September 19, 2017

Amber Iris Langston, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Amber Iris Langston

Amber Langston, board member and deputy director of Show-Me Cannabis, is an outspoken advocate for social, economic and environmental justice. Ms. Langston served as the campaign manager for Columbia, Missouri’s two successful municipal cannabis initiatives in 2004 while studying rural sociology at the University of Missouri. Amber has served as an outreach director and international liaison for Students for Sensible Drug Policy in Washington, DC, as field support for Americans for Safe Access in Oakland, CA, and as media liaison for California’s Proposition 19 to tax and regulate cannabis in November 2010.

“Impossible! Naive!” Cannabis Prohibitionists Cry Foul in Canada

Canada Global Cannabis March

Members of the Canadian House of Commons health committee have been hearing testimony this week about the planned roll-out for Canada’s cannabis legalization program, which is set to go into effect in July 2018 – not a long time from now, for those familiar with the cannabis industry. Investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Canadian market are making their moves now, and paying close attention to how things transpire this week in Ottawa.

Major takeaways so far include the usual rabble-rabble from opponents to cannabis legalization, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and good ol’ Kevin Sabet from from the U.S. organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

Rick Barnum of the OPP laments that police simply won’t be able to adjust to new policy by July 1, 2018, calling such feats of fantasy “impossible”. I somehow doubt there is much Rick would admit to that would make his police force sound so weak under other circumstances, but that rapacious nature of the cannabis plant – it’s just too much, people!

Joanne Crampton, the RCMP assistant commissioner for federal policing criminal operations, testified that legalization won’t solve issues of the criminal market, and that thinking so is “naive”. While I don’t disagree that there will continue to be an underground market until the new regulatory structures have had time to take effect, the fear-mongering from the law enforcement community on this issue seems far more likely to continue far into the future.

And of course, United States’ most ardent adversary, Kevin Sabet of SAM, whose years-long campaign of rhetoric against cannabis legalization has been reduced to “slow down.”

“The only people that benefit from speed in this issue are the business people that are really waiting to get rich. There is no benefit to going fast on this issue at all,” said Sabet. “I understand it may be too late, but I still think that forgoing legalization in favour of reducing criminal sanctions and deterring marijuana use is the best way from public health.”

Thankfully, the ruling Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, understands that cannabis prohibition is a failed and harmful policy. Despite the hysterical assurances from legalization opponents that the sky will fall, the Canadian government seems bound and determined to move forward on rolling out their new policy by July 2018.

Want to find out more about how Canada’s market will look post-prohibition? Join the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) next June 24 and 25, 2018 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Want to find out how other international markets are looking? Join all of ICBC’s events in Kauai, Hawaii; San Francisco, California; and Berlin, Germany.

Photo courtesy of Cannabis Culture via Creative Commons license on flikr.

Did Hawaii Find a Cannabis Banking Solution?

Diamond Head beach Hawaii

Yesterday, Governor David Ige and state Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikea of Hawaii, made a public announcement yesterday, Sept 12, which is sure to please the dispensary owners in his state. Governor Ige announced a plan for the first state-authorized financial institution which allow cannabis businesses to operate without cash and access electronic financial services which are normal to every other industry in the United States.

One of the most pressing and difficult issues for cannabis operators across the country has been dealing with continuously closing bank accounts, due to the discomfort financial institutions feel under FDIC oversight and federal money-laundering laws.

The program is a first of its kind – although credit unions have come and gone in states such as Colorado and California, ll eight of Hawaii’s dispensaries have agreed to participate in the new program, starting on October 1st, 2017.

From Governor Ige’s press release:

“While determining a banking solution, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Division of Financial Institutions focused on safety—for patients, employees, dispensaries, as well as the wider community. The department sought a cashless solution to address concerns about increased crimes committed against cash-based operations.

“‘This solution for the dispensaries to conduct banking services in an entirely cashless method would directly address many concerns we have and problems encountered by the dispensaries,’ said Iris Ikeda, Hawai‘i Financial Institutions Commissioner. ‘This will establish a safe environment for medical cannabis-using patients and businesses to operate. It is our hope that a Hawai‘i-based financial institution opens accounts in the future. For now, we are appreciative of the mainland credit union for stepping in,’ added Ikeda.

“Hawai‘i’s cashless system will allow cannabis dispensaries to use traditional financial services to legally conduct financial transactions. In addition, dispensaries will be capable of setting up direct deposit for employee payroll, collect and remit taxes, and make payments to vendors.”

