Psychedelic Therapy in Australia Likely To Cost Thousands

Patients in Australia will soon have legal access to the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and MDMA under a plan announced by regulators last month. But with no approved source of the drug available to therapists, patients will likely face bills in the tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the promising treatment.

Last month, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian government’s medicine and therapeutic regulatory agency, announced that qualified psychiatrists will be able to prescribe the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and MDMA for the treatment of certain mental health conditions beginning later this year. But the agency has not approved any products containing the promising psychedelic drugs, leaving mental health professionals to source the drugs themselves. Without a government subsidy to help cover the cost of the medications, psychiatrists estimate that patients will have to pay as much as AU$25,000 (nearly $17,000) and more out of pocket for psychedelic-assisted therapy.

“For the actual patient, it might be $25,000, $30,000 for a treatment,” said Dr. Stephen Bright, a senior lecturer at Edith Cowan University and director of the charity Psychedelic Research In Science & Medicine.

“I honestly don’t think, for the next 12 to 18 months post July 1, that these treatments will be very widely available at all,” he added. “The tight controls of therapy mean there are very few psychologists who put their hand up. There will be a few clinics that open up, but I don’t think we’re going to see the floodgates open.”

Dr. Paul Liknaitzky, the head of the Clinical Psychedelic Lab at Monash University, revealed last month that he and other mental health professionals will be partnering with investors to open a psychedelic-assisted therapy clinic in Melbourne. But training requirements for therapists and detailed guidelines for such therapy have yet to be issued by government regulators.

“There is a lack of detailed clarity from the TGA to help us understand how it’s going to roll out. We are concerned but cautiously optimistic,” he said.

Liknaitzky said that he and his colleagues will help establish protocols that set high standards for ethical and effective psychedelic-assisted therapy. But he warned that the high cost of treatment might make the treatment inaccessible to most Australians.

“Sensible and safe treatment approaches, based on decades of best-practice development, will include considerable screening, psychotherapy and other support. A typical course of treatment, spanning a few months, may be in the order of $25,000, plus or minus $10,000,” he said. “If it turns out to be cost-effective, it will be in the government’s interest to fund it.”

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Shows Promise

Ongoing research has shown that psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. A study published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. 

Separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer. And in 2021, a study published in the journal NatureMedicine determined that MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, is a highly efficacious and safe treatment for individuals with severe PTSD.

But Professor Chris Langmead of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences says that it is unlikely that public health agencies will cover the cost of such treatment until further research including a cost-benefit analysis has been completed.

“We’re trying to get a groundswell of research and funding so we can do the research, clinical studies and practice rollout [to ensure] that this is not purely a market-led solution where the most disadvantaged populations are missing out,” he said. “The TGA has put Australia at the forefront of the world and we really need to take the opportunity and make the most of it.” 

University of Melbourne associate professor Gillinder Bedi said that a shortage of clinical staff trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy will also make the treatment difficult for patients to obtain.

“The infrastructure will get set up. There will be clinics. But the problem is we don’t have staff. People can’t even see psychiatrists under normal conditions,” she said. “If you put two clinical psychologists in a room for eight hours, at a [Medicare] billing rate of $120 an hour – which is not what people charge, they charge $200 to $300 – you have an enormously expensive treatment. I think it could get higher [than $25,000].

“No matter which way you look at it, it will take time away from other treatments and cost a whole bunch of money. It’s unclear who will foot the bill, some organizations are trying to set up philanthropic funding,” Bedi added. “But it’s going to be for people with money, in the initial stages at least.”

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Cro-Mags Show No Mercy!

It was nowhere near show time, and it was readily apparent that trouble was brewing. An Instagram post made by Harley Flanagan, founder of Cro-Mags, inarguably the forefathers of American hardcore, suggested that he had just entered the stinky ole brown eye of cultural division in the United States of America, landing smack dab in a gas station where chicken livers and confederate flags are such hot pieces of redneck commerce that they often receive top billing. It’s not every day that New Yorkers get slapped in the face with racism at the retail level, one as unapologetic and greasy as the fowl organ fare these joints are frying up in the back. Most of us lingering anywhere near the hemorrhoidal itch of the South are, at times, callused to these passive-aggressive tokens of imbecility, but not this multi-racial band from the East coast. If there was an underlying sentiment oozing from Flanagan’s fingertips it was, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Sheeeeiiiit! Conflict was in the air. I could smell it. One wrong move from the chaw-spitting locals and Flannagan, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, would surely snap one of their limbs—a leg perhaps—and have them crying for their mommy in a puddle of urine and axle grease. I just knew by the time they got to Evansville, Indiana to play their show at StageTwo, that bald bastard would be carrying around some hillbilly’s foot on a keychain. The only possible redemption surging from this southern cesspool serving up chitlins to the average fowl-eating fascist, at least judging from the photos Flanagan included in the post, was a Ramones and Led Zeppelin flag flying next to a couple of dreamcatchers near the cash register. Perhaps it was a sign that America’s divisiveness was beginning to narrow, and Flanagan and crew would arrive to their show without incident. It was maybe even just about as promising an omen this nation has seen in a while suggesting that we, as a collective people, might just get along in the end. Sure, the specter of unlicensed band merch wasn’t exactly the hallmark of equality, but it was a start. 

Cro-Mags, I was certain, could handle themselves. I, on the other hand, had problems of my own. At the same time Flanagan was staring down a line of ethnocentric wares in one of Tennessee’s seediest pump and dumps, I was in the middle of a pre-show meeting with my photographer and partner, Holly, making sure that she had everything she needed to properly shoot the band’s performance later that night. The conversation, as many of them tend to happen, entailed one of my incessant, borderline lunatic ramblings of logistics and how we needed to enter a transcendental mindset where hack jobs be damned! Meanwhile, Netflix was passively playing in the background. I have a theory that Holly likes to keep some form of noise on at all times just to tune me out during the paranoid madness that rendezvouses at the 11th hour. It’s when I’m most inclined to rag anyone’s nerves—even those who love me. Running interference this time around was YOU—the series about an obsessive bookselling serial killer doing his best to carve out, and quite literally, some semblance of an American family. I wouldn’t even mention such an unimportant detail of what happens in the hours prior to attending a show for the purpose of penning a few words, if not for looking up at one point during our discussion and seeing the lengthy member of a corpse dangling on the goddamned TV.  

