This Friday marks the first round-up of the autumn season! If you’ve seen my posts from the last few weeks, you may know that I’m… not necessarily thrilled about that. However, I will reserve my fall blues for the post-Halloween season. I received a little festive pick-me-up earlier this week with the delivery of my first Lifted Ladies box, Autumn Jane. If you want to see the goodies it contained, check out my Instagram. I’m starting to post more, so stay tuned for little extras on recipe-testing and workouts I can’t reasonably dedicate to a whole post on the blog (yet).
While I’m plugging my social media, may I interest you in occasionally funny nonsense and the bitchy subtweets on my Twitter?
On to the more educational portion of our purposes here today. As always, editorial comments appear in bold. This week in news, we checked in with Australia, passed historic cannabis legislation in the U.S., busted a beauty brand, and begged for more CBD regulation!
CANNABIS NEWS & POLICY
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act in a “bipartisan landslide of support.” This marks the first time that the House has considered standalone cannabis legislation. The bill removes the element of federal prosecution for banks that provide services to cannabis businesses and the public safety concern that has required state-legal cannabis operators to continue to operate as a cash business. While reform advocates have criticized passage of the bill without addressing further social justice concerns related to the federal prohibition of cannabis, other activists see this move as the first logical step in de-scheduling cannabis altogether. If the Senate passes the bill, it will next go on to be signed into law by Trump.
Nine new research grants, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, have been announced to study the effects of CBD extracted from cannabis and its painkilling properties. THC extracts are excluded. Among other grant recipients, Dr. Judith Hellman of the University of California San Francisco, will study the body’s ability to produce signaling molecules similar to ingredients in cannabis by studying human immune cells in a lab and testing on mice. University of Utah researcher Deborah Yurgelun-Todd will scan the brains of human volunteers with lower-back pain to see how CBD extract affects pain-signaling pathways. Researchers at the University of Illinois David Sarlah and Aditi Das hope to create a library of useful compounds found in cannabis plants by making chemicals “from scratch” and testing them on mice immune cells. [As I have previously stated, I cannot ethically support animal testing for the purpose of human research, but I look forward to the advancement of other clinical trials in this field.]
U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evan Barker has ruled that Indiana’s law which regulates hemp but criminalizes the manufacture, sale, and possession of “smokable” hemp flower is unconstitutional. In her decision, the Judge ruled that Indiana’s law conflicts with federal law. While the Farm Bill of 2018 allows the transport of legally produced hemp for interstate commerce, state law would criminalize activities such as travelers from other states’ possession of hemp in flower form. The transport of manufactured hemp flower across state lines would qualify as possession with the intent to deliver under the ban. State lawmakers banned smokable hemp over concern that law enforcement would not be able to distinguish the substance from illegal cannabis. However, the Judge wrote in her decision that “The fact that local law enforcement may need to adjust tactics and training in response to changes in federal law is not a sufficient basis for enacting unconstitutional legislation”.
A panel of judges has unanimously affirmed a Colorado federal district court ruling that state-licensed cannabis businesses must adhere to federal labor laws. The ruling allows a former employee of Helix TCS Inc. to pursue claims against the company that he and other workers consistently worked overtime without receiving appropriate compensation. Attorneys for Helix argued that Congress did not intend to “both forbid under the Controlled Substances Act and reward under the Fair Labor Standards Act the same conduct: drug trafficking [internal quotation marks omitted].” However, the three-judge panel reasoned that “employers are not excused from complying with federal laws because of their other federal violations.”
The Senate has added language to a $23.1 billion agricultural appropriations bill, which must still be debated on the Senate floor, that would require the FDA to adopt an “enforcement discretion policy” regarding CBD ingredients in food and beverage products within 120 days. The FDA would also be required to provide Congress with an update within 90 days. This action follows a recent letter signed by 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives addressed to current FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, urging the agency to quickly adopt policies to address its use as a food ingredient and dietary supplement. While CBD additives to food are not currently regulated – and illegal, according to the FDA – the development of foods and beverages containing CBD has continued to grow. The agency is not inclined to move quickly, even with pressure from lawmakers. The FDA has maintained that its role “as a science-based regulatory agency” requires further research before it can enact policies to provide direction to manufacturers.
