DEA removes cannabis drug Epidiolex from controlled substances list

Epidiolex, the only plant-derived cannabis drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is no longer considered a controlled substance, providing a boost to its manufacturer’s stock price.

GW Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company based in London, saw its stock go up 5.9% on Tuesday, one day after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said it would no longer classify Epidiolex as a Schedule 5 drug under the federal Controlled Substance Act.

Epidiolex is used to treat rare forms of epilepsy.

The DEA’s announcement lowers physician barriers to prescribing Epidiolex because they won’t have to notify the agency when prescribing it.

GW said it will now begin “implementing these changes at the state level” and through its distribution network.

The expansion comes two years after the DEA first took Epidiolex off the most-restrictive class of controlled substances.

That decision, issued months after the FDA approved the drug for treating certain types of epilepsy, was the first time the DEA removed any type of cannabis from Schedule 1.

The company’s U.S. subsidiary is Greenwich Biosciences.

GW Pharma trades on the Nasdaq as GWPH.

View the entire article here.

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

Original Article By John Schroyer at: Marijuana Business Daily

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 only, 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.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

In major shift, UN drug chief questions whether control treaties involving cannabis are out of date

The president of the narcotics enforcement agency of the United Nations is questioning whether the agency’s decades-old drug conventions are outdated given global policy developments in recent years involving drugs such as cannabis.

During a presentation Thursday for the International Narcotics Control Board’s (INCB) 2019 annual report, President Cornelis P. de Joncheere discussed the developments taking place with regard to cannabis and synthetic drugs.

“We have some fundamental issues around the conventions that state parties will need to start looking at,” he said, adding, “We have to recognize that the conventions were drawn up 50 and 60 years ago.”

Joncheere said 2021 is “an appropriate time to look at whether those are still fit for purpose, or whether we need new alternative instruments and approaches to deal with these problems.”

Next year will mark the 60-year anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an independent expert on U.N. drug policy, told Marijuana Business Daily that the INCB “is the most authoritative international institution on drug policy – and also the most conservative in its interpretation of the conventions.

“Having the head of the INCB suggesting that the conventions are not fit for the challenges of the 21st century is already breaking a strong taboo.”

Riboulet-Zemouli specifically highlighted as “unprecedented and unexpected” the INCB president’s mention of possible “new instruments.”

“It is possible and feasible for the international community to update international law,” Riboulet-Zemouli said. “Taboo is the only reason why there has not been any discussion about a new, a different or another drug treaty since 1988.

“Now that this taboo has been broken, perspectives will open.”

Joncheere’s comments come as the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) – the agency’s main drug policymaking body – is scheduled to meet next week in Vienna to discuss the World Health Organization’s cannabis recommendations.

“One thing is certain: If the CND rejects the recommendations of WHO on cannabis, the divide between governments will increase,” Riboulet-Zemouli said. “If the deadlock surrounding cannabis policy reform persists in the coming years, it will likely accelerate the end of the policy regime of the conventions as a whole.”

Joncheere’s predecessor as INCB head, Viroj Sumyai, took the reins of a medical cannabis company in Thailand last week.

The 2019 INCB report

Thursday’s INCB report for 2019 insisted – as it does every year – that recreational marijuana contravenes international drug control treaties.

The Vienna-based agency serves as the independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of U.N. drug conventions.

One of the INCB’s functions is to make recommendations about how to comply with the treaties.

INCB statements have gradually become more progressive views over the years. For instance, the new 2019 report mentions “human rights” more than any previous INCB report in recent years.

However, the latest report’s foreword notes that the INCB “remains concerned at the legislative developments permitting the use of cannabis for ‘recreational’ uses.”

“Not only are these developments in contravention of the drug control conventions and the commitments made by States parties, the consequences for health and well-being, in particular of young people, are of serious concern,” the foreword reads.

North America

The report mentions that “measures to decriminalize or legalize cannabis are proliferating in North America” and warns that consumption is increasing.

