The Latest Marijuana News Today | HighTimes Magazine The Magazine Of High Society Fri, 13 Jan 2023 16:18:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Latest Marijuana News Today | HighTimes Magazine 32 32 174047951 Illinois Lawmaker Introduces Psychedelics Legalization Bill Fri, 13 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 An Illinois state lawmaker has introduced legislation to legalize natural psychedelics including psilocybin for therapeutic use.

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An Illinois state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would legalize psychedelics including psilocybin, the primary psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, for therapeutic use. The bill, dubbed The Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens (CURE) Act, was introduced by Democratic state Representative La Shawn Ford on Wednesday. 

The bill, which Ford unveiled on the opening day of the new legislative session in Illinois, would create a regulated psychedelic therapy program that would be overseen by an advisory committee. The measure, which has been designated as House Bill 1 (HB1), also removes the criminal penalties for the personal use of psilocybin, a provision Ford said in a statement was needed to protect patients and providers. Ford noted that while existing criminal prohibitions on the drugs are rarely enforced, “formally removing them ensures that patients won’t be turned into criminals simply for seeking health, healing and wellness.”

“I’ve been seeing more and more legitimate scientific evidence, including information coming from the FDA, showing that psychedelic therapy is not only safe, but also very effective, particularly for the toughest patients for whom other treatments have not worked,” Ford said in a press release about the legislation. “At the same time, I am also hearing from patients and from their medical providers, that Illinoisans should have access to these exciting new treatment options.”

HB 1 Legalizes Psychedelic Therapies in Illinois

Under the legislation, adults aged 18 and up will be permitted to seek supervised psychedelic therapy from trained facilitators. Psychedelic compounds used under the program must be produced and tested at licensed facilities. Ford stressed that while the measure legalizes possession of psychedelics, it does not authorize any type of commercial sales of entheogenic compounds.

“I want to be clear that this is a health measure. My proposal does not allow retail sales of psilocybin outside of a regulated therapeutic setting and ensures that medicines purchased for therapeutic use at a service center must be used under medical supervision, and cannot be taken home,” said Ford. “Only licensed facilitators will be allowed to provide treatment at closely regulated and licensed healing centers, approved health care facilities, in hospice, or at a pre-approved patient residence.”

Ford noted in his statement that a growing body of research into entheogenic plants and fungi such as psilocybin is showing that the drugs have the potential to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. Psychedelics may also be effective treatments for neurological conditions such as cluster headaches, migraines, cancer, and phantom limbs. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is so promising that psilocybin has been given “breakthrough treatment” status designation by the FDA.

Bill Marks A New Step In Psychedelics Policy Reform Efforts

Although the bill is focused on naturally occurring psychedelic compounds, Joshua Kappel, founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelic law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, notes that the bill’s provisions are not limited to traditionally cultivated or foraged entheogens. The difference marks a significant evolution of psychedelics policy reform efforts, which so far have resulted in two states legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic use.

“It builds off Colorado and Oregon in a very thoughtful and progressive way, including permitting synthetic varieties of the natural medicines permitted in Colorado,” Kappel writes in an email to High Times, “which is key development from a sustainability perspective.”

House Bill 1 has already gained the support of a broad coalition of medical and mental health professionals, researchers, patients, and grassroots psychedelic reform activists. Many have joined forces to form Entheo IL to lead the psychedelics policy reform efforts in Illinois.

“The push for legal access to entheogenic medicines is broad at the state level, such as in Oregon and Colorado, as well as at the federal level,” Jean Lacy, the executive director of the new group, said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure Illinois is a leader in developing the infrastructure needed for this work.” 

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Hawaii Representative Announces Plan To Legalize Pot in 2023 Fri, 13 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 While some states on the mainland are enjoying recreational cannabis sales, Hawaii advocates and legislators are gearing up to tackle adult-use in their own state.

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On Jan. 11, members from Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and ACLU of Hawaii, spoke at a press conference held at the capitol in Honolulu. The meeting was prompted by Hawaii Rep. Jeanné Kapela to announce her cannabis legislation which will target criminal justice reform and other important considerations.