In a 4-1 vote, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission voted to adopt regulations which will finally allow cannabis delivery services to operate in the state. For the first two years, the Commission will only approve licenses for participants in the social equity and economic empowerment programs and microbusinesses, which operate cultivation and manufacturing facilities but not storefronts. Storefronts will not be able to obtain separate delivery licenses during the two year period and must contract with independent delivery operators. Commissioners see cannabis delivery retailers as an opportunity for small businesses due to their relatively low start-up costs compared to storefront operations. One controversial aspect of the regulations is the requirement for delivery personnel to wear bodycams. While the bodycams are supposed to act as a deterrent for would-be robberies, at least one Commissioner, Shaleen Title, was against the measure as a privacy concern. Businesses will only retain the footage for 30 days, as opposed to the 90 days the regulations initially mandated.
This week – September 21st through 28th – is recognized as the second annual National Expungement Week, and noted cannabis-enthusiast and actor Seth Rogen and Illinois State Attorney Kim Foxx have been trying to get out the word on nationwide programs to aid eligible individuals seeking expungements for their criminal records. Expungements are available for more than cannabis-related convictions, but both recognize the impact convictions for a crime which no longer exists in many areas of the U.S. have had on communities, especially communities of color. Seth Rogen appeared in a video to promote events taking place nationwide, such as legal aid, voter registration, and employment workshops. In the video he acknowledged that for 77 million Americans with criminal records, “a large amount of these records are for minor offenses and seriously impede millions of people’s ability to live.” On his co-ownership of cannabis company Houseplant, Rogen also said, “We think it’s wildly important to understand the roots of the industry that you are trying to be a part of and to us there would be no way that we would even consider entering this space without really actively trying to rectify the issues that go along with being in the space”. In a series of tweets, State Attorney Kim Foxx stated that her office “is dedicated to impactful, ethical criminal justice reform that includes righting the wrongs of the past and providing REAL relief to those impacted by the failed war on drugs.” She also promoted the office’s partnership with Code for America, which is an organization working with governments in states that have legalized cannabis use to automatically expunge certain convictions.
On Wednesday, the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced 69 grants totaling $28.5 million to local health departments and qualified community-based nonprofit organizations, funded by revenue generated by cannabis taxes. GO-Biz has awarded the grants through the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program, which is included in the adult-use cannabis legislation passed by Prop 64. The grants are meant to fund activities such as job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services addressing barriers to reentry, and access to medical care. Grant recipients included organizations such as La Clinica de la Raza and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who has previously said that the state is “not ready” for cannabis legalization, made a public announcement this week that he is now in support of efforts to pass cannabis legislation. His announcement follows a listening tour conducted by Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman and a final report on his findings, which showed that 68% of the estimated 10,000 residents on the tour and 82% of online respondents favored the legalization of cannabis. At the press conference, Gov. Wolf said, “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, especially the criminal justice reforms I am proposing today, which will have an immediately positive influence on thousands of families across Pennsylvania.” He added that one of his recommendations is for the legislature to pass expungements of prior cannabis convictions and that processes are already in place for eligible individuals to seek an expedited pardon from the governor without waiting for the legislation to be in place. He also recommended that the legislature pass a bill to decriminalize low-level cannabis offenses and “seriously debate” passing adult-use cannabis legislation.
In a response to a survey which revealed that 79% of respondents have used or considered using CBD products to manage arthritis pain, the Arthritis Foundation has issued guidelines for patients regarding CBD use. The foundation partnered with three experts from the University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and McGill University to develop guidance. While the Arthritis Foundation stressed that there are no established CBD guidelines, the experts agreed on certain recommendations. Among other guidelines, the organization advised that patients never replace the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) with CBD and regularly follow up on the progress of treatment with CBD with a physician. The organization also issued a statement that it is “intrigued” by further research into CBD, saying, “We believe patients should be empowered to find safe management strategies that are appropriate for them. The more options available, the likelier it is that more people will benefit.”
