South Korea becomes first East Asian country to allow medical marijuana, while in the United States, northeastern states push for legal potency.
As people continue to learn about the benefits of medical cannabis, countries are increasingly forced to follow suit. Earlier this year, the United Kingdom was forced following public protests to allow access to marijuana-based medicines, and the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-derived pharmaceutical substance for legal use in national level. Now nation states with still-strict drug laws are evolving: Lawmakers in South Korea voted this week to allow regulated use of medical marijuana for conditions including cancer, HIV / AIDS and epilepsy .
In the United States, legal pot sales have intensified on the West Coast, but 2019 may be the year the green rush finally spreads to the Northeast. The first two East Coast stores just opened in Massachusetts , and consumer demand shows no signs of slowing. This week, a New Jersey legislative committee introduced an adult-use legalization bill along with two other cannabis reform measures, while Gov. Phil Murphy passed a bill to legalize hemp. New York lawmakers are drafting a legalization bill, and not to be outdone, Connecticut 's new governor has said he will support legislative efforts to bring a legal pot to the Nutmeg State.
Yet controversies over the issue (and how best to legalize it) remain challenging. In Ohio , a judge has ruled that reserving medical marijuana business licenses for minorities is unconstitutional, while national grower companies are trying to forge their own inroads into Maryland's medical cannabis industry, despite state law prohibiting this activity. Canada's legalization still causing friction with its southern neighbor and a Canadian investor has found himself permanently banned from the United States for trying to attend a cannabis industry conference.
South Korea becomes first East Asian country to allow medical marijuana:
South Korean lawmakers were reportedly considering a medical cannabis law earlier this year, lawmakers followed up on Monday and voted to "approve amending the Narcotics Management Law to allow non-hallucinogenic doses" of medical cannabis prescriptions,” Marijuana Business Daily reports. This is a sea change for a country that retains the power to put marijuana smokers to death, but where demand for medical marijuana products is steadily increasing.
Lawmakers reportedly considered previous legislation that would have allowed marijuana to be approved in the UK or US, but the new amendment would have "provided a legal basis ... for production", also raising questions about whether there will soon be cannabis cultivation in South Korea, as well as how neighboring regions might respond. Vijay Sappani, a venture capitalist in the cannabis market, told Marijuana Business Daily that the move represents "a significant step forward": "Korea's prominence as the first country in East Asia to allow medical cannabis at the federal level should not be underestimated. Now it is a question of when other Asian countries will follow South Korea."
New Jersey advances several cannabis reform proposals, legalizes hemp
After months of discussion, New Jersey lawmakers just took the first step toward fulfilling Gov. Phil Murphy 's promise to bring legal weed to the Garden State this year. A joint committee of the state legislature met this week to pass three cannabis-related bills, the most important of which would create a taxed and regulated legal weed program . The legislation allows for on-site consumption at licensed shops and delivery of weed, while also including provisions to exclude out-of-state investors from dominating the market.
The committee also approved a bill to expand the state's medical marijuana program by increasing patients' monthly caps on cannabis purchases from 2 to 3 ounces, legalizing infused edibles, and expanding the granting licenses for further commercial activities. A third bill would have eased the process of integrating former drug addicts, making it easier for them to clear their records forever. However, each bill must be approved by both houses of the Legislature before going to Murphy's desk for a signature, which can still present a challenge. Key senators from both parties still oppose the measures, and Murphy himself has been at odds with lawmakers over the proposed sales tax rate for legal sales.
While lawmakers debate the merits of recreational cannabis, the Garden State will soon grow marijuana's non-psychoactive cousin (CBD).
Murphy signed a bill creating a pilot program that allows institutions of higher education to grow and do research involving industrial hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill legalized hemp production under state-approved pilot programs, and New Jersey is now the 38th state to launch such an initiative. “ This pilot program is a win for local farmers who need a diversity of opportunities to compete in the global agricultural market ,” Senator Declan O’Scanlon said in a statement.
Connecticut is pushing for legalization, following Massachusetts' lead
Legal weed has finally arrived on the East Coast, and Connecticut 's new governor wants to make sure the Nutmeg State doesn't lose business to its recently legalized neighbor, Massachusetts. Last week, Gov.-elect Ned Lamont told reporters that legalization is "something I would support and I don't want the black market to control the distribution of marijuana in our state. I think it's a terrible way to go." Lamont said he expects lawmakers to begin debating a legalization bill next year, and a recent report from the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management suggested that “the state could benefit from new profits from fledgling businesses, such as ...those of recreational marijuana!", according to Marijuana Moment .
The weed has only been legally sold in two stores located on opposite ends of Massachusetts, but demand has already been incredible: On the first day of sales, customers drove all the way to New Hampshire to line up before the stores opened their doors. doors. The numbers are absurd: approximately 3,000 customers visited the two stores throughout the entire day, spending over $440,000 on over 10,000 products. At the current tax rate of 17%, the state has earned nearly $75,000 in tax revenue just from day one. Excitement has remained high all week, with both stores continuing to contend with endless queues.
