BATON ROUGE, LA — Two weeks after Louisiana patients began receiving medical cannabis, the program is humming along without supply disruption and with thousands of people receiving the drug for medical use, regulatory officials and the head of one growing operation said Monday.
Louisiana has 5,000 patients, two weeks after opening dispensaries.
John Davis, president of GB Sciences Louisiana, one of two state-sanctioned medical cannabis growers, said Louisiana has about 5,000 patients so far.
Nine medical marijuana pharmacies have been permitted to dispense the products, with the first cannabis available in a flavored liquid tincture, a bottle containing a dropper.
“The feedback that we’re getting from patients is really overwhelming, with patients who were having epileptic seizures of 18 a day now down to two,” Davis told a panel of state regulators who meet regularly to update the public on the medical marijuana program.
Concerns that patients could face interruptions in supply since only one of the state’s two growers has a product in pharmacies haven’t panned out in the early days of the program.
“It appears the supply chain is working perfectly, or as well as it can be,” Davis said. “We’re able to satisfy the demands that are out there.”
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, whose department oversees the medical marijuana program, urged: “We don’t want to run out” now that people are taking the drug to ease pain and other medical conditions.
Law Passed in 2015
Louisiana is one of 33 other states that allow medical marijuana in some form.
Under the 2015 law and additional changes passed since then, Louisiana is allowing medical marijuana to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
Only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow medical marijuana. GB Sciences is LSU’s grower. Southern’s grower, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, estimates its first product could be available by fall at the earliest.
Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients–but not in a smokeable form. GB Sciences currently offers only the liquid tinctures, in three different concentrations.
Strain said 4,700 doses of therapeutic cannabis were in the first batch of mint-flavored tinctures. The second batch contains 4,300 doses in cherry-flavored product, he said.
Davis has said he expects to have dissolving strips taken by mouth available soon, followed by topical creams.
Arizona-based researcher Dr. Sue Sisley is spearheading an extraordinary lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), demanding that the agency stop dragging its feet on a years-old promise to end the federal government’s monopoly on growing cannabis for clinical research.
The DEA has two weeks to explain why it’s stalled these applications from expert growers.
Her next scheduled study will look at how late-stage cancer patients can perhaps use cannabis for pain relief.
With the help of two Texas attorneys who are working pro bono, Sisley’s Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) is calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the federal government to follow through on the DEA’s 2016 announcement in the Federal Register.
In that announcement, DEA officials said they would permit other facilities to grow and manufacture cannabis for clinical trials and research.
Applications Put on Ice
For more than 50 years now the federal government has relied on a farm at the University of Mississippi, via a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to produce all the cannabis used in research projects across the nation.
But that government-grown cannabis has come under criticism in recent years, including from Sisley and her colleagues, for its poor quality and low potency. There are also concerns by Sisley and others that the phenotypes and cultivars produced by the University of Mississippi’s crop are deliberately unrepresentative of the cannabis consumed by adults and patients in legal states.
According to the petition to the court, SRI repeatedly contacted the DEA about growing its own cannabis, to “improve drug quality and give it tighter control over dosages.” DEA officials have yet to respond. “With new trials around the corner, SRI can wait no longer.”
“We simply want them to make good on this pledge to the public,” Sisley told Leafly. “They promised the U.S. citizenry that they would finally end this monopoly and license other growers for research. And they’ve not followed through on this pledge.”
Demanding an Explanation
DEA officials have declined to comment on the litigation. “We are still working through the process and those applications remain under review,” an agency spokesperson told the Associated Press last month.
The DEA ‘isn’t saying yes, and it isn’t saying no. Until they respond, there’s nothing to go to court with, nothing to appeal.’
Matt Zorn, attorney for Dr. Sue Sisley
Sisley wonders if this three-year-long delay might be due to something outside of the DEA’s control, and perhaps involve other federal agencies.
Matt Zorn, one of the attorneys at the Houston-based Yetter Coleman law firm working on the SRI lawsuit, declined to comment on that speculation. Instead, he’s focusing on the damage done by the government’s inaction.
“They’re not saying yes, they’re not saying no,” Zorn told Leafly. “Until the agency says something, there’s nothing to go to a court with, nothing to appeal. It’s stuck in purgatory. So what we’re trying to do is get the agency to explain why they’re not processing these applications. It’s gotten to the point where we think a court needs to step in and do something about it.”
