Cannabis and COVID-19: Pandemic’s Impact on Legalization and Legislation

By early 2020, marijuana had made tremendous strides toward legalization—for either medicinal or recreational purposes—in most states and even implicit federal recognition in the form of safe-harbor legislation for insurers and banks conducting business with the cannabis sector. But then COVID-19 struck, and progress predictably slowed. Nonetheless, unintended effects of the global pandemic may ultimately usher in a new wave of legalization and protection for marijuana businesses and the insurers and banks who work with them.

Jan. 1 marked the first day of adult-use marijuana sales in Illinois, the latest state to legalize marijuana for adults and the first to provide a comprehensive legal blueprint in the form of legislation that addresses everything from taxation to social justice. In all, at the beginning of 2020, medical marijuana was legal in 33 states, and another 11 had legalized recreational adult use, with several other states—most notably, New York and New Jersey—making a big push to do the same, despite marijuana’s continued illegal status at the federal level.

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Can CBD Companies Secure Federal Trademark Protection?

With the growing popularity of hemp-derived cannabidiol (hemp CBD) products in e-commerce, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has seen a significant influx of trademark applications used in association with CBD goods. However, many of these applications have been denied by the USPTO. This article briefly addresses the reasons for these denials and discusses the trademark protections currently available to the industry.

To secure federal trademark registration, a mark’s use in commerce must be lawful under federal law.

Although the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) legalized the production of hemp and hemp derivatives, including hemp CBD, by removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of marijuana, the new law did not legalize the production of hemp CBD products. Instead, the 2018 Farm Bill expressly preserved the FDA’s authority to regulate these products under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

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D.C. ‘magic mushrooms’ petition to be signed online, by mail

Advocates for decriminalizing “magic mushrooms” and other psychoactive plants are asking D.C. voters to sign a petition online or by mail to put Initiative 81 on November’s ballot.

Decriminalize Nature D.C., the nonprofit behind the decriminalization effort, first will send 10,000 petitions to D.C. voters to sign and return by mail or email. Depending on the response to the first 10,000 mailers, the campaign intends to send out 250,000 additional petitions to voters.

The group needs to get 30,000 valid signatures by July 6 to put the “Entheogenic Plants and Fungi Act of 2020” on the ballot.

The D.C. Council last week approved its omnibus coronavirus-related bill, which changed how petitions can be collected for ballot initiatives to make the process safe during the pandemic.

Read more at Washington Times…

Most People In Recreational Marijuana States Believe Legalization Is A Success, Poll Finds

People who live in states that have legalized marijuana for adult use broadly feel that the policy has been a success, according to a new poll.

A majority of people from eight states that were surveyed said the programs are working well. And in Maine, which legalized cannabis in 2016 but still doesn’t have any adult-use retail shops open, people still said the law is more of a success than a failure by a greater than two-to-one plurality.

YouGov asked more than 32,000 people the following question: “In the states that have decided to allow recreational marijuana use, do you think the legislation has been a success or a failure?”

They were given five options: “Success only, more of a success than a failure, more of a failure than a success, failure only or don’t know.”

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Cascade County Officials Express Concern About Kratom

Kratom Powder

Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, is a plant which grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is concerned that the drug, which affects the same opioid brain receptors as morphine, may have properties that could expose users to the risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence.

In Cascade County, officials including Dr. Deborah Rose with Benefis Health System, Great Falls Police Chief Dave Bowen, and District Judge Gregory Pinski are also concerned about the drug’s existence in the community. According to Pinski, almost all criminal activity in Great Falls is connected to substance abuse, and the addictive nature of Kratom and other drugs like it are exacerbating that problem.

Read more at KRTV

Oregon CBD company’s lawsuit claims botched extraction led to legal woes, losses

The Oregon CBD company that beat back felony marijuana charges last year in Linn County is in court again, alleging that a botched extraction job got it into that legal mess and cost it a ton of money.

Key Compounds LLC is suing Phasex Corp. and its president, claiming the Massachusetts company was negligent and in breach of contract when it allegedly shipped Key Compounds a batch of hemp oil that far exceeded the legal limit for the intoxicating compound THC.

The shipment — its odor, specifically — caught the attention of a UPS employee in Albany. That set off a chain of events that included a law enforcement raid on Key Compounds’ own local extraction facility and felony marijuana charges against CEO Alex Reyter and another employee.

Read the full story at Portland Business Journal.

Efforts to Legalize Psychedelics is Quickly Picking Up Momentum

Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz voted to decriminalize mushrooms. Washington, D.C. just took a major step toward adding legalization to the Nov. 2020 ballot. Chicago city leaders passed a resolution supporting scientific and medicinal research, with a goal of decriminalization. Vermont lawmakers filed a bill to decriminalize it, as well. Even Oregon is pushing to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes.

