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Which U.S. Presidents Would Have Tried Cannabis?

From George Washington’s first presidential year in 1789 all the way up to our present time, cannabis use in the United States has been an interesting and often misunderstood hot button issue. Between the hemp fields owned by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and the ridiculous “Reefer Madness” scare-mongering that lasted for a good chunk of modern American history, the presence of cannabis in politics and public discussion seems to have no end in sight.

To celebrate this wildly debated plant, we decided to take a peek into the history of a few American presidents and their sometimes embracing, sometimes hypocritical stance on the cannabis plant, speculating whether or not we believe they ‘inhaled’. We also provide a strain pairing we think most exudes each president on this list, because why not?

George Washington

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If Washington were around these days, would he turn down a chance to puff on his indica pairing of Presidential OG? According to his numerous hemp farms, probably not. However, at the time, hemp was a commonly farmed plant used for its sturdy fibers to fashion ropes, clothing, fishing nets, and myriad other fibrous and useful items.

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Apart from the practical use of hemp, it was noted that Washington included in one of his letters the following passage:

“Began to separate the male from female plants rather too late…Pulling up the (male) hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month.”

This note could indicate that he was planning a yield of higher-THC female plants, but that could be just a bit of our hopeful speculation.

Thomas Jefferson

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It has been rumored that Thomas Jefferson once said, “Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see.” That particular quote, however, has been debunked by a few historians.

In truth, Jefferson was an avid gardener with expansive portions of land dedicated to the cultivation of hundreds of plants, some of which some could have been cannabis. In his “Summary of Public Service” published in 1800, he stated, “The greatest service that can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.”

We like to take that quote very seriously here and apply it to the cannabis plant with its numerous medicinal contributions. For his acceptance of all things green, we decided to pair Jefferson with the hybrid American Dream, which represents “honest toil, personal improvement, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor.” 

Ulysses S. Grant

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Having been the leading Union general of the North during the Civil War, it was most fitting to pair Grant with the popular indica Northern Lights. Whether or not he would have inhaled this strain seems to sway on the end of the affirmative. Cannabis was not illegal in the country during the Civil War era; in fact, it was (allegedly) used medicinally by many soldiers on both sides to cure a number of ailments.

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Grant, possibly being one of those who indulged in the consumption of cannabis, could have easily participated with little to no judgment from his peers.

Frederick D. Roosevelt

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The United States’ longest running president in history may or may not have participated in the consumption of cannabis. During his time in the oval office, he signed the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. However, on the other side of the coin, he ended up signing an executive order pushing for hemp production for use during WWII in 1941. He also repealed prohibition, which indicates that he could have been open-minded toward the use of cannabis as much as the consumption of alcohol.

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For FDR, we’re pairing him with the hybrid Lady Liberty for his famous 1936 address on the Statue of Liberty.

Ronald Reagan

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It seems a bit tongue-in-cheek to include one of the fathers of the War on Drugs on this list, but we couldn’t ignore one of Reagan’s most iconic quotes when it comes to cannabis consumption (said after viewing an old botched study of the effects of marijuana on brain cells):

“I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-Bomb blast.”

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Though we don’t believe Reagan would have touched the stuff (unless in private), we do think the hybrid THC Bomb pairs perfectly with the Great Communicator’s amusing quote.

Barack Obama

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It’s a no-brainer that we decided to pair Barack Obama with his dedicated indica strain Obama Kush, and his prior relationship with cannabis is definitely no secret. He has admitted to smoking here and there while he was going to school in Hawaii, but he’s pretty tight-lipped on whether or not he currently consumes.

However, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the former president noted, in regard to cannabis:

“I do believe that treating this [marijuana] as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

We’ll light up some Obama Kush and cheers to that!

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New Strains Alert: Ecto Cooler, Tillamook Strawberry, Lee Roy, and More

This week’s New Strains Alert brings together a heavyweight from Mr. Mack’s Snacks, a crown jewel suitable for a princess, two user submitted strains from a Facebook comment (believe me, we hear you and we are listening), and many more sticky flowers stemming from legal cannabis lands. For fruit fanatics, snap off a piece of Tillamook Strawberry for berries dipped in diesel. Or, if tropical fruit and pepper suit your palate better, grind up Dutch Haze by Dutch Passion for a nearly pure Haze experience. However you enjoy your cannabis over this weekend, take time to celebrate the plant and the people who continue to cultivate an industry that is driving the economy, creating jobs, and making people happy.

Ecto Cooler by Seeds of Compassion is both a rising star in the cannabis ranks, but also a spooky, citrus-infused throwback to The Ghostbusters (particularly Ghostbusters II). Named for a Hi-C beverage of the same name whose release coincided with the release of The Real Ghostbuster cartoon in 1986, Ghostbuster II in 1989, and the Ghostbuster reboot in 2016. The strain is a sativa-dominant cross between California Orange and Gorilla Biscuit. This combination creates healthy yields that smell like a skunk dipped in orange juice, gasoline, and Pinesol. Its flavor, however, is more citrusy and fuel-like. Enjoy Ecto Cooler’s bright terpene profile throughout the day to uplift the mind and turn on the happiness like a Saturday morning cartoon.

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Tillamook Strawberry is a mash-up between Alphakronik Genes and Dark Horse Genetics for AKG’s Collaboration Series. Described by the breeder as the “diesel lover’s dream,” Tillamook Strawberry smells like a gas station in a strawberry field. The strain’s foliage is deep green with tight buds and the effects are bright yet soothing, promoting focus and relaxation. Utilize Tillamook Strawberry to improve your mood and counter depression and anxiety.