First up was DeVaughn Ward, MPP’s Senior Legislative Counsel, who started the conference by speaking about the importance of introducing successful legislation as soon as possible. “Marijuana prohibition has caused immeasurable harm to our communities, particularly communities of color,” said Ward. “Cannabis legalization is an opportunity to stop the harm to our residents and the waste of limited public safety resources.”

Next, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii’s Nikos Leverenz described upcoming cannabis legislation as a “critical opportunity” for legislators to address the needs of those affected by the War on Drugs. “Hawaii’s cannabis policy should center the needs of those damaged by the continued criminalization of cannabis and draconian drug law enforcement,” said Leverenz. “At the same time, a properly regulated adult-use market will create many quality jobs and business opportunities across the state, including those related to cannabis tourism, craft cannabis, and cannabis science.”

He also noted that in his official statement to the press, he asked that if the red state of Missouri can legalize cannabis, what’s stopping Hawaii from moving forward. He explained that cannabis plants would thrive in Hawaii, especially if they brought in craft cannabis growers, the industry could contribute to a strong tourism sector for the state. “Hawaii has a rare opportunity this year to move forward and to protect public health and to create quality jobs and economic opportunity across the state, including our neighbor island communities,” he concluded.

George Cordero from ACLU Hawaii spoke on the inhumane conditions of confinement in overpopulated Hawaii prisons due to low-level cannabis convictions, and the long-term effects of having cannabis on a personal record. “Having a marijuana conviction on your record can make it extremely difficult to get employment, apply for a credit card, secure housing, for work the rest of your life,” Cordero said. “This is why clearing people’s marijuana convictions is a necessary condition to this legalization measure.”

Kapela took the stage. “We all know, and Hawaii’s people know, that it is high time to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults in Hawaii. This year we stand on the precipice of history,” she explained. “Following the recommendations of a task force devoted to addressing cannabis policy, we now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands,” Kapela said, referring to a report published by the Hawaii Department of Health cannabis task force in December 2022.

Kapela did not specify a timeline for when her bill would be proposed, but explained a few key points, including helping the state’s mass incarceration dilemma by issuing a mass expungement program. “Social equity. People. That is what forms the heart of our proposal,” she explained.

Previously in March 2021, the Hawaii Senate approved two cannabis reform bills that ultimately did not move forward.

Former Hawaii Gov. David Ige was not a stark supporter of cannabis legalization, and often stated his hesitancy because of its federally illegal status. However, he did allow a bill to be passed without his signature in January 2020, which decriminalized cannabis in the state.
However, newly elected Gov. Josh Green said in November 2022 that he would sign a legalization bill. “I think that people already have moved past that culturally as a concern,” Green said during a debate in October 2022. “But here’s what I would do. First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

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Arizona Jail Detention Officer Arrested for Dealing Meth, Fentanyl Fri, 13 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona is tackling the flow of drugs and corruption.

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Drugs on demand, straight from a jail guard, were shut down by the sheriff at the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, a detention officer was arrested for attempting to bring methamphetamine and fentanyl into the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona.

Fox 10 reports that detention officer Andres Salazar faces several drug-related felony counts. A money exchange took place in the parking lot of the jail before Salazar attempted to bring a package containing about 100 pills into the jail.

“This was an ongoing investigation,” Penzone said at a press conference on Jan. 11. “This detention officer was hired in October 2019, recently worked with inmates and some folks on the outside, and attempted to bring fentanyl and methamphetamine into the jail.”

Salazar apparently wasn’t very good at it, a regrettable choice that will impact his future. “We have strong reason to believe this was his first attempt,” the sheriff said.

“This young man, whatever led him to make this decision, will now not only lose his career, but most likely the future that he has for himself is definitely going to be hindered in an adverse way,” Penzone said.

The drug problem is bad: In Maricopa County jails in 2022, 172 inmates were taken to the hospital for overdose or drug-related incidents; 17 in-custody deaths were caused by an overdose, or drugs were a major contributing factor to the deaths; 194 inmates tested positive for some type of drug through a urine sample; and 114 of those inmates tested positive for fentanyl specifically.

The County says that 150 inmate postcards were intercepted in the mailroom that tested positive for being soaked in fentanyl and/or methamphetamine. “Since October 2022, 1,503 detention officers, sergeants and lieutenants were trained to deploy Narcan,” the sheriff said.

