Montana County Officials Say Marijuana Legalization Measures Will Qualify For State Ballot, Campaign Confirms

Montana marijuana activists said on Friday that official county-level data shows they’ve collected enough valid signatures to qualify two legalization measures for the November ballot.

Despite signature gathering setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, New Approach Montana says its revised petitioning strategy paid off and they managed to amass enough valid submissions for both their statutory cannabis legalization measure and a separate constitutional amendment that would make a technical change stipulating that only those 21 and older could participate in the market.

That’s based on both county-level signature validation data the campaign reviewed as well as their own verification process.

The statutory measure to establish a regulated cannabis market for adult use in the state required about 25,000 signatures in order to qualify, and the group said 33,000 have been verified.

The separate constitutional amendment the group backed required 51,000 valid signatures—and the campaign said they have 52,860 verified.
Pepper Petersen, spokesperson for New Approach Montana, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is “really excited that we’ve seen such a broad support for the policies in Montana for this change.”

“Every single legislative district submitted signatures for this drive, all 56 counties, every little small town, people contributed signatures to this in Montana. We think that shows a huge level of support out here, and we’re excited going forward,” he said. “We’re confident that people are going to support this at the ballot as much as they did in the signature gathering process.”

While social distancing and shelter-in-place orders forced the campaign to temporarily suspend their activities, they resumed in May with new safety protocols in place.

Oregon’s secretary of state confirmed this month that separate measures to legalize psilocybin therapy and decriminalize possession of all drugs while expanding treatment services will appear on the November ballot.

Washington, D.C. activists turned in what they believe are more than enough signatures to put a broad psychedelics decriminalization measure on the November ballot this month.

In Arizona, the organizers of a legalization effort turned in 420,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot this month.

Organizers in Nebraska this month submitted 182,000 signatures in an attempt to put a medical marijuana measure on November’s ballot.

Idaho activists behind a medical marijuana legalization initiative could get a second wind after a federal judge said recently that the state must make accommodations for a separate ballot campaign due to signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The cannabis campaign is now considering a lawsuit seeking the same relief.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home mandates, measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes qualified for South Dakota’s November ballot.

The New Jersey legislature approved putting a cannabis legalization referendum before voters as well.

And in Mississippi, activists gathered enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis legalization initiative for the ballot—though lawmakers also approved a competing (and from advocates’ standpoint, less desirable) medical marijuana proposal that will appear alongside the campaign-backed initiative.

A campaign to legalize cannabis in Missouri officially gave up its effort for 2020 due to signature collection being virtually impossible in the face of social distancing measures.

North Dakota marijuana legalization activists are shifting focus and will seek qualification for the 2022 ballot.

Washington state activists had planned to pursue a drug decriminalization and treatment measure through the ballot, but citing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, they announced last month that they will be targeting the legislature instead.Petersen said that it was a combination of both the commitment of volunteers and the widespread interest in the policy change among voters that led to their success.

“I think that that the success is, of course, our volunteers and our staff were really hard workers and our supporters contributed to that,” he said. “But it was just the excitement for Montanans. Montanans want this change and they think it’s well past time for it.”

While organizers say the official county-level data and the campaign’s independent analysis indicates the initiatives will make the ballot, the secretary of state must still confirm their qualification. The office has until August 20 to verify the measures to the governor.

Marijuana Moment reached out to the secretary of state’s office for comment, but a representative did not immediately respond.

Next steps for the campaign will involve “meeting with community leaders and going out encouraging folks to digest the legislation and see the positive that it’s going to bring to the state and just make sure we talk to as many folks in the state as possible about that,” Petersen said.

The campaign is also seeking donations to support its work in the weeks ahead, it said in an email blast on Friday.

“The good news is that, as of today, the official county numbers show that our campaign collected enough valid signatures to qualify both of our initiatives for the ballot. That’s an incredible achievement, and we’re grateful to everyone who supported that effort,” organizers wrote to supporters. “But here’s the bad news: this is going to be a tough fight, and due to the challenges we faced in the signature drive, we were forced to spend far more than we planned. And now, we’re behind our fundraising goals.”

Advocates file petition challenging Portland’s cap on marijuana stores

Recently adopted marijuana regulations in Maine’s biggest city have come under fire again.

A group of marijuana advocates in Portland filed a petition Friday that seeks to remove the 20-store cap on the number of marijuana retail shops allowed under the local marijuana ordinance approved this spring. The group wants to put the question to a referendum vote in November.