Of course, I believe the only true solution to the banking problem is removing cannabis completely from the federal Controlled Substances list. But incremental steps are helpful, and legalization is moving in the right direction! It’s encouraging to see Hawaii’s political leadership step up to address such an important problem for his state’s new businesses.

Come see how this banking solution is working on the ground in Kauai, Hawaii, this December for the International Cannabis Business Conference Finance Investor Forum. We’ll be talking about all the most important topics for the cannabis business person, from leading global experts in the industry. December will be here quickly, so make your plans now!

Tell the FDA and International Community You Support CBD!

UN Flag

Holy smokes!

It’s a quick turnaround, but I just learned that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking comments for recommendations on wording it plans to give in the near future to the World Health Organization (WHO). The comments will be reviewed in advance of a report regarding a number of controlled substances which WHO will be issuing for the United Nations Secretary-General later this fall. One of those substances is cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most actively therapeutic components of cannabis.

From the FDA’s Regulations.Gov website:

“The United States is a party to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances (Psychotropic Convention). Article 2 of the Psychotropic Convention provides that if a party to the convention or WHO has information about a substance, which in its opinion may require international control or change in such control, it shall so notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations (the U.N. Secretary-General) and provide the U.N. Secretary-General with information in support of its opinion.

“Section 201 of the CSA (21 U.S.C. 811) (Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970) provides that when WHO notifies the United States under Article 2 of the Psychotropic Convention that it has information that may justify adding a drug or other substances to one of the schedules of the Psychotropic Convention, transferring a drug or substance from one schedule to another, or deleting it from the schedules, the Secretary of State must transmit the notice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary of HHS). The Secretary of HHS must then publish the notice in the Federal Register and provide opportunity for interested persons to submit comments that will be considered by HHS in its preparation of the scientific and medical evaluations of the drug or substance.”

We need to act fast, but there’s still time to make our voices heard: THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS IS WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH! This is a great and easy form of activism, and I would encourage all of our readers and supporters to send a quick comment to let the FDA know that you recognize, along with thousands of scientific studies, CBD is a medically therapeutic substance. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A COMMENT.

National and international laws should catch up to science and reflect the reality that most US (and other) citizens recognize: cannabis is a safe and effective medicine!

Keep up with the latest happenings in global cannabis policy at the International Cannabis Business Conference! Our next event is happening December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii! Get your early bird tickets today!

Photo courtesy of sanjitbakshi via flikr.

Cannabis Caucus Founders React to House GOP Blocking State Marijuana Protections

Cannabis Caucus

In a late night announcement, US House Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), co-founders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, issued a press release announcing a decision to remove from consideration an amendment which would prevent funding to the Department of Justice for prosecution of state-legal medical cannabis operators and consumers, and which has passed the last three years with increasing approval from legislators around the country:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2017

Reps. Blumenauer and Rohrabacher Statement on House Rules Committee Leadership Decision to Block Vote on Medical Marijuana Protections

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today condemned the decision by House Rules Committee leadership to block their amendment that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. Because of this decision, Rohrabacher and Blumenauer will not be able to offer their amendment when the House considers Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 funding legislation this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment language in July. The amendment has been included in every annual appropriations law since 2014.

Blumenauer and Rohrabacher released the following statement:

“By blocking our amendment, Committee leadership is putting at risk the millions of patients who rely on medical marijuana for treatment, as well as the clinics and businesses that support them. This decision goes against the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose federal interference with state marijuana laws. These critical protections are supported by a majority of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. There’s no question: If a vote were allowed, our amendment would pass on the House floor, as it has several times before.

“Our fight to protect medical marijuana patients is far from over. The marijuana reform movement is large and growing. This bad decision by the House Rules Committee is an affront to the 46 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized use and distribution of some form of medical marijuana. These programs serve millions of Americans. This setback, however, is not the final word. As House and Senate leadership negotiate a long-term funding bill, we will fight to maintain current protections.”

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Cannabis is the most popular political issue of the day, and the people want to take this market back from criminals. I believe that more than anything other issue in modern times, cannabis really is the ultimate uniter. The only reason “they” haven’t legalized cannabis is because “they” is actually “us”.

