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Medical marijuana producers see stigma fading

BY JON O’CONNELL

PHILADELPHIA — More than two months after the first licensed shops opened in Pennsylvania, medical marijuana producers still struggle to keep dispensaries stocked.

Despite demand that regularly outpaces supply in many shops, growers and sellers alike are optimistic that the industry will find its footing soon.

“I think everybody was kind of just taken aback by how many patients we have coming through the doors,” said Chris Visco, president of TerraVida Holistic Centers, a dispensary company with shops in Southeast Pennsylvania.

She spoke alongside eight of her industry peers at the Cannabis Learn Conference and Expo on Monday in Philadelphia and said her company’s dispensaries have treated more than 4,400 people since opening its first shop in February.

“When we were getting into this, we believed that, with it being such a conservative state, there would be very few doctors who would sign up for the program,” Visco said, adding that now more than 900 physicians have registered with the state Medical Marijuana Program.

Gov. Tom Wolf made Pennsylvania the 24th U.S. state to legalize cannabis for medical use in 2016 when he signed the Medical Marijuana Act.

Cannabis investment firm Greenhouse Ventures is hosting the three-day conference where industry leaders said although Pennsylvania wasn’t first, it is leading in key areas, such as opening it up to treat more illnesses than most states.

Pennsylvania also puts a stronger emphasis on research with a first-of-its-kind program allowing medical schools to study the drug.

“PA is really surprising everybody,” said Charles Bachtell, co-founder the cannabis production and dispensary company Cresco Yeltrah. “Of these highly regulated, compliance-focused programs east of the Mississippi, without question, I think Pennsylvania’s off to the best start.”

Cannabis still has an image problem, panel members said during their one-hour industry status update. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency still considers it a Schedule I drug, which means the risk of federal agents shutting down any operation looms overhead perpetually.

 

Read the full article HERE

Judge dismisses suit that challenged Pennsylvania medical marijuana program

A state court judge threw out a lawsuit that could have undone Pennsylvania’s nascent medical marijuana program.

The suit was filed in September 2017 by Keystone ReLeaf of Bethlehem, whose bid for a dispensing license failed.

The lawsuit, had it succeeded, could have delayed patient access and the state’s MMJ industry for years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

In the lawsuit, Keystone argued the application process was conducted haphazardly and had been “infected by bias and favoritism” because Pennsylvania’s health department – which managed the application process – had kept the panelists who picked the winners secret.

Keystone’s lawyers said those problems invalidated the application process, according to the newspaper.

The company sought an injunction from the court that would have canceled all grow and dispensary permits awarded by the health department, the Inquirer reported. That would have forced the state to start the process from scratch.

But Judge Michael H. Wojcik dismissed the suit, writing that Keystone should have taken its complaints to the health department before the court, according to the Inquirer.

Read the full article HERE

Philadelphia Greenlights Marijuana to Treat Opioid Withdrawal

Terminal illness, neurodegenerative diseases, and dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders are can now be treated with medical marijuana.

U.S. city Philadelphia will soon be second, after New Jersey, to permit the use of marijuana to treat opioid withdrawal.

“It’s another tool,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “The whole idea of this program is to provide another tool in the toolbox of physicians to treat these conditions.”

Levine explained that her office has approved the sale of cannabis leaf or bud, which is more affordable than oils or vaporizers since it requires no additional processing.

“I am ecstatic today,” State Sen. Daylin Leach, said. “Allowing the whole plant will dramatically expand the number of patients who benefit from medical cannabis and will go a long way toward guaranteeing that this huge new industry survives and prospers.”

Gov. Tom Wolf thanked Levine and the state Department of Health for approving the changes.

“Allowing dry leaf for vaporization will shorten the time it takes to get medication to dispensaries, expand options for the growing number of patients, and hopefully make the program less cost-prohibitive for some patients.”

Read the full article HERE

Students need a policy for on-campus medical marijuana

By: 

In 2016, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law that legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state. In June 2017, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pennsylvania Department of Health awarded 27 companies licenses to open up dispensaries around the state.

According to a report from CNN, medical marijuana is used to reduce pain, as well as the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s diseases. Cannabidiol, an active chemical in marijuana, offers numerous health benefits, according to The Washington Post.

