Cannabis Industry Daily News

Ohio awards 11 medical marijuana cultivation licenses

Ohio handed out its first 11 cultivation licenses for the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program, but it could be months before the first crops are planted.

All the licenses awarded Friday were so-called Level II permits given to smaller growers who are allowed to cultivate up to 3,000 square feet. That’s a small portion of the anticipated total cultivation space in the state.

Before any cultivation can begin, however, growers have to get their businesses up and running and a state team must make facility visits.

Up to a dozen larger growers for sites up to 25,000 square feet are expected to be announced later this month.

The Level II licensees, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, are:

  • Fire Rock, with sites in Columbus, Canton and Akron (score: 178.92 points)
  • FN Group Holdings, Ravenna (176.76)
  • Mother Grows Best, Canton (172)
  • OhiGrow, Toledo (168.76)
  • Ancient Roots, Wilmington (168.76)
  • Ohio Clean Leaf, Dayton and Carroll (160.56)
  • Ascension BioMedical, Oberlin (157.08)
  • Agri-Med Ohio, Langsville (156.60)
  • Paragon Development Group, Huber Heights (154.56)
  • Hemma, Monroe (151.28)
  • Galenas, Akron (148.92)

Each license is for one site only, and companies that applied for multiple sites have 10 business days to pick the location for their  license, the newspaper reported.

Regulators received 76 applications for Level II licenses and 109 applications for Level 1 licenses.

The application process for cannabis producer and MMJ dispensary licenses will open in the next couple of months, according to the Plain Dealer.

– Associated Press

White House rejects medical marijuana as opioid alternative

In a move that brought scathing condemnation from a Florida Republican congressman, the White House’s commission on the opioid epidemic has rejected calls to support medical marijuana as an alternative for pain patients.

The commission “specifically declined to endorse the use of marijuana for pain,” The Washington Post reported.

In addition, the commission’s chair, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, drew parallels between the opioid epidemic and the growing popularity of medical cannabis, a statement that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, called “outrageous.”

Positive endorsements likely would have led to increased interest in medical marijuana and, possibly, sales around the nation.

According to The Cannabist, Gaetz harshly condemned the MMJ views of the notoriously anti-marijuana Christie, saying, “it is shortsighted, it is inaccurate, and it is indefensible to suggest that the proliferation of medical cannabis – that is saving lives and improving the quality of life for people – somehow is analogous to the plague of the opioid crisis.”

Gaetz also said that “the federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about cannabis in asserting that it has no medical value.”

He was speaking at an event put on by the American Legion, which is a major supporter of medical cannabis and of increasing access to MMJ for military veterans.

Gaetz’s comments are noteworthy in that marijuana reform for years has been more of an issue championed by Democrats, but Republicans are increasingly joining the cause.

First Texas CBD crop set to be planted

One of just three licensed growers of a high-CBD medical marijuana strain in Texas announced it plans to begin cultivation operations this week.

Compassionate Cultivation, which was awarded one of the licenses in May, said in a news release it has received its license “and will immediately start cultivating its first crop” at its facility in Austin.

CBD oil made from the crop could be available for sale as soon as January, the company said.

The company is also working hand-in-hand with operations partner MJardin, which runs 30 medical cannabis cultivation facilities in 13 states.

Another licensee, Cansortium Texas, was given final approval by the state in September to begin operations. The company announced last month it plans to begin CBD sales in December.

But the third licensee, Surterra Texas, is still waiting on its permit, the Houston Press reported.

Under Texas’ restrictive CBD law, only patients with intractable epilepsy qualify to purchase and use the cannabis-derived CBD oil that the three licensed companies will produce.

