Charlotte Figi, namesake of Charlotte’s Web medical marijuana strain, dies with COVID-19

Charlotte Figi, the little girl who inspired the low-THC medical marijuana strain, “Charlotte’s Web,” has passed away with COVID-19.

Multiple family members tested positive for the virus, said those close to the family.

As of Tuesday, 179 people have died of coronavirus in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Figi had suffered hundreds of grand mal seizures when her parents, exhausted of heavy-duty drugs, sought out the help of the southern Colorado-based Stanley Brothers, who eventually engineered the non-psychoactive CW Hemp in 2011.

The advent of the CW Hemp plant spurred hundreds of families to flock to Colorado, seeking alternative treatment for a variety of health issues, including seizures, shortly after Colorado legalized medical marijuana.

Figi was just three months old when she started having seizures from Dravet Syndrome. After taking oil from Charlotte’s Web, her seizures reduced to two to three per month.

A Figi family friend Tuesday posted publicly on Facebook, “Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever.”

The family asked for privacy during this time.

Charlotte Figi was 13.

View the entire article here.


Illinois adult-use marijuana stores sell $110 million in first three months

Adult-use cannabis stores in Illinois sold almost $110 million in products in the first quarter of 2020, state regulators say.

In March, stores sold 812,203 marijuana products for a total of $35.9 million, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations.

Recreational retailers in Illinois sold $27.1 million, or 75.5% of total sales, to residents and $8.8 million to out-of-state customers.

That total comes on the heels of $34.8 million in adult-use sales in February, the Chicago-Sun Times reported, and $39.2 million in January.

“Three straight months of consistent adult-use cannabis sales show there is – and will continue to be – strong support and demand from consumers,” Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to the governor on cannabis control in Illinois, said in a statement.

Illinois’ legal recreational marijuana retailers recorded almost $3.2 million in sales on Jan. 1.

Read the entire article here.


Speaker Schexnayder – 2020 Session District Survey

Hello supporters and friends-

Incoming Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Clay Schexnaydre has posted a survey to his page that would take you maybe 2 or 3 minutes to complete and it has a question about a core issue for SMPL on there, decriminalization or a fine rather than arrest for possession of a small amount of Cannabis. We hope you’ll both take the time to go visit the page yourself to complete the survey and also to share it with your online network of friends, family and associates. It’s a few minutes critically well-spent.

Here it is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Schexnayder?fbclid=IwAR1-_CKhQ7WE34rj3jZcUUEyAcP3MxBPrUqkCfiFIAuRfKE-YSRPzF4x_U4

Thanks!
SMPL


What Percentage of Americans Smoke Marijuana?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a July 2019 Gallup poll, 12% of U.S. adults said they smoke marijuana, a percentage that is essentially unchanged since 2015.

The July 2019 Gallup survey found that the likelihood to smoke marijuana varies significantly by gender, age, and political ideology.

  • Men (15%) are more likely to smoke marijuana than women (9%).
  • At 22%, 18- to 29-year-olds are the most likely age group to smoke marijuana — about twice as likely as those between the ages of 30 and 64, and seven times as likely as adults older than 65.
  • Liberals (24%) are six times more likely to smoke marijuana than conservatives (4%), and twice as likely as moderates (12%).

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act that would federally decriminalize marijuana passed the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019, but, with that bill yet to make it to the House floor and facing an uncertain future in the Senate, the use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Meanwhile, 33 states have legalized marijuana in some way for adults — whether for medicinal or recreational use; however, only one of those states, Florida, is in the South, which is reflected in that region’s lower rate of marijuana users.

  • Between 13% and 16% of adults across the East, Midwest and West smoke marijuana, versus 7% in the South.

Read the entire article here


This Ohio county may need a second morgue to handle the number of fentanyl overdoses

If overdose deaths don’t slow down in Franklin County, Ohio, a temporary morgue may be needed to store the bodies.

