In my previous job, I spent pretty much all day, every day of the work week “scoping” news, government webpages, legislative bill trackers, and City Council agendas in order to report out to my team the policy changes being made across the rapidly-evolving cannabis industry in the United States and, to some extent, internationally as well.
It was fascinating, but it was also overwhelming. We have so much information – and misinformation – at our fingertips; it felt constantly like I may never “catch up,” that I may never be “on top of my game.” To be entirely honest, I felt bad at my job most days because I pressured myself into believing that I alone needed to have the brain of a computer.
Now that I have some distance and am exploring the different opportunities open to me at the moment, I can see what an amazing learning experience that time spent was for me. I learned to sift through information, to track down resources, to synthesize information. Instead of contributing to a singularly-focused business imperative, I can use those skills to jump down the endless rabbit holes of my own curiosities.
Each week, I want to share with you what I have gleaned to be the most surprising, the most interesting, and the most important headlines from the past week. I have rounded them up into the categories most relevant to my causes, but they don’t necessarily represent my views entirely. If I have comments separate from those reported, I will bold them. Also, please try to remember the following disclaimer visible on my page at all times:
This website does not provide medical, nutritional, or legal advice. It is meant for entertainment purposes only.
I should point out, too, that I do not have a degree in journalism. I am not a reporter. I am simply doing research, and curating that research for you, the reader, and you may do with that what you will.
Ok, on to THIS WEEK, ON 420FITGIRL – we’ve got stories of lawsuits, new cannabis legislation, health studies, and vegan burgers!
CANNABIS NEWS & POLICY
A number of jurisdictions may have accidentally decriminalized cannabis recently, to a certain extent. Due to the 2018 Farm Bill, which removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, states looking to regulate the hemp industry within their purview have adopted Congress’s definition of hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC. This requires greater burden of proof for prosecuting cannabis-related misdemeanors. Previously law enforcement only needed to determine that plant material came from a cannabis plant. Because cannabis and hemp come from the same family, the plant material is indistinguishable in look and odor. Crime labs are not prepared for the impact of testing plant material for its THC content, let alone other non-plant-based cannabis products, such as edibles. While they can still file charges based on paraphernalia and other reasons, police are now unsure whether the smell of weed is grounds for a search without a warrant.
The New York City Council recently adopted Resolution 0740, which directs the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to adopt a policy “finding that a person’s mere possession or use of marijuana does not by itself create an imminent risk of harm to a child, warranting the child’s removal.” The Council cited racial disparities in prosecution and the legality of medical cannabis in the state of New York. The move follows the city enacting legislation earlier this year to limit situations where employees or individuals on probation can be tested for past cannabis use.
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy will offer a master’s degree in medical cannabis and claims to be the first degree in the U.S. to focus explicitly on cannabis. The degree will be open to any student with a bachelor’s and will provide courses to cultivate an understanding of the scientific background of medical cannabis, as well as therapeutics. Program leaders hope to respond to growing workplace demands, which estimates that 250,000 new positions will be open in the industry over the next couple years. They also hope that the program will encourage more women leadership.
Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences is currently accepting applications for a new MBA program focusing on the business side of medical cannabis. The program is admitting students through December 1st for the spring 2020 session. The curriculum includes 4 courses: introduction to the medical cannabis industry, finance and regulation (both state and federal), marketing and sales, and a project-based class where students will develop a business plan or work on bringing a product to market. Courses will also include industrial hemp but will not touch adult-use market. Andrew Peterson, Director of the Substance Use Disorders Institute who helped develop the program, says there are no “specific plans for recruiting from communities that have been harmed” at this time.
A cannabis legalization measure has advanced one step in South Dakota. The state is one of the remaining few to have no form of legal cannabis. South Dakota’s Attorney General has filed an official explanation of the proposed ballot measure that legalizes adult-use and sale, medical use and sale, and hemp. It would legalize adult-use through a constitutional amendment and requires the legislature to develop and enact separate regulations for medical and hemp. The State Department of Revenue would be responsible for regulating and issuing business licenses, including cultivation, manufacture, and retail sale. It would allow local jurisdictions to opt-out of permitting cannabis businesses and impose a 15% excise tax on sales. This measure is separate from an initiative organized by New Approach South Dakota to enact medical cannabis only. That initiative was certified the day prior, which allows the organization to begin circulating a petition to put initiative on the ballot and requires 33,921 signatures. Several other cannabis measures also in the process of being certified for adult-use, medical, and a combination thereof.
