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South Dakota Takes Step Toward Approving Medical Marijuana Rules

The legislative panel responsible for approving the rules that will govern South Dakota’s new medical marijuana law has approved a number of proposed regulations and sent other proposals back for review, in what was a crucial administrative step toward implementing the new statewide program.

The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee on Monday gave “the green light to most of the 124 pages of proposed regulations for medical cannabis in South Dakota from the state Department of Health,” local television station KELO reported.

But the committee rejected other proposed regulations. According to the Associated Press, the lawmakers on the panel rejected one proposal “that would have limited the amount of high-potency marijuana that patients could possess, required medical practitioners to write a recommendation for patients who wanted to grow more than three cannabis plants and defined a list of conditions that would qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation.”

All told, the committee sent “a half-dozen of the proposals” back to the Department of Health for review, according to KELO.

Other rules approved by the committee included one that “set a $75 application fee for medical marijuana cards and discount the fee to $20 for low-income applicants,” according to the AP, and another that set “a state licensing fee of $5,000 for any medical marijuana facility.”

The Associated Press noted that a “host of lobbyists, representing both medical groups and the cannabis industry, objected to some rules, though nearly all praised the Department of Health’s rule-making process.” The Department of Health was also saluted by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

“I commend the Department of Health for its hard work to streamline the process,” she said in a statement, as quoted by the Associated Press. “South Dakota will continue to implement the best, most patient-focused medical cannabis program in the country.”

South Dakota

South Dakota Compromises

Still, not everyone was as enthused by the slate of proposals. Troy Heinert, the Democratic leader of the South Dakota state senate, represented the lone vote on the committee against the proposed regulations.

“As I talk to people across the state they wanted it legalized, taxed and done. I think we’ve made it more difficult than we had to,” Heinert said, as quoted by KELO. “From our side of the aisle, we’re all about freedom.”

Indeed, many of the state’s leaders have been clearly reluctant to embrace the new medical marijuana law, despite 70 percent of South Dakota voters approving the measure that legalized the treatment in last year’s election.

The law officially took effect on July 1, but so far, the only dispensary that has opened its doors to customers is one on an Native American reservation located on the eastern edge of the state. 

Noem, a possible Republican presidential contender, has said that highway patrol officers in the state won’t honor tribal-issued medical cannabis cards if they are issued to non-tribal members.

She has also appeared in PSAs throughout the summer explaining how the state intends to implement the law. 

“One of my jobs as governor is to make sure the will of the people and all constitutional laws are enforced. The medical cannabis program is on schedule, and we’re working to implement a responsible program that follows the direction given by the voters,” Noem says in the ad. 

The state has said that sales will likely begin next summer. Meanwhile, communities throughout South Dakota are hashing out their own local ordinances governing medical cannabis dispensaries. Last week, members of the city council in Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, approved a slate of proposals, including one that will place a cap on the number of dispensaries at five.

The post South Dakota Takes Step Toward Approving Medical Marijuana Rules appeared first on High Times.

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New Mexico Cannabis License Raises Eyebrows

A lucrative cannabis producer license that was issued by the New Mexico Department of Health with little notice only days before the agency lost its regulatory authority is raising eyebrows. Some of the state’s marijuana industry insiders are calling for an investigation into the affair amid allegations of favoritism.

The license awarded to Albuquerque-based GH LLC came less than a week before the health department ceded authority over the state’s Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) to the state’s new Cannabis Control Division, which was created following the legalization of adult-use cannabis by New Mexico lawmakers in April. The license, the first awarded by the health department in six years, was issued following a short, unannounced application period in June.

“This new licensee process has certainly ignited a fair amount of distrust, raised eyebrows and questions,” Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health, the state’s largest medical cannabis business, told the Santa Fe New Mexican last week.

“There are a number of good folks who have invested time, effort and resources while not knowing there might have been an express lane,” he said.

License Awarded After Unannounced Application Period in New Mexico

On June 23, only days before the Cannabis Control Division of the state Regulation and Licensing Department took over marijuana regulation, the health department posted a notice on its website titled “Medical Cannabis Licensed Non-Profit Producer Application Instructions.” No official notice that applications were being accepted was issued, however, although an online application listed a June 28 deadline.

According to documents obtained under a public records request, on June 25, only two days after the application instructions were posted, GH LLC submitted a 731-page application for a nonprofit medical cannabis producer license. On Sunday, June 27, Dominick Zurlo, director of the MCP, and Billy Jimenez, general counsel and deputy secretary of the Department of Health, visited the GH LLC facility in Alburqueque to perform an inspection. One day later the “legacy” producer license was issued by the department for a fee of $10,000.

“In my opinion, this was a dirty affair,” said Willie Ford, managing director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, a consulting firm for cannabis businesses. “This was obviously somebody making it happen for somebody else.”

Health Department Responds to Questions

Department of Health spokeswoman Baylee Rawson said that the department “often posts announcements through the website,” adding that the site is visited frequently by medical cannabis license holders and patients.

