Southern University’s medical marijuana partner sells first tinctures, topicals to pharmacies

Ilera Holistic Healthcare plans to sell products from its first medical marijuana harvest this week to pharmacies across the state under its license with Southern University.

Ilera holds the medical marijuana contract to grow for Southern University in Baton Rouge and had about 2,300 plants growing at its temporary facility several months ago that’s since been harvested. The products also have passed state tests through the Department of Forestry and Agriculture.

The company is selling tinctures and topicals to pharmacies this week, which should be on shelves soon thereafter.

“We’re shipping this week so in the next two weeks it could be on the shelf, we have orders going out daily,” said Chanda Macias, CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare.

The THC brand is Ayo, which in a Nigerian dialect means joy. There are six different tinctures ranging from 300 mg to 600 mg of THC in addition to a THC and hemp-derived blend in 150 mg and 300 mg strength tinctures. The topical cream is a 2-to-1 and 5-to-1 strength of THC and CBD blend.

Ilera expects to open a much larger growing facility along Plank Road, which can hold “tens of thousands” of medical marijuana plants and is about 90% completed. The goal is to be able to produce enough medical marijuana for between 1% and 3% of the state population.

It’s been several years since Southern University received state approval for its medical marijuana program, as did LSU, whose corporate affiliate started producing and distributing products last year. In late 2018, Ilera bought the majority stake in the first company selected by Southern to run its program after various delays in the project.

By the end of the third quarter, Ilera expects to roll out THC tincture formulas for children or minors with autism, known as Hope. It’s working on chewable gelatin-based medicine and concentrated THC extracts as well.

The wholesale prices of the products were not disclosed, but some products would cost less than $100 potentially but the final prices depend on the pharmacies, Macias said. “I made sure we had price reductions across the board.”

Ilera started selling over-the-counter CBD tinctures made from hemp at the state’s marijuana dispensaries in January. The company has hired four new workers in the past few months and expects to hire up to 40 individuals by the end of the year.

Southern University touts that it is the only Historically Black College and University to have a medical marijuana and CBD-derived program in the country.

Southern University plans to use money from the sale of the products to hire more scientists to begin research into the active ingredients in marijuana. The researchers are expected to develop new varieties of marijuana with different concentrations of cannabidiol, the active ingredient in marijuana that treats pain, insomnia and anxiety, and THC, the primary cannabidiol found in the plant.

Access to medical marijuana usage in Louisiana was recently broadened to include any debilitating condition determined by doctors licensed in the state. It was previously available only to patients with qualifying conditions who were able to get recommendations from a select permitted pool of doctors. Medical marijuana manufacturers are bullish that a larger potential patient population could better sustain two operators even without what is known as a flower market, which is when raw marijuana is sold directly to customers.

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Jim Belushi is a Cannabis Farmer Now and Shares His Knowledge of MMJ

Jim Belushi is far from the first celebrity to get into the legal pot game. Stoned luminaries like Willy Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Tommy Chong, and the Marley family are selling pot with their names on it in multiple states across the country, but Belushi’s doing something different. These other celebrities have simply created a brand that they then license to pot farmers, whereas Belushi is actually growing the pot on his own property, often with his own hands.

Belushi started slowly, first with a small medical grow three years ago and then transitioning into a full recreational farm with multiple outdoor and indoor gardens. He’s been selling his carefully curated set of strains for two years but only recently decided it was time to put his name on the label. Pot shoppers in Oregon can now buy weed strait from Belushi’s Farm.

I caught up with the former Saturday Night Live (SNL) star by phone a few weeks ago. The actor and musician’s voice was hoarse from singing at a community party he throws on his farm every year. We talked about what it’s like growing legal pot, working with David Lynch, a vape pen of his that’s been making the rounds in Beverly Hills, and how he thinks medical marijuana could have saved his brother John Belushi’s life.

Lester Black: How long have you smoked pot?

When I was in high school I smoked Mexican ragweed, which by the way I’ve been trying to get guys to do this with me. I want to do Mexican ragweed with 6 percent THC. So I can actually smoke a whole joint! Today’s [THC] temperature is pretty high, it’s kind of a disappointment that people don’t understand that it doesn’t got to have high THC to be good.

Did you smoke pot at SNL?

No unfortunately when I was at SNL I was using whiskey as my medication.

How often do you think you consume pot now?

Maybe three times a week I take a hit off [my vape] pen. But I do consume CBD every day. Because I know the endocannabinoids in my body and my homeostasis is out of balance somewhere every day.

It’s interesting that you relate to it in medical terms because a lot of people think of cannabis only as a recreational drug. Do you separate medical use from the recreation use, or is it always medicine to you?

