The First Arkansas Medical Marijuana Dispensary Just Got Its License

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Officials have formally signed off on Arkansas’ first medical marijuana dispensary, about one week before cultivators expect to have product ready for sale.

Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said Friday that Hot Springs dispensary Doctor’s Orders RX has been officially awarded the state’s approval.

The dispensary had been inspected by Alcoholic Beverage Control, which regulates medical marijuana, and the fire marshal.

Hardin says Green Springs Medical, another Hot Springs dispensary, is scheduled for inspection May 9.

He says if they meet the qualifications they could receive approval before May 12, when cultivator BOLD Team expects to have their first harvest ready for sale. Two other cultivators expect to harvest by the summer.

Voters approved a medical marijuana amendment to the state’s constitution in November 2016.

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5 Cannabis Moms Who Changed the Game

Like every other mother on this list, Dr. Marsha Schuchard, PhD, never set out to become a cannabis activist, never mind one capable of changing the game. Her call to action came in the form of a birthday party that she and her husband hosted at their suburban Atlanta home in 1976. The guest of honor was their thirteen-year-old daughter, who’d lately been “moody” and “indifferent” towards her parents–both liberal-leaning English professors.

Other parents stepped forward, at great personal risk, to tell a different story about cannabis and children, one about profound healing.

Concerned by these recent behavioral changes and the raucous nature of the celebration, Marsha decided to monitor her daughter’s backyard birthday party from an upstairs bedroom window and noticed what looked like little fireflies occasionally flickering at the outskirts of the festivities. So when the last guest left, she went out on the lawn with a flashlight, where she quickly found empty beer cans, wine bottles, and a few stubbed out joints.

Dr. Schuchard didn’t worry too much about the underage drinking, because despite its obvious dangers, alcohol felt culturally familiar. But she most definitely freaked out about the pot-smoking. At the time, cannabis was going mainstream for the first time in America, certain states were starting to decriminalize, and many people believed it was about to be legal nationwide.

So Schuchard decided to spearhead a backlash.

She co-founded Families in Action, widely recognized as the country’s first “anti-drug” parents’ group. Before finally sending a fateful letter to Robert DuPont, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), who at the time supported cannabis decriminalization and wanted to focus the majority of his resources on tackling heroin addiction.

Dupont read the letter skeptically, but agreed to meet in person with Families in Action, who in turn told him their horror stories of upper-middle-class white suburban adolescents experimenting with marijuana and back-talking their parents.

DuPont would soon after drop his support of decriminalization, in favor of serving as a field general and a profiteer in the war on cannabis. He also convinced Dr. Schuchard to write Parents, Peers, and Pot, an eighty-page booklet published by NIDA that was printed more than a million times. It portrayed cannabis as a deadly scourge pushed on the nation’s youth by an immoral drug culture hell bent on destroying society.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the presidency, and immediately enlisted parents’ groups across the nation as frontline soldiers in an all out assault on cannabis. “But what about the children?!” became such a constant rallying cry among these forces that it was a meme before the internet. And the tactic worked. After rising rapidly in the late 1970s, support for cannabis legalization in America stagnated throughout the 1980s.

So how did we ever turn the tide against these parents’ groups and their well-meaning but misguided efforts? Other parents stepped forward, at great personal risk, to tell a different story about cannabis and children, one about profound healing.

Here are the stories of five incredible mothers whose advocacy for their children’s right to access cannabis changed the game–for the better!

Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Marie Myung-Ok Lee is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a successful novelist. She’s also the mother of a severely autistic son, who underwent two major spinal-cord tumor surgeries as a toddler, plus countless other pharmaceutical, nutritional, and behavioral treatments.

Despite all this, he still suffered as many as 300 violent rages per day, as his mother explained in a 2009 essay titled “Why I Give My Nine-Year-Old Pot

“He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.”

When doctors suggested moving on to a prescription drug commonly known as a “chemical lobotomy,” Lee decided to take matters into her own hands instead. First, she signed up her son as the youngest ever medical cannabis patient in the state of Rhode Island, then she “got busy figuring out which type of marijuana would best work for him and how to get him to ingest it.”

After some trial and era, she found that properly dosed cannabis cookies worked like a “miracle.” So she put her writing talents to work on an essay that made waves and inspired many other parents to follow her example.

Paige Figi

When CNN aired its documentary Weed in 2013, the conversation around children and medical cannabis changed overnight. That’s because the global news network’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta not only admitted that he’d been all wrong about cannabis, he also introduced the world to Paige Figi and her daughter Charlotte.

To be clear, the Figi’s were not the first family to go public about the potential benefits of cannabis in treating serious pediatric ailments. They themselves actually heard about high-CBD cannabis as an option on a reality TV show called Weed Wars.

At the time Charlotte, though just six years old, had been through endless cycles of dangerous, potentially deadly pharmaceutical drugs and had suffered through a series of incredibly painful procedures. She was left unable to walk, talk, or eat.