Unleashing the Writ of Mandamus
Zorn and his colleague Shane Pennington are using an unusual procedure to get the legal wheels rolling in this case: a petition for a writ of mandamus.
“We’re asking one judicial branch of government to order a different branch of government to do something, and they don’t like doing that,” noted Zorn. “What we’re essentially arguing is that there’s agency action that by law was required to have been done. Not only hasn’t it been done, but it hasn’t been done and then some.”
Zorn added that there aren’t many times when a writ of mandamus gets granted by a court.
“It’s a very extraordinary remedy reserved for extraordinary circumstances,” he said, “but we carefully investigated the facts and thought there was substantial merit to this case.”
The DEA’s response to this lawsuit is due before the end of August.
For their part, Sisley and Zorn are optimistic their legal strategy will have results which, if SRI prevails, could set a legal precedent.
“It’s really about unshackling science,” Sisley said. “It’s been shackled by politics in the U.S. now for over 50 years, ever since this monopoly was granted to the University of Mississippi.”
“We’ve been trying to ignite a national conversation about this,” she continued, “and trying to persuade people to pressure the government to license other growers for (cannabis) research. I don’t want to be a farmer, but I want to do research. I know what it takes to have good compliance. We’re trying to open the door for all researchers.”
Dr. Sisley, said Zorn, did everything required of her by law, “and it’s still not working.”
In cases like these, in order for change to take place, he added, “you need to show someone followed the rules and did everything right, and it didn’t work out. And that’s what we got here. We got a person who tried to work within the system and encountered system failure, at least at this juncture.”
On a recent episode of his podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson told rapper Jim Jones that he consumes about $40,000 of cannabis per month at Tyson Ranch, his future cannabis “resort.” As Jim’s mind is blown by this number, Eben Brriton, Tyson’s co-host, follows this up by saying that they smoke 10 tons of weed per month.
We call bullshit. Let’s look at the numbers.
How Much Weed Does $40,000 Buy?
Let’s look at that figure of $40,000. I live in Washington, where eighths of That Fire cost about $45 on average. So by the numbers, that would be about almost 900 eighths per month (if you broke it down to the usual retail value of cannabis).
As a blunt/joint smoker, the eighths I buy tend to go quickly. An eighth is like 3 to 4 blunts. By my personal consumption, 900 eighths would add up to about 2,700 blunts per month, which would be 90 blunts per day, which would be about four blunts per hour. And that’s without ever stopping, for an entire month.
Even on the expensive side of things (looking at you, California), where eighths could run for the hellacious $70, that would still break down to about three blunts per hour, nonstop, for a whole 30 straight days.
Solo, that would be completely impossible. With a Tyson Ranch full of consumers, very possible; however, that smoke squad would have to literally sit there for an entire month and do nothing but face L’s all day and night. No food, no water, just doinks.
So either Mike is stretching the truth, or his team of weed-smoking superlungs are just reinforcing stoner boi stereotypes.
10 Tons of Weed in a Month
Now that we’ve established that $40,000 of cannabis in a month is technically possible, it’s time to address the most absurd claim of all:
“We smoke 10 tons of weed at the ranch a month.” – Eben Britton, former NFL player and Mike’s co-host.
Beau Kilmer, co-director of RAND Drug Policy Research Center, told Leafly that on average, the cannabis consumers who smoke at least 21 days per month smoke about 1.6 grams a day.
Ten tons of cannabis is 20,000 pounds, which equals 320,000 ounces, which equals a little over 9,000,000 grams per month.
You don’t have to be Ptolemy to see that this would be physically impossible. Even with 100,000 humans visiting the ranch per month, this would come out to 3 grams per person per day, which would be double the aforementioned average of consumption amongst people who smoke all the time. Not possible. And even if you look at it from a grams standpoint of “Yeah, you can smoke 3 grams in a day easily,” it would still be unlikely for Tyson Ranch to host 100,000 visitors per month.
So in the end, only one truth remains: men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.
The world’s leading medical cannabis patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), reports that residents of the Pacific island territory of Guam have better options to treat chronic pain and other ailments than their fellow Americans in Texas and the Southeast. That’s according to ASA’s 2019 State of the States Report, an annual evaluation published recently.
