Democratic Governors Meet In New York City To Discuss Cannabis And Vaping

NEW YORK (AP) — The governors from several Northeastern states said Thursday they want to work together to regulate marijuana and vaping, including possible regional restrictions on flavored vaping products.

Democratic governors from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania met in New York City with health and legislative officials. Representatives from Massachusetts and Colorado were also on hand for the meeting.

“What we want to do is coordinate this on a regional basis,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, noting how the “patchwork quilt of marijuana regulations makes no sense at all.” He said the group came up with “very preliminary” principles concerning how to regulate legalized, recreational marijuana, such as agreeing to have similar policies for THC content, edibles, advertising and taxation in order to dissuade people from turning to the illicit market.

Lamont said “different states are going to have different timeframes” to pass marijuana legislation and he didn’t foresee everyone enacting the exact same law at the same time. He said more work needs to be done and staff from the participating states will continue working together on the issue. Several of the governors unsuccessfully pushed for their states to allow recreational pot sales in the last year.

“We just want to make sure we go in with our eyes open and we’re consistent,” Lamont said.

On vaping, Lamont said there appeared to be “the most unity” among the officials on possibly outlawing flavored e-cigarettes next year, given their appeal to young people and the growing number of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths across the country.

“I think you’ll see some unanimity on that at the start,” he said.

 

Earlier this month, a state appeals court temporarily blocked New York from enforcing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day emergency ban on such products after the vaping industry sued to block the regulations. In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last month announced a statewide ban on the sale of vaping products, a measure that has been challenged in court.

Meanwhile, a new law just took effect in Connecticut that increased the age to 21 for someone to purchase vaping products.

Cuomo said a lack of federal action on pot and vaping regulations means it’s up to states to act. He noted that marijuana is often vaped and states should also consider that when considering marijuana legalization.

 

By Green Miles Buds Team

Trump Wants To Raise The Purchasing Age Of Vape Products To 21

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21..

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes.

By Johnny Evans 

Louisiana’s Medical Marijuana Patients Are Finding Costs of Cannabis Too High

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Three months after medical marijuana became available in Louisiana, doctors and clinics say some patients are finding the cost for therapeutic cannabis too high for treatment, pricing them out of a medication they waited years to obtain.

Nine pharmacies dispense medicinal-grade pot and set their individual prices. Dispensary owners say their charges reflect an industry with startup charges, small patient numbers and lengthy regulatory hurdles to meet.

In August, Louisiana became the first Deep South state — and one of more than 30 states nationwide — to dispense medical marijuana, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access. Now, the state is grappling with the growing pains of a new medical market and a patient group that can’t use health insurance to cover costs.

Kathryn Thomas, CEO of The Healing Clinics, said a third of the medical marijuana patients across its five clinics in Shreveport, Monroe, Baton Rouge, Houma and Lafayette can’t foot the bill for the product.

“They can’t afford ongoing treatment,” Thomas said. “It’s becoming the program for the elite.”

The only cannabis currently available comes in a flavored liquid tincture, a bottle containing a dropper to use. One bottle can range from about $90 to $220, depending on concentration and pharmacy, according to medical marijuana advocates.

Dr. Victor Chou, who has a medical marijuana clinic in Baton Rouge with more than 600 patients, said many of his patients take a dosage of about one bottle per month and are finding relief from chronic conditions. But one-quarter of his patients, Chou said, can’t afford the medication.

“The average chronic pain patients would be spending maybe $1,000 a month at current prices for what they need,” he said.

About 3,500 people have received medical marijuana since the program began, according to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Under state law, Louisiana is allowing cannabis to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.

“We’re now working through the real kinks of a startup business and industry,” said Jesse McCormick, with the Louisiana Association for Therapeutic Alternatives representing the nine dispensaries. “They’re just like everybody else out here, trying to stay open and keep the lights on.”

Only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow medical marijuana.

GB Sciences, LSU’s grower, is the only one currently providing product. John Davis, president of GB Sciences Louisiana, wouldn’t disclose its wholesale prices, but said pharmacies determine their own markups.

McCormick said the pharmacies have higher tax liabilities and banking costs than other businesses, and he said some Louisiana dispensaries built facilities and carried costs for months with no income waiting for cannabis products.

“I finally came up with our prices the night before we opened. It really was based on our expenses and what we had spent and lost, and what we needed to recover in five years,” said Doug Boudreaux, a pharmacist and co-owner of the Shreveport medical marijuana dispensary Hope Pharmacy.

Pharmacies say if they get more patients, prices will go down. They say any addition of new products also will help, such as plans to offer dissolving strips taken by mouth and topical creams.

Doctors and patients hope the addition of a second grower would drive down costs.

Southern’s grower, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, is setting up operations, with plans to have medical marijuana on pharmacy shelves next year. Ilera CEO Chanda Macias said the company will have a manufactured-suggested retail price for products and will stress customer affordability to pharmacies.

Chou’s hopeful the cost difficulties some patients are having will be addressed.

