Politics 

The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

The Shake: Cannabaristas, Helping the Homeless, and CBD Oil Massages

Hey, look, the media can discuss cannabis without making a Doritos joke! Bloomberg News has a video up about the recent explosion of cannabis concentrates, and Bloomberg Businessweek editor Bret Begun does an admirable job introducing rosin. He calls it the “extract du jour,” explaining that “smoking a joint would be like nursing a glass of house red” whereas “an extract is like a premium shot.” The segment is a welcome change from past East Coast coverage of concentrates, which often sounds more like a regurgitation of Reefer Madnessexplosions! hallucinations! violent behavior! — than actual news coverage. It’s worth watching the Bloomberg piece until at least 1:42, at which point a British host breaks in out of nowhere to exclaim “Bret, this is a phenomenal story!” as though Begun just broke Watergate. (Thanks to Begun for mentioning Leafly, which he says “indexes all the available pot, basically, in the universe.” Oh Bret, you and your trendy eyeglasses flatter us so.)

Can cannabis help solve homelessness? In case you’re still blissfully unawares, homelessness is a massive problem in a lot of West Coast cities. Seattle, for example, declared a state of emergency last year after seeing a 22 percent annual increase in the number of people sleeping outside. Fixing the problem won’t be easy — or cheap. In Los Angeles, where officials have approved nearly $2 billion in housing and support services, budget analysts are now trying to figure out how to cover those costs. One proposal would tax medical marijuana at 15 percent, a rate that officials expect would net about $16.7 million a year. It won’t make patients happy (medicine is generally tax-free across the U.S., though not in New Jersey) but it’s a sign local governments are beginning to notice cannabis as a crucial source of revenue. Tax windfalls have already helped fund schools and drug education in Washington and Colorado, and even some dispensary owners say they think city officials have missed opportunities to capture revenue for public programs.

Blockbuster Report Backs U.N. Cannabis Regulation, End to Prohibition

The world is watching. And not because they’re worried we’re going to mess something up. When it comes to cannabis policy, we’re actually leading by example here in the United States. Adult-use states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have shown foreign leaders that, despite fears, legalization hasn’t drawn hellfire from the skies. That’s important because next month a United Nations special session will convene to hammer out a new global drug policy. It could mark a major shift paradigm shift. The last special session was in 1998, and its theme was “A drug-free world — we can do it!” Whoops.

The United States is losing money and brain power to Israel. Companies and investors based in America are looking to Israel for ways to get into the booming medical cannabis market, Reuters reports. “In the United States it’s easier to study heroin than marijuana,” said Suzanne Sisley, a U.S. psychologist who has researched the effects on cannabis as a treatment for PTSD in military veterans. Just another example of how federal prohibition isn’t just hurting patients — it’s also hamstringing American industry.

How GW Pharma Could Use U.S. Patents to Shape the Future of Medical Cannabis

Vermont lawmakers are worried about underage use and DUIs. As well they should be — those are valid concerns. But as legislators weigh the evidence, let's hope they see the facts are on the side of legalization. Numerous studies have found that adult-use laws don’t lead to increases in underage use, and a recent review by Norwegian researchers suggests that for decades we’ve been overstating the dangers of consuming and driving (though you still shouldn’t do it). Vermont has been one of the most reasonable states yet when it comes to charting a course to legalization. Let’s hope officials there keep on making smart, scientifically informed decisions.

You know who’s not making scientifically informed decisions? Massachusetts lawmakers. That’s the assessment of pollster Steve Koczela at Boston public radio affiliate WBUR. A number of high-profile public officials have come out against an adult-use legalization initiative, something Koczela calls remarkable: “By every metric available, public opinion appears to favor legalization, and by wider margins with each passing year,” he writes. “You cannot accuse lawmakers of governing according to the polls and public opinion. If anything, the opposite is happening here.” In other words, a lot of lawmakers are still all turned around when it comes to cannabis. Get in touch and point them in the right direction.

Which States are Most Likely to Legalize Cannabis in 2016?

QUICK HITS:

  • Black and Latino people account for 90 percent of Philadelphia cannabis possession arrests. Which is insane. Just like in Oregon and New York, Philly has seen racial disparities persist even as the absolute number of arrests has dropped dramatically. We’re failing, people.
  • Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson thinks Obama will legalize. “I’m going to predict that Obama, when he leaves office, is going to deschedule marijuana as a Class I narcotic,” he told the Washington Times. Don’t hold your breath.
  • Want to start a cannabis business in Florida? You’re not alone. As you wait for November to see how Amendment 2 fares, attorney Hilary Bricken at Canna Law Blog has some homework for you.  
  • Here’s a perk of being repeatedly punched in the face: Bob Marley’s son might ask you to come smoke a joint with him. Just ask UFC beefcake Nate Diaz
  • Lawmakers want clearer banking guidelines. Elected officials at both state and federal levels are trying to figure out how to expand financial services for cannabusinesses. Existing rules are complicated and uncertain.
  • “Cannabis patients find pain relief, improved mood,” survey says. Hot damn! Has anyone thought about using this stuff as medicine? 
  • Should we call budtenders “marijuana brokers”? What about “cannabaristas”? Either way, you should probably check out this guy’s hockey jersey
  • Oregon extract artists get sales extension. Earlier this month, regulators said they’d ban concentrates from unlicensed makers — even though licenses won’t be issued for a few months. Now they’re walking that back, temporarily allowing extracts from producers who’ve completed license applications and submitted the required $4,000 fee. 
  • This is the 14th Colorado cannabis recall in just five weeks. Regulators issued the latest pullback over concerns that FireHouse Organics products were grown with unapproved pesticides.  
  • Employment numbers look great, though. As of December, Colorado had issued 26,929 licenses to cannabis workers. That’s a 68-percent increase from a year earlier. 
  • Santa Ana not immune from supply and demand. The city has twice as many unlicensed dispensaries as legal ones, the Orange County Register reports
  • Lawmakers in Hawaii crash into DUI question. They want a study on cannabis and driving. If you sort this out before the rest of us, folks, let us know? Mahalo.
  • And finally, a CBD oil rubdown, anyone? Just sit there in your cubicle and let that thought sink in.  

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Calm Down, East Coast: Cannabis “Shatter” Media Coverage Woefully Overstates Its Dangers