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Employers May Lose Cases for Firing Medical Marijuana Users

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 Health-care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical cannabis to deal with the effects of a car crash, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.

A federal judge ruled in September 2018 that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against cannabis use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of Connecticut‘s medical marijuana law.

It was the latest in a series of clashes between U.S. and state laws around the country that came out in favor of medical cannabis users trying to keep or obtain jobs with drug-testing employers.

The Connecticut decision was the first ruling of its kind in a federal case and followed similar recent rulings against employers by state courts in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Earlier rulings had gone against medical cannabis users in employment cases by state supreme courts, including those in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, over the past few years.

Advocates hope new the new decisions are a signal of growing acceptance of cannabis’ medicinal value.

“This decision reflects the rapidly changing cultural and legal status of cannabis, and affirms that employers should not be able to discriminate against those who use marijuana responsibly while off the job, in compliance with the laws of their state,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Medical marijuana, like the cannabis cuttings growing in a Sira Naturals cultivation facility in Milford Massachusetts, is reshaping employment law. A U.S. District judge in New Haven, Connecticut, ruled in favor of a woman who alleged a prospective employer discriminated against her when she sought a health-care job and informed the company she used medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from a car crash. The judge found that the nursing home violated Connecticut’s anti-discrimination law protecting medical cannabis users despite marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level. (Associated Press File Photo/Steven Senne)

 

Noffsinger sued Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center in Niantic in 2016. She had been offered, and accepted, a job as recreation therapy director at the nursing home, contingent on her passing a drug test.

She told the nursing home that she took synthetic marijuana pills — legally under state law and only at night — to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) she developed after the 2012 car accident. But the company rescinded the job offer after the drug test came back positive for THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

As a federal contractor, the nursing home worried that it could be cut off from that revenue if it employed somebody who tested positive for drugs.

On Sept. 5, 2018, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven ruled Bride Brook discriminated against Noffsinger based solely on her medical cannabis use in violation of state law. He denied her request for punitive damages. The case is now heading to a trial on whether Noffsinger should receive compensatory damages for lost wages from not getting the job.

A lawyer for the nursing home, Thomas Blatchley, declined to comment.

Noffsinger’s attorney, Henry Murray, said his client would not comment on the lawsuit. He said Noffsinger has taken another job in the health-care industry that doesn’t pay as much as the Bride Brook job.

In his ruling, Meyer said the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which many employers including federal contractors rely on for policies on drug testing, does not actually require drug testing and does not prohibit federal contractors from employing people who use medical cannabis outside the workplace in accordance with state law.

The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.

“This is a very significant case that throws the issue in doubt for many of these federal contractors,” Ong said. “It’s certainly interesting and may be indicative of where the courts are going with this.”

Thirty-one states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam now allow medical marijuana, while 15 others have approved low-THC products for medical reasons in certain cases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only nine states including Connecticut, however, specifically ban employment discrimination against medical marijuana users, who could continue to face difficulties in obtaining or keeping jobs in the 41 other states, employment lawyers say.

In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court ruled in 2017 that a sales and marketing company wrongly fired a worker after her first day on the job after she tested positive for cannabis, which she used under the state’s medical marijuana law to treat her Crohn’s disease. Also in 2017, the Rhode Island state Supreme Court said a college student was wrongly denied an internship at a fabric company where officials refused to hire her after she acknowledged she could not pass a drug test because she used medical marijuana.

In both cases, the two women told the companies during the hiring process that they used medical marijuana, but would not consume it while on the job.

The American Bar Association called the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island cases “an emerging trend in employment litigation” and cautioned employers to consider state medical cannabis laws when analyzing their drug use and testing policies.

Several bills are pending before Congress that would undo marijuana’s Schedule I classification as a controlled substance with no medicinal value. But Armentano of NORML said it is unlikely they will go anywhere while Republicans control Congress.

Some employers, though, have dropped marijuana from the drug tests they require of employees, saying the testing excludes too many potential workers in a challenging hiring environment.

