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Can Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Curb Opioid-Related Deaths?

By Britni de la Cretaz

A new study found that marijuana legalization in Colorado was connected to a “short-term reduction in opioid-related deaths.”

A new study provides a boon for advocates of marijuana legalization and gives insight into a potential tool for reducing the number of overdose deaths. The research points to a reduced number of opioid-related deaths following Colorado’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at overdoses before and after Colorado began selling legal cannabis in 2014. Researchers found that opioid overdoses decreased 6% over the last two years, a reversal of the national trend. They concluded that “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

This suggests that, when given the option between opioids and cannabis for pain management, patients might be likely to choose cannabis. Marijuana itself also comes with virtually no overdose risk, as opposed to opioids, which can cause accidental overdose.

Drug overdose has become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, so the impact of a safer solution cannot be discounted.

Previous research has looked at the link between medical marijuana and opioid overdose rates, finding similar results. A 2014 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that states, where medical marijuana is legal, had, on average, 1,700 fewer deaths per year from prescription drugs.

In 2016, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) released a report called “Cannabis: A Promising Option for the Opioid Crisis.” The report showed that fewer pills are prescribed in states with legal medical marijuana.


Read the full article HERE

Giant mall operator attempts to snuff N.E. Philly marijuana dispensary

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer  @samwoodiii

The largest shopping mall operator in America wants to prevent a medical marijuana dispensary from opening near the former Franklin Mills Mall and is attempting to turn its effort in Southeastern Pennsylvania into a federal case to ensure that the cannabis business never launches.

Simon Property Group, a $59 billion company based in Indianapolis and best known locally as the owner of King of Prussia Mall, also owns the Northeast Philadelphia mall now known as Philadelphia Mills.

PharmaCann LLC, a small medical marijuana company based in Chicago, operates eight legal cannabis dispensaries in Illinois and New York state. It bought the site of a former Chi-Chi’s restaurant at the periphery of the Philadelphia Mills property earlier this year with the intention of opening a cannabis oil outlet there.

But it may not be able to meet the state Department of Health’s deadline to open before January 1, 2018. The site has been mired in litigation since September, with little communication between the two sides.

“We don’t know why Simon has made this an issue,” said PharmaCann’s attorney, Joshua Horn of Fox Rothschild. “There’s always a path to a resolution. We tried to speak with them; they told us to pound sand.”

A representative for Philadelphia Mills declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. Attorneys for Simon Property Group did not return calls requesting comment. It is not known why Simon doesn’t want the proposed dispensary to open on the 500 block of Franklin Mills Circle. The dispensary, which is not on the mall’s property, would be designed as a nondescript office building with very little to identify it from the outside.

In March, Simon passed on the opportunity to buy the land, waiving its right of first refusal before PharmaCann agreed to buy the property for $1.1 million, according to court papers obtained by the Inquirer.

In passing on the property, Simon asserted that a dispensary would be “strictly prohibited” because of a deed restriction forbidding a drugstore. PharmaCann attorneys said the dispensary — which will sell only a handful of cannabis oils, tinctures, and lotions to sick registered patients and their caregivers — is not a drugstore.

The state, which legalized medical marijuana in April 2016, granted PharmaCann a permit to open on the site in June. The city granted zoning approval for the company to run a dispensary there in July.

Simon also said the deed forbids illegal activity on the premises. Because federal law considers any form of cannabis to be a Schedule 1 substance without any approved medical use, Simon’s attorneys said a medical marijuana facility is prohibited there, or anywhere else in the state.

PharmaCann countered with a filing in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court so it could proceed with construction to meet the state-mandated deadline requiring it to open by year’s end, Horn said.

Medical marijuana grower gets green light in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A licensed grower and processor of medical marijuana in western Pennsylvania is the first with state approval to begin operating.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Tuesday that the Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing medical marijuana at its Jefferson County location. That makes it the first facility to be deemed fully operational in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program.

The department expects 11 other licensed grower-processors to be operational in the coming weeks. It issued the permits in June, selecting the 12 winners from among 177 applicants. The department has also issued permits to 27 entities to operate retail dispensaries.


Read the full article HERE.

Pa. Health Dept. Asks Court To Uproot Medical Pot Permit Suit

Law360, Philadelphia (October 13, 2017, 2:38 PM EDT) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging an appeals court to throw out a lawsuit from an unsuccessful bidder for a lucrative medical marijuana license that challenges what the company has cast as a secretive and unconstitutional application process.
The department of health accused Keystone ReLeaf LLC on Tuesday of pursuing a wholesale challenge of the permitting process in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court as an end-run around a set of administrative appeals filed after its applications were shot down in June.

