A Hidden Origin Story of the CBD Craze

Long before CBD had become a trendy wellness elixir found in juice and moisturizer and ice cream and dog treats; before corporate chains like Walgreens and Sephora had decided to sell it; and way before Kim Kardashian West had thrown a CBD-themed baby shower, a ragtag crew of activists, doctors, writers and marijuana farmers met up on an early winter evening in 2011. They sat in a circle at a house in the hills a few hours north of San Francisco — where wine country becomes weed country — to discuss the therapeutic potential of CBD, and how to get people to take it seriously.

Several studies in rodents and in cell cultures had suggested that CBD, a nonintoxicating compound from the cannabis plant more formally known as cannabidiol, could protect the nervous system, modulate blood flow, slow the growth of cancer cells and provide relief from seizures, pain, anxiety and inflammation.

“We were talking about, ‘What can we do with this?’ ” recalled Samantha Miller, who hosted the event at her split-level house, wedged between redwoods and a creek below. A headstrong biochemist, she had been growing marijuana since the age of 14 and had just quit a six-figure job to start her own cannabis testing lab.

After two years of tracking down high-CBD pot plants and building momentum, the group began to devise ways to persuade more farmers to grow strains with CBD — which had largely been bred out of American pot since it doesn’t get you high. In addition to convincing marijuana dispensaries to widely carry CBD, they wanted to educate the public about its promising benefits.

As the group of ten or so brainstormed, a balloon of vaporized pot was passed in one direction and a bong in the other.

“There was a strong sense that this was really going to be something, if when people use these strains they have any kind of experience like the mice did in the laboratories,” said Martin Lee, a writer who at the time had been finishing a book about the social history of marijuana for Simon & Schuster.

Near him was Stacey Kerr, a physician with flowing silver hair who served as treasurer of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, as well as Wade Laughter, a soft-spoken man in glasses who had started cultivating pot for his glaucoma in the mid-90s. Mr. Laughter and Lawrence Ringo, an old-school hippie grower, were some of the first Americans to intentionally cultivate plants higher in CBD than in THC — the compound that does get you high. Both pledged to keep their strains available for other growers at cheap prices. (Mr. Ringo said he would sell his seeds for as little as $5.)

Finally, there was Fred Gardner, a writer who had recruited almost all of these people to the CBD cause. A Harvard-educated former antiwar activist, now 78, Mr. Gardner had been writing about CBD since the late 1990s for publications like Synapse, the U.C. San Francisco weekly. For years, he’d been determined to connect the nascent CBD research he heard about at symposiums abroad with the medical marijuana movement in California. And with this group, finally, it seemed to be coming together.

Ms. Miller spent the months after this meeting leading hundreds of CBD seminars for farmers; Dr. Kerr began informal patient surveys to track how CBD made people feel; and as he finished his book, Mr. Lee often traveled around with Mr. Laughter and Mr. Ringo’s high-CBD plants and seeds, spreading the gospel at pot shops across the West.

“I was aware that this was a pretty special moment,” Dr. Kerr told me, talking about the night at Ms. Miller’s. “That it was the beginning of something big, and we were there to see it.”

At the time of Samantha Miller’s summit in 2011, THC was the sole chemical “face” of the plant. Cannabis containing significant amounts of CBD was still rare. Police raids and federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses were still common. And because CBD doesn’t get you high, it was easy to miss; hardly anyone outside of pharmaceutical companies and academia had heard of it.

In the nine years since that night in the woods, one of the group’s biggest goals has clearly been accomplished: People know about CBD.

Jennifer Aniston loves beauty products made with it. The N.F.L. star Rob Gronkowski sells it. Mike Tyson offers a cannabidiol-infused water called DWiiNK. On Instagram, #cbd is four times as common as #resist. Last year, the investment bank Cowen estimated that the U.S. CBD industry will be worth $16 billion by 2025. And e-commerce sales of CBD have grown this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the CBD landscape of 2020 looks nothing like what the activists and scientists intended. That’s because the federal government’s insistence that cannabis has no legitimate use as a medicine created two enormous problems: the proliferation of fake CBD products and the nonsensical separation of CBD from THC.

Clinical studies have shown that CBD is most effective when paired with at least some THC, even if it is not enough to cause a high. However, the United States considers cannabis with THC to be a Schedule 1 drug — which puts it in the same category as heroin, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. This makes further research very difficult to do, and causes sick people in many states to be treated as criminals.

Cannabis that is high in CBD but extremely low in THC was made legal at the end of 2018. But finding an easy, affordable test that is able to distinguish cannabis with THC from cannabis without THC has been prohibitively difficult for farmers and crime labs alike. So federal agencies have been slow to regulate the booming industry — leading to a deluge of tinctures, smoothies and lotions that trusted tests have shown contain no CBD at all.

In the absence of oversight, the push to get more patients access to cannabis medicine — and bona fide CBD — has been co-opted by a push to make as much money as possible off the next big wellness fad. “At a certain point, it had a life of its own,” Ms. Miller told me.

Now, the CBD industry promises a miracle drug but is often selling a placebo: cannabidiol products with zero cannabidiol inside. As a result, the compound is often caricatured as snake oil, a scam, even as promising research into the full potential of CBD is starting to pick up.