The wellness of cannabis is great for helping Alzheimer’s, people struggling with PTSD, people struggling with trauma. The number one fear of life is death and the second is the collapse of family. Many people come from collapsed families, whether it’s divorce or a disease in the family that broke the family up, whether there’s a death like in my family, a loss of business, all of these people need some kind of medicine.

All of these men who came back from World War II saw things that no one should see and they leaned on the alcohol. That was their medicine. And we had a generation of children who grew up with parents that were alcoholics. Collapsed families. Then in the 1960s marijuana came and it was a medicine but they called it a drug, but that’s what they were doing.

My brother was an all-state, all-conference, honor society—he was a football player, middle linebacker. He got the most tackles every year. And then I saw him go into a seizure in my house and I didn’t know what it was. And now we know it could have been CTE. And then he went to college and he found his medicine, but it was considered a drug.

Do you think if medical marijuana was around then it could have helped him?

I think what we know about marijuana today, if we knew in the ’70s, a lot more people would be alive, including my brother. Danny Aykroyd said, ‘If your brother John was a pothead he would be alive today.’

The medicine of marijuana will help prevent the collapse of families. I came from a collapsed family and the trauma of John’s death, you could imagine, and I’ve always been in search of family because of it. And this family of marijuana cannabis people is a terrific family. They’re all being led by the plant.

But the wellness of cannabis is not just for Alzheimer’s, headaches, anxiety—it also enhances the sound of music. It sparks creativity. It enhances the taste of food. It enhances the touch of your lover’s skin. It also gives you euphoria, a sense of joy, and a higher consciousness. So there’s wellness all across.

I loved your work on the Twin Peaks reboot. What was it like working with David Lynch? Is he someone that seems like he’s stoned even when he’s not smoking weed at all?

Well, most of the time we have a half-hour lunch on set. But on David Lynch’s projects, we have an hour lunch because he’s meditating for that hour. When you watch Twin Peaks [you think] that guy must have been doing Ayahuasca because the visions that this guy has. But he gets it all from meditation.

Are you starting to share your cannabis with other people in the industry? Other comedians or other actors?

No, but I have this Cherry Pie [vape] pen and my wife took it to her girl’s group and they’re all flipped about it. And I can’t tell you the names of the girls, but just know that it’s girls in Hollywood and they all want it for Christmas. Where can I get some? And I say, well it’s in Oregon but we may come to California, don’t worry.

What do you think about being another celebrity in the cannabis game? There’s obviously Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson, and Marley’s Naturals. How does it feel to be one of the first celebrities to get into the industry?

But I love the agricultural of it. I love the girls, I love the feminine energy on my farm. But like all girls you have to treat them right. I play music for them. When they’re vegging I play baby-making music for them. I play Marvin Gaye, and then as they are growing I play reggae, and then when we’re about to take them down I play gospel music so they feel like they’re seeing God before we take them. I love these girls*.

*Pot farmers commonly refer to weed plants as “ladies” or “girls” because only the female pot plants produce the intoxicating flowers we smoke.

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Hemp on Balance: A Closer Look at the Environmental Side of the Equation

The hemp boom has brought some unpredicted problems for the economy and the environment.

From its many medicinal uses, its nutritional value, and the prevention of habitat destruction, hemp truly is one of nature’s miracles. But like everything, it does have a dark side. While some may argue why hemp is bad, in reality, the dark side of hemp merely reflects the human condition.

Why Hemp is Bad

The downsides of the purported benefits of hemp may be surprising. While it can change the way humankind inhabits the world, there are also issues. These include pollen drift from large grows, the overuse of plastics, and food economics. Also, there is the issue of what to do with the heavily contaminated hemp used to clean up radioactive soil.

Though there’s only a few reasons to suggest that hemp is bad, these reasons serve to highlight, and raise awareness around, sustainability. Furthermore, they demonstrate the destructive role humans often play when lured by the promise of money.

Plastic Overuse in Hemp Farming

In U.S. states where hemp cultivation is booming, the plastic sheets lining the many acres of plantations have become a public eyesore.

Plastic use in hemp plantations helps to keep weeds under control. It’s also used to aid in the growing of organic crops, as an alternative to using herbicides. As always, the use of plastic also has some very unattractive side effects. Much of the plastic used will eventually end up in the landfill. Some environmentally-conscious growers adopt biodegradable plastics made from corn, potato starch, or thistle that breaks down in the soil. But, the immediate economic hit is too much for many to take on.

In other cases, some of this plastic lies around for the winter. It then disintegrates into micro-particles that will pollute the soil, water, and air.

More conscientious growers use hay and straw as mulch instead of plastic. The upside is that it’s a zero-waste solution that aids with water retention and weed suppression. In addition, this method keeps the soil temperature lower than the plastic method, something that helps keep essential soil microbes alive and thriving.

