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

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.