State of the Leaf: Alaska’s First Legal Cannabis Harvest Just Began. It’s Already Stalled.Lisa RoughSeptember 29, 2016
U.S. News Updates
Alaska’s first commercial cannabis harvests are underway. The first official legal crop comes from Greatland Ganja, a small cultivator on the Kenai Peninsula. Greatland has harvested about 75 pounds of cannabis so far, of an expected total of about 100 pounds consisting of 10 different strains. Unfortunately, however, the first harvest may not have anywhere to go. Distribution and sales are stalled until state-licensed testing laboratories are up and running. At the moment two labs are nearing completion in Anchorage: CannTest hopes to open by mid-October and AK Green Labs aims to be online by early November.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care is breathing a sigh of relief after a judge rejected a lawsuit by Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana that sought to block the group’s medical legalization initiative from November’s ballot. Retired Judge John B. Robbins considered a separate lawsuit against the measure that challenged the signatures behind the ballot. Robbins disqualified 2,087 signatures, leaving the group with 75,429 validated signatures—far beyond the 67,887 signatures needed for the ballot. With the two lawsuits behind it, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act appears to be headed for the ballot.
The measure, however, has competition. Another medical legalization initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, will also appear on November’s ballot. The latest polls show voters split on the two measures. A survey by Talk Business & Politics–Hendrix College found 49 percent of likely voters in favor of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment but just 36 percent in favor of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. Here’s the backstory on the two measures.
Cook County Judge Neil Cohen ruled that the Illinois Department of Public Health must add post-operative chronic pain to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. The change must occur within 30 days, Cohen ordered, even scheduling a follow-up hearing to ensure that the agency complies with the order. Last month Cohen issued a similar order requiring the state to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list. Although an advisory board is in place to make recommendations as to which conditions to add to the program, the state Department of Public Health so far has rejected every single petition and recommendation to come along.
A physician who applied to run a medical cannabis business in the Maryland is suing a state commission over its licensing process. Dr. Greg Daniels alleges that the commission failed to follow a provision of the state medical marijuana law that requires that licenses be granted based in part on racial diversity. Daniels, who is black, is seeking a cultivation license for his business, Alternative Medicine Maryland, but the company was passed over during the licensing process. The lawsuit argues that the commission took geographic diversity into consideration but failed to include racial diversity, creating a list of finalists with hardly any people of color. Two other companies that were not named as finalists, GTI Maryland and Green Thumb Industries, also filed lawsuits over the geographic diversity clause.
A petition to add retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that can lead to loss of vision, was rejected by an advisory board to the state’s medical marijuana program. The petition was put forward by Melba Velez Ortiz, a professor at Grand Valley State University. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition that affects the retina and can lead to night blindness as well as general loss of vision. Of the six members on the advisory board, only one voted in favor of adding the condition.
Missouri’s push to put medical marijuana to voters came up 2,242 signatures short, failing to qualify for the November ballot. New Approach Missouri took the issue to court, saying that 2,219 invalidated signatures, as well as another 144 signatures that were never counted, should be included in the total. Judge Daniel Green threw out the case last week, however, after the final tally came up 23 signatures shy. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander stepped forward to support the measure, but it wasn’t enough. New Approach Missouri has said it won’t appeal the decision because of time constraints, which means that medical marijuana in Missouri will have to wait until at least 2018 to find a spot on the ballot.
Advocacy group Oklahomans for Health effectively ended its chances of putting a legalization bill on November’s ballot after deciding to challenge the state attorney general’s rewrite of its ballot title. Attorney General Scott Pruitt rewrote the title as follows: “This measure legalizes the licensed use, sale, and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma. There are no qualifying medical conditions identified.” The measure would legalize the use and possession of cannabis when recommended by a doctor as part of treatment. Advocates say the rewrite unfairly skews the perception of the measure. Pruitt has rewritten ballot language in a way that the state Supreme Court deemed “misleading and partial” in the past, but even if Oklahomans for Health wins the lawsuit, there likely won’t be enough time to put the measure on the ballot.
International News Updates
The province of Chubut will be the country’s first to offer cannabis oil through public hospitals, thanks to Gov. Mario Das Neves’ signature of legislation to include high-CBD cannabis oil in the public health system. The legislation also stipulates that cannabis treatment be covered by health care programs provided to public employees. Although the legislation specifically mentions epilepsy and other seizure disorders, such as Dravet syndrome, it also allows for the use of oil for “other pathologies that the provincial health minister deems appropriate.”
Hebrew University investment fund Agrinnovation has invested in Cannabi-Tech Ltd, a medical cannabis firm that’s developing a machine to automate the sorting and analysis of cannabis flowers. The technology uses infrared spectrometry and other imaging tools to measure the active compounds in each flower and create a unique fingerprint — without destroying the cannabis. The machine will also offer automated sorting and packaging, which could be integrated into a comprehensive seed-to-sale tracking system.