A 13-member FDA panel unanimously voted in favor of approving a marijuana-derived drug. A top anti-marijuana advocate has many financial entanglements with opioid addiction firms. High Times‘ 4/20 Cannabis Cup may end up having no cannabis. Also: Thievery Corporation jumps into the weed industry with a vaporizer and cannabis oil. 🌳
FDA panel unanimously vote for marijuana-derived drug. Epidiolex, the marijuana-derived drug produced by British company GW Pharmaceuticals, took another step towards becoming the first FDA-approved drug derived from a cannabis plant. A 13-member FDA panel voted unanimously in favor of the medicine for treating certain types of severe epilepsy. “Approval would technically limit the drug… to patients with hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy. But doctors would have the option to prescribe it for other uses and it could spur new pharmaceutical research and interest into other cannabis-based products.” The Associated Press One potential hurdle: Analysts estimate that the drug could cost patients $30,000 to $60,000 a year if their insurance plans don’t cover it. The Cannabist
The dubious profits of an anti-marijuana advocate. Former U.S. rep. Patrick Kennedy is no friend of the marijuana movement: He co-founded the leading anti-weed advocacy group SAM and raised $2 million in 2016 to fight marijuana legalization campaigns in five states. Turns out he has many financial entanglements with opioid addiction firms, making him a “one-man nexus of government, private-sector and patient-advocacy work.” He has made “well over $1 million in salaries and equity stakes” in companies that seek to benefit from the government’s response to the opioid crisis. “Nonprofit specialists raised questions about who Kennedy is effectively representing in meetings with lawmakers or administration officials.” Kennedy himself “waved off [such] criticism.” Politico
White House supports narrow criminal justice bill. A House committee is expected to vote on a criminal justice reform bill next week — a measure pushed by Jared Kushner and supported by the White House. Axios But the bill is facing bipartisan resistance as lawmakers from both parties are pushing for a more comprehensive reform package. The legislation that Kushner favors would help those who are incarcerated. But the broader reform bill, supported by prominent Republicans like Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would “get some people out of prison who are probably over-sentenced,” said Graham. That includes those who got mandatory minimums for certain non-violent drug crimes. Politico
Mitch McConnell’s hemp advocacy. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expediting his hemp legalization bill and trying to convince “tough-on-drugs Republicans” to get on board. U.S. rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said that there are still a “handful of members who still cringe when I come up to talk to them about hemp.” McConnell has invoked “Rule 14,” which allows legislation to be brought directly to the floor without going through legislative committees. Those who oppose the effort are concerned that legalizing hemp “could give more momentum to pro-marijuana supporters.” Lexington Herald-Leader
Why is it taking so long? There are dozens of marijuana-related bills in Congress right now, ranging from ones that would deschedule the drug to ones that address specific issues like banking and veterans’ access. But pretty much all federal marijuana reform efforts have stalled, despite many of them having strong bipartisan support. “There are a bunch of gatekeepers here that won’t let these bills get to the floor,” explained U.S. rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) who has introduced a bill to deschedule marijuana. “There are gatekeepers at the subcommittee level, committee level.” Marijuana Business Daily Related: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is signing on as a co-sponsor to the Marijuana Justice Act, one of the many marijuana-related bills. The legislation was introduced by senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Forbes
🚨 Shameless Promotion 🚨
Cannabis Law Summit. The first annual Cannabis Law Summit is coming to New York City this May. Hear from such eminent speakers including Shaleen Title, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, Cristina Buccola, a cannabis attorney, advocate, and business developer, Senator Liz Krueger, an advocate of marijuana reform in the New York state legislature, and Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Word on the Tree readers get $50 off with the discount code: WORDT50. Cannabis Law Summit
A Cannabis Cup, minus the cannabis. High Times has been selling tickets for its 4/20 SoCal Cannabis Cup for months, which promised to bring attendees plenty of pot and music acts. But the San Bernardino city council unanimously voted to deny the company a permit, saying that applicants are supposed to receive local approval 60 days before the start of the event. A High Times representative said that the company lacked “clear guidance” from the state, but local officials “noted that Californians approved legal recreational pot nearly a year and a half ago.” The company may have to offer refunds for the tickets. NBC News
Conflicting data on cannabis. A new study found that people who use medical marijuana “have higher rates of medical and non-medical prescription drug use — including pain relievers.” But the researchers wrote that the findings “don’t prove a causal connection between marijuana and opioid use.” Science Daily Researchers found that more teens are going to the emergency room due to cannabis than in the past thanks to an analysis of medical records from the children’s hospital system in Colorado. But in most of these cases, “patients had often consumed another substance in addition to marijuana, with alcohol being the most common.” Reuters Related: Forgoing its usual white papers, The Brookings Institution sought to document the human side of medical marijuana in their first documentary, ‘The Life She Deserves.’ Brookings