All thanks to reports that show psychedelics have therapeutic benefits. For example, researchers at New York University found psilocybin mushrooms caused a “rapid and sustained” reduction in anxiety and depression in patients with cancer, as reported by the Financial Post. Researchers from the University of California David found that micro-dosing with psychedelic drugs for a prolonged period of time showed promise.

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DMAA ruling has broader implications for botanicals

Eight years ago, U.S. regulators cautioned 1,3-dimethylamylamine was an unlawful ingredient in dietary supplement products.

Several companies received warning letters in 2012 over the then-popular ingredient known simply as DMAA, which FDA described as an “amphetamine derivative” posing health risks that may lead to such cardiovascular problems as arrhythmias, heart attack or shortness of breath.

Todd Harrison, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who advises clients on FDA regulations, agreed the vast majority of companies that receive warning letters from FDA try to address the agency’s concerns.

“I would say 90% of them do,” he said in an interview.

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2020 was supposed to be a big year for marijuana legalization. Then the coronavirus happened.

At the start of 2020, more than a dozen states seemed very likely to legalize marijuana for recreational or medical purposes by the end of the year. Now that a coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed just about every aspect of American life, it seems only a handful of states will be able to enact marijuana reform.

The pandemic has hit legalization efforts on two fronts: First, at a time of social distancing, advocates in some states just can’t gather the signatures they need to get the issue on the ballot. Second, state lawmakers who might have passed marijuana legalization before quickly shifted to other priorities once the coronavirus crisis began.

Vox has the full story.

New Virginia law recognizes hemp extracts as food

The State of Virginia has passed a law defining hemp extracts as an approved food. The law also allows a more liberal amount of THC in these products during the growth phase than does the federal description of industrial hemp.

The new definition is part of a law passed by the state to set up a fund to promote industrial hemp production within Virginia.

There are a number of states in which medical marijuana products have been approved, and a smaller number in which full recreational cannabis use is allowed. The market for hemp/CBD extracts is thriving in these locations, and CBD products marketed as dietary supplements, while technically illegal on the federal level, seem to be available throughout the country, either online or in brick and mortar outlets.

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Advocates For Magic Mushroom Initiative Will Keep Trying To Get It On The Ballot, Using Snail Mail

A nascent effort to reduce penalties on the possession and use of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic plants in D.C. was dealt what seemed like a fatal blow by the coronavirus pandemic — but proponents say they plan on soldiering on, using the mail to collect tens of thousands of signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

To get an issue on the ballot, proponents have to gather signatures from 5% of D.C.’s registered voters — roughly 25,000 signatures at this point — within a six-month period. But with normal signature-collection a virtual impossibility because of the city’s stay-at-home order and social distancing norms, leaders of the Decriminalize Nature D.C. say they instead plan on sending petitions directly to households and asking voters to sign them and send them back.

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Why is Marijuana Legalization Not Covered in Mainstream Media?

One of the things I have said often in speeches and written about is that the best two-word explanation for marijuana prohibition is bad journalism. You’ll hear that again, and again.

There are so many examples of that. Don’t get me started.

I remember, for example, when I was at NORML, there was a really terrible article in The Washington Times which tends to specialize in articles about marijuana in particular. So I called up the reporter and said, “Could I send you some material that contradicts the party line?” She said, “Oh, I’d love to see it, but that, you know, there’s really no point in it. I was just given this assignment. I probably will be writing about it again.” But what I had to do was to call the drug czars office and get them to say something. And that was journalism dealing with marijuana. You know, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. And this went on for decades.

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Charlotte Figi, 13-year-old Coloradan who inspired CBD reform, dies after family suspects she contracted coronavirus

Charlotte Figi, the young Colorado Springs girl whose battle with Dravet syndrome inspired changes to medical marijuana laws across the country and helped popularize CBD, has died after suffering an illness her family suspects was the new coronavirus. She was 13.

“Charlotte is no longer suffering,” a family representative wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night. “She is seizure-free forever.”

In a statement provided to The Denver Post, Charlotte’s mother, Paige Figi, said the whole family got sick in early March, but because their symptoms did not all fit within the criteria for COVID-19, they were told to self-treat at home. Charlotte was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at a Colorado Springs hospital on Friday after her symptoms worsened and was treated on the floor specifically designated for COVID-19 patients.

Read more at The Denver Post

A State-by-State Breakdown of CBD Laws

When it comes to the legal status of products containing cannabidiol (CBD), much attention has been paid to what’s happening at the federal level. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the substance with the caveat that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has oversight. The FDA has stated that CBD is not permitted in food, beverages and ingestible products until the agency creates a regulatory pathway for companies to do so—with no timetable of when that might happen.

Even if the FDA OKed ingestible CBD products tomorrow, however, it wouldn’t mean those products would be legal in every state. Each state regulates hemp and CBD differently, creating a patchwork of regulations that’s being tracked by the cannabis site Leafly.

