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Minnesota Files Lawsuit Against Several Companies for Illicit Edible Sales

The state of Minnesota said Monday that it is suing a trio of businesses for alleged violations of the state’s edible cannabinoid laws, saying that they are selling products that contain up to 50 times the permitted amount of THC. 

The lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy targets three companies, one of which, Northland Vapor—a company with retail locations in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota—allegedly “sold edible cannabinoid products that contain THC far in excess of five milligrams per serving and far in excess of 50 milligrams per package.”

Under Minnesota state law, the Board of Pharmacy explained, “an edible cannabinoid product…must not contain more than five milligrams of any hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a single serving or more than a total of 50 milligrams per package.”

Investigators for the agency “found packages containing 2,500 milligrams of THC, 50 times the amount permitted under Minnesota law,” the Board said. 

Perhaps the most notable contraband swept up in the investigation were thousands of packages of the Delta-8 THC products known as “Death by Gummy Bears.”

As the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy explained, the “U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received complaints about serious adverse events associated with Northland Vapor’s ‘Death by Gummy Bears’ delta-8 THC products, including a death.”

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New Mexico Company Supports Medical Pot Patients With Workers’ Compensation Access

Bennabis Health recently announced that its medical cannabis program is now available to patients living in New Mexico. The company has partnered with AltaVida Dispensary, located in Albuquerque, to help aid medical cannabis patients, specifically with workers’ compensation cases involving a patient seeking to use cannabis as medicine for chronic pain.

“This is a tremendously exciting step in the growth of Bennabis Health as a visionary company clearing a path for those who can benefit most from medical cannabis where coverage is not otherwise available,” said Bennabis Health president Don Parisi. “Opening our network in New Mexico with AltaVida helps us progress in our mission to achieve medical cannabis benefits across the country.”

New Mexico’s Workers’ Compensation states that medical cannabis can be used by an injured worker “when deemed ‘reasonable and necessary care’ under the Workers’ Compensation Act.” However, patients have to pay out of pocket and are later reimbursed.

“In certain states like New Mexico and New Jersey, workers’ compensation claims cases can require medical marijuana costs be reimbursed by the carrier when it offers reasonable and necessary treatment as an appropriate alternative to opioids,” a Bennabis Health press release states. “However, in these cases the injured worker would have to pay out-of-pocket a substantial amount per month for their medical marijuana, and then seek reimbursement from their payor.”

Bennabis Health offers what they call a “layer of protection between the dispensary and the payor” through its membership program and a team of health insurance and cannabis industry professionals. One of its founders, Anne M. Davis, originally discovered cannabis as a treatment for her multiple sclerosis but her health insurance didn’t cover her switch to medical cannabis because it’s a federally illegal substance and Schedule I drug.

Earlier this year in March, the company partnered with a New Jersey dispensary to offer similar benefits prior to its expansion into New Mexico.

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Dispensaries’ Cashless ATM Transactions Get The Ax

Cannabis dispensaries in several states were left scrambling to find ways to process transactions without cash when a popular workaround to federal banking regulations known as cashless ATMs stopped working for many retailers beginning last week. Cashless ATMs, also known as “point of banking” systems, allow customers to use bank cards instead of cash at cannabis dispensaries, giving retailers and their patrons alike more flexibility when processing transactions for marijuana purchases.

But beginning last week, some of the biggest ATM transaction processors including NCR Corp.’s Columbus Data Services have shut down the ability of cashless ATM transaction processors to use their service, according to unidentified sources cited by Bloomberg. NCR declined to comment on the situation, according to the report.

“This is a pivotal point in cannabis banking,” Ryan Hamlin, chief executive officer of payment technology provider Posabit Systems Corp., told Bloomberg about the cashless ATM shutdowns.

Notice Given Last Year

Late last year, international payment processing giant Visa announced in a memo to retailers that it “was aware of a scheme where POS devices marketed as ‘Cashless ATMs’ are being deployed at merchant outlets.” 

The system worked by rounding up purchases, often to multiples of $20, to make the transaction appear to be cash disbursements. Instead, only the change from the transaction would be returned to the customer, and the dispensary would keep the rest to cover the payment for the purchase.

“Cashless ATMs are POS devices driven by payment applications that mimic standalone ATMs. However, no cash disbursements are made to cardholders,” the December 2021 memo continues. “Instead, the devices are used for purchase transactions, which are miscoded as ATM cash disbursements. Purchase amounts are often rounded up to create the appearance of a cash disbursement.

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Legalization Amendment To Be Added to Missouri Constitution

Missouri’s state constitution will have a new entry this week, with the voter-approved recreational cannabis amendment slated to be added on Thursday. 

The Springfield News-Leader reports that while Amendment 3, which was approved by Missouri voters in last month’s election, will be added to the state constitution this week, “Missourians won’t be impacted by the majority of its legislation until next year.”

“At the earliest, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in February. And though some non-violent marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged this week, this isn’t the case for all,” according to the News-Leader.

Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 3 last month by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The leadup to the vote was shrouded in uncertainty for supporters of the amendment. It wasn’t until August that Missouri’s secretary of state confirmed that Amendment 3 had qualified for the ballot. 

There were questions in the summer surrounding the petitions submitted by Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the amendment. 

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Biden Signs Bill To Expand Medical Cannabis Research

President Joe Biden added his signature last week to a bipartisan bill that seeks to broaden and streamline research into medical cannabis. 

Dubbed the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act,” the law “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development,” according to a release on Friday from the White House. 

Despite medical marijuana’s ubiquity throughout the country, cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, which has hamstrung the potential for research into the area. The newly signed bill aims to change that. 

It passed the United States Senate last month with bipartisan support after it won approval in the U.S. House of Representatives with the Democratic and Republican votes in July. 

It is the byproduct of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which celebrated Biden’s signing of the bill on Friday.

The group of lawmakers touted the measure as “the first standalone federal marijuana reform law enacted since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act in 1971.”

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U.S. Youth Ditch Alcohol for Cannabis in Record Numbers, Study Says

American youth are smoking pot more than ever before, but according to the same data, they are dropping booze habits at the same time—begging the question if society is better off as a whole.

The findings were published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Toxicology, pinpointing precisely 338,727 instances of intentional abuse or misuse amongst American children aged 6-18. Americans did a fairly good job of keeping drugs away from young children, however, as most of the cases involving smaller children 6-12 were accidental and usually involving over-the-counter items such as vitamins and hormones.

Among American youth, cannabis use rose 245% since 2000 in the U.S., while alcohol abuse has steadily declined over the same period. “Young people are ditching alcohol for marijuana,” Neuroscience News reports.

“Ethanol abuse cases exceeded the number of marijuana cases every year from 2000 until 2013,” stated Dr Adrienne Hughes, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, one of the authors of the study. “Since 2014, marijuana exposure cases have exceeded ethanol cases every year, and by a greater amount each year than the prior.” 

“These edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they are considered more discrete and convenient,” says Hughes.

Researchers pointed out what most of us already know: that problems associated with cannabis usually involve edibles that take hours to creep up.

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Portland Shop Openly Selling Psychedelic Mushrooms

A Portland herbal shop is openly selling psilocybin mushrooms, drawing lines of people waiting more than two hours to get their hands on varieties of psychedelic fungi including Penis Envy and Knobby Tops. 

In November 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 109, a ballot proposition to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin by therapists licensed by the Oregon Health Authority. The successful ballot measure is currently undergoing a two-year implementation period, with the OHA currently drafting regulations to govern the production, distribution and administration of psilocybin for medicinal purposes. 

Another ballot proposition passed that year, Measure 110, decriminalized possession of small amounts of all drugs including psilocybin, but did not legalize the production or sale of controlled substances. Under federal law, psilocybin mushrooms continue to be a prohibited Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Despite the fact that the OHA has yet to issue any licenses to psilocybin providers, the herbal products retailer Shroom House in Portland has apparently begun selling its namesake fungi. Last week, a local television news station reported that the shop’s owner had admitted to selling psilocybin mushrooms after a former employee contacted the outlet about the possibility of illegal sales and distribution occurring at the facility.

“I was led to believe by management at Shroom House that this was the first medically licensed and sanctioned place to buy psychedelics in the state of Oregon,” Kace Colwell told KOIN 6. “They’re breaking all sorts of laws over there.”

Application Required From Potential Customers

To purchase psilocybin mushrooms at Shroom House, customers are required to provide two forms of identification and fill out an application to become a member of the Shroom House Society, according to a report from Willamette Week. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and complete a questionnaire that asks about anxiety and depression, among other mental health conditions. A reporter from the weekly publication was able to purchase psilocybin mushrooms within about five minutes of submitting an application. 

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Cannabis Industry Gives Back This Holiday Season

Seasonal slogans like “holiday spirit” and “the season of giving” are an annual reminder to give back to those in need. Here are just a few great examples of how cannabis businesses continue to give back.

Ayr Wellness, which has dispensaries operating in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, announced on Dec. 5 that it would be starting its “12 Days of Giving” campaign. While every purchase at its dispensaries will collect $1.12 per transaction to two of its partner organizations, Freedom Grow and Minorities or Medical Marijuana Project Clean Slate Initiative. Overall, Ayr Wellness aims to reach a goal of collecting more than $100,000, which will go toward supporting cannabis prisoners and their families, as well as various advocacy efforts and expungement programs. “Ayr’s ‘12 Days of Giving’ initiative aims to reinforce our commitment to being a Force for Good by activating twelve days of charitable giving across our retail footprint,” said Ayr president David Goubert. “This marks Ayr’s second year of the program, which is poised to directly benefit the families of those who have been incarcerated for cannabis offenses.”