“No state has more quickly and effectively implemented a medical cannabis program than Oklahoma.”
David Mangone, Governmental Affairs Director, Americans for Safe Access
ASA aims the report at lawmakers each year, prodding them to make progress relative to their neighbors. Each US state and territory gets a grade, yielding an annual map of unequal protection for 126 million Americans with chronic pain, which is cannabis’ number one qualifying condition.
On the positive side, we’re seeing medical cannabis deployed against the opioid epidemic in Illinois (A-), New York (B-), and California (B+). Oklahoma, Ohio, and Florida all made heartening progress–two Bs and a C (up from Fs in 2015).
That contrasts with the frustrating stasis happening in Texas and throughout the Southeast–all of which got Fs. Guam got a C, by the way.
New Points for Fighting Opioids
ASA’s point-based grading system gave out the organization’s first-ever A minuses to Oregon and Illinois this year. Opioid patients in Illinois can trade in their prescriptions and get a digital medical cannabis card–on the very same day.
“It immediately reduced the number of individuals who were turning to opioids after surgery or acute pain issues,” said David Mangone, director of government affairs at ASA. “They did not have to undergo a trial-and-error period with dangerous opioids and run the risk of addiction.”
The 2019 report included first-ever points awarded for patient feedback. A 500-patient US survey revealed 88.5% of respondents believe that in some way their medical cannabis was not affordable.
“To have over 400 respondents in the survey say, ‘My program isn’t serving me well because medicine is so expensive,’ should be a red flag to state regulators and lawmakers,” Mangone said.
In California, for example, local cannabis bans and excise taxes still decrease affordability in both the medical and adult use market. “Even though this program exists, many people have to turn to the illicit market because of pricing and the incredibly high excise tax,” Mangone said. “It’s one of the chief concerns year after year.”
No health insurer in the United States covers medical cannabis, so patients must bear the entire cost of cannabis meds on their own.
And that’s strange, because 131 people die every day from opioid overdoses, among 70,237 annual prescription drug deaths in the United States in 2017. Cannabis has no risk of lethal overdose, and the National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2017 that medical marijuana worked for pain.
“Anything that reduces a tax burden or makes insurers more incentivized to cover medical cannabis is going to be tremendously helpful looking to 2020 and onward,” Mangone said.
Heartening Progress in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma
Who knew we’d live to see the day where Ohio and Oklahoma got a B score in medical cannabis and Florida eked out a solid C–all part of a cannabinoid awakening in conservative states. ASA awards each state up to 400 total points based on patient rights, access levels, and consumer safety. Passing medical cannabis laws, implementing them, or fixing programs all boost scores.
“No state has more quickly and effectively implemented a medical cannabis program than Oklahoma,” said Mangone.
In Florida, court rulings enhanced dispensary access and product variety. Now patients can use smokable formulations of cannabis, and judges removed the licensure cap on dispensaries.
Frustrating Stasis in Texas, Southeast
ASA’s F scores track across regions noted for their above-average rates of mortality, obesity, and overdose deaths. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana–all Fs. “These programs really inadequately serve large patient populations,” he said.
Texas legislators passed a small but critical improvement to the state’s medical cannabis program in late May, adding eight conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis access. Prior to passing that law, intractable epilepsy was the only condition that qualified a patient for legal cannabis.
Texas’ Legislature meets just once every two years, removing the possibility of further reform at the state level until 2021. “Texas is incredibly frustrating,” said Mangone.
Again, that’s odd because medical cannabis is bipartisan–support polls at 93%. Even water doesn’t poll at 93%.
“I don’t think there’s a politician in the US in any district that polls the same way that medical cannabis does,” Mangone said.
Hopeful for Health Freedom
Mangone said he’s hopeful about the possibility of change in Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, where lawmakers are planning to introduce medical cannabis bills in early 2020.
“We’re really interested in breaking this stronghold in the Southeast,” he said. “It is much less of a political risk to come out and support medical cannabis [than it used to be].”
