Cannabis news briefs: House schedules hearing on cannabis banking issues, Canadian cannabis use and traffic deaths not rising
Congressional Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee have announced the scheduling of a hearing to on loosening up banking restrictions on the cannabis industry. The hearing titled, “Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses,” is scheduled for February 13.
Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Forbes in an email, "Support for addressing the cannabis banking problem is strong and bipartisan, and it appears Congress may be ready to adopt a real, commonsense solution."
And Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, also told Forbes, "Allowing banks to work with cannabis businesses more easily will benefit public safety, increase transparency, provide more financing options for small businesses and communities that have been targeted by prohibition, and help companies thrive so they can further displace the illicit market."
Canadian cannabis use has not increased since legalization
A new report from StatCan, the Canadian government agency tasked with tracking cannabis use, suggests that legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a rise in the use of the drug. StatCan released figures obtained from the fourth quarter of its National Cannabis Survey covering the period from mid-November to mid-December.
According to the survey, about 4.6 million, or about 15 percent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis within the previous three months. Interestingly, data suggests that Canada has the highest use rate in the world. The numbers could change as 19 percent of Canadians over 15 said they think they will consume cannabis sometime in the next three months.
Traffic deaths rose then fell
A new study claims that traffic deaths rose and then fell in three states where recreational marijuana was legalized. The study found that traffic deaths in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington rose by only one per million residents with about 170 extra deaths in the first six months after legalization. Rates went back to normal after about a year, according to the report. Study co-author Tyler Lane suggests that the figures could result from an increase in “newer, more inexperienced users.”
Rather than clarifying the issue, the new report adds to the debate. A study released last October by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute found crashes to be 6 percent higher in states that legalized marijuana as compared to neighboring states, while another from the American Journal of Public Health found no statistical difference in crash death rates for the three years after legalization.
Does marijuana increase or decrease sperm count?
A new study has contradicted previous studies that suggested smoking marijuana lowers sperm counts. The researchers found that men who reported having smoked marijuana had an average sperm concentration of 63 million sperm per milliliter of semen, compared with 45 million sperm per milliliter among those who had not used cannabis. According to the report, only 5 percent of marijuana smokers in the study had lower-than-normal sperm concentrations. Interestingly those who used marijuana more often had higher testosterone levels.
The study is still not conclusive. Researchers have suggested that low or moderate levels of marijuana use may have a beneficial effect on sperm production, while heavier use decreases sperm counts. Furthermore, men with higher testosterone levels might be more likely to engage in "risky" behaviors. Also, because the study was conducted among men who visited a fertility clinic, the results may not apply to the general population.
Four separate bills to expand the legalization of medical marijuana have been proposed in Texas. House Bill 122 and House Bill 209/Senate Bill 90 would greatly expand the state’s medical marijuana program. The latter would also permit Texans certain medical conditions to grow their own marijuana. And House Bill 551 would permit patients under the state's current Compassionate Use Act (which only applies to epilepsy patients and only allows low-THC oils) to possess marijuana extracts.
In Tennessee, SB 486/HB 637, a revamped proposal to authorize the use of medical marijuana would allow the sale and use of smokable forms of the drug. The proposal faces stiff challenges from legislators, but the marijuana industry has already expressed its support for the measure.
A circuit judge in Florida has again struck down a law capping the number of dispensaries in the state. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers again reprimanded lawmakers and state health officials for tinkering with a constitutional amendment which was approved by more than 71 percent of voters in 2016.
Gievers wrote in Friday’s ruling, “The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that conveniently located medical marijuana dispensaries (as opposed to vehicle delivery, the only allowed alternative means of dispensing) promote authorized users’ improved access to medical marijuana products and related information and services, at lower cost, and promote public safety (the stated goals for regulation in the amendment).” Gievers had previously struck down another provision which prohibited patients from smoking medical marijuana. A new proposal would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana but would require doctors to get the approval of a “case review panel.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has released a study titled, "Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2018." According to the study’s authors Coloradans are consuming more marijuana than ever and that usage rates among adults continue to rise. A detailed report in the Aspen Times shows that adults use increased from 13.6 percent in 2016 to 15.5 percent in 2017. That figure is considerably higher than the national average of 9.5 percent, according to the times. The number of children unintentionally exposed to cannabis continues to rise with most cases blamed on edible forms of the drug.
In New Mexico, a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana has passed its first committee. Deliberation on House Bill 356 lasted three hours and passed with a vote of 5 to 2. The bill must still be put up to state lawmakers for a full vote before being passed on to the governor for signing. The state added more than 19,000 patients to its medical marijuana program in 2018 – an increase of 41percent. New Mexico’s 89 dispensaries sold just over 7 million units of medical marijuana in 2018.
A bill has been filed in Illinois that would legalize recreational marijuana and allow licensed businesses to grow and sell pot; all provide for the creation of social consumption areas. Under the proposal, residents would be permitted to grow up to 24 plants at home. A more restrictive proposal has been in the works for more than a year.
A Senate committee in Hawaii has approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adults 21 older in the island state. According to a report by Marijuana Moment, the bill will likely be referred to one or two additional Senate panels before the chamber gets the chance to approve it.
“As it’s currently written, the legislation would allow adults 21 and older possess, cultivate and consume marijuana. The government would license facilities to manufacture, test and sell cannabis, which would be subject to a state excise tax as well as a 15 percent surcharge.” If the measure is enacted, retail sales will begin in February 2021 at the earliest. However, the state’s governor has vetoed cannabis reform legislation in the past. PotNetwork’s Meg Ellis has more on this story.
Regulators in Arkansas have awarded 32 cannabis dispensary licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program. Dispensaries are authorized to begin serving patients immediately. The state has also begun distributing medical marijuana identification cards which are effective February 15.
The Arizona Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 19 in the case of Rodney Jones, a registered medical marijuana patient who was convicted of possession of hashish. The court had previously ruled that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act does not allow for the use of hash or cannabis extracts and Jones was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. The Court of Appeals reaffirmed the conviction in June of last year. The American Civil Liberties Union, which supports Jones in his appeal, argues that the ruling goes against the intent of AMMA. According to a report in High Times, a legislative solution is in the works. House Bill 2149 would permit medical patients to possess all forms of medical marijuana.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. Under the proposal, adults 21 or older would be permitted to purchase marijuana and grow their own at home. The bill would also expunge convictions for marijuana crimes and release inmates currently behind bars for such offenses. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has embarked on a statewide “marijuana listening tour” to take Pennsylvania's pulse on whether to legalize the drug and Gov. Tom Wolf has expressed interest in legalization since bordering states are moving toward legalizing marijuana. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, signed into law in 2016, launched in February 2018.
The city of Coachella, California is breaking ground on a massive cannabis cultivation operation consisting of more than 40 acres of growing, manufacturing and distribution facilities totaling nearly 800,000 square feet. Planners hope to turn Coachella into a cultivation and manufacturing hub for California’s cannabis industry. Construction is expected to be completed by early 2020, and it is hoped that the Coachella Cann Park will create jobs and result in an economic boom in the city.
The New York City Department of Health has ordered 11 eateries in the city to refrain from selling CBD-infused foods and beverages. Eater.com, a website devoted to New York Cities millions of foodies, broke the story in early February when a cache of CBD-infused cookies and other pastries along with a container of CBD — about $1,000 worth of product in total — was “embargoed” by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Read all about it on PotNetwork news.