Trying high-CBD cannabis oil changed Charlotte’s life (taking her down from 300 seizures per week to just two or three in a month). And her mother’s decision to go public in turn changed the world.

Shona Banda

In 2010, Shona Banda’s Crohn’s disease symptoms were so intense she needed a cane to walk. But then she tried cannabis, and like magic, so much of the pain and discomfort just melted away.

The authorities visited Banda’s home with a warrant where they found a couple of ounces of cannabis and cannabis oil. They took her son away.

Five years later, her fifth-grade son, who’d witnessed her transformation firsthand, spoke up in school, telling a “drug education” presenter that he was all wrong about marijuana because that’s what helps his mom not hurt all the time.

Soon after, the authorities visited Banda’s home with a warrant where they found a couple of ounces of cannabis and cannabis oil. They took her son away.

From that point on, she fought them tooth and nail, including pleading not guilty to all charges and filing a lawsuit against the school district, the police department, the state of Kansas, the governor, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. As the story of her arrest spread, Banda’s public campaign to overturn this gross injustice became a rallying cry for parents nationwide who use cannabis medicinally but have no law to protect them.

Ultimately, Banda pled no-contest to one minor charge as part of a sentencing deal that included a year of “mail in” probation, allowing her to move to Washington state, where cannabis is legal.

Ann Lee

Ann Lee is a lifelong conservative and Texan, who has been a leader and activist in the Republican Party since 1970. In 1990, her 28-year-old son Richard Lee was injured in a workplace accident that left him a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. At the time, Anne Lee adamantly opposed cannabis, believing it to be a dangerous “gateway” drug, but when her son reported that it worked wonders in treating his severe nerve pain she began to do her own research, and “came to the conclusion that the plant was good medicine and ought to be legal.”

Richard Lee would go on to become one of the world’s leading medical cannabis activists and entrepreneurs, founding several businesses in Oakland including Oaksterdam University, and serving as the primary backer of a 2010 ballot initiative that aimed to legalize cannabis in California. Ann Lee has supported him fully, including by forming Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition in 2012, which has since grown into a leading conservative legalization advocacy group.

Ana Alvarez

Ever since 2013, when CNN’s Weed documentary began airing internationally, parents of children with severe seizure disorders from all over the world have been seeking access to medicinal cannabis. Many have had to break the law to do so.

In Peru, Ana Alvarez’s son Anthony had been suffering with epilepsy since he was three years old. By age sixteen, she says he was in a “psychiatric crisis.” He’d tried a litany of pharmaceuticals, some of which had worked for a little while, all of which came with serious side effects. By 2015 her son was taking sixteen different prescription drugs to treat his epilepsy, and another six to treat psychiatric problems.

She wondered if his painful life was worth living.

But after watching the CNN special, she scored some cannabis on the underground market and made a mate. When she gave it to her son, the results were profound, as she explained to High Times:

“Anthony’s eyes turned red and he slept and slept–almost 72 hours. His pulse and breathing became relaxed. He went two days without a fit for the first time in years. And I began investigating.”

After joining forces with other families facing the same circumstances, Alvarez organized a series of public marches and a vigil outside the Ministry of Health. She told the press her heartbreaking story. And then she co-founded a collective to cultivate cannabis for her son and other pediatric seizure patients in Peru.

The police raided while the collective’s first harvest was still drying. Alvarez found herself charged with crimes that could land her fifteen years in prison, but still didn’t back down. In time, the public outcry about her unjust punishment led to a successful push to pass a medical cannabis law in Peru. Alvarez was an honored guest for the signing ceremony at the presidential palace, even though she still faced charges.

Five months later, in April 2018, charges against Alvarez and her two co-defendants were formally dropped.

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McConnell Offers Congressional Hemp Bill to Fix ‘Glitches’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — As hemp enters a new era as a legal agricultural commodity, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he’s willing to offer follow-up legislation to resolve any “glitches” stemming from mistaken identity between the crop and its lookalike, illicit cousin.

That includes safeguarding hemp shipments stopped by police who can’t tell whether they intercepted a legal crop or marijuana.

“Some glitches remain to be worked out, and some of it may require legislation,” McConnell told reporters after a hemp forum in Louisville, his hometown.

Using a football analogy, the Republican Senate leader said hemp supporters have reached the “red zone” in restoring the historic crop to mainstream American agriculture. He added: “I’m prepared to do my job … all the way into the end zone if it requires additional legislation.”

Since hemp’s legalization, some truckers with interstate shipments have been stopped and sometimes arrested. The only way to distinguish hemp from marijuana is by measuring their tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and officers don’t have the testing technology to do so on the spot. Marijuana, illegal under federal law, has enough THC to get users high. Hemp has almost none — 0.3 percent or less under U.S. government standards.

Kentucky and Oregon are big hemp producers, and much of what they grow is processed in Colorado. Companies that transport hemp often drive through Oklahoma and Idaho, where some arrests have occurred.

McConnell, who led the push in Congress to legalize hemp last year, said Monday that regulations might be sufficient to help some aspects of the hemp business.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach, who attended the hemp conference, said USDA has asked federal drug enforcement officials for a “coordinated effort” on interstate hemp shipment.