Princess’s Tiara, bred by Branden Waite, is the heady cross of parent strains Cinderella’s Dream and Headband. Offering a bouquet of pungent terpenes that reek of fuel, sweetness, and earth, the Princess’s Tiara smells very similar to its predecessors. The strain’s effects are uplifting and euphoric but tempered by the strong pull of the Blueberry and Sour Diesel on either side of the cross. Enjoy Princess’s Tiara throughout the day in small doses to improve mood, creativity, and focus.

Lee Roy by Rare Dankness Seeds is a connoisseur-grade sativa-dominant strain with incredible trichome production. Created by blending Triangle Kush with Rare Dankness #2, Lee Roy offers a Kush-forward aroma intermixed with lemon and lime. The plants prefer cooler temperatures and the yield is healthy if not generous. Utilize Lee Roy to contend with ADD/ADHD, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, and nausea. Rare Dankness Seeds also noted that this resinous strain is well-suited for hash production.

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Dutch Haze by Dutch Passion is a 90% sativa-dominant strain crafted for Haze lovers everywhere. “Born” in 2009, Dutch Haze is the product of hundreds of Haze plants and several years of breeding both American Haze and Dutch Haze genetics in search of the perfect phenotype. This strain has a spicy aroma with notes of citrus, earth, and tropical fruit. The stalks grow tall and abundant with an average flowering time of approximately 10 weeks. Dutch Haze offers consumers a strong cerebral energy with uplifting and creative qualities to help take the edge off of mundane tasks while improving your mood.

F’n louZER is another potent genetic cross from Mr. Mack’s Snack. Created by crossing their in-house Bloo’s Kloos with the trichome-laden beast, White Rhino, F’n louZER hits the consumer with a stampede of stoney, relaxed effects that can sap motivation. Named for its stereotypical stoner buzz, F’n louZER is designed for evening consumption. Its terpene profile is pungent, smelling of gas, pine, and a smear of fresh blueberries. Enjoy F’n louZER to unwind and plan for an early bedtime with continued consumption.

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Intergalactic is an extremely potent hybrid strain. With a terpene profile rich in pine and earth, and dense, frosted nugs that twinkle like the night sky, Intergalactic delivers a rush of euphoria and energy, making it ideal for mood elevation. But beware, this high-THC strain can give unseasoned consumers anxiety and significantly stimulate the appetite. Intergalactic is an uplifting strain that can be consumed any time of the day, but for best results, mind your dosage. This strain is a perfect companion for getting creative and active.

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Calif. Bill Would Make Underage Sale Violations Sting

As California gears up to open retail cannabis stores next year, one state lawmaker is proposing a stiff penalty for a business caught selling cannabis to underage buyers: the loss of its state license.

Assembly Bill 729, introduced this week by Assembly Member Adam Gray (D-Merced), would establish penalties and practices designed to limit access to nonmedical cannabis for people under 21. While sales to minors are already prohibited under Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for adult use last year, AB 729 would require authorities to suspend an operator’s license after three such offenses within a three-year window.

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The bill would also require licensees to post signage that reads “No Person Under 21 Allowed” and allow for authorized undercover investigations using underage buyers (read: sting operations). It would bar the use of vending machines or other automated devices to sell cannabis; prohibit cannabis businesses near playgrounds, hospitals, and churches; and allow staff to seize fake IDs.

“With the legalization of recreational use marijuana under Proposition 64, it is more important than ever that safeguards are put in place to ensure marijuana stays out of the hands of children,” Gray said in a statement.

The changes would align California with other established adult-use states, such as Washington and Oregon, which have similar rules on the books. In Washington, licensees face an all-out cancellation of their license after three violations within a three-year window. In Oregon, a license suspension can occur after either two or three violations within a two-year window, depending on whether the sales are deemed intentional.

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Preventing underage access to cannabis is a key priority for state regulators in large part due to the Department of Justice’s Cole memo, a nonbinding document that provides a list of enforcement priorities states are expected to follow to avoid federal intervention in medical marijuana programs. On the very top of that list: preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors.

Despite early studies showing that cannabis use among minors has remained steady or even fallen in legal states, one of the biggest concerns about legalization is whether it gives children easier access to cannabis. It came up frequently last election season, as eight states weighed measures to legalize for medical or adult use.

So far, though, despite regulators in legal states making ID checks a top priority, repeat violations appear to be few and far between. “So far this fiscal year we have conducted 569 compliance checks (underage purchase operations) and have had 49 sales,” a Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman, Mikhail Carpenter, said in an email. “No one has received a third violation.”

In Oregon, regulators are “shifting resources now to compliance and enforcement,” said Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. The office plans to conduct more “minor decoy operations” to test whether shops sell to people under 21 or those without proper ID. As for whether any licensees have had repeat violations, Pettinger said, “I would say there’s no data at this point.”

A California Assembly subcommittee is scheduled to consider AB 729 on March 18.

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What Budtender Qualities Make You Turn Away From a Shop?

Budtender etiquette can easily make or break a visit for a customer or patient. As a recreational adult consumer, a bad experience with staff often means losing a customer and in an industry where every sale counts, losing a repeat customer means losing a valuable source of revenue. For those who rely on cannabis as medicine, to have inexperienced or ineffective staff is beyond a simple annoyance; it undermines the importance of their visit and being recommended the wrong product can have serious consequences.