“What the fu…”

The dead dick quickly caught my attention, not because of the sheer size of it under morgue-frigid conditions, but because it wasn’t at all realistic. “That’s not what a dead dick looks like,” I declared. My spontaneous revelation about the continuity of the corpse cock was welcomed with utter disregard. Holly didn’t bat an eye. It seems not even my dark knowledge of human anatomy could detour her focus of the business at hand. What would, however, I would later find out, is her pre-teen and his borderline criminal aversion to doing homework. Although we were scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. to ride to the venue together—after I, of course, got myself into the appropriate mindset to mingle with a few IPAs and a pull or two of Blue Dream—a missing science assignment would test the permanence of our professionalism. “You’re going to have to go without me,” she texted at 7:30, knowing damn well that such a short notice change of plans, one quite possibly leaving me without a photographer, could cause me to suffer an aneurysm and leave me for dead. “I’ll meet you there, later, though,” read a second text, giving me at least some reassurance that I wouldn’t have to resort to shooting the damn thing with my iPhone. 

Photo by Holly Crolley

Having no other choice but to suck it up and go it alone, for a while anyway, I summoned an Uber and made my way, ever-so-anxiously, to the venue without a lensman. No way I was risking the chance of missing a second of the Cro-Mags. This show, for me, was an important one.

Scan the archives of punk rock history and Harley Flanagan, now 56, is there. He’s fucking everywhere. 

From the time he was barely old enough to wipe his own ass, Flanagan was rubbing elbows with the elite of New York’s wild and weird. Look, there he is with Andy Warhol and Joe Strummer. Wait, there he is now with Debbie Harry. Flanagan almost ensured his place in the well-chronicled narrative of New York punk, a scene many of us only got to witness thanks to shutterbug documentarians like Bob Gruen, just by refusing to leave. In a lot of ways, his story of hanging out in popular NYC haunts from CBGB’s to Max’s Kansas City at 12-years-old playing drums for his band The Stimulators reads like the script for Forrest Gump. As outsiders, we’re all just that sweet, old lady sitting on the park bench, listening intently, yet skeptical of whether he actually shook hands with President Kennedy or if he’s just making that shit up. 

Yet, in Flanagan’s case, it’s all real, every last tale. He was fucking there. Although he’ll be the first to tell you that it all seems like a dream. Albeit one where some of his heroes were there to guide the way. “Not only did [The Clash] play some of the best live shows I ever saw but it’s the reason why I always try to give a moment to every fan I meet,” Flanagan told High Times. “Because I know how much it means to be a young fan and to meet somebody that matters to you. And that is the difference between them treating you with respect, like a human or them being a total rockstar asshole and fucking you off. [The Clash] were so good to me, and I always try to pay that forward. It meant a lot, they were really cool guys, and I will always respect them.”

Yep, there from the days when the first generation of New York punk was captured in black and white, making the transition to the color snapshots of the 80s and 90s, showing up alongside legends such as Henry Rollins, Jeff Hanneman, and halle-fucking-lujah, God himself—Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. Perhaps part of Flanagan’s longevity over the course of rock ‘n roll history can be credited, at least in part, to his ability to concede to the trumpets when they start to roar. “One time I asked Lemmy how he keeps going with the amount of bullshit you have to eat in this business,” Flanagan recalls. “His response was ‘would you rather be slicing bacon for a living?’ which I remember all the time when I’m not feeling it. The kicker is that he knew I was a vegetarian as well, so it was like ‘would you rather be doing something you really hate to survive?’”

Forgive me if I remember this wrong.

The first time I saw anything about Flanagan and Cro-Mags I think I had just hit puberty. As a young turd growing up in one of those diminutive chicken liver-slinging towns of Southern Indiana, I, like most snot-nose adolescents just learning to jerk off, was still listening to stuff like AC-DC, Hank Williams Jr. and Quiet Riot. Wait, Hank? Yep, even us young metalheads had a little shitkicker in us! We didn’t have any real record stores nearby, so if K-Mart didn’t carry an album in their limited music department, I didn’t have it in my collection. I did, however, regularly loiter in the magazine aisle at my local grocery store, flipping through the latest issues of Hit Parader, Circus, and every other now-defunct music publication trying to find new, up-and-coming bands to devour. In the back pages of one, amidst the typical features on the Motley’s and Ozzie’s, that’s where I first spotted Flanagan. I’d never seen anything like him. Branded with a massive tattoo of a gnarly, fire-breathing Devil across the whole of his chest, his head shaved, scowling like a methed-out madman in front of his less-intimidating bandmates, Flanagan looked like Charles Manson’s younger, meaner brother who had just killed 40 people busting out of a mental institution to start a band. He wasn’t the typical malnourished rockstar that regularly appeared in those pages—scrawny with no muscle definition whatsoever, yet posing like they could whup some serious ass. This dude seemed fit and legitimately unhinged enough to back it up. While the rest of those spandex-wearing wusses were busy cleaning out their parent’s retirement savings trying to make it with their shitty band, Flanagan’s attitude resonated a certain gutter authenticity—starving yet always wired up enough to take it on—whatever that may be. “Holy shit,” I said to a friend of mine who was with me at the time. “Look at this dude.” 