ASA Medical Cannabis 2019 Factbox:
47 states have some medical cannabis law
The three holdouts are Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska
33 have some form of medical cannabis access
14 are CBD-only states
0 have an A+ score from ASA
There are an estimated 3 million medical cannabis patients in the US
There are 95 conditions for which medical cannabis can be useful
Top 3 medical cannabis uses are chronic pain, spasms, nausea
126 million Americans live with chronic pain
There are 9,000 patient-years of clinical trial data on cannabis for pain
There are 30,000 studies on the endocannabinoid system
Let’s talk about our beloved Blue Dream for a quick second. On paper, Blue Dream is the single-most searched cannabis strain in all of the lands. It currently has over 12,000 reviews on Leafly, most of them “Exceptional,” resulting in a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.
And yet, if you say Blue Dream is your favorite cannabis strain, the true stoner bois of the cannabis community look at you like you’re some kind of poser n00b. As if your lungs haven’t put in the time to justify such an opinion.
Enough is enough.
No more will we let people disrespect us for loving something that is great, something that has such an influence on cannabis culture, something that is arguably the best strain in all of the game.
It is completely OK that Blue Dream is your favorite strain, and if you run into someone that disagrees, this is what you tell the canna-snob that takes themselves so seriously they can’t enjoy that beautiful green-budded, orange-haired cross of Blueberry and Haze.
It Feels Fucking Great
For one, Blue Dream tastes and makes you feel fucking amazing. That sweet, sweet blueberry flavor with an almost citrus kickback delivers on the euphoric feeling that people associate most with being high.
True to its namesake, this strain really does feel like you’re getting lost in the happiest daydream possible. You get a full body relaxation and creative stimulation, and overall, your mind, body, and soul feel stupendous. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not okay to feel stupendous.
The Availability Is Unmatched
Second of all, you can literally get Blue Dream at any time, in any place, so your favorite cannabis strain doesn’t have to be a local. Some cannabis consumers like to hop around and try every flavor or new batch of genetics, some like to find one favorite strain and smoke that endlessly.
Wiz Khalifa and Khalifa Kush–the only strain he smokes–is a perfect example of this. If that’s the case, wouldn’t you want to be able to get your needs wherever you go? Uh-huh.
It’s Perfect for Any Time of Day
You can smoke it any time of day and it’ll pair with whatever activity you want. Daytime? Fuck it. Roll up some Bluey, and then bam–15 minutes later you’re ready to run up a mountain barefoot. Nighttime? Roll up some Bluey and 15 minutes later you’re in a shark kigurumi watching the series finale of Euphoria. Straight cozy mode activated.
No matter when, that perfect balance of up and down effects produced by those sweet and sticky buds is the perfect treat.
Jhene Aiko Made A Whole Song About It
Lastly, and probably most importantly: JHENE AIKO MADE A WHOLE SONG ABOUT IT. And it’s a bop! Do you know how inspired by something you have to be to write a song about it? Bruh. Blue Dream had her feeling so good that she took time out of her busy schedule to write:
Don’t wake me up ’cause I’m in love with all that you are You make me see the truth in things, I think that you are The remedy for everything it seems that you are The truth itself because nothing else can take me so far
Now go type “Granddaddy Purple” into Spotify and tell me what you find. Exactly. Nada damn thing.
So the next time someone gives you grief about Blue Dream being your favorite strain, just look them right in the face and say: Stop that.
DENVER (AP) — Some teenagers in Colorado, where cannabis is legal for adults, are shifting away from smoking in favor of edible cannabis products, a medical study released Monday shows.
About 78% of the Colorado high school students who reported consuming marijuana in 2017 said they usually smoked it, down from 87% two years earlier. The number of teens who usually consumed edibles climbed to about 10% from 2% in the same period, while the number of users dabbing increased to about 7.5% from 4%.
“We haven’t seen an increase in use among youth but we are seeing a difference in how young people are consuming.”
Kayla Tormohlen, PhD candidate, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Research about the way young people consume marijuana products is still limited, and the study’s lead author said Colorado’s survey data could provide valuable insight for public health researchers and regulators.
“Since the implementation of retail marijuana sales, we haven’t seen an increase in use among youth but we are seeing a difference in how young people are consuming,” said Kayla Tormohlen, a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Understanding that can help to inform public health efforts.”
The study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics is based on high schoolers’ responses to Colorado’s biennial health survey in 2015 and 2017.