“That might be an area where USDA can work together with other federal agencies to not only help them understand hemp, (but) look for testing protocols that might be able to be used on the road to be able to differentiate between hemp and other products that aren’t legal,” he said.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said ensuring unimpeded hemp shipment requires communicating with officials in other states “about what hemp is and what hemp is not.”

Other concerns have included making sure the fledgling industry gets the financial backing it needs to grow.

McConnell recently teamed with Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, in seeking to ease concerns about credit availability and other financial services for hemp farmers and businesses. They urged federal financial regulatory agencies to make it clear that hemp is legal and to issue “guidance” to institutions under their jurisdictions to ease concerns.

McConnell orchestrated successful efforts last year to attach hemp legalization language to the new federal farm bill. The provision removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop.

Now, the USDA is crafting rules for a nationwide hemp program. The Kentucky forum was part of the effort to gather input. The goal is to have the program in place for the 2020 crop season, Ibach said. The work includes developing a crop insurance program for hemp growers.

“My goal is to get this product out as quick as we can, but yet it’s got to be right,” USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre told reporters.

Deeply rooted in Kentucky’s past, hemp was historically used for rope but has many other uses, including clothing and mulch from the fiber; hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds; and soap and lotions. Other uses include building materials, animal bedding and biofuels. Hemp-derived CBDs are touted by many as a health aid.

While hemp’s commercialization is still in its infancy, Quarles said he hopes Kentucky hemp someday becomes as recognizable as Kentucky bourbon and horses.

The state’s hemp processors reported $57.75 million in gross product sales last year, compared with $16.7 million in 2017, Quarles said recently. Processors paid Kentucky farmers $17.75 million for harvested hemp materials in 2018, up from $7.5 million the year before.

Nearly 1,000 farmers will grow hemp in Kentucky this year and more than 120 companies in the bluegrass state are processing the material, Quarles said.

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In Photos: Feminine Pipes So Gorgeous, You’ll Hesitate to Smoke Them

Glassware has always served as a fundamental part of cannabis culture, from simple one-hitters and bespeckled bowls to elaborate rigs and bongs. Step into any conventional head shop or bodega, however, and the aesthetic has remained largely the same: psychedelic pattern work, cartoonish riffs on pop culture icons, and corny stash devices. But as cannabis moves into the mainstream, a new generation of independent artists are injecting personal aesthetic and style into functional pieces of art worthy of open display.

Los Angeles-based artist Sibelle Yuksek (@sibelley) didn’t go into glasswork with the intent of making pipes. But that’s precisely what makes her art so different. Combining influences from her teen obsessions with Japanese comic books and gaming, her experiences with yoga and bodywork, and her education in fashion illustration, Yuksek specializes in creating delicate, naturalistic interpretations of female bodies that double as a pipe.

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

Fondly referring to her pieces as her “little women,” Yuksek might be one of the few people that can get away with objectifying them. Each piece bears its own personality and a sense of movement within the inanimate–long legs, outstretched arms, arched backs. Her most complex piece, which took roughly 40 hours to make, is of a female rig outfitted with a machine gun wrapped from back to belly that looks straight out of “Ghost In The Shell” or “Tank Girl.”

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

They’re so beautiful that it’s easy to forget that you actually use it to smoke flower or concentrate. In fact, she says most of the people who have bought her pieces haven’t.

“I want to approach it as a fine art perspective; classy, fresh,” she says. “I like the idea of that these are objects first, but the fact they have that function is the cherry on top. You might see a figure on a tableside and turn it over, and you realize it’s completely functional. It adds this hidden surprise.”

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

Considering the complexity of her art, it comes as a surprise that she fell into the practice accidentally. Majoring in illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University, Yuksek had her sights on fashion before falling in love with a glassmaking elective. She decided to pick up flamework as a double major, which would come in handy for sculptural installations or jewelry making. But it wasn’t until relocating to the West Coast and reconnecting with her mentor, 2 Stroke, that she’d reignite her interest in flamework.

“He was the first person who really inspired me in flameworking,” she says. “He actually contacted me about assisting him at this glass show in Vegas, the AGE show. When I saw him there, he asked me what I was up to, and I was just making jewelry. And he was like, ‘Hey, look at how much money we’re making and what we’re doing in the pipe scene. Marijuana is really popular. You’re on the West Coast–think about it.'”

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

Like most young artists who can’t afford a studio space or kiln, Yuksek had to get creative. She began the completely ill-advised route of working with a flame torch in her bedroom before eventually landing a gig (and proper workspace) at Neptune Glassworks. There, she learned how to make vessels and glassware, while experimenting with smokables on the side.

“The pipes, I was just trying it on my own,” she says. “I didn’t have anyone to tell me exactly how to make rigs or anything. So, I was looking at what people were doing when I went to the shows, talking to people.”