The band’s inclusion, if memory serves me correctly, was more or less a blurb about the rise of New York hardcore, and there was no more fitting of a poster child for the movement than Flanagan, I was sure of it. I had no idea what hardcore was at the time. I’d never even heard of Cro-Mags or any other band for that matter, where the buzz-cut, military-style coiffure was part of the official garb. I’m not saying they started bald club, but Cro-Mags was the first band in my purview where they skinned it on back. All the dudes in Metallica, the heaviest, angriest band I had found (and unapologetically worshiped), had unkempt pompadours nearly down to their ass, and to me, a pastoral pipsqueak from Indiana with maybe three pubes swinging from his nuts, they seemed like the kind of guys you’d want in your corner if the shit hit the fan. But the hyperbole of their winces and clenched fisted posture paled in comparison to the probity of Flanagan’s grit and machismo. 

He was the real deal.

Photo by Holly Crolley

My best assessment of all this hardcore business was that it meant actually having the cojones to back up whatever piss and vinegar was being sprayed from the stage. Don’t write a check your lyrics can’t cash. Are you going to bark all day little doggy or are you going to dive headfirst into the pit and take an elbow to the jaw? Not just anyone could take the plunge from passivity to pandemonium and make it out alive. Perhaps it was a metaphor for the life that manifested this genre. Maybe that’s how this seemingly deranged skinhead managed to slip through the editorial gatekeepers of a music rag typically catering to glam and hard rock, and his mug, all intense, gnashing teeth, a man who’d inevitably eat your grandmother if she got too close—soul, colostomy bag and all—came to be burned into my impressionable, idiot brain. The Bon Jovi’s and whatever other ineffectual cock rock crooners of the time were forever doomed, in my opinion, and their pouty-lip regime was about to die. It was good riddance as far as I was concerned.

In the following weeks, I made every attempt to get The Age of Quarrel, the band’s debut record, but, as you might have guessed, it was not to be found among K-Mart’s stock. None of my friends owned it either or even knew who the fuck Cro-Mags were, so getting my hands on a shoddy reproduction proved a daunting task. I even tried to convince my mom, who had totally bought in to the scripture according to the PMRC’s satanic panic suicidal revival, to drive me to the nearest city to see if it could be procured from a real record store, but she was hellbent on offering no further contributions to my life of degeneracy. It wasn’t until a few years later (yes, years) that I ran into this guy, all decked out in black wearing a leather jacket with Ed Gein painted on one sleeve and Joey Ramone on the other, who happened to have a copy in his extensive tape collection. “Play this one, play this one,” I demanded. “Oh man, Cro-Mags is a scary band,” he replied. 

That’s precisely what I wanted to hear. 

From note one, Cro-Mags was the antithesis of what I had come to know as rock ‘n roll, far different than what those heavy drinking, down-picking, chunk-chunkers from the Bay Area were putting out. And the lyrics were more personal, too, like an intimate warning scrawled on the shithouse walls of a sleazy dive bar, letting all of those with piss on their zippers know that they’d better not fuck around. “What does it take to prove you were a fake. I thought so anyway. Won’t show you no mercy today!” Coming from a podunk town where I never fit in, made to feel, oftentimes, as though there was something wrong with me for not subscribing to the livestock-porking life of small-town America, this was deliverance. Not only was the band staffed with an apparent ruffian, a dude who looked a hell of a lot like I felt, but the overall message, in my eyes at least, was one of strength, not taking shit from the feeble hierarchy of imperialistic pecker weeds, never bowing down, and always fighting back, win or lose. Show no mercy at all! 

Flannagan, long ago, infiltrated the systemics of a drug-addled rock ‘n roll lineage—one that often claimed to be influenced by punk—respectfully punching his idols in the throat, if for no other reason than to prove it wasn’t enough to get mad for the sake of politics, but you also needed to pick up a tire iron on occasion to get your point across. Cro-Mags was one of the first bands, alongside maybe Black Flag, to inspire a cult of young born-losers to cut their hair, get off the couch and fight—for something, anything that wasn’t complacence. Those who bought in became dangerous to the sheep-lapping from the societal trough. Anyone who didn’t show the kid any respect back in the day would meet the ire of the man—and they’d lose, real fucking bad. 

Fast forward to now and all the pseudo tough guys to emerge from Flanagan’s influence in the realm of hardcore and heavy music, many now with beer guts, all bloated relics of a philosophy they were never strong enough to uphold, got squishy. But Flanagan is still hard as nails. He just keeps getting better with age. If you’ve ever found yourself asking why this man is still around, duking it out onstage night after night, it’s because the true primogenitor remains the steeple of his church. And while Flanagan may have partaken in the same narco-lunacy that downed many hags of heavy metal in his formative years, all this iconic monstrosity leans on now for levity is the casual beer and cannabis. 

“I don’t drink it every day,” he told me, when asked how he can still enjoy brew and maintain his chiseled physique. “But [cannabis] helps me medicinally and also helps me a little with my head, but I find that smoking fucks my lungs up, so I do take breaks,” he added. “I think the plant itself is amazing. It has so many benefits and can be used in so many ways. I’m glad it is being explored more and more. And I’m glad that people are starting to recognize its value as more than just some stoner hippie drug. I do think too much of anything is not a good thing. But I am definitely a fan. I used to grow. It’s a beautiful plant. It should be respected not demonized.”

Photo by Holly Crolley

At the show… 

“Look out!” I shouted, as some scrawny dude came flying at us from the mosh pit over to where we were standing on an upper tier of the venue, knocking Holly, who was too busy adjusting the settings on her camera to see it coming, right to the floor. I saw the impending collision just seconds before impact but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Given the modest task of holding Holly’s beer (so she could fool with the camera) and two of my own, well, my hands were too full to shield her much from the body hurtling at full speed. Not without the two of us wearing enough beer to end up hyperthermal before the end of the night. Not that it mattered in the end. Smaaaaack! As the three soft boys in front of us went down on top of her like a sack of potatoes, so did their beer. Although my photographer had finally arrived it appeared that more trouble was in the wings. The camera was now covered in brew, the lens smudged, maybe even scratched and Cro-Mags were up next. A weaker journalist would have packed it up, sent a scathing message to his editor telling him to ‘fuck the fuck off’ and never spoke of this night again. However, what’s that they say? The show must go on. Shit, and we needed more beer too! 