“We want a fair and open marijuana market,” said organizer David Boyer, former head of Maine’s chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project. “A cap helps out-of-state corporate interests, hurts local entrepreneurs and drives up consumer prices. Portland should treat marijuana shops like breweries. Some might fail, but all have the right to try.”

The petition also seeks to shrink the minimum buffer between marijuana shops from 250 feet to 100 feet.

The group collected 2,482 signatures on its petitions and submitted them to Portland City Hall on Friday for certification, Boyer said. The group needs the support of 1,500 confirmed city voters to force the City Council to consider adopting the proposed changes. If the council doesn’t want to do it, the question would be put to voters on the November ballot. Cannabis inhaler parts have been low on stock since the higher demand for them has arose.

This petition drive marks the second challenge to Portland’s cannabis rules. The other is a lawsuit filed by the state’s biggest marijuana company, Wellness Connection of Maine, contesting the city’s decision to award preference points to Maine residents when deciding who should get one of Portland’s coveted retail marijuana store licenses.

Wellness Connection lawyers argued the local preference discriminates against companies such as itself that have proven track records in Maine but are owned, funded or managed by out-of-state residents or companies. Such economic discrimination is unconstitutional, they argue. It also hurts small Maine companies in need of outside investment.

Wellness Connection is owned by Acreage Holdings of New York, one of the largest U.S. cannabis companies, which is merging with an even larger Canadian marijuana company, Canopy Growth. Earlier this month, Acreage Holdings was fined by the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission for using complex management deals to violate its statewide license cap.

The Portland City Council decided to adopt a 20-store cap early on during the yearlong road to its May adoption of local cannabis rules. Councilors see the cap as a way for Portland to enter the marijuana market in a slow, controlled manner and lower the risk of flooding the new market with more suppliers than needed. A market failure would hurt everyone, they argued.

The city created a score sheet to decide who would get a retail license, giving preference to Mainers, the disadvantaged, business owners, medical cannabis caregivers, those with $150,000 in the bank, and companies that pay a living wage or donate 1 percent of profits to the city for drug prevention. The 20 highest-scoring applicants would nab a shop license.

Phoenix Pain Management has recently become more supported of medical marijuana and is very accepting of patients who choose cannabis over opioids.

It is not capping the number of marijuana testing labs, cultivation facilities and manufacturing plants, although their numbers are somewhat limited by the city’s cannabis zoning regulations, which limit where marijuana facilities can locate. But the ordinance does not differentiate between recreational and medical marijuana facilities.

City voters approved legalization by a 2-to-1 margin in the 2016 statewide referendum. In 2013, Portland became the first city on the East Coast to legalize recreational marijuana use as voters overwhelmingly passed an ordinance allowing adults to possess small amounts of the drug, a referendum kicked off by another Boyer petition drive.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999. Maine had expected to allow adult-use sales to begin in July, almost four years after legalization, but put the launch on indefinite hold while waiting for local approval of marijuana testing labs and coming up with a plan to manage the long lines of the first public adult-use store openings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical Marijuana sales surpass $109 million, 17,000 pounds

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — Since the first dispensary opened in May 2019, Arkansans have spent $109 million to obtain 17,447 pounds of medical marijuana.

On average, Arkansans spent $583,000 a day on medical marijuana purchases over the last two weeks.

There are now 26 dispensaries open for business. The following locations opened in July: Arkansas Patient Services Company (Monticello), Delta Cannabis (West Memphis), Enlightened Cannabis for People, Arkadelphia and Enlightened Cannabis for People, Heber Springs.

The Medical Marijuana Commission will meet Tuesday, July 21 at 4:30 p.m. An agenda will be distributed Monday.