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

Last year, it all came together after taking a master class with OG glassmaker, Robert Mickelsen, who taught her how to refine her sculpting with holloware. “I spent so many years studying figure in illustration, doing live drawings, looking at comic books, drawing and drawing and drawing. So. the body has always been with me. But when I took his class, everything fell into place. I know how to work with glass and I know bodies, so he was the glue that put it together for me.”

She still smokes out of her first piece, a “janky” nude she’s kept for sentimental value. “You smoke out of her butt and pack the head. She’s pretty dirty because she’s my personal piece.” Most of her work moves through her Instagram, where she has built a growing following. After focusing primarily on nudes, Yuksek is shifting her energies into making video game characters and anime characters outfitted with accessories and garments. “I think that there are just so many people who can relate to those characters the way that I do, and I don’t see anyone creating them the way that I do. I know I can add my own twist to them,” she says.

(Courtesy of Sibelle Yuksek)

Between the pipe scene and glass world, Yuksek is still carving out her own territory as a functional sculptural artist. There’s something daring and uniquely fitting about a woman facing the flames, not adhering to preconceived notions about how a pipe should look or devaluing its legitimacy as art because it can be used for cannabis. If anything, it’s another example of the limitless ways people are reexamining and elevating cannabis culture to a broader market.

“I’m jumping in and seeing what happens. I’m still trying to figure out where my pieces exist. Are they in head shops and smoke shops, or interior design settings? Should they be functional or sculptural?” she says. “From a personal aesthetic, I’m not as attracted to zigzag patterns or rasta colors. But because marijuana is so much more accessible, of course not everyone is going to have the same aesthetic or preferences. Maybe I’m the type of person that reaches out to a different market: people who love smoking, but have a nicely designed home or this item is part of the overall aesthetic that they’re going for. Or maybe it goes on the shelf because they think it’s really cool but they don’t use it. That also informs how I approach the work.”

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The STATES Act Is Back. Can It Win Over Congress?

The STATES Act, one of the leading efforts to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level, has stepped back into the spotlight.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) this week reintroduced the bipartisan bill, which would allow states to craft their own policies on cannabis. While it wouldn’t legalize the drug nationally, it would largely resolve the existing conflicts between state and federal law.

But although the measure has support on both sides of the aisle in the Capitol–and President Trump has signaled last year that he’ll “probably end up supporting” it–it’s by no means a done deal.

Created by Coalition

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act was first introduced last year by Warren and Gardner–both of whom represent states that have legalized cannabis– after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, an Obama-era policy document that shielded legal cannabis states from federal interference.The act was intended to replace and expand on the Cole memo, and to enshrine cannabis protections in law rather than the Cole memo’s nonbinding Justice Department policy. In addition to harmonizing state and federal cannabis laws, it would also fund further inquiry into matters such as cannabis and traffic safety.

The newly reintroduced version has already earned the support of members of both main political parties. Although Warren, who is running for president in 2020, was absent from Wednesday’s event, Gardner was joined by his peers in the House of Representatives, who have put forward a virtually identical bill. They included Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR), Barbara Lee (CA). and Joe Neguse (Colorado), as well as Republican Reps. David Joyce (Ohio) and Matt Gaetz (Florida).

“It’s past time for Congress to clarify cannabis policy on the federal level and ensure states are free to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents,” Joyce said in a statement. “The STATES Act does just that by respecting the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allowing them to implement their own policies without fear of repercussion from the federal government.”

Will It Pass? Roadblocks Remain

Although the STATES Act boasts broad bipartisan support, it’s by no means guaranteed to pass. The political climate around cannabis has changed dramatically since the Act was introduced a year ago. There’s a chance that progressive Democrats will shoot down the act, which doesn’t address questions of social justice or equity. A legalization measure in New York died this month largely because lawmakers couldn’t agree on such issues.

“Communities of color are being locked out of this industry,” Rep. Lee, who nevertheless supports the STATES Act, said at the bill’s reintroduction. “We have the opportunity to make this the most equitable industry in the country. Right now less than 1% of the cannabis industry is owned and operated by people of color. We can do much better than that.”

Sponsors will also have to push the act through both the Republican-held Senate and the House Judiciary Committee, which is currently bogged down in investigations related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent report.

“That committee is pretty overwhelmed,” acknowledged Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who supports legalization. “They’re dealing with a dozen different pressing problems.”

Optimists, however, argue that momentum for cannabis reform is building, particularly after the SAFE Banking Act cleared the House Financial Services Committee last week. Prohibition’s end, they say, is drawing near.

“This is an opportunity for us to break the logjam,” said Rep.Blumenauer, a longtime legalization proponent and co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “The STATES Act is the next logical step in a comprehensive blueprint for more rational federal cannabis policy. It’s time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America are and fix a badly broken system.”

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The Best Cannabis Podcasts to Get High To

Podcasts have gained popularity in recent times, and they offer a fresh way to get your daily fix of cannabis-related content. Whether on your daily commute, working in the garden, out for a run, or simply smoking a bowl, a good podcast can be a great companion.

