Researchers Study Whether Cows Fed Hemp Will Get Meat Eaters and Milk Drinkers High
Will feeding hemp to cattle pass along a high to humans? That’s what researchers at Kansas State University hope to discover after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded them a $200,000 grant.
Although the federal government legalized hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, it’s prohibited for use as animal feed, and no one really knows what effect cannabinoids have on cattle. Plus, using hemp as livestock feed could potentially result in concentrations of THC in meat and milk.
“Our goal is to fill in the knowledge gaps,” said Michael Kleinhenz, one of the researchers at Kansas State University. “Until feedstuffs containing hemp are established as safe in animals, our data will assist producers in managing situations involving intentional or unintentional hemp exposures.”
Fewer Vaping Illnesses Reported in Legal Marijuana States
According to a study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, higher rates of e-cigarette and marijuana vaping did not result in more vaping-related lung injuries (known as EVALI) in states with legalized marijuana.
“Indeed, the five earliest states to legalize recreational marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—all had less than one EVALI case per 100,000 residents aged 12 to 64. None of the highest EVALI-prevalence states—Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Delaware and Indiana—allowed recreational marijuana use,” according to Yale researchers.
So what accounts for the difference? It turns out that the use of Vitamin E acetate, a vaping additive used to dilute marijuana oils in mostly black-market vaping products, is responsible for the rise in EVALI cases. People in states where marijuana is still prohibited are more likely to seek out black-market products.
Yale researchers used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) related to EVALI hospitalization and deaths nationwide.
Another Month, Another Colorado Marijuana Sales Record
Marijuana sales in Colorado have been breaking records nearly every month, despite (or maybe because of) the COVID-19 pandemic. July was no exception: Recreational marijuana dispensary sales amounted to $183,106,003, while medical marijuana sales amounted to $43,268,565. Combined, that’s $226,374,568 worth of weed, up 13.8% from June.
So far, Colorado dispensaries have sold more than $1.2 billion worth of marijuana edibles, concentrate, and flower in 2020, amounting to $203 million in taxes for the state.
If cannabis sales continue to break records, 2020 could surpass 2019’s record of $1.75 billion in annual sales.
Cannabis sales during coronavirus shutdowns haven’t been the same in every state, with newer cannabis markets seeming to fair better than established markets that depend on tourism.
Despite a statewide stay-at-home order issued on March 23, Washington state saw record-breaking cannabis sales in April. Recreational marijuana sales increased 20% compared to April 2019, generating $106 million. Adult-use cannabis sales in Washington during March amounted to $99 million.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, Washington is a good test state to see if cannabis is “recession-proof” because it has a relatively mature market that generates a higher portion of sales from locals.
States like Colorado generate a higher amount of cannabis sales from tourists, so even with the leveling off of sales in the state in recent years, Colorado should expect to see a dip in cannabis revenue.
“Estimates prepared for the Department of Revenue suggest that tourists accounted for 7 to 9 percent of marijuana consumption in Colorado between 2014 and 2017,” according to a state budgeting report.
Adult-use cannabis sales in Colorado during April 2020 generated $91 million, a 16% decrease as compared to the same time in 2019
While California saw a modest gain in cannabis sales in April, monthly sales growth was less than before the pandemic. In March, Californians bought $276 million in recreational cannabis, an increase of 53% compared to March 2019. In April, sales equaled $248 million, an increase of only 17%.
With travel all but grounded during the pandemic, Nevada’s cannabis businesses have been hit hard by the lack of tourism. Adult-use cannabis sales fell 26% in the state, earning $38 million in sales in April, down from $54 million in March. According to Will Adler, Director of the Sierra Cannabis Coalition, 80% of recreational and medical marijuana sales in Nevada are generated from tourists.
Illinois’ adult-use cannabis market launched in January, with a record-setting $39.2 million in sales. April’s adult-use marijuana sales didn’t top January’s numbers, but they were still higher than average. In April, Illinois sold nearly $37.3 million in recreational cannabis, $2.6 million more than was sold in March.
In Oklahoma, residents bought a record amount of medical marijuana, increasing tax collections by more than 25%. The Oklahoma Tax Commission received $9.8 million in state taxes in April. By comparison, the state generated $7.8 million in medical marijuana tax revenue in March. According to The Oklahoman, medical marijuana dispensaries sold $61.4 million worth of medical cannabis in April or nearly $217 per licensed patient.
Bud Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma Cannabis Industry Association, credits people staying home with the increase in medical marijuana sales.