With the evidence supporting medical marijuana, along with the legalization across Pennsylvania, Temple needs to enact a policy that allows students with a state-issued medical marijuana card to safely use the substance on Main Campus.

A student with a medical marijuana card who wishes to remain anonymous has reached out to Temple administrators inquiring about their rights to access and use medical marijuana on campus but has been left without answers.

“The City of Philadelphia effectively decriminalized possession of marijuana by reducing penalties and consequences for personal-use quantities of marijuana,” university spokesman Brandon Lausch wrote in an email. “As a result, Temple is monitoring regulatory guidance on how best to synchronize its policies with all current laws.”

Since the university is eager to be up to date with Philadelphia laws, it should take the same approach when creating an on-campus medical marijuana policy.

“The city of Philadelphia is doing the same, and there’s an active discussion with all businesses,” said Chris Goldstein, a journalism instructor who teaches the class Marijuana in the News. “How do we accommodate patients in the workplace?”

Enacting an on-campus medical marijuana policy should be obvious. This is a health need that should be addressed immediately.

Massachusetts also legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2012. To accommodate students with a medical need for marijuana, Tufts University enacted a policy that offers students a way to fulfill their medicinal needs.

Tufts doesn’t allow the use of marijuana on campus, but students with a medical marijuana card are permitted to submit a letter to the dean of student affairs to end their on-campus housing leases and relocate to an area off campus to use their medical marijuana.

Arizona also made the distinction between medical marijuana use and recreational use by decriminalizing medical use and allowing it on college campuses.

Temple should follow the lead set forth by these universities and allow students to safely use medical marijuana.

 

Read the full article HERE

Week in Review: Pennsylvania flower sales, Oregon’s cannabis surplus & MassRoots’ big losses

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis dispensaries get the OK to sell flower for vaping, Oregon’s marijuana glut is hurting the state’s smaller growers, and MassRoots reveals that its losses widened to $44 million in 2017.

Here’s a closer look at some notable developments in the marijuana industry over the past week.

Positive in Pennsylvania

The announcement that Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensaries can sell dry leaf and flower for vaping is good news for the industry’s bottom line, according to a Keystone State MMJ business owner who is trying to build her company.

Corinne Ogrodnik, the CEO and co-founder of Pittsburgh-based Maitri Medicinals, said the allowance of flower will bring more patients into the program and help grow a market that could become one of the nation’s largest.

“It will be a more affordable product because we won’t have to be utilizing the equipment to process the flower and leaf into concentrates,” she said. “It will also require less intensive packaging.”

Ogrodnik also is hopeful that being able to offer flower will help her business get off the ground.

The restraints on Pennsylvania’s MMJ business owners make it a capital-intensive process, including costs for:

  • Renovating properties
  • Security
  • Medical staff

“We were looking at a few years of lean times,” Ogrodnik said, “and (flower) is really going to enable us to fully implement our business plan with the anticipation of how the market is going to expand.”

Other medical marijuana markets that allow flower for vaping require the dry plant material to be offered in a prepackaged vaping device.

Ogrodnik said it’s unclear how Pennsylvania will regulate the sale and consumption of dry leaf and flower.

She hopes dispensaries will be able to sell whole flower, rather than prepackaged or preground plant matter, and patients are allowed to decide how they will vaporize it.

No matter how it plays out, Ogrodnik believes the program is moving in the right direction.

“It demonstrates that the Department of Health supports this program working, which then translates to the viability of our business,” she added.

 

Read the full article HERE.

John Boehner Joins Marijuana Firm Advisory Board, Says Views on Cannabis Have ‘Evolved’

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld also joined the Acreage Holdings board

Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner announced Wednesday that he has joined the advisory board of a marijuana firm, saying that his “thinking on cannabis has evolved.”

In a joint statement with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is also joining the Acreage Holdings board, Boehner said it was time for “serious considerations of a shift in federal marijuana policy.”

“While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities,” the statement read.

Acreage, a New York City-based company that owns marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries in 11 U.S. states, said the addition of Boehner and Weld to the board will help shift the conversation on legalization “overnight.”

“These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry,” Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy said in a news release.

The move marks a significant shift for the former congressman, who had previously said he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization. Boehner, a Republican, represented Ohio’s 8th congressional district from 1990 to 2015 and served as speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015.