At least three other states that permit adult marijuana use — Alaska, Oregon and Washington — also include questions about how teens consume marijuana on state health surveys.
In Colorado and other states, edibles are tightly regulated including limits on the amount of THC, the compound in marijuana that creates users’ high feeling. In each marked dose, dispensary employees warn that customers should wait several hours to feel the effects of one portion before eating more. Information about the health effects of dabbing — heating or vaporizing an oil or wax with a high THC level and inhaling the vapors — is limited.
“These modes are important to monitor because of their unique psychoactive associations, and potential harms, including unintentional overconsumption with edibles and an increased physiological tolerance and withdrawal associated with the high tetrahydrocannabinol levels of cannabis concentrates used for dabbing,” the researchers wrote.
State and federal surveys have found teen use of marijuana remained relatively stable since Colorado began allowing adults to buy and use marijuana in 2014. In 2017, 1 in 5 Colorado students said they had recently consumed marijuana in any form — about the national average, said Jessica Neuwirth, the Colorado Department of Public Health’s retail marijuana education and youth prevention coordinator.
She said state public health researchers are always reevaluating the survey’s questions and teens’ responses, with input from other states’ agencies doing the same work.
“We are in certain ways leading the country in trying to figure out what are the right questions to ask and how do you ask those questions,” Neuwirth said.
Sales data has consistently showed adults consumers’ are trending toward non-smoking products, said David Abernathy, vice president of data and government affairs for The ArcView Group.
The company’s latest analysis of marijuana product sales shows traditional flower for smoking still makes up the majority of legal sales but vape cartridges and edible products continue to gain in popularity. Abernathy said he’s not surprised by the study’s results showing the illegal market for marijuana following that trend.
“We’ve seen that in states with a more competitive legal market, the illicit market has shrunk substantially,” he said. “And that’s the biggest thing we can do to keep cannabis out of the hands of teenagers.”
In Colorado, customers must be 21 to enter dispensaries and make purchases. Only 3% of teens who reported using marijuana in 2017 said they bought products from a dispensary.
Nearly 40% reported buying it from someone else. Others said they received marijuana from friends younger and older than 21 or from parents or adult family members.
In 1997, Will Foster, then 38, was sentenced to 93 years in an Oklahoma state prison for growing a small cannabis garden in a locked bomb shelter under his home in Tulsa. Foster, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, wasn’t dealing weed – he had been cultivating cannabis to treat his psoriatic arthritis, a painful, degenerative disease. The Court subsequently reduced Foster’s sentence to 20 years, and he was eventually paroled after waging a lengthy battle against a draconian legal system.
Today, Foster is back in Tulsa, a free man, operating a licensed medical marijuana business. This unexpected turn of events is emblematic of the transformation that is taking place in Oklahoma, which legalized cannabis for therapeutic use in 2018, despite opposition from the Okie political establishment.
Oklahoma, surprisingly, is now the fastest growing medical cannabis market in America. Just one year after the passage of State Question 788 (S.Q. 788) there are already 154,890 approved patients and caregivers, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA), and business licenses have been issued to over 3,559 growers, just over 940 processors, and 1,673 dispensaries, although it is unclear just how many cannabis storefronts and delivery services have actually opened thus far. But it’s safe to say that total number of dispensaries in the Sooner State easily exceeds the number of licensed cannabis dispensaries that are up and running in much larger and more populated states like Ohio, Florida, and California.
Officially the 30th state to pass a medical cannabis law, Oklahoma is unique in the regulated national landscape. Barriers to entry for both patients and business are lower than any other state. There are no set qualifying conditions to become a patient, but rather it is left to the discretion of the recommending doctor. All patients can grow six mature plants at home. There are no license caps and each business license application costs just $2,500.
Red state reefer
Oklahoma’s cannabis industry has expanded rapidly since the first sales began in early December 2018. Although much of the early product that moved through the stores may have been brought in illegally from other states, local producers are starting to roll out locally produced products and brands.
In March 2019, what is being called “The Unity Bill” (H.B. 2612) easily passed through the state legislature and into law with bipartisan support and input from cannabis advocates as well as from other groups the legislature considers to be stakeholders: law enforcement, banks, chambers of commerce, and relevant government agencies.