TD Ameritrade Urges Their Clients to be Cautious About Legal Pot Stocks

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Canada’s federal legalization of cannabis and the continued expansion of legal use in the United States have led to an explosion of interest in marijuana investments, this year especially. But the U.S. brokerage firm TD Ameritrade is warning their clients and investors in general to be cautious about legal cannabis stocks. In a video posted on the firm’s YouTube channel in late September, TD Ameritrade highlights the risks and acknowledges the seductive appeal of investing in marijuana. Many who’ve observed the cannabis market’s recent volatility feel TD Ameritrade is offering sound advice. Others say the bullish trends of the market are real and that TD Ameritrade is playing it too safe.

TD Ameritrade Video Warns Investors Against Straying Into The “Wild West” of Cannabis Stocks

Cannabis is rapidly moving from the black market to the stock market. But one investment firm is warning, not so fast. TD Ameritrade is urging investors to be cautious and do their homework before buying stock in cannabis companies. Their reasoning is simple: the market still carries significant risks.

The firm’s video begins with a brief history of legalization in North America. It then presents viewers with an image of the North American Marijuana Index which tracks cannabis companies’ stock prices and market capitalization, showing how the value of the index has nearly tripled since its 2015 inception. In short, the setup makes clear why so many investors are attracted to the cannabis industry. Its potential for growth is undeniable.

Then, the other shoe falls. The video says everything that’s exciting about the cannabis industry also suggests it’s a market bubble. It draws parallels between the cryptocurrency frenzy of 2017, the housing market bubble of 2008 and even the dot.com bubble of the early aughts. The bottom line, TD Ameritrade’s video seems to claim, is that the excitement around the industry is overlooking its uncertain regulatory future. And that leads to extreme volatility and in turn, high risk for investors.

Can TD Ameritrade’s Words of Warning Dissuade Young Investors

Exhibit A in TD Ameritrade’s case against cannabis investing is September’s rollercoaster ride for the Canadian marijuana company Tilray. Tilray was the first Canadian cannabis producer to raise capital through an IPO on the NASDAQ. So when trading went public in July at about $17 per share, Tilray’s stock price shot up to $300 per share by mid-September. But almost as quickly, Tilray gave up those gains. The stock was so volatile, in fact, that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halted Tilray’s trading five times in a single day.

The SEC also issued an investor alert on marijuana investments and fraud in early September. And these, TD Ameritrade says, are signs that it may be prudent to hold off on significant cannabis investments until the industry matures. Yet it’s not clear whether investors, especially young ones, will heed the firm’s warnings.

Cannabis stocks are attracting young investors in droves. And it’s not only because legalization a generation-defining issue. Fee-free trading apps like Robinhood and TD Ameritrade’s own platform have made it easier than ever for young investors to buy cannabis stocks online. And they aren’t wrong, according to famous short seller Andrew Left. Left acknowledges that it’s hard to tell the difference between real players in the marijuana sector and fly-by-night scammers. But at the same time, he’s convinced the growth is real and here to stay.

So before you invest, make sure to do your homework. Research any company you’re considering investing in. Look up reports and SEC filings—anything you can find. There are also red flags that should dissuade you from investing. These include SEC suspensions, hyped up press releases and company insiders holding large amounts of stock.

Report Shows Teen Marijuana Use in California Has Declined

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A statewide study in California has found that cannabis use by teens in the state has declined. Results of the California Healthy Kids Survey were released by the California Department of Education on Monday. The study is funded by the state’s health and education departments and is conducted every two years.

According to the research, 4.2 percent of 7th graders reported that they had used cannabis at any time between 2015 and 2017. That figure represents a 47 percent drop from the last survey when 7.9 percent of 7th graders reported using marijuana from 2013 to 2015.

Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported that they had used cannabis at some time during 2015 to 2017. That is a 25 percent decline from the 23.1 percent who reported using marijuana in the previous study.

Eleventh graders also showed a reduction in marijuana use. In the last survey, 37.9 percent of high school juniors said they had used cannabis between 2013 and 2015 while this year’s result for 2015 to 2017 recorded a 16 percent decline with 31.9 percent claiming cannabis use.