The groundswell of support for legal cannabis has convinced some former opponents, including Republican Joe Kennedy, to rethink his opposition: "One thing is clear to me: Our federal marijuana policy has seriously changed, to the benefit of both seniors cancer patient that marijuana can help, or the young person prone to substance use disorder that could harm her," Kennedy wrote in a recent interview. The lawmaker added that the federal government must step in and “regulate marijuana thoughtfully” in order to end the confusion created by the current “patchwork of inconsistent laws.”
Ohio Court Finds Social Equity Fee for Cannabis Licenses Unconstitutional
While several states and cities have created programs to promote social equity in their legal industries, some of these initiatives have struggled to achieve their goals. In Oakland and San Francisco, two of the first cities to launch such programs, observers are finding that equity applicants are still struggling to complete their applications, while large companies thrive. Ohio's attempt to support equality in its medical marijuana industry is now facing a similar challenge, as a local judge has ruled that the state's social equity program is unconstitutional.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider , just ruled against a state regulation requiring 15 percent of the state's medical cannabis licenses to be reserved for businesses owned by "economically disadvantaged" individuals. Under this law, state regulators granted two of the twelve available licenses to minority-owned businesses, even if they scored lower on their applications than other “less disadvantaged” applicants.
Greenleaf Gardens LLC, a company that lost its bid to a minority-owned company with a lower score, sued the state over its rejection. Schneider sided with Greenleaf, saying that minority quotas are only appropriate when there is a history of discrimination within an industry, and that there is no such history in the cannabis industry because it is new. While state attorneys have highlighted disproportionate targeting of African Americans and Latinos for marijuana-related crimes, Schneider insisted that such evidence does not demonstrate discrimination in the new industry. It is currently unknown whether Greenleaf will receive an additional license, or whether the state will decide to revoke any of the permits granted under the equity program.
National cannabis businesses are trying to buy Maryland's medical cannabis industry, contrary to state law
After years of battling legal battles and regulatory issues, Maryland's medical marijuana industry is finally growing, and this hot new market has recently attracted interest from national cannabis conglomerates eager to get a piece of the pie.
State regulations specifically prohibit local MMJ businesses from consolidating with out-of-state corporate interests, but despite this rule, several national cannabis companies, including Curaleaf and MedMen, have told their investors they are finalizing deals to move the industry in the local state.
“I don't know how the [Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission] is allowing this to happen,” Del states. Cheryl Glenn at the Baltimore Sun. “We are adamantly opposed to large out-of-state corporations coming in and purchasing licenses.”. State lawmakers told reporters they plan to address the issue when next year's legislative session reconvenes in January. “We will clearly see this again,” Sandy Rosenberg said. “This is an ongoing process. We need to respond to what people are doing, in a way that furthers our political goals.”
Canadian cannabis investors banned from US to attend marijuana business conference
Cannabis has been entirely legal in Canada for over a month, but U.S. customs officials are redoubling their efforts to ensure anyone indirectly involved in this burgeoning new industry stays off American soil. In the months leading up to legalization, U.S. Customs Enforcement (CBP) announced that any Canadian citizen who admitted to smoking weed or working in any type of industry-related job could be banned from the United States for life.
Shortly after adult-use sales began on October 17, CBP released another statement explaining that they would still allow Canadian cannabis employees to enter the country, as long as they were doing so for personal reasons, not for business. Earlier this month, several Canadian investors traveling to the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas found that the Border Patrol was actively enforcing the latest aspect of that policy. One investor who was traveling from Vancouver to Las Vegas found himself permanently banned from the United States, and at least 12 others found themselves detained for hours en route to the same convention.
Regardless of CBP's recent assurances, immigration attorneys have reported that the number of clients seeking cannabis business advice is on the rise. “Despite all the warnings that I have given for months and months and years and years and years, it is still happening and this will continue to happen until there is a harmonization of federal and state laws in this country,” he tells the Canadian Press, l Washington-based immigration lawyer Len Saunders . “Otherwise, you'll see this happen forever – and the only one who benefits will be me.”
Even at home on Canadian soil, the country's road to legalization is causing some headaches. Many legal details are still being addressed in the gray areas, as Health Canada is about to revoke the business license of a Vancouver company for producing cannabis-based vap pens that are prohibited by Canadian law.
Scientists discover that cannabis genes are responsible for the production of CBD and THC
A collaborative effort between Canadian and American scientists has finally discovered the specific genes involved in the production of THC and CBD . Researchers first sequenced the 10-chromosome genome of the cannabis plant in 2011, but it still took seven years to separate the genes that produce cannabinoids from "junk DNA" - genetic material that viruses inserted into cannabis DNA to centuries of evolution. This viral DNA comprises between 70 and 75% of the plant's genome, making it difficult for researchers to isolate the genes responsible for cannabinoid production.
“You can only manipulate a gene when you know where it is,” Harm van Bakel , a genomics expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead researcher on the study, told The Toronto Star . “And you also need to know something about the rest of the genome sequencing so that you can uniquely target the gene of interest and not be sidetracked by… other things that look similar.” This finding could make it easier for marijuana growers to target specific strains that contain certain levels of THC or CBD, or a precise blend of the two.