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Texas Agriculture Commissioner Consultant, Todd Smith, Arrested Over Hemp License Scandal

Todd Smith, top political consultant to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, was arrested earlier this week over allegations that he schemed to accept money in exchange for state hemp licenses. The claims against him also alleged that he solicited campaign contributions. He allegedly took $55,000, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. In total, all those involved in the scheme are accused of soliciting a total of $150,000 for license guarantees. The group is said to have taken $25,000 up front for these deals. As a part of this, Smith is being charged with third-degree felony theft.  “Todd Smith created by words and his conduct, a false impression of fact that affected the judgment of others in the transactions to obtain a hemp license and/or conduct a survey that was never attempted by Todd Smith,” the affidavit claimed.Miller claimed in response to these allegations that he “had no idea” this was going on, and Smith could not be reached for comment. “That was Todd, between him and his clients,” Miller said regarding the situation. “This matter is being investigated by the Texas Rangers on behalf of the Department of Public Safety in collaboration with the Travis County District Attorney’s office,” Travis Considine, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said according to a statement. “Our offices will be keeping the community updated as more information becomes available.”Todd Smith Released on BondSmith was arrested this week and taken to the Travis County jail, but then released the next day on a personal recognizance bond, which was set at $10,000.The charges against Smith claim that he used another person as a middle man to help people obtain licenses, but the charges so far don’t name who that person is. Apparently, the middle man would tell those looking for licenses that he was “working directly with senior leadership at the TDA” and  “needed $150,000.00 in cash, with some of the money going toward campaign contributions, in order to receive the ‘guaranteed’ hemp license.”Things came to a head with the scheme, according to the affidavit, when one man looking for a license agreed to the bribe and delivered $30,000 in cash to the middle man. Later, the anonymous, hopeful hemp farmer learned he was not actually guaranteed a license. He called Smith, and Smith then “denied any knowledge but did admit to receiving a $5,000.00 gift from” the middle man in the situation, according to the claims. It is not yet clear who exactly was involved, or the extent of knowledge the different accused individuals had. Hemp licenses became available to interested parties in 2019 when House Bill 1325 was signed into law. This allowed state farmers to grow industrial hemp legally, although they are still not authorized to grow THC-containing cannabis. It is also not clear how long this has been an issue in the Texas hemp industry. This also isn’t the first time Smith has fallen on the wrong side of the law. He was previously called out for blurring lines in his campaign when he allegedly told a San Antonio businessman that donating to Miller’s campaign would get him a Texas Department of Agriculture appointment. Smith also asked the man for a $29,000 personal loan. This series of events does not look good for the current situation. Smith has been on Miller’s team for years, when Miller initially created four assistant commissioner positions to support his own position. Another was given to Smith’s wife, Kellie Housewright-Smith. Salaries for these positions started at $180,000. While the investigation is ongoing, there are many issues of concern so far for Smith, and Miller’s team. Hopefully, with this coming to light, things will be easier from now on for Texas hemp farmers.

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After Four Years, West Virginia Finally Opens Medical Cannabis Registration

