Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration is trying to stop the sale of some potentially unsafe cannabis products.
Youngkin is asking lawmakers for more resources to bolster enforcement in his proposed budget, which will set the tone for debate in the 2023 session. Meanwhile, state officials say existing efforts to expand oversight have not resulted in any criminal penalties or lost permits to date.
Sarah Grant, general manager of “THE Dispensary” in Richmond, said state inspectors have stopped by three times since lawmakers took steps to enhance oversight last summer. They were asked to voluntarily remove all of their hemp-derived Delta-8 and Delta-10 edibles, which account for at least 40% of sales, according to Grant.
“We would at least have to cut staff and then we would have to look at closing our doors,” Grant said.
Grant says Delta-8 and Delta-10 are found naturally in small amounts in hemp, which is legal to sell. But a lack of regulation has allowed potentially unsafe synthetics with inaccurate labels to proliferate, according to some experts.
Grant said they’re currently defending the safety and legality of their products through an administrative hearing, which state officials described as an informal fact-finding conference.
A terminally-ill Kansas man’s hospital room was raided by cops because he used a weed vape and THC paste to ease the symptoms of the cancer that will kill him within weeks.
Greg Bretz, 69, was targeted by police in Hays Medical Center on December 23. He was after officers found marijuana products within his room, and ordered to appear in court on January 2 – despite being so sick he cannot get out of bed or even move.
Kansas is one of only three US states where medical marijuana is still illegal. Bretz told the Kansas City Star his doctor had told him to use whatever was necessary to relieve his pain, including products containing THC – the active ingredient in cannabis.
But another member of staff is believed to have snitched on Bretz and sparked the subsequent raid.
Banning a plant with hundreds of industrial and medical uses was never going to work out well, but 2022 saw marijuana prohibition reach peak absurdity, not to mention peak confusion for consumers and new businesses trying to make sense of it all.
At first glance, cannabis reform appears to be humming along smoothly. Maryland, Missouri and Rhode Island approved legalization initiatives in 2022 as states such as New Mexico and New York raced to establish regulations for legal recreational sales. New laws in mostly blue states expunged cannabis arrests from criminal records for thousands of people. President Joe Biden made moves to pardon federal marijuana prisoners and reconsider the federal “scheduling” of marijuana, a baby step toward potentially ending federal prohibition administratively. Lawmakers debated cannabis reform bills in Congress, even if the vast majority were never passed into law.
A look under the hood, however, reveals regulatory chaos in a nation where marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. For many people, 2022 will be remembered as the year “legal THC” hit the shelves, including in almost every state still under prohibition. The hemp industry, which previously brought us non-inebriating CBD in countless forms, leveraged sketchy chemistry and legal loopholes to evade regulation and sell various synthetic THC products that will absolutely get customers high regardless of where they live, making a mockery of what remains of prohibition.
Unlike traditional cannabis sold in legalized states, researchers know little about the potential risks of using synthetic THC, but “legal THC” products are now commonly sold online and in convenience stories. Sales are booming in states where traditional marijuana remains illegal, particularly among novice consumers and medicine seekers who prefer to avoid running afoul of the law. While the hemp industry has expanded access to cannabis edibles that can relieve conditions such as pain and insomnia, unregulated vapes and powerfully psychoactive synthetics are raising public health concerns.
Oregon lawmakers are looking to crack down on illegal marijuana growers who aren’t abiding by the state’s 2014 laws governing recreational use and cultivation.
Year-to-date, approximately 95 metric tons of illegally grown marijuana have been seized across the state, according to the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. In 2019, they seized just 8 metric tons.
The 2014 legislation was supposed to eliminate problems caused by “uncontrolled manufacture” of the drug, however growers haven’t all magically agreed to the taxes and red tape that accompanied the legalization. Now, officials who have heard complaints from everyone from legal growers to the police are looking to crack down, AP reports.
Now, a draft bill set for introduction in the 2023 legislative session would double the maximum fine and prison sentence for illegal grows to 10 years and $250,000 for those growing more than 100 plants, or possession in excess of 32 times the legal limits.