The report cites the sales of edibles in Canada and legalization in the U.S. state of Illinois as examples.

It notes that, in Canada, “the number of first-time users of cannabis in 2019 was nearly double the estimated number of first-time users in 2018, when non-medical cannabis was not yet legal.”


According to the INCB, “the discussion of different approaches to regulating cannabis has figured prominently in the policy debate on drug control across Europe.”

The report mentions “an increasing number of European countries” that are “exploring” or have already “established” medical cannabis programs.

“The majority of European countries allow cannabis to be used only for medical and scientific purposes, in keeping with their obligations,” the report notes.

However, the INCB shows concern about “steps underway toward the legalization of the non-medical use of cannabis that included the legalization of the cultivation, distribution and use of cannabis for such purposes, notably in the Netherlands and Luxembourg.”

“The developments in a few countries that have legalized or permitted the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes or that have tolerated its legalization at the subnational level are undermining the universal adherence to the three international drug control conventions and the commitment to their goals and objectives,” the report warns.

New Zealand

New Zealand gets a special mention in the report because of that nation’s upcoming recreational marijuana legalization referendum.

The INCB reiterated that “any and all legislative or regulatory measures aimed at the legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes are inconsistent” with the international drug control treaties.

The agency “will continue to monitor policy and legal developments in New Zealand pertaining to drug control and encourages the Government of New Zealand to continue its constructive dialogue with the Board to ensure consistency with the drug control conventions.”

Ever more legal cannabis

The report mentions an increase in the use of licit cannabis since 2000. It says that, until that year, only the United States used to report the use of some cannabis for scientific research.

After 2000, the report says, “more and more countries have started to use cannabis and cannabis extracts for medical purposes, as well as for scientific research.”

“Total licit production” was 1.4 tons in 2000, and that figure increased to 289.5 tons in 2018, according to the report.

“Since the licit cultivation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes has increased considerably in recent years, and the yield and manufacturing processes are not standardized, some data are being clarified with the relevant Governments to ensure consistency,” the report clarifies.

Read the entire article here

Alabama Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

An Alabama Senate committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

The legislation would allow patients with qualifying conditions to purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. It would be a limited system, however, prohibiting patients from smoking or vaping marijuana.

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the bill in a 8-1 vote, with one abstention. The next stop for the legislation will be the Senate floor.

The proposal would establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for overseeing a patient registry database, issuing medical cannabis cards and approving licenses for marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, transporters and testing facilities.

This vote comes two months after a panel created by the legislature, the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, issued a recommendation that Alabama implement a medical cannabis program.

The full Senate approved a medical cannabis legalization bill last year, but it was diluted in the House to only provide for the establishment of the study commission. Sen. Tim Melson (R) sponsored both versions of the legislation and served as chairman of the review panel.

The current bill has been revised from the earlier version. For example, this one does not require patients to exhaust traditional treatment options before they can access medical cannabis.

The committee also approved a series of amendments by voice vote, including several technical changes to the bill. Another one would shield physicians from liability for recommending medical cannabis. One would clarify that employees are ineligible for workers’ compensation for accidents caused by being intoxicated by medical cannabis, which is the same standard as other drugs.

An Alabama Senate committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

The legislation would allow patients with qualifying conditions to purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries. It would be a limited system, however, prohibiting patients from smoking or vaping marijuana.

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the bill in a 8-1 vote, with one abstention. The next stop for the legislation will be the Senate floor.

The proposal would establish the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for overseeing a patient registry database, issuing medical cannabis cards and approving licenses for marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, transporters and testing facilities.

This vote comes two months after a panel created by the legislature, the Medical Cannabis Study Commission, issued a recommendation that Alabama implement a medical cannabis program.

The full Senate approved a medical cannabis legalization bill last year, but it was diluted in the House to only provide for the establishment of the study commission. Sen. Tim Melson (R) sponsored both versions of the legislation and served as chairman of the review panel.