It’s been four years since West Virginia legalized medical cannabis, and until now, they have not had an actual program in place for patients to get relief. Now, eligible patients can finally register and officially become a part of the program.While medical cannabis business permits started being awarded as far back as October of last year, it has taken this long for them to get things up and running for patients to be able to get involved. The state just recently was able to get a testing lab approved, which was a missing step necessary for the program to move forward.Patients who suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain are eligible to register. In order to get medical cannabis, like in other legal states, patients must get a recommendation from a registered doctor. In order to get a medical cannabis card, once they are approved, patients can visit medcanwv.org.Now that sales are on track to start, they are expected to reach up to $700,000 this year in the state. A Promising Start For Medical Cannabis In West VirginiaAs of Monday of this week, according to the Office of Medical Cannabis, a subset of the Department of Health and Human Resources, almost 1,400 applications have been received from potential patients.“There are many West Virginians who are experiencing chronic pain due to a serious medical condition,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Registering for a medical cannabis card through the web portal will ensure these patients will have access to medical cannabis at the time products are available, which is anticipated by fall 2021.”So far, DHHR has announced Analabs Inc. as the testing laboratory for the industry. In total, The Office of Medical Cannabis has granted licenses to 100 dispensaries as well as 10 growers and 10 processors to produce the product. Of the dispensaries, there are 32 different companies, and 23 counties will be dispensary sites.This will probably be the extent of the program growth so far, as the state’s legislature has capped the program at 10 permits for growers and 10 for processors. However, it remains to be seen whether or not this will be enough to supply the fledgling industry.The reason it took so long to get medical cannabis up and running in West Virginia has to do with the issues the state encountered in 2019 regarding fees, penalties and taxes and how to handle them with the new industry. A lot of that had to do with federal laws and issues with banking, and now that a federal bill has been passed to support cannabis banking, the industry was able to move forward. This is all good news, but even though the industry was able to move forward, they still have not been able to pass a law that adds more dispensaries, processors, and growers. Smokable cannabis and edibles, to favorites for many patients, are also still not allowed. West Virginia only allows for cannabis vaping, but it is not clear how that law will be enforced once product is purchased. “The timing is based on the progress that the growers and processors are making to continue to build out the industry,” said DHHR spokesperson Andrea Lannom. “We anticipate that products will be available to consumers in the fall, but that can change if delays with these two groups are experienced.”While there have been many setbacks, and it’s unclear what the future of cannabis looks like in West Virginia, medical patients across the state are rejoicing that they can finally get the product they need.

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New Poll Shows Cannabis Delivery Has Had Increasing Popularity And Demand

During the pandemic, cannabis delivery and drive-thru options became more of a hot topic than ever before. In addition to the logistics and safety it provides, delivery offers a stress-free, convenient system that is here to stay. According to a recent poll from Ganja Goddess, a California-based, online brand for cannabis consumers, cannabis users want to keep getting their weed delivered.According to the poll’s results, cannabis use has increased and is driven in many cases by managing mental health issues. Edibles have become even more important than flower as a way to consume, and vape pens are not as popular—or at least they weren’t last year because no one was on the go. “Since the start of the pandemic, Americans are spending more time than ever at home, leading to an overwhelming national demand for delivery services,” said Ganja Goddess CEO Zachary Pitts.“The initial spike in cannabis delivery sales was noteworthy, but its continued prevalence more than one year later speaks volumes. A rise in cannabis consumption and greater emphasis on managing health further highlight the impact of these challenging times. Ganja Goddess has been tracking and sharing a variety of cannabis consumer trends throughout this time frame to uncover lasting shifts in consumer preferences and behaviors. The results help our industry make more informed business decisions and better satisfy customers’ needs and desires as we move into the mainstream.” Cannabis Delivery Booming During Pandemic And Not Slowing DownThe poll showed that according to 89.9 percent of respondents, cannabis delivery services are the primary purchasing method during the pandemic. This is up 70 percent from pre-pandemic times. Only 6.4 percent of people say they go to retail shops, and 60 percent said they used delivery apps out of convenience, predicting that this new model should be here to stay if businesses want to keep consumers happy. Additionally, the survey found that during the pandemic, alcohol use remained flat, while cannabis use ramped up. A total of 78.1 percent of people said they use cannabis to help with mental health, including sleep issues and anxiety, and pain. More than half the respondents, a rate of 53.9 percent, said they used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol. Also, edibles were the most popular form of consumption at 58 percent. Flower came in second at 52.9 percent. Edibles increased by 7 percent since the last Ganja Goddess poll, and flower decreased by 3 percent. In addition to the rising number of people who want cannabis delivery, another recent poll from NORML shows that more people than ever before want legal cannabis. This means that the industry will need to expand and adapt to keep up with the growing demand that is coming from consumers who clearly want their cannabis legal and convenient rather than in the illicit and unregulated market or only to be purchased in certain ways. “There is no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people. In the era of state-level legalization, voters’ support for this issue has grown rapidly—an indication that these policy changes have been successful and are comporting with voters’ desires and expectations,” NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “Today, voters of every age and in virtually every region of the country agree that marijuana should be legal. We have a mandate from the American people and we intend to make sure that elected officials abide by it.”The legality of cannabis on a federal level, and the acceptance of delivery on a state level, are clearly still up for debate, but one truth remains: cannabis consumers are ready for legal and accessible cannabis, and will continue to push for it until it becomes a reality.

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