Ed Rosenthal is a legend in cannabis known for bucking the rules. The longtime cultivation author went up against the feds for providing marijuana to medical patients in 2003 and was ultimately sentenced to a single day in prison, time served. Rosenthal’s devoted his life promoting cannabis—he’s responsible for proliferating the classic South African landrace Durban Poison, partnered with at least 50 European seed companies for multiple books in his Big Book of Buds series, and even has a cultivar, Ed Rosenthal Super Bud, named after him—but he’s never released his own genetics. That is, until now. Back in April, the DEA quietly acknowledged that cannabis seeds are legal. Rosenthal began releasing seed packs alongside his books in May. Since then, rapper and Cookies clothing mogul Berner has also embraced the idea, offering seed packs along with his recent From Seed to Sale album release.
The DEA’s reasoning behind the affirmation that cannabis seeds are legal in the U.S. had to do with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp, defining and separating it from the pot we smoke as Cannabis sativa with less than .03% delta-9 THC. When questioned about the legality of seeds, tissue culture, and “other genetic material” the agency response was that marihuana (yes, they still spell it like that) seeds that contain less than .03% delta-9 THC meet the definition of hemp and are therefore, not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Starting on January 1, 2023, the state says records of approximately 44,000 residents will have cases cleared, including some that date back more than 30 years ago.
Two very different reasons were provided by Governor Ned Lamont as to why the convictions will be erased, the first and most obvious being that the state legalized recreational marijuana in July 2021, allowing adults over 21 to carry 1.5 ounces on their person or five ounces in a locked container or locked glove compartment or trunk.
“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” the governor commented.
The other reason, according to Gov. Lamont, is the state’s job market, which seeks to fill “hundreds of thousands” of open positions.
The legalization of recreational cannabis in the state of California has reportedly neither led to a downturn in illegal business nor has it relieved stress on law enforcement.
As it turns out, illegal cannabis growers have only thrived since California legalized the recreational use of the drug in 2016, stealing business from legal sellers at half the price due to the lack of regulation or taxation.
“The illegal industry is competing with the legal industry and essentially putting them out of business,” Sgt. James Roy of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department told Fox News.
Roy, who heads the department’s cannabis eradication team, had recently raided an illegal farm in Riverside County that had four massive white tents, colloquially known as “hoop houses,” containing $1.5 million in illegal cannabis.
“This place is no different than thousands of others we hit this year confiscating about a half-million plants in Riverside County alone,” Roy told the outlet.
“It’s definitely profitable for the illegal market,” Roy later said. “They’re selling greenhouse marijuana by the pound of anywhere from $500 to $2,000 here on the West Coast. But if they take that same exact product and ship that back east, it’s going for two and three times that amount.”
Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a pardon Monday for those in her state who have been charged with simple possession of marijuana.
“No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” Brown announced in a press release. “Oregonians should never face housing insecurity, employment barriers, and educational obstacles as a result of doing something that is now completely legal, and has been for years. My pardon will remove these hardships.” The move will eliminate over 47,000 convictions from criminal records impacting about 45,000 people.
Calling the criminal justice system in Oregon “flawed, inequitable, and outdated,” Brown further added that “Black and Latina/o/x people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of marijuana are currently sitting idly on New York cannabis farms without a single legal recreational dispensary in the state open and ready to sell the product.
An estimated 300,000 pounds of weed are becoming a growing concern for farmers who planted the crop in spring 2021 in hopes of cashing in on the drug’s legalization in New York state. The lot is valued at about $750 million based on the average wholesale value of $2,500 per pound, according to Bloomberg.
Today, the legal recreational cannabis market is stalled as applicants for the first 150 individual retail licenses and 25 nonprofit licenses are still waiting to hear back from the Office of Cannabis Management, per Bloomberg.
Although players in the industry are waiting for the green light from the state, Melany Dobson — CEO of New York-based Hudson Cannabis — told Bloomberg it’s not the only thing holding her and others back.
“It’s an unclear path to market,” Dobson said. “We’ve been told again and again that dispensaries will open before the end of the year. I’ve acted as though that’s our single source of proof, so we’re prepared for that.”
The clock is ticking for the freshly harvested pounds of pot as farmers work to extend its shelf life in preparation for the still-to-come legal dispensaries.
“Old cannabis starts to have a brownish glow,” Dobson said.
She continued: “We’re trying to retain as much quality as possible. And rushing it into the finished product bags is not the way to do that.”