispensaries, customers will be able to consume cannabis products on site. Although current legislation prevents the cafe from serving any infused dishes; customers will be able to purchase pre-packaged cannabis infused products or cannabis flowers (cannabis in its raw form). The restaurant will offer a flower menu, with a list of cannabis flowers available from local farms. The cafe also offers a food menu with a farm-to-table preparation. The menu was created by chef Andrea Drummer, a world class cannabis chef.

There have been a lot of questions on what the rules are for this type of establishment. Much like a bar serving alcohol, no person under age 21 is allowed to enter, and customers have to show a valid ID upon entry. There will also be a strict last call for cannabis purchase at 9:50 p.m. although customers are allowed to bring in their own cannabis after 10 p.m. and can stay until 2:00 a.m.

All cannabis purchases are cash only. Customers are not required to purchase or consume cannabis products and are welcome to enjoy non-cannabis products and services. These non-cannabis items can be purchased with cash or card.

Reservations are not required but tables are available for booking up to thirty days in advance. In an effort to keep wait times to a minimum, table seating will only be available for an hour and a half at a time. The café also allows reservations for special events and after 10 p.m. there will be a cover charge ranging from twenty to fifty dollars depending on the evening.

Legitimacy Rises for CBD Treatment

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a controversial compound in the medical community. Because of its close family ties with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, isolating the two compounds has proved difficult and expensive. In a field with so many barriers to research, not many investors are willing to fund projects with such a high risk for federal prosecution. Currently, Epidiolex is the only drug on the U.S. market that has met the taxing standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CBD derivative comes in a liquid form, strawberry-flavored and gluten-free.

Epidiolex is used to treat children who are diagnosed with one of two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. The diseases, known as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome (DS), both begin in childhood and cause complex varieties of seizures. The episodes may last for up to thirty minutes, and partly explains why there is a substantial increase in mortality rate among children diagnosed with LGS or DS. Depending on the severity of the case, some would need assisted care throughout their life.

During clinical trials, CBD treatments reduced frequency and severity of seizures in patients drastically. The drug does not produce a ‘high’ for these patients, and instead gives them the stability necessary to establish more control over their lives. Unfortunately, not much is known about the science behind why CBD has shown to be effective. Some contend that the medicine is simply having beneficial interactions with medicine already in the patient’s system. Others are working on the theory that the compound influences receptors in the brain’s chemistry in a way that reduces the chances of a seizure.

Recently, the European Medicines Agency approved Epidyolex for use in the United Kingdom. Although spelled differently, both CBD medicines are distributed by GW Pharmaceuticals and treat the same diseases. As physicians spread the word of efficacy of medicinal CBD, more pressure builds on regulations making medicinal research difficult in the United States.