A Pattern in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

This kind of thing isn’t unheard of in the criminal justice system: In 2021, Marc Antrim, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced for orchestrating a fake drug raid, stealing over half a ton of cannabis and $600,000 in cash from a warehouse. 

Three South Carolina prison guards were arrested in 2018 for smuggling drugs and other contraband into two different correctional institutions. In one of those incidents, a guard attempted to smuggle in 143 grams, or about five ounces of pot into a detention center.

Think that drugs are out of reach in the prison and jail systems? Think again: According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there are “high” rates of substance use within the criminal justice system. Specifically, some research shows that an estimated 65% percent of the United States prison population has an “active substance abuse disorder,” and they have to get those drugs from somewhere. It’s one of the best arguments to say that drugs won the War on Drugs.

Maricopa County, however, is tackling the problem with some new changes.

Maricopa County Fights Drugs, Corruption in Jail

Penzone is now taking action proactively to prevent incidents like this from happening again under his watch. KTAR News reports that the sheriff announced scanning machines will soon be installed at jailhouses to detect drugs and other contraband entering and exiting the facilities, authorities announced Wednesday.

“I’m at a stage now where I think it’s not only important but appropriate that we purchase scanning machines so that every individual who enters our jail—whether it be staff/volunteers—anybody and everyone who enters into the secured population will be checked to determine if we can mitigate and intercept any potential contraband coming into the jail,” Penzone said.

“If we need to upgrade the entire system in the entire jail system, I’m willing to do that,” Penzone said. “But we’re going to find the one that is the most effective and put it in play in all of our jails as soon as possible.”

Drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine rank high in the danger level.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this nation. “In 2021, a record number of Americans—107,622—died from a drug poisoning or overdose,” the DEA release reads. “Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”

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Minnesota Adult-Use Legalization Bill Clears First Hurdle Fri, 13 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 The sponsor of the Minnesota measure says there’s still a long road ahead.

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Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota have begun their push for marijuana legalization, with a bill clearing the first of many legislative hurdles this week. 

The bill “cleared the first of what may be up to a dozen committee hurdles when the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee approved” the measure “by a voice vote Wednesday and sent it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee,” the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services department reported.

The bill would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, and would establish the regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales that would begin within months of the measure’s passage. 

It was introduced by Democrats in the Minnesota House of Representatives last week.

“Cannabis should not be illegal in Minnesota,” Democratic state House Rep. Zack Stephenson, one of the bill’s authors, said at a press conference announcing the legislation at the state capitol last week. “Minnesotans deserve the freedom and respect to make responsible decisions about cannabis themselves. Our current laws are doing more harm than good. State and local governments are spending millions enforcing laws that aren’t helping anyone.”

Stephenson and his fellow Democrats in St. Paul have long been eager to bring cannabis legalization to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but they have until now been stymied by Republican lawmakers.

But that changed after November’s elections, when Minnesota Democrats regained control of the state Senate and retained their majority in the state House of Representatives. 

The state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, also won re-election this past fall, and has been a vocal advocate for marijuana legalization in Minnesota.

“It’s time to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge cannabis convictions in Minnesota. I’m ready to sign it into law,” Walz said in a tweet after Democrats introduced the legalization bill earlier this month.

At the committee meeting on Wednesday, Stephenson expressed confidence that the bill, buttressed by public support, would ultimately make it to Walz’s desk.

The news service recapped amendments that were considered at the committee meeting on Wednesday:

“The subject of local control — or lack thereof — was the subject of an amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). It would have given cities or towns options to enact local ordinances regulating cannabis business licenses that could differ from those proposed statewide. Two other Republican amendments were adopted. One offered by Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch) would add a health warning for pregnant or breastfeeding women on cannabis products. And an amendment from Rep. Jeff Dotseth (R-Kettle River) would require the Office of Cannabis Management to study the health effects of secondhand cannabis smoke. Stephenson said the Dotseth amendment was a good idea, but noted his bill already would prohibit smoking cannabis in places where smoking is not allowed under the Clean Indoor Air Act.”