We asked you what budtender qualities make you turn away from a dispensary and Leafly readers had a lot to say.

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“Not knowing the attributes of strains to give advice for therapeutic purposes. Get poor recommendations frequently.”

Whether the cannabis is being purchased for therapeutic or recreational purposes, budtenders should be knowledgeable about the different types of cannabis and their effects. Budtenders can also avoid making a poor recommendation by asking questions of the consumer, making it easier to find the right product for the right person. If they are looking for a sleep aid, don’t recommend a high-energy sativa. If they’re looking for a boost in productivity, don’t recommend a heavy indica.

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“Uncaring people who can care less that you’re there because you’re in pain or haven’t slept well because of illness. All they’re interested in is squeezing every penny they can get out of you.”

A little bit of compassion can go a long way, especially for a patient who truly relies on cannabis to treat their symptoms. Yes, revenue is important for those who are trying to make ends meet in a tricky industry, but keep in mind why these patients are in your store to begin with. For a medical cannabis patient, having access to proper medicine is about much more than money. It’s about their personal well-being.

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“Condescending budtenders. Or the ones who show low effort towards minor sales. I’ll take my stuff right out of there and go somewhere else.”

Don’t underestimate the importance of quality customer service. Every customer, whether buying an ounce or a gram, should be treated with the same respect reserved for any patient or customer. In the same way that a condescending waiter can sour a dining experience, feeling disrespected during a dispensary visit is more than enough for a customer to take their business elsewhere. Remember, even small sales can add up to big sales over a long period of time. Invest in your customers and they’ll keep coming back.

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“Basic lack of education about what strain is best for what. And I gotta say, it would be very comforting to see one who is older than 20-something and has experience. Many if not most actual patients are older.”

There’s no reason for age discrimination when hiring (except, of course, for making sure to hire employees of legal age to be handling cannabis products), but no matter the age of your employees, keep your clientele in mind. In this new era of breaking the stigma behind cannabis consumption, there is a new generation of canna-curious baby boomers. When catering to older clientele, be mindful that they may have tons or no experience with cannabis and, once again, this is where tactful questions can come in handy. Some boomers have been smoking for decades, while others are just dipping their toe into the waters since legalization.

It’s also important to note here that medical patients may be sensitive about their ailments. When asking questions to discern their needs in a strain or product, be cognizant of that sensitivity. If they offer up information, use it to help them find the right product, but don’t pry into their background. This is not only uncomfortable for patients, it can be seen as rude, insensitive, and even insulting. Tread lightly when it comes to medical issues.

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“Forgetting my exact change, forgetting to pack the actual medicine in the bag before I leave the place, acting stupid. I get that you’re running a dispensary, but at least your budtenders can be at least somewhat responsive when I’m purchasing my meds. Judging by more than a few times this happened, at many different dispensaries.”

Is this a no-brainer or not? Cannabis consumption during work hours is clearly up to the discretion of the company, but if it’s affecting performance and leading to bad experiences with customers, maybe it’s time to reconsider your policies. This is no longer an era of “anything goes” like it once was in the past days of unregulated cannabis, and unprofessional behavior can be a huge turn-off for customers.

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When it comes to proper budtender etiquette, generally it’s safe to say you should trust your instincts. Be polite and unassuming and make your customer as comfortable as possible. We’re working in a new and unique industry, and, as you guide your customers through uncharted waters, you can help break the stigma. Your influence has the potential to make or break a customer’s cannabis experience. Take your responsibility seriously and treat every consumer with respect and sincerity.

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What Were They Smoking? Safer Arizona Leaders Admit 2018 Pot Initiative Flawed

Organizers of a campaign to legalize marijuana in 2018 acknowledged on Friday that the initiative they filed with the state this week has key flaws that need changing.

Worse, the foul-up helps show how tough it will be for the volunteers and die-hard cannabis lovers behind the effort to actually put something on the ballot.

The actions of Safer Arizona are already being viewed skeptically by other cannabis-legalization supporters in Arizona.

The campaign’s leader, David Wisniewski, and other top Safer Arizona members worked previously with Arizonans for Mindful Regulation, the grassroots group that launched its own 2016 initiative before helping to shoot down Prop 205 in November.

Whether Safer Arizona’s latest plan will succeed is anyone’s guess. But the odds are stacked against it.

The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act (see below) is far more permissive than the failed Prop 205, which voters rejected 52 percent to 48 percent.

To say the least.

“Our initiative makes 205 look like straight-up fascism,” Wisniewski said  Friday.

The basics include: full repeal of current marijuana laws, unlimited possession, decriminalized black-market sales, nearly unlimited cultivation by people and businesses, and nearly unregulated commercial sales and cultivation.

The group needs to collect more than 150,000 valid signatures of state voters by July 2018 to make the ballot.

Wisniewski drew a flood of media attention on Thursday when he filed his initiative at the headquarters of the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office in Phoenix.

On Friday, he admitted the initiative actually goes too far, despite it having gone through several reviews by Safer Arizona’s leaders.

For instance, the initiative allows sales and cultivation of marijuana to occur next to schools, but federal authorities demand a 1,000-foot buffer.

Wisniewski said he learned recently that federal authorities would likely raid operations next to schools.

A technical change that also needs to be made, he said, will put the part about adults being able to grow 48 plants at home in another section of the initiative.