 

The percentage of teens who had used cannabis in the 30 days prior to the survey also declined. For 7th graders, the figure dropped from 5.0 percent in the last survey to 2.3 percent for the latest one. For 9th graders, the drop was from 13.4 percent to 9.5 percent, and for 11th graders, the number declined from 20.1 percent to 16.7 percent.

Will Legalization Affect Future Results?

The study’s authors noted that the survey was conducted prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, which began in California at the beginning of 2018.

“How the recent legalization of marijuana use for adults in California [affects] the declining trend among youth warrants attention,” they wrote.

 

“The next biennial survey will be of particular interest to shed light on whether the change in state marijuana laws [affects] these findings,” researchers added.

Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a press release that educators have a role in making sure that cannabis legalization does not lead to increased use by young people.

“We must continue to be diligent in our efforts to prevent, or at least limit, marijuana use in light of the potential effect of the legalization for adults as a result of the passage of Proposition 64 two years ago,” Torlakson said.

 

Cannabis Activist Responds

Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, said in a blog post from the advocacy group that the legalization of recreational cannabis is actually a factor in the decline of use by teens.

“These initial reports confirm that legalizing and regulating cannabis doesn’t increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect,” said Komp. “The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation.”

Komp also said that sound cannabis policy reforms are the best way to keep California residents and their communities safe.

“It’s time to stop trying to ‘send a message’ to young people about drugs and instead implement sound, science-based policies that best protect our children and public safety, along with our privacy and human rights,” Komp said.

Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

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Marijuana festivals, and businesses that benefit from them, are hurting now that cannabis is legal in California

July 5, 2018 

Marijuana festival organizers were banking on this to be their biggest year yet, now that recreational cannabis is legal in California and the state is legitimizing such events by licensing them for the first time.

Promoters say they planned to stop operating under the loose protections of the state’s medical marijuana laws, where they’d force attendees to get doctor’s recommendations for cannabis before entering the gates. Instead, they hoped to have licenses that would allow anyone 21 and older to buy and smoke cannabis, just like they can buy and drink beer at other festivals.

But with local authorities now able to block such festivals even from the limited venues where they’re permitted by new state rules, there weren’t any state-sanctioned events in Southern California during the first half of the year. And none are on the horizon for the rest of 2018.

The picture is a bit brighter in Northern California. The state licensed marijuana festivals this spring in Sacramento and in Santa Rosa, where the massive Emerald Cup is also expected to go off in December without a hitch.

Surge in Illegal California Pot Shops Undercuts Legal Market

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In this March 15, 2018 photo, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy keeps watch on a group of people apprehended at an illegal marijuana dispensary in Compton, Calif. The number of outlaw dispensaries in the county greatly outnumbers the about 150 licensed storefront retailers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)The Associated Press

 

By MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A slight marijuana smell wafted out as a steady stream of customers walked into a warehouse, its doors and windows covered by bars.

Suddenly, police swooped in.

"Sheriff's department! Search warrant!" a Los Angeles County deputy shouted as the team thundered through the front door and began hauling out people in handcuffs.

The Compton 20 Cap Collective just south of Los Angeles that was raided earlier this spring is one of hundreds of illegal marijuana stores operating in LA County, where marijuana is legal for anyone 21 and over and retailers must be licensed to sell to them.

 

 

Broad marijuana legalization arrived in California at the start of the year. From the beginning, there was concern the legal market would be undercut by the massive black market that has existed for decades.

And that's what's happening. Nowhere is it a bigger problem than in the state's biggest legal local marijuana market: Los Angeles County.

The number of outlaw dispensaries in the county greatly outnumbers about 150 licensed storefront retailers.

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That reality is a buzzkill for those trying to play by the rules.

Legal pot shops are losing customers who can get products more cheaply at illegal outlets that don't charge or pay taxes, said Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition, a trade organization that represents cannabis growers, distributors and dispensary owners.

It's an "unfair competitive situation for licensed businesses," Spiker said.

"I think if you turn the tables and took cannabis out of the equation — if it was another industry that didn't have the stigmas — the government would do everything they could to give those licensed business paying taxes a level playing field."