Marijuana company advertises in TSA trays at California airport

Travelers at Ontario International Airport in Southern California are being greeted by a marijuana advertisement in the security checkpoint trays that carry your belongings through the X-ray machines: “Cannabis Is Legal.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the airport ad campaign – which includes the tagline, “Traveling with it is not. Leave it in California.” – belongs to Organa Brands, a cannabis oil manufacturer and distributor.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The campaign is a bit of a coup for the cannabis industry, which still struggles to spread its message through mainstream ad platforms.
  • Sacramento International was the first airport to agree to the campaign, but the deal fell through. The airport wanted the trays to say only that “cannabis is illegal to carry across state lines.”
  • The advertising campaign was done in conjunction with Security Point Media, a Florida-based company that has a patent on the plastic trays. The Transportation Security Administration is not part of the deal.
  • Organa Brands is a major player in the cannabis industry. The company – which started seven years ago with extraction and later created a line of vaporizer pens and an edibles division – has a business presence in 11 states.

Nevada rule extension allows rec cannabis sales to continue

The Nevada Tax Commission has extended the emergency regulations that allow recreational marijuana sales to continue another 120 days. The rules were scheduled to expire Nov. 1.

The emergency rules were originally enacted to enable an “early rollout” of the rec program – beginning July 1 – while the legislature finalized regulations for a full adult-use industry. The rules must still be approval by lawmakers, the Nevada Appeal reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Legislative Counsel Bureau plans to provide the taxation department with permanent adult-use regulations in a couple of weeks, signaling the start of the legislative approval process.
  • Legislation that voters passed in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana gave liquor distributors exclusive rights to cannabis distribution for the first year and a half of adult-use sales.
  • Thirty-one distributors were licensed as of September.
  • The Nevada tax director told the commission that wholesale recreational cannabis currently is valued at $2,145 a pound, or $134 an ounce. The figure is used to determine the wholesale and retail taxes imposed on adult-use cannabis.

Michigan rule change gives MMJ businesses new lease on life

In a business-buoying flip-flop, Michigan regulators said that existing medical marijuana dispensaries can stay open while seeking a state license as long as they have been operating with the approval of their communities.

State regulators had given dispensaries until Dec. 15 to close or risk being denied a license for defying the command to shut down. But that edict sparked a backlash from patients, shop owners and others.

The state intends to issue emergency rules later this month allowing certain dispensaries to remain open.

MMJ dispensaries that have been operating under local ordinances since before Dec. 15 must submit a prequalification application for licensure by Feb. 15 and a document – signed by an authorized clerk – affirming they had government approval to operate.

Businesses that don’t apply for a license must stop operating by Feb. 15. Dispensaries that do apply for a license but are denied one must stop operating by June 15.

State officials expect to begin issuing licenses by April.

– Associated Press

Wana Brands plans to stretch its footprint to nine cannabis markets

Colorado-based edibles maker Wana Brands announced a planned expansion into six new marijuana states by the end of 2018, another example of how the cannabis industry is increasingly becoming a national business.

Wana, which already has products available in Nevada and Oregon aside from its home state, will be in Arizona sometime this month, according to a company news release.

In 2018, Wana plans to be available in Illinois and Florida in the first quarter, in Maryland in the second quarter and in California and Pennsylvania by the end of the year.

That’s a total of nine states in which Wana Brands will have a market presence, likely alongside other MJ companies that are also looking to establish a national footprint.

Marijuana payment firm to put $2.86M raise toward expansion

Marijuana payment service PayQwick, which brands itself as the PayPal of marijuana, has secured a $2.86 million raise.

According to a news release, the Calabasas, California-based company plans to use the funding to increase sales and product development as it expands into California, Nevada, Michigan and Alaska.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • PayQwick allows cultivators, processors and retailers to pay each other as well as to pay for ancillary services such as lawyers, accountants and insurance companies.
  • The company also facilitates consumer transactions.
  • PayQwick is licensed to operate in Washington state, Oregon and Arizona and has made forays into Colorado.

NJ court: Marijuana’s Schedule 1 status must be reviewed

In a move that could have important implications for the legalized marijuana industry, a New Jersey appeals court has ruled that the state should review marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it illegal under federal law.

Schedule 1 denotes substances that have no accepted medical use and are easy to abuse. The classification includes heroin.