As long-format content is concerned, podcasts offer a level of versatility that video and print cannot. This gives podcasts a leg up for potentially tedious and time-consuming hands-on activities–especially trimming your cannabis harvest or pruning the plants.

Even better, podcasts have become a safe space for people wishing to share news and information, or to discuss topics pertaining to all things cannabis. There are so many wonderful creatives in the cannabis space who take advantage of this medium to deliver exciting content.

Below are a few cannabis podcasts worth listening to.

Be sure to also check out Leafly’s podcasts:

  • What Are You Smoking, where Leafly’s cannabis experts interview folks from all corners of the cannabis industry, every Wednesday
  • Every Friday, The Roll-Up will keep you up-to-date on the week’s top cannabis news
  • The Hash, top-shelf journalism that tracks cannabis’ cross into the mainstream, every Tuesday
  • For our Canadian listeners, The High Life discusses the legal rollout in the country and the challenges it faces

‘Great Moments in Weed History w/ Abdullah Saeed and David Bienenstock’

For the perfect blend of education and entertainment, look no further than Great Moments in Weed History w/ Abdullah and Bean. You may be familiar with Abdullah Saeed from his extensive media career as a cannabis producer, writer, actor, and host for such works as Bong Appetit and HBO’s High Maintenance.

David Bienenstock authored How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High, and has an extensive career in cannabis journalism as the former head of content for High Times, a former host and producer for VICE media, and as a regular contributor here at Leafly.

Together, Abdullah and David tell stories of the history and important figures of cannabis. If you want to hear a fun introduction to the Dutch cannabis boom or how Willie Nelson became an industry icon, Abdulluh and David are here to tell the story.

In particular, episode 7 features a history lesson on the origin of 4/20 and how a simple treasure map led to an unofficial international cannabis holiday.

“Great Moments in Weed History” wrapped up season 1 in 2018, but you can still find all 12 episodes on Soundcloud, iTunes, Android, Spotify, and Facebook.

‘The Grow Show With Kyle Kushman’

Cannabis cultivators will love this podcast hosted by the esteemed Kyle Kushman. You may know him from his work creating some famous strains on the market today (like strawberry cough), but Kushman has a long track record of other cannabis-related accolades.

The Grow Show podcast delivers a range of information pertaining to cannabis cultivation, legislation, industry news, and more. With Kushman’s extensive knowledge and connections, his show is filled with guests like Danny Danko (editor at High Times), Scott Reach (of Rare Dankness), and more.

One of the podcast’s most notable episodes has guest AC Braddock from Eden Labs. Her extensive industry resume includes co-founding Women of Weed, and serving on the boards for the National Cannabis Industry Association and The Council of Responsible Cannabis Regulation. In this episode, Kushman and Braddock dive into the world of cannabis extraction technology and the state of cannabis concentrates in the industry.

Although this show was indefinitely discontinued at the end of 2016, you can still find all 51 episodes on iTunes, Android, and the web.

‘Maria + Jane: Women in Cannabis Business With Jac Carly’

Jacquiline Carly, founder of Maria + Jane and GetPlanty, hosts Maria + Jane, Women in Cannabis Business, a professionally driven podcast dedicated to empowering and showcasing women in the cannabis business space.

Jac is a writer, entrepreneur, athlete, and health advocate with an extensive resume in sports medicine and fitness, who has crossed over to the cannabis world to empower and educate those looking to stake their claim in the new, booming industry.

For professionals looking for a industry-oriented and information-driven listening experience, the Maria + Jane podcast is the perfect option. Weekly episodes are packed with an array of industry figures, including Jennifer Skog (founder of MJ Lifestyle), Denise Biderman (founder of Mary’s List), Adelia Carrillo (founder of Direct Cannabis Network), and many more.

Episode 16, featuring Dusti Arab (Brand Strategist and CEO for the Cannabis Bakeshop, and Director of Operations at Oov Magazine), is a great introduction to branding strategy and all of the perils of marketing in the new digital space.

You can find all 39 episodes of Maria + Jane on their website, iTunes, Android, and Spotify.

‘Cannabis Cultivation and Science With Tad Hussey’

If you’re looking for an active podcast dedicated to uncovering the science behind organic cannabis cultivation, the Cannabis Cultivation and Science podcast hosted by Tad Hussey is just for you. Tad runs the online operations for his family business, KIS (Keep it Simple) Organics, a small farm, nursery, and education center based in Redmond, Washington.

Each week, Tad bring experts from all over the cannabis industry to discuss a wide array of topics, including genetic testing, plant probiotics, and everything in between.

One of the most exciting guests to come onto Hussey’s podcast was Jeff Lowenfels in episode 2, author of the Teaming with Microbes book series. Lowenfel’s extensive work in soil science makes him a key player in organic cannabis cultivation. His wealth of knowledge and ability to break down complicated biological mechanisms into easy-to-understand dialogue make learning about the soil food web a fun adventure.

Tad hosts his podcast on a weekly basis and you can find it on Google, iTunes, Android, and Spotify, as well as the KIS Organics website.

