In the past few years, legal cannabis has emerged as a booming global industry, despite the fact that it remains prohibited both by U.S. federal law and the UN Single Convention treaty from 1961. This is a growing contradiction on the world stage, and there is a sense that fundamental change is inevitable — despite deeply entrenched stigma and prohibitionist dogma.
Whether you want to know where to plan your next vacation or are sick of feeling behind on the constantly evolving regulations, we’ve got your back with an overview of the state of legal cannabis today.
What U.S. States Have Legal Adult-Use Cannabis?
Today, 11 states and Washington, D.C. have legal recreational cannabis: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Vermont, Michigan and Illinois.
However, four of these states have not yet set up their legal cannabis markets. In 2014, voters in the District of Columbia approved cannabis consumption, although implementation of the market has been bottlenecked by Congress, which controls the district’s budget. In January 2018, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize cannabis and the first to do so by legislation — but their law included no stipulations for setting up legal dispensaries. Michigan voted to legalize in November 2018, and has yet to open any adult-use stores. In May 2019, Illinois became the second state to legalize via legislation, and is similarly working to set up their legal market.
Do U.S. Territories Have Legal Cannabis?
The Northern Mariana Islands, a self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States, in September 2018 became first U.S. territory to legalize adult-use cannabis. It was also the second U.S. jurisdiction after Vermont to do so by legislation rather than by popular ballot. This April, the U.S. territory of Guam enacted a cannabis legalization measure that calls for the establishment of an adult-use industry on the island.
What U.S. States Have Medical Cannabis?
That’s a somewhat trickier question. California led the way with passage of Prop 215 in 1996. Since then, 32 more states have passed medical marijuana laws (of widely varying degrees of leniency) either by legislation or referendum: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Guam, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. also have medical marijuana laws on the books.
But there are some ambiguities here, as some states have restrictive rules that make it functionally quite difficult for citizens to get medical cannabis. For example, the New York and Minnesota laws allow for medical use of extracts, but not herbaceous cannabis.
And then there are the so-called “CBD-only” laws. Utah in 2014 passed a law allowing medical use of cannabis extracts that contain the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD. Several other states have since followed in passing CBD-only laws, including Wisconsin, Wyoming and Virginia. Texas and Florida allow low-THC CBD-heavy strains of herbaceous cannabis, but bar actually smoking it, allowing only vaporization.
Only three states that have no medical marijuana provisions whatsoever: Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota. However, there has been some progress. South Dakota in 2017 passed a provision legalizing CBD contingent on approval by the state health department and Nebraska in 2015 passed a law that allowed for a CBD pilot program under the auspices of the state university. By this reckoning, Idaho stands alone with no legal space for medical marijuana (very broadly defined) whatsoever. This is less significant since last year’s Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD coast to coast.
Amid all the progress, there are still states where cannabis is harshly prohibited — such as Louisiana, where even the medical program has been bottlenecked by bureaucracy.
What U.S. States Are Moving Forward with Cannabis Legalization?
Quite a few. “Virtually every legislature in the country is taking a close look at its marijuana policies, and many have adopted significant reforms in 2019,” Karen O’Keefe, who directs state policy at the Marijuana Policy Project, recently told The Hill.
The MPP released a report in July on legislative progress for cannabis reform. A record 27 states have considered cannabis legalization bills this year. High hopes were dashed when statehouses failed to approve legalization bills in New York, Connecticut and New Mexico. New Mexico legislators did, however, vote to decriminalize cannabis. And in New York, lawmakers widened the state’s decrim law as a consolation prize to legalization advocates.
While there is much contestation about the details of what legalization would actually look like, in both New York and New Jersey, the governors are officially on board. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has also just come out in favor of legalization.
What’s the Federal Status of Cannabis?
Cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act — the most restrictive category, absurdly shared with heroin. There are several pending measures in Congress to change that, and remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances.
On Sept. 25, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would give cannabis businesses access to the federal banking system. The bill now moves on to the Senate. In July, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on cannabis policy that advocates hailed as “historic,” with numerous Congress members openly embracing legalization.
What’s the Federal Status of Hemp and CBD?
Hemp (defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) and hemp-derived CBD were officially legalized by passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December, but legal ambiguities persist. Most significantly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has still failed to promulgate regulations for use of CBD as an additive or ingredient. This means that any products adding in CBD are technically illegal in the eyes of the federal government, though it seems uninterested in enforcing this distinction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has similarly failed to bring its regulations into conformity with the new federal law — leading to litigation by would-be Native American producers, who depend directly on USDA approval thanks to their unique jurisdictional status. The USDA is now promising the regulations will issued this fall, in time for next year’s planting season.