The compound’s reputation is a microcosm of what it means to be in America right now: a thing that some of us consider a hoax and others praise as the solution to everything. But CBD’s rollicking journey from the international underground to cultural ubiquity proves that, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

As marijuana use increased in the 1960s and ’70s, and the Nixon administration criminalized drugs to vilify what one aide described as “the antiwar left and black people,” the more science-minded side of the government began funding some basic cannabis research. A man named Carlton Turner helped establish the government’s Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi. After that, he became President Ronald Reagan’s drug czar, helping to expand the War on Drugs.

But all the while, Mr. Turner was in touch with a Brazilian scientist named Elisaldo Carlini who had done small-scale human studies showing CBD reduced seizures: “All the early work on CBD was Carlini in Brazil,” Mr. Turner told me this past summer. “We were in communication for many years.”

For decades, Dr. Carlini’s research was not replicated, in part because so few people had access to the compound: Both the pot held at the nation’s sole government-sanctioned marijuana lab at the University of Mississippi and the illegal pot being smoked around the country had only trace CBD content. (Mr. Turner even tested several kinds of cannabis sent by a legendary pot grower, a writer for “High Times” named Mel Frank. To no avail: none of it contained much CBD.)

In those years, emissaries of California’s counterculture were often traveling the world looking for unique strains of cannabis. The most influential of these collectors was a man named David Watson. In the early 70s, Mr. Watson sold his possessions and began hitchhiking from Morocco to India, befriending local pot growers along the way.

Mr. Watson ultimately settled in Amsterdam to examine his thousands of kinds of cannabis at his own Dutch state-licensed company, HortaPharm BV. He brought in a friend, an American botanist named Robert Connell Clarke to help. When Mr. Watson and Mr. Clarke heard about the CBD research Dr. Carlini had done in Brazil, the pair identified and then bred CBD varietals. This led to a discovery.

“It attenuates the high,” Mr. Clarke told me over breakfast in Los Angeles. “That came strictly from anecdotal stoner evidence.”

Meanwhile, after multiple sclerosis patients in England became more vocal about how cannabis helped their symptoms, the country allowed a small pharmaceutical company led by a British physician named Dr. Geoffrey Guy to develop plant-derived cannabis medicines; GW Pharmaceuticals licensed varietals bred from Mr. Watson and Mr. Clarke’s collection of cannabis and got to work.

“Within a couple of years, they figured out a 1:1 combination of a high-THC chemovar and a high-CBD chemovar presented the greatest latitude of effects and prevention of side effects,” said Dr. Ethan Russo, who worked with GW Pharmaceuticals from 1998 to 2014.

As Mr. Watson and Mr. Clarke had discovered, having CBD in the mix reduced THC’s more uncomfortable effects: sedation, inebriation, a faster heart rate. And though a few outliers responded well to CBD alone, GW’s data showed that for relieving pain and inflammation, helping with sleep and alleviating seizures and spasms, most patients got the most benefit from an equal mix of CBD and THC — a drug the company called Sativex. But the research wasn’t enough. Although the drug has been approved for use in around 30 countries, the F.D.A. has yet to approve Sativex in the United States.

Mr. Gardner, the writer whose CBD advocacy eventually inspired the 2011 summit at Ms. Miller’s house, closely followed these developments. If only there were some way, he thought, for California’s outlaw weed farmers to determine whether their plants had CBD, then pot shops could offer a product similar to Sativex. Alas, Mr. Gardner wrote in 2005, that would require access to expensive testing equipment.

Enter, three years later, one of Oakland’s pioneering pot entrepreneurs, a medical marijuana impresario with pigtail braids named Steve DeAngelo. Mr. DeAngelo, who had been in contact with Mr. Gardner about the urgent need to institute better testing, agreed to help fund a cannabis analysis lab, Steep Hill, which began its operations in 2008.

Mr. Gardner came by frequently, chatting and checking in to see if Steep Hill’s founders had discovered the elusive compound. And at last, in February 2009 a dual peak on a testing graph appeared, indicating the presence of CBD.

“I remember the moment,” said David Lampach, one of the lab’s funders and co-founders. “Seeing the dual peak and realizing it was real, and running it like five times to make sure.”

By the summer of 2009, the lab had identified five strains with significant CBD and THC. Mr. Gardner was elated, and began referring to his efforts as “Project CBD” alongside other supporters, including Mr. Lee, the writer. “Right away the thought was: ‘What is the government going to say about this? How can they be against something that’s nonintoxicating?’ ” Mr. Lee said.

In June of 2010, the host of the 2011 summit, the biochemist Ms. Miller, opened her own lab, Pure Analytics. A few months later, she called Mr. Ringo, the hippie grower, to let him know a pot sample he sent in was a strain with a lot of CBD — as much as 11 percent.

“He’s in the trim room on speaker, and this big whoop goes up,” she said, remembering his staff’s excitement.

In the fall of 2010, a Project CBD website was set up where anyone could look through studies organized by disease or condition. Mr. Lee took charge of running it and it began to attract an audience. A few months later, the network of early CBD advocates met up at Ms. Miller’s house in California to coordinate their evangelism. And by the middle of 2011, word of cannabidiol had permeated the population that would become its most potent promotional engine: the chronically ill, people with cancer, with ALS, with serious disorders that weren’t responding to prescription drugs.

As stories about CBD’s power spread, demand increased and prices rose. Sick people often relied on the generosity of growers like Mr. Ringo, his son Dakota told me.