But after New Times raised questions on Friday about the initiative’s penalties for cannabis sales to minors, Tom Dean, an Arizona attorney and Safer Arizona’s legal director, said that more changes may be necessary.

Under the initiative, adults who knowingly sell cannabis to children of any age would be guilty of nothing more than a civil violation, with a maximum $2,500 fine. Children who sell to other children would only get a $500 fine.

Dean said that part of the initiative may also be changed when the group refiles its updated initiative, something Wisniewski said should happen on Monday.

Dean asked New Times to let him know about anything else in the filing that he should address.

As a matter of fact, there are a couple of other things.

Although the initiative caps the number of plants that individuals can grow at 48, commercial operations — which could be run out of a person’s home — have no plant limit. Commercial sales under the initiative would require no permits or licenses other than obtaining the same state retail tax license required by any retail business.

No violation is ever subject to more than a civil penalty and $500 fine.

Talk about a free-for-all.

Then there’s the lack of environmental regulation: The initiative generally prohibits any government inspection of commercial cultivation operations.

Further, it allows people to run cannabis food-manufacturing operations out of their homes. And whether at a home or commercial property, entrepreneurs “shall never under any pretext be denied or restricted the right to sell and dispose of their products” beyond the initiative’s very limited restrictions.

Under Prop 205, adults 21 and older would have been allowed to possess up to an ounce of buds and five grams of concentrates, or grow up to six plants, with no penalty.

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“Viability with voters is going to be the big issue with this initiative,” said Demitri Downing, founder and executive director of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association, which represents local medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Downing said he has met with members of Safer Arizona and found them to be uncompromising. By that, he means both in terms of pleasing voters, and the association’s well-entrenched businesses, which in theory could be driven under by the initiative.

“They are pretty hard-headed,” he said of Safer Arizona’s leaders. “I gave up trying to convince them to incorporate mainstream ideas and industry acknowledgment. You cannot just destroy an industry. That ain’t cool.”

It’s far from certain that voters will ever have a chance to give the plan a thumbs-up.

The grassroots effort stands in marked contrast to the campaign conducted by the people and groups behind Prop 205.

Though ultimately unsuccessful, Prop 205 was put on the ballot by Arizona medical-marijuana dispensaries and the national Marijuana Policy Project, the organization behind most of the state laws in recent years legalizing medical or recreational cannabis.

The campaign raised more than $5 million for advertising and to pay signature gatherers, campaign consultants and workers, lawyers, and marketing experts.

Wisniewski said he expects to do it all with volunteers.

More than 300 people have expressed interest in volunteering, he said. But he readily admits the group has little money: “We have 3,500 bucks in the bank, but that’s not enough.”

Wisniewski also admits he’s never managed anything nearly this big before. Asked what he has managed, he said he led soldiers as a sergeant in the Army. But he realizes that leading civilians is more difficult.

Also, his Army experience isn’t his resume’s brightest spot, though he did face “indirect” fire as a heating and air-conditioning worker in Iraq, he said.

He admits he had to resign because of alcohol abuse.

“They told me, ‘You’re too drunk for the Army — go home,'” he states candidly.

Wisniewski told other media he has post-traumatic stress disorder that he treats with cannabis.

Wisniewski has a team of volunteers helping with the effort, like Dean and Mickey Jones, the author of two 2016 drug-law-reform initiatives that gained relatively few signatures.

They and others at Safer Arizona helped divide the cannabis community’s support of Prop 205, and are one reason that voters rejected the proposition in November.

For example, in an opinion article still up on Safer Arizona’s website, Wisniewski argues that the MPP “is lying to Arizona” and that its initiative would be “worse than our current prohibition.”

Mikel Weisser, director of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was one of the leaders of Safer Arizona in 2014. That year, Safer Arizona ran its own legalization initiative, but it failed to collect enough signatures.

Weisser had a falling-out with Safer Arizona when Wisniewski led the group into an alliance with Arizonans for Mindful Regulation (AZFMR), which tried to put its own initiative on the ballot in 2016 and opposed Prop 205.

He quit Safer Arizona, (or was fired, depending on who you believe), preferring to work with the plan formulated by the MPP and dispensaries.

Weisser said he hopes to “bury the hatchet” with Safer Arizona, but he stops short of endorsing it. He doesn’t believe the group understands how difficult it will be to make the ballot.

“There were people working everywhere on 205,” Weisser said. “Until Safer can get to that level of public support, they’re not going anywhere.”

AZFMR’s initiative campaign collapsed without collecting anywhere near enough signatures to make the 2016 ballot, and the group kept its promise to oppose Prop 205.

Wisniewski said he “might not be opposed” to another legalization initiative in 2018.

Kathy Inman, leader of the pro-cannabis group MomForce, is another cannabis-rights activist who has sparred with Wisniewski and Safer Arizona.

She’s still steamed about the group’s opposition to the failed initiative, noting that if it had passed, the cannabis plants she would have grown for herself would now be about two months old.

She called the group’s initiative “outlandish,” adding that “this is not something I will be collecting signatures for.”

She doesn’t think the group will raise any money, either.

“The donors are broke from 205,” she said.

Yet if by some miracle Safer Arizona’s plan makes the ballot, Inman said she’d vote for it.