When new regulations under H.B. 2612 come into effect in August, all product will be subject to seed-to-sale tracking, childproof packaging and lab testing and labeling requirements. Certain protections are added for legal medical cannabis patients, who are benefiting from a wide range of available product options. The restrictions on public consumption of vaporized or smoked cannabis are exactly in line with restrictions around public tobacco smoking.
Compared to markets in larger states and those where recreational cannabis is legal, Oklahoma’s medical cannabis market is somewhat of an anomaly. It has generated a lot of pride on the ground among local advocates. Not only have they achieved what was once considered unachievable in Oklahoma, they have staunchly defended the right to local ownership and opportunity, while out-of-state vulture capitalists invade larger markets.
The quick roll-out of the medical marijuana program in Oklahoma has ensured that the state’s small businesses will have a chance to gain traction and survive until federal law changes and a national market opens. Thus far, the home-grown cannabis market has proven more lucrative for Oklahoma in comparison to other state level programs, which are typically more expensive, more restrictive, and more favorable to cartel-like production and distribution schemes. According to the Associated Press, retailers in Oklahoma sold $23 million worth of cannabis in May 2019 alone and the seven percent cannabis tax and associated sales taxes have netted over $10 million since legal commerce began in December – and it is just getting started.
A fair chance to compete
Isaac Caviness and Joshua Lewelling of Okie Express Transport & Sales were busy for years working to legalize medical cannabis in Oklahoma, and now they are even busier delivering it to retailers. They spend long days on the road transporting product to dispensaries in Tulsa and the eastern part of the state. While the state’s two major metropolitan regions, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have hundreds of dispensaries (with more opening every day), even small rural towns are getting in on the action.
Caviness and Lewelling can’t keep up with demand. At each dispensary product flies off the shelves, and they always hear the same question from store owners, “How much can we buy from you today?” Caviness and Lewelling explain that they would sell out of product at a single dispensary if they didn’t plan to spread it out.
Business is good now, but Lewelling and Caviness know there will be a reckoning in the market at some point. As more producers come online, a larger volume of higher quality locally grown and manufactured product will hit the shelves, new regulations will be enforced, and some businesses won’t be able survive. While the reckoning is predictable, every cannabis advocate in Oklahoma feels that the people who worked to pass the law should get a fair chance to compete, even if they fail.
Before the passage of S.Q. 788, Caviness operated Hemp RX, a “CBD dispensary” that sold a variety of cannabis products low enough in THC to legally be considered hemp. A sizable hemp-CBD retail market sprang up in in Oklahoma in response to the passage of Katie’s Law in 2015, which legalized the use of CBD oil for epileptic children but created no regulatory framework for production and distribution. Many CBD businesses have since converted into licensed full-service cannabis dispensaries, but some still continue to operate outside the medical cannabis framework, choosing instead to focus on selling CBD products primarily to pediatric and geriatric demographics.
Beyond CBD only
“CBD-only” was not good enough for Cavinenss and Lewelling, who converted Hemp Rx into an around-the-clock voter registration and signature-drive headquarters in an effort to legalize medical cannabis, not just a single component of the plant. They co-founded the organization Green the Vote, which organized advocates around the state and coordinated voter and signature drives in support of State Question 788. Sponsored by Oklahomans for Health, the medical cannabis ballot measure was ignored by national organizations like Marijuana Policy Project, which dismissed the effort as pointless in conservative Oklahoma.
“We had no national support,” Caviness said. “We made triangle boards with the pictures of sick kids and families who had to leave for Colorado [to access cannabis]. We stood in front of gas stations and we talked to people about why.”
A map of Oklahoma lays underneath a glass bowl packed with cannabis. A cannabis bud sits next to the pipe.
The entire process was a grassroots effort. Over the course of five years and four petition drives, a politically bipartisan and dedicated network of activists emerged. With the help of social media, they expanded their networks throughout the state. “We registered tens of thousands of people to vote,” Caviness said.
On the fifth try, they qualified S.Q. 788 for the 2016 general election ballot. But then-state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (later a disgraced Trump cabinet appointee) effectively prevented the vote by creating delays and inaccurately re-writing the ballot initiative title to make it seem as if the measure would legalize “recreational” use. Oklahomans for Health sued and prevailed in the state Supreme Court on March 27, 2017.