“It is also one of the primary methods used to present information and updates about the program including meeting announcements, patient statistics, educational materials and other reports and documents,” Rawson wrote in an email.

Rawson also wrote that for several months, the Department of Health had been working “on opening licenses for additional licensees to help ensure patients had additional options for obtaining their medication.” When asked about the Sunday inspection during the narrow application window, Rawson said that, “It is not unusual for MCP staff to work on weekends due to the high workload and demand for services.”

Emails obtained through the public records request show that after the transfer of responsibility for the Medical Cannabis Program, decisions regarding the GH LLC application were made by top officials at the Cannabis Control Division. In August, acting deputy director of business operations for the division Nicole Bazzano asked health and safety specialist Joshua Wilson for an update on the status of the application.

“It’s my impression that they are just waiting on the inspection from you in order to start producing/manufacturing, is that correct?” she wrote. “What can we do to get them taken care of and up and running properly and legally?”

The following day, Wilson replied that he “had to go back and do a bit of research on this one” and that he “largely” had no information on the approval of the license.

“The processing, inspection and approval were done at a level above MCP License and Compliance staff,” he wrote. “After looking at the approval letter, it does appear that they were issued some form of conditional approval allowing for the completion of infrastructure and requiring re-inspection before being allowed to cultivate, manufacture, or distribute.”

The ‘Mack Daddy of Licenses’

Rodriguez of Ultra Health characterized the license awarded to GH LLC as the “mack daddy of licenses.”

“You’re the vertically integrated license that allows you to do everything—produce, manufacturing—you can do all those things,” he said. “The new approach under the [Cannabis Regulation Act] makes you subject to having this silo effect. You have to get a license for manufacturing. You have to get a license for retail. You have to get a license for production.”

Medical marijuana advocate Larry Love, the host and producer of Santa Fe-based Medical Marijuana Radio, said that he knows “plenty of people” who would have applied for the medical marijuana producer license had the application period been publicized by the health department in advance.

“It just doesn’t seem fair to the public, knowing that someone was able to get a license ahead of everybody else,” said Love.

But in a brief interview last week, GH LLC founder Vance Dugger apparently shrugged off the controversy over the license, saying “We submitted an application like everyone else.”

The post New Mexico Cannabis License Raises Eyebrows appeared first on High Times.

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Arizona Dispensary Trading Pre-rolls for Bras to Fight Breast Cancer

A Phoenix-area cannabis dispensary chain is giving away free pre-rolled joints to customers who donate a bra in a campaign to support breast cancer awareness while supporting an Arizona nonprofit group. A collaboration between Mint Cannabis and Check for a Lump, the Buds ‘n’ Bras campaign aims to highlight the vital need for breast cancer screenings and raise funds for related support services.

Now through October 15, customers 21 and older who donate a new or gently used bra at any of The Mint’s three greater Phoenix dispensary locations will receive a free pre-roll. Those who donate 10 bras will also receive a free breast cancer awareness T-shirt, with a limit of one joint and one shirt per customer, per day. 

The bras will then be given to Check for a Lump, which receives a cash donation for each bra donated. The Mint’s goal for the campaign is to collect 4,200 bras to support the nonprofit. During the seven-week campaign, the Mint will also donate $1 from every pre-roll sale to the nonprofit.

Courtesy of The Mint

Vital Screenings Delayed by Pandemic

In an era of health screenings delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 6,000 new cases of breast cancer and 900 deaths are expected in Arizona this year, according to a statement from The Mint. A study from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science found that the number of mammograms declined 87 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. 

To address the issue, the Buds ‘n’ Bras campaign will include breast screening events held at its dispensaries in conjunction with Check for a Lump. Screenings will be conducted aboard the mobile mammography bus (MOM) from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, September 18 at The Mint’s Phoenix dispensary, and on Saturday, October 9 at the Mesa location. Patients can call (480) 967-3767 to pre-register for a screening.

All Mint locations will also share information about how to participate in the Check for a Lump Pink Out 5K walk/run planned for Saturday, October 2 at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix. The company will also sponsor a booth at the event where it will collect new and gently used bras for the nonprofit group.

The Buds ‘N’ Bras campaign kicked off on August 27 with a “bra raising” ceremony held at The Mint’s Tempe/Guadalupe location with Check for a Lump. At the event, breast cancer patients and survivors hung a string of bras across the dispensary parking lot.

“Nothing better than seeing dozens upon dozens upon dozens of bras fluttering in the wind!” a spokesperson for The Mint told High Times in an email.

Arizona Campaign Off To A Good Start

So far, The Mint and Check for a Lump have already collected eight large, plastic trash bags “jam-packed” with bras. The spokesperson said that just one bag was too heavy to lift, adding that “at that point, it hadn’t even been a full two weeks that the program has been running, so the response has been wonderful.”