Polls have shown that Minnesota voters are ready to enter a post-prohibition era. 

The moves by state Democrats were foreshadowed by one of Minnesota’s best-known politicians, former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who said after the November elections that Walz had called him directly to say that legalization would get done.

“The sticking point for cannabis in Minnesota were Republicans in the (Senate),” Ventura said at the time. “Well, they lost it now, and the governor reassured me that one of the first items that will be passed — Minnesota, get ready — cannabis is going to have its prohibition lifted. That’s the news I got today.”

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Tennessee Lawmakers Unveil Cannabis Legalization Bill Thu, 12 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Two Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced legislation to legalize medical and adult-use cannabis in the state.

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A pair of Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee this week introduced a bill to legalize both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis in the state. The bill, known as the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” (HB0085), was introduced in the House by Representative Bob Freeman—supported by fellow Democrat Senator Heidi Campbell—on Tuesday.

“This bill will support medical and recreational cannabis use because many other states already have recreational use,” Campbell said in a statement quoted by local media.

Bill Legalizes Possession Of Up To 60 Grams Of Weed

If passed, the bill would legalize the possession, use, and transportation of up to 60 grams of marijuana or up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates for adults aged 21 and older. The measure also legalizes the home cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants by adults in a secure location at home. Under the bill, parents and legal guardians would also be permitted to administer medical cannabis products to their minor children with a doctor’s authorization.

“It’s a full legalization of cannabis across the state,” Freeman noted in a statement last month.

The bill also legalizes commercial cannabis activity and tasks the Tennessee Department of Agriculture with drafting regulations to govern the cultivation, processing, and sale of cannabis and cannabis products in the state. The measure notes that more than three dozen states have legalized marijuana in some form and that Tennessee should follow suit “in order to remain competitive nationally and globally in the burgeoning cannabis industry.” The lawmakers also note that legal cannabis is readily available in five states that border Tennessee.

“If people can drive across the border to Indiana to get cannabis, then it doesn’t make any sense that we in Tennessee would be missing out on that economic advantage,” Campbell said.

Tennessee Still Prohibits All Marijuana

Tennessee is one of the few states that have yet to pass legislation to legalize marijuana, even for medicinal use. Freeman said that legalizing recreational marijuana would put an end to the disproportionate enforcement of laws that prohibit the possession and use of cannabis.

“If you live in a wealthy part of the state and a wealthy community in our city, and you get picked up using some cannabis for personal consumption, the odds of you getting a slap on the wrist and nothing happening is pretty high,” he said last month. If you live in a poorer neighborhood and you get picked up with cannabis, you’re going to jail.”

Three states bordering Tennessee—Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama—have legalized medical marijuana, while neighboring Missouri and Virginia have legalized both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis. Proponents of legalization argue that Tennessee is missing out on tax revenue from the money residents spend on cannabis in neighboring states.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that people aren’t crossing the border and getting cannabis from other states. Of course they are,” Campbell said. “So, that’s just income we’re missing out on.”

Tennessee Democrats Support Legalization

Freeman and Campbell’s proposal is supported by fellow Democratic lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature. House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons praised the bill last month after they announced their plan to introduce the legislation.

“The legalization of cannabis in Tennessee is long overdue. For too long, much of the TN GOP has stood in the way,” Clemmons wrote in a tweet. “Let’s do this in 2023!”

Previous attempts to legalize marijuana in Tennessee have met stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers, who enjoy a solid majority in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives. Republican state Senator Richard Briggs said that he opposes both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis, noting the federal law has already made CBD legal nationwide.

“I’m not in favor at all of recreational marijuana and I have a lot of concerns about medical marijuana until we know more about it,” Briggs said. “I don’t think that it should be generally available. And at least at this point until something changes.”

Despite Republican opposition, Freeman rates the chance that the Tennessee legislature will legalize marijuana this year as “a solid 7, 7.5,” on a scale of one to 10. But Campbell expressed far less optimism.

“Pretty low—I won’t give you a number,” she said, “but I have no delusions we’re going to pass it this session.”

But Campbell added that introducing the legislation is still important to keep the conversation about cannabis policy reform moving forward.