“I’d go up there and see people dying of cancer hanging out with him, and he’d be hooking them up with oil he made in his house,” the younger Mr. Ringo said. Mike Hyde, whose son was suffering from brain cancer, spent months driving around Colorado and the West Coast looking for CBD in late 2011, before connecting with Mr. Ringo at a restaurant.

“I’d never met this guy before, and he brought us literally probably $30,000 worth of oil for this CBD that no one could even get,” Mr. Hyde explained. “For free.”

CBD’s big launch into the mainstream came when the world saw evidence of what Dr. Carlini had discovered in Brazil, back in the 1970s: the compound’s ability to quell seizures. Unlike a reduction in pain, this was something any politician or camera crew could easily see. It wasn’t a stoner scam.

First, in December 2011, an epileptic child used CBD on the Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars,” a show featuring the co-founder of the Steep Hill lab, Mr. DeAngelo. The following year, the parents of an epileptic boy in San Francisco bought CBD from a pot shop. Then, looking for a better quality product, they contacted GW Pharmaceuticals — the British company that had licensed the cannabis collection of those globe-trotting 20th century cannabis collectors, Mr. Watson and Mr. Clarke, and which conducted the research in the ’90s that spurred Mr. Gardner’s CBD advocacy. The company developed a 98 percent CBD drug for the boy and others like him.

Perhaps the most critical turning point for CBD came in August 2013, when a CNN special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiled a 6-year-old girl in Colorado, Charlotte Figi, who used CBD to treat her epilepsy, as well as the brawny brothers who grew her CBD, the Stanleys. Hundreds of families — witnessing the power of CBD enhanced by cable news production values — moved to Colorado to gain access to the Stanleys’ CBD oil, called Charlotte’s Web. The Stanleys told me their wait-list peaked at 15,000 names. And because of public demand, the F.D.A. fast-tracked clinical trials of GW Pharmaceuticals’ 98 percent CBD drug, Epidiolex.

Suddenly, everyone wanted CBD, even though no one quite understood it. In the confusion, there was money to be made. Mere weeks after the CNN documentary aired, the spike in CBD interest prompted the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to issue an investor alert on marijuana stock scams: As the F.D.A. would later show, many online CBD products contained little or no CBD whatsoever.

In 2020, CBD is available three ways: over the counter; at state-licensed marijuana dispensaries; or if you have certain forms of epilepsy, from GW Pharmaceuticals. Most Americans encounter CBD in the first and most unreliable way — at, say, a bodega in Brooklyn or a health food store in Indiana. A consultant hired to do an investigation by a corporate chain recently told me that the percentage of over-the-counter CBD products that contained the amount on the label was “in the single digits.”

As if CBD’s back story couldn’t get any weirder, the path to this glut of phony CBD was paved by, of all people, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Unrelated to the brouhaha on the West Coast, tobacco farmers in Kentucky were seeking a new cash crop. In 2011, James Comer won the race for Kentucky state agriculture commissioner by promising to legalize industrial hemp.

“That raised a lot of eyebrows, including in McConnell’s office,” Eric Steenstra, a hemp lobbyist, told me. “They saw the winds were shifting.”

Along with Representative Jared Polis, now the governor of Colorado, Mr. McConnell included a hemp pilot program in the 2014 farm bill — for “research.” In the legislation, hemp was defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC — an arbitrary threshold, not a scientific distinction: Nothing in the Farm Bill, in case law, or in the Controlled Substances Act seemed to say anything about CBD. So entrepreneurs interpreted this research-oriented pilot program as the de facto legalization of cannabidiol.

The Drug Enforcement Administration disagreed, but couldn’t stop the tidal wave of CBD production. In 2018, over 60 percent of the hemp crop in Kentucky was grown for CBD. Then, long after the country was already flooded with CBD products both dubious and legitimate, Mr. McConnell inserted language into the 2018 Farm Bill explicitly making hemp federally legal.

Many of the Californians who plotted at Ms. Miller’s house in 2011 have watched in frustration as the CBD industry flourished, divorced from THC, and fake CBD misled consumers.

On his deathbed in 2014, Mr. Ringo insisted to friends and family that the Stanleys used his seeds to develop their famous strain Charlotte’s Web. Joel Stanley told me the genetics for Charlotte’s Web were a “cross of wild hemp with an industry genetic.” Critics of the Stanley brothers in the cannabis industry have grown annoyed by their prominence and push for patents. Their company has been valued at over half a billion dollars.

Ms. Miller, who still runs a cannabis testing lab, told me that in the years since the 2011 summit, she has become disillusioned as people she’d thought had earnest intentions in spreading CBD turned out to just want to get rich. Mr. Gardner feels the same way.

There has been a slight uptick in clinical research around the compound’s relation to anxiety, schizophrenia and opioid use disorder. In September, the National Institutes of Health approved $3 million in small grants for studies of cannabidiol and other non-THC cannabis compounds. Nevertheless, the government-enabled ham-handed rush to profiteering has seriously, and unduly, undermined CBD’s medical reputation.

Even Dr. Turner, Mr. Reagan’s drug czar, said there is far more evidence for the benefits of Sativex, the half-CBD, half-THC drug, than for unregulated CBD online.

“There haven’t been enough clinical trials and there never will be,” said Mr. Clarke, the cannabis seed collector. “There’s no vested financial interest in anyone doing it.” Big Pharma is most invested in medications that they can control, that they alone can patent.