TOTAL MEDICAL MARIJUANA SALES THROUGH JULY 14, 2020

Since Suite 443 (Hot Springs) first opened on Friday, May 10, the company sold 945.97 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Green Springs Medical (Hot Springs) first opened on Sunday, May 12, the company sold 2,893.90 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Arkansas Natural Products (Clinton) first opened on Thursday, June 20, the company sold 410.76 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Greenlight Dispensary (Helena) first opened on Thursday, June 27, the company sold 425.57 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Hensley Wellness Center (Hensley) first opened on Tuesday, July 2, the company sold 1,175.72 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Fiddler’s Green (Mountain View) first opened on Thursday, July 11, the company sold 1,109.34 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since the Releaf Center (Bentonville) first opened on Wednesday, August 7, the company sold 1,954.06 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since The Source (Bentonville) first opened on Thursday, August 15, the company sold 1,316.46 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Acanza (Fayetteville) first opened on Saturday, September 14, the company sold 1,367.83 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Harvest (Conway) first opened on Friday, October 11, the company sold 1,160.46 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Purspirit Cannabis (Fayetteville) opened on Wednesday, November 20, the company sold 804.65 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since NEA Full Spectrum (Brookland) opened on Monday, December 9, the company sold 802.73 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since 420 Dispensary (Russellville) opened on Tuesday, December 17, the company sold 336.32 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Fort Cannabis (Fort Smith) opened on Wednesday, December 18, the company sold 684.49 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Red River Remedy (Texarkana) opened on Friday, January 10 (2020), the company sold 245.68 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Bloom Medicinals (Texarkana) opened on Wednesday, January 15 (2020),  the company sold 67.71 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Plant Family Therapeutics (Mountain Home) opened on Monday, February 3 (2020), the company sold 598.24 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Little Rock House of Cannabis (Little Rock) opened on Friday, February 14 (2020), the company sold 176.27 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Herbology (Little Rock) opened on Wednesday, February 26 (2020), the company sold 101.81 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Custom Cannabis (Alexander) opened on Thursday, March 5 (2020), the company sold 170.04 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Natural Relief Dispensary (Sherwood) opened on March 17 (2020), the company sold 635.31 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Body and Mind Dispensary (formerly Comprehensive Care Group) opened on April 27 (2020), the company sold 51.40 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Delta Cannabis (West Memphis) opened on July 1 (2020), the company sold 10.23 pounds of medical marijuana.

Since Arkansas Patient Services Company (Monticello) opened on July 4 (2020), the company sold 2.87 pounds of medical marijuana.

Combined, this is more than 17,447 pounds of medical marijuana and $109.65 million in total sales.

As medical marijuana industry matures, sales rising substantially

Marijuana dispensary sales were generally less than $1 million per week in the early days of Ohio’s medicinal cannabis program. Sales have grown to more than $3 million per week in recent months, for a variety of reasons.

Sales at Ohio’s medical-marijuana dispensaries continue to climb despite — or perhaps because of — the coronavirus pandemic. Cannabis inhalers sales have been growing month over month throughout the United States.

Dispensaries sold about $17 million worth of products between May 14 and June 18, the most recent period for which statistics are available. In the early days of the program, dispensaries generally sold less than $1 million worth of products in a week, but that figure has gradually grown to well over $3 million per week in recent months, even as sales of most consumer products have fallen as the virus continues to spread.

Sales are so high that some cultivators and processors are struggling to fill orders from dispensaries.

Marijuana entrepreneurs, industry insiders and patients see many reasons behind the increase. Chief among them: the industry’s natural growth, as more dispensaries open, more products become available, and more patients receive marijuana cards. Pain management clinics in Phoenix have begun accepting medical marijuana patients who choose cannabis over opioid use.

Dispensaries saw patients stock up at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March, said Todd Yaross, chief executive officer of the Terrasana Cannabis Co., which has several dispensaries in Ohio. However, that only partly explains the gradual rise in sales figures, he said.

“When the pandemic started to take hold, it led to convergence in medical markets of a couple things,” Yaross said. “One was fear of not knowing if we were going to be able to be open.”

Dispensaries got the green light even as Gov. Mike DeWine shuttered much of the rest of the state’s economy in March.

The number of patients with medical marijuana cards also has risen gradually, Yaross said. More than 136,000 people have marijuana recommendations from a doctor, and more than 81,000 have bought marijuana from a dispensary, according to figures from the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

“We saw 50 new patents so far in July,” said Brian Wingfield, who co-owns the Ohio Cannabis Co. dispensary in Coshocton.

State officials approved telemedicine appointments and curbside pickup to encourage social distancing, which might have attracted even more patients, said Tim Johnson, a marijuana cardholder and co-founder of the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce advocacy group.

“I like the fact that they also included a drive-thru/walk-up window” among other temporary allowances for dispensaries, he said. But “the industry hasn’t picked up on it because they want to make sure that’s going to be a permanent rule. No dispensary wants to put the money into the drive-up window unless they know they can keep it.”