Weld, on the other hand, said he has been in favor of medical marijuana since 1992 and supported the 2016 referendum that legalized recreational pot use in his home state. Weld, 72, was governor from 1991 to 1997.

Boehner, 69, told Bloomberg in an interview published Wednesday that his views on marijuana changed after seeing cannabis helped a friend cope with debilitating back pain.

He says he believes legalizing marijuana can be helpful to the nation’s veterans and as a way to help fight the U.S. opioid drug crisis. He wants to see federally funded research done and to allow Veterans Affairs to offer marijuana as a treatment option.

“We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments,” Boehner said. “Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.”

Read the full article HERE

Legal marijuana could soon be a bigger market than soda

By:  
  • Legal marijuana is set to hit $75 billion in sales by 2030, according to a note from analysts at the investment bank Cowen.
  • Weed is already putting pressure on alcohol sales. In states that have legalized marijuana, binge drinking rates are declining.
  • The market for marijuana could eventually eclipse soda sales.

Cannabis could soon become a bigger industry than soda, and it has already started putting pressure on alcohol sales.

If marijuana is made legal nationwide in the US by 2030, the legal weed industry could generate $75 billion in sales by that year, according to a new note from the investment bank Cowen.

Cowen’s cannabis sector analyst, Vivien Azer, revised her previous estimate up by $25 billion. Legal marijuana sales are already around $50 billion, Azer said in the note.

Soda consumption, on the other hand, is declining. Per capita consumption fell to a 31-year low in the US in 2016, Bloomberg reports, with $76.4 billion in sales in 2017.

Legal marijuana is already starting to impact alcohol sales as well.

In states that have legalized cannabis, binge-drinking rates have fallen 9% below the national average, and 11% below states that don’t allow the sale of recreational marijuana, according to the note. Adults in states with legal cannabis binge drink an average of 13% fewer times per month than those in states without legal recreational marijuana.

“This work builds on our prior assertions that cannabis acts as a substitute social lubricant for consumers,” Azer said in the note.

“As cannabis access expands, we expect further pressure on alcohol sales, given this notable divide in consumer consumption pattern,” she added.

The cannabis market is still far behind alcohol, however. Sales of alcohol hit $210 billion in 2017, according to the note.

 

Read the full article HERE

Philadelphia considers opening site for heroin users to shoot up safely

By JERICKA DUNCAN

PHILADELPHIA  In just six years, the number of deaths year from opioid overdoses in the U.S. has doubled to more than 42,000. The crisis spurred the surgeon general on Thursday to encourage more people to carry an antidote to reverse overdoses.

In Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, the opioid epidemic is so bad that city officials are now taking extreme measures to save lives. They want to give addicts a safe place to get high.

One 30-year-old woman who goes by Rachel has been getting high for the past 13 years.

“I’m actually trying to get a detox so I don’t want my habit to take control,” she said.

She’s a mother of two. But her desire to care for her kids, she says, isn’t strong enough to pull her from under a sheet of darkness and away from her body’s call for heroin.

Last year, 1,200 people died of a drug overdose in Philadelphia, a number that’s quadrupled in the past five years. To address that, Philadelphia is moving to become one of the first cities in the nation to allow safe injection sites, where people can go and shoot up heroin under the supervision of healthcare workers. It’s part of a new approach to tackle the opioid crisis by treating it as a public health issue.

The sites could end up in one neighborhood, known as Kensington, an area where you can see addicts sticking themselves with needles filled with drugs and living in encampments.

“In all the years I’ve been covering marginalized communities like this one here in Kensington, I’ve never seen anything close to this level of desperation,” said Christopher Moraff, a freelance journalist who has been covering the opioid epidemic.

At a public hearing that took place Wednesday night, those who opposed an injection site in their neighborhood explained why.

“When you say this is best for saving lives you’re not including our lives,” said one person. “You’re not thinking about me and what I experienced growing up and you’re not thinking about my children who will be exposed to this as long as we live.”

“We have a crisis here in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Tom Farley, Philadelphia Health Commissioner. “These facilities look sort of like a clinic. If they’re simply there to inject, they bring in their own drugs that they have bought on the street, they’re given sterile equipment and they inject at the site. If they were to overdose on site, there are medical staff on site who can revive them.”

 

Read the full article HERE