Cannabis news briefs: FDA CBD update, Illinois legalizes pot, and more Govs. call on feds to pass STATES Act
FDA CBD powwow debriefing
The dust still has not settled from the May 31, full-day FDA hearing on CBD. It’s not obvious whether the meeting of the minds made things more clear or just further muddied the waters.
At the hearing, 120-plus interested professionals spoke in front of 12 FDA bureaucrats in Silver Spring, Maryland. The majority of witnesses believe the FDA has existing rulemaking tools and should expedite designating CBD as a "dietary supplement." Some want expedited FDA action, or temporary emergency rules, citing the consumer "explosion" of interest.
The area where there seems to be the most agreement is truth-in-labeling protocols, especially in terms of dosing information, with some speakers calling for a national testing regime for safety and efficacy helping to push out CBD "online fakers" and quick-buck "CBD private labelers."
A common FDA response to testimony was "please send us more data to back up what you just said." All submissions are due by July 2nd.
While the FDA ponders the fate of CBD, many experts and politicians are now predicting that there is a strong chance that the federal government will end its four-score-decade-long prohibition of marijuana. Many stakeholders are hoping that the FDA grants CBD GRAS status before that happens.
Illinois legislature, Governor legalizes recreational marijuana
With attempts to legalize marijuana stalled in both New York and New Jersey, Illinois has jumped to the head of the line and is now the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults age 21 and over, and only the second state to do so via an act of the legislature after Vermont broke the ice last year. Recreational sales are scheduled to commence on January 1, 2020.
With recreational sales beginning in less than 6 months, existing medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are gearing up to meet the expected explosion in demand.
The new measures do not replace Illinois’ medical marijuana market but rather written in such a way as to ensure that patients enrolled in the medical program take priority over recreational customers. Dispensaries will be required to maintain stocks sufficient to meet the needs of their medical customers before they can begin selling additional product to recreational customers.
Before the bill was signed, the state counted 55 medical marijuana dispensaries. Those operations are being offered the opportunity to sell recreational marijuana and also to open a second location resulting in more than 100 dispensaries selling marijuana when recreational sales launch at the beginning of 2020. That number will eventually be raised to 200.
Illinois is expected to produce one of the largest marijuana markets in the country. Total medical marijuana sales recently passed the $300 million mark and will eventually top $2.5 billion.
The new law also calls for expunging nearly 800,000 past misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses.
Governors call on feds to pass STATES Act
In a new letter to Congress, the support of the governors of Vermont and Utah were added to last year's governors’ call for passage of the STATES Act. The June 3 letter wants Congress to give states the right to set their own rules for access to medical and adult-use policies. The letter suggests, “Whether a state maintains its prohibition of cannabis or chooses a different path, the STATES Act ensures that the federal government is a partner rather than an impediment—an objective the federal government should always strive to achieve.” The letter was signed by the governors of California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington State, and Vermont.
Medical marijuana bill stalls in Tennessee legislature
Political grandstanding in Tennessee led to the temporary shelving of the medical marijuana bill, says Pot Network’s Meg Ellis. News out of Nashville states that a medical marijuana bill stalled in the State General Assembly due in large part to Speaker Glen Casada’s appointee in a particular Health subcommittee. Physician and chairman of the House Mental Health & Substance Abuse Subcommittee, Representative Sabi “Doc” Kumar, is adamantly opposed to legalizing medical marijuana in the Volunteer State. Sen. Steve Dickerson, sponsor of the medical marijuana bill in question, plans to bring back his bill during the 2020 legislative session and promises to renew “meaningful” medical marijuana legislation until it passes.
85 percent of potential cannabis consumers cite pain relief as the biggest benefit
A new survey by The Nielsen Co. asked consumers why would they consider using cannabis in an "all-legal" U.S. market. While 48 percent replied "to have a good time," the overall response was directed toward health and wellness benefits and replacing prescription medications. As with former studies of MMJ patients, the "treatment of chronic pain" (85 percent) and aid to sleep (77 percent) was highly-cited, but rising in the ranks were reasons such as alternatives for "treating minor injuries," helping mental health, and "expansion of thought processes." Overall, the Nielsen study said a legal environment would increase consumer consideration of true cannabis to 34 percent of all U.S. adults. Researchers added, “67 percent perceive cannabis to be healthier than OTC/Rx medications, and 69 percent are influenced by the perception that cannabis is more natural than OTC and Rx alternatives."
Another stoned driving study says “it depends”
The question still remains as to whether cannabis-consuming drivers are more or less prone to get into serious auto accidents. There is currently little agreement on whether or not a blood test for levels of THC metabolites is accurate, as they can remain in the system for days. While a new Congressional Research Service report suggests data points to actual higher instances of crashes from MJ use, Vancouver emergency physician Jeff Brubacher says it’s not so cut and dry. Brubacher looked at crashes in British Columbia that injured about 3,000 drivers whose blood was tested for marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs. The study used data from police reports to determine which drivers bore responsibility for the accidents. Among drivers with THC blood concentrations of less than five nanograms per milliliter, they report, "there was no increased risk of crash responsibility." Drivers above that threshold, however, were 74 percent more likely to be responsible for crashes. Other factors like alcohol, distracted driving, and driver health were also weighed.
Google cracks down on pot apps
Google has banned any apps that sell marijuana products from its Google Play store, including apps that facilitate cannabis transactions in states where it’s legal. However, the ban may not be as strict as it sounds. In a new policy announced on May 29th, Google says “We don't allow apps that facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality.” The company describes examples that could cause violations, such as “allowing users to order marijuana through an in-app shopping cart feature, assisting users in arranging delivery or pick up of marijuana,” and “facilitating the sale of products containing THC.” Previously the company did not have a written policy in regards to cannabis apps. Read more on this story here.
Workplace deaths plummet in states with medical cannabis laws: study
An intriguing new study is showing a strong correlation between cannabis use and a large reduction in workplace fatalities, in states with legalized medical marijuana. The 2018 study suggests that in states in which cannabis has been legalized, workplace fatalities have fallen an average of 19.5% for workers age 25 to 44. In states that had medical cannabis laws for at least five years, researchers found a very large, 33.7% reduction for this age group’s workplace fatalities, showing that the reduction grew stronger with time. Interestingly the reduction in workplace-related deaths was only statistically significant for this age group. Among younger or older users, there appeared to be no change. Read all about it here.