By the time Cro-Mags came out, it appeared as though the stars of rock journalism had finally aligned—if you believe in all that hippie-dippy, cosmotheistic crap. All I know is the man-made camera was finally in working order and my photographer, the trooper that she is, presumably sans concussion yet reeking of overpriced beer, was in the thick of the performance and on a quest to document whatever hairy hell may come. I couldn’t be bothered with logistics anymore, my job would come later. It was out of my hands now—I’d already given it up to whatever snaggletoothed goblin was haunting me from within the ether. Let that bastard sort it out. 

The rebellion of my teen years, however, had been unleashed, left to swim in a nostalgic sea of testosterone with that new brute smell. Although I’d been steeped in societal contempt from a young age, Flanagan’s presence suggested that I hadn’t throttled the system hard enough in a long time and, well, that was something that needed to change. I thought about that as I watched him from the sidelines owning the stage, belting out with more conviction than any howling stripling twice his junior. Fuck the new heavy, the glam, modern hardcore and every other genre moving in the direction of the American pussification. It was nights like these, those reminiscent of a day less sensitive, when we on occasion got our noses broken by our friends and laughed about it, that we must ask ourselves: Why can’t we take it back to when we frothed at the mouth like animals? Or was it too late for such sentimentalities? Was this gritting state of ruminatiation everyone’s swan song at this point in time, no matter how heavy the cross they bear?

Cro-Mags mowed through their hour-long set, complete with fan favorites “Hard Times” and “Apocalypse Now”, as though their pre-show ritual included gnawing on an electric fence before bitch slapping it with their wieners. As an official representative of an aging punk culture, one left with only a series of faded tattoos and a certain look in our eyes that tells the tale of the so-called born-losers, those who’ve seen some shit and resolved a long time ago to taking no more, this show was perhaps one of the most monumental I had witnessed in many years. My generation, some fallen to the sag as the decades wane while others discover a rebirth in the second act, is one consisting of diehard fans, and its devotion is worn on our sleeves. We had come up when music was the presence of power, and now we, the same as Flanagan, were proof that not only was old man strength real, but we were going to need it too. Sure, it’s like Flanagan said from the stage in the middle of the show that night, perhaps getting honest with the crowd as penance for a young life gone, at times, unpleasantly awry. We can’t change the past, the violence, our despicable acts, but we can lead today better than the last, and do it with kindness and love. “Life is amazing. It’s absolutely great. I would’ve never guessed I would be alive this long, never mind that I would be living my best life, married to an amazing woman, two grown sons, a killer band, and I’m feeling great,” Flanagan told me. “What else can I possibly want? Life is great. I’m living the dream and enjoying the ride. And whether I’m playing in front of a few hundred people, 50 people or 100,000 or I’m training or whatever else it is I’m doing, I’m loving every minute of it and giving it my all every single time. That’s how I live my life.”

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Medical Cannabis Cultivation Bill Approved in New Hampshire House

House Bill 431 was introduced on Jan. 5, 2023, and has proceeded through numerous sessions and hearings before passing in the House on March 22. If passed, it would allow patients as well as caregivers to cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. Additionally, HB-341 would also increase the number of plants that medical cannabis dispensaries can grow, with 80 mature plants, 160 immature plants, and an endless number of seedlings.

The bill requires that patients report their cultivation to the Department of Health and Human Services, and as a qualifying patient or caregiver, would be protected from arrest by state or local law enforcement or penalty under state or municipal law.

During the hearings that have been conducted so far, two concerns have been discussed, according to Rep. Erica Layon of Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs. “This bill as amended provides a framework for therapeutic cannabis patients or their caregivers to grow cannabis with restrictions. This bill addresses two major problems for this community—access and price,” said Layon during a meeting on March 17. “The closest Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) may be far away and the cost of this product is high. Most therapeutic cannabis patients will continue to purchase their product from ATCs and those who choose to grow their own will be able to purchase seedlings from the ATC or grow from seeds according to their preference. This bill has broad support from stakeholders including patient representatives, ATCs and the department.”

Rep. Wendy Thomas, one of the sponsors of HB-341, tweeted about the bill’s progress so far. “Passed on a voice vote of the Consent Calendar—HB-431—Therapeutic home-grow now moves to the Senate One step closer. Thanks to all of the many advocates who have worked to make this happen. Let us not take our foot off the gas until we get this signed,” she posted on March 22. The bill now heads to the senate for further consideration.

On Twitter, Prime Alternative Treatment Centers Director of Public and Government Relations Matt Simon shared that he believes this is the 11th time that a medical cannabis cultivation bill has passed through the House since 2009. According to Simon, only four of those bills passed through the Senate.

As of January, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s office predicts that cannabis legalization will not reach his desk. “It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” Sununu’s office said in a statement to New Hampshire Public Radio. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”

House Bill 360 also recently passed in the House on March 21, which would legalize adult-use cannabis by removing cannabis from the state’s list of banned substances and removing any criminal penalties for cannabis offenses. While cannabis would be legal to possess, cultivate, and purchase, it does not implement any tax or regulation program. It has also moved to the Senate for further consideration.

House Bill 639 has also been making its way through the House. If passed, it would legalize possession, cannabis sales, and gifting of up to four ounces, create a Liquor and Cannabis Commission to manage industry regulations statewide, implement taxes for cultivators, and much more. The latest hearing was held on March 20.

Rep. Anita Burroughs spoke during a floor debate for HB-639 on Feb. 22, and explained that it is “good legislation that is the result of the goodwill and diligent work of both political parties.” “We can now join other New England states that offer safe, regulated and a profitable cannabis industry to their citizens,” she continued.