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Leafly Exclusive: GW Pharma is Moving CBD Bills on the Down Low

In news that could have profound implications for the legality and availability of cannabidiol (CBD) products, Leafly News has learned that the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharma and its American subsidiary Greenwich BioSciences are quietly moving proprietary CBD bills through at least two U.S. state legislatures, and could have plans for similar bills in other states.

The proposed measures would effectively give GW/Greenwich a temporary monopoly on legal CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska.

The proposed measures, both taken from the same template, would effectively give GW/Greenwich a temporary monopoly on legal CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska.

The pharmaceutical company’s lobbyists are moving in anticipation of the FDA’s expected approval of Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug that’s currently in Phase III clinical trials. Epidiolex has been developed by GW/Greenwich for the treatment of several rare childhood-onset epilepsy disorders. The company has been developing the drug for years, and FDA approval could come as early as this summer.

In a possibly related development, Greenwich BioSciences has recently retained the services of registered political lobbyists in at least nine state capitals. It’s unclear why the company chose South Dakota and Nebraska as pilot sites for these bills. Neither state allows any kind of medical cannabis, but both operate in fairly obscure regions where legislative bills typically don’t attract a lot of attention.

The move has alarmed some patient advocates in South Dakota and Nebraska, who have been fighting for years to pass medical cannabis laws. They fear that GW’s move could preempt their own efforts, undercut support for full medical legalization, and limit patient options to the GW/Greenwich patented product.

“SB 95 will block all current and readily-available CBD options for South Dakota’s children,” Melissa Mentele told Leafly. Mentele is the chairperson of New Approach South Dakota, the state’s main cannabis reform group. “It will make Epidiolex the only option. As we know, one medicine does not work for all patients. We can’t take away options for these catastrophically ill children and their families.”

‘They want to be the only option. What happens when the only option doesn’t work?’

Melissa Mentele, New Approach South Dakota

“The ‘FDA approved’ language is being pushed heavily by GW and Greenwich BioSciences for a reason,” Mentele added. “They want to be the only option in South Dakota. What happens when the only option doesn’t work?”

Leafly has reached out to Greenwich BioSciences for comment. The company has yet to respond

The South Dakota bill, SB 95, had its first committee hearing earlier this week. The bill exempts cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana and moves CBD from a state-designated Schedule I drug to a Schedule IV substance. The piece of the bill that’s critical to GW/Greenwich: These moves affect only cannabidiol products that have received federal FDA approval. Epidiolex is currently the only widely known CBD product nearing full FDA approval.

If the bill passes, GW Pharma and Greenwich Biosciences will effectively own a legal monopoly on CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska—at least until another CBD-based product achieves FDA approval.

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A national lobbyist hiring spree  

GW Pharma and Greenwich BioSciences have never been active in American politics on the state level, in part because they really didn’t have a product to sell. With Epidiolex approaching market readiness, however, the companies have acquired political muscle all over the country. And they’re not exactly advertising it.

No mention of the South Dakota or Nebraska bills—or any bills potentially in the works in other states—can be found anywhere on the company’s websites.

At the same time, Greenwich BioSciences has recently retained the services of registered political lobbyists in a number of different states.

  • In South Dakota, the company is repped by Dennis Duncan, a Sioux Falls lawyer who’s known around Pierre as a longtime lobbyist. In Madison, Wisconsin state legislators are considering two separate cannabidiol legalization bills. Neither of those bills currently mention Epidiolex or FDA approval, but Greenwich BioSciences recently hired the local lobbying shop Martin Schreiber & Associates to look after its interests in the state capital.
  • In Nebraska, Greenwich BioSciences has retained the Lincoln lobbying shop Mueller Robak.
  • In Florida, the company has retained Douglas Russell, a former top official at the state’s heath care agency, to look after its interests in Tallahassee.
  • In Minnesota, no CBD bill has been introduced in the state legislature, but Greenwich BioSciences recently retained the St. Paul lobbyist Randy Morris as the company’s registered agent.
  • In Washington state, last month Greenwich BioSciences began paying political lobbyist Stephen J. Buckner $3,500 per month to look after its affairs. There is, as of yet, no CBD bill in Olympia.
  • In Idaho and Arizona, the company has retained the services of California-based lobbyist Kurt Stembridge. Stembridge may also be representing the company in Sacramento.

In South Dakota, lobbyist Dennis Duncan testified before a state senate committee earlier this week in favor of SB 95. He called attention to the bill’s pre-emptive requirement: “Before this drug can be rescheduled, it can be done only after FDA approval,” he said. “So it can’t be prescribed or dispensed prior to FDA approval.”

South Dakota Sen. Blake Curd, the state senate majority leader, sponsored the current bill. He gave a stirring endorsement of the safety of cannabidiol to his colleagues. “The one distinct difference with CBD oil is that it has no known lethal dose, no known toxic effect, and no known euphoria,” he said.

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“You are more likely to drown in a vat of CBD oil than you are from taking it in any form,” Sen. Curd said.

Medical marijuana advocates introduced an MMJ bill last year, but Curd amended it to allow only possession and use of CBD for patients with severe seizure conditions. The bill ultimately failed.

Votes swing once GW backs it

Until now, the GW/Greenwich political move has flown mostly under the radar. Yesterday Cory Allen, a South Dakota political watchdog who puts out the Dakota Free Press, published the first skeptical take on SB 95. Allen noted that South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, one of the most powerful figures in state politics, “sat quietly behind the lobbyists for Greenwich BioSciences.” Jackley opposed last year’s bill on CBD, but has written in support of GW Pharma-developed products. Many of last year’s cannabidiol legalization opponents in South Dakota have similarly faded away in the face of this year’s GW/Greenwich bill.