While we can still save these protections, the American public needs to prepare for a fight in the coming months. For newcomers to the industry, it may come as a shock to learn that cannabis legalization is still a major battle in Washington, DC. But politics is a swinging pendulum which requires constant vigilance. We can keep our fingers crossed that the Senate Appropriations Committee has more sense than the House. But let’s do more than that. Let’s get active and make the change we need. Contact your elected officials, and donate to one of the great organizations working to end prohibition such as the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Welcome to the fray.

Both Dana Rohrabacher and Earl Blumenauer have spoken at the International Cannabis Business Conference, discussing marijuana policy with attendees. Stay in touch with the latest in cannabis policy at the upcoming ICBC Finance Investor Summit on December 1-3, 2017, in Kauai, Hawaii, and the San Francisco ICBC on February 1-2, 2018. 

Cannabis Prices Dropping in Washington

Washington State Sign

I guess what they say is true…in the marketplace, supply and demand are related! Who knew?

Well, pretty much everyone knew. And when it comes to cannabis, prices have had been artificially inflated over the years due to the high cost of risks, and the limit on supply created by prohibition. But as predicted, cannabis generally acts like other commodities when people are allowed to buy and sale in an open setting.

Now, we are seeing market forces play out on marijuana, noticeably in the State of Washington. Technically Washington was the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use, just hours before Colorado declared the same victory in the 2012 election. This is a fact some forget, possibly because in an effort to pass law which appeased prohibitionists, Washington’s laws were written much more strictly than Colorado’s. As a result, consumers there have complained about high prices, and a restriction on the number of licenses has allowed for less competition than what Colorado has seen. Medical patients have felt a huge squeeze. Exceptionally high taxes have created such a weighty burden and cannabis has been slow to exit the black market there.

This week, The Washington Post reports that the price of cannabis has fallen substantially in Washington State over the past three years:

“Steven Davenport of the Pardee Rand Graduate School has analyzed marijuana retail prices in Washington state since legal recreational markets opened in July 2014. Remarkably, prices have fallen every single quarter since.

“Davenport expects the marijuana industry to continue to find ways to lower prices for the simple reason that it’s a profitable business model. ‘Some consumers will prefer higher priced brands, but there will always be a market for the brand that can produce adequate quality cannabis at the cheapest cost,’ he notes.

“…Notably, even high taxes on legal marijuana don’t keep the legal price anywhere near what it was when the drug was more broadly illegal.”

As public sentiment continues to sour on the broader failure of the drug war, the article suggests that cannabis serves as an important example for future easing of other drug policies.

In the meantime, the falling price of cannabis in Washington goes to show how much policy has an influence over the cost of business. As more states move toward legalization and grapple with its implementation, we are bound to see an eventual balancing of market forces. In the meantime, we are sure to see some decrease in the raw profitability of cannabis sales in the future. But if we are lucky (i.e. if we all work together really hard to lobby Congress) maybe we can fix those pesky tax and banking issues, and open US cannabis entrepreneurs to the global market.

Keep up on the latest in cannabis policy and business! Join the International Cannabis Business Conference this December 1-3 in Kauai, Hawaii; February 1-2,2018  in San Francisco, California; and April 12-14 in Berlin, Germany. Don’t wait to get your tickets!

Californians Reject Ban on Cannabis Advertising

California Flag

Last week I reported the California legislature was meeting in special session, and that one of the measures moving forward included a somewhat strict prohibition on cannabis branding and labeling. As legalization moves forward and states invent new regulatory frameworks, we seem to be doing a bit of a balancing act regarding health and safety, particularly with youths.

I agree we need to minimize youth exposure to recreational substances, but I was opposed to the recent effort by many in the California legislature to enact such a strict ban on cannabis advertising. The proposed bill suggested cannabis images should not be used on merchandise such as hats and t-shirts, which young people have been known to wear.

Today, I am pleased to say that the bill proposed by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) has failed.

From the LA Times:

“Opponents of Allen’s bill, including the California Cannabis Manufacturers Assn., said such a law would be a financial burden, depriving them of legitimate profits.

“The groups argued that the advertisement of medicinal marijuana should not be restricted in the same way as adult-use marijuana. The group wrote that the bill ‘undercuts a legitimate revenue center for cannabis licensees,’ and that it impinges on free speech.

“…The Assembly Appropriations Committee, which evaluates bills that will cost a lot of money, put the measure on hold without explanation.”

In an era when free speech seems to be under attack, its nice to see some legal weight being thrown in its defense. It’s also quite interesting to see the tide turning with respect to these kinds of decisions.