“With the stay-home order in place, and medical marijuana dispensaries being categorized as essential health services, Oklahoma patients were afforded the ability to take their medicine on a more regular basis and sample a broader range of available medicines,” Scott said.
Cannabis users looking for relief from stress and anxiety could account for increases in marijuana sales that don’t rely on tourism.
“I’ve probably medicated more these past few months. You’ve got people staying home and getting stimulus checks, and what are they spending it on? Things that help keep them calm and collected,” Keith Wiley, owner of Native Brothers Dispensary, told The Oklahoman.
California is launching a new campaign to combat black market cannabis and support the legal marijuana industry.
The campaign, dubbed “Get #weedwise,” is meant to encourage cannabis consumers to buy their marijuana from licensed dispensaries.
“This public education campaign is the first to focus on educating consumers about the differences between cannabis purchased from licensed retailers and that from illegal businesses,” said Lori Ajax, Chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Consumer safety is a big part of the campaign since unlicensed cannabis doesn’t undergo the same safety and quality control process as licensed cannabis retailers. Illegal cannabis is often tainted by heavy metals, mold, pesticides, and even human waste. Unlicensed grows regularly use banned or restricted pesticides, and it’s led to increased pollution and toxic waste.
U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar, who has been a lawyer on multiple marijuana-related environmental damage cases, said many of these illegal grows “are like superfund sites.”
Some of the cannabis plants seized in raids were so toxic that law enforcement officers were sent to the hospital after just touching the plants.
“We believe that this campaign will directly impact consumer safety by clarifying that only cannabis purchased from licensed retailers has met the state’s safety standards, while sending a clear message to unlicensed businesses that they need to get licensed or shut down,” said Ajax.
The black market is a huge problem in California that’s undermining the regulated cannabis market and costing the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. According to New Frontier Data, as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in the state comes from the black market. The company estimated that California’s black market marijuana is worth $3.7 billion, more than four times the size of the legal cannabis market.
“We are going to start having a more aggressive enforcement stance to come after the illegal market,” said Ajax.
The two-year campaign will include $113 million in state funds to enforce state marijuana laws, crack down on illegal cannabis operations, and encourage unlicensed businesses to enter the regulated market. California will spend an initial $1.7 million on a series of ads on social media and billboards to encourage cannabis consumers to check if a shop is licensed at CApotcheck.com.
California police carried out multiple raids on illegal marijuana grows Wednesday in an ongoing effort to tamp down on black market cannabis. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department served 80 search warrants in Anza Valley and made several arrests. They seized an estimated 140,800 plants valued at $189 million, along with 3,00 pounds of processed marijuana, 17 rifles, and 10 handguns.
“There are legitimate concerns in Northern California particularly as it relates to illegal cannabis grows. They are getting worse, not better,” Governor Gavin Newsom said.
California has a comprehensive regulatory framework for legal marijuana, and cannabis growers are required to go through a step-by-step licensing process, including background checks. However, according to New Frontier Data, as much as 80% of the cannabis sold in the state comes from the black market. The company estimated that California’s black market marijuana is worth $3.7 billion, more than four times the size of the legal cannabis market.
A report from the state Cannabis Advisory Committee found that “Lack of enforcement is creating a thriving environment for the unregulated ‘underground market.”
The problem isn’t just limited to marijuana grows. The state Bureau of Cannabis control has sent 2,842 cease-and-desist letters to cannabis shops operating without state licenses.
“It’s difficult to say how many of those letters resulted in action,” Bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said. “Businesses could shut down and relocate.”
In June, local law enforcement raided five properties in Sonoma County that were producing medical marijuana oil. The owner of the company was using “illegal and hazardous production methods” in addition to breaking a number of city ordinances.
Cannabis is easy to get in the state: 1 in 5 Californians have purchased marijuana from illegal sources in the last three months, and 84% of those people said that they were highly likely to purchase cannabis from the same illicit source again.
In order for a regulated cannabis market to thrive and for consumers to get safe, high-quality cannabis, enforcement of marijuana regulations, and convincing non legal operations to go through the licensing process is essential.
“We believe that this governor is committed to addressing our concerns, and he has a Legislature that is showing their willingness to author bills that will strengthen the regulated market while minimizing the illicit market,” said Josh Drayton, a spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association.
While cannabis may the same across the country, not all legal-cannabis states regulate it in the same way. Ironing out the particulars of marijuana laws isn’t always straightforward, with regulations leaving some states struggling to keep pace with demand.
Recreational cannabis sales haven’t yet begun in Michigan, but it’s the state’s medical marijuana market that’s been experiencing a serious supply shortage.