“Keystone ReLeaf stands alone in its selfish crusade to judicially fast-track the disposition of its still-pending administrative appeals above all others, while shockingly asking this court to jeopardize the delivery of medical marijuana to those in need by delaying implementation of the entire program simply to advance its hopes of capitalizing monetarily on the medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania,” the department said in a filing.

According to court records, Keystone was one of more than 450 companies to apply for either a growing and processing permit or a dispensary permit as part of the state’s new medical marijuana program in February.

When the outcome of the bidding process was announced at the end of June, however, the company was not among either the 12 to win growing and processing permits or the 27 to win dispensary permits.

Along with almost 150 other disappointed bidders, Keystone filed a set of administrative appeals challenging the Office of Medical Marijuana’s licensing decisions. It also followed up with a Commonwealth Court complaint in September.

The company accused the department of health and OMM of engaging in a “fundamentally flawed, secretive, inequitable, unconstitutional and illusory permitting process” and for keeping contenders in the dark as to how their applications were scored.

The complaint asked the Commonwealth Court to rescind all permits issued by the department and to bar any further awards until a lawful and transparent process was in place.

The department fired back Tuesday arguing that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case given Keystone’s failure to complete the administrative appeals process.

The department also argued that the lawsuit had an impact on the interests of successful applicants who were not represented in the litigation.

“The permittees’ vested interests in the permits they [have] been awarded by the OMM are directly at issue and at risk by the averments contained in Keystone’s petition for review,” the filing said. “By failing to join the permittees as parties to this action, Keystone ensures that if this court entertains the filings before it, the permittees’ rights will be adjudicated without them ever participating.”

An attorney for Keystone did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is represented by Jarad Handelman, James Crumlish III and Thomas Elliott of Elliott Greenleaf PC.


Read the full article HERE.

Obama-era attorney general blasts Jeff Sessions over cannabis views

A U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama laid into the nation’s current top law enforcement official and said that current AG Jeff Sessions has an “almost obsession with marijuana.”

Eric Holder – who served as U.S. attorney general from 2009 to 2015 – said during a speech at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York that, under his watch, the Department of Justice was correct to issue the 2013 Cole Memo and let states take the lead on regulating the cannabis industry, the Washington Examiner reported.

But Holder critiqued Sessions in his remarks and suggested the current attorney general’s approach to marijuana and support for states’ rights in Congress has put the DOJ in a “strange place.”

Holder also reiterated his support for the broad but nonbinding Cole Memo, which lays out various instances under which intervention by the DOJ could be warranted in the marijuana industry.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania proposes $50 medical marijuana registration fee

Looking for signs that Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program is nearing fruition?

State regulators are proposing a $50 annual fee for patients and caregivers who want to register for the nascent program, according to Lancaster Online.

Such details typically are a sign an MMJ program is in its final stages of preparation.

In fact, according to Lancaster Online, Pennsylvania’s top medical cannabis regulator said the registration fee is “one of the final pieces we need to have in place to launch the program.”

The state has been aiming to start the program sometime next year, and an industry insider recently told Marijuana Business Daily an “early 2018” launch isn’t out of the question.

Pennsylvania’s registration fee is relatively reasonable compared to some states. For example, Minnesota charges $200 annually and Arizona asks $150.


Read the full article HERE

Israel: land of milk, honey and medical cannabis

Breath of Life’s huge new facility, the largest medical cannabis facility in the world, can store enough medical marijuana to supply the entire United States.


In August, a joint feasibility committee of the Health and Finance ministries submitted a recommendation that Israel open its booming medical marijuana business to international exports. The market could be worth as much as $4 billion a year in revenue.

In the expectation that the proposal will be approved by legislators, an Israel company – Breath of Life Pharma (BOL) – is positioning itself to become the world’s largest medical cannabis facility.

BOL’s new production, research, and development campus in central Israel has a 35,000-square-foot plant, an 8,000-square-foot storage room, 30,000 square feet of grow rooms and labs, and a million square feet of cultivation fields.

BOL CEO Dr. Tamir Gedo says his firm can store enough medical marijuana to supply the entire United States. Gedo estimates that BOL will produce 80 tons of medical cannabis per year.

“Just don’t call it ‘marijuana,’” Gedo told a group of visiting journalists under high security (marijuana is, after all, a controlled substance in much of the world, including Israel).

The word “marijuana” was used by US drug enforcement agents in the 1930s to make it sound foreign and dangerous. Gedo, like most in his industry, prefers to use the plant’s real name, cannabis. He refers to BOL’s business as the growing, packaging and distribution of “medical-grade cannabis” (MGC for short).

BOL has no interest in pushing the legalization of recreational cannabis, Gedo says. Rather, BOL works toward bringing pharmaceutical-grade quality and delivery systems to purified extracts of the plant.