Still, some of the states with legal cannabis have implemented robust testing standards, and bona fide CBD can be found at many marijuana dispensaries, both on its own and in a variety of ratios with THC. Ms. Miller’s lab, and other responsible actors, are supposed to ensure products that hit legal pot shop shelves contain exactly what they claim to contain. But without stringent federal oversight, few in the CBD business will voluntarily opt-in to tests of their product labeling’s accuracy.

When I asked Dr. Russo, who oversaw much of GW Pharmaceuticals’ research, how he feels about it all, he sighed. “You do something, and other people run with it, and it turns into something else that you don’t recognize,” he said. “I’m always concerned, but what I like to dwell upon is: What is the real potential here?”

Read the full article here.


Louisiana Lawmakers Advance Three Marijuana Reform Bills In One Day, Including Cannabis Banking

Louisiana lawmakers advanced three marijuana reform bills on Wednesday, and that includes legislation that would dramatically expand the state’s medical cannabis program and offer protections for banks that service marijuana businesses.

House-passed legislation to allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit was approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee in a 5-1 vote. Under current law there are only 14 conditions that qualify patients for marijuana. The bill now heads to the full Senate.

Another bill introduced by Rep. Edmond Jordan (D) to protect banks and credit unions that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by state regulators also advanced on Wednesday, clearing the full House of Representatives in a 74-20 vote.

Beyond prohibiting such penalization solely due to marijuana-related banking activity, the legislation would further prevent state regulators from encouraging banks to deny financial services or cancel accounts for businesses “solely because the account holder is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider, or is an employee, owner, or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

The financial services legislation will next be considered by a Senate committee before potentially going to that body’s floor.

(However, even if the bill is enacted and provides state protections, banks still face penalties from federal regulators under ongoing national prohibition. The U.S. House has passed federal marijuana banking legislation on two occasions but it has thus far languished in the Senate.)

Over in the Louisiana House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, members unanimously approved a resolution to establish “a task force to study and make recommendations relative to the cannabis industry projected workforce demands.”

Text of the legislation states that “there is a need to study the workforce demands and the skills necessary to supply the cannabis industry with a capable and compete workforce, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners”

An 11-member task force would be required to “report its findings and recommendations, including any suggestions for proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than February 1, 2021, at which time the task force shall cease to exist.”

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee was also set to take up another another House-passed bill on Wednesday to let licensed dispensaries deliver cannabis to the homes of patients, but the sponsor, Rep. Larry Bagley (R), withdrew it.

He told Marijuana Moment that the reasoning was it’s his understanding that because his separate medical cannabis expansion bill is advancing, it would mean marijuana could be delivered just like any other prescription medication. It’s not clear if regulators will agree with that interpretation, as doctors are still prohibited from “prescribing” cannabis and marijuana products are not dispensed through traditional pharmacies.

That said, Louisiana’s Department of Pharmacy recently released a memo temporarily authorizing dispensaries to temporarily deliver cannabis to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s possible officials will be amendable to extending that policy on a permanent basis.

Bagley’s delivery bill would require a government regulatory body to develop “procedures and regulations relative to delivery of dispensed marijuana to patients by designated employees or agents of the pharmacy.”

Finally, another marijuana resolution that was scheduled for debate in the House Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee was also deferred by its sponsor. The measure would have requested a study the impact of adult-use cannabis legalization in the state.

Under the legislation, members of the panel or a subcommittee would be tasked with meeting “as a joint committee to study the impact of legalizing the possession and use of cannabis on the citizens of this state and to report its findings to the legislature prior to the convening of the 2021 Regular Session of the Legislature of Louisiana,” the text states.

Lawmakers have until the end of the legislative session on June 1 to get any of these measures to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

View the entire article here.


STATE ACTION ALERT: Help Us Pass HB 385 for Flower in Louisiana!

Flower is the difference between Louisiana and 31 of the 32 other states that have a functioning medical Cannabis program in place.  It is the linchpin in any successful program because it is a far cheaper form of the medicine and it comprises over 50%, on average, of sales in all other healthy medical Cannabis states.

As you know, we have only tinctures in Louisiana – no flower.  That means that patients can’t buy legal Cannabis flower to either cook with, to vaporize, to use in the creation of their own tinctures or otherwise.  HB 385 is the bill that would change everything.

It’s the most important piece of legislation this year or in any year since the Alison Neustrom medical Cannabis program began in 2016.  The bill sponsor is Representative Ted James (D) of Baton Rouge.  The bill was scheduled to be considered in the House Health and Welfare Committee last Wednesday, May 13th, but was pulled without explanation.  With your help, it could pass.

Without your help, it cannot pass.
Without your help, the program will suffer mightily and will otherwise merely struggle along until next legislative session if it survives at all.

The simple fact is that too few patients are involved and so it just isn’t a viable business in the state.  This is how the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association (LSA) and others want it to be.  If you don’t think that the LSA should have any role in the doctor-patient relationship or, for that matter, issues of public health, please contact Representatives Larry Bagley (Chairman of House Health and Welfare) and Ted James (bill sponsor) to request that the bill be added back to the agenda and considered on Tuesday, May 19th at 9:00am.

This is the very last chance we have to save this critical bill, provide medicine for the masses and prevent Louisiana from becoming more of the laughing stock of our country on another issue for another year.

Here’s how you do it:  call these two numbers and/or email these two email addresses (below) and courteously and professionally ask these gentlemen/allies, “Please add HB 385 back to the agenda of the Health and Welfare Committee and hold a vote to pass this critical legislation for the patients of our state.