In 2016, Michigan passed a law that implemented a five-tiered licensing system to grow, process, test, transport, and sell medical marijuana. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board issued licenses to 54 medical marijuana dispensaries but only 31 cannabis growers, leading to a supply shortage. Michigan has 297,515 registered medical marijuana patients.
Before the 2016 change to the medical marijuana program, licensed dispensaries could buy cannabis from more than 40,000 registered caregivers in the state. Under the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008, caregivers could grow up to 72 plants and sell the excess to dispensaries. In 2016, lawmakers changed the system, requiring licensed dispensaries to buy cannabis from licensed growers.
Under emergency rules in effect up until late last year, around 215 unlicensed dispensaries were still able to buy medical marijuana from caregivers, putting licensed dispensaries at a disadvantage. As of Dec. 31, 2018, all unlicensed dispensaries were forced to close, and the shortage of product from growers forced even some licensed dispensaries to shut their doors temporarily.
In an effort to solve the cannabis supply problem and the slow licensing process, newly-elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order to eliminate the state licensing board and create a new Marijuana Regulatory Agency. The executive order will also allow unlicensed cannabis facilities to temporarily reopen and allow them to purchase cannabis from caregivers while new licensing regulations are put in place.
Illinois isn’t currently facing a cannabis shortage, but a new study commissioned by state legislators has found that legal recreational marijuana demand could exceed what licensed growers could supply. The report found that demand for recreational cannabis could be as high as 555,000 pounds of marijuana a year.
Under the state’s medical marijuana program, there are 16 licensed cannabis cultivators. The study found that with the current number of marijuana growers, they could only meet 35 to 54 percent of the demand for recreational marijuana. While shortages are a concern, the report notes that oversupply of cannabis is equally important to avoid.
“Systems that either dramatically fall short of demand or that oversupply the market create public policy challenges,” according to the report. “Avoiding both is an important expectation from the public, from producers, and from public health and public safety officials.”
If market demands were met, the report found that Illinois could bring in at least $440 million in tax revenue annually.
State Sen. Heather Steans (D) and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) commissioned the report ahead of introducing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.
Similar to the medical marijuana situation in Michigan, slow-licensing and expiring temporary permits may cause a recreational marijuana shortage in California. Before the state finalized recreational marijuana regulations last year, most cannabis companies were operating under temporary licenses. Nearly 10,000 temporary licenses are set to expire this year, and the backlog of applications means that some dispensaries and cannabis grows may need to close temporarily before they are issued full annual permits.
Last month, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D) introduced Senate Bill 67 in an effort to keep cannabis companies with temporary permits in operation. The bill would allow the state’s three licensing authorities to extend existing temporary licenses while the bottleneck in licensing is addressed.
In a hearing for the bill, Terra Carver, the executive director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, told lawmakers, “Without passage of this bill, there will be dire consequences, such as the imminent market collapse of hundreds of businesses.”
However, the soonest the bill could pass in the state legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newson (D) won’t be for at least two months.
“Best-case scenario, making it through all policy committees and off the floor of the Senate and Assembly in the next 60-90 days,” McGuire told Marijuana Business Daily. In the meantime, thousands of cannagrows and recreational marijuana dispensaries could be forced to close temporarily.
After months of tweaks, regulators have finalized rules for California’s recreational marijuana industry. The regulations were drafted by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and must receive approval from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) before becoming permanent.
Here are some of the key regulations:
Cannabis delivery statewide
One of the most debated regulations involved cannabis delivery in the state. The California League of Cities and law enforcement groups were opposed to statewide deliveries, arguing that it would undermine local government control and increase crime. However, the BCC decided that the language of Proposition 64 permits statewide deliveries, even if the local municipality bans cannabis.
Packaging and exit bags
Packaging headaches seem part and parcel of the cannabis industry, and California cannabis manufacturers should expect more “regulatory whiplash.” Cannabis manufacturers and growers have until 2020 to ensure their packaging is child-resistant. Until then, dispensaries and retailers will need to place cannabis products in resealable exit packaging.
Revised testing requirements
As of July 1, mandatory testing of all cannabis products, including flower and edibles, were required to undergo testing for pesticides, pathogens, and potency. In the first two months of testing, there was a 20-percent failure rate, which has since dropped to 14 percent. Of the 23,864 products tested between July and November, 2,100 products didn’t make it to shelves because the label overestimated the amount of THC.
Sequoia Analytical Labs surrendered its testing license after state regulators discovered that the company was falsifying test results and not testing for pesticides and other contaminants.
Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association said that it’s an “open secret” that some cannabis manufacturers have paid testing companies for favorable results.
“We don’t want to create a pay-to-play system with our testing labs,” said Drayton. “We do need to make sure we get standard operating procedures.”
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and voters approved Proposition 64 legalizing recreational cannabis in 2016. Adult-use sales began Jan. 1, 2018. Cannabis research firms ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics estimate that California will generate $4.7 billion in recreational cannabis sales and $300 million in medical marijuana sales in 2019.
The roll-out of adult-use sales in the world’s largest cannabis market has been a bit of a mess. Recreational marijuana sales became legal in California as of January 1, and some projections had the state’s cannabis industry generating $3.7 billion in sales this year. However, a whole slew of issues–including steep taxes, licensing delays, challenging regulations, and backlogs in testing–have contributed to the slower-than-expected growth and plenty of frustration.
High prices, taxes driving consumers to the black market
According to a survey commissioned by Eaze Solutions, 1 in 5 Californians have purchased cannabis from the black market in the past three months, and 84% of those same people are highly likely to purchase from the illicit market again in the future. Licensed cannabis retailers are losing out to unregulated cannabis that’s cheaper and without tax. Lack of access to legal cannabis is another factor that causes people to turn to the black market. While recreational marijuana is legal in the state, many local governments have restricted its sale in their municipalities.
Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the California Growers Association, told Ganjapreneur that high tax rates have caused inconsistent and wildly fluctuating prices.
“To have such a high tax burden on the few businesses that are able to make it through this gauntlet at the local level — frankly, there are so many other [unlicensed] businesses out there, consumers don’t need to know the difference. All they know is that over here the products cost half as much,” Allen said.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to convince consumers to purchase cannabis legally. The study found that a 5% decrease in the overall tax rate on cannabis could drive 23% of black-market customers to the legal market. The main draws for people purchasing from licensed-marijuana retailers include safety and potency testing, consistent labeling and product quality, electronic payment options, and customer support.
New testing and childproof packaging regulations took effect on July 1, causing additional financial and logistical challenges for marijuana companies. According to Marijuana Business Daily “testing costs for individual manufacturers and growers can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars monthly.”
Testing regulations will lead to increased consumer safety–all cannabis products, including flower and edibles, must be testing for pesticides, pathogens, and potency. The problem is that there are 31 labs licensed to test cannabis products for more than 400 licensed dispensaries, leading to a bottleneck in the supply chain and causing product shortages.
Nowhere are problems caused by licensing delays more evident than they are in Los Angeles. Licensing has been broken down into three parts. During the Phase 1 licensing period, the city issued 156 retail permits for existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Those 156 retail operations hold a cumulative 950 licenses for medical and recreational retail, cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution.
Because the first round of application approvals were for existing medical marijuana businesses, it would make sense that there would be a well-established infrastructure. After all, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana way back in 1996, so growers, retailers, and manufacturers had already been working together for more than twenty years. Unfortunately, with legal adult-use sales, California prohibited licensed cannabis operators from doing business with unlicensed operators, fracturing business relationships and leading to gaps in the supply chain.
The Phase 2 licensing period runs from Aug. 1 through Sept. 13, and only non-retail cannabis business that have been operating since at least December 2015 will be issued permits. Of those eligible to apply for Phase 2, they’ll also have to meet the requirements for the city’s social equity policy. The policy requires that for every nonequity license, two equity licenses must also granted. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the application process and who is eligible.
“Even though I now put in a couple hundred thousand dollars to make sure it was going to be compliant, I still have no idea if it’s going to pass,” said Jerred Kiloh, owner of The Higher Path, one of L.A.’s 156 licensed retail dispensaries.
“I have no idea if my social equity applicant is really going to pass whatever benchmarks they have. No one knows.”
Everyone who doesn’t meet the criteria for Phase 2 will have to wait for Phase 3, and there’s currently no timeline set. Most local jurisdictions, including LA, require applicants to have physical locations before applying, and given the delays in licensing, that means paying large sums of money for months on end for a space that can’t legally operate.
The California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch (CDPH-FDB) has announced that hemp-derived CBD cannot be used in edibles (both food and drink) for either humans or pets. The rule change is a huge blow to the state’s industrial hemp industry and has left much confusion in its wake.
In the FAQ announcing the policy change, the CDPH-FDB said, “Although California currently allows the manufacturing and sales of cannabis products (including edibles), the use of industrial hemp as the source of CBD to be added to food products is prohibited. Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived CBD oil and CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive or dietary supplement.”