Other representatives expressed their excitement when HB-639 passed on Feb. 22. “I cast my vote on cannabis legalization from seat 4-20!” Tweeted Rep. Amanda Bouldin. “We did the damn thing #blazeit” Rep. Jessica Grill shared.

Continue Reading
Posted On :

New York Governor Unveils Plan To Address Illicit Pot Shops

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday unveiled new legislation to combat the state’s persistent illicit cannabis operators. The bill, which already has the support of dozens of lawmakers in the New York Senate and State Assembly, also provides increased authority for regulators including the Office of Cannabis Management and the Department of Taxation and Finance to enforce regulations and close stores engaged in illegal cannabis sales.

“Over the past several weeks I have been working with the legislature on new legislation to improve New York’s regulatory structure for cannabis products,” Hochul said in a statement from the governor’s office. “The continued existence of illegal dispensaries is unacceptable, and we need additional enforcement tools to protect New Yorkers from dangerous products and support our equity initiatives.”

New York Legalized Recreational Weed In 2021

New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 and the first recreational marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Manhattan late last year. But so far, only four Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) retailers have opened statewide. Meanwhile, the number of unlicensed pot shops has skyrocketed, prompting operators in the nascent licensed cannabis industry and others to press state officials for action against illicit operators.

Under the proposed legislation announced by Hochul on Wednesday, New York’s tax and cannabis laws would be amended to enable the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) and local law enforcement agencies to enforce restrictions on unlicensed storefront dispensaries. The legislation does not impose new penalties for cannabis possession for personal use by an individual and does not allow local law enforcement officers to perform marijuana enforcement actions against individuals.

“This legislation, for the first time, would allow OCM and DTF to crack down on unlicensed activity, protect New Yorkers, and ensure the success of new cannabis businesses in New York,” the governor’s office wrote. “The legislation would restructure current illicit cannabis penalties to give DTF peace officers enforcement authority, create a manageable, credible, fair enforcement system, and would impose new penalties for retailers that evade State cannabis taxes.”

The bill clarifies and expands the OCM’s authority to seize illicit cannabis products, establishes summary procedures for the OCM and other governmental entities to shut down unlicensed businesses, and creates a framework for more effective cooperative efforts among agencies. 

Violations of the law could lead to fines of $200,000 for illicit cannabis plants or products. The legislation also allows the OCM to fine businesses up to $10,000 per day for engaging in cannabis sales without a license from the state.

Elliot Choi, chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, hailed the use of financial penalties instead of jail time to help reign in New York’s illicit cannabis market. 

“Governor Hochul’s proposed legislation is very much welcomed as prior efforts to combat the illicit dispensaries haven’t appeared to have much of an impact,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “We support the use of fines as opposed to incarceration to avoid recriminalization and a return of anything that resembles the prior failed war on drugs.” 

In addition to fines for unlicensed cannabis operators, Choi said that penalizing property owners who rent to unlicensed businesses would also be an appropriate tool for the state’s cannabis regulators and called for an increase in funding for state agencies tasked with controlling underground operators.

“Landlords should not have any incentives to rent to illegal operators and should be financially punished for doing so,” said Choi. “Finally, both the OCM and the Department of Taxation and Finance need additional resources to enforce as the OCM already has enough on their plate getting the regulations finalized and corresponding licenses issued in a timely fashion.”

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Targeting Illegal Weed Industry

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that targets the illicit weed industry by requiring medical marijuana businesses to provide proof that they are legally occupying the property where their operations are located. The measure, Senate Bill 806, was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 41-1 on Tuesday and now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

The legislation is one of dozens of bills designed to reign in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry that have been introduced following the defeat of a ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis earlier this month. Senator Brent Howard, the author of Senate Bill 806, said that the bill is designed to help law enforcement regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in 2018 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure. If passed by the House and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt, the legislation would limit the number of medical marijuana businesses that can list the same physical address on their license applications.

“Those who regulate our medical marijuana industry are running into problems when they raid a facility only to learn that there are numerous licensees who utilize that one address and all have product stored there,” Howard said about Senate Bill 806. “This makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to know what product is actually illegal and to properly investigate the case. This measure would limit the number of licenses that can be listed under one address to help improve regulation and shut down illegal business activity.”

Under the bill, applicants for medical marijuana business licenses would be required to provide proof that they own or rent the property at the address listed on the application. Such proof could consist of a copy of an executed deed of conveyance or a signed lease for the property. An address or physical location would not be permitted to have multiple licenses within the same medical marijuana license category. The bill is designed to help the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) and the state Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) identify medical marijuana businesses that are operating without a required license from the state.

“By requiring full disclosure of possessory right, OMMA and OBN will be able to ensure no illegal operations or bad foreign actors are abusing Oklahoma lands and citizens,” Howard said. “This bill would also ensure we know that there are no straw purchasers for illegal foreign owners coming in after the initial application.”

Recreational Weed Measure Failed This Month in Oklahoma

Senate Bill 806 is one of several bills that have been introduced to help regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized in Oklahoma with the passage of State Quest 788 in 2018. With low barriers to entry including license fees for cannabis businesses of only $2,500 and no limit on the number of cannabis dispensaries, Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry quickly grew to become one of the largest in the nation.

State Question 788 also had few restrictions to qualify for a medical marijuana card, and the number of registered patients now equals nearly 10% of the state’s population. As of November 2022, Oklahoma had more than 2,300 medical marijuana dispensaries, more than the number of gas stations in the state, according to a report from local media.

Earlier this month, the state’s Republican governor said the state of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program is largely responsible for the failure of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana at a special election on March 7. The proposal, State Question 820, was rejected by nearly 62% of voters.