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North Dakota Activists Say Marijuana Legalization Initiative Unlikely In 2020 Due To Coronavirus

North Dakota activists announced on Thursday that they are suspending their campaign put marijuana legalization on the November ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a Facebook post, Legalize ND said “we are going to have to face a few hard realities going forward” as businesses are shuttering, public events are being cancelled and individuals are encouraged to shelter in place. The pandemic means in-person signature gathering can’t take place, and the state does not allow for alternative signing options such as by mail or online.

“Due to the virus all of our major avenues for signature collection have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, and going door to door is not safe for both those knocking and those getting knocked,” the group said.

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Mississippi Steps Back From Regulating or Outlawing Kratom

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi legislators have killed bills that would either ban or regulate kratom, an herbal drug that can be used for pain relief.

Kratom is currently unregulated in most parts of the United States, but has been outlawed by a few local governments in Mississippi amid concerns that it can be harmful.

Kratom is derived from a tree that’s native to Southeast Asia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says the leaves can be crushed and then smoked, put into capsules or taken with water or other liquids.

The DEA characterizes kratom as one of its “drugs of concern.” The agency says people have used it to relieve muscle strains and as a substitute for opium; the drug has also been used to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioids.

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FDA Finally Sends Overdue CBD Enforcement Update To Congress

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update to Congress this week on the status of rulemaking for CBD.

While the process remains ongoing, the agency announced that it is actively exploring pathways to allow for the marketing of cannabidiol as a dietary supplement and is developing enforcement discretion guidance. It will also be reopening a public docket to solicit additional scientific information about the risk and benefits of the cannabis compound.

After hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, FDA was mandated under separate appropriations legislation passed late last year to provide an update on its regulatory approach to CBD within 60 days. That deadline passed last month, but the report and a supplementary notice were made public on Thursday.

Read more at Marijuana Moment

Hawaii Lawmakers Introduce Plan To Study Psychedelic Mushrooms With Goal Of Legalizing Access

A pair of Hawaii lawmakers is pushing to explore the therapeutic potential of psychedelic mushrooms, introducing legislation that could one day make psilocybin-based products available to medical patients in the state.

The package of resolutions, introduced last week by Sen. Les Ihara Jr. and Rep. Chris Lee, both Democrats, asks the state Department of Health to convene a “medicinal psilocybin working group” that would examine available evidence around the use of psychedelic mushrooms and eventually “develop a long-term strategic plan to ensure the availability of medicinal psilocybin or psilocybin-based products that are safe, accessible, and affordable for eligible adult patients.”

The proposal comes as a number of other jurisdictions around the U.S. explore relaxing laws around psychedelics, such as by expanding opportunities for therapeutic use or decriminalizing simple possession. In Hawaii, possession of psilocybin mushrooms is currently illegal under both state and federal law.

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COVID-19 Will Now Derail New York Marijuana Legalization

New York lawmakers will prioritize response to the novel coronavirus pandemic and likely delay marijuana legalization.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intended to legalize adult-use marijuana through the state budget this session, but the novel coronavirus outbreak may force the issue on the back burner. The state budget is due in two weeks and key lawmakers now believe issues around legalization, including how the state will spend tax revenue created by marijuana sales, will not be negotiated in time.

State Sen. Liz Krueger sponsored a recently revised legalization bill, but the state’s reaction to the ongoing pandemic takes precedence.

“I don’t believe marijuana is going to be negotiated in this budget in the next few days,” Krueger told WMHT. “I just don’t see it as realistic.”

Read more at The Fresh Toast

Expert answers: can cannabis and CBD affect coronavirus?

“In this article, integrative medicine expert, Dr. Dani Gordon, answers peoples’ question of whether cannabis and CBD can affect contracting or recovering from COVID-19, or coronavirus.

People are asking if cannabis and CBD can help buffer the immune system against getting COVID-19 in the first place, and if you do get it, can CBD and cannabis help treat it? What about the possibility that NSAID anti-inflammatory drugs may have a negative effect on the virus once you are infected and wait a —minute – CBD is an anti-inflammatory too, so what does that mean for CBD?

CBD, cannabis, and coronavirus
As for CBD and cannabis, we don’t have any studies showing it has any effect on the coronavirus, although there are some interesting studies on medical cannabis and smoked cannabis use and HIV progression.

As both a cannabis specialist and doctor trained in natural medicine and western medicine, it is important to let people know the facts and be totally honest about what we don’t know. It’s also critical not to make false claims when we are all understandably a bit scared, and of course, want to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

This effect can distance our more ‘conventional’ medicine and research colleagues who are not well versed in botanical medicine, and hurt the progress plant medicine has made in recent years in gaining support and credibility through academic research and inquiry, partnering with the research and those physicians open-minded enough to consider them.

Read the full article at Medical Cannabis Network