Rudy Molina, The Mint’s Director of Arizona Operations, told High Times in an email that “giving back to the communities we serve is a cornerstone of Mint Cannabis. We especially seek to help nonprofits that support our patients. We like to support organizations devoted to cancer, veterans, families and epilepsy, to name a few.”

 “As we approach Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we wanted Arizonans to think about giving through a different lens,” Molina added. “By asking for a new or gently used bra, and then stringing it to fly high above the dispensary, Buds ‘n’ Bras offers a creative way for customers to give back while also helping a great local cause.”

The post Arizona Dispensary Trading Pre-rolls for Bras to Fight Breast Cancer appeared first on High Times.

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Weldon Project Pens Letter Calling for Release Of Cannabis Prisoners

A recent letter from the advocacy group The Weldon Project was also signed by more than 150 artists, athletes, producers, lawmakers, policy experts, reform advocates and leaders in business, law enforcement and academia. The letter urges the president to use his authority “to grant  a  full, complete, and unconditional  pardon to all  persons  subject  to federal  criminal  or civil  enforcement  on the basis  of non-violent  marijuana  offenses.”

The Weldon Project is named after its president and co-founder, Weldon Angelos, who was building a promising music career when he was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 2003 for selling less than $1,000 worth of marijuana. Angelos was eventually released in 2016 after spending 13 years behind bars, going on to found the Weldon Project to advocate for change and provide support and financial aid to those serving prison sentences for cannabis-related offenses. 

In a press release about the letter, Angelos called on the president to fulfill campaign promises to support cannabis reform efforts.

“Candidate Biden promised to take action and use the pardon power of the presidency to release those serving prison time for marijuana and pardon their felony convictions,” said Angelos. “At a time when dispensaries are as prevalent as liquor stores in some states, it is time for President Biden to now make good on that promise.”

Angelos was joined by celebrities including Drake, Killer Mike, Deion Sanders, Al Harrington and Kevin Garnett, who signed the letter calling for an end to the harm caused by federal cannabis prohibition.

“The harms of incarceration are obvious, but the pains of federal marijuana convictions transcend prison walls, making it more difficult for someone to get a job, access affordable housing and receive an education,” the letter reads. “A conviction can forever limit an individual’s constitutional rights and can put the American dream further out of reach for an entire family. Enough is enough. No one should be locked up in federal prison for marijuana. No one should continue to bear the scarlet letter of a federal conviction for marijuana offenses.”

Cannabis Industry Supports Clemency

The letter went on to note that three-quarters of American states have replaced cannabis prohibition with safe, regulated access to legal marijuana for either medical or recreational use, or both. Kyle Kazan, the CEO of California vertically integrated cannabis producer Glass House Brands, said that his company “fully supports The Weldon Project’s efforts to redress the harm done by the misguided War on Drugs” and urged others in the industry to do the same.

“Legal companies can no longer stand idly by and profit off of cannabis while individuals like Weldon Angelos suffer from the financial and social repercussions of a prison sentence for selling or using the same substance,” Kazan said.

Angelos’ letter urges Biden to exercise his authority under the U.S. Constitution to grant clemency for federal criminal convictions. The letter also notes that a full pardon for those convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses is consistent with the actions of previous presidents from both political parties.

“In 1974, President Ford established a program of conditional clemency for Selective Service Act violators. In 1977, President Carter issued a categorical pardon to all Selective Service Act violators, closing the book on a costly and painful war,” the letter reads. 

“President Biden has the power to do the same for the federal war on marijuana. Through his act of constitutional grace, a general clemency will send a clear and powerful message that our country is truly taking a new course on criminal justice policy and practice.”

Hip-Hop Artists Join the Cause

Among those signing the letter were music industry leaders including Drake, Meek Mill, Lil Baby, Killer Mike and dozens of hip-hop artists who joined the effort in support of rapper and friend Ralo, who is currently facing up to eight years in prison for a nonviolent cannabis offense. In a statement, Ralo highlighted the inconsistency in enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition and echoed the letter’s call for clemency.

“I appreciate my friends and peers in the hip-hop community, especially Drake, supporting my clemency because it’s just not right that corporations are allowed to violate federal law and become millionaires while people like myself go to prison for years,” Ralo said. “This is hypocrisy. I hope that Joe Biden honors his campaign promise and grants us clemency without delay, so I can return to my family and community.”

The post Weldon Project Pens Letter Calling for Release Of Cannabis Prisoners appeared first on High Times.

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The DEA Wants You To Grow More Weed and Magic Mushrooms for Research Purposes

These substances are related to the DEA’s interest in researching hallucinogenic controlled products for clinical tests and research. The DEA asserts that it wants to support the regulated trials of schedule 1 substances, so increasing the production quota explains why this move is essential.  The DEA also wants to research the requirements for manufacturing new drugs and the kind of impact marijuana has on the body. These steps are taken to work towards the Food and Drug Administration’s possibilities to approve a new drug.

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