Because the chemical composition of cannabis flowers from different branches is not at all consistent, companies in the medical cannabis space don’t use the whole plant but instead isolate specific molecules and turn those into controlled, consistent drugs.

That can be quite a challenge: Cannabis has 142 different cannabinoids – active components – and each targets different illnesses.

The two best-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. The former is the psychoactive component responsible for marijuana’s “high.” It also helps with pain and nausea, which has made it a much sought-after medication for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

CBD, on the other hand, works on the autoimmune system and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is being tested on inflammatory bowel diseases (including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) and has shown to be effective with conditions as diverse as autism, epilepsy, diabetes and heart disease. Moreover, you can’t get high from CBD.

In order to get FDA approval, a company like BOL, which was founded in 2007, must conduct the same kind of double-blind clinical trials any drug would go through. Some 120 trials are currently underway in Israel – more than in any other country.

Gedo says that if even 10 percent of trials underway at his facility result in a patentable drug, BOL could be the Pfizer of MGC. BOL’s autism trial, under the supervision of Dr. Adi Aran, director of the neuropediatric unit of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, will go to the FDA in 2018. If it’s approved, a commercial drug could be available as early as 2021.


Read the full article HERE


Jilted Pa. Medical Marijuana Bidder Drops License Challenge

By Matt Fair

Law360, Philadelphia (October 5, 2017, 6:04 PM EDT) — A company claiming it lost out on a lucrative medical marijuana growing and processing permit after a rival failed to tell Pennsylvania regulators about a criminal probe it was facing agreed Wednesday to drop a lawsuit challenging the state’s decision in the bidding process.
BrightStar Biomedics LLC, which has said it would have won the permit but for a Vireo Health LLC subsidiary’s disclosure failures, withdrew its Commonwealth Court lawsuit in lieu of what a spokesman said would be efforts to resolve its issues through administrative channels under the state’s new Medical Marijuana Act.

“After discussions with counsel at the Department of Health, BrightStar decided to voluntarily withdraw its suit without prejudice and continue with the administrative appeal process,” said BrightStar spokesman Daniel Fee. “BrightStar continues to believe strongly in the merits of its position and looks forward to getting to the truth of what happened here.”

BrightStar had asked the Commonwealth Court last month to bar Vireo unit Pennsylvania Medical Solutions LLC from receiving the permit in light of the fact that officials with a company affiliate in Minnesota had been charged for diverting cannabis oil to another state, and that permits awarded to another affiliate in Maryland had been revoked.

PMS was one of two companies in Pennsylvania’s northeast region that the state’s Department of Health announced in June had been selected to receive coveted grower-processor permits under the state’s recently legalized medical marijuana program.

But BrightStar argued in its lawsuit that the score PMS received on its application to the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana was artificially inflated as a result of its failure to disclose the allegations of criminality its Minnesota affiliate faced.

While BrightStar has administratively appealed the OMM’s licensing decision, the company argued in its suit on Friday that the process was “illusory,” as the office had already made it clear in correspondence that it would not change its decision.

With its decision to withdraw its lawsuit on Wednesday, BrightStar signaled its commitment to go through with the administrative appeal before moving forward with any potential challenge in Commonwealth Court.

Vireo has cast the lawsuit as nothing more than sour grapes from a losing bidder.

“It is unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected, when a company turns to the courts after failing to win a medical cannabis license in a merit-based process,” the company said in a statement last month. “We participated in the process fully and transparently, just as we have in other states such as Minnesota and New York, where our licenses were recently renewed. We will not let matters like these distract us from our mission of providing medical cannabis products to patients suffering from life-threatening and debilitating conditions.”

In the meantime, the department is facing another Commonwealth Court challenge from Keystone ReLeaf LLC asking that licenses be revoked due to what the company claims was a “fundamentally flawed, secretive, inequitable, unconstitutional and illusory permitting process.”

That lawsuit remains pending and is scheduled for a hearing at the end of the month, according to court records.

BrightStar is represented by Mark Sheppard, Michael Witsch, Arianna Goodman and Ernest Holtzheimer of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP.

Read the full article HERE

PA Medical Marijuana Growing Operation Wants To Sell It


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A company which won a state permit to set up a medical marijuana growing operation in southeastern Pennsylvania now admits the place may be up for sale.

Franklin Labs, which is in the process of setting up a large marijuana growing operation inside a former soda bottling and distribution plant near Reading’s minor league baseball stadium, now admits it really wanted a clinical research permit to study the effective medical uses of marijuana.

In a statement, Franklin Labs says it’s investing $5 million in setting up the Reading operation and vows it will be ready by the end of the year to meet state guidelines.

But, the statement says Franklin is exploring divesting itself of the plant because the research permit guidelines might interfere with the company keeping it.