“There’s enough marijuana, I’ve been told, grown in Oklahoma to supply the entire United States. That’s not what this was supposed to be,” Stitt said after State Question 820 failed at the polls. “This was supposed to be about medical use in the state of Oklahoma, and it’s gotten way out of control.”

“As I was traveling the state, I knew Oklahomans didn’t want it,” Stitt added. “They were so tired of a dispensary on every single corner.”

Since then, state lawmakers have filed dozens of cannabis-related bills for this year’s legislative. This week, state Attorney General Gentner Drummond praised Oklahoma lawmakers for passing three of the measures, including Senate Bill 806.

“Oklahoma’s illegal marijuana grow operations pose a serious threat to public safety, particularly in rural communities invaded by organized criminals from China and Mexico,” Drummond said in a statement on Tuesday. “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to working arm-in-arm with Oklahoma’s law enforcement agencies to deliver justice and restore peaceful order.”

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Arizona Advances Bill To Make Medical Cannabis Available to Patients with PTSD, Autism

A bill that would expand the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis and lower the cost of the treatment was approved by lawmakers in Arizona. 

The bill, SB 1466, was approved on Monday by a legislative committee. If it were to become law, the measure would result in a host of changes to the state’s medical cannabis law––perhaps most notably, the addition of autism and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions. 

It was approved by a 7-2 vote by members of the Health and Human Services Committee Hearing.

The outlet AZMarijuana has a rundown of the key points of the bill, which includes: “Reduction of medical marijuana card costs to $50, with renewals every 2 years; 100% waiver of medical marijuana card costs to veterans; Adding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder into statute; Adds Autism Spectrum Disorder as a debilitating medical condition; Alignment of the advertising, packaging, and branding to match the rules in Smart and Safe; Requires protections for children – child resistant packaging, prohibits advertising attractive to children, adds advertising restrictions; Alignment of the definition of marijuana and marijuana products; Codifying the use of telehealth; Updating the details of the requirements in the QR Code and track/traceability; Provide a unified cover sheet for COAs to simplify consumer/patient experience; Removes a government-led lab testing council and replaces with a full public forum.” 

The group Arizona Dispensaries Association has strongly backed the legislation.

“ADA supports SB1466, which gives veterans the ability to acquire a medical marijuana card at no cost,” said Ann Torrez, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association, as quoted by AZMarijuana. “Often veterans suffer from PTSD, insomnia, heightened anxiety and chronic pain. A free medical marijuana card gives veteran patients access to medical cannabis treatment for any of these common conditions.”

“The ADA’s primary mission is to promote and advocate for a safe, consumer-focused cannabis industry in Arizona,” Torrez continued. “We aim to continuously educate consumers on the importance of visiting only licensed dispensaries and consuming only THC and CBD products that have been lab tested and approved.”

The bill is being considered at a time when Arizona’s medical cannabis industry is enduring sluggish sales. 

In October, medical marijuana sales in the state amounted to a little more than $31 million, which was the eighth consecutive month of decline. 

Meanwhile, the state’s adult-use cannabis market, which launched in January 2021, continues to thrive.

In that same month, recreational cannabis sales in Arizona totaled $73.8 million, which was a new high.

As AZ Mirror reported earlier this year, the “crumbling of the medical program follows a pattern other states have seen with medical markets outpaced by recreational sales in the wake of legalization.”

The outlet reported in January: “The state collects 16% excise tax on recreational sales in addition to the standard sales tax; medical patients pay roughly 6% in state sales tax, levied as a Transaction Privilege Tax on cannabis outlets. Local jurisdictions charge an additional 2% or so for all marijuana sales. One-third of recreational taxes collected are dedicated to community college and provisional community college districts; 31% to public safety — police, fire departments, fire districts, first responders — 25% to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund, and 10% to the justice reinvestment fund, dedicated to providing public health services, counseling, job training and other social services for communities that have been adversely affected and disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests and criminalization. The medical market has continued to bleed both sales and participants, following a trend in some states that have legalized adult-use cannabis years after establishing medical cannabis markets.”

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Czech Republic Cannabis Magazine Editor in Chief Found Guilty for Publishing Weed Content

Robert Veverka is editor in chief and publisher of a Czech Republic publication called Legalizace, which has been publishing since 2010. According to Volteface, it often contained content relating to how to obtain cannabis illegally, how to grow the plant, and how to process and use it. It would also occasionally contain seed packets, as sale and possession of cannabis seeds is legal, as well as advertisements for fertilizer or seed banks.

It began five years ago when a local Czech grower was caught growing 38 cannabis plants using seeds contained in Legalizace. Although the grower intended to use cannabis to make a topical cream for himself, law enforcement began to look more closely at the Veverka and his magazine.

Veverka was taken to court starting in summer 2020. By November 2021, the District Court of Bruntál fined Veverka 50,000 Kč (or Czech Koruna, which equates to approximately $2,200 USD). According to presiding Judge Marek Stach, Veverka was guilty of producing more than 200 articles, published between 2010-2020, which could tempt readers to conduct illegal acts relating to cannabis. Stach added that “even one single article with the potential to incite readers is enough for the Legalizace magazine to constitute the crime of inciting and promoting toxicomania,” according to a press release from Legalizace and covered by the International Cannabis Business Conference.

Veverka chose to appeal that initial ruling, claiming that he was sentenced under a “rubber law.” “It is very flexible, [and] includes a paragraph that says that the promotion of illegal substances, with the exception of alcohol, can be considered a crime,” he said in an interview with CannaReporter about the law.

Most recently in March, Veverka was convicted in a regional court in Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic, for “inciting the abuse of addictive substances” and “spreading drug addiction through his magazine.” The next step would be for Veverka to appeal to the Supreme and Constitutional Court. “I will try to take this further to the highest courts to protect not only myself but any other media outlet that chooses to write about cannabis,” Veverka told Prague Morning.