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Is Legal Hemp About to Ruin America’s Outdoor Cannabis Crops?

Concern that pollen from industrial hemp farms could end up ruining nearby cannabis crops is hardly new. In a 2003 paper titled “A Preliminary Study of Pollen Dispersal in Cannabis Sativa,” researchers with Agri-Food in Canada (where commercial hemp farming has been federally licensed since 1998) examined the risk. Published in the Journal of Industrial Hemp, their investigation began with the earliest known identification of the problem, dating back more than 300 years.

“In 1694 Rudolf Jacob Camerer wrote a scientific letter concerning the first experimental evidence of sex in plants. Camerer noted that careful removal of male plants from a field of dioecious hemp did not completely deter production of fertile seed, and he commented that he was “quite upset” at the observation, obviously caused by hemp pollen from distant sources. In modern times, long-distance pollination is of great concern because of the possibility of genetic contamination.”

The paper also noted that in nature, hemp is almost exclusively wind-pollinated. Since it gets little to no help in this regard from bees–which love to collect the plant’s pollen, but are not attracted to its female flowers–cannabis has evolved a strategy of releasing large clouds of pollen that are capable of traveling great distances.

Hemp pollen can spread out for up to 30 miles on a steady breeze, putting any female cannabis plant within that radius at risk.

A single hemp flower can generate about 350,000 individual pollen grains, with a large hemp plant producing hundreds of such flowers. All of this pollen can spread out for up to 30 miles on a steady breeze, putting any female cannabis plant within that radius at risk.

In 2000, when hemp cultivation remained prohibited throughout the United States, a study tested the air in the Midwest (where hundreds of millions of feral “ditch weed” hemp plants grow) and found that in mid-August hemp pollen represented up to 36% of the total airborne pollen count.

If you happen to grow cannabis in its psychoactive form, that’s an alarming statistic.

“It’s Rope, Not Dope!”

Weed and hemp are really the same plant–scientifically known as Cannabis sativa–but represent two distinctly different genetic lineages of that species, selectively bred over thousands of years for very different traits. Which explains why so much of the hemp movement’s support has traditionally come from the cannabis community.

Though back in the day, not everybody returned the favor. In fact, some activists touted hemp’s lack of a high as a major selling point. “It’s rope, not dope!” was a common refrain among this crowd.

The irony being that in many US states, legal weed growers actually got a big head start on hemp farmers. California became the first state to approve the cultivation of medicinal cannabis in 1996. Colorado and Washington were the first states to approve “recreational” cannabis in 2012.

Meanwhile, the federal ban on hemp cultivation remained firmly in place until the 2014 Farm Bill passed, and that only allowed limited crops in a small number of states for research purposes. In 2018, just 77,000 acres were planted nationwide. But that number will likely skyrocket this year after the most recent Farm Bill removed basically all remaining federal impediments, leaving regulation of the once banned agricultural commodity up to individual states.

In Oregon, this has already led to a turf war.

The Crux of the Problem

The crux of the problem is that once a female cannabis plant is pollinated, it begins producing seeds instead of producing more psychoactive resin, resulting in a harvest of low-potency seed-laden buds that nobody this side of 1976 will want to buy. This is why high-THC cannabis cultivators either start with “cuttings,” to ensure an all female crop, or grow from seed, but then carefully cull out all of the male plants as soon as they show their sex.

Hemp grown for CBD is also ideally an all-female sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seeds”) crop, making it equally susceptible to pollen drift.

Oregon CBD, based in Corvallis, spent years identifying and breeding hemp strains for the highest CBD production possible while remaining safely below the legal limit of 0.3% THC. In 2016, the company grew out 30,000 individual plants, spread over five locations. The largest of these fields, devoted to research and development, apparently got hit with wind-blown pollen from a neighboring farm, causing what they estimate as $2.5 million dollars in damage. A nearby breeding greenhouse was also contaminated, which meant 15 million seeds needed to be destroyed.

The company responded with a call to ban outdoor cultivation of male hemp plants:

“We have fought in the OR state legislature since 2014 to ban male plants from hemp cultivation in Oregon, knowing full well the ecological destruction that would eventually despoil our home and one of the world’s most incredible cannabis production environments if action was not taken. Year after year now, farmers have been gravely affected by bad actors making poor farming choices and using males outside.”

Alarmed by the state’s first influx of hemp farms, the Oregon Sungrown Growers’ Guild joined them in lobbying for a bill that would have put a statewide moratorium on hemp growing, at least until the situation could get sorted out.

To their credit, they did not use the slogan, “Dope, not rope!”

The Grass Looks Greener

You may have heard that Oregon has a pretty considerable abundance of cannabis at the present moment. The state is currently producing twice as much cannabis as it consumes, and this overproduction has been going on for so long that there’s now a six-year supply of legal cannabis available in the state–a glut that’s driving down prices (now $5 per gram retail), and profits. It’s also making many erstwhile cannabis farmers look at the emerging hemp industry and think that the grass does indeed look greener on the other side.

