A federal agency told Utah that it doesn’t risk losing funding due to its medical cannabis program. Tens of thousands have been deported from the U.S. for marijuana possession since 2003. Medical marijuana companies and execs spent $630,000 on political giving in Illinois since 2017. Also: The cannabis industry is embracing facial recognition, raising privacy concerns. 🌳
Feds tell Utah that its MMJ program is just fine.
Local authorities in Utah are arguing that the state’s medical marijuana plan puts government employees at risk of prosecution for violating the federal prohibition of marijuana. But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assured the governor that the state’s plan to distribute cannabis would not risk its federal grant funding. Counties are still fearful as “the letter is nonbinding and subject to change at any time,” said one of the architects of the medical marijuana law. The Salt Lake Tribune Related: Nebraska’s attorney general said that state-level medical marijuana legalization would be unconstitutional. Marijuana Moment
Deported for marijuana.
Sothy Kum came to the U.S. at the age of 2 as a refugee in 1981. Decades later, after getting married and having a daughter, Kum was deported to Cambodia due to a marijuana conviction. Between 2003 and 2018, 45,000 people were deported from the U.S. for marijuana possession offenses. Efforts to expunge past cannabis convictions aren’t helpful to immigrants, who can still be deported on a past cannabis conviction (even if it was expunged). “[The Immigrant Legal Resource Center] advised people who have not obtained citizenship not to carry a medical marijuana card and to remove any marijuana-related social media posts.” The Associated Press
The rise of marijuana lobbying.
Medical marijuana companies and their executives donated more than $630,000 to help shape the legalization law that allows existing medical marijuana companies to be the first to grow recreational cannabis. “The companies also could benefit from the decision to toss out a provision in the law that would have allowed people to grow a small amount of marijuana at home for personal use.” This deep dive into the Illinois marijuana lobby looks into how campaign contributions may have influenced lawmakers and limits diversity in the industry. The Chicago Tribune
N.J. Supreme Court to take cannabis case.
The New Jersey Supreme Court is hearing a case concerning a man who was fired for using medical marijuana to treat his cancer. A funeral director was fired from his job in 2016 after he tested positive for THC. While an appeals court found that the firing didn’t violate the state’s medical marijuana law, “the judges also suggested that [the patient] may have been protected by the state’s Law Against Discrimination because he had cancer.” Since the firing, the New Jersey governor has signed a new medical cannabis law that includes employee protections. WHYY
How cannabis use can affect surgeries.
Surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists in Colorado have observed that cannabis users require more anesthesia than non-users. While more research is needed, consumers are encouraged to disclose their marijuana use before surgery, even in states that haven’t legalized the drug. The observations raise a whole host of concerns for anesthesiologists, including whether marijuana users are more at risk of breathing problems during procedures or serious side effects that can come with higher doses of anesthesia. Some researchers suspect that marijuana users may have a higher tolerance to pain medications post-surgery. Word on the Tree / Kaiser Health News
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Cannabis industry embraces facial recognition.
Government regulators and cannabis dispensaries are embracing facial recognition technologies to track employees, deter robbers, and help with age verification. But the technology can also help businesses analyze consumer reactions to products, help with marketing, and assist law enforcement. “Despite what developers may say, facial recognition technology has the potential to reinforce the racist and classist policies of prohibition,” said the founder of a cannabis advocacy firm. The data could be vulnerable to hackers, too. Vice
Today in cannabis business news…
Investment bankers hailing from JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are teaming up launch the cannabis-focused ELLO Capital to do M&A advisory work for the cannabis industry. Business Insider Sundial, a Canadian cannabis producer, did not do so well when it went public on Nasdaq. MarketWatch Short sellers have bet $169.7 million against the marijuana industry. Yahoo Finance Cronos Group, a Canadian cannabis company, is buying four U.S. CBD businesses in a $300 million deal with Redwood Holding Group. The acquisition includes the brand Lord Jones. BNN Bloomberg POLITICO Pro is launching a cannabis vertical this fall. Paul Demko is joining the team as publication’s first cannabis editor. He was formerly a healthcare reporter at POLITICO Pro. Natalie Fertig is joining as a cannabis beat reporter. Talking Biz News
Cannabis in Canada.
