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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

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.”

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Poll: 44% Oppose Legalizing Marijuana In NJ; One In Four Would Try Or Use It

By Brandon Longo

GALLOWAY, N.J. (CBS) – A new Stockton University poll reveals that New Jerseyans are split when it comes to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The university polled 728 adults who live in New Jersey asking them where they stand on the issue.

Forty-nine percent of those polled said they support legalizing pot for recreational purposes.

Currently, medical marijuana is only legal in the Garden State.

According to the study, 44 percent oppose legalization, with roughly 5 percent unsure.

“These poll results suggest there is not a consensus in New Jersey on whether marijuana should be made legal,” said Michael W. Klein, interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton.

Stockton says 75 percent of those poll stated that they don’t currently use marijuana and would not do so even if it was legal.

But, roughly one in four participants (15 percent) said that although they do not use the drug, they would try it if it were legal.

Younger adults and men are more likely to support legalization, the study shows.

Sixty-four percent of respondents younger than age 50 support legalization, compared to 41 percent of age 50 and older. Among men, 56 percent support legalizing marijuana, while only 44 percent of women do.

Read the full article HERE

Pennsylvania medical marijuana businesses may soon sell flower for vaping

Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis board has recommended allowing the sale of flower for vaping.

All that stands in the way of MMJ flower sales is a go-ahead from the state’s secretary of health, according to Triblive.com.

Adding flower to the list of available products should boost the bottom line of Pennsylvania’s cannabis companies.

Flower is one of the most affordable and commonly purchased forms of cannabis.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The board voted 11-0 to allow “dry leaf or plant form for administration by vaporization.” One member abstained.
  • Pennsylvania’s MMJ businesses currently can sell only oil, pills, tinctures or concentrate for vaping as well as ointments.
  • As of April 6, more than 25,000 MMJ patients were signed up to purchase medical cannabis, and 914 doctors were registered to recommend medical cannabis.
  • The advisory board is also expected to vote on whether to add terminal illness and palliative care to the list of medical conditions that can be treated with MMJ.

Read the full article HERE

New federal budget bill includes medical marijuana protections

By John Schroyer

A key federal law that prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana companies looks likely to remain in place under a new federal budget deal reportedly reached Wednesday among Congressional leaders.

Language from the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment is included on page 240 of the 2,243-page budget bill, which was posted online by Republican leaders.

However, the spending deal has yet to be passed by Congress, which has a Friday deadline before the federal government shuts down.

The Washington Post reported that the deal is “uncertain.”

Even if it is approved, the deal would last only through September.

The amendment, which was first passed by Congress more than three years ago as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, blocks the DOJ and therefore the Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal funds to prevent states and territories “from implementing their own laws” on MMJ.

The law specifically protects medical marijuana laws – and, by extension, MMJ businesses – in 46 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.

The only four states that aren’t protected are Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – none of which have yet approved any functional MMJ industries. (There are several states that allow for possession of CBD but don’t permit production or sales.)

Read the full article HERE

Legalized pot in New Jersey – not so fast

by Jan Hefler

When New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a 62-page bill and primer on how to legalize marijuana almost one year ago, he chuckled when asked if it had a prayer of passing.

The legal sale of recreational marijuana had not yet begun in any other East Coast state, and yes, Chris Christie, the Republican governor at the time, had threatened a veto.

The bill, Scutari insisted, would give lawmakers time to digest and debate the issue so that a palatable package would be “ready for the next governor.”

 Gov. Murphy, a Democrat who promised on the campaign trail that he would give legal pot the green light, is now in his third month in office.  But no legalization bill has landed on his desk. None has even made it to the floor for debate, despite a Democratic majority in the Legislature and pledges from party leaders that this would be a priority.

“Many lawmakers are still undecided,” Scutari, a Democrat from Union County, said last week. In January, he predicted legalization would be approved by the spring, possibly the summer at the latest.  But now he says it might take a little longer.

“Politicians are not known as a courageous bunch, and it’s a topic people want to get comfortable with. … After 90 years of indoctrination that this is a bad substance, we have to turn people around, educate them,” said Scutari, a municipal prosecutor who two years ago led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers to Colorado, the first state in the nation to legalize, to see for themselves how it was working.

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have approved recreational marijuana, and New Jersey was expected to be in the next wave, behind Massachusetts.  But some New Jersey lawmakers are suggesting alternatives, and legal pot may not be a certainty after all, at least for now.