Now if only we can get rid of all the unnecessary extra “child safety” packaging with the sasquatch-sized environmental footprint….

Stay informed on the latest cannabis market regulations at the International Cannabis Business Conference happening in Kauai, Hawaii on December 1-3, 2017, and in San Francisco on February 1-2, 2018, and more!

Stricter Oversight for Pesticides in Cannabis Starts Now in Oregon

cannabis

The Recreational Marijuana Program at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) made an announcement on Wednesday, August 30, related to the state’s pesticide testing program. Now, every batch of licensed and regulated cannabis in the commercial market must be tested for pesticides.

And implementation begins immediately.

Last fall, you may recall Oregon-based cannabis businesses producing edibles and concentrates went through a tumultuous time when delays in lab testing results bottlenecked, resulting in shortages and crippling economic losses. The public backlash caused the OLCC to take a step back, and public meetings were held to get input from stakeholders in the cannabis community. Temporary rules were put in place to ease the burden, but those rules were set to expire on May 30 but were extended to August 29. Now, the OLCC seems to have made their final decision on testing, and their timetable is likely to set some business owners scrambling.

From the OLCC document:

“In October 2016, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission issued a finding that the pesticide testing requirement would be lowered to a minimum of one-third of batches of usable marijuana within every harvest lot, due to insufficient lab capacity.

“Since that time, significant changes have occurred that have increased the lab testing capacity to ensure a steady flow of product through the supply chain. Last October, fewer than five labs were accredited to test for pesticides; today there are nearly ten such labs. Additionally, the Oregon Health Authority’s most recent testing rules increased by 50% the amount of usable marijuana that can be tested together in a batch.”

The document further directs for new rules to go into effect immediately:

“Starting August 30, 2017, every batch of usable marijuana must be tested directly for pesticides according to the Oregon Health Authority’s testing rules in order to be compliant. This includes product that was sampled prior to August 30.”

Whether or not the new labs can keep up with demand remains to be seen. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and watching the market in the next few weeks. Let’s hope Oregon can lead the country in efficient and effective pesticide testing for cannabis products.

Stay informed of Oregon’s most current changes in pesticide testing and other policies affecting the state’s cannabis markets at the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, happening on Sunday, November 19, 2017 in Ashland, Oregon. Soon thereafter, the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii, from December 1st thru the 3rd, will be a good opportunity to learn from, and network with, cannabis entrepreneurs, investors and activists from around the world. 

Will California Unduly Limit Cannabis Branding?

California

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

While Shakespeare’s words ring true across time and space, one thing is for sure: if someone offered you an air freshener for your car and you had to choose between “rose” and “stank rot” without smelling either, I’m guessing most people would go with “rose”. Frankly, I don’t know what “stank rot” air fresheners smell like, since they don’t exist to my knowledge, but I do know what roses smell like.

This is why we brand – because everyone wants to come up, er, smelling like roses.

In the next two weeks, by September 15, California’s legislature will end its special session. Before that session ends, legislators will likely have a chance to vote on a bill that would highly restrict branding and marketing in the state which promises the largest legal cannabis market in the world when legalization is set to take effect in 2018.

The measure has traction and is likely to come up for a vote. The bill would put procedures in place to restrict marketing, labeling and “even the shape of pot products.” As expected, it’s all about the children.

According to US News and World Report:

“’This is all about making sure, in the context of the legalization of marijuana, that you don’t end up inadvertently leading so many of our young people into drug abuse,’ says the bill’s author, California state Sen. Ben Allen, a Democrat representing Hollywood. ‘This is about protecting kids.’
“…Allen’s bill is designed to cut off the walking billboards – T-shirts, hats and other swag that provide an indirect avenue for reaching children and teens. It won support from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Teachers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the child advocacy group Common Sense Kids Action.

“Ultimately, the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, working in concert with the state’s attorney general, would be left to provide guidance for the industry, deciding whether a T-shirt sporting a corporate logo and worn by a firm’s employees should be treated in the same way as a lighter, say, bearing a product name.”

I definitely agree that public health and safety, particularly for children, should a top political priority, but I think efforts regarding cannabis could easily overreach in California. I would like to think the agencies listed above can all be trusted with such advisement, but we are talking about institutions which have historically spread misinformation about the dangers of cannabis. Placing cannabis’ political opponents in charge of regulation might not end well for the industry. Just sayin’. The State of California will no doubt feel a pushback in lawsuits arguing for freedom of speech.