The downside of mulching is that its application by hand is often labor-intensive and expensive. Many farmers can’t budget for the extra time and costs involved, and thus opt for the more convenient use of plastic.

Pollen Drift from Fields of Hemp

Pollen drift from large hemp grows is of great concern to cannabis farmers. This issue stems largely from the fact that cannabis cultivators only have an interest in the female plant. Meanwhile, many hemp farmers keep and harvest the male plant for fiber and seed.

Hemp pollen carried in the wind can pollinate female cannabis flowers. Once pollinated, a female cannabis plant will divert her resources into seeds, as opposed to the potent (and money-making) buds. The problem here is that low to no THC hemp interferes with the farming profitability of cannabis. This is significantly accentuated by the fact that hemp pollen can often carry in the wind for distances of up to thirty miles.

A study published in the Annals of Allergy (2000), found that hemp pollen represented thirty six percent of the air pollen in Nebraska in mid-August of that year. Such concentrations of pollen in the air can often spell disaster for the bottom line of any cannabis grow.

In Humboldt County, the heartland of cannabis cultivation in California, cannabis farmers have been battling with legislators around encroaching hemp farms that compromise the genetics of their cannabis plants.

How to Deal with Post-Phytoremediation

Phytoremediation involves the use of plants for the removal of contaminants in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water, and groundwater. Hemp is one of the best-known phytoremediators. As a fast-growing crop with deep roots that extend up to eight feet down, it’s unaffected by the toxins it sucks out of the soil and air.

While hemp does mop up the toxicity in the soil, the issue that many overlook is that the resulting hemp is merely a dirty mop. The contaminants once present in the soil are now held in the plant. Successful phytoremediation may result in a piece of land becoming fertile again. Still, the less examined issue is how to handle the plant material now full of toxic compounds.

Scientists are hard at work trying to find a solution. A process known as phytotransformation can further break down many toxic compounds within the plant into constituent parts. However, high concentrations of heavy metals cannot be broken down.

For heavy metals, a process known as phytomining involves the bio-recovery of precious and semi-precious metals.

Is Hemp too Good at Phytoremediation?

A study published in Minerals Engineering (2009), described the process of phytomining as a, “more advanced technology of phytoremediation to produce low volume, sulfide-free ‘bio-ore’, which can either be safely disposed of or, if the target metal is of sufficient economic value, smelted, and recovered.”

Perhaps the most beneficial use for phytoextraction crops like hemp is in energy production. The production of biodiesel fuels from hemp is possible, although not entirely environmentally friendly.

While possible solutions do exist, the truth is that no viable solution is currently in place to deal with the high concentrations of contaminants. The accumulation of toxins within the plant cells isn’t a reason to suggest hemp is the problem, it merely reflects back to us humans what has become of a once pristine environment.

Farming Can Harm Food Economics

In areas where hemp is widely grown, struggling farmers are attracted to the higher rates of return associated with hemp.

It is now legal in forty-six states across the U.S.. Whether farmers grow it for grain/seed, fiber, or CBD oil, the opportunity of a new booming market is too much for many farmers to resist. In 2019, according to a U.S. Hemp License Report, 511,442 acres have been licensed nationally spread across 16,877 growers. That’s an astounding 445 percent increase on the acreage licensed in 2018. But, with such a boom in production, what happens to the production of traditional crops so critical to local food economies?

Hemp production has become dominant in areas like southern Oregon, where agriculture aimed at providing locally sourced foods once thrived. The result is that food comes from further afield, something that contributes to an increased carbon footprint.

While hemp does have the ability to transform old ways, that progress comes with several downsides. With legislators playing catch up in a booming newly-legalized industry, it may be some time before the real value associated with this incredible plant trickles down through every level of production.

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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?”

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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.


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.

Read the full article here.


Arkansas medical marijuana consumers are buying in Oklahoma

Arkansas has been losing medical cannabis sales across the border because of lower prices in Oklahoma.

Prices are about half as much in Oklahoma for similar-quality products as in Arkansas, according to the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is on the border.

Another factor, according to the newspaper, is that Arkansas medical marijuana patients’ access is limited by the state’s qualifying conditions while Oklahoma requires only that MMJ consumers have a doctor’s recommendation.

However, Oklahoma required medical marijuana patients from other states to buy a temporary patient card, which costs $100 and is good for only 30 days.

The newspaper didn’t say what impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on Arkansas MMJ patients shopping at Oklahoma dispensaries.

Arkansas is one of the few states in the country without a stay-at-home order while Oklahoma officials categorized MMJ dispensaries as essential businesses. Oklahoma law allows curbside pickup of medical marijuana.

Read the full article here.


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


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