(1) Chairman Larry Bagley
Phone: (318) 925-9588
[email protected]
Legislative Assistant: Brandy Pearce

and

(2) Representative Ted James
Phone: (225) 343-3633
[email protected]
Legislative Assistant: Claire Stevenson

Want to go the extra mile?
Then grab a mask and gloves and go down to the Capitol (the “people’s house”) on Tuesday morning to pack the Committee room and demand a properly functioning medical Cannabis program – demand the removal of restrictions against flower. Remember, only two jurisdictions out of 33 states + Washington D.C. prohibit flower (“raw or crude” form) and those two states are the only two failing programs: Louisiana and Minnesota.

ALL COMMENTS, WHETHER EMAILED OR BY PHONE, MUST BE RECEIVED BY THE INTENDED LEGISLATOR(S) NO LATER THAN MONDAY, MAY 18TH AT 9am!

Attention: Anyone wishing to attend and submit written information to the committee – Only statements emailed to [email protected] and received prior to 3:00 p.m., Monday, May 18, 2020, will be included in the record for this committee meeting. All persons desiring to participate in the meeting shall utilize appropriate protective health measures and observe the recommended and appropriate social distancing.


SAFE Banking and Steps That Can Be Taken in Support of It

As you likely know, the federal SAFE Banking Act would make it easier for cannabis businesses to secure banking access. This is important for the safety of cannabis workers (to reduce the risk of robberies), for the efficiency of businesses (thus helping reduce prices) , and now for public health (to reduce the reliance on cash, which could have the virus on it).

This is a little bit of a dive into the current state of SAFE, its possible passage via the stimulus package, and the steps you or your org can take that would be timely and effective in support.

Leader McConnell came out with some negative statements today, directed specifically at the diversity provisions that appeared in SAFE and were included in the stimulus draft. At this point we are not sure how much that will impact the trajectory of the banking provisions in SAFE over the next few weeks – and it’s worth noting his hemp constituents will be direct benficiaries of the provisions. Here’s where we see things at the moment:

In the House

While the SAFE provisions are in the package already, we believe that package will be hotly debated for several weeks. Despite that, we do think the SAFE provisions will remain in the final version, for the simple fact that it already passed the House by a wide margin, and House members would not want to be seen as holding it up.

While we think it will likely pass the House, it will have opposition. A key consideration during this period of debate will be whether SAFE is “necessary and germane” to COVID-19, and not simply inserted in a must-pass measure. We saw that in responses to McConnell’s comments on Twitter. We believe the strongest new argument among Republicans is that banks need the currency to lend out to other businesses in need. For the Democrats, we are emphasizing the health and safety of their constituents and government workers processing large amounts of cash.

In the Senate

The more significant challenge will be in the Senate. On that score, our best asset is that Republicans want to help Sen. Cory Gardner, currently locked in a senatorial race with former Gov. Hickenlooper. Gardner is a strong advocate for safe banking, and passage of the SAFE provisions helps his campaign. Don is in regular communications with Gardner and his staff.

Our second best asset is that financial institutions and other large business interests are also interested in SAFE Banking,and this is where we are asking for your help

Steps you can take

If your company has a good relationship with your banker, or if you have allies such as law firms, tax or accounting firms, or other companies that operate on a national level, please consider reaching out and enlisting their voices. Specifically, we want these ancillary institutions talking with members of the Senate Banking Committee, and asking for their support on this issue before the next stimulus package is up for consideration in the Senate. They already know cannabis companies want it – now let’s magnify the message.The members and their contact information is available here and I listed them below. Please consider reaching out to your network if you see an opportunity.

Majority Members (13)
Minority Members (12)
Crapo, Mike (ID), Chairman
Shelby, Richard C. (AL)
Toomey, Patrick J. (PA)
Scott, Tim (SC)
Sasse, Ben (NE)
Cotton, Tom (AR)
Rounds, Mike (SD)
Perdue, David (GA)
Tillis, Thom (NC)
Kennedy, John (LA)
McSally, Martha (AZ)
Moran, Jerry (KS)
Cramer, Kevin (ND)
Brown, Sherrod (OH), Ranking Member
Reed, Jack (RI)
Menendez, Robert (NJ)
Tester, Jon (MT)
Warner, Mark R. (VA)
Warren, Elizabeth (MA)
Schatz, Brian (HI)
Van Hollen, Chris (MD)
Cortez Masto, Catherine (NV)
Jones, Doug (AL)
Smith, Tina (MN)
Sinema, Kyrsten (AZ)

Medical cannabis improvements on the move — act now!

While many state legislatures have adjourned due to the coronavirus, the Louisiana State Legislature is back in action — with social distancing precautions — and is considering a series of bills to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

On Wednesday, the House Health and Welfare Committee unanimously advanced bills sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley (R) that would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis for any debilitating condition (HB 819) and allow regulated home delivery permanently (HB 792). Next Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to consider several other reforms, including removing the prohibition on raw cannabis (Rep. Ted James’ HB 385).

Louisiana is one of only two medical cannabis states that continue to ban cannabis in its natural, plant form. Because extracts are far more expensive to produce, this drives up costs and results in a program that is out of reach to most of the state’s residents.

Let your lawmakers know these bills will improve the lives of suffering Louisianans.

Never doubt the impact constituent feedback can have on medical cannabis policy. The two bills that advanced out of committee are sponsored by a lawmaker who evolved from an opponent to a champion after hearing from constituents.