The current bill has been revised from the earlier version. For example, this one does not require patients to exhaust traditional treatment options before they can access medical cannabis.

The committee also approved a series of amendments by voice vote, including several technical changes to the bill. Another one would shield physicians from liability for recommending medical cannabis. One would clarify that employees are ineligible for workers’ compensation for accidents caused by being intoxicated by medical cannabis, which is the same standard as other drugs.

Members also agreed to an amendment creating a restriction on who can be on the cannabis commission.

While it’s not clear how the House would approach the bill if it advances to the chamber this year, the speaker said this week that he’s “in a wait and see mode” and commended Melson for his work on the measure. The state’s attorney general, meanwhile, sent a letter to lawmakers expressing opposition to the reform move.

Under the measure, patients suffering from 15 conditions would qualify for the program. Those include anxiety, cancer, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients would be able to purchase up to a 70-day supply at a time, and there would be a cap of 32 dispensaries allowed in the state.

Prior to the vote, committee heard from a series of proponents and opponents, including parents who shared anecdotes about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for their children. Interest in the reform move was so strong that an overflow crowd has to be moved to a separate hearing room.

“Sometimes people are not able to empathize with others who have gone through something. I guarantee you if one of relatives, members of the legislature, went through something like the testimonies that we’ve heard today, they would want it,” Sen. Vivian Figures (D) said. “But they would probably have the means to fly somewhere and get it.”

There would be a number of restrictions under the bill when it comes to advertising. It would also require seed-to-sale tracking for marijuana products, set packaging and labeling requirements and impose criminal background checks for licensed facility employees.

A nine percent tax would be levied on “gross proceeds of the sales of medical cannabis” sold at a retail medical cannabis dispensary. Part of those funds would go toward creating a new Consortium for Medical Cannabis Research, which would provide grants to study the plant.

Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee also approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana.

Read the entire article here

Trump Budget Proposes Ending State Medical Marijuana Protections And Blocking DC From Legalizing

President Trump proposed ending an existing policy that protects state medical marijuana programs from Justice Department interference as part of his fiscal year 2021 budget plan released on Monday.

The rider, which has been renewed in appropriations legislation every year since 2014, stipulates the the Justice Department can’t use its funds to prevent states or territories “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This isn’t the first time that an administration has requested that the rider be stricken. Trump’s last two budgets omitted the medical cannabis protections language, and President Obama similarly asked for the policy to be removed. In all cases, Congress has ignored those requests and renewed the protections in spending bills.

During last year’s appropriations season, the House approved an even more expansive amendment that would have provided protections for all state and territory marijuana programs, rather than just medical cannabis systems. But the Senate did not follow suit and the provision was not included in final fiscal year 2020 legislation sent to Trump’s desk.

When Trump signed that large-scale spending legislation in December, he attached a statement that said he is empowered to ignore the congressionally approved medical cannabis rider, stating that the administration “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.”

Cannabis is also mentioned in several other places in Trump’s new budget proposal for next year. For example, it contains another long-standing rider that blocks Washington, D.C. from using local tax dollars to legalize marijuana sales.

Separately, the plan requests that funds be set aside to help the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invest “in priority activities,” including the “regulation of cannabis and cannabis derivatives.” FDA is actively developing regulations for CBD since hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

“FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer, and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities,” the agency said in a summary. “FDA is aware that companies market products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the law and may put consumer health and safety at risk.”

“Questions remain regarding the safety of these compounds,” it continued. “FDA is committed to protecting the public health and improving regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of cannabis and cannabis-derived products within the agency’s jurisdiction.”

FDA said it was important to fund these regulatory efforts because it’s an example of an issue with “rising public health needs as growing
markets outpace increases to Agency resources.”

