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Cannabis news briefs: Lawmakers pounding away at USDA and FDA, federal hemp rules put to the test, Barr confirmed, and more

Feb 19, 2019

Authors of hemp provisions included in the recently enacted Farm Bill have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “expeditiously” review its policy toward hemp “as Congress intended.” In the letter, the USDA is asked to issue guidance to ensure that hemp growers can legally transport hemp and its derivatives across state lines and provide access to banking services.

The letter reads, “Our states have seen tremendous success in researching and developing market opportunities for hemp through the state pilot programs, and we are hopeful that the growth and innovation we’ve seen through the pilots will continue to expand now that the domestic production of hemp and hemp products is legal.”

A separate letter penned by Wyden was sent to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb last month asking that the FDA revise “outdated regulations,” which “limit producers from taking full advantage of the industrial hemp market.”

Farm bill already being put to the test

Two truck drivers arrested for carrying legal industrial hemp into Oklahoma from Kentucky were released February 8 after spending 31 days in jail. The two men were released after pressure was applied by Osage County district attorney and pro- bono local attorney Bransford Shoemake. Two additional men involved in the incident posted bail in mid-January.

[N.J. governor, state Democrats say deal to legalize cannabis almost done]

According to TulsaWorld, nine of 11 THC tests conducted by the DEA fell below 0.3 percent threshold on THC. The 18,000 pounds of industrial hemp has been sent to Colorado "for additional testing."

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, interstate shipping of hemp is now legal. The buyer of the shipment, Panacea Life Sciences of Louisville, Colo., expects the case to be an important "test case" for the legitimacy of the Farm Bill. Shoemake hopes after testing results and DA study of the 2018 Farm Bill’s intent, "drug trafficking" charges against all four men will be dropped. "Both Tadesse and Farah were particularly grateful to be released," said Shoemake, adding he was happy media reports and "pressure on the DA finally bore fruit."

Panacea is unlikely to receive the shipment until it is unusable potentially resulting in a half a million dollar loss.

MedMen asked to leave NY cannabis trade group

Multi-state cannabis retailer MedMen has been asked to withdraw its membership from a medical marijuana trade group in New York. According to the Daily News, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association asked MedMen to resign from the association on allegations made by former MedMen CFO James Parker. Parker filed a civil suit last month in California where MedMen is based.

[Marijuana banking finally ranks a congressional hearing]

In the filing, Parker alleges that MedMen CEO Adam Bierman used homophobic and racial slurs. A company spokesperson called the allegations “patently false” and says they were made by “a disgruntled employee.” The NYMCIA says it has a “zero-tolerance discrimination policy” and that regardless of MedMen’s action on the matter, it’s membership will be revoked.

CBD shows potential in substance abuse treatment: study

According to a recent report published in the journal Frontiers In Psychiatry, CBD shows potential as a treatment for substance abuse disorders. Researchers in Australia looked at multiple human and animal trials on CBD and addiction and found BCD reduces cravings and lowers the risk of relapse for alcoholics, drug addicts, and cigarette smokers.

Authors of the paper concluded that CBD reduces “motivation to self-administer” or continue using drugs in animals but that additional studies are needed to substantiate their findings.

[For Brazil, courting importers is the only way to provide medicinal CBD access]

Authors also suggested that the use of THC in combination with CBD could be more effective at treating substance use disorders than CBD alone. “CBD alone may not be sufficiently effective in maintaining long-term abstinence without ongoing support and behavioral therapy,” the researchers wrote. “A combination of pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy may increase treatment potency and adherence, and CBD may be better suited as an adjunct treatment to primary behavioral or psychosocial therapy.”

Teen use lower in states with medical marijuana: study

A recent report by researchers at Boston College, published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse claims that enactment of medical cannabis laws is associated with a 1.1 percent reduction in marijuana use among teens. Furthermore, according to the study, 3.9 percent fewer black adolescents and 2.7 percent fewer Hispanic adolescents used marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal. Researchers also claim to have found a greater decrease in teen use the longer the program is in effect.

Opponents of legalization have argued that legalizing marijuana would result in higher rates of use by teens. The same results are not found in states that have decriminalized rather than legalized cannabis possession.

William Barr confirmed as attorney general

The U.S. Senate has confirmed William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, in a vote of 54-45. Barr replaces Jeff Sessions who was fired by Trump in November. During his confirmation hearings, Barr stated multiple times that he would “not go after” state-legal cannabis businesses if confirmed. Regardless of Barr’s stance, the Joyce Amendment (aka the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment) prohibits the DOJ from allocating any resources to prosecuting state-legal medical marijuana companies.


New York-based luxury retailer Barneys has announced plans to sell cannabis products and accessories at its location in Beverly Hills, California under the name “The High End.” The company says it will offer marijuana products via delivery only but will stock CBD-infused beauty products as well as head-shop accessories such as rolling papers and glass pipes on site. The company also plans to open its High End brand shops in New York and other states in the future.


After a surprise inspection by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Mass Wellspring, a medical cannabis dispensary about 25 miles west of Boston has been ordered to “cease and desist from cultivating, processing and dispensing” medical marijuana until it corrects violations related to storage, security, and recordkeeping. Among the violations listed, the shop allegedly purchased wholesale cannabis that lacked proper labeling and test results. It’s not clear how the violations will affect the company’s recent application for a recreational cannabis license.


According to state Tax Commission figures, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program posted retail sales of about $4.3 million in January of 2019 resulting in $305,265 in tax revenue. That number represents about a 400 percent increase from the previous month. Also, more than $13 million in licensing fees has been collected by The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. Nearly 3000 licenses have already been awarded as of Feb. 11 including 1600 cultivators, 950 dispensaries and 436 processing facilities. OMMA medical patient cards have been issued to 48,840 citizens from a total of 61,250 applicants. The Marijuana Business Factbook projects that Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market to generate $150 million-$250 million a year at full scale.

[Why does Oregon have such a massive cannabis glut?]


During his state of the state address, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the National Guard would be called upon to seek and destroy unlicensed cannabis farms, many of which are run by cartels and pose extreme environmental hazards. The move is being lauded by the state’s legal marijuana growers. Newsom’s orders call for the redeployment of 360 National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border.


Colorado’s legal marijuana market had taken in more than $6 billion in combined recreational and medical sales since New Year’s Day in 2014 when the state launched its adult-use program. While recreational marijuana sales continue to climb showing 11 percent sales grown in 2018, medical sales dropped 20 percent. The state’s medical market hit a high of $445 million in sales in 2016. Recreational sales are estimated to have surpassed $1.2 billion.


In the Central California, city of Sonora, officials have announced plans to sue a statewide marijuana delivery policy. The Sonora City Council voted 5-0 in favor of litigation, according to The Union Democrat. The policy has been condemned by the League of California Cities which launched “Stop Wandering Weed,” a campaign which is cosponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council. Other municipalities are expected to follow suit.


An attempt in Arkansas to add around 40 more ailments to the state’s list of qualifying conditions has been shelved by a legislative committee. The measure would have added ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and several other conditions to the current list of 18 which includes chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and Alzheimer’s, among others. Arkansas recently licensed 32 medical marijuana dispensaries and sales are expected to begin by springtime. Roughly 7,000 patients have signed up for the program.

Upcoming Cannabis Industry Events

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