One of the selling points for legalization was it would generate a tax windfall for state and local governments. However, during the first quarter, the state reported only $34 million from cultivation and excise taxes, putting it on pace to fall well below the $175 million forecast for the first six months.

In April, state regulators sent nearly 1,000 cease-and-desist letters to cannabis businesses they suspected were operating illegally. An analysis by the trade publication Marijuana Business Daily found about 64 percent of the businesses were in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Last month, the Los Angeles city attorney's office charged 142 people as part of a crackdown on illegal dispensaries. It also sent cease-and-desist letters but declined to say how many.

Los Angeles County boasts the nation's largest sheriff's department, but even it has nowhere near the manpower to take down all the illegal pot shops. A task force overseen by Lt. Frank Montez raids an average of one dispensary a week.

However, the voter-approved ballot measure legalizing cannabis in California included a provision that made possessing more than 28.5 grams only a misdemeanor. That means officers can seize businesses' cash and marijuana, but employees and owners rarely face jail, and illegal operations often quickly reopen.

"It's a money-lucrative business so there are people willing to take the risk," said Capt. Holly Francisco, who commands the sheriff's department's narcotics unit.

Montez sees his work as more than code enforcement. Marijuana sold illegally may be tainted with illegal pesticides and other harmful substances. And licensed marijuana shop owners who pay their taxes should have a fair playing field, he said.

"When you have an illegitimate, illegal dispensary operating, that not only hurts the industry as a whole but that really hurts the community," Montez said.

At the Compton store, a sign above a security window says customers must be at least 18 and have a physician's recommendation to buy medical marijuana and be 21 and have a valid photo ID for anything else. Like many others, the shop operated in plain sight and advertised online, including on WeedMaps, a go-to website for people looking to buy cannabis.

Inside, whiteboards on dirt-smudged walls advertised the prices for different types of cannabis and concentrates.

Cartridges for vapor pens and "Shatter," a honey-like oil containing cannabis extract, cost between $15 and $30. Large display cases held jars of branded marijuana strains — 28 grams of "Purple Dragon" sold for $160.

"People out here on the street are thinking it is a legitimate operation and are smoking this cannabis with all these dangerous pesticides, and they are really killing themselves," Montez said.

Some illegal pot shops look so legitimate that customers may not even realize they are illegal unless they figure out they aren't being charged tax. But like any shopper looking for the best deal, plenty know these places are illegal and go because it's cheaper.

While some illegal LA County pot shops grow their own plants, many are supplied by illegal grows in the hills of Northern California, long a major source of all U.S. pot.

Lake County, about 125 miles (201 kilometers) north of San Francisco, is home to many such grows because of its topography, which allows pot farmers to easily hide large operations. It has an abundance of federal and state forests and land where cartels set up operations.

Like the LA County Sheriff's Department, Lake County lacks the manpower to put much of a dent in illegal operations.

Deputies patrol on the ground and in helicopters, and last year they destroyed about 250,000 plants and arrested 46 people for illegal grows, Sheriff Brian Martin said.

He has no estimate for the number of illegal grows in the county but is confident the hundreds of thousands of plants deputies chop down each year are "just the tip of the iceberg."

Martin said his short-staffed department has assigned a single a detective full-time to marijuana eradication. He counts on help from state and federal agencies, but they too have their priorities.

"It's all about manpower," he said. "No one has enough of it."

Oklahoma Legalizes Medical Marijuana

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Marijuana is now legal in Oklahoma for medical purposes.

Voters approved State Question 788 in Tuesday’s primary, which makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law provides no outlines on qualifying conditions, giving physicians broad latitude to determine why they recommend medical marijuana to patients. Under the law, adults with a medical marijuana license would be authorized to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana, six flowering plants and various weight of edibles and marijuana concentrates derived from the plant.

“The passage of State Question 788 highlights the strength and diversity of public support for laws allowing the medical use of marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a drug policy reform group. “Most Oklahomans agree that patients should be able to access medical marijuana safely and legally if their doctors recommend it. It is noteworthy that this measure passed in such a red state during a primary election, when voter turnout tends to be older and more conservative than during a general election.”