Cannabis NB, New Brunswick’s provincial marijuana retailer, lost $2.2 million in the first quarter of this year. Sales were lower and prices were higher than anticipated, which the general manager blamed on supply shortages. CBC News The government of British Columbia is cracking down on unlicensed cannabis businesses, raiding four storefronts in Kamloops and Victoria last week. “As more legal retail stores open across the province, you can expect to see increasing enforcement action,” read a statement from the provincial cannabis enforcement agency. CBC News
Elsewhere around the world…
Pain patients in Australia are struggling to access legal medical cannabis while law enforcement continues to go after those cultivating the plant for their own medicinal use. Seven News The center-right party in New Zealand says a referendum on cannabis legalization is a “a crude power grab” that sets a dangerous precedent. RNZ Police in Ireland will now refer first-time drug offenders to health services rather than the criminal justice system. The Journal The country’s Minister of State for Natural Resources suggested that turning government-owned bogs into cannabis farms could create “a lot of jobs.” Irish Times How cannabis licensing works in South Africa after the Constitutional Court legalized personal consumption. Ventureburn Health regulators in Brazil are considering a plan to allow medical cannabis cultivation in the country. Marijuana Business Daily
‘A new war on new drugs.’
Synthetic versions of illicit substances including cannabis and psychedelics have emerged as popular options for sellers and consumers — purportedly because they are able to help both evade the consequences of selling or using an illicit substance. But a secret DEA list of “analogue” substances sent two men to prison who thought they were complying with the law when they sold synthetic cannabinoids imported from China. “The analogue law spawned a secretive enforcement apparatus… [and] has also led to heated battles within the Drug Enforcement Administration about how to implement it.” The fight has landed one of the agency’s top chemists behind bars, too. Bloomberg Law
🗣 Shout Outs 🗣
Weed + Grub
Weed + Grub is a podcast about cooking, cannabis, comedy, and pop culture — hosted by Mary Jane Gibson and Mike Glazer. Their SXSW panel — Art, Entertainment & Social Justice Awareness — will feature Open Mike Eagle, Ron Funches and Laganja Estranja for a discussion about the role of art in cannabis advocacy. Vote for their panel here: SXSW Panel Picker
Word on the States
- In California, the governor’s senior cannabis adviser talks cannabis regulatory issues. Long Beach officials are at odds with a cannabis collective that wants to grow marijuana in a homeless shelter.
- In New Hampshire, the governor vetoed a bill to allow medical marijuana home grow.
- In Louisiana, the state’s medical cannabis program finally goes live. But the program has some limitations.
- In Iowa, state regulators approved chronic pain as an MMJ-qualifying condition (but denied three others).
- In Missouri, the state began taking medical marijuana business applications on Saturday. The new mayor of Kansas City promises to pardon some past pot offenses.
- In Alaska, the governor’s funding cut for the hemp pilot program may not even save the state money.
- In Minnesota, the House Majority Leader penned an op-ed advocating for marijuana legalization.
- In Florida, Florida A&M ousted the first executive director of its medical marijuana research initiative.
- In Pennsylvania, a look at the attorney general’s record on criminal justice reform.
- In New Mexico, the governor’s working group on marijuana reform will meet for the first time this month.
- In Maine, Portland unveils proposed rules for marijuana businesses.
- In Maryland, a Taneytown medical cannabis facility is expanding production and staffing up.
- In New York, the nation’s first hemp seed bank is on its way to Geneva. The group that opposed marijuana legalization in the state is pushing to keep its major donors secret.
Word for Word
“The big question is whether support for marijuana legalization is both broad and deep. It’s clearly broader than we would’ve thought a few years ago. Whether it’s something that will make voters choose one candidate over another remains to be seen.” – University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin, Washington Examiner
“I like to think about it like your credit card bill. If you’re in financial difficulty, and you can’t pay your bills, you put them all on your credit card. You might think, ‘Phew, that problem is taken care of.’ However, the next month your credit card bill comes and there’s interest. It gets worse and worse and the longer you don’t pay, the worse things get. Long sentences are like that. While you’re incarcerating people, not only are you not making them better, you’re often putting them in environments where they are likely to become worse. ” – Prisoners of Politics author Rachel Barkow, CBS News