“We ran it last session, and I think it’s important to run it so that we keep the issue alive, we keep the messaging going,” she said. “Obviously, at some point, that’s going to happen, so we’re just going to keep knocking on that door until somebody opens it.”

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Arrest of Albanian Official Accused of Drug Smuggling Causes Stir Thu, 12 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Twenty-eight-year-old Albanian official Erisa Fero was arrested on Dec. 29.

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The arrest of a senior Albanian government official suspected of using her status to smuggle drugs across the border continues to raise eyebrows. 

Erisa Fero, who serves as the IT director of the country’s top intelligence agency, was arrested “on the 29th of December in a remote, mountainous section of Albania near the border with North Macedonia as she was allegedly transporting 58kg of cannabis.”

“Albanian police said Fero was using her official government ID as a security official to avoid police checkpoints and searches. During the arrest, Fero’s reported romantic partner, Leke Basha, 30, and a 17-year-old suspect, were also detained for drug trafficking offences. Two suspects on the North Macedonian side of the border, believed to have been receiving the drugs, escaped after a long manhunt, according to police,” VICE reported, while also citing local media in noting that “police suspect those arrested in the incident, including Fero, of having links with organised crime gangs.”

It is apparently not the first time that Fero, 28, has been ensnared in scandal. 

According to the Greek City Times, Fero was “reported for illegality to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), along with 21 other commissioners” in December of 2021 when she was “a member of a vote counting committee in a constituency.”

“However, the results of the votes were falsified in the Commission in which she participated, with the competent committee filing a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Tirana against 21 commissioners, including Fero,” the outlet reported. “The young woman has been accused of participating in the manipulation of the April 25, 2021 elections, as well as removing or adding votes in favour of candidates of different parties.”

Recreational and medical cannabis are both prohibited in Albania.

According to the legal firm CMS, in 2000, “Albania joined the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which is an international treaty that prohibits the use, production and trade of listed narcotics, except for medical treatments and research,” although “this part of the treaty for the medical use of cannabis has not been enforced by Albania.”

“In 1994, the Albanian government established the ‘Law of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances’, and cannabis was included in the list of controlled drugs. On 27 January 1995, the criminal code of the Republic of Albania was created, and the usage, production and trade of narcotics was prohibited. Cannabis is not specifically listed however the government made clear that it falls within the definition of narcotics,” CMS explains. “According to Article 283 of the criminal code, the sale, offer for sale, giving or receiving of any form, distribution, trading, transport, sending, delivering, and keeping of narcotic and psychotropic substances and seeds of narcotic plants, in conflict with the law (excluding cases when it is for personal use and in small doses) is sentenced to imprisonment of from five to ten years.”

The arrest of a senior government official––as well as someone with alleged links to organized crime––comes at a politically inauspicious time for Albania.

As VICE noted in its report, the arrest of Fero “came as NATO member Albania pushes for a deeper relationship with the EU, including potential future membership.”

“Albania and other countries including Bulgaria and Romania have made significant gains in battling local organised crime and corruption in cooperation with the EU and NATO,” a senior EU security official said. “But this incident shows the difficulty in battling corruption in a patronage environment like Albania.”

VICE reported that the official “said with access to internal IT and information systems, Fero’s alleged crime links could lead to a high risk of intelligence being passed onto criminal gangs or hostile intelligence services.”

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Medical Weed Sales Continue To Decline in Arizona Thu, 12 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Arizona recreational sales are a different story.

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There is a Grand Canyon-sized gulf between medical cannabis and recreational marijuana in Arizona. Sales of medical marijuana continue to decline, while adult-use pot sales are climbing. 

The latest figures to be released by the Arizona Department of Revenue found that taxable medical cannabis sales totaled $31.3 million for October, representing the eighth consecutive month of decline.

Adult-use cannabis sales, on the other hand, amounted to $73.8 million in October, a new high for the state’s recreational pot program. 

Those totals mark the continuation of a trend for the Grand Canyon State’s dual cannabis markets. 

Voters in Arizona legalized medical cannabis in 2010, and sales began two years later. Arizona voters likewise approved a proposal legalizing recreational cannabis in 2020, with sales kicking off in January 2021. 