Whatever the case, we may begin to have an idea in a couple of weeks when the special session ends, just how branding and marketing will take shape in the Golden State’s new industry.

Stay on top of California’s cannabis market. Get your tickets now for the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco on February 1st-2nd, 2018. If you are inclined to be even further ahead of the curve, and would enjoy to spend a few days in Hawaii in December, then grab your tickets to the ICBC in beautiful Kauai on December 1st thru the 3rd. 

German Drug Czar Hates American Cannabis Activists

German-US-flags

Marlene Mortler, the Drug Czar of Germany, sounds like she has taken a cue from the garbled logic of US Drug Enforcement Administration and Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a man I think of as the Arch Nemesis of Cannabis. (Or perhaps “The Anti-Cannabist”?) In any case, Mortler has been engaging in familiar rhetoric related to untold dangers to children who suffer from cannabis exposure and fabricated stories of cannabis tainted with poison. After all, cannabis is much stronger than it was a few decades ago so….OOGA BOOGA BOOGA! Be scared!

Mortler cried foul on the cannabis movement in her recent report on the state of German drug policy. Like Sabet, Mortler claims there is big money for cannabis, bigger even than alcohol or tobacco. And she seems a little upset with all the online activists undermining the war on cannabis – particularly activists from the United States.

German cannabis expert Michael Knodt reported earlier this week:

“When it comes to cannabis, Mortler is convinced that the plant’s increasing popularity is the direct result of activism and lobbying efforts. She has continuously declined opportunities to speak with cannabis activists — the “Hemp-Lobby” as she put it — ignoring any possibility of a direct exchange of factual arguments. No interviews, meetings, panels, not even a Skype-dialogue has occurred since she took the role of Drug Czar in 2013. Mortler does not talk to or with her drug policy opponents or cannabis consumers; instead, she talks about them.

“In 2016, Mortler complained that Germany’s cannabis users had started a kind of digital war against her. Activists had launched “Mortler off” T-shirts, published a related Facebook page, and promoted a petition for her withdrawal on Change.org. But the CSU leader is hardly diplomatic when it comes to cannabis. She once advised the well-known German rapper Thomas D. on Facebook not to publicize his opposing opinions on cannabis, acerbically asking whether the highly reputed artist ‘if he had smoked too much.’

“…In Mortler’s criticism of the U.S. cannabis lobby and the situation in Colorado, the staunch cannabis opponent skates on thin ice when asserting that the consumption among young people has surged in Colorado since the state regulated cannabis. The source of her ignorance stems from the questionable figures of the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” (RMHIDTA). The report does not address the Colorado Ministry of Health’s official report on the effects of legalization. In contrast to the RMHIDTA’s alleged report of increased cannabis use among adolescents, the state’s Health Department released a study in June, finding that cannabis use among teens has not increased since legalization and remains in line with the national average.”

I must admit, it gives me great joy to see the weakening of prohibition laws which do nothing to help the people they are meant to protect. I would like to say kudos to the cannabis community for helping us to tear down that wall, so to speak, and encourage all to continue the fight for justice, which includes an above-ground, regulated, and business-friendly cannabis market.

I hope some of you will join me next spring for our second German event at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin, April 12-13, 2018. If you can’t make Germany, ICBC will still be covering many important topics in Kauai, Hawaii on December 1-3, 2017, and in San Francisco, California, February 1-2, 2018.

Testing Woes Strike Again – This Time in Canada

Lab test

Broken Coast Cannabis Ltd., a Vancouver Island-based commercial medical cannabis grower, has issued a recall for three batches of dried cannabis that made its way onto dispensary shelves last year, following a test of sample products from the grower by Health Canada, the national health department of Canada.

From The Globe and Mail website:

“The federal agency stated that no patients have reported getting sick from Broken Coast products and, in the recall notice, said the contaminants are unlikely to cause any adverse health consequences. However, the Globe recently profiled several medical-cannabis patients who faced extensive health problems they say were brought on by smoking tainted products sold by another grower subject to a similar recall.