“I want to be clear: there are a lot of people who are getting a really, really good benefit out of this. I have many people who tell me they’ve been totally pain free for the first time in years,” he said.

By Green Miles Buds

How To Stay Elevated In The World Of Cannabis Advertising

Close your eyes and imagine you have just been struck by an entrepreneurial lightning bolt of an idea for a new company. Your keyboard can’t keep up with your fingers as the business plan dances across your laptop’s screen. And as you begin researching the marketing strategy, the typing comes to a grinding halt. That’s because you are writing a business plan for cannabis.

The cannabis space is like the Wild West. I recently attended Hall of Flowers, a free-wheeling weed convention in Northern California that attracts everyone from OG growers to DTC venture capitalists. It’s exciting and wide open. There are booths with brands exhibiting their wares like Big Al’s Exotics, Space Coyote, Hollyweed, Legion of Bloom and my personal favorite, Terp Hogs. It’s a strange blend of a Stanford MBA mixer meets Comic-Con, where half of the attendees are stoned and the other half are euphorically buzzing from the entrepreneurial possibilities of becoming the next big bud brand. THC-infused root beer? Sure. Farm to edible vegan truffles? Great. 500-count pillowcases infused with CBD? Awesome. But a rude awakening awaits on the marketing side of the business. That’s because cannabis brands like Big Al’s Exotics can’t say the word cannabis or even show the product in most ad units.

The global legal marijuana market is rapidly growing, and is projected to break $40 billion by the end of 2024, creating a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs to profit in this rapidly evolving industry. But for advertising agencies, cannabis brands and marijuana dispensaries, marketing brings its own set of problems. FTC regulations, corporate compliance, major tech platforms and decades-old biases restrict what cannabis brands can say and where they can say it.

Let’s start with the big tech platforms. Google, YouTube, Facebook and Instragram’s guidelines all prohibit cannabis advertising. Google’s guidelines prohibit “ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce ‘highs.’” Interestingly, both Facebook and Google do not permit non-psychoactive CBD advertising as well, describing it as “an illegal pharmaceutical,” but “do allow for content to promote the use of CBD and hemp.” Confused? We are just getting started.

How about TV? Not when the FCC is involved. Network and cable stations are regulated by the FCC, which, you guessed it, is a branch of the federal government, which considers possession and distribution of cannabis a felony. The potential exception is at the ZIP code level, where inventory is so small the FCC does not regulate the category. Another potential option is digital TV on closed networks such as hotels, and certain states allow cinema spots during R-rated movies.

OK, so now we may be getting somewhere. We pair limited TV, cinema, radio, outdoor a thousand feet from schools, a cat-and-mouse game of subtle editorial Instagram posts, print and content housed on a hosted YouTube page.

Now, let’s do some killer creative in this awesome emerging space. Remember that local TV buy? The cable company is not letting you say the word cannabis or show the plant. Back in the summer of 2018, my agency Mekanism was given this very brief. MedMen, a Los Angeles-based cannabis retailer, wanted to create the world’s first cannabis TV commercial, but we could not say or show any product sold in their stores. This required some creativity.

In the two-minute film “The New Normal,” directed by Spike Jonze, we open on George Washington standing in his hemp farm, holding up a five-leaf non-psychoactive hemp plant while the voiceover cryptically says that “a president grew his own.” In the first five seconds of the ad, the creatives established a contextual cannabis reference while throwing a head fake at the FCC restrictions.

But 48 hours before it was to air, the spot was banned from appearing on television. Not because we ran afoul of any rules, but because the compliance team at the cable provider simply “felt” that the spot was problematic. No history-making prime time for MedMen. Welcome to the Wild West of cannabis advertising.

So, how do cannabis brands creatively stick it to the man when the Feds, corporate compliance and media obfuscation can harsh the green-rush mellow?

1. Avoid weed tropes in the creative.

Flagrant references to kind nugs, 420 gags and bong water only contribute to compliance’s reefer madness hysteria, so keep the creative clever, well designed and subtle.

2. Lean into earned media ideas.

Unexpected partnerships, smart editorial and celebrity endorsements will complement and elevate impressions above a foundational media plan.

3. Embrace the fundamentals.

Human insights that are informed by smart strategy and data will always spark the big idea.

As a judge for the 2019 Clio Cannabis Awards, I can see how nascent and exciting the category is. It reminds me of the golden age of digital advertising in the early 2000s, when small upstart dot-coms broke through with brilliant creative. We are in a time when nationwide federal regulation, reactionary compliance and corporate cannabis can buzzkill the creative and entrepreneurial spirit. But I’m optimistic that creativity and weed will rise above and we’ll look back at 2020 as the golden age of cannabis advertising.

Arizona Announces Adoption Of Digital Medical Marijuana Cards

State regulators in Arizona will begin issuing identification cards in digital form next month, according to a report from cannabis industry website azmarijuana.com. Beginning December 1, the new digital marijuana identification cards will replace the physical cards currently being issued through the mail by the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS).

