Another week, another round-up. It’s still before midnight on Sunday here in Seattle, so better late than never!
This is my curated research on all the cannabis policy, health and wellness, fitness trend, animal rights, and vegan product news from the past week. I read the alerts and the newsletters so that you don’t have to! As always, the individual source articles do not always represent my personal views and additional comments of mine not included in the article are in bold.
This week we got hot(box) and heavy, expanded cannabis decriminalization, learned that fur is still a thing rich people like, and found more excuses for (Red) Wine Not Wednesdays. Let’s dive in!
CANNABIS NEWS & POLICY
In an effort to demystify the taboos of both sex and cannabis, makers of the “world’s first smart vibrator” Lioness and cannabis delivery company Eaze teamed up to release a report based on a survey of Lioness newsletter subscribers. The report studied results from 432 subscribers between June and July of this year, including 19 Lioness users who used the device with a range of cannabis-infused products including edibles and lubricant. The report concludes that cannabis products contributed to longer sessions (either partnered or solo), more easily attainable orgasms, and overall greater sexual satisfaction. 73% of individuals found that intercourse with partners last longer using cannabis than without, and 64% spent more time on solo masturbation. 43% of solo respondents and 48% of those engaging in partnered sex reported greater orgasms, with THC edibles having the greatest impact on outcome. 63% of solo respondents and 71% of those engaging in partnered sex reported reaching orgasm in a shorter amount of time, with the average orgasms lasting 33.6 seconds with cannabis use. 85% of solo respondents and 79% those engaging in partnered sex reported greater overall satisfaction with the quality of orgasms paired with cannabis use. CBD products attributed to more quickly achieved orgasms and THC products were associated with more “intense and satisfying” sex.
Researchers at CW Analytical Laboratories, one of California’s oldest cannabis testing labs, have found discrepancies in testing the THC potency in different sizes of certain edibles, particularly chocolates. Contrary to conventional logic – that larger samples would produce more accurate results – larger samples of chocolate with THC were found to produce less accurate results than smaller samples. Researchers suspect that the fat content of chocolate is responsible because THC is fat soluble. David Dawson, research principal at CW Analytical Laboratories, says, “The white chocolate and baking chocolate gave lower results than cocoa powder, which seems to suggest it is not the actual cocoa solid having an effect. It seems to be more tied to the presence of the fatty, creamy chocolate.” Cannabis testing is still relatively young and expected to improve as the legal market burgeons. There is however immense pressure as testing labs are increasingly overwhelmed with lines of new products competing in the market. These findings are still considered preliminary.
Because the U.S. government controls immigration, and cannabis possession remains a federal offense, non-citizens seeking legal status or naturalization face increased scrutiny even in states where adult-use cannabis is legal. Federal law prohibits the government from using federal funds to prosecute charges related to state-legal medical cannabis, but federal law does not have the same exemption for state-legal adult-use cannabis. Customs and Border Protection officers will continue to enforce federal law regarding cannabis. In states such as Washington and Colorado, where cannabis is legal for adult-use, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service has been aggressively questioning naturalization applicants for past or present cannabis use. Naturalization requires the ability to establish “good moral character” and the Immigration and Nationality Act defines conduct which does or does not constitute such character. If an individual is found in violation of the federal laws for possession of cannabis, they cannot legally claim “good moral character,” and their application for naturalization will be denied. Experts advise that non-citizens take a “very conservative approach” to cannabis use by not discussing conduct related to cannabis with any government officials; not carrying a medical cannabis card, any paraphernalia, or any symbols implying cannabis use; and seeking legal counsel if involved in the cannabis industry.
When Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed into law the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act in July, the regulatory agency which oversees cannabis business licensing advised current medical dispensary operators that they would be able to relocate their business and maintain their status to apply for an adult-use license. The new law gives current dispensary operators the first chance to obtain cannabis retail licenses in order to meet the expected demand once adult-use becomes legal on January 1st. It allows them to apply to open up a second location, or seek “dual licensing” at one location, as long as they still sell medical products. New operators will not be able to apply for adult-use business licenses until later in 2020. The law also allows municipalities to pass their own zoning regulations for cannabis businesses, or “opt-out” entirely. As a result, a local jurisdiction which currently allows a medical dispensary may outlaw adult-use cannabis retailers.