Since 2015, according to The Oregonian, the state’s number of licensed hemp growers has jumped from 13 to 584, with total acreage devoted to hemp going from nil to 11,000 acres. And Oregon officials expect a large spike in hemp production this season, now that crop insurance and other protections for growers are federally available for the first time.

“A legal battle over pollen drift would be very hard to win.”

Anndrea Hermann, Director of Inside Sales at Hemp Production Services

Leaving lawmakers and growers to cross their fingers and hope that efforts to deter hemp pollen drift put into place a few years ago will prove adequate. Passed in 2016, Oregon House Bill 4060 for the first time permitted hemp growers to start from clones (which can be all female) rather than from seed (which produces 50% male plants), but the Oregon Department of Agriculture still does not specifically address cross-pollination.

“It’s going to be very hard to regulate any kind of buffer zone to protect cannabis growers, especially in places where people have a right to grow personal amounts,” Anndrea Hermann, a longtime hemp activist and industry expert tells Leafly. “And I think a legal battle over pollen drift would be very hard to win. So while I’m one of the biggest hemp proponents around and have been for a long time, if I was a marijuana grower or a CBD grower I would definitely not want male hemp plants to come within any kind of close proximity.”

Hermann currently works as Director of Inside Sales for Hemp Production Services, one of the largest Canadian bulk hemp wholesalers and exporters. She says regulators should consider everything from maintaining large buffer areas between fields, to designating specific zones where male plants are permitted, to limiting mature hemp crops to specific times of year, but even then, much remains to be seen about how effective such measures would be.

In the meantime, Oregon’s history has served as an early warning sign for potential trouble in other states.

Tony Linegar, Agricultural Commissioner of Sonoma County, California tells Leafly that while researching the subject, he contacted officials at the Oregon Department of Agriculture for advice.

“They acknowledged it’s a problem, and that cannabis growers are starting to see seed in their flower,” he said. “But while there’s been some efforts to try to deal with the problem, nothing has been made official. The end result of that could be driving cannabis cultivation indoors.”

“A Viable Crop”

So far, more than a dozen counties in California have enacted temporary moratoriums on hemp cultivation, and at a meeting on April 2, Linegar convinced Sonoma County to join that list. He was motivated by three factors: the State of California’s regulations for hemp farming are not yet finalized, the current rules include a broad exemption for “research” that could be exploited by bad actors, and the coming state regulations will not specifically address the issue of hemp pollen at all.

“Sonoma County is one of just a handful of places in California that allow outdoor cannabis growing, and those growers have expressed a lot of concern, because there are some applications of growing hemp that require male plants,” Linegar says. “Primarily that would be when you’re growing hemp for seed (whether that seed is to be used for planting or for consumption), and when you’re growing hemp for fiber.”

Linegar says he’s also heard from displaced weed growers, who can’t afford to go through California’s expensive and burdensome outdoor cultivation permitting process, and therefore opposed the moratorium because they’d like to pivot to hemp right away. He says he honestly doesn’t know what’s going to happen, in Sonoma County or anywhere else, but will make one prediction.

“If properly regulated, hemp is a viable crop that’s really going to change the conversation around cannabis.”

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This One Chart Captures California’s Cannabis Supply Crunch

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pessimist or an optimist–April has turned into one nail-biter of a month for California’s legal cannabis industry.

Facing a crash in the supply of legal cannabis, then the collapse of the nascent industry, state regulators last week reported a 100-fold increase in the monthly rate of cannabis farm licensing.

The question now is, will the new pace be enough?

No one can say, but the facts aren’t pretty.

A Great Licensing Extinction

April marks a steep decline in the amount of legal cannabis farming acreage in California. (Courtesy K Street Consulting)
April marks a steep decline in the amount of legal cannabis farming acreage in California. (Courtesy K Street Consulting)

As Leafly reported Feb. 25, the state’s 6,924 temporary pot farm licenses are expiring at a rate much faster than regulators have approved either permanent farm licenses–called “annuals”–or a stopgap “provisional” license type.

As of April 1, the California Department of Food and Agriculture had approved about 500 annual or provisional cannabis farm licenses. You need one of those two license types to keep farming and selling into the state’s legal system of distributors and stores.

At this pace, California might have just 1,000 to 1,500 legal farms by the end of April, when the vast bulk of temporary licenses will have expired.

“This is a crisis.”

Jackie McGowan, licensing expert, K Street Consulting

Now, 1,000 is better than none, but it’s much less than the 6,924 farm licenses California started out with at the beginning of the year. It’s a massive culling.

“This is a crisis,” said licensing expert Jackie McGowan, at K Street Consulting.

“If something doesn’t happen, it seems our supply is essentially going to go away,” said Cody Bass, a longtime dispensary operator in South Lake Tahoe, CA, where he is also a city council member.

The Case for Optimism

A state official who spoke to Leafly on background said regulators announced “a meaningful change” on Friday that buys farm regulators enough time to fully license farms.