Rep. Bagley told Marijuana Moment he’d voted against previous medical cannabis bills. “But now, constituents in my area, they come to me and they ask me for help because they’re having pain, they can’t find things to cure the pain. …Now their personal physician can write them a script for [cannabis] and they can get it. Who knows you better than your personal physician? I thought it made perfect sense,” said Bagley.

After you write your lawmakers, please spread the word to other compassionate Louisianans, so that they, too, can raise their voices.


Secret Memo Shows Trump Administration Blocked Marijuana Research For Years

Lawmakers like Joe Biden have lamented not enough marijuana research exists to end federal prohibition, but scientists have just as often lamented tight regulations from the federal government inhibits legitimate research from occurring.

Since 1968, scientists pursuing marijuana research have had to obtain their cannabis from a 12-acre farm located at the University of Mississippi. The Obama Administration signed legislation late in 2016 that would expand the number of facilities growing marijuana for research, but the Drug Enforcement Agency hasn’t granted any licenses four years later.

Thanks to a lawsuit spearheaded by the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) and cannabis researcher Sue Sisley, the public now understands why. A 2018 secret memo, released as part of the lawsuit settled, reveals the Trump Administration believes the nearly 50-year-old program in Mississippi has always been illegal. In fact, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) suggest the restrictions around marijuana research aren’t harsh enough.

The issue revolves around the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs Act. According to the OLC’s interpretation of the UN treaty, only one federal government entity may handle drugs cultivated for research purposes. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) manages the University of Mississippi program while Obama’s plan would run through the DEA. Furthermore, both NIDA and DEA have split oversight responsibilities of federally licensed marijuana spanning back several decades. Under these programs, the OLC determined neither agency “owns” the marijuana grown for research, a stipulation the international treaty requires.

Essentially, the OLC memo states that the United States federal government has been breaking international law for about 50 years.

“We conclude that DEA must change its current practices and the policy it announced in 2016 to comply with the Single Convention,” reads the memo. “DEA must adopt a framework in which it purchases and takes possession of the entire marijuana crop of each licensee after the crop is harvested. In addition, DEA must generally monopolize the import, export, wholesale trade, and stock maintenance of lawfully grown marijuana.”

That the DEA wasn’t granting marijuana licenses for research purposes first came to light back in 2018. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had first obstructed this process—an atypical act, as previous attorney general never involved themselves in the research program. Lawmakers like Sens. Orrin Hatch and Kamala Harris sent a letter to the DOJ and Sessions, known to be a longtime anti-cannabis crusader, instructing them to stop blocking marijuana research. This secret memo now clarifies the DEA’s holdup in granting marijuana licenses.

Sisley’s lawsuit argued that marijuana provided by NIDA wasn’t suitable for research. An independent laboratory analysis found these cannabis samples were moldy and didn’t resemble what consumers would buy in stores. Upon release of the OLC memo, the SRI and Sisley argued that keeping this memo secret and blocking cannabis research deserves serious scrutiny.

“Boiled down, the fact that a secret re-interpretation of an international treaty from 1961 has blocked the advancement of marijuana science in this country for the past three years is absurd,” the Scottsdale Research Institute said in a statement. “Allowing American scientists to cultivate or acquire marijuana grown in this country under strict DEA regulation and supervision is pro-science, pro-veteran, and pro-law enforcement. It puts America First and promotes public health and safety.”

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Is the window for legitimacy in the cannabis sector now wide open? It’s All About Supply & Demand

With the world now coming to a screeching halt with the COVID-19 pandemic, the global cannabis market is perhaps more precariously positioned than ever before.

As the S&P hits new lows and the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, many companies, not just those in the cannabis industry, are feeling the pinch. With billions wiped off markets in a matter of moments, industry mainstay Tilray has been forced to raise $90M for “general corporate purposes” to continue operations.

Potential has always been a precursor to the way many investors have looked at the global cannabis industry. While it’s lightyears away from the historic highs that bathed investors in a “green glow,” the past year has been a different story altogether. Companies such as Aurora and Canopy have seen the departure of high level executives, M&A activities have slowed, and to make matters worse, cannabis rescheduling by the World Health Organization (WHO) has been delayed until December 2020 at the earliest and given the impact of COVID-19, this may be optimistic in its own right.

So the question must be asked, is the COVID-19 pandemic, actually an opportunity in disguise?

According to mjbizdaily, some Canadian stores have seen an “unprecedented” sales surge in product, in some cases, upward of twenty percent.

Perhaps similarly to the idea that people need to stock up on supplies as they hunker down for the foreseeable future, in reality the cannabis industry is primed to benefit in much the same way as streaming and entertainment services are surging amidst the social distancing and quarantines of our current reality. With COVID-19 affecting the respiratory system, it makes a lot of sense to highlight the various non-inhalable forms that cannabis can be enjoyed and consumed.

When if the twenty percent surge in demand is an outliner, cannabis can be marketed to a captive audience while prioritizing the availability of edibles, beverages, and topicals on the market.

Should lawmakers and regulators look to enact “Force Majeure” on the availability of cannabis products, in so much as they can pass laws in extraordinary circumstances? Doesn’t it make sense to allow consumers to access products more readily? Afterall, this is not just be an issue of cannabis consumption, it also relates directly to jobs and tax revenue or a state or region.

Much like the championship window exists in sports, perhaps now is the opportunity for the cannabis market and associated companies to buck the downward market trends and capitalize on surging demand among consumers.