Medical cannabis sales outpaced recreational sales for the first 11 months of 2021.

In December of that year, adult-use marijuana sales totaled $70,317,105, compared with $57,971,859 in sales for medical marijuana that same month. 

Recreational pot sales have exceeded medical sales every month since. 

As the AZ Mirror noted this week, 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 has more on the divergent sales trends: 

“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.”

Arizona was one of four states in 2020 where voters approved measures legalizing recreational marijuana sales (Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota were the other three).

The measure, Proposition 207, required the state to “promote the ownership and operation of marijuana establishments and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws,” a mandate that, among other things, designated the first two dozen dispensary licenses to individuals hailing from communities that have been affected by the War on Drugs.

Arizona’s Department of Health Services required those applicants to participate in classes in order “to ensure that social equity applicants are prepared for the application process and the challenges of running a marijuana business.”

Those classes, per the department, were led by veterans of the cannabis industry, and included “two days of content and education focused on a number of aspects of operating an adult-use marijuana business, including legal requirements, business practices, regulatory compliance, and fundraising, as well as marketing and strategic growth.”

For some prospective marijuana dispensary owners in Arizona, class is now in session. Social equity class, that is. 

It is a provision included in the ballot measure that voters in the state last year legalized recreational pot use for adults. The measure, Proposition 207, called on the state to “promote the ownership and operation of marijuana establishments and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”

What that means in practice: Arizona’s Department of Health Services will award 26 dispensary licenses to individuals from those communities particularly affected by long standing anti-pot laws. 

Per the department: “Social equity license holders will be required to comply with all statutes and rules that govern Adult-Use Marijuana Establishment licenses, including obtaining approval to operate before opening their retail location. Additionally, social equity license holders will be required to develop and implement policies to document how the Marijuana Establishment will provide a benefit to one or more communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.”

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Cal NORML Warns of Potential THC-O Acetate Risk Wed, 11 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 A study shows both THC-O and vitamin E acetate may convert into a dangerous lung toxin when they are heated in a vape pen.

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New data shows a potential problem with vaping THC-O acetate, and the reasons are worthy of concern. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) branch in California, Cal NORML, issued a warning on Jan. 9 about a study that shows a significant risk for people who vape products containing THC-O acetate.

First published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology on Dec. 12, 2022, a team of researchers led by Neal L. Benowitz discovered a link between THC-O acetate and significant danger to the lungs. THC-O acetate shares structural similarities with vitamin-E acetate—an additive that becomes dangerous to the lungs when converted by heat.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the 2019-20 outbreak of EVALI lung disease sickened and hospitalized 249 Californians—five of them fatally. On Nov. 15, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that vitamin E acetate is the likely culprit for EVALI. Vitamin E acetate also produces carcinogens such as alkenes and benzene when heated.

When heated in a vape pen, both substances—vitamin E acetate and THC-O Acetate—produce ketene, a “highly potent lung toxicant.”  

“We put out the press release specifically because of a study showing that vaporizing vitamin E acetate was similar to THC-O acetate,” Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer told High Times.

 “Apparently when heated up, it produces a serious lung toxin called ketene.”

As cannabis consumers, we often have to filter through anti-cannabis hysteria, but certain risks hold weight when products aren’t regulated properly. Usually vaping dangers arise when random thickeners and unvetted compounds are added.

Gieringer added, “We have a lot of concerns about some of these other new cannabinoids that are being synthesized from hemp, which are brand new and never been tested in human subjects before. Some of them are advertised as being way more potent than THC. THC-O acetate is being advertised as three times more potent than delta-9. THCP is being advertised as having 30 times the binding power to receptors as THC. That kind of reaction sets off a lot of concerns with us. 

“These compounds have never been found in nature before—being made by fairly amateurish underground hemp chemists—raise a lot of concern.”

Gieringer added that delta-8 THC isn’t his primary concern, given there is slightly more known about the compound, but it’s contaminants and other new cannabinoids he’s most worried about, mostly due to the unknowns: THCP, THCjd. THC-H, THC-B, HHC, and Delta-10 THC. 