The new digital identification cards will be sent via email to patients. The email will include a PDF version of the identification card which can be accessed when needed or saved on a cellphone or other electronic device. Patients who wish to carry a physical card can print the PDF to keep with them.

“This new process is making it easier for patients to update or change information when necessary, too,” said the AZDHS. “The digital cards can be accessed from a cell phone, laptop, or any other digital device with internet access.”

The agency added that the “AZDHS will email patients of the change to how cards are issued” and that “information will be available to follow up with the new process. The website will be updated with information soon.”

 

Steep Fees for Patients

Adult patients who qualify for Arizona’s medical marijuana program must pay an application fee of $150. Card renewals, which are also subject to the fee of $150, are required every two years. Patients who also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are eligible for reduced application and renewal fees of $75. Identification cards are also required for a patient’s designated caregiver, if one is desired or necessary, and carry an application fee of $200.

Application fees for medical marijuana patients under 18 run $350, which includes the cost for a required designated caregiver. Fees for pediatric patients who are eligible for SNAP are reduced to $275.

To participate in Arizona’s medical marijuana program, patients must have a physician’s certification that they are being treated for one or more qualifying medical conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, or agitation of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or those undergoing treatment for a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that causes severe wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or muscle spasms may also qualify to use cannabis medicinally.

The medical use of cannabis was legalized with the passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act by voters in November 2010. Earlier this year, a bill to increase the time a medical marijuana identification is valid from one to two years was passed by Arizona lawmakers and signed into law by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. The measure also mandated lab testing for cannabis products to ensure safety.

campaign to place a measure that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in Arizona on the ballot for the 2020 general election is currently underway.

Kentucky May Soon Legalize Medical Marijuana

House Bill 136 is Kentucky’s best chance at legalizing medical marijuana. And after gathering momentum throughout 2019, it will be one of the first bills on the legislative agenda in 2020. State Representative Jason Nemes, the bill’s primary co-sponsor, is confident he has the support of enough of his colleagues in the Legislature to move the legalization measure forward with a full vote. Kentucky is one of just 17 U.S. states that do not authorize any medical use of marijuana.

Yet public support for marijuana policy reform is at an all-time high among Kentucky voters, with over 80 percent in favor of a legal medical cannabis program and a majority in favor of recreational legalization. Rep. Nemes and HB 136 co-sponsor Rep. Diane St. Onge say their proposal would provide relief to more than 60,000 Kentuckians living with severe medical conditions.

Legislators Will Vote on Medical Marijuana Bill in Early 2020

Republican state Reps. Nemes and St. Onge’s proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky isn’t going to make it out of committee this year. But that doesn’t mean the bill is dead. To the contrary, HB 136 tallied important legislative victories in 2019. In March, Kentucky’s House Judiciary Committee, which has historically stymied marijuana reform bills, voted 16-1 to advance HB 136.

After clearing that key hurdle, Kentucky lawmakers began to pay closer attention to the proposal. Now, Rep. Nemes, who filed HB 136 for the first 2020 legislative session on Friday, says he has already received commitments from more than 60 House Representatives to vote in favor. 60 votes would secure the majority needed to pass HB 136. If the bill passes in the House, it would move on to the upper chamber and, if successful there, would then head to the desk of Gov. Matt Bevin.

Gov. Bevin has signaled that he would support a medical marijuana legalization bill, but only if the proposal was not primarily geared to generate revenue for the state. “You raise any money, you’re raising it off the back of sick people,” Bevin said after the Judiciary Committee vote.

Instead, proponents of medical marijuana legalization hope it can help address the state’s deepening opioid crisis and serve patients whose conditions aren’t responding to conventional treatments. But Gov. Bevin’s comments have pulled the rug out from under the tax revenue-generating argument commonly deployed to convince policymakers to adopt legalization measures.

Will HB 136’s Tight Restrictions Put Patients First?

Instead, the most persuasive arguments in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky have come from patients themselves. March’s 16-1 House Judiciary Committee vote came after a two-hour long hearing which included testimony from patients longing for access to legal cannabis. And in September, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky held a statewide public forum where patients and medical specialists debated the issue of legalization.

No doubt, skepticism about the medical value of cannabis and the efficacy of legal cannabis programs is strong in Kentucky. But Rep. St. Onge feels that “we are not serving the Commonwealth and her citizens well by ignoring this large population of people who cannot find any comfort.” Nevertheless, St. Onge and Nemes have also described their legalization proposal as one of the strictest in the nation. Their bill would only authorize capsules, pills and topicals, while banning home cultivation.

HB 136 would also approve medical cannabis treatments only for patients suffering from “debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain.” States that have attempted to impose similar restrictions on their medical cannabis programs have faced legal challenges, and many have ended up expanding qualifying conditions and loosening restrictions to keep programs afloat.

Despite these criticisms, and perhaps because of them, Kentucky’s House of Representatives appears ready to approve HB 136 early next year, putting Kentucky patients with severe conditions that much closer to legal medical cannabis.