The county has seen 23 overdose deaths from January 31 to February 7, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, the county’s coroner, said in a statement on her Facebook page. The next day, the county had five more.
Most of the deaths were likely due to fentanyl, Ortiz said.
Morgue techs are “constantly working [and] don’t take lunch” to keep up with the overdose deaths, the county coroner told CNN affiliate WSYX. If the overdose rate stays at the same pace or worsens, the county may have to bring in a temporary morgue for storage of bodies, Ortiz said.
Ortiz urged those in need of treatment to visit the city of Columbus’ opiate crisis information website.
Read the whole article here

400 pounds of marijuana seized after drugs mailed to Elmwood business, authorities say

A Harvey man told authorities the four packages he received through the mail at an Elmwood business contained hemp and that he had the paperwork to document their legality.

But he was arrested and jailed because federal authorities said the packages contained marijuana that was illegally mailed through the U.S. postal system.

Agents ended up seizing about 400 pounds of marijuana after searching Urban Nola LLC, a business in the 900 block of Edwards Avenue in Elmwood, on Feb. 6, according to an arrest report.

Anthony Le, 35, whom state records list as a managing member of Urban Nola, was booked with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service opened the investigation on Feb. 4 after local staffers intercepted three packages that smelled like marijuana, authorities said. The parcels were addressed to Urban Nola and had been mailed from Watsonville, California.

Boyca, a drug-sniffing State Police dog, “alerted” to marijuana in the packages, the arrest report said. Investigators opened the boxes and found vacuum-sealed bags that tested positive for marijuana.

A day later, a fourth box addressed to Urban Nola came through the postal system.

The post office delivered the four packages to the company’s Elmwood office in a “controlled delivery” and arrested Le when he accepted them. Investigators then searched the company’s office and found a total of 21 boxes containing about 400 pounds of marijuana, the arrest report said.

Le claimed the packaged plant material inside the parcels was hemp, a less potent and recently legalized cannabis cousin of marijuana.

Recently passed federal and state laws legalized “industrial hemp,” a cannabis plant that has a lower level of the psychoactive ingredient THC than marijuana. Hemp is used to make several products, including cannabidiol (CBD), paper, textiles and alcohol.

Legal hemp has a THC concentration of 0.3% or less, according to Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which regulates the state’s budding hemp industry.

Le showed the agents paperwork purportedly documenting the THC levels in Urban Nola’s plants. The arrest report did not reveal whether agents conducted their own THC-level tests.

Even if the plants meet the state and federal THC levels, Urban Nola has other problems, according to Strain and U.S. Postal Service inspectors. Le did not have any of the state licenses required to transport, process or possess industrial hemp, the arrest report said.

The hemp was also shipped from California, a state that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to legally grow the product, according to Strain.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not comment directly on the investigation, but agent Tony Robinson said it’s illegal to mail marijuana through the postal system. People living in states where marijuana has been legalized often mistakenly believe that they can mail their weed, he said.

“Even though something might be legal to sell in a state, federal laws prevent them from mailing it through the U.S. mail,” Robinson said.

Le was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna. He was released Friday on a $100,000 bond.

View the full article here


“An organic option for the rich”: Medical marijuana price concerns remain after pharmacy slashes prices

By Amanda Roberts | February 5, 2020 at 10:17 PM CST – Updated February 6 at 3:30 PM (Read the full article here)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -At a doctor’s recommendation, Jackie Hyer tried medical marijuana and says it was all that was promised and more, but she just couldn’t justify staying on it because it was costing her hundreds of dollars a month.

“I thought this would be my miracle and its great, but I just can’t afford it,” said Hyer.

Hearing her cry and dozens of others, Ruston Henry with H&W Drugs says that’s when they made the decision to slash the prices for medical marijuana by 25 percent.

“When you have a patient that saying because of price I will need to not take my medicine that’s a problem as a pharmacist,” said Henry.

The price change can save patients anywhere from $24 to $45 a vial depending on the doctor’s recommendation. Henry says their phones have been ringing, and more patients are starting to come back to them.

“The people we service are a desperate population so now there is hope, at H&W we say we try and give people back their lives,” said Henry.