Oklahoma becomes the 30th state to legalize cannabis for medical use. Legal recreational marijuana has been approved in nine states and Washington, D.C., which continues to ban sales, unlike the state programs. Despite the states’ efforts to scale back on criminalizing the plant over the past few years, marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  

Former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department allowed states to forge their own way on marijuana policy with guidanceurging federal prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations. But in January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance, a move that has possibly paved the way for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. But states that have legalized medical marijuana retain some protections from federal interference under a budget rider known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which must be renewed every time Congress passes a government-funding bill.

In order to more fully protect marijuana states from the policies of federal prohibition, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow businesses and individuals working in the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in states around the nation to operate without fear of Department of Justice prosecution. The bill would also protect banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses. President Donald Trump has said he will “probably” support the bill.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and the trend of states bucking prohibition in favor of legal regulation of the plant reflects a broad cultural shift toward greater acceptance of marijuana. National support for the legalization of the drug has risen dramatically in recent years, reaching historic highsin multiple polls. And states like Colorado, the first to establish a regulated adult-use marijuana marketplace, have seen successes that have debunked some lawmakers’ and law enforcers’ predictions that such policies would reap disaster.

Police Dog Sniffs Out $10 Million Worth of Marijuana in One Night

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You know what they say—a dog is a man’s best friend, unless it’s a police dog that just sniffed out $10 Million worth of his marijuana.

Ok, that might not be exactly how the catchphrase goes, but it does pertain to at least one Chicago man who attempted to traffic that amount of marijuana cross-country until he crossed paths with Jayda, a dog with quite the impressive schnoz.

Police Dog Sniffs Out $10 Million Worth of Marijuana in One Night

So much for police dogs being trained to ignore the smell of marijuana. Although, it’s pretty hard to ignore the smell of $10 million worth of the stuff.

On Thursday, Jayda helped Chicago PD confirm their suspicions that a driver from Midlothian, Texas was trafficking drugs from California. According to CBS Chicago, the stop and search was part of a long-standing organized crime investigation.

 

After a quick sniff job, Jayda uncovered over 1,500 lbs of cannabis in the vehicle and attached trailer, as well as a variety of pot products and paraphernalia. The vehicle had just touched down in Chicago before police conducted the search.

The man behind the wheel was 42-year-old Jason Tanner of Lakehead, California. According to the local news site, he was charged with possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana. The pot had a street value of approximately $10 million.

As of Tuesday Morning, the Chicago PD’s Facebook post has gone viral. As it stands, the post has received over 8,000 shares and counting.

 

The department’s Facebook post read:

“Chicago Police Officers assigned to the Narcotics Unit conducted a narcotics investigation which led to a traffic stop of a vehicle suspected in narcotics trafficking. A Police canine alerted to the scent of narcotics and a subsequent search of the vehicle resulted in over 1500 pounds of cannabis products with a street value of over $10,000,000 being recovered.

Officers learned that the narcotics were en route to Chicago from California. The driver of the vehicle was placed in custody and charged with Cannabis – Possess more than 5000 grams.

 

Thank you to Officers for your hard work in this large narcotics seizure.”

On Friday, Tanner’s bail was set at $50,000 for the incident. After being held at Cook County Jail on Monday, Tanner is due back in court on July 10.

Chicago Police are currently working alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents in California to further investigate the ongoing case.

However, it’s unclear if Jayda still has her “paws” on this case.

Marijuana News: FDA Approves First-Ever Cannabis-Based Drug

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The good marijuana news for GWPH is that the organization is giving its approval to Epidiolex. This is a type of oral solution for the treatment of seizures. This includes seizures from two types of rare epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

This bit of marijuana news marks the first time in the history of the U.S. that the FDA has given its approval to a purified drug derived from marijuana. However, customers with concerns about psychoactive effects from the drug need not worry.

Epidiolex won’t be causing psychoactive effects comparable to marijuana. That’s because it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that causes the “high” that users experience. Instead, patients are taking cannabidiol (CBD), which is another component of the drug.