In early August, the regulatory agency abruptly changed its direction, now advising that medical dispensary operators will lose their privilege to apply for an adult-use license if they move. Lawmakers who authored the CRTA have sent a letter to the governor in opposition to this rule change, calling it a threat to the success of the program and raising concerns about meeting the January 1st deadline to enact regulations.
Meanwhile this week, it was announced that the state has already awarded the first five adult-use retail licenses to existing medical dispensaries owned by Green Thumb Industries, one of the largest multi-state operators in the nation. Complications on the horizon can be contributed to the differentiation between local and state law, as one of the licensed dispensaries is located in Naperville, which is considering a cannabis retail ban.
Also in Illinois, Cook County state’s attorney Kimberly Foxx has announced that the county will be the first outside of California to partner with Code for America in order to automatically clear tens of thousands of eligible cannabis convictions under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Code for America organizes thousands of volunteers to “build digital services that enhance government capabilities” nationwide and has already helped dismiss or seal more than 75,000 cannabis-related convictions across California. Per the announcement, “With the aid of Code for America’s Clear My Record technology, an office can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for record clearance by reading and interpreting conviction data in just a few minutes. This requires no action on the part of the individual and greatly reduces staff time and resources — two obstacles to record clearance. Streamlining conviction data processing also will make it easier for courts to update records, ensuring that individuals can obtain relief as soon as possible.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has conditionally vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature in June that would allow many individuals with cannabis convictions to have their records cleared immediately, saying it doesn’t go far enough. Among other points of dissatisfaction, the bill doesn’t clearly determine how expungements would be processed. Gov. Murphy has offered amendments to the bill, which if included and passed by the legislature again, could keep the bill alive. Amendments include creation of an electronic filing system for expungements, provisions to seal a record for small cannabis or paraphernalia possession charges, and dedicating $15 million towards the processing of expungement petitions until an automated system is ready. Critics of his veto say that offenders with low-level convictions cannot wait any longer and argue that Murphy’s changes would reduce the number of individuals eligible for expungement. New Jersey has historically incarcerated individuals on cannabis charges at significantly higher rates than other states, and despite the platform of legalization as one of Murphy’s target campaign promises, has thus far failed to pass cannabis reform legislation.
At least a dozen, and likely far more, legal cannabis grow operations in Washington have been the target of suspiciously well-timed cannabis product theft resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of loss and damages. While business owners initially suspected an “inside job” from disgruntled employees or employees from a retail shop, they have come to blame the extraordinarily rigorous and transparent record-keeping requirements of state law. After the state legalized adult-use cannabis in 2012 through I-502, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (WLCB) adopted regulations requiring cultivators to submit exhaustive logs, known as “seed-to-sale” tracking, which includes “things like exactly how many plants they grow and harvest by batch and strain, how much inventory they hold and how much they sell, when, to whom, for how much” and “cargo manifests with detailed vehicle information” for the transport of product. Only some information, such as detailed floor plans and delivery route manifests, are not publicly disclosable but have been breached in database hacks. Addresses, vehicle models, and VINs are publicly disclosable. Private data firms like 502 Data and Top Shelf Data collect data from the WLCB and through public records requests and make them readily available online to registered users. Other states, like Colorado, do not make this data publicly available, and Oregon exempts cultivators from making their addresses disclosable. State regulators argue that this transparency is what makes Washington banks, as opposed to banks in other states with legal cannabis markets, willing to work with cannabis businesses. While the WLCB claims these measures are necessary for transparency in a market that is still federally illegal, WLCB and law enforcement agencies do not track cumulative data on cannabis-related robberies, instead lumping them into general theft and robberies. Only Washington State Patrol has a Marijuana Task Force focused on targeting the illegal distribution of cannabis. Many argue that the state should adopt exemptions to public disclosure requests to protect these businesses as a matter of public safety. Many others, including business owners, are resigned to the opinion that these crimes will continue regardless of regulation as long as there are still states that prohibit cannabis.