But neurologist Chad Domangue believes it’s going to take more than a price reduction to make real change, especially because medical marijuana is a cash-only drug.

“I’ve seen people cry in my office about how it helps them sleep, depression, and pain so forth, but then after a month or two as people come into my clinic crying because they can’t afford $180 a month… even if they discounted 25% we can’t afford $300 a month it’s many people car notes right,” said Domangue.

He says any step to make medical marijuana more affordable and therefore more accessible is a good step, but says because of state laws and insurance company demands, he winds up putting a number of those patients back on opioids.

“As physicians we’re being told there’s too many opioids, there’s too many opioid,s but the alternatives such as marijuana and other noninvasive options we have, you can’t get them covered or paid for,” said Domangue.

Domangue believes until legislators allow more suppliers in the state, and insurance companies broaden their coverage a Louisiana medical marijuana recommendation will still be costly.

“Because we only have two suppliers they jack the price up to whatever they wanr. It’s set up to fail it’s one of those things we got excited because they passed legislation but they basically created an organic option for the rich,” said Domangue.

The discounted drug price reduction has only been in place at the H&W store on Tchoupitoulas for about a week.

Henry said they still need time to see how the new price fits within the community’s needs, but is hopeful.

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.


Marijuana Ponzi scheme alleged in Washington state

A Washington state cannabis farm was the focus of a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, an illegal example of the sudden-riches mentality in the legal marijuana industry, according to federal officials.

Investors plowed $4.85 million into the alleged scheme from Green Acres Farms near Anacortes, Washington, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint.

Many of the investors – lured by promises of huge profits – used retirement funds or family loans.

Instead of investing the proceeds into the marijuana farm, Robert Russell, of Duvall, and his California-based executive partner, Guy Scott Griffithe, spent $3.5 million of investors’ money on luxuries such as a 2008 Bentley Continental, a 2012 Mercedes Benz C-Class, a 2015 Porsche Panamera and a yacht, the SEC said.

Neither Russell nor Griffithe could be reached for comment. An attorney who is reportedly representing Robert Russell did not respond to an interview request from the Associated Press.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, charges Russell and Griffithe with civil violations of federal securities law and seeks return of “ill-gotten gains.”

No criminal charges were filed.

“Griffithe and Russell exploited popular interest in the cannabis industry to obtain millions of dollars from investors who thought they were buying into a profitable business,” Melissa R. Hodgman, associate director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement.

The SEC said Green Acres Pharms was never profitable.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has permanently discontinued Green Acres Pharms’ license to produce and process cannabis.

Read the entire article here


Rumors Are That MedMen Is Unable To Pay Vendors

Once touted as the first “unicorn” in cannabis IPO’s, MedMen Holdings Inc. (OTC: MMNFF) is now struggling to pay vendors. In addition to telling vendors, it wouldn’t be able to pay its bills until February or March, the company has been selling assets and also announced it was laying off employees in November. The Twittersphere was active on the subject as Jason Spatafora @WolfofWeedSt lead the charge by posting several exchanges between unidentified vendors and MedMen executives.

“That’s Shitty News”

One unnamed vendor’s email from MedMen’s Senior Director of Strategic partnerships, Ben Shultz read, “Sorry for the delay. We received our payment schedule from our consultant’s FTI and had them signed off by our CFO. I wish I had better news here, but unfortunately, we don’t have payments scheduled for you in the near term. We are working on longer cash term infusions, but it is unlikely that we will be able to pay off these invoices before Feb/March.” He goes on to write, “That’s shitty news and there’s no sugar-coating it, but I have to be the messenger of bad here. If and when we can allocate funds to pay off our AR, we will be in touch.”

One California vendor suggested vendors consult a lawyer or accountant before accepting stock instead of the money owed by MedMen. Also, not identified.

Josh Shlenker, the General Merchandising Manager wrote to another unnamed vendor, “We’ve employed a financial consultant FTI to help us devise a payment plan strategy to clear outstanding balances and get us caught up as expeditiously as possible.”

