Washington State Settles With Unicorn Brands Following Synthetic THC Probe

The Liquor and Cannabis Board in the state of Washington said Wednesday that it has reached a settlement with Unicorn Brands LLC over a “a year-long investigation and multiple Administrative Violation Notices (AVNs) for creating synthetically-derived THC from hemp and distributing it into the state-regulated cannabis market.”

The board said that Unicorn Brands “cooperated with the investigation” and ceased the conversion process that was under question. Last summer, the Liquor and Cannabis Board issued a policy statement that “made clear that synthetically-derived THC from hemp was prohibited under current rules and law.”

“This was an important case about the integrity of the legal cannabis system voters approved ten years ago and which today flourishes in Washington with a carefully controlled system of production, processing and selling of cannabis to adults,” Liquor and Cannabis Board chair David Postman said in an email to marijuana license holders in the state, reminding the businesses “of the prohibition on the sort of laboratory conversions involved in the Unicorn case.”

In October of last year, the board’s Education and Enforcement Division issued an Administrative Violation Notices to Unicorn Brands for four violations in its synthesis process: “1) Misuse of License, 2) Criminal Conduct, 3) Noncompliant Extraction, and 4) Traceability Failure.”

Under the terms of the “comprehensive settlement” between the two sides, the board said that Unicorn Brands “will not resume converting hemp into THC and brings an end to a lengthy and complex investigation.”

The board provided more details on the back-and-forth that preceded this week’s settlement.

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Deadline Passes in New York for First Round of Dispensary Licenses

The deadline for the first adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses in New York arrived on Monday, and now hundreds of applicants await feedback from the state.

Monday’s deadline came a month after the state’s Office of Cannabis Management officially opened the application portal on August 25.

Since then, the agency has been flooded with applications from individuals hoping for the first crack at the Empire State’s legal marijuana market.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that roughly “500 applications had been submitted by Sunday,” adding that hundreds “of ineligible people have been turned away, but so have dozens more who did qualify and needed help navigating the state’s online portal.”

The state will award 150 licenses for the first round this fall, and those have been designated exclusively for applicants who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense (or a family member of someone who has).

Billed as the “Seeding Opportunity Initiative,” the policy goes further than most of the so-called “social equity” provisions in other states’ marijuana laws.

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Is Big Tobacco Pivoting to Big Cannabis?

British American Tobacco announced Monday that it has acquired a non-controlling minority stake in the Berlin-based marijuana startup Sanity Group GmbH.

Kingsley Wheaton, the chief growth officer at BAT, characterized the deal as an example of the company’s “ongoing work to explore numerous areas beyond nicotine, positioning BAT for future portfolio growth across a range of categories and geographies.”

“We continue to transform our business, through better understanding of our current and future consumers, as part of our A Better Tomorrow purpose,” Wheaton said in a press release. 

The acquisition could also be seen as a reflection of an emerging trend: cannabis is the future, while tobacco––specifically cigarettes––is increasingly a relic of the past.

A survey from Gallup last month found that a mere 11% of Americans reported as cigarette smokers, an all-time low. By contrast, 16% said they consider themselves current cannabis smokers.

Those consumer trends may continue to shift as marijuana becomes legal in more markets both in the United States and beyond.

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The Greens Say Parliament Can Legalize Pot in Australia

The Australian Greens say that parliament has the power to legalize recreational pot in the country as the party prepares its bid for cannabis reform.

According to The Guardian, the Greens––currently the minor party in Australia––have received advice from constitutional lawyer Patrick Keyzer, who contends that parliament could override state laws on the matter.

“The advice suggests that there are three commonwealth heads of power that would enable it to legalise and regulate cannabis use, with the clearest pathway via a part of section 51, which relates to copyrights, patents of inventions and designs, and trademarks,” The Guardian reported.

Under the aforementioned section 51, parliament has the power to “to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States; taxation; but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States; bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth; borrowing money on the public credit of the Commonwealth; postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services; the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth; lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys; astronomical and meteorological observations; quarantine; fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits; census and statistics; currency, coinage, and legal tender; banking, other than State banking; also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money; insurance, other than State insurance; also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned; weights and measures; bills of exchange and promissory notes; bankruptcy and insolvency” among a litany of other areas.

The Guardian reports that Keyzer’s advice centers around the part of the section pertaining to “copyrights, patents of inventions and designs, and trade marks,” saying that it empowers the commonwealth to “regulate cannabis strains as plant varieties and cause them to be listed in a schedule in respect of which the commonwealth has exclusive regulatory control.”

“We’ve been told to wait for cannabis law reform for too long, even when it’s obvious that the majority of harm caused is by policing and the war on drugs, not the plant,” David Shoebridge, a spokesperson for the Greens, said in a statement on Monday, as quoted by The Guardian.

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