In an interview with Cannabis Therapy on March 13, Veverka spoke about the most recent verdict. “I feel branded, damaged, and personally disgusted,” Veverka said. “Unfortunately, the verdict lends credence to the prosecution’s case, which reflects an ignorance of cannabis legislation and is based on a general repressive view that positive information about cannabis is unacceptable to the establishment. Moreover, according to my three-year prosecution and the court’s verdict, publishing is even an illegal activity.”

“The court’s judgement refers to a section in the law on the propagation of “toxicomania”—toxic addiction—a Bolshevik relic from the days of the totalitarian communist regime, which also prosecuted and punished people for inappropriate opinions,” he continued.

The current verdict leaves Veverka the choice to either pay CZK 250,000 (approximately $11,000 USD) or go to prison. “I definitely do not agree with the verdict: I consider the punishment for disseminating objective and comprehensive information—even on such a controversial topic as the regulation and use of cannabis—to be a systemic error of judgement and punitive bullying,” Veverka said.

However, he ended the interview by stating that this won’t stop him from advocating for cannabis and eventually publishing his magazine in the future. “I still have commitments to my readers, so I am not giving up on the idea of relaunching [Legalization] magazine,” he said. “Therefore, I sincerely hope that I will read in the reasoning of the judgement exactly what the facts are regarding where and with what I have committed said crime of ‘dissemination of intoxication,’ so that I can avoid any unlawful acts in the future. Otherwise, continuing to publish will be a very difficult thing, because one cannot do business within a cloud of legal uncertainty.”

Next, he plans to attend the 2023 Million Marijuana March demonstration that is being planned for the end of May.

Cannabis has been decriminalized in the Czech Republic since 2010, and medical cannabis became legal in 2013. Recreational cannabis use and possession is not legal, but the Czech government is drafting a bill to regulate the industry, which was originally expected to be presented in March 2023, according to Forbes. In October 2022, Czech Republic drug commissioner Jindřich Vobořil explained that the Czech Republic is coordinating with German officials to create a similar approach to adult-use cannabis legalization.

Continue Reading
Posted On :

U.S. Conservative Group Calls for Prince Harry to be Deported Over Past Drug Use

Prince Harry’s visa should be denied and he should be deported from the U.S., a conservative group is demanding.

When Prince Harry detailed his history with pot and other drugs in his autobiography, he made heads roll, especially in conservative circles on both sides of the Atlantic. The Heritage Foundation—a conservative think tank in operation for over 50 years—called for the deportation of Prince Harry over his admissions to past drug use including pot and cocaine. 

The Duke of Sussex, 38, is currently living in Los Angeles with his wife Meghan Markle and son, Archie. But Harry is living on a visa, and has no plans of seeking permanent U.S. residency or U.S. citizenship, despite being eligible. The couple quit the Royal Family and moved to California in January 2020, where they continued to be a focal point for tabloids and aggressive paparazzi.

A representative from The Heritage Foundation said the organization is in arms with the U.S. State Department, as they are refusing to release any details about Prince Harry’s visa application, The Mercury News reports. 

The power couple is often the target of conservative media, which often sides with the Royal Family instead of Prince Harry. The Heritage Foundation entered the arena by challenging his visa status.

“This request is in the public interest in light of the potential revocation of Prince Harry’s visa for illicit substance use and further questions regarding the Prince’s drug use and whether he was properly vetted before entering the United States,” Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, told the Daily Mail.

In Prince Harry’s controversial autobiography Spare, which was published this past January, he revealed that he first snorted coke at age 17 and again on a few other occasions. He also toked up after his first date with Meghan Markle. “I started doing it recreationally and then started to realize how good it was for me,” Harry said. “I would say it is one of the fundamental parts of my life that changed me and helped me deal with the traumas and the pains of the past.”

Prince Harry also detailed his adventures with shrooms, talking to the toilet and having strange visions. High Times has been following reports of his pot use since at least 2017. (Tyler Dooley, Meghan’s nephew and the son of Meghan’s half-brother Thomas Markle Jr., got into the cannabis industry back in 2015 and released the Markle Sparkle strain.)

Is Prince Harry’s Visa Truly at Risk?

But according to law, visa records are considered confidential. “Visa records are confidential under Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases,” a U.S. State Department spokesman said. 

Legal experts aren’t sure if Harry’s past drug use actually could threaten his visa status, allowing him to stay in the United States to live and work. “An admission of drug use is usually grounds for inadmissibility,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Page Six. “That means Prince Harry’s visa should have been denied or revoked because he admitted to using cocaine, mushrooms and other drugs.”

New Jersey-based attorney James Leonard, disagreed with Rahmani and said that Prince Harry’s visa status is not at risk.

“Absent any criminal charge related to drugs or alcohol or any finding by a judicial authority that Prince Harry is a habitual drug user, which he clearly is not, I don’t see any issue with the disclosures in his memoir regarding recreational experimentation with drugs,” Leonard said.

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Mississippi Lawmakers Approve Changes to Medical Cannabis Law

Mississippi lawmakers last week approved a bill mandating changes to the state’s Medical Cannabis Act, the bill to legalize medical marijuana that was passed by the legislature last year. The measure, House Bill 1158, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Tate Reeves for his consideration.

Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell, a Republican and one of the bill’s authors, said that the legislation clarifies provisions of Mississippi’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2022.

“Unfortunately the Department of Health in their rules and regs probably accepted some things that were not intentioned by the bill,” Blackwell said on the Senate floor on March 8. “So we are trying to correct those … and we do so in the bill.”

The primary author of the legislation, Republican Representative Lee Yancey, gave an example of a rule enacted by state regulators that would be rolled back by House Bill 158 if the governor signs the legislation.

“The Board of Medical Licensure began implementing additional requirements for doctors to be able to certify people, so… and that was not in the bill. So, it was not our intention for there to be any additional requirement,” said Yancey, who noted that the bill is designed to help Mississippi’s medical marijuana program operate more smoothly. “So, they have to do those eight hours the first year, and then there’s five hours of continuing education every year after that. We felt like that was sufficient just to keep them apprised of what the new research was showing.”