It goes on to read, “All I can realistically offer are imperfect solutions and I’ve had to have a lot of frustrating and awkward conversations. FTI is supposed to be reaching out early next week with a proposed solution for you.” It continues with, “I am working on creative arrangements with people who wish to remain in the assortment through this period and I am working to offer them more premium shelf space and trying to find fund to allocate weekly to chip away at the outstanding balances, while still planning to continue to place and receive orders on 45-60 day terms.”

Last week, CEO Adam Bierman spoke to Benzinga and acknowledged the layoffs announced in November, but that was the extent of his remarks regarding the 190 employees given the pink slip. Instead, he dwelled on the real estate choices the company was making. Yet, the company has been selling off its real estate assets (to a business that is closely connected to company executives) and then leasing the property back. Such that shareholders are really not benefiting from these assets. There was no discussion of financial difficulties.

Bierman’s point was the locations that MedMen is choosing will result in more sales. His thesis is that locations located near airports draw the tourist crowd. However, choosing a dispensary near the airport in Vegas, versus one on the strip seems like an odd choice for consumers.  (Editors note: GMR visited the Vegas MedMen dispensary during the MJ Biz conference in December and it was largely empty. NuWu ( billed as the world’s largest dispensary) was very busy with customers, as was Planet 13 and Reef Dispensaries had a line that snaked outside the door.)

No, It’s Not Bankrupt

Short-seller Grizzle.com added fuel to the fire by blasting a headline that asked, “Did MedMen Just Go Bankrupt?” It hasn’t and the general consensus is that cannabis companies can’t declare bankruptcy. According to the U.S. Courts, “All bankruptcy cases are handled in federal courts under rules outlined in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.” Since cannabis is still federally illegal, it is suspected that the court would reject such a filing. Granted, many of these cannabis companies have complicated business structures where potential parts of the company that isn’t plant-touching could file to reorganize, but that remains to be seen or tested.

Setting up payment plans doesn’t necessarily mean a company is out of money, but with a retail business, the end of the year is typically when a company is flush with cash from holiday sales. So, not being able to pay bills at a time when there should be extra revenue coming in is cause for concern. Retailers like Wet Seal, The Limited, Eastern Outfitters and BCBG all filed for bankruptcy in February of 2017 after the holiday season. Demonstrating that this isn’t an uncommon time for retailers to call it quits.

Still, there’s the issue of total reported liabilities of $671 million as per the quarter ending in September. The revenue for the quarter was $43.9 million. This is a fairly lopsided situation. The next earnings report is on February 26, 2020.

Challenges In The C-Suite

MedMen has faced a lot of criticism since it has gone public. The company first came under fire when the May 2018 IPO disclosed the generous pay for Bierman and Co-founder Andrew Modlin, who recently purchased an $11 million home in Hollywood, despite the financial struggles of the company. The IPO also gave the founders the majority of the voting shares causing another outcry.

The company’s proposed acquisition of Pharmacann was terminated in October 2019, one bonus though is that MedMen received some Illinois licenses out of the deal. The company also took this moment to announce that Zeeshan Hyder has been appointed Chief Financial Officer at MedMen. Mr. Hyder, had been MedMen’s Chief Corporate Development Officer. Hyder succeeded Michael Kramer, who apparently was terminated as of October 7, 2019. Kramer was only just hired in December of 2018 and he followed the previous CFO James Parker who only lasted a year and a half. CFO James Parker resigned in 2019 and then followed with a scathing lawsuit that laid bare a great deal of dirty laundry.

More Ugly Rumors

If the vendor payment issues weren’t enough to scare investors, others on the Spatafora twitter feed suggested that the company had sold pesticide tainted cannabis and another said that MedMen was experiencing harvesting issues and was only selling other company’s products. None of this has been substantiated and could be sour grapes from ex-employees, however, if it is true it is troubling.