Most national cannabis groups and patient advocates are unaware of company’s political move on cannabidiol. Leafly could find no national cannabis group tracking the bills this week.

Mentele, chairperson of New Approach South Dakota, found out about them just a few days ago.

In Nebraska, only local patient advocates were available to testify against the bill, introduced there as LB 167. Jane Stanley, a patient with interstitial cystitis, told a legislative committee that CBD was the only medicine that helps her. But legalizing only in GW/Greenwich’s FDA-approved form would not allow her to benefit from the full healing benefits of cannabis.

“When you start isolating the cannabinoids from cannabis, it’s like taking out the codeine from hydrocodone and expecting it to do the same thing,” Stanley said.

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Dexter Schrodt also testified against the Nebraska bill. He’s head of the local chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Edward Williams, leader of Nebraska Veterans for Medical Marijuana, also spoke in opposition.

Speaking in favor of the bill in Lincoln were Michelle Welborn, founder of the national Intractable Childhood Epilepsy Alliance; and Kim Robak, co-founder of the Lincoln lobby shop Mueller Robak.

The testimony of Welborn and Robak was curious, though. Welborn is a national patient advocate; she’s also the founder of Bravo Pharmaceuticals, a biotech startup that seeks to license products for rare diseases, including intractable childhood epilepsy.

On the agenda for the Jan. 25 Nebraska state senate committee meeting, which considered the Greenwich BioSciences-focused CBD bill, Kim Robak was listed as a representative of the Nebraska Medical Association. That is true—her lobbying shop is their registered agent. But Robak’s firm is also a registered and paid lobbyist for Greenwich BioSciences.

Leafly will continue to follow developments surrounding these and other CBD-related bills. For more information on cannabis-related legislation currently in play in statehouses around the country, see our updated bill tracking page.

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House Republicans Vote to Expand Drug Testing

The US House of Representative approved a resolution this week to expand drug testing for people who apply to receive unemployment benefits.

House Joint Resolution 42 would repeal a Labor Department rule that limits drug testing to two circumstances. Currently, benefits applicants can be tested if they were terminated from their previous job due to illegal use of a controlled substance or if the only available suitable work for an individual is in an occupation that requires drug testing.

As it currently stands, the new bill would mean that anyone who applies for unemployment benefits could face mandatory drug testing, with or without reasonable suspicion of use.

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Unemployment benefits are generally paid by state governments. Funding for those benefits, though, is provided in large part by state and federal payroll taxes levied against employers.

How would this affect residents of legalized states, and medical marijuana patients? It’s hard to say. Recent court rulings have generally favored employers over the rights of employees when it comes to medical or off-hours cannabis use.

Take the case of former Dish Network employee Brandon Coats. He’s a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient from Colorado. When he was fired for testing positive for cannabis on a random drug test (which he told his employer would happen, because of his medical condition), he took Dish to court. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in the favor of Dish Network. Under Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.

“The collection and testing of urine intrudes upon expectations of privacy that society has long recognized as reasonable.”

Judge Stanley Marcus, 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals

The topic of blanket drug-testing has been vigorously debated in Congress over the past few years, particularly when it comes to the question of drug testing welfare recipients. The cost to drug test every welfare recipient is prohibitively expensive, and American taxpayers foot the bill. It has proven to yield underwhelming results.

In 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act was signed into law by Congress to allow the drug testing of those who receive public assistance. Almost immediately, state legislators began crafting bills to drug test those who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), otherwise known as welfare.

At least 15 state legislatures enacted laws requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, but it’s worth noting that no legalized states enacted such laws. Also worth noting: If the current bill before Congress were to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President, it would still be up to each state legislature to enact laws requiring drug testing of unemployment recipients. (Last week the White House issued a statement in support of the resolution.)

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The cost of drug-testing unemployment applicants is another question to consider.

After hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on drug tests, the numbers of positive tests were miniscule. ThinkProgress found that $850,909.25 was spent on testing welfare applicants in 2015. Only 321 tests came back with positive results. Several states recorded zero positive tests.

Aside from the exorbitant costs, these laws raise Fourth Amendment questions about the legality of blanket drug testing without reasonable suspicion of drug use.

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In Florida, Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran, refused to submit to a test, arguing that it was unreasonable for him to be drug tested without any reason to suspect him of drug use. The ACLU of Florida filed suit on his behalf and a federal judge overturned Florida’s law in December 2013.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who initially signed House Bill 353 into law to require drug screening, appealed the motion. In December 2014, 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stanley Marcus wrote an appellate opinion upholding the ruling.

“By virtue of poverty, TANF recipients are not stripped of their legitimate expectations privacy,” Judge Marcus wrote for a three-judge panel. “And the collection and testing of urine intrudes upon expectations of privacy that society has long recognized as reasonable.”

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Since the Florida ruling, states that seek to drug test recipients of government assistance now rely on preliminary questionnaires to determine if the applicant meets the criteria for reasonable suspicion of drug use. The Department of Labor was ordered to create its current rule, establishing limits on drug tests applicants for government benefits.

Although the bill easily passed the House, opponents are attempting to block it in the Senate.

More than 50 civil rights, faith, and criminal justice organizations, including the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the NAACP have signed on to a letter opposing the measure and questioning its constitutionality.