What Countries Are Moving Toward Cannabis Legalization?
Only two countries on Earth have formally legalized cannabis — Uruguay in 2013 and Canada in 2018. (Here too, there is some contestation: two Canadian provinces have banned homegrown cannabis, recently a matter of litigation.)
Pressure to legalize cannabis is fast mounting in several countries around the world.
Last October, the same month that legalization took effect in Canada, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a binding decision that cannabis prohibition is unconstitutional, and ordered the country’s congress to amend the law. Mexican lawmakers in September introduced a legalization bill.
New Zealand has also pledged a referendum on legalization, to be held next year.
The recent fall of the conservative government in Italy has raised hopes that it could be the first European country to formally legalize. Bills to legalize were introduced in Portugal this year, but saw little progress. The Netherlands, contrary to widespread misconception, has not legalized cannabis, and its permissive decrim policy has recently sparked a backlash from conservatives.
South Africa decriminalized cannabis last year, and neighboring Lesotho now has a booming cannabis economy under what some have termed a policy of de facto legalization.
TELL US, when do you think cannabis will be federally legal?
The post The State of Cannabis Today: Where Weed Is Legal Around the World appeared first on Cannabis Now.
A new study reveals that crime rates dropped in Denver after legalization of cannabis.
Predictions from pundits that legalization would turn Colorado into a crime-ridden wasteland are wrong. A recent study proves that crime rates in Denver fell after marijuana was legalized.
In fact, the study also shows that areas with dispensaries saw substantial drops in crime. The team analyzed Denver crime data collected from January 2013 through December 2016. Recreational cannabis sales started in Colorado in 2014 after legalization.
The authors state in the abstract: “The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period.”
The team also found that the drops in crime rates are highly localized. In other words, nearby neighborhoods don’t see the same benefit as those with dispensaries.
Different studies, different results
Another study from earlier this year found that after legalization of recreational cannabis rates near dispensaries in Denver increased at first, but then dropped. The researchers also found that the correlation between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly as time passed.
In the more recent study, the strongest drop in crime rates were for nonviolent offenses. These include many public-order crimes such as like criminal mischief and trespassing.
Violent crime also dropped, though this wasn’t statistically significant. The researchers link this principally to fewer aggravated assaults.
The studies do show somewhat different results. However, the disparity is likely down to differing methodologies, including different data sources and geographical areas. And while certain crimes related to dispensaries persist, they are not especially common.
Legalization: Not in my backyard?
In any event, the research shows that as dispensaries come in, law enforcement comes with them. This leads to an overall drop in crime rates that contradicts the ideas some people have about legalization.
For example, in November 2017, an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette called legalization an “embarrassing cautionary tale.” Specifically, the writer cited an increase in fatal traffic car accidents attributable to “high” driving, more homelessness, and increased drug violations in schools.
However, there is no evidence to support the high driving claim. Furthermore, the argument about drug violations in schools is patently false, citing years before legalization. Finally, although homelessness did increase during that time, experts say that had nothing to do with legalization.
The bottom line? This latest research confirms what we already know. Legalization does not cause crime to increase, and there is no real evidence to support that contention. As more states consider legalization, they can do so with research backing them up.
When it comes to consuming cannabis, there is seemingly no limit to the ways we can get that endocannabinoid rush. There are hundreds of contraptions to improve and enhance the cannabis experience and more are always in development. To get a sense of the rapidly evolving marijuana consumer product space, it’s important to note that within a matter of years, cannabis concentrate enthusiasts went from titanium nails to PuffCo Peaks and Dipsticks. For those who really want to make sure they’ve got the most clout when it comes to smoking, dabbing or vaping pot, spend some time in a cannabis consumption lounge.
The Scene at Moe Greens
It’s Tuesday afternoon and myself and two of my colleagues, Photo Editor Gracie Malley and Associate Editor Julia Clark-Riddell, are sitting in the deep-backed circular booth in San Francisco’s Moe Greens smoking lounge. Laid out on the table before we arrive is everything we need to smoke — a pipe, ashtray, rolling papers, a lighter — but behind the bar in an adjacent room are several even more enticing offerings.
Although I’ve decided to come to Moe Greens to try out a smoking device that turns out was a limited-time prototype offering, I quickly pivot my interests to what I’m going to call the “Seth Rogan special.” It’s an insane gravity bong called Stundenglass that hit the scene when a video of Rogan taking a rip off of one went viral in February 2018.
“It’s a flashy piece,” Moe Greens Manager Eric Masters says as he sets it down on the table in front of us. “People know it and people want to be able to use it… It came with Seth Rogan’s name, so it was pre-built with people coming in for it.”
The table-top piece has a pill shape with two chambers, one for water and one for smoke, and uses the force of gravity to pull the smoke through the water and into one’s lungs.