“This new recall comes after federal inspectors visited in March and took a random sample of cannabis oil – which the company had been licensed to produce but not yet sell to patients. When the test results for that sample came back in July, Health Canada found trace amounts of two banned pesticides, myclobutanil and spinosad, according to a recall noticed posted to the department’s site Thursday. Inspectors then went back and took samples of dried cannabis leaves from the company’s Ladysmith, B.C., production site and found myclobutanil – whose manufacturer, Dow AgroSciences, does not consider safe to use on plants such as cannabis.

“…Those patients believe they have been affected by exposure to myclobutanil, a chemical used to kill mildew, and bifenazate, an insecticide prohibited for use on certain types of plants, including cannabis. When inhaled, myclobutanil enters the bloodstream directly through the lungs, without being broken down by the digestive system. No studies have been done to determine whether it is safe to be smoked, and Dow AgroSciences strictly warns against inhalation.”

While testing requirements prove to be an ire for both businesses and consumers, often preventing patients from receiving needed medicine or stifling growing entrepreneurship, it’s good to be reminded that the cannabis movement/industry has asked for regulatory oversight – and that’s ultimately a good thing for health and safety.

Where will Canada’s testing regulations fit in the future of the global cannabis industry? Come find out from the experts at the International Cannabis Business Conference, happening in cities world-wide, including Kauai, Hawaii, on December 1-4, 2017 and Vancouver, BC, Canada in June 2018

Banking for Cannabis Businesses in Uruguay Limited by International Prohibition

bank vault

The long arm of the law stretches far and wide.

Reports out of Uruguay this past week state that the Latin American country, the first to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2014, is facing internal issues with distribution. The country officially began sanctioned cannabis sales through pharmacies in July. But issues have arisen because – wouldn’t you know it – the zealous anti-drug proponents of US prohibition have reached their tentacles into independent state affairs.

Three international drug treaties (the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) define the limits of legal production of certain substances acceptable under international trade rules. These substances primarily address, of course, drugs which are listed in the United States Controlled Substances Act – a measure included in the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 under President Richard Nixon. As one might suspect, the United States has been the international whip cracker when it comes to enforcing these Draconian laws. In 2009, I participated in the first Latin American Drug Policy Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, organizing youth activists on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which I was working for at the time. My greatest take-away from that experience was the recognition that many countries, though democratically independent, effectively had their hands tied from meaningful action by the domineering crush of United States extremist drug policies.

Actors in the movement have been speculating for years when and how international treaties would come into play for countries addressing the drug war through a more humane and reasoned approach (i.e. ending prohibition). General discussions I have participated in over the years with national and international policy experts have leaned toward the agreement that in moving the needle within the United States would create a internal conflict that would render enforcement of international treaties moot. In other words, having legal cannabis in states like California and Colorado while telling other countries they can’t do the same thing makes us hypocrites.

Now it seems we have come to the crossroads of cannabis and international law. Our federal government has figured out how to needle Uruguay on its program of nationally-regulated cannabis sales – by doing exactly to that entire country what it is doing to all US-based cannabis business owners: controlling the money. Last week, Uruguay’s leading financial institution, Banco Republica, followed suit of several private banks in the country announcing closure of bank accounts in Uruguay associated with pharmacies with licensure to sell the cannabis, citing international finance laws (code for US political bullying).

Arguably the biggest impediment to businesses in the cannabis market today is the problem with banking. Look to any state-legal market in the United States and you will find operators struggling to find a legitimate banking institution willing to do business with companies which simply have “cannabis” in their name, whether or not they actually deal with the plant.

As a result, leaders in the industry have been subject to repeated closed bank accounts and insecure monetary holdings, primarily because FDIC-approved banking institutions fear legal problems stemming from activities which could be viewed as money laundering for illegal drugs (cannabis). Apparently the Feds have figured out this method as an effective tool in slowing down the legalization of cannabis, and now, they have targeted the independent country of Uruguay with the same attempt at control.

While there seem to be infinite peddlers of alternate solutions to the banking problem, the best, and truly only real solution, is to simply end cannabis prohibition – ideally by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Personally, I come from an activist background. While I did not imagine the kind of advocacy I would be working toward when cannabis laws became more liberated, I have reached the conclusion that in today’s activism, it is impossible to separate industry from policy, and an understanding that the traditional “movement” of cannabis legalization needs to work in common interest with the growing community of entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Until the United States ends cannabis prohibition, innocent patients and consumers in Uruguay and in other countries around the globe, will continue to suffer.