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Load Up on Your Favorite Strains Because ‘Planet Earth II’ Finally Debuts in the U.S.

It’s an indisputable fact that, regardless of our differences, all cannabis consumers collectively and universally love the following things:

There’s nothing quite like packing a bowl of your favorite strain, kicking your feet up onto the coffee table, cocooning yourself in your softest blanket, and cuing up a gorgeous high-definition nature program that blows your stoned mind and reinforces your belief that caves are creepy, deep sea creatures are pure nightmare fuel, and bird mating rituals are hilarious.

Don’t believe me? The floor of one of these caves is made out of a “thick carpet of cockroaches”:

Can you imagine walking barefoot through this? *dry heave*I’d rather walk barefoot over Lego bricks than dip a toe onto this roach rug. *crunch crunch* (BBC Planet Earth)

This gross thing lives roughly nope-thousand leagues under the sea:

If Squidward were real and full of Tang. (BBC Planet Earth)If Squidward were real and full of Tang. Horrifying Tang. (BBC Planet Earth)

And this bird of paradise mating ritual makes the art of dance club twerking seem a lot more reasonable in comparison:

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All of these clips, by the way, derived from the Meryl Streep of nature documentaries, BBC’s Planet Earth. This glorious series aired in 2006 and spanned all parts of the globe, covering our North and South Poles, mountains, fresh water, caves, deserts, ice regions, great plains, jungles, shallow seas, seasonal forests, and those super scary ocean depths that are currently housing the last vestiges of American democracy. It provided so many hours of entertainment that even Snoop Dogg ran out of product while binge-watching it (but not before providing his own narration of Planet Earth clips “like a true OG”).

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Sadly, America had to wait far too long for a second helping of natural eye candy. Sure, we had more weirdly hilarious bird mating dances courtesy of BBC’s sister series, Life, but that wrapped up seven years ago, leaving us with a nature porn drought no amount of Discovery TV could quench.

But as our favorite chief engineer of Jurassic Park would so eloquently put it, hold onto yer butts, because Planet Earth II is coming hot ‘n fresh out the kitchen Saturday, February 18th. (Yes, it already debuted in the UK last November-December, but they pronounce “aluminum” weird so who gets the last laugh? Us cocky Americans with our non-weird words, that’s who!)

This time, we’ll embark on a journey to islands, mountains, more jungles, deserts, grasslands, cities, and a “World of Wonder,” which I can only assume is the aisle in front of the freezer section at Costco where all of the free samples are handed out. And lest you find yourself underwhelmed by this exciting piece of news, watch this action-packed sneak peek involving an iguana dodging enough snakes to make Indiana Jones crap his khakis and say, “Screw this adventuring nonsense, I’m a tenured professor”:

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That was the most stressful moment of TV we’ve seen since a pregnant-with-twins Beyonce leaned precariously back in her chair while performing “Love Drought” at the Grammys.

She's all "If that iguana can survive Snakepocalypse, I got this."“If that iguana can survive Snakepocalypse, I got this.” (CBS)

This weekend, I strongly encourage you to pick up your favorite relaxing strain, flip over to BBC America at 9:00 (8:00 Central Time, because farms or something), and listen to the dulcet tones of one Sir David Attenborough as he takes you on a magical journey throughout our beautiful, dangerous, cuddly, ferocious, terrifying, thought-provoking planet, all without ever having to leave the safe and comfy confines of your couch. You’ll feel as content as a sloth chillin’ in a tree with her baby (which you can d’aww to in the “Islands” episode).

Pure heaven. (BBC Planet Earth)

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Facing Pressure From Patients, New Zealand Moves Ahead on Medical Cannabis

Australia’s moves to legalize medical cannabis last year were unexpected, but despite a difficult regulatory framework early on, investors are eagerly moving into the space. But Australia now faces competition close to home as New Zealand races to catch up with—and possibly outpace—its larger neighbor.

Late last year, New Zealand Health Minister Peter Dunne removed the requirement for Ministry of Health approval to prescribe the popular medical cannabis product Sativex for multiple sclerosis. Last week, Dunne announced on the New Zealand government’s official website (called Beehive) that he has delegated all decision making around cannabis prescriptions to his ministry.

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New Zealand divides medical cannabis products into three categories: pharmaceutical-grade products with consent for distribution in New Zealand (like Sativex, but only for multiple sclerosis), pharmaceutical-grade products that do not have consent for distribution in New Zealand (medicines not yet approved), and non-pharmaceutical-grade cannabis-based products (such as raw cannabis flower).

Until recently, the health minister’s personal approval was required for every cannabis-related prescription. The revision last year means that doctors are now able to prescribe Sativex without any approval from the ministry. Last week’s announcement streamlines the process for access to the other categories by delegating to employees of the ministry the power to approve applications if they meet certain guidelines. Guidelines are still very strict for non-pharmaceuticals, which are only considered for life-threatening conditions.

Like the Australian government, the New Zealand government is experiencing significant pressure from patients. Last year a high-profile former union leader Helen Kelly, who used cannabis to manage pain associated with her terminal cancer, died of the disease. Kelly had called for decriminalizing medical cannabis. Although she didn’t achieve full decriminalization, she helped sway public opinion on this issue. Recent polls show that 76 percent of New Zealanders now support safe, legal access to medical cannabis.

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To that end, Dunne’s decision to remove some of the red tape from the path to patient access is a step in the right direction.