If demand is high and it is clear that a lot of people want products, maybe that underpins the position of cannabis and cannabis products in society.

Read the full article here.


U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Revises Marijuana Legalization Bill To Boost Tax Revenue Amid Coronavirus

The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands plans to send a revised marijuana legalization bill to the legislature on Tuesday, and is urging its passage to generate needed tax revenue from cannabis sales during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D), who pushed for legalization as part of his State of the Territory address in January and previously called lawmakers into a special session to take up the issue, said establishing a regulated marijuana market could help the territory’s retirement system stay afloat.

“We have taken the time to gather further public input as well as address the concerns of the individual legislators,” the governor said during a COVID-19 update on Monday. “As the economic disaster, the last few weeks has created has affected the [Government Employees Retirement System] greatly it is our hope that we can have a greater sense of exigency in implementing all the things that can help us regain solvency.”

While Bryan stressed that legalization “is not the panacea” to USVI’s fiscal problems, he argued that it represents an economic opportunity that could prevent the government from slashing payments for retirees.

“Certainly cutting the annuity of retirees by 30 percent cannot be the path,” he said.

After Bryan first proposed the policy change and directed the legislature to take up the issue in a special session late last year, several legislators voiced opposition to specifics of the proposal.

Some questioned the notion that tax revenue from cannabis sales could make up for the significant deficits running within the retirement programs, while others argued that the legislation does not adequately address social equity. Another issue that arose concerned licensing, with lawmakers worried that small businesses on the island would be left out.

The revised bill has yet to be released, so it remains to be seen whether all of the issues have been resolved to lawmakers’ satisfaction following the governor’s solicitation of public input.

As originally drafted, the legislation would amend the territory’s current medical cannabis law, which Bryan signed early in 2019, to allow adults 21 and older to obtain a license from the government in order to purchase and cultivate marijuana.

The government estimated that legalization would be upwards of $20 million dollars in annual tax revenue. Marijuana would be taxed at 30 percent, with revenue distributed to the government retirement system (75 percent), funding senior citizens initiatives (20 percent) and to the territory’s Office of Cannabis Regulations (five percent).

Bryan also emphasized that tourism would play a role in generating cannabis revenue. The legislation proposed creating “day passes” for adult-use cannabis that visitors would purchase.

The initial bill also provides for automatic expungements for prior marijuana possession convictions, encourages research into the benefits of cannabis and recognizes the plant as a sacrament of the Rastafarian religion.

Last week, the governor of New Mexico also discussed the economic potential of legalization and said she regretted that lawmakers were unable to pass a reform bill during the short session earlier this year, stating that cannabis tax revenue would have been especially valuable during the pandemic.

Read the full article here.


US markets that have allowed marijuana businesses to remain open during coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders

Most state governments around the nation have deemed medical marijuana companies “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the vast majority can keep doing business after residents were told to stay at home and many businesses were ordered to scale back or close their operations.

But the picture is murkier for recreational cannabis companies.

The quickly spreading coronavirus – and the surge of states telling residents to stay home – has created confusion among cannabis companies over whether officials would require them to cease operations, even temporarily.

Decisions handed down from various government sources

Here’s where each state – and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – with some form of statewide, districtwide or territorywide stay-at-home order stands as of the morning of April 2:

Alaska: Cannabis companies are not specifically addressed by the governor’s stay-at-home order or in a list of “essential” businesses issued by the state. But a spokesperson for the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office confirmed that cannabis businesses are considered essential and can remain open as long as they are able to comply with strict social-distancing requirements, such as not allowing more than 10 people – including employees – inside a retail establishment at one time.

Arizona: Although neither the governor’s stay-at-home order nor a supporting document listing “essential” businesses include any mention of cannabis, multiple industry sources told Marijuana Business Daily that dispensaries are still operational and believe the MMJ retailers are included in the state’s definition of “essential” as part of the health-care sector.

California: Every state-licensed marijuana company is allowed to continue operating, according to state guidance and statements from regulators.

Colorado: Both medical and recreational marijuana retailers are allowed to continue operations, under an executive order issued by the governor last week before he released a statewide stay-at-home order on March 25. However, recreational cannabis shops are limited to curbside pickup while medical dispensaries can stay fully open.

Connecticut: Medical marijuana dispensaries and producers are classified as part of the state’s health-care sector and are exempt from closures, according to state guidance.

Delaware: All medical marijuana dispensaries are exempt from closure during the statewide stay-at-home order issued by the governor, the state’s joint information center confirmed to MJBizDaily via email.

Florida: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on April 1, and although the order doesn’t mention marijuana, the state’s surgeon general had previously provided guidance to the industry that medical cannabis companies qualify as an “essential” part of Florida’s health-care sector.

Hawaii: The governor’s stay-at-home order designates licensed MMJ dispensaries and cultivation centers as “essential.”

Illinois: All state-licensed cannabis growers and retailers are “essential” according to the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Louisiana: The medical marijuana supply chain is exempt from closure under the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, state officials confirmed to MJBizDaily via email.

Maine: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on March 31. Regulators classified Maine’s MMJ dispensaries and caregivers among the state’s “medical facilities” in a memo shared with the industry on March 24, meaning they can continue to serve patients. The state’s recreational cannabis market has not yet launched.

Maryland: Although the governor’s stay-at-home order does not specifically mention the cannabis industry, the state had previously issued guidance classifying medical marijuana businesses as “essential.”