The agency requested $5 million to “continue enforcing the law to protect patients and the public while also providing potential regulatory pathways, to the extent permitted by law, for products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”

“FDA is seeing a significant increase in activity relating to the marketing of unlawful cannabis-derived products, especially those containing cannabidiol (CBD), since the Farm Bill passed. In many cases, product developers make unproven claims to treat serious or life-threatening diseases, and patients may be misled to forgo otherwise effective, available therapy and opt instead for a product that has no proven value or may cause them serious harm.”

It also outlined how it intends to use the funds across four different branches within FDA.

About $4 million will be allocated to an initiative designed to “better regulate the usage of cannabis-derived substances, such as cannabidiol (CBD), in FDA-regulated products such as dietary supplements and when used as unapproved food additives.”

It will also “support regulatory activities, including developing policies and continue to perform its existing regulatory responsibilities including review of product applications, inspections, enforcement, and targeted research.”

Half a million dollars will go toward FDA’s Animal Drugs and Feeds Program in order to “strengthen its capacity to evaluate scientific data related to the safe use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives in animal products.”

FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs would receive $2 million to help “regulate and inspect establishments manufacturing FDA regulated products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds.”

“The initiative will support regulatory activities, including developing policies and continue to perform its existing regulatory responsibilities including review of product applications, inspections, enforcement, and targeted research,” the agency said. “FDA must support oversight of increasing numbers of marketed FDA-regulated products containing cannabis-derived substances that may put the public at risk.”

Another “priority component” of the budget is to fund cleanup efforts for illicit marijuana grows on federal public lands.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) would also take a serious budget hit under the president’s proposal. If enacted, ONDCP’s funding would go from the $425 million it was allotted for 2020 to just $29 million for 2021—an approximately 90 percent cut. Trump included a similar request in prior budgets, but Congress rejected the cuts

Some of those dollars for ONCDP would be transferred to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “improve coordination of drug enforcement efforts among Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S.” through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the document states. Other dollars for grants to local anti-drug groups would be moved to the Department of Health and Human Services.

ONDCP, which is an office within the White House, applauded Trump’s request for $35.7 billion to fund “counter-drug efforts” in a press release. Jim Carroll, the offices’s director, said “President Trump has brought a relentless, whole-of-government approach to combating the crisis of addiction in our country.”

“The FY 2021 budget request sends a strong message that, although we’ve seen signs of real progress, the Trump Administration will not let up in our efforts to save American lives,” he said. “Whether it is going after drug traffickers, getting people struggling with addiction the help they need, or stopping drug misuse before it starts, this budget request ensures our partners will have the resources needed to create safer and healthier communities across the Nation.”

The budget also prioritizes funding for the implementation of a domestic hemp program since the crop was legalized. It calls for $17 million for 2021 for the program, which “provides a national regulatory framework for commercial production of industrial hemp production in the U.S. through regulations and guidance.”

“In addition to those regulated under USDA plans, USDA approves state and Tribal nation plans to provide licensing services, technical assistance, compliance, and program management support,” the budget states. “In 2021, USDA will administratively implement fees to cover the Government’s full cost for providing services to beneficiaries of this program.”

Another current rider that prohibits the Justice Department from contravening an industrial hemp research program was proposed to be removed. However, that provision is essentially redundant under the new agriculture law, which transferred jurisdiction of the crop from DEA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

View the full article here

Prohibition began 100 years ago, and its legacy remains

In this era of bottomless mimosas, craft beers and ever-present happy hours, it’s striking to recall that 100 years ago the United States imposed a nationwide ban on the production and sale of all types of alcohol.

The Prohibition Era, which lasted from Jan. 17, 1920, until December 1933, is now viewed as a failed experiment that glamorized illegal drinking, but there are several intriguing parallels in current times.

Americans are consuming more alcohol per capita now than in the time leading up to Prohibition, when alcohol opponents successfully made the case that excessive drinking was ruining family life. More states are also moving to decriminalize marijuana, with legalization backers frequently citing Prohibition’s failures. Many of the same speakeasy locations operating in the 1920s are flourishing in a culture that romanticizes the era.