Learn how the cannabis industry is working to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level during our “Legal Landscapes in the Trump Administration” panel including Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is working directly on federal banking legislation, at the International Cannabis Business Conference this December 1-3, 2017 in Kauai, Hawaii! Get your early bird tickets now!

Canadian Mental Health Association Releases Report on Legalization

Canada Marijuana Flag

Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Canada is preparing for a fully regulated, adult-legal cannabis market, beginning in July 2018. On Monday, August 14, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario issued a report entitled “Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” meant to give guidance to Canadian legislators regarding next year’s roll out. As one might expect, the mental health community is rallying around an approach to policy that views cannabis through a public health lens.

As a result, the report advises a couple of somewhat controversial recommendations, which may please some supporters of prohibition on one hand, and upset them on the other.

First, the CMHA Ontario identifies driving-under-the-influence of cannabis as the issue of greatest concern for public safety in a legalization scenario. However, the organization recognizes the scientific truth that testing of impairment for cannabis remains inaccurate, and therefore cannot be used as a truthful measure for gauging driver safety. As a result, the CMHA Ontario recommends a zero-tolerance policy for driving and cannabis use:

“Because the technology to detect an individual’s level of impairment due to cannabis is still in development at this time, CMHA Ontario recommends a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis consumption in any motorized vehicle in order to ensure road safety during this time of transition. A zero-tolerance policy would include both the driver of the motorized vehicle, as well as any passengers in the car. It is important that a clear message be sent to the public as soon as possible regarding zero tolerance for impaired driving due to cannabis use.”

Interestingly, the CMHA Ontario has taken an alternative approach to youth access of cannabis. In a move that runs counter to what most US citizens would think wise, the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation report actually recommends a minimum legal age of purchase to be 19 years:

“Frequent cannabis use can harm a developing brain and there is no evidence that supports a specific age when cannabis use is safe for young people. However, there are concerns that a higher minimum age may contribute to young people accessing cannabis from illegal sources. Establishing a higher minimum age standard will be less effective in undermining the black market, and may leave youth both criminalized and reliant on it.”

The report also recommends a mandatory public health training similar to workers in the food service industry and development of a regulatory “cannabis control board”.

The politics of cannabis legalization are playing out on the international field, and governmental agencies are coming up with new and interesting approaches to regulation. Canada has certainly shown itself a leader in its experimentation with cannabis laws, and will likely continue as a trend-setter in the future.

Keep informed of all that is happening across the globe when it comes to cannabis! Join experts and business leaders from around the world converging for the International Cannabis Business Conference, December 1-3, 2017 on the tropical paradise of Kauai, Hawaii. Get tickets now!

German Cannabis Supporters Join 2017 Hanfparade

Berlin

Despite a little cold and rainy weather, a great crowd turned out this year for the 21st annual Berlin Hanfparade (or “Hemp Parade”) last Saturday, August 12th.

According to Michael Knodt, writer for Marijuana.com and speaker at the April 2017 International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin, the turnout for this year’s event was brimming with enthusiasm for the future of cannabis in Germany:

“An estimated 2,000 participants joined the 2017 Hanfparade, proudly marching through the streets of Berlin under the motto “Breiter kommt weiter” (“The wider our range, the bigger our progress”). Even with attendance slightly down from last year’s event — the largest German legalization demonstration to date — the mood was electric and the event set a colorful, loud, and hopeful sign for the legalization of cannabis in an influential European nation.

“…Accompanied by booming basses of music, loud slogans, and many creative posters, the participants walked passed the Chancellery and the German Bundestag on their course toward the Federal Ministry of Health, where a small stopover took place. Directly in front of the seat of the outgoing German Drug Czar Marlene Mortler, the well-known youth judge Andreas Müller explained the dangerous context between cannabis prohibition, false prevention strategies and the steadily increasing number of cannabis offenders among the younger generation.

“…Onlookers had trouble escaping the contagiously positive mood radiating from the demonstration, many smiling faces could be seen in the surrounding trucks and cars. The legalization movement is becoming mainstream — the common goal of the end of prohibition and the release of cannabis has slowly become visible on the German capital’s horizon.”

There is certainly great momentum for sensible cannabis law reform in Germany as the economic powerhouse has seen its medical law liberalized as several cities have well-established political movements examining how they may be able to follow in the footsteps of Amsterdam and allow cannabis commerce among all adults. Not only is it great for Germany that cannabis legalization is on the horizon, but also for the rest of Europe as Germany’s influence reverberates well beyond its borders. It is certainly an exciting time for the cannabis community across the globe and we will undoubtedly see many  positive laws and policies enacted in the coming months and years.