Gov. Mary Fallin scheduled S.Q. 788 for a vote on June 26, 2018. According to Chip Paul, co-author of the law and co-founder of Oklahomans for Health, medical cannabis advocates were outspent 12-to-1 by opponents yet still won with 57% of the vote in a state-record high voter turnout. Paul says the idea behind much of the design of the cannabis market under S.Q. 788 came from watching what he and others felt to be the fatal flaws in medical legislation enacted in other states.
Thus far, the program has survived legislative attacks at all levels of the state government. In July 2018, for example, Oklahoma’s Department of Health (DOH) proposed onerous regulations that would remove access to flower, require pregnancy tests for women of child-bearing age, and impose business license caps. But Attorney General Mike Hunter warned that the DOH did not have the authority to regulate medical cannabis in a way that’s inconsistent with the statute as written. By early August the DOH reneged and began implementing temporary regulations and issuing licenses and patient cards as compelled by the language of the citizen initiative.
Many medical cannabis entrepreneurs and patients in Oklahoma are veterans – of both foreign wars and the ongoing war on drugs. “People have made real sacrifices. This is an industry that people have gone to prison for to get here,” said Isaac Caviness. Today his company, Okie Express Transport & Sales, is the exclusive distributor for Herblix, a newly licensed cannabis cultivation business run by Will Foster, the erstwhile poster boy for drug war depravity.
Foster’s shocking 93-year sentence for a growing a small medical cannabis garden epitomized the mid-1990s wave of “tough on crime” laws, which involved life sentences for non-violent drug offences, law enforcement hoarding of civil asset forfeiture spoils, and a close relationship between the Sooner State and America’s largest private prison corporations. As a result, Oklahoma currently has the highest rate of incarceration in the nation and the world.
Oklahoma activists, buoyed by the successful grassroots campaign to legalize medical cannabis, are pushing for major changes in the Sooner state’s grotesque criminal justice system. A package of criminal justice reform legislation was introduced earlier this year, but only one piece of legislation passed. Advocates vow to take it up again next year.
Angela Bacca is a Portland, Oregon-based freelance journalist with a MBA and 10 years experience in cannabis media. She specializes in coverage of cannabis in conservative states, science, medicine, politics, business, culture and media.
Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.
More Instagram accounts than ever are dedicated to celebrating women and femmes who dig cannabis. If you want to fill your newsfeed with pro-feminist and pro-cannabis content, all of the accounts below are for you.
Take a look at these women-run, cannabis-centric Instagram accounts below. While some of them are more lighthearted than others, all of them boast stellar content and pride themselves on unapologetically honoring and supporting women and femmes who choose to consume cannabis–for whatever reason.
Based in Arizona and created and run by Laura Armenta, @chronicsadgirlsclub is devoted to “helping femmes navigate the intersection where cannabis, mental health, chronic illness, and self-care meet.”
This account abounds with gorgeous posts and images that gently inspire and affirm cannabis-consuming women and femmes who deal with all sorts of chronic and mental illnesses, from depression to anxiety to chronic pain.
Recently, Chronic Sad Girls Club partnered with @totem.yoga and @flow.ganjamama to create Ganja Flow, a safe space where women and femmes can “practice yoga, heal, and medicate without stigma or judgement.” So if you live in Arizona and have a valid AZ MMJ card, follow @chronicsadgirlsclub to be the first to know when the next event is happening.
Based in Long Beach, California and created and run by Ashley Manta–a former Leafly contributor, sex and cannabis coach, and multiple sexual assault survivor–@cannasexual is dedicated to helping people mindfully combine sex and cannabis in safe, consensual, and healthy ways.
Whether you’re curious about cannabis-infused lubes, decreasing pain during penetrative sex with cannabis suppositories, or consuming cannabis to help you heal from the trauma of sexual violence, the “High Priestess of Pleasure” has got you covered.
Founded by Jane West, Jazmin Hupp, and Julie Batkiewicz in 2014 in Denver, Colorado, Women Grow was created to “connect, educate, inspire, and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by creating programs, community, and events for aspiring and current business executives.”