And in a time of heightened racial divisions, Prohibition offers a poignant history lesson on how the restrictions targeted blacks and recent immigrants more harshly than other communities. That treatment eventually propelled many of those marginalized Americans into the Democratic Party, which engineered Prohibition’s repeal.

”Prohibition had a lot of unintended consequences that backfired on the people who worked so hard to establish the law,” said Harvard history professor Lisa McGirr, whose 2015 book “The War on Alcohol” examines Prohibition’s political and social repercussions.

“It helped to activate and enfranchise men and women who had not been part of the political process earlier,” she said. “That was not the intention of Prohibition supporters.”

Ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, which set the stage for Prohibition’s launch a year later, culminated a century of advocacy by the temperance movement. Leading forces included the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Anti-Saloon League and many Protestant denominations. Prohibition supporters assailed the impact of booze on families and the prominent role that saloons played in immigrant communities.

Prohibition greatly expanded federal law enforcement powers and turned millions of Americans into scofflaws. It provided a new revenue stream for organized crime.

By the time the constitutional amendment was ratified in January 1919, many states had enacted their own prohibition laws. That October, Congress passed a law detailing how the federal government would enforce Prohibition. It was known as the Volstead Act in recognition of its foremost champion, Rep. Andrew Volstead of Minnesota. The law banned the manufacture, sale and transport of any “intoxicating liquor” — beverages with an alcohol content of more than 0.5%, including beer and wine.

Statistically, Prohibition was not an utter failure. Deaths from alcohol-related cirrhosis declined, as did arrests for public drunkenness.

What the statistics don’t measure is how extensively Prohibition was flouted. Bootleggers established vast distribution networks. Makers of moonshine and “bathtub gin” proliferated, sometimes producing fatally tainted liquor. Determined drinkers concealed their contraband in hip flasks or hollowed-out canes. Maryland refused to pass a law enforcing the Volstead Act.

McSorley’s Old Ale House, established in New York in 1854 and still flourishing as one of the city’s oldest bars, never closed during Prohibition. Ostensibly, it served “near beer” with permissibly low alcohol content, but in fact produced a strong ale from a makeshift brewery erected in the basement.

“It wasn’t a near beer. It was McSorley’s ale,” said the pub’s manager, Gregory de la Haba. “At least once a week, people ask, ‘What did we do during Prohibition?’ And my reply, ‘We made a ton of money.’’’

The federal government, as well as state and local authorities, spent huge sums on enforcement yet never allocated sufficient resources to do the job effectively. Bootleggers awash in cash bribed judges, politicians and law enforcement officers to let their operations continue.

“Newly hired and poorly trained Prohibition agents, along with local and state police, targeted violators at the margins,” McGirr wrote in a recent article. “But they lacked the capacity, and at times the will, to go after powerful crime kingpins.”

It’s simplistic to say Prohibition created organized crime in America, but it fueled a huge expansion as local crime gangs collaborated with those from other regions to establish shipping systems and set prices for bootlegged alcohol. Beneficiaries included Chicago-based gangster Al Capone, who earned tens of millions of dollars annually from bootlegging and speakeasies. In the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, gunmen disguised as police officers killed seven men from a gang that sought to compete with Capone’s empire.

Beyond the ranks of gangsters, legions of Americans were committing or abetting crime. Michael Lerner, in his book “Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City,” says courtrooms and jails were so overwhelmed that judges began accepting plea bargains, “making it a common practice in American jurisprudence for the first time.”

Anti-immigrant sentiment was a key factor behind Prohibition, partly because of record-high immigration in the preceding decades.

Saloons in immigrant neighborhoods were prime targets, says Slippery Rock University history professor Aaron Cowan, because middle-class white Protestants viewed them as political and social danger zones.

“Often the political machines run by the bosses were based in these saloons, or used them as a conduit for extending favors,” Cowan said. “So there was concern about political corruption, changing social values, immigrants learning radical politics.”