Basically, every farmer with a temporary license should be able to get a provisional one, so long as their annual application is completed correctly, the state official said. The policy change means the CDFA should be kicking out more provisional licenses faster.

The official said the CDFA is back-logged with about 3,300 annual applications to review, but the agency wants the industry to succeed.

The official said they expect the CDFA to be doing some “pretty amazing work on numbers” this April.

California regulators are speeding up the pace of farm licensing, but most legal farmers will still have to stop growing in prime planting season. (Leafly)
California regulators are speeding up the pace of farm licensing, but most legal farmers will still have to stop growing in prime planting season. (Leafly)

Someone’s lit a fire under the CDFA, it seems. The total number of annuals and provisionals issued climbed sharply in March — from 5 at the beginning of March to almost 500 by month’s end.

The best-case scenario is still a significant contraction in farm license numbers and diversity. Of the more than 6,924 temp farm licensees, about half might be left by May 1. Those farms might be able to grow enough cannabis to serve the state’s relatively small legal market this summer. But many experts aren’t as optimistic.

The Worst-Case Scenario

In the worst-case scenario, the CDFA licenses fewer than 1,500 farms in April, supplies drop to critical levels, prices skyrocket, and the estimated 20 percent of consumers in the legal market return to the illicit one. Voter-enacted Proposition 64 becomes a government-run failure, having regulated itself to death.

Bass and others have begun calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to make an emergency declaration extending temporary and expired farm licenses until the CDFA digs itself out of its application review hole.

Bass said the licensing delays are costing people their businesses, their properties, their health, and fueling an illicit market that hurts public safety and the environment.

“In my mind, it’s an emergency,” Bass said.

McGowan said the industry’s best and brightest are caught up in similar licensing snafus as Bass. She also supports an executive order, saying the CDFA has proven it can’t right the ship in time.

The state official who spoke to Leafly on background said that neither an emergency declaration from the administration, nor the urgency bill–Senate Bill 67–should be needed for regulators to dig themselves out. The CDFA has the power to rapidly issue enough provisional licenses to delay judgement day, potentially forever.

McGowan disagreed: “There’s no way for the CDFA to dig themselves out of this hole in time,”

About 1,743 temp licenses have already expired this year, McGowan said, removing potentially 428 acres of pot from the supply chain. Roughly 4,000 more temp licenses expire this April.

The Next Four Weeks Are Critical

Every week, the CDFA publicly reports the number of farm licenses it has issued. If each week in April does not show several hundred or more new licensees, there could be major disruptions to the supply chain by summer.

Many legal growers will be faced with either going broke waiting for a license, or planting illegally and risking a police raid as well as loss of licensure forever. The annual outdoor cannabis season begins mid-March, and runs through October, meaning some farmers have already begun missing their spring planting window while waiting for a license.

Regardless of the future, a radical culling has already begun.

Cody Bass’ dispensary in South Lake Tahoe–Tahoe Wellness Cooperative–has been growing cannabis legally for 14 years, first under medical laws. For the first time, the grow room lights are off, as Bass awaits his indoor farm license from the CDFA.

Due to a local issue, Bass sits at the back of the line at the CDFA, behind thousands of annual license applicants. He does not expect to be growing legally for a while.

“I’m told I’m just completely fucked,” he said.

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Los Angeles to Erase 50,000 Criminal Cannabis Convictions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles-area prosecutors are joining other district attorneys to use technology to wipe out or reduce as many as 50,000 old marijuana convictions years after California voters broadly legalized the drug.

The county is working with the Code for America nonprofit tech organization, which uses computer algorithms to find eligible cases that are otherwise hard to identify in decades-old court documents. It comes after San Francisco found success clearing convictions, which other cities and states nationwide said they will try to do.

“When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises.”

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America executive director

“This collaboration will improve people’s lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future,” LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Monday.

San Joaquin County also announced their partnership with the group to remove up to 4,000 cases.

California voters approved eliminating some cannabis-related crimes and wiping out past criminal convictions or reducing felonies to misdemeanors when they legalized adult marijuana use in 2016.

But there was no easy way to identify an estimated 200,000 cases statewide. Convicts had to file petitions on their own to get their records changed or hire lawyers for help with the process.

After partnering with the group, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced last month that 9,300 cases dating to 1975 will be dropped or reduced for free and in many cases, without the convicts’ knowledge.

It began when his office started sifting through thousands of criminal cases last year to identify eligible marijuana convictions after only 23 people who hired lawyers had taken advantage of the new law.

A few months later, after managing to dismiss just over 1,000 cases during the painstaking work, Gascon partnered with Code for America, a San Francisco group that uses technology to make government more efficient.

Computer coders with the group developed the Clear My Record algorithm to quickly identify eligible cases and automatically fill out forms to file with the courts.

“When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief,” said Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America.

“Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation,” she said.

Prosecutors in Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago and other cities have said they also would clear eligible marijuana convictions. In legalizing last year, Michigan said it would eliminate cannabis crimes and allow past convictions to be erased or reduced.

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