Masters sets me up with a hit that fills the chamber with a thick hit of cloudy smoke. While I am able to draw it all in, it’s my first real rip of the day and fills my eyes with tears as I exhale the Cherry Cheesecake from Gold Seal SF. But there’s no reason to worry. Masters — much like a sommelier recommending a bottle of wine — is still tableside and gets me a glass of water.
High Before You Buy
Located on a stretch of Market Street not far from the headquarters of tech giants such as Twitter and Uber, Moe Greens is one of several city-sanctioned cannabis smoking lounges in San Francisco, California. To gain entry, those 21 and older must first make a purchase (Moe Greens does not allow any outside cannabis to be smoked in the space). Once inside the lounge area, separated from the shop itself via a set of interior windows, patrons are welcome to smoke or dab in the lounge, which generally sets a 30-minute time limit on the stay.
Cannabis has been legal for adult-use in California since November 2016 and lounges like the one at Moe Greens provide invaluable spaces for public consumption. Open to travelers and locals, the lounge at Moe Greens offers not only a safe place to consume marijuana, but also access to all the newest gizmos and gadgets to do so. Masters is in charge of working with companies to bring in new smoking devices and host product demos within the space.
“It’s a try-before-you-buy model unlike anyone else has done,” he says of the program.
The lounge sees a diverse number of people on any given day and assists people who are unfamiliar with the apparatuses for smoking. Also included on every table is a card explaining the signs of over consumption (including dizziness, confusion and an accelerated heart rate), as well as some tips if someone begins to feel uncomfortable with the amount of cannabis they have consumed (water, fresh air).
Alongside differences in our body types, many things can play a role in the high one feels when consuming marijuana. Additional information on the cards at Moe Greens is a valuable ask for any cannabis smoker to consider when enjoying our favorite flower. “Today have you… traveled on a plane? Drank water? Eaten food? Consumed alcohol?”
When trying out a fancy gravity bongs worth $500, packed with top-shelf bud, it’s pretty much necessary to have such information close by.
So Many Choices
Before our afternoon tasting session ends, Masters brings over a Vitae bong with interchangeable glass pieces. The piece is stacked with a set of triple honeycomb percolators and, once filled with a sungrown Super Fruit from Elysian Fields, delivers a smooth hit.
While myself and my crew of fellow Cannabis Now colleagues enjoyed our time experimenting with the new glass in the lounge, one of the best parts of the experience for me was knowing that anyone can do the same.
Moe Greens will be hosting a demo for the Jinni “infinity waterfall” pipe on Sunday, Oct. 27. In the meantime, everyone with a desire to be hyper-acquainted with all the latest in THC tech can visit the lounge at Moe Greens.
TELL US, what’s the coolest bong you’ve smoked out of?
A new clue and more black market vaping products emerge as health officials at the state and federal level continue to investigate the sudden rash of lung illnesses hitting vapers across the US. Tests now show one chemical was present in many patient samples from different locations.
That chemical, vitamin E acetate, is derived from vitamin E. US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) investigators found the vitamin E acetate oil in many of the sampled cannabis products taken from sick patients across the nation.
The US FDA revealed the findings via call and press release Friday, September 6, 2019. On the call, New York State health department officials revealed that vitamin E acetate was also found in almost all recent patient cannabis samples in the state.
Black market vapes: use caution
This link between the mystery illnesses and one substance is the first break of its kind in this case. However, health officials emphasized that it is too soon to be sure that this is the cause of the illness.
Vitamin E is essential to human health, occurs naturally in foods like almonds and olive oil. The little vitamin E supplements you see at the store are full of vitamin-derived oil, vitamin E acetate.
Although this makes the substance sound harmless, it’s not totally clear what vaping it might do to the body. The lungs are designed to handle gases, not oils, and many patients report respiratory symptoms.
It’s also difficult to track an illness without a standardized method for reporting potential cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now investigating at the national level. However, they are doing so without any state level reporting requirement or many of the standard protocols that ease investigations of infectious diseases.
The Washington Post reports that there were 215 possible cases in 25 states as of August 27. Additional reports of lung illnesses continue to roll in. And after three deaths, the CDC warned the public not to vape at all until they better understand the illness and its causes.
Contaminants and black market vaping products
It seems likely so far that counterfeit substances, contaminants, and other negative consequences of the black market are causing this illness. For example, health officials at both the state and federal levels are focusing largely on illicit products.
Many patients admitted to healthcare providers that they purchased cannabis products off the street. Many are teens who cannot legally buy the products from a licensed retailer.