Cal NORML reports that the sale of psychoactive hemp derivatives was recently deemed legal under federal law by a Ninth Circuit Court decision (AK Futures v. Boyd Street Distro). That’s up for debate though, given that synthetic cannabinoids can be considered illegal under the Federal Analogue Act. 

Under the 2018 federal Farm Bill, cannabis with less that 0.3% THC is legal to grow, and its products can be sold nationally, but the THC often exceeds the limit regardless.

California’s industrial hemp law, which is overseen by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), currently disallows the sale of hemp products with active cannabinoids other than CBD.

THC-O acetate begins as hemp-derived CBD and goes through a chemical process. Going beyond how cannabinoids like delta-8 THC are processed from CBD, acetic anhydride is added to the mixture, making it an acetate.

THC-O is believed to be three times as potent as delta-9 THC—the naturally occurring cannabinoid most of us are used to.

“Cal NORML strongly advises consumers to avoid hemp products with psychoactive cannabinoids, especially novel ones stronger than THC, whose safety is particularly suspect. CBD products may be safely obtained from state-registered industrial hemp product manufacturers, whose products must be tested for safety and cannabinoid content,” the release reads. “Under state law, hemp products should have a batch number and a label, website, QR code or barcode linking to the laboratory test results that state the levels of cannabinoids, total THC, and presence of contaminants, as well as the address and phone number of the manufacturer. Violations can be reported to CDPH.

Cal NORML adds that the less common cannabinoids that are deemed safe for human use are CBN, CBG, CBC, THCV, THC-A, CBD-A, and Delta-8 THC.

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Robot Lawyer Aims To Make Legal Representation Affordable Wed, 11 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 The app ‘DoNotPay’ says it wants to “level the playing field and make legal information and self-help accessible to everyone.”

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A new app is aiming to democratize the legal world through the power of artificial intelligence. Human attorneys tend to be quite expensive, but it turns out robot lawyers are cheap. 

The app, called “DoNotPay,” is billed as “the world’s first robot lawyer.”

It uses “artificial intelligence to help consumers fight against large corporations and solve their problems like beating parking tickets, appealing bank fees, and suing robocallers,” according to the app’s website

Here’s how it works, via CBS News: The “AI-creation runs on a smartphone, listens to court arguments and formulates responses for the defendant,” and the “AI lawyer tells the defendant what to say in real-time, through headphones.”

According to CBS News, the app will “be the first of its kind to help a defendant fight a traffic ticket in court next month,” and the company behind the app says that it has already “used AI-generated form letters and chatbots to help people secure refunds for in-flight Wifi that didn’t work, as well as to lower bills and dispute parking tickets, among other issues.”

The “DoNotPay” app is yet another example of “generative artificial intelligence,” technology that can generate text and other forms of content in response to human commands. 

Generative AI has attracted considerable attention from investors since last month’s release of “ChatGPT,” a chatbot from the San Francisco-based lab OpenAI that created a sensation with its music and stories. 

The New York Times reported last week that more than a million people have used “ChatGPT,” and that OpenAI “is in talks to complete a deal that would value it at around $29 billion, more than twice its valuation in 2021.”

CBS News reported that DoNotPay “has raised $27.7 million from tech-focused venture capital firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Crew Capital.”

“In the past year, AI tech has really developed and allowed us to go back and forth in real time with corporations and governments,” DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder told CBS News. “We spoke live [with companies and customer service reps] to lower bills with companies; and what we’re doing next month is try to use the tech in a courtroom for the first time.”

The proliferation of artificial intelligence has set off plenty of alarm bells. As Politico noted in a story this week about DoNotPay, “the public release of increasingly advanced AI tools has raised questions about everything from high school plagiarism to the very essence of what it is to be human.” 

And while many have found chatbots to be fun, a robot lawyer might just be too creepy for some. 

It also happens to be illegal in many jurisdictions. 

“Some courts allow defendants to wear hearing aids, some versions of which are bluetooth-enabled. That’s how Browder determined that DoNotPay’s technology can legally be used in this case,” CBS News reported. “However, the tech isn’t legal in most courtrooms. Some states require that all parties consent to be recorded, which rules out the possibility of a robot lawyer entering many courtrooms. Of the 300 cases DoNotPay considered for a trial of its robot lawyer, only two were feasible.”