Prohibition’s start in 1920 coincided with a major expansion of the Ku Klux Klan, which supported the ban on alcohol as it waged its anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and racist activities.

The Volstead Act “provided a way for the Klan to legitimize its 100% Americanist mission — it could target the drinking of those they perceived to be their enemies,” McGirr said.

One notorious example occurred in 1923-24 in southern Illinois’ Williamson County, where the Klan mobilized hundreds of volunteers to raid saloons and roadhouses. Hundreds of people were arrested and more than a dozen killed.

That kind of social friction helped spur efforts to repeal Prohibition. Economics also played a role.

While some Prohibition supporters predicted it would boost the economy, instead it proved harmful. Thousands of jobs were lost due to closures of distilleries, breweries and saloons. Federal, state and local governments lost billions in revenue as liquor taxes disappeared. One major consequence: Increasing reliance on income taxes to sustain government spending.

The onset of the Great Depression hastened Prohibition’s demise, as the need for more jobs and tax revenue became acute. The Democratic Party called for repeal of Prohibition in its 1932 platform; its presidential nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, embraced that cause as he rolled to a landslide victory over incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover.

In March 1933, soon after taking office, Roosevelt signed a law legalizing the sale of wine and 3.2% beer. Congress also proposed a 21st Amendment that would repeal the 18th Amendment. Prohibition formally ended that December, when Utah provided the final vote needed to ratify the new amendment.

One of the pithiest summaries of Prohibition came earlier — a scathing assessment from journalist H.L. Mencken in 1925.

Five years of Prohibition “completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists,” he wrote. “There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

Prohibition’s centennial comes as the United States is incrementally ending the criminalization of marijuana. Recreational use of pot is now legal in 11 states. More than 30 allow its use for medical purposes.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, believes most Americans now view the anti-marijuana crusades of America’s “War on Drugs” as misguided in ways that evoke Prohibition.

“Even some of the older generation are saying, ‘We went too far. That was a mistake,’” he said.

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GB Sciences Closes the Sale of GB Sciences Louisiana Cannabis Business to Wellcana Plus

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — PRESS RELEASE — GB Sciences, Inc. completed the sale on Nov. 15, 2019 of its 50% membership interest in GB Sciences Louisiana, LLC to Wellcana Plus, LLC, an affiliate of Wellcana Group, LLC who owns the other 50% interest. The sale immediately eliminates current cash obligations due from GB Sciences as well as the company’s share of operating expenses going forward. While selling the cannabis cultivation and oil production business, GB Sciences retained the benefit of Wellcana Plus’s 50% interest in intellectual property developed under the Master Research and Development Agreement.

The terms of the sale include a promissory note from Wellcana Plus to GB Sciences for $8 million, with payments commencing in June 2020 through December 2021. The promissory note is secured by a pledge agreement with the 50% interest as collateral, declining pro-rata with note payments until all principal and accrued interest have been paid. In addition to the note, there will be an earn out of $8 million from operations through the term of the Agreement for Services including renewals, if any. The actual proceeds realized through the earn out and the timing of those proceeds will depend upon patient count accretion and the profitability of the Louisiana operations.

John Poss, CEO of GB Sciences, stated, “We think the transaction is a win for everyone. Wellcana Group has been an exceptional partner in Louisiana. With the same managers, we know Wellcana Plus will lead GB Sciences Louisiana to even greater success for not only their investors but also the patients and other stakeholders in Louisiana. For our own shareholders, the sale will greatly reduce our operating expenses while maintaining the benefit of intellectual property developed in Louisiana. It allows us to focus on continued development of clinical cannabis formulations for which the company has filed numerous patents, and progressing the research on our Parkinson’s Disease and Chronic Neuropathic Pain formulations towards clinical trials and first-in-human pilot studies. We believe this strategy offers tremendous opportunity to create shareholder value in this untapped segment of the cannabis sector.”