Read the full article HERE

Want to grow marijuana? Company selling permit for $20M

by Sam Wood, Staff Writer


For sale: One never-used permit to grow medical marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania. Includes a turnkey operation with a 47,000-square-foot former beverage warehouse in Reading outfitted with state-of-the-art cultivation pods and hash-oil processing equipment. Price: $20 million.

Rumors have been circulating for months. Shortly after the Pennsylvania Department of Health awarded a dozen permits to grow cannabis in June, email pitches went out touting that some of those potentially lucrative licenses were already for sale. The state immediately tried to put the kibosh on them.

 “No permit may be sold or transferred without the approval of the Department of Health,” spokeswoman April Hutcheson first said in July. She has repeated those words to reporters every time another rumor of a sale surfaced.

Late Monday, a confidential prospectus was delivered to the Inquirer. The document includes an offer to sell 100 percent of Franklin Labs LLC, the company that won one of the 12 permits, for $20 million.

Franklin Labs is helmed by John Hanger, a former Democratic candidate for governor who once served as an adviser to Gov. Wolf. Hanger was not available for comment.

Franklin Lab’s CEO, John Pohlhaus, acknowledged that the permit was being shopped. His company, he said, is in the running for a special clinical research (CR) license that would allow it to become a much mightier venture. As a CR, the company could investigate marijuana’s benefits under the auspices of a teaching hospital. CR status would include permits for a growing facility and six storefront dispensaries where patients could buy oil-based cannabis products.

“Our business has always wanted to do medical research. We’ve been clear about that from the beginning,” Pohlhaus said. “We applied for the commercial grow license only because the CR rules weren’t out. It was a backup. There’s nothing nefarious about it.”

Selling a grow permit

The Franklin Labs prospectus does come with caveats.

“The purchase of the company involves a high degree of risk, including the federal government’s current characterization of the growing and sale of medical marijuana as a felony. Other risk factors include risks applicable to all start-up enterprises,” the prospectus reads.

And yes, the offer makes it clear that any sale would have to be approved by the Department of Health.

“The law clearly states that a permit is not transferable, meaning that it can’t be sold,” department spokeswoman Hutcheson said Tuesday when told about the prospectus.

According to state law, a company cannot operate more than one grow facility. But Pohlhaus, who was surprised that the prospectus had leaked out, is hedging his bets.

“We would like to keep both,” Pohlhaus said. Because the rules for CRs haven’t been finalized, he said, there’s still a chance that the state might allow it. There’s also a chance that, as a CR, Franklin Labs could grow at the already outfitted Reading warehouse.

Pohlhaus said the company is spending $5 million to transform the warehouse into a state-of-the-art indoor greenhouse, no matter what occurs with the permit. Whoever owns it is bound by law to start producing medical marijuana by the end of December.

Potential buyers were required to sign nondisclosure agreements before being allowed to see the prospectus, according to one person who was approached with the offer but asked to remain anonymous, fearing reprisals.

Franklin Labs was one of two companies approved to grow marijuana in the state’s southeastern zone. Both are slated for the Berks County area. Prime Wellness LLC won the second permit for a site in South Heidelberg. Chase Lenfest, son of Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, is the primary backer of Prime Wellness, which also is pursuing a CR permit. Chase Lenfest declined to comment.

Some of the unsuccessful applicants, who had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars competing for a chance to grow, were shocked at the brazenness of Franklin Labs’ offer.

“I’m very surprised,” said Lindy Snider, whose company Snider Health applied for a grow permit but did not win. Snider, daughter of the Flyers’ late owner Ed Snider, said other companies with permits had approached her. She said she had declined their offers. “I didn’t think this was a possibility without state approval. It’s unbelievable.”

The lucrative clinical research license

The Pennsylvania medical marijuana program is an unprecedented tangle of laws and regulations. In drafting the statute, the legislature created a special category of “vertically integrated” CR companies that will pair with medical schools to conduct research. No other state in the nation provides for similar alliances with academic institutions, which are called Accredited Clinical Registrant Centers (ACRCs) in the law.

Eight CR permits are available. The application process is not competitive. Already, six growers have paired with six medical schools. The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel, Thomas Jefferson, and Temple Universities in Philadelphia and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reportedly signed agreements with undisclosed marijuana companies. Franklin Labs has partnered with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, which bills itself as the largest medical school in the United States.

Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland wants a grow facility for his financially distressed city. He said he appealed to the state in August to disqualify both Franklin Labs and Prime Wellness, which is reportedly aligned with Drexel, because they appeared to be shoo-ins for CR permits.

In a letter cosigned by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, whose district includes Chester, Kirkland said the grower applicants with the third- and fourth-highest scores should be awarded the permits.


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