Dangerous synthetic cannabinoids have been found in a vaping liquid claiming to be CBD. After a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student had hallucinogenic and other negative effects after vaping a product from CBD brand Diamond CBD, VCU tested the product and found that 4 out of 9 samples contained a compound called 5F-ADB, a synthetic cannabinoid determined by the World Health Organization to have “no therapeutic effect.” Diamond CBD’s parent company – PotNetwork holdings – claimed that their own tests did not find “any unnatural or improper derivative.” The company also markets Tommy Chong’s CBD brand, Chong’s Choice.
Mexico’s Health Ministry has been ordered to clarify medical and recreational cannabis status in the country. In 2018, Mexico legalized medical cannabis and tasked the Health Ministry with regulating the usage and distribution of medical cannabis, but no significant action has taken place since. Policymakers have introduced comprehensive proposals, but movement on those has stalled at best. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers have until October to get regulations off the ground on the basis that cannabis prohibitions violate human rights. The black market of cannabis in Mexico remains a multi-billion dollar enterprise, which regulations would combat.
On August 19th, the National Credit Union Administration issued interim guidelines stating that providing banking services to hemp businesses is legal based on the regulations enacted by the 2018 Farm Bill. Banks still need to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and the Anti-Money Laundering requirements, including reporting suspicious activity. The NCUA previously advised that credit unions wouldn’t be punished simply for serving hemp businesses as long as they are following standard procedure. The agency will issue additional guidelines when the USDA releases rules for the hemp industry, expected ahead of the 2020 planting season. This action comes in parallel to movement of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to mitigate the public safety and transparency concerns that are rife in the legal cannabis industry without access to banking services. Most cannabis businesses in states where medical and/or adult-use is legal operate as cash-only due to the perceived risk of violating federal banking restrictions. This lack of access to typical business transactions is also a part of what has prevented minorities – those most affected by cannabis prohibition – from entering the legal cannabis market.
The application window for medical cannabis businesses to apply for state licensure in Missouri closed on August 19th. The state Department of Health and Senior Services received over 2,100 applications submitted for up to 60 cultivation, 192 dispensary, 86 manufacturing, and 10 testing laboratory licenses across the state. A third-party blind review panel will now review and score the applications based on a merit-based criteria.
The Department must approve or deny applications within 150 days of submission date.
DHSS has approved more than 6,500 qualified patient and caregiver applications at this time.
In Alabama, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon says a study group will address legislators’ medical cannabis concerns. The state legislature’s medical cannabis study commission began meeting this week, and McCutcheon says the commission’s recommendations will be taken seriously. He points to the passage of Carly’s Law in 2014, saying that the program which allows some distribution of CBD oil for the treatment of seizures “moved the needle tremendously from 10 years ago.”
In July, Rep. Jarrold Nadler (D-NY) and presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a bill for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, and recently Merry Jane writer Randy Robinson interviewed Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML, to talk about the bill to which he and others from advocate groups like NORML contributed by advising authors of the bill. The MORE Act would eliminate cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act entirely, like alcohol and tobacco. It is also the first bill to establish federal social equity programs for cannabis entrepreneurs, for which Strekal predicts that the Minority Cannabis Business Association would be a leader on these provisions. The bill would enact expungements for low-level federal cannabis convictions and reduce sentences for those serving time in federal prison for cannabis violations, create a new federal office under the Department of Justice called the Cannabis Justice Office, and add protections to federal immigration laws to ensure cannabis charges in states that do not reform their cannabis laws, even if legalized federally, are not deportable offenses. It establishes a simple 5% tax on cannabis sales, instead of a complicated tiered tax system as has been adopted in many regulated states.
The new 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that past-month cannabis use of 12-17 year olds remained stable from 2017-2018 and are lower than years prior to states adopting adult-use regulations, contrary to conventional wisdom used by cannabis reform opponents. The highest rate of past-month teen use reported was in 2002 at 15.8%. In 2018, the same group reported at 12.5%. The report also tracked that overall, people’s perceptions of risk associated with casual cannabis use has dropped. Teen use has dropped or remained stable despite this finding.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture has clarified that CBD is banned as a food ingredient. The FDA has not approved CBD as an ingredient in food, so while other hemp food products such as shelled hemp seeds are permissible, CBD is not. However, it remains to be seen how enforcement will be handled at the state level, since the WSDA only oversees the production of food products, while the Health Department has jurisdiction over the storefront sale to consumers.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert suggests a special session could convene to implement fixes to the state’s upcoming medical cannabis program. Utah voters approved a medical cannabis program under Proposition 2 in 2018, which lawmakers then revamped under HB 3001. The law requires the program to be up and running by March 1st. Changes to the law enacted by lawmakers make medical cannabis sales limited largely to distribution by the health department, but local officials have expressed concerns that that local health employees will be prosecuted under federal law. While Gov. Herbert disagrees that these concerns ware warranted, he says that the most pressing issue is that cannabis needs to be reclassified under federal law. Simultaneously, lawmakers are poised to make changes to the medical cannabis program that would relinquish some control over distribution by the state health department and would increase the privately-run dispensaries from 7 to 12 across the state.
