Marijuana News Roundup: Not All California Pot Growers Favor Proposition 64

July 17, 2016 by Paul Ausick

Now that the state of California has approved a ballot initiative (called Proposition 64) that would legalize marijuana for recreational use, the state’s already-booming marijuana growing industry is split nearly evenly on whether or not to support it.

At first glance, legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use would appear to be a large benefit to the state’s pot growers, many of whom raise the plant on small farms along the north coast in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties. These growers have long supported decriminalization of marijuana, but fear the full legalization will encourage large corporations to enter the cannabis-farming business, driving out small operations.

According to a report at the San Francisco Chronicle, the 646 members of the California Growers Association have decided to remain neutral for the time being. Pot prices in the state have fallen from around $3,200 a pound ten years ago to a range of $1,200 to $1,600 a pound. At that price, growers say, it is hard to make a profit.

When the state’s voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative in 2010, voters in the primary growing counties, known as the Emerald Triangle, voted against it. Recent land values have more than doubled and when a large parcel is offered for sale it sells quickly, often to land speculators who are willing to outbid all competitors.

Small growers have been emphasizing the boutique nature of their operations: small, well-tended, essentially hand-made products that are the gold standard in the marijuana business. As one grower’s association advocate said, “[The issue with Prop. 64] is whether they are regulations that will allow us to continue long-standing sustainable cannabis farming traditions, or whether new markets will sweep away what we’ve built over the last 40 years.

One Striking Chart Shows Why Pharma Companies Are Fighting Legal Marijuana
There’s a body of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws. These studies have generally assumed that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. But that’s always been just an assumption.

Now a new study, released in the journal Health Affairs, validates these findings by providing clear evidence of a missing link in the causal chain running from medical marijuana to falling overdoses. Ashley and W. David Bradford, a daughter-father pair of researchers at the University of Georgia, scoured the database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013.

They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.

But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.

Read more at The Washington Post.

No Decision on Rescheduling Marijuana Prompts Congressional Action
The DEA’s [Drug Enforcement Agency] evaluation of marijuana and its place in the Schedule of Controlled Substances Act generated media coverage in 2016, but fizzled out when the organization’s self-proclaimed deadline came and went without a decision at all. What appeared to be a chance at moving cannabis from Schedule 1, reserved for the most dangerous drugs with no medicinal value, to a more appropriate Schedule listing vanished without a word.

One group of legislators is calling on DEA leaders to make a decision.

On April 4, 2016, the DEA sent a letter to members of Congress who had asked them to consider rescheduling cannabis from Schedule 1. In it the authors claimed they would have an answer on the issue of rescheduling in the first half of 2016. They missed their deadline, but pundits are still calling for a decision any day now. On July 11, the Denver Post reported that a top DEA official said they weren’t going to hold themselves to any “artificial time frame,” even if it is a timeline they gave themselves.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is one of eight Congresspersons who challenged DEA Administrator Rosenberg to address the issue  via a letter sent on June 30 to his office.

In the letter and the accompanying press release, the group cites the reasons for removing marijuana from Schedule 1, saying, “information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)… has already determined that medication naturally derived from the cannabis plant has a medical use.”

Read more at The Weed Blog.

Marijuana Dollars Are Having a Huge Impact on the Civic Soul of Edgewater
This may not be the city that cannabis built, but Colorado’s most famous cash crop could soon be the driving force behind construction of a $7 million, 40,000-square-foot civic center in this tiny community wedged between Lakewood and Denver.

Edgewater is exploring using sales tax revenue from marijuana sales to cover more than half the cost — $4 million — of building a facility that will house a new city hall, police station, fitness center and library.

It’s a project that likely wouldn’t move forward — at least not for years — absent the tax remittances made by the city’s half-dozen pot shops. The city expects to collect north of $1.2 million in sales tax revenues from pot in 2016.

“There is no way we could have gotten the civic center together as quickly as we have without the retail marijuana revenue,” Edgewater Mayor Kristian Teegardin said Thursday. “Having that retail sales tax from marijuana definitely sped up the process.”

Read more at The Denver Post.

Medical Marijuana Industry Spreading Its Roots in Region
The rollout of the 2013 state law legalizing the sale of medical marijuana has proceeded at a snail’s pace in Massachusetts, with just six dispensaries in operation.

But under a revamped state licensure process, the fledgling industry is gaining traction, and the south suburbs [of Boston] are seeing their share of the increased activity.

One business is selling its product in Brockton, another expects to open its doors in Quincy this fall, and more than a dozen others are scouting locations, building facilities, and seeking regulatory approvals in municipalities from Bridgewater to Wareham.

In Brockton, In Good Health was the second dispensary to open in the state when it began sales last September. Today, the 25-employee business serves more than 1,000 patients weekly from its West Chestnut Street location, where it also cultivates the plant.

Read more at The Boston Globe.