Because marijuana is being used to treat health ailments, New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs must reevaluate the Schedule 1 classification under the appellate court’s ruling, NJ.com reported.

The medical benefits of marijuana are “abundant and glaringly apparent now” but weren’t known in 1971 when New Jersey adopted the federal classification, the court ruling said.

Judge Michael Guadagno wrote the ruling. The judge is married to the state’s Republican candidate for governor, Kim Guadagno, who currently is New Jersey’s lieutenant governor, NJ.com reported.

The attorney general’s office plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

FDA sends another round of warnings to CBD producers

Federal drug authorities have sent another round of warning letters to CBD producers about making health claims.

The recipients include CW Hemp, the Colorado Springs, Colorado, company that supplies the popular Charlotte’s Web medicine for intractable epilepsy.

The Food and Drug Administration sent four warning letters Wednesday to two Colorado companies – CW Hemp and Pueblo-based That’s Natural! Marketing & Consulting – as well as to Greenroads Health of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and Natural Alchemist of El Dorado Hills, California.

The warnings were first reported by The Denver Post.

The FDA accused the four companies of making unsubstantiated health claims about their products for treating cancer, Alzheimer’s and “other serious diseases.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA’s commissioner, said the CBD marketing “may steer patients away from products that have proven, anti-tumor effects that could extend lives.”

The FDA has repeatedly reviewed cannabis as a medical treatment and rejected it.

The agency has stepped up warnings about medical marijuana and CBD in recent years. Last year the agency sent eight warning letters to CBD makers about health claims.

FDA warning letters generally result in a manufacturer changing its marketing.

Unheeded FDA warning letters can result in product seizures. It doesn’t appear that the FDA has pursued product seizures or an injunction after warning a CBD manufacturer not to make health claims.

In the latest warning letters, the FDA denied the companies’ claims that the products can be classified as dietary supplements. The companies had cited the Investigational New Drug Applications submitted for CBD-containing pharmaceutical drug candidates Sativex and Epidiolex.

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Cleveland nixes 95% of real estate for medical cannabis businesses

Only about 5% of land in Cleveland would be eligible for medical cannabis businesses to set up shop under a new and highly restrictive ordinance approved by the city council this week.

The ordinance – approved on a 15-1 vote by the council – leaves precious little space in one of Ohio’s biggest cities for MMJ dispensaries, grow operations, infused product makers and testing labs, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The ordinance prohibits MMJ companies from locating within 500 feet of schools, churches, public libraries, playgrounds or public parks.

It also permits MMJ businesses only on properties that are zoned as “a general retail district or one of three industrial property designations,” according to the newspaper. And any property zoned for local retail businesses or as residential can’t be used by medical cannabis businesses.

However, a first draft of the ordinance would have made the 500-foot rule into a 1,000-foot rule, essentially banning MMJ in Cleveland.

So perhaps local MMJ companies should be grateful they’ll be able to get any space at all in the city.

Puerto Rico enacts new medical cannabis law

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has signed into law an updated medical marijuana statute after deciding a previous MMJ legalization measure wasn’t thorough enough.

Roughly 20 medical marijuana dispensaries are already operating on the island, according to a count on Weedmaps. The dispensaries began opening for business in January after the island’s health department promulgated industry rules a year earlier.

Rossello said the new law is intended to safeguard patient safety and also “highlights the role of research and development of medicinal cannabis, which in turn will promote economic development (and) creation of jobs,” according to the EFE news agency. The law also means the U.S. territory could collect upwards of $50 million a month in taxes and fines, the Daily Mail of London reported.

The new law doesn’t allow smokable marijuana, but vaping is permitted, according to Godwin Aldarondo, a cannabis-focused attorney in Puerto Rico.

Now that Puerto Rico’s MMJ industry has full governmental support, the island could become a cannabis tourism mecca in the Caribbean. The law includes a reciprocity policy that allows dispensaries to serve patients who hold medical marijuana cards from their home states, according to Aldarondo.