In the past five years, Women Grow has evolved into a for-profit powerhouse that exists to help women from all walks of life influence and succeed in the cannabis industry, and its Instagram account is regularly updated with a wide array of inspiring weed-related posts — from exceptional pieces of cannabis journalism to updates on Women Grow’s monthly local networking events and its annual leadership summit.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Dope Girls Zine is a feminist cannabis culture zine that was founded by Beca Grimm and Rachel Hortman back in 2016. When Grimm and Hortman, “noticed a lack of female representation in the 420-friendly community,” the pair decided to help change the face of cannabis consumption in the American South while also championing marginalized voices.
With both their zine and their Instagram account, Grimm and Hortman are succeeding in doing exactly what they set out to do, from calling out ICE for putting kids in cages to lifting up the LGBTQ community to unapologetically defending reproductive rights.
Grimm and Hortman typically publish two zines each year, and while they aren’t totally opposed to working with men, they pride themselves on prioritizing the work of women and non-binary contributors.
Created by Erin Willis–a mother, holistic nutritionist, cannabis wellness coach, and educator soon-to-be based in Colorado–Mother Indica first began three years ago as a blog centering around an anonymous mom experimenting with cannabis and holistic living to treat her postpartum depression. Since then, Mother Indica has become, “a community of proud, uncloseted cannabis consumers on a journey of self-realization and elevated self love in connection to cannabis and nutrition.”
The blog is frequently updated with content revolving around the wellness side of cannabis, motherhood, and destigmatizing the use of cannabis for everything from culinary and beauty recipes to daily medicine. Both the Mother Indica blog and its Instagram account act as a, “motherly guide and resource for cannabis and nutrition education, inspiration, and storytelling,” and @motherindica is regularly updated with gorgeous images, product recommendations, event invites, and inspirational posts.
From gorgeous images to informational posts to event invites to inspirational quotes taken directly from the book, @breakingthegrassceiling is worth a follow no matter your aspirations–but it’s particularly helpful if you’re hoping to break into the legal cannabis industry and start your own cannabis business.
High Girls Club is easily the most lighthearted Instagram account featured in this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as important and delightful as all of the other women-run cannabis accounts we’ve mentioned.
Whether you’re looking for a daily dose of inspiring quotes from cannabis-loving celebrities (like Lady Gaga), beautiful illustrations of babes getting lifted, product recommendations, cute gifs, or just content that will make you giggle, you should probably follow @highgirlsclub STAT.
Survivors For Cannabis
As both a blog and a private Instagram account, Survivors For Cannabis serves as a safe space for survivors of all genders, sexualities, colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, ages, abilities, and experiences who choose cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Or, as the blog explains it: “Through collective research, learning and advocacy both online and with local chapters, SfC fights the many layers of stigma around cannabis, mental illness, sexual violence, and survival.”
Whether you’re a survivor of sexual violence or simply a curious ally, @survivorsforcannabis is a fantastic account to follow.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s governor signed a bill Monday that softens penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis and allows for the expungement of some past convictions.
After Aug. 27 it’ll be a $50 ticket for under one ounce, or $200 for one to two ounces, statewide.
The legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes unlawful possession of cannabis a violation.
The penalty is $50 for possessing less than one ounce, or a maximum of $200 for one to two ounces.
The law also requires that records tied to low-level marijuana cases either be marked as expunged or destroyed. It takes effect 30 days after the governor signs the bill into law. August 27 will be the law’s effective date.
“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Cuomo said in a statement.
No Stop-and-Frisk Relief
Advocates for cannabis legalization acknowledge the law is a step forward but also say it falls short of addressing a web of negative consequences that come with having cannabis as an illegal violation.
“Police have historically found a way to work around the decriminalization of marijuana,” said Erin George, of Citizen Action of New York.
People can still face probation violations and immigration consequences under the decriminalization bill, George said.
Melissa Moore, New York state deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said the law will continue to allow authorities to target people of color and their communities for cannabis enforcement.
Expungements and Record Sealing
At least 24,400 people will no longer have a criminal record due to the bill, according to New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The law will prompt the sealing of more than 200,000 convictions for low-level marijuana offenses, according to the agency.
State lawmakers considered legalizing cannabis for adult use this year, but that legislation stalled after state leaders failed to reach an agreement on key details in the final days of the legislative session.
Cuomo and the top leaders in the Legislature are all Democrats.