Browder told CBS that it’s “within the letter of the law, but I don’t think anyone could ever imagine this would happen.” 

“It’s not in the spirit of law, but we’re trying to push things forward and a lot of people can’t afford legal help. If these cases are successful, it will encourage more courts to change their rules,” Browder said. 

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Connecticut Launches Recreational Cannabis Sales Wed, 11 Jan 2023 13:00:00 +0000 Regulated sales of recreational marijuana began in Connecticut on Tuesday at seven existing medical marijuana dispensaries now licensed to also sell adult-use cannabis.

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Regulated sales of recreational marijuana began in Connecticut on Tuesday, less than two years after the state legalized cannabis for use by adults. Adult-use cannabis is now available at seven shops across the state, all of them existing medical marijuana dispensaries that have been licensed as hybrid retailers to serve recreational customers.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in June 2021, ending the prohibition on possession of cannabis by adults 21 and older and creating a framework for regulated adult-use cannabis sales. The bill also included restorative justice and social equity measures, including provisions that led to the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions last week. The effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut was led by Democrats including the governor, who argued that regulating cannabis would protect consumers and help communities impacted by the enforcement of punitive drug laws.

“Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, most notably now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated, underground market for cannabis sales,” Lamont said in a statement on Tuesday.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Branford, Meriden, Montville, New Haven, Newington, Stamford, and Willimantic were expected to open their doors to adult-use cannabis customers beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Two more, in Danbury and Torrington, are expected to open soon. Up to 40 additional cannabis retailers are expected to begin operations before the end of the year, according to media reports.

Transitioning To A Regulated Cannabis Economy

Adam Wood, president of the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that Connecticut’s regulated marijuana industry is expected to create about 10,000 jobs for workers in the state over the next few years. He added that cannabis will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that will be used to benefit communities harmed by nearly a century of marijuana prohibition.

“Today is historic, but the real story is about the benefits to come that will transform lives and communities,” Wood said in a statement.

Verano Holdings, a multistate cannabis operator with active operations in 13 states, entered the Connecticut medical marijuana market in 2021 with the acquisition of Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions (CT Pharma). The company launched adult-use cannabis sales in the state on Tuesday at its Zen Leaf branded dispensary, formerly Willow Brook Wellness, in the city of Meriden. George Archos, Verano co-founder and CEO, said that the company “is proud to stand alongside Connecticut residents in celebration of the end of cannabis prohibition.”

“Legal cannabis in Connecticut will have a positive impact on the economy and local communities, and we’re honored to celebrate this historic moment in the Constitution State,” Archos wrote in an email to High Times. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Governor Ned Lamont, the Department of Consumer Protection, local communities, our team members, medical cannabis patients and advocates for making this exciting day a reality.”

In addition to the Zen Leaf dispensary in Meriden, Verano’s operations in Connecticut include CT Pharma, a 217,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility in Rocky Hill, and Caring Nature in Waterbury, a medical dispensary that will soon begin adult-use sales under the Zen Leaf retail brand.

Recreational Weed Purchases Limited To Seven Grams

Sales of recreational marijuana will initially be limited to purchases of up to seven grams (about a quarter of an ounce) of cannabis flower or the equivalent in other products to ensure that retailers have enough merchandise on hand to serve medical marijuana patients. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection will monitor supplies of cannabis in the state to determine when purchase caps on adult-use cannabis will be lifted.

The Botanist hybrid recreational and medical marijuana retail shop in Montville is operated by New York-based multistate operator Acreage Holdings. Kate Nelson, senior vice president of the company’s Midwest and Northwest regions, said that she expects the dispensary’s previous customer count of 200 to 300 patients per day to increase by about 150% during the first week of adult-use cannabis sales. But after the initial rush of excitement, sales are expected to level off.

“I think even before the 40 operators come online, you’ll start to see less of that excitement of something new and more so of kind of what the status quo will become,” Nelson said. “We’re in an area now in the country where there’s other adult-use states nearby. So it’s really going to be a focus of ours, in the state of Connecticut specifically, to make sure that this adult-use program has the product that it needs to have and we can support the industry … to make sure Connecticut sets themselves apart from other competing markets.”

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