So what will be the state of cannabis in Europe’s largest country over the next year? Leading cannabis experts agree, the best (and most rockin’) way to learn, is to join them at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin, Germany, April 12 & 13, 2018. Get your tickets for Berlin and Kauai now to lock in early bird prices!

Demand and Regulatory Bottleneck Temporarily Closes Hawaii Cannabis Dispensary

Maui Grown Therapies

I suspect there are smirks emerging as some people are reading this article. “Welcome to the cannabis industry,” they might say.

Just five short days following its opening days of sales, Hawaii medical cannabis dispensary Maui Grown Therapies ran out of cannabis – and the company seems a little pissed off.

From The Maui News:

“‘It’s unfortunate that an administrative hindrance of this magnitude prevents patients from getting the help they need,’ said Christopher Cole, Director of Product Management for Maui Grown Therapies. ‘We had planned to open with a full range of derivative products such as concentrates, oils, capsules and topical products, but at the eleventh hour we discovered that the State Labs Division had failed to certify a lab to conduct testing of manufactured products.’

“…’We could serve thousands of patients with the amount of manufactured product we currently have available for final compliance testing,’ Cole said. ‘Even though we were approved by the Department of Health on May 24th to manufacture cannabis products, the restrictions placed on the state’s only licensed lab have prevented us from offering these products to our patients — and it is entirely unclear to us when this will change.’”

Though Maui Grown Therapies is expressing a genuine frustration, unfortunately this is not something unusual to the cannabis industry. Indeed this type of chaotic volatility in the market is much more the norm than would be accepted as reasonable in other industries. Constant changing rules and onerous regulation is often based more as a fearful reaction to a plant long believed to be imminently harmful, than on science or market pragmatism.

Just last month, Nevada opened to legal cannabis sales for adults of 21. Two weeks later the State of Nevada released a Statement of Emergency owing to a shortage of regulated cannabis to stock the shelves of newly opened sales operations.

In Oregon last year, sudden drastic changes in regulatory requirements created a backlog of work for testing facilities, causing huge losses for producers and sellers. Despite the setbacks, the Oregon legalization system has created thousands of new jobs and generated tens of millions in new revenue, far outpacing initial government projections.

Colorado, the early pioneer in regulated cannabis commerce, hasn’t been immune to regulatory issues either. The state has clearly overcome bureaucratic hurdles to now surpass the $500 million dollar marijuana revenue milestone.

As more states come online with cannabis legalization, officials should look hard at the examples of other states which are already moving into the industry space. Nothing is perfect, but when good is the enemy of perfect in this industry, patients, consumers and businesses all get left behind. Despite setbacks and obstacles, the future remains very bright for the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Stay on top of the latest developments for cannabis regulations, policies, and entrepreneurship! Attend the International Cannabis Business Conference in Kauai, Hawaii on December 1-3rd, 2017. Get your early bird tickets today!

Cannabis Hits Shelves in Hawaii

This week scored a mark in history for medical cannabis patients in the Aloha State. Initial sales went into effect on Tuesday on Maui and Wednesday on Oahu at two of the state-licensed dispensaries on the island chain. Although eight dispensaries have been granted licenses by the state’s Department of Health, business owners had been unable to get their product to consumers. Until recently, the Health Department had not approved any testing labs as certified for cannabis quality control.

Maui Grown Therapies opened its doors on Tuesday in Kahului, following approved laboratory testing and a final onsite inspection on Monday. The dispensary has already registered about 300 of the approximate 4,000 patients on Maui, and began sales by appointment this week. Oahu’s first operating dispensary, Aloha Green, opened to public sales on Wednesday to a crowd of excited patients. There’s good news on the horizon for patients from the mainland as well; the state is scheduled to establish registration rules for out-of-state patients by start of 2018.

Hawaii Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler noted in a statement issued Wednesday:

“Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception. With legal guidance from Department of the Attorney General, the DOH team paved the way for this new industry in Hawai‘i and has set a new standard for dispensary programs other states can emulate.”

The statement also reminded patients of their own rules for individual legal compliance:

“Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks. When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.”

Are you ready to see the state of cannabis in the State of Rainbows? Get your tickets now for the International Cannabis Business Summit on Kauai, Hawaii happening December 1-3, 2107!