Florida-based AFC Foundation, which offers financing in the cannabis industry, recently made a donation to Georgia-based Corners Outreach organization. In the past, AFC Foundation has also contributed donations to groups like Pennsylvania Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, Yo Soy Ella, and The Weldon Project. According to AFC Foundation president and co-founder Robyn Tannenbaum, it’s essential for the company to give back. “The evolution of the cannabis industry is heavily reliant on the health of the communities in which the businesses operate. As a result, it is imperative that we work to improve these communities and invest in their future endeavors,” said Tannenbaum. “We are proud to continue our efforts to enact social change. More importantly, we are excited to support an organization like Corners Outreach that works to improve education and career opportunities for families.”

In November, Michigan-based Puff Cannabis gave out more than 1,700 turkeys prior to Thanksgiving. Now, the brand announced its “Jackets for Joints” event. Running between Dec. 5-18, the campaign is asking for coats and jackets that fit kids between the ages of three to 12. In exchange, Puff is giving out one jar of pre-rolls. Puff president Justin Elias expressed the need for kids in Michigan. “I recognize that due to the times we live in, many children throughout the state of Michigan need warm jackets and coats and our ‘Jackets for Joints’ program will come to the aid of many of those little ones,” Elias said. “I hope we can collect and give away thousands of warm jackets and coats this winter in order to keep our children warm.”

40 Tons, which is an organization dedicated to assisting people affected by cannabis convictions, as well as their families. This past weekend, the organization held a Canna Christmas event that invited attendees to donate to a Christmas wish list created by people who have a loved one currently incarcerated for cannabis. Although the event has already passed, 40 Tons is a worthwhile organization to donate to this holiday as it continues to help others.

A medical dispensary in West Virginia called Cannabist recently donated $6,473.65 to its local American Legion Post 159 last week. Cannabist has four locations in the state, and took a portion of funds from weekly sales that will go on to fund scholarship opportunities for local high schools, provide funds for state capitol trips, and more.

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Senator Files Bill To Prep for Federal Cannabis Legalization

Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado on Thursday introduced legislation designed to prepare the country for national cannabis legalization, laying the groundwork for drafting regulations to govern legal marijuana at the federal level. The bill, the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act, directs the U.S. attorney general to develop a regulatory framework to be in place for the eventual federal legalization of cannabis by Congress, which is likely inevitable as the popularity of cannabis policy reform continues to grow.

Hickenlooper was the governor of Colorado when voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012. A month later, he convened the Amendment 64 Task Force to provide recommendations for the establishment of regulations that set the stage for Colorado’s successful legal cannabis industry. Last month, 10 years after Amendment 64 was approved by Colorado voters, Hickenlooper revealed that he planned to introduce the bipartisan PREPARE Act to create a similar commission at the federal level. 

“A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,” Hickenlooper said in a statement from the senator’s office. “This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force, will replicate our success nationally.”

Companion Measure To House Bill

Hickenlooper’s legislation is a companion bill to a House version of the measure sponsored by Representative Dave Joyce, a Republican from Ohio.

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act has been introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” said Joyce. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis.” 

“With those answers, Congress can develop a much-needed federal regulatory framework that not only respects the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state, but also ensures a responsible end to prohibition and a safer future for our communities,” he continued. “I was proud to lead the introduction of this commonsense bill in the House and thank Senator Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate.”

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Study Finds Weed Cases Are Clogging Pennsylvania Courts

Marijuana-related criminal cases are clogging local courts in Pennsylvania and putting an unnecessary burden on scarce law enforcement resources, according to a new study from a justice reform advocacy organization.

The Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, reviewed 27,826 criminal cases of all kinds prosecuted in Lehigh County and Northampton County between January 2018 and March 2021. The group’s analysis found that “marijuana criminalization slows our criminal justice system” and puts a strain on “understaffed public defenders” in the two jurisdictions.

According to the report, a total of 4,559 (about one in six) of the cases included a marijuana charge. Among those cases, 96% also involved an additional nonviolent offense, or co-charge. The analysis also found that marijuana-related court cases took an average of nearly five months (162 days) to reach a conclusion. The report noted that the longest-lasting marijuana-related case took 1,129 days, or more than three years, to be resolved in the courts. The case also included one additional charge of disorderly conduct that was eventually withdrawn by the district attorney’s office.

A Waste Of Public Resources 

Joe Welsh, the executive director at the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, said the report illustrates how prosecuting marijuana cases is expanding scarce public resources that could instead fund efforts to address “real crime.” Welsh also noted that nearby states including neighboring New Jersey have legalized adult-use cannabis, further illustrating the futility of continued prohibition. Regulated sales of adult-use cannabis began in New Jersey in April after Governor Phil Murphy signed recreational marijuana legislation into law in February 2021.

“Police are spending time charging people with marijuana offenses. That’s time taken away from serious crimes like rapes, murders and assaults,” Welsh said. “Particularly, considering that you can walk across the Northampton Street Bridge between Easton and Phillipsburg and purchase marijuana.”

Under Pennsylvania state law, marijuana possession is classified as a misdemeanor offense carrying penalties of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days. However, local laws passed in Allentown and Bethlehem in 2018 reduced such charges to summary offenses, which do not require a suspect to be arrested. Instead, those convicted of a summary offense can avoid jail time and pay a fine as low as $25 for a first offense.

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