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Cannabis news briefs: AG nominee being cool about pot, more pets getting stoned, Sutera to acquire NETA, and MN and IL consider recreational use measures

President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace ousted attorney general Jeff Sessions has put his promise to use the Cole Memo as guidance in dealing with state-legal cannabis operations. In a written response to questions from U.S. senators, William Barr confirmed that he wouldn’t be continuing in Session’s shoes.

I'm encouraged AG nominee Barr stated the Justice Department should not use resources to go after legal marijuana operations in states where it's legal. I agree that we need to fix federal law regarding marijuana "the right way," which is why I intro'd the STATES Act. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/fyF1Ulr9q1

— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) January 15, 2019

“As discussed at my hearing, I do not intend to go after parties who have complied with state law in reliance on the Cole Memorandum.” Barr also wrote that he is “not closely considered or determined whether further administrative guidance would be appropriate,” and stated, “the legislative process, rather than administrative guidance, is ultimately the right way to resolve whether and how to legalize marijuana.” Barr is opposed to marijuana legalization.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri discussing Barr’s nomination with CBS News

Sutera to acquire Mass. cannabis operation

Georgia-based Surterra Wellness has reached an agreement to acquire Mass.-based New England Treatment Access. NETA was one of the first retailers sell recreational marijuana on the East Coast. Just two months after NETA opened for business, the two companies have reached an agreement which is being described as one of the largest acquisitions in the cannabis industry to date. Specifics of the deal have not been made public.

[As CEO, CannAmerica’s Dan Anglin wants a piece of the hemp and CBD market. As a Marine, he wants veterans to have access to cannabis too.]

Surterra Wellness CEO is former chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr. who said “Since 2009, NETA’s founders have been recognized as pioneers and innovators in the cannabis industry. Their wide range of premium products, extraordinary service, diversity programs, and strong community partnerships set them apart.”

NETA co-founder Kevin Fisher said in a statement, “Under (Wrigley’s) oversight, Surterra’s continued growth and industry leadership will offer NETA’s employees an opportunity to join in a shared vision to ascend to a leading global health and wellness company. At the same time, we continue our commitment to providing NETA’S high-quality products to our patients and customers in Massachusetts and to meeting the obligations of our Brookline, Franklin, and Northampton  communities.”

NETA also owns a medical dispensary in Brookline, and a cultivation facility in Franklin, Mass. The transaction must be approved by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

Pet stonings up 765 percent

The ASPCA Poison Control Center received 208 marijuana-related calls in 2008, 979 in 2016, and 1,486 in 2017. In 2018, the center received 1,800. That's an increase of 765 percent over the 10-year period according to ASPCA call center's medical director, Dr. Tina Wismer.

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Wismer blames the huge rise in calls on the widespread availability of edibles but also acknowledges that the rise may simply be due to pet owners being more willing to call the hotline now that marijuana is legal in many U.S. states.

Minnesota and Illinois now considering recreational marijuana measures

Minnesota lawmakers are considering legalizing recreational marijuana. Residents 21 and over could be able to purchase marijuana legally by 2022. The proposal requires the state to undertake a study of marijuana’s health effects and imposes significant restrictions on marketing to teens.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Melisa Franzen, said in a statement, “What we tried to do is have all the buckets or areas that this issue touches on ... from schools, public health, public safety, to health care, everything, and try to have a comprehensive, holistic approach of what this would look like and not take it piecemeal.”

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is not on board with the proposal and responded, “Legalizing recreational marijuana is a controversial issue to say the least and not something I would consider a priority issue. Considering that it’s linked to mental health problems, driving accidents, and impaired teen brain development, I don’t think it has a chance to pass the Senate this year.”

“Legalizing recreational marijuana is not something I would consider a priority issue. Due to it’s linkage to mental health problems, driving accidents, and impaired teen brain development, I don’t think it has a chance to pass the Senate this year.” #mnleg #mnsenate pic.twitter.com/lAz3yXgHF8

— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) January 28, 2019

In Illinois, lawmakers are crafting a bill which would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state. The proposal builds upon the regulatory structure created for the state’s medical-marijuana program. Officials estimated tax revenue from the program could fall between $350 million and $750 million annually.

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The measure would allow Illinoisans 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and to grow up to five marijuana plants at home. Social consumption and public use would be prohibited. The legislation would also expunge the records of those with convictions for low-level marijuana possession and dealing.

The bill’s sponsors are confident the measure will receive bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also been a big proponent of legalization in the state.

Cannabis consumer shopping behavior

According to New Frontier Data, the average consumer spent $171 on cannabis products this past December, up 3 percent from the previous month. Learn more in this week’s Cannabit, below:

Source: New Frontier Data
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