Researchers from the University of New Mexico, using data from the self-reporting app Releaf that was launched in 2016, conducted a study of the effects of different types of cannabis products on pain and found that flower product offers more pain relief anecdotally than other types of cannabis products. The Releaf data set included “20,513 cannabis sessions recorded in the app by 2,987 people between June 6, 2016 and October 24, 2018.” Cannabis flower containing higher amounts of THC, as opposed to CBD, was found to be the most effective at relieving general pain symptoms. Concentrates and topicals manufactured from these products produced similar results. Edibles, pills, and tinctures were found to be less effective. While CBD did not seem to have a significant impact on overall pain, it seemed to be more effective than higher levels of THC at relieving gastrointestinal/abdominal-related pain and mitigating the negative side effects of THC.
Image sourced from Releaf
Researchers from Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found that a derivative of a cannabis flavonoid, FBL-03G, has “significant therapy potential” in treating pancreatic cancer. Flavonoid treatment killed all tumor cells in 70% of mice with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Wilfred Ngwa of the study hopes to complete pre-clinical studies by the end of 2020. [VV’s note: I do not support the use of animal testing for the benefit of human patients and consumers in any industry and hope that these findings will encourage researchers to look into other scientific methods to gather data. While I understand individual opinions may differ, I kindly ask that anyone looking to challenge my view refrain from debating me specifically on this topic as my values are based on research and ethics of my own that will not change in response to other arguments.]
This week Weedmaps, the largest online platform for cannabis business listings, announced that it will no longer allow black market operators to advertise on its platform. For a long time, Weedmaps did not regulate illegal, unregulated operators’ listings alongside those of legal businesses, leading to a huge disadvantage in the state of California for legal operators trying to attract customers. State regulators and legal operators have long pressured the site to crack down. The company also said they would “launch an initiative to support unlicensed, minority-owned marijuana businesses as they become licensed” that will include free training in licensing and compliance regulations, professional support and coaching, and free listing on the Weedmaps app for up to one year once they obtain their license.
In response to widespread barriers to access for minorities to enter the legal cannabis space, black entrepreneur Melek Dexter has founded Re-Up Holdings. Black Americans make up 13% of the population but only 1% of the national cannabis industry. He describes the business as a “crowdfunding platform” that raises “social awareness” and provides an “opportunity to put your money where your values are.” Dexter employs the same capital raising principals as big cannabis corporations like Acreage Holdings, former House Speaker John Boehner’s firm. His strategy, however, allows black Americans to buy ownership stake in a movement to open up opportunities to black entrepreneurs. The business’s goal is to “be our own reparations,” referencing the complexities of entering the cannabis industry which disproportionately benefit white stakeholders.
The American Bar Association adopted a resolution at its annual meeting in San Francisco on August 12th to recommend changes to federal cannabis policy. The three recommendations include removing cannabis from Schedule I, enacting legislation to exempt people in states that regulate cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, and encouraging scientific research into cannabis. While nothing the ABA recommends is binding to public policy, the traditionally conservative industry association’s advisement carries a great deal of weight for officials.
A new nonprofit, Possible Plan, launched their first national ad in New York Times magazine’s 1619 issue, which marks the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship arriving in the U.S. The ad implores readers to consider ways to help those “whose lives have been adversely impacted by cannabis prohibition.” The nonprofit’s founders include Jason White, CMO of cannabis company Select and former global head of marketing for Beats Electronics; Cameron Forni, Select CEO and founder; and Carri Twigg, former Special Assistant to President Obama and former Director of Public Engagement for Vice President Biden. White describes the organization’s mission to first focus on incarceration and expungement issues. Next, the team plans to target “reparatory justice” by addressing how those most affected by cannabis prohibition can find growth in the cannabis business movement.
Image sourced from AdWeek
HEALTH & FITNESS
Professional freeclimber Sasha DiGiulian recently became the first female on record to scale Mora Mora, a 2,300 ft ascent in Madagascar. DiGiulian prepared with over 3 years of training, but this achievement does not mark her first record. At 19 she became the only woman to complete the highest level of climbing, Era Vella in Spain and became the first woman to freeclimb “Murder Wall” in the Swiss Alps at 22.