The FDA notes that the current Controlled Substances Act requires Epidiolex be listed as a Schedule I substance due to its connection to marijuana. However, it has looked over the abuse potential of the drug and is advising the Drug Enforcement Administration on how to handle the situation.

The effects of Epidiolex could very well be a boon to patients with the two forms of epilepsy mentioned above. The drug went through three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to determine its effectiveness in treating the two diseases. It was shown to be more effective at reducing seizures, when taken with other drugs, than a placebo during these studies.

Despite all this good marijuana news, there are still some negative side effects to Epidiolex. These side effects are “sleepiness, sedation and lethargy; elevated liver enzymes; decreased appetite; diarrhea; rash; fatigue, malaise and weakness; insomnia, sleep disorder and poor quality sleep; and infections.”

Texas Republicans Come Out in Support of Marijuana Decriminalization

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Texas Republicans have come out in support of marijuana decriminalization in their official party platform. State GOP delegates also approved an expansion of medical marijuana access and support for industrial hemp at their convention.

Nearly 10,000 delegates attended the state Republican Party convention last week. Before Saturday’s vote on the platform, delegates had the opportunity to learn about cannabis policy and regulation. In a first for the convention, three pro-pot groups and one anti-pot group had booths in the exposition area.

The platform approved by delegates contained more than 330 planks covering policy issues ranging from gay rights to immigration. Of those, four are related to the regulation of cannabis.

One plank calls for a change in state law to remove criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Instead, civil penalties would apply to adults caught with an ounce or less.

 

“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” .

Currently, adults possessing up to two ounces of pot can receive a six-month jail term and a fine of $2,000.

Another platform item seeks a federal rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. “Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and move to Schedule 2,” according to the document.

 

Republicans also support an expansion of the state medical marijuana program with a call for “the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”

Additionally, GOP delegates voted to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity.” They also urged “the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”

Cannabis Activists React to GOP Platform

Cannabis activists applauded the party’s stance on cannabis issues. Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy told Forbes that the proposals would be positive changes for the state.

 

“Texas Republicans, like the majority of Americans, are ready to see more sensible marijuana policies enacted,” said Fazio. “Our state wastes valuable criminal justice resources arresting between 60,000-70,000 Texans annually. Delegates took a stand this week for a better approach. While it would be preferable for cannabis to be de-scheduled entirely, this call by the Texas GOP signifies a very positive shift in opinion. Outright prohibition is not working and Texas Republicans want to see Congress take action to make cannabis more accessible.”

Fazio also said that more Texans would be able to access medicinal cannabis if the GOP proposals become law.

“Under the current [medical cannabis] program, most patients are being left behind,” she said. “Texas conservatives are seeing the value of medical cannabis and want to see more inclusive access. Now we will take this to the Legislature for action during the 2019 legislative session.”

Under current law, only patients with intractable epilepsy may use low-THC cannabis oil after receiving approval from two doctors. The new platform calls for doctors, not lawmakers, to decide which patients might benefit from medical marijuana.

 

 

 

What You Need to Know About Canada’s Cannabis Act

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Yesterday was a historic day for Canadians, as the Cannabis Act passed through the Senate after two years of intense debate. The landmark decision makes Canada the first G-7 country to legalize cannabis recreationally, with the first legal stores expected to open by September.

The bill passed on a vote 52 to 29, with several opposing Senators cited concerns that legalization for non-medical cannabis violated the UN drug control treaties.  Yet despite heated opposition, Bill C-45 is now making its way into law and is expected to come into effect 8-12 weeks after Royal Assent which is expected by the week’s end.

Independent Senator Tony Dean who sponsored the bill was elated celebrating the end of cannabis prohibition in Canada, “We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked.” Dean emphasized, “I’m proud of Canada today. This is progressive social policy.”

Amendments that were originally proposed by the Senate were struck down by the House of Commons, could have been disastrous for the industry. Originally, the Senate had proposed a ban on all cannabis swag, including t-shirts and tote bags and attempted to reinforce the province’s ability to ban homegrown cannabis.  Under the Cannabis Act, every Canadian can grow up to 4 plants which certain Senators complained would increase children’s access to cannabis. Senators ironically also attempted to decriminalize adults giving their children cannabis as young as age 16.