What a reasonable drug policy could look like. “Say you were emperor for a day and granted the power to create a new, fully rational policy for regulating alcohol and marijuana. What would that policy look like?” Thirteen experts weighed in on that question, finding that the only significant downside of legalizing and taxing cannabis would be the influence of private industry. “The researchers felt this was significantly outweighed by the benefits of regulated legalization… [They] ranked the current federal regime of complete prohibition as quite literally the worst-case scenario.” The Washington Post
On Trudeau’s government. Ever since prime minister Justin Trudeau took office, Black and Indigenous people have been overrepresented in cannabis possession arrests across Canada. Racial disparities in drug enforcement “is especially striking, though research has shown that cannabis use is similar across different racial groups.” While the government said it would consider amnesty for past marijuana offenses, it has stopped short of committing to clearing criminal records once marijuana becomes federally legal for adults. Vice News Meanwhile, Trudeau’s government is rejecting a call from a member of the Liberal party to decriminalize all drugs. The health minister said that policies that work for Portugal “wouldn’t work in a large country like Canada.” Red Deer Advocate
Thievery Corporation is getting into the weed biz. The electronic duo is partnering with Pax and Blue River for a vaporizer and cannabis oil. They join the ranks of the many musicians who have jumped into the cannabis industry, including Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa, and of course, Snoop Dogg. Forbes The vaporizer company is shifting its messaging away from tobacco towards cannabis. “I think the board’s realized, the investors have realized, look, you guys are serving very different markets in many ways,” Pax CEO Bharat Vasan told Cannabis Wire in its newsletter. Juul — a popular e-cigarette — was spun out of Pax last year.
Word on the States
- In Maine, lawmakers believe they can override a likely veto from the governor on a marijuana regulation bill. A medical marijuana reform bill is headed to the governor’s desk.
- In California, the cannabis industry braces for an upcoming marijuana shortage. State lawmakers gave initial approval to license special banks for the marijuana industry.
- In Colorado, the Senate rejected a measure that would create a marijuana delivery pilot program.
- In Oregon, oversupply has left retailers and cultivators with mountains of unwanted bud.
- In Massachusetts, regulators vow to protect patient access to medical marijuana. More than 800 businesses submitted at least partial applications for priority certification.
- In Alaska, the Senate approved a resolution urging the federal government to respect its legal marijuana program.
- In New York, the governor plans to restore voting rights to felons on parole. He also said that the state is “ahead” on marijuana, a claim that Politifact deemed “false.”
- In Arizona, the governor met with the members of the medical marijuana industry.
- In Connecticut, the state received more than 73 applications to join the medical marijuana industry.
- In Illinois, the House approved a measure to allow parents to administer medical marijuana in schools.
- In Hawaii, regulators began accepting applications for growing industrial hemp.
- In Pennsylvania, a medical marijuana grower is partnering with an Israeli cannabis pioneer to sell their proprietary strains.
- In Louisiana, state regulators awarded five medical marijuana licenses.
- In Oklahoma, the Senate sent an industrial hemp bill to the governor’s desk. Tulsa police plan a rare Friday afternoon DUI checkpoint to coincide with 4/20.
Word for Word
“We must find ways to counter prejudice against drug use with facts and break this vicious cycle: drugs are evil and should be illegal → individuals who use them are immoral because drug consumption and possession are illegal → which leads to discrimination and stigma → further reinforcing the idea that drugs are evil and should be illegal… [Prohibition] comes at a very high cost to individuals and communities in the form of violence and seemingly acceptable daily violations of human rights. No rational reason exists for considering one product, say marijuana, to be an evil drug and another, such as alcohol, to be an acceptable substance. This means that eliminating drug use is fueled by ideology and subjective moral judgment.” – Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta for Stat
“Just weeks into the race, Ms. Nixon has already stolen the endorsement of the state leadership of the Working Families Party, a coveted seal of liberal approval. Worse, she’s been attracting all the Democratic attention, basking in the glow of glossy magazine spreads, promising to legalize marijuana and blaming him for the city’s crumbling public housing… It’s enough to make a governor do crazy things. Like, threatening to kneecap community groups that dared to back Ms. Nixon’s bid for the Working Families line.” – Mara Gay for The New York Times
“‘I [James Comey] thought the term [mass incarceration] was both inaccurate and insulting to a lot of good people in law enforcement who cared deeply about helping people trapped in dangerous neighborhoods.’… Claiming the term ‘mass incarceration’ is insulting to law enforcement is an attempt to replace the real target of criminal justice reformers—the policies, institutions, and political imperatives that incentivize and protect bad policing and overzealous prosecutions — with the ostensibly well-meaning frontline of law enforcement, whose feelings must be preserved.” – C.J. Ciaramella for Reason