An interview with Rick Garza, the Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board Director, reveals that a number of proposals (deemed “Cannabis 2.0”) are in the works to overhaul certain cannabis regulations in the state. Regulators are considering abandonment of the seed-to-sale tracking system, instead requiring operators to report transactions to the board for auditing. Proposed legislation would also allow the export of cannabis to states with less saturated markets, should cannabis be federally legalized, as Oregon did earlier this year. Another proposed bill would create a social equity program that would give preference and technical assistance to women-, minority-, or veteran-owned businesses in licensing. Currently all 500 retail licenses in state have been issued, but 11 have been surrendered, and the state could work with municipalities to reissue these to social equity candidates. Yet another bill would allow tier-one cultivators – the tier with the smallest allowance of cannabis plants – to expand their operations as incentive to include more services for registered medical cannabis patients. Many of these medical expansion policies were allowed, whether explicitly or in a “gray market,” under Washington’s medical cannabis regulations prior to the state passing the adult-use initiative in 2012. In exchange for growing medically-compliant product, tier-one cultivators could sell to patients onsite, in a “farmer’s market” setting, or via delivery.
In December, the Nevada Department of Taxation, which regulates cannabis businesses in the state, issued 61 new adult-use retail licenses to 17 companies. Cannabis retail are the only license types for cannabis businesses “capped” in the state and as such are highly sought after because of the Las Vegas market. The Department received more than 400 applications, which were only open to “existing medical marijuana establishment certificate holders,” i.e. state-licensed medical cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and/or dispensary operators. Plaintiffs in a suit against the state agency – applicants who were not awarded retail cannabis licenses – claim that the Department failed to properly vet applications and questioned whether some attorneys with close relationships to review panel members and regulators received preferential advice for their clients’ applications. Claims of wrongdoing include that the Department appears to have only conducted background checks for individuals with 5% or more stake in the company, while the referendum that legalized adult-use in NV calls for “background checks of all prospective owners, officers and board members.”
On August 23rd, Clark County District Court Judge Gonzalez issued an injunction preventing the state from completing a final inspection towards final approval of the conditional license holders who did not complete identification of their entire leadership team. In their decision the judge reasoned that the applications’ “diversity” component was essentially a bogus category for applicants to arbitrarily insert women and minorities into title roles of the business structure to earn points on the application, that the Department did not properly train Temporary Employees, that the Department did not in fact thoroughly vet applications for completeness or compliance, and that the process was impacted by personal relationships (though not in and of itself a disqualifying factor). The Defendants argue that the plaintiffs are simply “sore losers” and that this hindrance on issuing final licensure to all the awarded applicants will encourage the black market. In response the office of Gov. Steve Sisolak, who has implemented regulatory changes to the state cannabis program towards greater transparency since he took office this year, has commented that the procedures and processes which led to the selection of these applicants predated his tenure as governor.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Minnesota Public Radio this week that he has directed state agencies “to put all of the building blocks [for cannabis legalization] in place, from Revenue to the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health”. While no filed cannabis legislation has become a front-running proposal yet, he wants state to be “ready to go” if the legislature enacts reform. He has consulted with local advocacy groups like Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation to this end. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) has also spoken publicly about plans to sponsor cannabis reform in the legislature.
In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would accept additional applications from privately-operated cultivation facilities seeking to grow cannabis for federally-funded research into its potential medical benefits. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has been the only federally-sanctioned facility to grow cannabis for research purposes, but proponents for additional research licenses cite its poor quality and the government’s monopoly on research as reasons the DEA needs to issue additional licenses. On August 26th, the DEA issued a notice announcing that the agency would move forward with rulemaking proposals for licensure. Critics say this later announcement, which doesn’t provide additional timelines for milestones in expanding the program, is further proof that in three years the DEA has made no progress towards granting additional research licenses. The DEA also clarified that it is not required to issue licenses for the study of hemp, since the 2018 Farm Bill de-scheduled it as a controlled substance and will refund any application fees in response to a written request for withdrawal if received by November 1st.