The stock was lately trading at 57 cents, down from its 52-week high of $3.84. Yahoo Finance lists the company’s market cap at $120 million. The founders have agreed to salary cuts and have relinquished a large portion of their voting rights in an effort to appease its creditors.

MedMen has not responded to a request for comment.

Read the entire article here


Jamaican Herb Houses

Kaya is no ordinary, sterile-looking, pharmacy-inspired dispensary, it is a destination. The Herb House comes complete with a dab bar, pizza place, full alcohol and coffee bar, consumption lounge, accessories and clothing shop.

Incidentally, the CJO “Chief Ganja Officer” of the dispensary chain, Jamaican-born Balram “Bali” Vaswani, 43, is also the CEO of Rohan Marley’s heritage Blue Mountain coffee brand, Marley Coffee.

With members of Jamaica’s first family in Vaswani’s corner, along with cannabis industry veteran, Lorne Gertner, the future is looking upbeat for the Herb Houses.

Gertner, founder of Canadian mainstays Tokyo Smoke and ByMinistry, is one of Kaya’s investors. Gertner’s mission is to “improve the world through cannabis and design excellence.” He is globally-renowned for his acumen and foresight for pioneering highly influential companies.

As a person with a similar vision, Vaswani’s company, Ganja Labs, produced the first legal harvest of refined Jamaican herb. He now operates a chain of three successful Kaya Herb House medical cannabis dispensaries. In March 2018, Kaya opened in Drax Hall, St. Ann, followed by its second opening in Falmouth.

The third location in Kingston’s “Golden Triangle” of tourism which includes Devon House and the Bob Marley museum, opened last Thursday to much fanfare. The grand opening featured a performance by Rohan’s brother KyMani Marley and an art instillation by Jude Issa, featuring creative portraits of dancehall legends Spice, and Vybz Kartel.

The property features a wooden deck and veranda built around an enormous tree that is the perfect selfie spot, with nearby tables for consuming pizza and other snacks. More of an entertainment complex than merely a dispensary, it has quickly become a tourist and local hot spot.

The shop sells t-shirts and toiletries such as hemp soap and deodorant, which are necessities in the 85° heat on typically sunny days.

As for the herb itself, Kaya is vertically integrated, with a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse, cultivating 2.5 meters-high trees. The quality of the strains were put to the test at this past weekend’s Jamaican Ganja Cup in Negril. Local farmer Wabba took first place, scoring 92 out of 100 points. Kaya’s Sting A Ling came in second by a hairsbreadth, scoring 91.80 and its Kurple came in third with 90.75. with a “variable of Irieness,” Vaswani says, good naturedly. “It is all good. I am happy Wabba and a Negril farmer won.”

True to the spirit of brotherly love, Vaswani envisions Kaya carrying strains from every part of the island. He nostalgically remembers the heyday of Jamaican herb, famous for the Lamb’s Bread strain beloved by Bob Marley.

“That’s really when Jamaica was kicking,” Vaswani says. “We had great strains in the Seventies.”

Since then, Jamaican ganja has waned on the world stage: diluted by outside seeds imported from overseas – and victimized.

The U.S. government threatened to hold up the tiny, developing world country’s desperately-needed World Bank loan, if Jamaica didn’t stop the flow of illicit cannabis exports. Subsequently, the War on Drugs and burning of ganja fields quickly ensued.

However, in what was clearly a losing battle for Jamaica not be reputed for its cannabis, the Jamaican government decriminalized it first, then eventually legalized medical marijuana.

Vaswani’s longtime friend Rohan Marley acknowledges he restored the reputation of Jamaican-grown ganja. “You can taste the soil, the pineapple and the sweetness, says Marley. “Bali brought the standard way up.”

While an employee of local radio station IRIE FM notes that consuming cannabis is still stigmatized among older, working class Jamaicans, hopefully their minds will open alongside Kaya’s groundbreaking and stigma-shattering enterprise.

Vaswani plans to expand the dispensary chain and wellness platform across the Caribbean with outposts in Cayman, St. Vincent, and Trinidad in 2020.

Read the entire article here


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