In an attempt to prevent similar discrepancies between state laws and regulations passed by state agencies in the future, the measure also includes language designed to prevent regulators from passing rules that do not comply with the state’s medical marijuana statute.

“No state agency, political subdivision or board shall implement any rule, regulation, policy, or requirement that is contrary to the provisions of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act,” reads the text of the bill.

Bill Makes Several Changes To Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act

House Bill 1158 also makes investigations by state agencies, including citations issued by the Department of Health, confidential until an investigation into the matter has been completed. An earlier version of the bill kept such records out of public view indefinitely, but some senators argued that keeping such material off the public record for any length of time is not acceptable.

“I think if it was put out in transparency, it would dispel any of the back and forth on social media,” said Republican Senator Angela Burks Hill, one of five senators who voted against the bill. “I think hiding that is only going to fuel that speculation.”

The bill also makes the physical address of all medical marijuana companies except dispensaries confidential. During public hearings on the legislation, Yancey said the provision was designed to protect the security of cannabis operators, who often must keep large quantities of product and cash onsite.

House Bill 1158 also requires the Mississippi Department of Health to approve a patient’s application to use medical marijuana within 10 days, a reduction from the current requirement of 30 days. The change was enacted to help address a backlog in processing applications by the agency.

Other changes include allowing patients to conduct follow-up visits with a doctor other than the one who first approved the medical marijuana recommendation without experiencing a lapse in certification or access to medicinal cannabis. Additionally, medical professionals who have approved a patient to use medical marijuana are now permitted to assist them with filling out the required state application for a medical marijuana identification card.

Another provision of the legislation allows dispensaries to sell topical medical cannabis products that can not be ingested to adults 21 and older without a medical marijuana identification card. The bill also allows licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell hemp-derived products that are legal under federal law, including low-THC CBD formulations. The bill also specifies that hemp products are not subject to control by the state’s Medical Cannabis Act.

The bill also permits the Department of Health to contract with private laboratories to conduct compliance testing of medical marijuana products. Such labs, however, are not permitted to conduct commercial analyses for licensed medical marijuana businesses. Under the legislation, labs conducting testing for licensed medical marijuana businesses are permitted to become licensed cannabis transporters or to contract the services of an independent licensed transporter. 

The legislation also allows licensed medical marijuana businesses to use marijuana imagery in company logos and other branding. Photographs of medical marijuana products for sale may be posted online by dispensaries.

House Bill 1158 received final approval from the Mississippi legislature on March 14. The bill now awaits action from the governor.

Continue Reading
Posted On :

Taliban Bans Weed Cultivation

Sharia law in the Taliban-dominated country of Afghanistan now bans weed cultivation along a long list of other basic freedoms.

The Express-Tribune reports that Taliban supreme leader Mawlavi Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a decree in Kabul, Afghanistan that the cultivation of cannabis is prohibited across the country. The decree was reported on March 19. When someone is caught growing cannabis, the operation will be destroyed and violators punished according to Sharia law.

“Cultivation in the whole country is completely banned and if anyone grows them, the plantation will be destroyed. The courts have also been ordered to punish the violators as per Sharia laws,” stated Akhundzada.

Who is Akhundzada? CBS News reported on Feb. 17, 2023 that Akhundzada has essentially taken Afghanistan back to the “Stone Age,” with one of the most draconian takes on Sharia law. Within two years, he took women out of schools in the country, again. Even the Taliban’s acting Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani criticized Akhundzada’s thirst for power.

What exactly are punishments under Sharia law? The “crimes” of apostasy, revolt, adultery, slander, and alcohol carry penalties that include the amputation of hands and feet, flogging, and/or death. This also includes punishments for the uncovered bodies and hair of women.

Cannabis (and opium) trade is believed to have “fueled militancy” in Afghanistan before the Taliban’s rise to power in 2021. After Sept. 11, 2001 insurgents in Afghanistan never gave up, for over 20 years.

On April, 14, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that remaining troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by Sept. 11, 2021, 20 years after 9-11. Four presidents subsequently failed to dissolve the Taliban. But after announcing the withdrawal, the Taliban military immediately sprung into action and took the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15, 2021, causing the government to collapse. The Taliban announced control about a month later.

Cannabis in Afghanistan

Cannabis cultivation is by no means a limited underground phenomenon in Afghanistan.

For background, cannabis remains one of the most produced crops by farmers across the country. Afghanistan “is the second country most frequently reported as the origin of seized cannabis resin worldwide, accounting for 18 percent of all reports on the main ‘country of origin’ in the period 2015–2019,” the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) reported in 2021. Only Morocco reports more seizures of cannabis resin.

Between 10,000 and 24,000 hectares of cannabis were grown every year in Afghanistan, with major operations in 17 out 34 provinces the UNODC reported in 2010.

It’s kind of a double standard if you look at what the Taliban has done in the past. Before the Taliban took over power once again in 2021, militants reportedly “siphoned off millions of dollars” from pot farmers and the smugglers who ship cannabis.

Creating more hypocrisy, the Taliban claimed to have partnered with a medical cannabis company in 2021.

Taliban Press Director Qari Saeed Khosty claimed that a contract had been signed between the government and a cannabis firm called Cpharm to set up a $450 million cannabis processing centre in Afghanistan, and further that the facility would be “up and running within days.” The news ran globally, picked up by outlets including the Times of London.

This also coincided with a report on Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News Service that representatives of the company met with counter-narcotic officials at the Ministry of the Interior to discuss the production of medicines and creams. 

Cpharm Australia, the first company named in the press as being involved in the deal, subsequently rebuked the claim, according to Reuters. 

For the time being, cannabis cultivation is banned for everyone else in the country.

Continue Reading
Posted On :