Last September, a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of New Jersey residents supported legal pot, while a Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted in November pegged the number at 53 percent. Then, last month, a Fairleigh Dickinson survey found support had dropped to 42 percent.

“We’re starting with a blank slate, looking at all the options,” Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, a Democrat, said last week as he convened the first hearing on legalization at the New Jersey statehouse this year.

Danielsen is “Switzerland, very neutral” on the topic, said Wayne Dibofsky, his chief of staff.

As the chairman of the obscure Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee, Danielsen invited more than two dozen speakers to testify for and against legalization during a five-hour, standing-room-only session.

 

Read the full article HERE

New Jersey Lawmakers Weigh Legalizing Marijuana

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers are hearing the case for and against marijuana legalization.

The Democrat-led Assembly Oversight Committee held the hearing Monday in Trenton. Three additional meetings are planned for the spring.

The issue is front and center after Democrat Phil Murphy won last year’s gubernatorial contest while campaigning for legalization.

Advocates say legalization can grow state revenue and the economy, help end a pot-fueled black market and reduce drug-related arrests.

Opponents dispute the arguments on the black market and also say children are at risk to drug exposure. They also raised concerns over driving while under the influence of drugs and a spike in emergency room visits.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Read the full article HERE

First PA medical marijuana dispensary slated for March opening in BucksCo

A new partnership between Jefferson’s Rothman Institute and Franklin BioScience has marked the first big step to medical marijuana getting to patients suffering from pain.

BY A.D. AMOROSI 

With February as the first-month medical marijuana is sold legally in Pennsylvania through its six state-permitted grower-processors, news that Philly’s Rothman Institute was getting into the game was a bonus.

Last week, the Rothman Institute at Jefferson – one of the largest orthopedic practices in the United States – announced the start of a collaboration investigating the benefits of medical marijuana for patients suffering from acute and chronic pain.

Rothman’s partner in this enterprise is Franklin BioScience, a noted Colorado-based cannabis grower and retailer. Simultaneous to this collaboration, Franklin BioScience is planning another big move in this area with the March opening of its medical marijuana dispensary, Beyond Hello, in Bristol Township.

The new partnership was announced during last Friday’s “The Future is Now” VIP cocktail reception, to a room full of politicos (pot-positive Mayor Jim Kenney), entertainment brand marketers (GroundUP Group’s Andy Hurwitz), local musicians (The Disco Biscuits’ Aaron Magner) and more. There, on the 26th floor of Rothman’s Market Street offices, sipping martinis and chatting up medical cannabis never seemed better suited.

Ari Greis D.O., a Rothman pain management specialist who will oversee the upcoming research with Franklin BioScience, is considered a rock star in this field. During his residency training at the University of Washington in Seattle, Greis dealt with a state that had allowances for legal medical cannabis in its pocket long before he arrived.

“I treated really impaired patients in rehab clinics there with serious neurological disorders: MS, spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases,” said Greis.

“Many of those same patients claimed they had tried the standard medications and therapies, and that they only saw and felt significant relief by smoking marijuana.”

There were no medical weed dispensaries in Washington at the time Greis was in residence (2004), but a letter from their doctor allowed some patients to grow a small amount of marijuana plants.

“I experienced – first-hand – people telling me that marijuana – for these patients – was the only thing that helped with muscle spasticity and neuropathic pain.”

Medical cannabis quickly began looking like the present of his practice, let alone its future.

“As for the past, we wasted precious time with cannabis prohibition and not researching it further,” he said. “Hopefully, we are remedying this.”

Once home in Philadelphia and practicing pain management, Greis was hopeful for – but uncertain of – medical cannabis coming to Pennsylvania. Yet, when he learned Gov. Tom Wolf was forging ahead with medicinal cannabis growing and retailing in the state, the D.O. immediately recalled his residency.

“I knew then I had to get involved as I have patients in pain who tried everything and are looking for alternatives. To be in a position to have nothing to offer those in pain – beyond every alternative such as acupuncture and muscle manipulation – is a demoralizing position.”

When Greis heard that Jefferson had started the Lambert Center for the study of medicinal cannabis and hemp, he went straight to its director, Dr. Charlie Pollack, and got involved, as did the rest of Rothman’s leaders.

“We’re going about this the right way; not just getting patients certified, then, never seeing them again. We’re screening patients diligently for mental health disorders as well as drug and alcohol abuse,” he said.

Greis also touched upon the newest buzzword in addiction and its possible cure: opioids.

 

Read the full article HERE