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Gov. John Bel Edwards picks new pharmacy board member at center of dispute over marijuana pharmacy license

Gov. John Bel Edwards has appointed to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy Sajal Roy, who earlier this year was simultaneously suing the board over his lost bid for the coveted exclusive medical marijuana pharmacy permit in New Orleans and gunning for the board seat.

Roy, who owns a marijuana pharmacy in Maryland, successfully pushed a new law through the Legislature earlier this year that changed the requirements for serving on the board so he would qualify. That law reduced the minimum requirement from five years of practice in Louisiana to two years.

At the time, Roy said he wanted to make changes to the board in part because of how the marijuana pharmacy permitting process played out, in 2018. Roy was passed over for a marijuana pharmacy permit last year despite being recommended by a selection committee.

Roy, through a specialty pharmacy he owns in Metairie, also donated $50,000 to Gumbo PAC in August, Ethics Board records show. Gumbo PAC is the Super PAC that spent millions to help Edwards win reelection Saturday in a closely-contested race against Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.

Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Roy was on a list of recommended appointees and didn’t have a lawsuit against the state when Edwards appointed him. She also said he is not going after the 10th marijuana pharmacy license, which is expected to be handed out for a high-demand region of the state sometime in the future.

“Also, he has knowledge and experience in the medical marijuana field, which is an important addition to that board,” Stephens said.

Edwards appointed Roy on Nov. 15, a day before the runoff election, according to an appointment letter. The term runs through 2025.

Louisiana’s tightly-regulated medical marijuana program called for nine initial marijuana pharmacies that dispense the drug to patients, each in a different region of the state. While a subcommittee of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy recommended Roy’s firm win the license for the New Orleans region, the board itself picked H&W Drug Store, owned by longtime local pharmacist Ruston Henry.

About a month after that decision, Roy filed suit against the Board of Pharmacy over its selection of H&W, accusing it of “improperly” issuing the license there. The lawsuit argued that because the board ignored its own committee’s advice, the selection process was flawed, among other things.

A Baton Rouge judge tossed the suit in May and Roy dropped a planned appeal, making the board’s decision final.

Roy was running against the board member who previously held the seat representing Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, Diane Milano. State law requires the candidates for a board seat to win votes from pharmacists that live in the seat’s district. The top three vote-getters are then sent to the governor, who picks one. Public records show Roy placed third, with 22 votes, while Milano got 85 and another candidate got 83.

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Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved By Congressional Committee In Historic Vote

For the first time in history, a congressional committee has approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in a 24-10 vote on Wednesday, setting the stage for a full floor vote.

The vote saw two Republicans—Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA)—join their Democratic colleagues in support of the bill.

Debate on the bill generally followed two tracks. Republican lawmakers argued that the bill was being rushed and that it should be subject to additional hearings, while Democratic members responded that there’s been enough debate on the issue and that there’s no time for delay in beginning to reverse decades of harms of prohibition enforcement.

On the other hand, some GOP members who recognized that the status quo is untenable pushed for legislative action on a separate piece of bipartisan cannabis legislation—the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act—which does not contain social equity elements or formally remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and would simply leave cannabis policy up to the states, arguing that a scaled-down approach would fare better in the Senate.

“We may need something a little less than MORE,” Gaetz said.

The approved legislation, introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.

“These steps are long overdue. For far too long we’ve treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” Nadler said in his opening remarks. “Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”

“I’ve long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” he said. “The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”

House and Senate members, and outside legalization advocates, cheered the bill’s committee approval.

“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.”

(See Marijuana Moment’s full reaction roundup piece for more commentary from other stakeholders.)

Earlier, lawmakers that have advocated for cannabis reform held a press conference in advance of the vote on Tuesday to highlight the need for the federal policy change. And while Nadler said that it was possible that compromises could be made later in the legislative process, he doesn’t see the need to scale back the proposal’s reach at the onset and feels that bipartisan support will build around his bill.