On August 28th, a measure that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in July went into effect, decriminalizing cannabis across the state. While Gov. Cuomo made the legalization of cannabis a cornerstone of his 2019 platform, the Democrat-controlled legislature failed to come to an agreement on any proposals this year. The measure now in effect automatically expunges low-level convictions, impacting about 14,000 residents in New York City and 11,000 others statewide. The measure makes both cannabis possession of less than two ounces and public cannabis smoking a violation, not a crime.
Despite the legal status of medical cannabis in New York, the contentious and ultimately failed push by Democrats in the state legislature to pass cannabis reform this year, and the expanded decriminalization of cannabis, data analysis shows that black and Latinx individuals are even more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested on cannabis-related violations. 94% of all low-level cannabis arrests in New York City in the first six months of 2019 were people from black or Latinx communities. Race and ethnicity was not recorded for all of the 1,436 arrests reported. This data follows an all too-common pattern which exists in most public policy areas: that arrests and convictions are skewed towards people of color, particularly in the case of cannabis-related misdemeanors, despite evidence that people from these communities commit these crimes at the same rights as white people.
Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has become the latest D.C. insider to join the leadership team of a cannabis company. Whitaker has become Legal Advisor to Alternate Health, a CBD manufacturing and distribution company. In official statements both Whitaker and Alternate Health express hope that Whitaker’s expertise will “open doors” for the company to have a say in emerging policy in the CBD industry and keep the company at the forefront of industry leaders.
In Kentucky, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell announced this week a new policy that the office will no longer prosecute people for possession of less than one ounce of cannabis or possession of paraphernalia that is “clearly only used for marijuana consumption”. This new policy takes affect immediately. It doesn’t affect other types of cannabis-related charges, such as driving intoxicated, cultivation, or public consumption, and people under the age of 21 would still be prosecuted for possession. Cannabis could still be seized even if no citation is issued. The office cites racial disparities in the criminal justice system largely targeting black individuals. The Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has issued a statement in support of the decision.
In New Mexico, District Court Judge Bryan Biedscheid has ruled that the Department of Health cannot restrict the issuance of qualified patient identification cards to out-of-state residents. A statute that took effect in June of this year removed the state residency requirement from the state’s definition of a “qualified patient” under the medical cannabis program. Two plaintiffs from Texas and Arizona issued an emergency petition last month after being denied medical cannabis cards. Earlier this month Judge Biedscheid issued a preliminary ruling in that matter siding with the plaintiffs. The office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham intervened in the lawsuit, claiming the amendment to the law was only intended to reciprocate medical cannabis patients from other states, not issue medical identification cards to out-of-state residents. The Governor’s office argues concern over the encouragement of illegal transport across state lines. While Judge Biedscheid said that he agreed with some of the Department’s concerns, he ultimately found the language of the statute to be clear in its provisions.
Former New England Patriots’ player Rob Gronkowski announced the launch of his new partnership with CBDMedic this week to brand a line of pain-relief products. Following a serious injury during the 2018 Superbowl game, which ultimately led to his current retirement, Gronkowski credits CBD for giving him significant pain relief after weeks of suffering with lack of sleep. This move seems to be an effort to help loosen NFL restrictions on cannabis product use for alleviating pain. The former tight end has no plans to return to football anytime soon, but claims CBD has given him a “working body” again.