Several bars in the U.K are now offering balloons with gaseous vodka to customers. Yes, balloons. The gimmick gets consumers drunk very quickly, though the effects supposedly wear off after about 20 minutes. Experts have expressed deep concerns over the risks of alcohol poisoning and other health effects, but promoters of the new trend claim that the project was born of a new and safer way to consume alcohol and that evidence hasn’t shown imminent dangers.
Alex Rodriguez’s company, A-Rod Corp, will partner with the personal training app Fitplan to release fitness content from the athlete and his partner Jennifer Lopez. No date is currently set for the partnership to drop.
Reebok has launched an “It’s a Man’s World” ad campaign featuring five female creatives in male-dominated industries such as streetwear, record producing, and graphic design.
The campaign is reminiscent of the “It’s a Man’s World” campaign from 2001 featuring athletes like Venus Williams and a cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” by Missy Elliott. In the ad each woman speaks about the challenges they face in their respective industries, emphasizing the extraordinary amount of effort women typically have to demonstrate to be recognized at the same level as their male peers. The campaign advertises the release of three cult-classic sneakers, priced at $80 to $95 each, and two t-shirts, which feature the phrase “It’s a Man’s World” struck out in red.
Researchers from the University College London report findings that despite having generally better oral health habits than the overall public, a significant number of athletes suffer from poor dental health. The research builds on a previous study that found “49% of athletes had untreated tooth decay, and 32% reported their oral health had a negative impact on training and performance.” The UCL researchers report that “94% of athletes brushed their teeth twice a day, compared with 75% of the general public, while 44% flossed regularly, compared with 21% of the public.” Findings point to the regular use of sports drinks, energy bars, and energy gels as culprits. Sugar in these products contribute to tooth decay, while acidity causes erosion. The research also suggests that the dry mouth athletes experience during intensive training to be a risk factor as well.
ANIMAL RIGHTS & VEGAN NEWS
Pearl Bar in Houston, TX will soon host a pop-up serving vegan burgers from the animated series Bob’s Burgers, such as “Baby You Can Chive My Car” which will include “a Beyond Meat patty that is ‘infused’ with vegan mozzarella cheese, topped with diced chives, vegan sour cream, mustard spread, and comes with air-fried fries and four wheels of fried pickles.” The launch was created by Dylan Carnes of Sinfull Kitchen, and guests who arrive dressed as their favorite Bob’s Burgers character will receive a free side. The pop-up will run on September 1st, September 29th, October 27th, “and every last Sunday of the month after those dates.”
Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, will begin selling a plant-based meat-analog line under its Pure Farmland brand in September. The line includes breakfast patties, burger patties, meatballs, and “meat” crumbles. Competitors Tyson Foods and Perdue have also launched meatless products on the market, but this will be the first of these major corporations to launch a fully plant-based line.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have sent a letter to the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, urging them to expand its review of the agency’s new “high speed pig-slaughter” program due to potential dangers to animal and consumer safety. The new policy would increase the rates at which pigs on the line for slaughter are processed and reduce the number of inspectors, arguably leading to both higher risk of animals being improperly stunned prior to slaughter and worker injury rates. The OIG announced in June that it would investigate whether the agency “concealed information and used flawed data on worker injury rates to push the line speed rule forward.”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced recently that it will phase out the use of bullhooks – metal implements used to control captive elephants – at its 236 member facilities by 2023. The policy will go into effect starting in 2021 and banned entirely by 2023.
Image by Becker1999
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has filed a class-action lawsuit against dairy manufacturer Tillamook on behalf of four plaintiffs. The basis of the complaint is that the company misled customers through its marketing, including a “Dairy Done Right” campaign thought to be responsible for a 70% increase in revenue. The brand depicted its source of dairy as a co-op of small family run farms, while up to 80% of its milk is actually sourced from large factory farm Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, OR.
Old photos of Jimmy John’s owner Jimmy John Liautaud posing with a trophy kill has reignited controversy and a hashtag “#BoycottJimmyJohns” over the owner’s long history of publicizing his game hunting. The social media campaign has been supported and shared by celebrities like Mark Hamill and others. While Liataud has said that “I don’t hunt big African game anymore,” photos like this tend to make the rounds every few years and incite backlash due to the cruel and arrogant nature of the so-called sport.
Whew! That was a lot. Did you get through this whole thing?! Is there a story you found particularly interesting from this week’s round-up? Did you come across any other related news stories that you would love to share? If so, I can’t wait to read them!
Look out for my next round-up next Sunday, and if you want curated content like this delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to watch out and sign up for my newsletter in October.
Have a great week, friends!