Massachusetts: The governor has classified “licensed medical marijuana retailers” as essential but not recreational cannabis businesses, which were required to close by March 23.

Michigan: Although the governor’s stay-at-home order doesn’t mention marijuana or cannabis directly, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs stipulated in a news release on Monday that all licensed medical and recreational marijuana businesses can remain operational. Retailers, however, are limited to “curbside service or delivery,” meaning storefronts will not be open to the public.

Minnesota: The market’s two medical marijuana companies are exempt from statewide closures under the governor’s recent statewide stay-at-home order, according to cannabis operator Vireo Health.

Montana: The governor’s stay-at-home order classifies medical marijuana businesses as “essential,” so all state-licensed businesses can continue operations.

Nevada: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on April 1 but, before that, had already ordered all “nonessential” businesses to close. In a March 20 order, however, the governor classified all state-licensed marijuana businesses as “essential,” allowing them to continue operations. Retail sales are limited to home delivery, according to the March 20 order.

New Hampshire: No reference to marijuana or cannabis was included in the governor’s stay-at-home order or a supporting document listing “essential” businesses in New Hampshire. However, regulators told the state’s five dispensaries that they are considered “essential” and can continue operations, according to multiple industry sources.

New Jersey: All medical marijuana dispensaries were classified as “essential” by the governor’s stay-at-home order.

New Mexico: The state Department of Health issued guidance to medical marijuana businesses before the governor’s stay-at-home order, clarifying that all MMJ producers are an “essential” part of the health-care sector.

New York: In a clarification document released after the governor’s stay-at-home order, the state Department of Health said all licensed MMJ companies are classified as “essential.”

Ohio: The governor’s stay-at-home order classified all licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and growers as “essential.”

Oklahoma: All MMJ businesses were categorized as “essential” and can remain operational, the state’s Medical Marijuana Authority clarified on Twitter this week after the governor issued a statewide Safer-at-Home order for the elderly and “vulnerable populations.”

Oregon: The governor’s stay-at-home order doesn’t specifically mention cannabis or marijuana. But the state Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the industry, issued a temporary rule allowing licensed MJ retailers to provide curbside pickups for customers who submit orders online. So far, the state has not classified the industry as “essential.”

Pennsylvania: The governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1. Before that, on March 20, the state included medical marijuana companies on a list of “life-sustaining businesses” that can remain operational during the coronavirus outbreak.

Puerto Rico: The U.S. territory deemed all medical marijuana businesses as critical parts of their health-care sector and exempt from mandatory business closures.

Rhode Island: The governor’s stay-at-home order includes “compassion centers” – which is the state’s terminology for MMJ dispensaries – as “critical retail,” indicating Rhode Island’s three dispensaries can remain operational.

Vermont: The medical marijuana industry was deemed “essential,” and dispensaries – which are considered pharmacies by state regulators – will be allowed to remain open during the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, the state’s Department of Financial Regulation confirmed.

Washington DC: The District of Columbia’s mayor, who issued a stay-at-home order on March 30, included “medical marijuana dispensaries” last week in a list of “essential” businesses that could continue operations.

Washington state: The governor’s stay-at-home order includes an appendix that identifies cannabis retailers and workers supporting the supply chain as “essential.” Additionally, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an order allowing retailers to continue sales through curbside pickups. The board also clarified in a news release Tuesday that all licensed marijuana businesses can continue operations and that retailers will be allowed to sell to both medical and rec customers.

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Israel Researchers Believe CBD Could Play Crucial Role In COVID-19 Treatment

Israeli scientists have launched clinical trials into whether cannabis can play an effective role in stopping or slowing the coronavirus. Though lung health experts have warned smoking marijuana could exacerbate COVID-19 and its spread, Israeli scientists will study cannabidiol (CBD) alongside existing treatment options as a possible solution.

Last week, InnoCan Pharma announced a collaboration with Tel Aviv University to instill CBD medicine through exosomes — or the small cell structures created when stem cells multiply. The unconventional method will utilize the exosomes as “homing missiles,” as they can uniquely target cell organs damaged by COVID-19. Researchers then believe CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties will repair the damaged cells through a synergistic effect.

As COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, scientists will have patients receive CBD-enriched exosomes through an inhalation device. Previous studies have shown CBD can help regulate the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

A second clinical trial will occur over the coming weeks and includes 10 Covid-19 patients currently undergoing treatment in Israel’s Rabin Medical Center. Doctors will combine traditional steroids and CBD, with the belief CBD will enhance the therapeutic potential of the steroids. The trial, conducted by Stero Biotechs in collaboration with Mor Research Application, already has plans to expand treatment to 40 additional patients should it prove successful.

“We estimate that our CBD-based treatment can enhance the current treatment of those patients who are in life-threatening conditions,” Stero Biotechs founder and CEO David Bassa said in a statement. “Hospitalized COVID-19 patients are mostly being treated with steroids and our study is planned to demonstrate the benefit of a combined solution with Steroid treatments. We are hopeful that this study will lead to faster benefit for the growing number of COVID-19 patients in Israel and around the world.”

A third study, launched by Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center, will investigate whether CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties could lower respiratory symptoms experienced in moderate COVID-19 patients.

Canadian researchers have also announced intentions to study what role cannabis can play in slowing COVID-19. They also believe marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties could provide a crucial role in potential treatment.

Read the full article here.