The variety of products in dispensaries has vastly expanded since the program began in earnest at the start of 2019, when the plant material was the only product available. Vaping is the most common way to consume the plant material, Wingfield said.

“A few months ago, all you could get was the actual bud or the flower material,” he said. “Then they added tinctures; we’re getting breakfast bars, caramel, oils, gummies, lozenges. People who don’t want to vape are now getting better options.”

Johnson also stressed that more dispensaries are open and are more spread out around the state, which means a shorter drive for many patients.

As of Thursday, 51 dispensaries had certificates of operation, and although many are clustered in and around big cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton, some opened in rural areas in recent months.

When state officials declared marijuana dispensaries essential businesses and allowed them to remain open early in the pandemic, it gave the industry a legitimacy it had lacked, Johnson said. “That opened the door of recognition” and made patients feel more comfortable seeking permission to participate in the program, he said.

Victoria Kahn, a marijuana cardholder and activist who lives in Columbus, said a large share of Ohioans are working remotely, or are reluctant to venture out, giving them more opportunities to use medicinal pot.

“Patients are feeling more comfortable trying cannabis with less fear of being remanded or fired,” she said.

Many dispensaries in Ohio are required to hire armed private security companies to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

In addition, prices have fallen as Ohio’s medical marijuana industry has matured, patients and advocates say, making the program more accessible. An ounce of the flower material (which lasts up to a month) can be found for about $200, said Mary Jane Borden, a marijuana cardholder and co-founder of the Ohio Rights Group advocacy organization.

“Recall that at the beginning of the program, ounces were as high as $450,” she said.

However, some people are still priced out of the program by a high barrier for entry, Borden said. The price of acquiring a recommendation remains around $200, which is out of reach for many people, she said.

Is it time to consider using medical marijuana?

Despite the hype and popularity of medical marijuana, you may not be sure if it’s something to consider. A well known Chandler Pain Management Clinic has become very accepting of medical marijuana patients. You’re right to be cautious; the use of marijuana to treat health problems is still being studied, and we don’t have all the answers about its risks and benefits.

We do know that medical marijuana use among older adults is increasing. “Older adults tend to use it for physical ailments. No. 1 is chronic pain. Insomnia is another big one, too. Older people have a hard time sleeping, and there aren’t a lot of other safe options,” says Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

READ: Cendant Stem Cell Center Reviews

What is medical marijuana?

The term “medical marijuana” refers to either the dried flowers of the unprocessed marijuana plant, which contains hundreds of chemicals; or two specific chemicals derived from marijuana that are known to have medicinal properties.

One of the two chemicals, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), produces a high. The other, cannabidiol (CBD), does not produce any sort of high or cognitive impairment.

“The two chemicals separately, or in varying combinations, seem to decrease pain and to help with anxiety and insomnia. They are also thought to be helpful in reducing symptoms of many other conditions,” Dr. Grinspoon says. Those other conditions include arthritis, migraines, dystonia (a muscle disorder), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. “CBD, in particular, is known to lessen inflammation and to be helpful in controlling epileptic seizures,” Dr. Grinspoon notes.

Forms of medical marijuana

Medical marijuana comes in many forms. You can obtain the dried marijuana flowers (buds), which can be smoked, vaporized and inhaled, baked into food, or used as a tea. The plants are grown in various strains, each of which has different ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

You can also find products that contain THC, CBD, or both chemicals. The extracts are available in pills, concentrates (which are extremely potent), oils, sprays, sublingual drops, edibles (like gummies and other candies), patches, lotions, and suppositories.

Not without risks

While medical marijuana appears to have many potential health benefits, it also has risks.

THC and CBD can magnify or diminish the body levels of the medications you take. That could be dangerous with drugs that must be dosed carefully, with no room for error, such as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).

Taking THC by itself may cause an elevated heart rate, impaired coordination, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, fatigue, hunger, nausea, red eyes, drowsiness, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure, or a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing. “THC can also cause an anxiety attack if you take too high a dose, and it can affect short-term memory. If you have mild cognitive impairment, THC can make it worse and impair your judgment,” Dr. Grinspoon says.

The risks of THC dependence and addiction are debated; heavy users may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using it.

CBD doesn’t cause a “high” so you won’t be sedated while using it, but you will feel more relaxed. CBD side effects can include nausea, fatigue, irritability, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, drowsiness, diarrhea, or upset stomach. CBD is not considered addictive.

