By Roger Fillion
National and International News
Report: U.S. Cannabis Industry Employs 165,000-Plus Workers
The U.S. cannabis industry has quickly become a major job generator, employing 165,000-230,000 full- and part-time workers, according to estimates in the newly released Marijuana Business Factbook 2017.
Cannabis-related businesses now employ more people than there are dental hygienists and bakers in the United States and will soon surpass the number of telemarketers and pharmacists. The estimates include employment data for retailers, wholesale grows, infused products/concentrates companies, testing labs and ancillary firms.
AG Sessions to Congress: Kill Medical Marijuana Protections
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked four congressional leaders to omit key medical marijuana industry protections from a new federal spending bill.
Although the attempt was unsuccessful, the letter – first reported by cannabis-focused social media platform MassRoots – underscores that marijuana businesses are not yet totally safe from possible federal intervention.
Sessions specifically asked that language from the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment not be included in any appropriations bill or similar provisions that would “in any way inhibit the (Department of Justice’s) authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.”
Canada Streamlines Medical Marijuana Licensing Process
Health Canada implemented new rules intended to streamline the licensing process for medical marijuana producers, a move aimed at boosting the overall output of MMJ and the number of legal cultivators.
The changes are likely to speed the process for licensing MMJ producers and shrink the backlog of hundreds of outstanding applicants.
Key changes in the licensing process include devoting more personnel and other resources to application reviews, allowing staffers to examine some application sections concurrently and extending the length of the licenses.
Also, licensed producers will be allowed to boost output within their existing facilities to the maximum amount they are authorized to store.
State news Developments
Applications are now available for those who want to start medical marijuana businesses in the state. The Medical Marijuana Commission has posted the applications for licenses to operate MMJ cultivation facilities and dispensaries. Applications are expected to be accepted until Sept. 18. The commission has said it will issue 32 licenses for dispensaries and five for cultivation facilities.
The legislature approved a state budget plan that includes a proposal from Gov. Jerry Brown to merge the regulatory systems for both medical and recreational marijuana businesses. The implications of the move are enormous for cannabis companies. But from the simplest viewpoint, the biggest impact is that the new system will allow California marijuana retailers to sell both rec and medical at the same physical storefront.
Nearly all the businesses that had expressed interest in taking advantage of a voter-approved initiative to allow onsite cannabis consumption in Denver say the initial regulations governing the issue are too burdensome. And that means the city’s social-use plan may be for naught. One of the campaign directors for Denver’s Initiative 300 said that “99%” of businesses that considered applying for a social-use license are “no longer interested” because the rules would be too difficult to comply with.
The state’s medical marijuana dispensaries could see a boost in patient counts in the next year after the Department of Consumer Protection agreed to make three more conditions eligible for MMJ treatment. The DCP commissioner notified the Board of Physicians she will follow the panel’s recommendation to add hydrocephalus (water on the brain) with intractable headache; intractable migraines; and trigeminal neuralgia (chronic pain in the nerve that carries sensation from a person’s face to the brain). The decision applies only to adult patients.
During a special session, the two chambers of the legislature reached a deal on medical marijuana and passed a compromise bill to implement last November’s successful MMJ ballot measure. Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation into law. Although the law bans smoking cannabis, it adds 10 new licenses for producing and distributing MMJ with a cap of 25 dispensaries per permit.
A study of patients in Illinois suggests that CBD products are nearly as popular as THC products, and that women are the driving force behind sales of the former. The Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Experience Study – conducted by Aclara Research, a Chicago medical marijuana patient research firm – found that 47% of patients said they use CBD daily and 22% had no previous experience with cannabis before joining the state’s MMJ program. The survey of 300 patients also showed that women are the biggest reason for CBD’s popularity in Illinois: Some 75% of female patients said they use it daily.
The state’s medical marijuana commission can continue to issue cannabis cultivation licenses. Maryland’s highest court denied a motion to continue a temporary restraining order that blocked the commission from issuing cultivation licenses for about a week because of a lawsuit against the agency.
Massachusetts’ House Speaker suspended negotiations on a recreational marijuana legalization measure, suggesting those talks were distracting lawmakers from finalizing another bill on the state’s budget. The move could further delay passage and implementation of an adult-use cannabis law, which state legislators have been working on since 54% of voters passed a measure last November.
Gov. Rick Snyder appointed five members to the state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, paving the way for the regulation and licensing process to get underway. The board will regulate growth, processing, transportation and the sale of medical marijuana. Former Republican Speaker of the House Rick Johnson will be chairman. Senate Marjority Leader Arlan Meekhof appointed Johnson. Other members include Nichole Cover, a health care supervisor for Walgreens, and Donald Bailey, a retired Michigan State Police sergeant.
Nevada recreational marijuana sales began with a bang July 1, with store owners reporting that purchases far outpaced those of medical cannabis as the state became the fifth in the nation to offer adult-use products. Dispensary owners reported that hundreds of customers flooded their stores each of the first two days of sales, with shoppers snapping up edibles, flower and vape pens. MJ retailers are expected to ring up tens of millions of dollars in rec sales through the rest of 2017.
The state’s five medical cannabis licensees were a signature away from being able to serve patients that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The state legislature gave final approval to a bill that would add PTSD to the qualifying conditions list for medical marijuana in the state. The bill was headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “where its fate is uncertain,” the New York Daily News reported.
Ohioans wanting medical marijuana have been crossing the border into Michigan, where some Detroit-area dispensaries will sell to out-of-staters who are issued recommendations for cannabis use months ahead of the drug becoming available in their home state, according to officials from a company providing the recommendations. The move is giving a boost to Michigan MMJ businesses before the launch of Ohio’s own medical cannabis program in 2018.
Despite strict efforts by Oregon regulators to keep pesticide-tainted marijuana from reaching store shelves, some contaminated cannabis is still slipping past the state’s testing labs. The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, recently conducted a study to determine the success of Oregon’s testing program in halting the sale of tainted marijuana.
State health officials selected 12 business owners to grow and process medical marijuana, a landmark in the development of Pennsylvania’s MMJ program. The agency granted MMJ cultivator licenses to firms scattered across the state. Pennsylvania’s regulations don’t include a residency requirement, and at least four of the licenses went to out-of-state companies.
State Senate and House lawmakers voted to end their debate over recreational marijuana legalization bills and instead created a 19-person commission to study the issue. Among the commission’s mandates is the exploration of the recreational markets in states that already have it, such as Colorado and Washington. MJ advocates called formation of the commission a delay tactic that would encourage Rhode Island residents to buy marijuana in Massachusetts.
The state is the latest to allow hemp cultivation, a move that’s expected to create opportunities for farmers, makers of hemp-based products and ancillary companies offering goods and services to those growing and processing the plant.
Gov. Phil Scott signed off on a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. The law, which took effect July 1, increases the number of dispensary licenses and expands the list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions. The measure creates a fifth dispensary license and allows another to be issued when Vermont’s MMJ patient count grows to 7,000. It is currently around 4,000. Separately, the state House blocked consideration of a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.
A state marijuana licensing employee is out of a job after leasing 25 acres of land to a cannabis cultivator planning to transform the site into a grow and processing facility. Grant Bulski – who had been issuing marijuana business licenses for Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board since 2012 – violated the agency’s ethics code forbidding employees from having a direct or indirect stake in the MJ industry.
Note: Entries sourced from Marijuana Business Daily and other national and local news outlets. These developments occurred before this magazine’s late-July publication deadline, so some situations may have changed.