Dunne plans to follow up directly with the New Zealand Medical Association. “It is my intention to write … to the New Zealand Medical Association and the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand outlining my decision and my ongoing expectation that medical professionals consider the prescribing of cannabis-based products with an open mind,” he said, adding  that he also intends to create a list of internationally available, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products.

But the recent reforms, while helpful, aren’t exactly a giant leap into the future. Dunne’s political party, the National Party, has previously voted against cannabis law reforms. The ascendant Green Party, on the other hand, has said it will legalize cannabis for adult use.

While New Zealand doesn’t grow cannabis yet, Australia’s licensing scheme has caught the attention of scientists such as Dr. Mike Nichols, who has called on the New Zealand government to institute a similar scheme. New Zealand’s agricultural know-how, and fertile, isolated islands could give it an incredible advantage as a cannabis producer. With public opinion swinging hard towards legalization, and clinical trial results from around the world flooding in, this little corner of Asia-Pacific could soon become a hotbed of competition.

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Colorado Warms to Cannabis Clubs

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is on the brink of becoming the first state with licensed cannabis clubs. But the details of how these clubs will operate are as hazy as the underground clubs operating already.

Denver officials are working on regulations to open a one-year pilot of bring-your-own marijuana clubs, while state lawmakers are expected to consider measures to allow either marijuana “tasting rooms” run by marijuana dispensaries, or smoke-friendly clubs akin to cigar bars.

Alaska regulators, spooked by how the Trump administration might view marijuana, recently decided not to move forward with rules for use of marijuana at authorized stores, though the issue there isn’t dead.

Both parties seem to agree that Colorado needs to allow for places that let patrons consume. But that’s where agreement breaks down.

California and Maine voters expressly signed off on public marijuana consumption but haven’t settled on rules. Oregon lawmakers are considering legislation to allow marijuana use at special events like concerts, and in cannabis lounges. But Colorado may be first out of the gate with statewide cannabis-club regulations, possibly by this summer.

Colorado officials from both parties have come around to the idea of Amsterdam-style clubs for a simple reason: Everyone is tired of seeing pot smokers on public sidewalks.

“It’s a problem we’ve got to address,” said state Sen. Chris Holbert, a suburban Denver Republican who opposed marijuana legalization but doesn’t like seeing its use on the sidewalk, either.

Pointing jokingly to his suit and tie, the gray-haired Holbert said he’s even had panhandlers ask him for marijuana near the state Capitol.

“I mean, look at me. If I’m getting hassled, everyone’s getting hassled,” Holbert told reporters.

Democrats here agree tourists need an out-of-sight place to use marijuana.

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“No voter in Colorado voted to allow the use of marijuana on their sidewalk, in their parks, in their public view,” said Democratic state Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver. “But that’s essentially what we’ve done by not allowing private club space for marijuana uses.”

So both parties seem to agree that Colorado needs to allow for places that let patrons consume. But that’s where agreement breaks down.

“Jeff Sessions is the big question mark right now.”

State Rep. Jonathan Singer

A Republican-sponsored measure to allow marijuana clubs to be regulated like cigar bars was put on hold for a re-write. That’s because sponsors are trying to address concerns that cannabis clubs shouldn’t allow medical marijuana use, along with other legal wrinkles.

“Telling people to socially use their medicine? That’s like we’re legalizing pill parties,” said Rachel O’Bryan, who opposes marijuana clubs and ran an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a Denver social-use measure last fall.

There’s also intense disagreement over whether establishing social clubs would invite a federal crackdown.

Some say the clubs would be too much for federal authorities to ignore; others insist the Justice Department would view clubs as a way to keep cannabis away from children, a priority according to previous Justice Department directions.

“Jeff Sessions is the big question mark right now,” said Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer, referring to the newly minted, anti-marijuana U.S. attorney general. “I think we need to send a message to him that Colorado’s doing it right.”

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Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, opposed legalization but is undecided on signing a bill to allow clubs. He said he’s not sure how the administration would respond to such establishments.

“I don’t know whether we’d be inviting federal intervention, but certainly that’s one argument I’ve heard used persuasively,” Hickenlooper said Thursday.

The governor did indicate he’d veto a bill that allowed indoor smoking, not just smoking on enclosed private patios. The Denver clubs would have to abide by clean-air laws banning burned marijuana inside; the statewide proposal would allow indoor smoking with “proper ventilation.”

“We spent a long time letting everyone know that smoking is bad for you,” Hickenlooper said. “Just cause that smoke makes you happy, and dumb, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”

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The marijuana industry seems frustrated by Colorado’s halting attempts to figure out how to allow cannabis clubs. Because current marijuana law is vague, Colorado currently has a patchwork of underground clubs, many of them raided when they try to file permits or pay taxes.

“The situation right now is a disaster,” said Chris Jetter, a licensed marijuana grower who owned a west Denver marijuana club that was raided twice. Jetter said authorities took more than six pounds of marijuana, along with tens of thousands in cash, then charged him with illegally distributing cannabis.

(Jetter eventually pleaded guilty to public consumption of marijuana, and was fined $100. He disputes he was doing anything illegal and says he pleaded guilty to end the matter. He has since closed his club.)

“Two or more people can get together and consume alcohol almost anywhere, and there’s no problem with that,” Jetter said. “But we’re not treating marijuana like alcohol. What’s going to happen with the feds? If they start kicking in doors, I don’t know. But we need to figure something out.”