 

The Senate has also originally proposed disclosure of foreign investment, as millions of dollars poured into float Canadian cannabis companies from offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. These amendments were struck down by the House of Commons and did not make it to the final version of the bill, which led to a suspenseful voting session at the Senate after the stock markets closed for the day.

An Economic Boon

Not passing the bill would have been disastrous for Canadian economy, but now Canadian cannabis stocks expected to soar as soon as the markets open leading up into legalization. Shortly after the bill passed, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted #PromiseKept, “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that.”

As trade wars between Canada and the US amp up, legalizing cannabis federally means that Canadian licensed producers can import and export for medical and scientific purposes, while US companies remained landlocked in legal states by federal prohibition.

 

Legalization for medical use occured in 2001 in Canada, with private companies expanding into cannabis starting in 2014 and growing into a robust industry now with over 100 licensed producers in 2018. Canada now boasts cannabis stocks as some of the highest traded, which are beginning to premier on the NASDAQ in 2018, while US cannabis penny stocks continue to fluctuate due to federal prohibition. It’s worth noting a lot of US cannabis brands have moved north with hopes of trading on the major exchanges, including MedMen, Dosist and Province Brands, with other companies licensing IP to Canadian companies including Dixie, Bhang, Greenhouse, O.PenVAPE, and many more.

While the first year of legalization in Canada products will be limited to dried flower and oil, Deepak Anand, Vice President of Government Relations at Cannabis Compliance Inc. was optimistic about diverse cannabis products being approved within a year of Royal Assent. “Health Canada has already started thinking about regulations surrounding forms of Cannabis not going to be legal on proclamation day.” On the retail side, he noted, “Provinces such as New Brunswick appeared far better prepared for a September legalization date when compared with BC or Ontario.”

While the west side of the country amps up for private retail, east of Ontario is primarily government retail outlets with potential for privatization as government swings right. Originally legalization was supposed to take place by July 1st on Canada Day but now is expected in September giving provinces more time for the rollout.

 

Justice, Freedom, and Cannabis

Despite the celebrations, many activists worry that legalization will ultimately leave out those who have most been affected by the war on drugs in Canada.  For those Canadians who have a criminal record for cannabis, there are no pardons proposed currently in the Cannabis Act. Having a criminal record or being suspected of breaking the law are grounds to deny someone a cannabis business license. Critics say that cannabis should take an equity perspective, especially with Canada’s massive diversity problem when it comes to cannabis. Health Canada is listening to criticism and recently announced that Indigenous cannabis applicants are being fast-tracked now to make up for the lack of diversity.

The new Cannabis Act includes micro-cultivation and micro-processors, which will be able to produce edibles, extracts and beverages by 2019. While marketing remains restrictive in Canada, there is the potential for farm gate sales for micros in the future as legalization potentially opening the door to licensed cannabis lounges, restaurants and cafes depending on provincial restrictions.

As for next steps for Canada, Trina Fraser co-managing partner and CannaLaw® group leader at Brazeau Seller Law is optimistic for the future of craft cannabis, “Hopefully the regulations will include implementation of previous proposals by the federal government, including ‘micro’ licences with lower regulatory burdens, clarity on security clearance requirements for prior illicit market participants and improved access for medical patients.”

It’s hard to know if legalization will truly be inclusive after almost a century of prohibition, whatever Canada does will set an example for the world. As the World Health Organization releases its pre-review for cannabis, according to Senior Policy Analyst for Transform Drug Policy Foundation and consultant for Health Canada’s legalization task force Steve Rolles, “This will have major repercussions at the UN.”

Rolles reflected that while the UN ignored Uruguay, and turned a blind eye to the US states, Canada is a major voice in the United Nations, so this will inevitably force the debate on drug policy reform back to center stage. “The malfunctioning and antiquated UN system is long overdue for some modernisation, so it comes a good moment. We hope the Canadian government can now show the same leadership at the UN they have shown domestically.”