He also told Marijuana Moment that he is optimistic the legislation will get a full floor vote before the end of the current Congress, and part of that confidence comes from the fact that his panel has been communicating with other committees where the bill has been referred in the hopes that they waive jurisdiction to expedite its advancement.

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The Cajun Cannabis Conundrum

Despite being a historically conservative state, Louisiana first legalized medical marijuana back in 1978. It amended the law in 1991, then left the program to wither on the regulatory vine, with the Department of Health failing to appoint a Marijuana Prescription Review Board or to draw up contracts with national groups for production and distribution.

That began to change in 2015, when Republican state Sen. Fred Mills, a pharmacist and the former executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, sponsored legislation to implement the distribution of medical cannabis to patients. In 2016, Mills sponsored a second law that laid out the program’s specifics. Both bills eventually passed the state House and Senate and were signed into law by former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. In early August, Louisiana officially became the Deep South’s first state to dispense medical marijuana.

In theory, the program is working: Roughly 1,500 patients in Louisiana are receiving medical cannabis. But some 5,000 patients have consulted with physicians about the program, and there doesn’t appear to be enough legal marijuana to go around. Advocates say that’s because a series of compromises among lawmakers, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, and conservative Christian groups have made a regulatory disaster of the law.

Mills says he originally intended for the legislation to be “more of a free market system.” It’s not. Under state law, only nine pharmacies in nine zones across 52,000 square miles received permits to dispense medical marijuana. Smokeable and edible versions of the product were banned, as was vaporization. (Oils, tinctures, sprays, pills, and gelatin-based chewables are allowed.) The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has licensed just two growers—GB Sciences and Ilera Holistic Healthcare—to contract with the agricultural departments at Louisiana State University and Southern University, respectively, to produce medical cannabis for the entire state. As of this writing, only LSU’s operation is producing medical marijuana; Southern University’s first crop isn’t expected until later this year.

Despite advocates’ pleas, only certain doctors are allowed to recommend medical cannabis to patients, and the state created a list of qualifying conditions rather than allowing physicians to use their discretion.

“I’ve always testified that this should be a decision 100 percent between a physician and a patient, and if somebody has a debilitating condition, then why should government get in the way?” Mills says. But he was forced to change his approach. “The only way I could get the legislation passed was to work cooperatively with the law enforcement community. I think if we hadn’t done what we needed to, to basically take an approach of crawl before you walk and walk before you run, I don’t think we would have passed the legislation.”

Kevin Caldwell, the president and founder of the cannabis reform group Commonsense NOLA, says the current system is “unsustainable,” an outcome his group warned of early in the legislative process. “But nonetheless that is how things were decided,” because the Louisiana District Attorneys Association and the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association “are the kings of the Louisiana Legislature.”

Patients and advocates were excluded from the regulatory process, Caldwell says, and it shows in the state-run market. A 30-milliliter jar of THC tincture costs between $180 and $220 at certain medical marijuana dispensaries—three times the price found in states where recreational adult-use cannabis is legal. What’s more, he adds, “a lot of the sickest patients that want to use the program are on Medicaid and don’t quite have the money for a $200 visit and then the follow-up visit.” Restricting how many physicians can recommend cannabis has likely made the cost of obtaining a recommendation more expensive.

Republican state Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain, whose department regulates the production of medical marijuana, doesn’t see a problem. “If you have the type of diseases that it’s designed to treat under the law and you can go to a physician, and there are a significant number of physicians there, and one of the nine pharmacies that distribute it across the street, there should not be a problem to access.”

Mills hopes increased social acceptability will eventually push the program forward. He points to how former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s family recently went public about her using medical marijuana on her deathbed earlier this year. “Her family really attributes medical marijuana to her quality of life,” Mills says. “I just think that [the medical marijuana program] is going to be more accepted and I think the unknowns will become more familiar for those who have been fighting us.”

Read the entire article by Xander Peters here

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