Vitamin E acetate is itself not an approved additive for use in medical marijuana in New York. In other words, in the place with the strongest vitamin E acetate connection, the substance is, by definition, only present in black market vaping products.
And despite the promising vitamin E link, no one substance has been present in every sampled. Health officials are also keeping a close eye on other important factors such as environmental and behavioral issues.
VV has reported on the issue of heating compounds and vaping them with unknown health effects in the past. This is an ongoing area of research, which we can expect to see develop in the coming months and years. What is even odder about this story is the sudden, nationwide onset of this illness.
In the meantime, there’s no question that buying whatever products you use from licensed, reputable dispensaries or other retailers is the safest way to go. Never trust black market vaping products, or anything priced similarly.
And if you do get sick, report it and get help.
Workers in the cannabis industry are entitled to the same protections under federal law as those in any other industry — regardless of the fact that they work with a Schedule I drug, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver held in a Sept. 20 decision that provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, apply to “all workers,” including those in the cannabis industry. The FLSA, landmark New Deal legislation first passed in 1938 and amended many times since then, sets a nationwide minimum wage and standards for overtime pay, as well as protections against child labor and other abuses.
The case concerned Robert Kenney, a former employee of Helix TCS, a company that provides security services for businesses in Colorado’s state-legal cannabis industry. Kenney sued the company for misclassifying him as exempt from the FLSA’s rules on overtime pay. Kenney claimed that he and other security guards employed by the company regularly worked more than 40 hours per week — and were therefore entitled to overtime.
In a motion to dismiss the case, Helix argued that it isn’t required to follow FLSA rules, because its business is in conflict with federal law. But the Tenth Circuit didn’t buy it.
“Denying FLSA protection to workers in the marijuana industry would consequently encourage employers to engage in illegal markets where they are subject to fewer requirements,” the court said in its decision.
The court held that the language and legislative intent of the FLSA make clear that employers are not exempted from complying just because their business practices are federally prohibited.
The overtime case is now greenlighted, and Kenney is set to pursue his claim in federal district court. “The hard part is over now,” Kenney’s attorney Rex Burch told Colorado Public Radio.
His former employer, of course, contests this. “Helix pays all of its workers fairly and lawfully,” Jordan Factor, an attorney for the company, retorted in a statement. “We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and believe they got it wrong. Congress did not intend to guarantee overtime to workers in the federally illegal marijuana industry. We are exploring all of our options, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Colorado Public Radio also spoke to Curtis Graves, a lawyer at the Employers Council, which handles a variety of human resource issues. “We work with a lot of marijuana businesses, and I don’t know of any trying to get out of paying overtime,” Graves said. “To the contrary, they tend to be super-cautious about all employment laws, because they don’t wish to call attention to themselves, at all.”
But, in fact, another such case is pending in Oregon. Cannabis Law Blog notes that in January, Michael Garity, a former employee of cultivator WRD Investments, filed a wage and hour claim against the company under the FLSA.
According to the complaint, Garity was hired to provide expertise and labor in support of WRD Investments’ cannabis grow near Junction City. Garity claims he was a “non-exempt” employee, and that WRD Investments was required to pay him at least minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime rates for all hours worked over 40 hours per week. In the complaint, he alleges that in 2016 and 2017, he worked approximately 2,500 hours without any compensation — and that he frequently worked over 40 hours per week without overtime pay.
Whether Garity prevails on the merits remains to be seen. But the decision in Kenney’s case seems to preclude a motion to dismiss.
Good News for Cannabis Unionization Push
The Tenth Circuit ruling also provides a general boost for efforts to unionize the cannabis industry. At the forefront of this drive is the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which has launched a Cannabis Workers Rising campaign.
The Teamsters and United Farm Workers of America are also supporting the campaign, and it has won some key victories. A law passed in California this year requires cannabis businesses with 20 or more employees to enter into a “Labor Peace Agreement” with a “bona fide labor organization.” This mandates that businesses remain neutral in worker organizing efforts. The Labor Peace requirement for the City of San Francisco applies to cannabis businesses with 10 or more employees.
In Washington, UFCW Local 21 and the Have a Heart dispensary chain in August 2018 signed the state’s first contract between a union and an adult-use cannabis retailer.
The first such contracts between the UFCW and dispensaries were signed in Colorado in 2011, for the medical marijuana market, before the state’s legalization initiative passed the following year.
And organized labor is poised to be on board from the start in Illinois, which passed a law to legalized cannabis this June. Illinois politics website Capitol Fax reports: “Unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881 and Service Employees International Union Local 1 had been at the negotiating table for months working on the marijuana legalization bill.”
TELL US, would you want to work in the cannabis industry?
The post Court Upholds Federal Labor Protections for Cannabis Workers appeared first on Cannabis Now.