The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly passed laws on Wednesday that will allow individuals over 18 to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis and grow up to two cannabis plants at home. The laws go into effect January 31st. No distribution or “gifting” of cannabis – a practice wherein retailers include cannabis for “free” with the sale of another item – is permitted by the laws. Cannabis must also be kept away from children and is prohibited from being used near children. Cannabis use and possession remains a federal offense in Australia. However, labor backbencher Michael Pettersson says “a defence exists for cannabis use under commonwealth law if the use is excused or justified by state or territory law.”
A new study published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives supports growing research of the effects of air pollution on mental health, particularly children’s.
The study, conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, examined emergency room visits for children between 2011 and 2015 and estimated the children’s exposure to small particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) from the three days prior to admission to the ER. The research found that even just days after exposure, psychiatric symptoms worsened in the children studied, especially in high-poverty neighborhoods. It isn’t clear how pollution causes or exacerbates mental health issues, but it is known that particulates in the air cause inflammation in cells. The study is the latest to find an association between pollution and mental health, and although a definitive association has yet to be proven, emphasizes the need for further research.
ANIMAL RIGHTS & VEGAN NEWS
This week, singer superstar Taylor Swift cancelled her appearance as an entertainer at Australia’s annual thoroughbred horse race, the Melbourne Cup, amid animal rights protests. PETA Australia and the Melbourne-based Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses were among organizations calling for Swift to drop out of the performance. The Coalition started a change.org petition urging Swift’s cancellation, and PETA Australia penned a letter to the singer, which referenced the death of a thoroughbred named The Cliffsofmoher that was euthanized in 2018 following a shoulder fracture. The Cliffsofmoher is the sixth horse to die due to the race since 2013. Following Swift’s cancellation, PETA Press Outreach Manager Moira Colley issued a statement in support, saying, “The event is riddled with horse breakdowns and death and is linked to the bloody horse-slaughter industry, which PETA most recently exposed in South Korea. None of this cruelty is consistent with the kind person we know Taylor to be.” Swift’s team has made no comment on whether the outcry influenced her decision to cancel, or whether it was due to a “recent change to Taylor Swift’s Asian promotional tour,” as claimed by the Flemington Race Court.
Disney resorts in the U.S. will add 400 new plant-based dishes to parks in the next year. The offerings will be available at the Disney World Resort in Florida beginning October 3rd and available at the Disneyland Resort in California in spring of 2020. Menu items include “hundreds of sweet and savory creations,” such as a “plant-based hot link smokehouse sandwich” at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and a “soy chorizo-topped Potato Flautas” at Disneyland’s California adventures. The expansion of vegan meals will also extend to the international parks with such offerings as “Risotto-Style Spelt with Mushrooms at Disneyland Paris; Pan-Fried Vegetables with Plant-Based Dumplings at Hong Kong Disneyland;” and “Caramel Mix Nuts Banana Cake at Shanghai Disney Resort”. All vegan offerings will be identified with a green leaf logo.
Ethical shoe brand nat-2, which has previously sourced materials like coffee grounds and mushrooms in its products, has developed a vegan sneaker made from industrially produced hemp. In a press release, the company said, “The intention of using cannabis leaves is to show alternatives to animal ingredients and the wide range of possibilities in the use of hemp plants in order to save the planet and create awareness by finding new ways in the fashion industry and production.”
A start-up called Atlas Food Co. is developing a way to cultivate mycelium, a mushroom root system, to quickly grow large slabs of mushroom tissues that can be infused with different flavors, fasts, and proteins to create various plant-based meat alternatives. The brand says it can grow commercial-scale “meat-like mushroom tissues” in various textures in just nine days. The technology, which has been called “programmable mushrooms,” has explosive potential in the growing cell-based plant protein industry.
Miami-based beauty brand Truly Organic has settled a Federal Trade Commission complaint for $1.76 million following an investigation which found that while the brand claims to be vegan, some products contained non-vegan ingredients such as honey and animal-sourced lactose. The investigation also found that some products contained no organic ingredients at all. While the USDA certifies organic food through its National Organics Program, the FDA does not define nor regulate the term “organic” for beauty products, and no government agency certifies any product as vegan. However, the FTC investigates claims to protect consumers from the harms of deceptive marketing and may issue refunds as a result.
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