For cannabis retailers licensed through the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the rule change means that they cannot sell hemp-based CBD products, though they will still be able to sell CBD products derived from psychoactive cannabis. Hemp and cannabis are the same species of plant, but hemp contains more CBD and negligible amounts of THC.
The restriction on CBD from hemp makes even less sense considering the overabundance of CBD products available outside of retail marijuana dispensaries. Plus, the US Food and Drug Administration approved CBD-based medication, Epidiolex, to treat seizures earlier this year.
“While I disagree with the state of California’s position and approach to hemp-derived CBD – given that it is the same molecule – the law is clear and the FAQ released by the CDPH-FDB confirms the hemp-derived CBD cannot be lawfully added to a food, food product or dietary supplement,” said Dana Cisneros, an attorney with Cannabis Corporate Law Firm.
“This is devastating for small businesses in California that rely on hemp-derived CBD. This is devastating for patients that cannot afford to purchase cannabis-derived CDB products sold in BCC licensed retail establishments.
“And it is nonsensical,” she said.
If you somehow missed the news over the holiday season, recreational marijuana sales in California officially began January 1. The most populous state in the nation, California is home to nearly 40 million people–and expectations are high that the state’s marijuana market will earn billions of dollars.
On a national scale, the end of marijuana prohibition in California is a watershed moment, reflecting changing attitudes and acceptance of cannabis around the country. The number of states legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana keeps growing. As tax revenue from pot sales fill the coffers of state and local governments (California expects $1 billion annually in taxes), it seems increasingly unlikely that federal authorities will crack down on the industry.
However, the launch wasn’t without hiccups: the computer system designed to track marijuana and prevent it from entering the black market wasn’t online, so dispensaries have been forced to keep track of transfers and sales of marijuana manually.
On top of that, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, charged with issuing temporary licenses to retailers and distributors, issued businesses licenses to eighty-eight stores–leading to long lines and supply issues at dispensaries.
Temporary adult-use retail licenses have currently been granted in 34 cities, representing 12% of California’s total population. The licenses are only good for 120 days, so businesses will need to reapply for a permanent license. There are currently 1,400 pending license applications for retail sales, distribution, and testing facilities.
Charles Boldwyn, chief compliance officer of ShowGrow in Santa Ana, said that the delay in finalizing rules and issuing business licenses could lead to a shortage of cannabis products.
“We’re looking at … hundreds of licensed cultivators and manufacturers coming out of an environment where we literally had thousands of people who were cultivating and manufacturing,” Boldwyn said in an interview with the Associated Press. “So the red tape is a bit of a bottleneck in the supply chain.”
San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento are the largest cities in California where recreational shops have opened their doors. Los Angeles and San Francisco are expected to begin recreational sales sometime early this month.
2018 is just around the corner, and California’s recreational marijuana program is set to launch on January 1. The state is expected to become the country’s largest marijuana market, generating $4.5-$5 billion in annual sales.
Ahead of the Jan. 1 launch of recreational cannabis, here’s what you need to know about the California market:
Who can purchase recreational cannabis?
California is following the lead of other states with recreational marijuana programs and regulating cannabis like alcohol. Recreational marijuana can only be purchased by those 21 or older. Medical marijuana regulations will remain unchanged, and you must be 18 years or older with a valid doctor’s recommendation.
How much marijuana can you possess and can you grow your own marijuana plants?
- You can possess 28.5 grams of flower, or 8 grams of cannabis concentrate.
- Individuals can grow up to six plants.
- Driving while high is illegal, as is using marijuana in a moving vehicle or having an open container of cannabis in the car.
- Smoking is prohibited in public, including in restaurants, bars, or concert venues. You can smoke in your home or backyard; however, if your lease prohibits smoking, you can’t smoke cannabis in your rental unit.
When and where can Californians buy recreational marijuana?
That’s a little bit more difficult to answer. California is implementing a dual-licensing system between state and local governments. That means that while recreational marijuana will be legal statewide, dispensaries won’t receive a business license unless they have the approval of their city and/or county government. Local governments will be responsible for setting cannabis regulations, and they have the ultimate say in whether or not adult-use cannabis sales will be allowed.
Unfortunately, many local governments are behind in issuing regulations. California’s five largest cities–Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Fresno–are at varying stages in setting guidelines. Depending on where you live, you might have to travel to find a recreational marijuana dispensary.
Additionally, cannabis businesses can only sell or deliver weed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., so don’t expect to purchase weed at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.