HEALTH & FITNESS
A new observational study of 916 female twins published in Gastroenterology suggests that red wine may contribute to greater biodiversity in gut bacteria. Accounting for factors such as age, weight, diet, and socioeconomic status, researchers found that red wine drinkers had greater bacterial diversity than non-red wine drinkers. Researchers also found lower rates of obesity and lower levels of cholesterol. The authors of the study speculate that polyphenols found in red wine may be responsible for these benefits. However, as an “observational study,” researchers cannot confirm that their findings are attributed directly to red wine. The authors also noted that drinking red wine as little as once every two weeks seemed to be enough to observe an effect.
A study from the Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in the scientific journal PNAS this month found that optimistic men and women live, on average, 11-15% longer than their more pessimistic counterparts. The study tracked 69,744 women over 10 years and 1,429 men over 30 years. Researchers, who surveyed their levels of optimism and overall health habits, are not certain why optimism may lead to a longer lifespan but suggest that more optimistic people may be more motivated to make better health choices, such as improved diet and exercise. Optimists may also be better at regulating stress. While it may not come naturally, optimism can be taught. Optimism is not the absence of depression, stress, or other negative life events. Teaching patients coping skills for stress management and other ways of challenging their negative perceptions can incrementally increase overall positivity, allowing patients to take advantage of these health benefits.
Pinterest has introduced a new policy of providing visitors results from public health websites such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control in response to searches for keywords such as “measles” and “vaccine safety”. In a statement the social media platform said, “We’re taking this approach because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn’t responsible…As we continue to tackle health misinformation, we remove it and the accounts that spread it from our service.” Pinterest will not show comments, recommendations, or ads on results for these searches either.
Photo by Sue Seecof
Liliya Konovalova from Kazakhstan has given birth to her second child after her first was born just a few months earlier in May. Konovalova has a condition called uterus didelphys, or a “double uterus,” a condition that affects 0.5% – 5% of women worldwide. Each of her babies developed in separate a uterus. The very rare condition carries an increased risk of premature or still births and miscarriages. The woman and her two babies are well and have been discharged from the hospital.
ANIMAL RIGHTS & VEGAN NEWS
Assembly Bill 44, which was introduced in the California state legislature this past December, successfully passed through the Assembly on a bipartisan vote and was passed and ordered for a second reading in the Senate this week. If passed the bill would prohibit, among other fur products, the manufacture of new items from undomesticated animals such as coyote, mink, and rabbit. Recently, Los Angeles became the largest American city to outlaw such furs. Proponents of the statewide law point to humane slaughter laws, which do not apply to fur animals, as evidence of undue cruelty in the industry. Opponents claim that the law ignores cultural heritage in addition to the loss of the jobs in the fur industry, while advocates argue that cultural heritage and employment do not justify inhumane practices for the purposes of high-end retail. The traction the bill has gained in Sacramento, especially following the passage of Proposition 12 prohibiting the sale of meat and egg products from animals who have been tightly confined, suggests that consumers are more concerned than ever that goods are sourced from ethical practices.
According to new data from the Plant Based Foods Association, significant growth in the plant-based food industry has led to massive tax revenue and an expansion of high-paying jobs. The national plant based food industry is valued at $4.5 billion, with retail sales growing 5 times over any other food sales. The industry contributes $1 billion in federal and state taxes and has created more than 55,000 jobs in the U.S.
Earlier this month San Diego-based start-up BlueNalu, which raised $4.5 million in seed round funding, announced plans to bring its lab-grown seafood products to market. The company is currently producing fish fillets and medallions in a pilot stage with plans to bring its products to market testing in 2 to 3 years and build its first large-scale facility in 5 years. Initial facilities are slated for North America, Asia, and Europe. At scale, the start-up plans to produce 18 million pounds of sustainable seafood annually.
Yahoo! Japan has announced that beginning November 1st, the e-commerce platform will no longer allow the sale of ivory products. Japan has more than 16,000 registered ivory manufacturers and sellers. Yahoo! Japan’s ban significantly reduces the market access of these retailers.
Tomorrow may be Labor Day in the States, but there is no rest for the wicked. Even so, I need a little shut eye before another busy day. Good night, friends, may your week be short and your bowls be full!