THC or CBD?

THC is a stronger drug. That might be helpful in certain cases. “Think of a veteran with severe pain from an injury who doesn’t want to be on opiates, or someone with severe pain from advanced cancer,” Dr. Grinspoon says.

But THC also has the disadvantage of psychoactive effects. For that reason, Dr. Grinspoon typically prescribes something high in CBD, with the lowest dose of THC possible. “You’ll get to the right dose,” he says, “but start low and go slow. Most of the side effects come from taking too much.”

If you’re interested

Medical marijuana is available in about three dozen states. Most require you to have a diagnosed “qualifying condition,” and all require a doctor’s referral so you can legally obtain the drug. Cannabis inhalers also known as metered dose inhalers are becoming more popular amongst the community.

If you live in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal, you could simply go to a dispensary to buy it. But Dr. Grinspoon urges you to talk with your doctor before using any kind of marijuana for treatment purposes — not only to make sure it’s safe for your health but also to find out which chemical ratio you might need. “Educate yourself as much as possible before you enter a dispensary,” Dr. Grinspoon says, “so you’re not dependent on ‘budtenders’ [dispensary workers] who mean well but don’t have a medical background.”

POLITICSBiden And Trump Must Back Marijuana Legalization Before Election, NORML Petition Demands

A top marijuana advocacy group is circulating a petition urging President Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to back comprehensive cannabis reform ahead of the November election.

NORML stressed that the most Americans, including a majority of Republicans and a supermajority of Democrats, are in favor of marijuana legalization especially for the Phoenix pain management clinic. Yet neither major party candidate supports the policy change.

The group laid out four specific policies they’re insisting the candidates embrace: 1) federally deschedule cannabis, 2) direct a review of federal marijuana convictions and expunge or resentence application cases, 3) provide federal aid to local and state governments to conduct their own reviews and facilitate expungements and 4) promote social equity in the cannabis industry and encourage the reinvestment of some marijuana tax revenue to communities most impacted by the drug war.

“The criminalization of marijuana financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a press release. “Americans demand a president who recognizes this reality and who will seek to amend federal law in a manner that comports with scientific consensus, public opinion, and the plant’s rapidly evolving cultural status.”

As of Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after the petition was launched, nearly 5,000 people had signed on.

“Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition,” the petition reads.

Trump, meanwhile, has voiced support for medical cannabis as well as bipartisan legislation that would allow states to set their own marijuana laws without federal interference. On the other hand cannabis metered dose inhalers is becoming the next big thing in the marijuana community.

However, while the president’s reelection campaign has been working to frame him as the criminal justice reform candidate, he hasn’t proactively championed cannabis reform, has made several anti-marijuana administration hires and issued signing statements stipulating that he reserves the right to ignore long-standing congressional riders that prohibit the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana programs.

Reform advocates had hopes that a criminal justice task reform force organized by Biden and former primary campaign rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would ultimately recommend that the former vice president support adult-use legalization—but despite a majority of individual members being in favor of the policy change, they did not include the issue in their report.

Instead, Biden, who during his decades as a senator championed punitive drug legislation, has so far drawn the line at decriminalizing cannabis possession, federal rescheduling, medical marijuana legalization, expungements and allowing states to set their own policies.

“Not only do we know that ending marijuana prohibition is good policy, it is also good politics with majorities of all political persuasions supporting this change,” NORML’s Altieri told Marijuana Moment. “It amounts to almost political malpractice to continue to oppose these broadly popular reforms in the year 2020.”

“Biden and Trump have an opportunity to show some real leadership by taking ownership of this issue,” he said. “If they opt not to lead, we will continue to push for Congress to initiate these overdue policies and the two major party candidates can go down as firmly residing on the wrong side of history.”

Also, despite his pledged support for medical cannabis and states’ rights, Trump evidently holds some negative views toward marijuana consumption, as evidenced in a recording from 2018 that was leaked two years later. In that recording, the president said that using cannabis makes people “lose IQ points.”

What remains to be seen is whether, as pressure builds on both campaigns to attract voters, either candidate will seize the opportunity to align themselves with the majority of Americans and take the next step to back recreational legalization.

Regardless, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) recently said that Congress will approve legalization if Democrats reclaim the White House and Senate, no matter where Biden lands on the issue if he’s elected.